Permanent Shelter: Introduction

This is the first in a series on permanent shelter that we’ll be publishing here at Plan | Prepare.  The purpose of this series of articles is to discuss permanent shelters.  Most of us already have a permanent shelter.  However, that shelter may or may not be a viable location for long-term survival.  Numerous first-hand accounts from disaster survivors around the world all have a similar theme: There is no one-size-fits-all shelter solution for every potential disaster.  In some cases, bugging in at your urban or sub-urban location may be the best.  In other cases, bugging-out to a rural location may work better.  Each option has its plusses and minuses.

Before we get too far into this discussion, let’s define “permanent shelter”.

Webster’s Free Online Dictionary defines “permanent” as: continuing or enduring without fundamental or marked change and “shelter” as: something that covers or affords protection

So, a permanent shelter is something durable (enduring) that provides cover or protection.  Simple enough, right?  Maybe.

Many people will disagree on the definition of durable, enduring or continuing.  The Bedouins, for instance, have lived in tents for centuries.  Here in the United States, we might not consider a tent a permanent shelter.

We’re starting to spiral here.  Let’s simplify and see if we can all agree.

For the sake of these articles, let’s say that a permanent shelter is synonymous with a house.  It might be large or small.  It might have a wood, stucco or brick exterior.  It might be wood-frame or poured concrete.  There are thousands of variables, but pretty much everyone has a solid mental picture of a house.  In case you’re a Bedouin, I’ve included a picture of a house below.

House or Permanent Shelter

Now that we have that settled, let’s discuss the purpose of a permanent shelter as it relates to survival and disaster preparedness.

A permanent shelter should:

  • Provide protection from the elements
  • Provide protection from people or other predators
  • Provide adequate space to accommodate those living within its confines
  • Provide a sense of security
  • Provide a sense of privacy
  • Provide a sense of civility (a representation of a civilized world)
  • Provide a hub or touchstone for a household or family

Obviously, protection from the elements is key to survival – particularly in harsh climates.  A permanent shelter’s ability to protect its inhabitants from rain, snow, cold and even heat is critical to survival. 

Most permanent shelters are designed with some capability to protect their inhabitants from both two-legged and four-legged predators.  The average permanent shelter, however, is relatively vulnerable to determined two-legged predators.  Glass windows can be smashed.  Doors can be pried open.  Let’s face it, the average “home” poses only a small deterrent to a motivated attacker or looter.  If we spend too much time thinking about this, the sense of security provided by the permanent shelter begins to erode.

The concept of adequate space varies widely as you travel from region to region.  It’s not uncommon for entire families in Third World countries to live in houses the size of a closet in a suburban home in the United States.  Here in the U.S., it’s not all that uncommon for entire rooms of larger houses to go unused for weeks or months.  However, feeling that we have adequate space plays into our mental and emotional state of being.  The Rule of Threes suggests that we can live for three months without hope.  Living in a permanent shelter far smaller than one is used to living in can have an impact on one’s ability to keep hope alive.

Generally, our sense or privacy is maintained by shutting out the world outside.  We draw the curtains, close the door and cloister ourselves away to keep prying eyes out of our business.  Privacy helps breed a sense of well-being.  Imagine having to bathe or change clothes in public and you’ll begin to understand why privacy is important to morale.

For many modernized societies, the permanent shelter has become an icon of civilization.  Perhaps you have traveled to a country where many of the citizens live in huts.  Prejudice aside, Americans, Western Europeans and others look at those huts and see temporary shelters.  As a result, we make assumptions that the inhabitants of those huts are less civilized than we are.  We have become accustomed to houses … permanent shelters that have a certain look about them, a certain … permanency in their construction.  Lacking that look and feel of permanency, we perceive a lack of civilization as well.

Finally, the home or permanent shelter provides a hub … a touchstone for the individuals who live there.  Whether it be a traditional family or any other type of household, home is where the heart is.  Ask yourself, why are so many adult children moving back in with their parents these days?  Why don’t they simply join communes or share space with other young adults?  Almost without exception, the home of their youth represents security at a time in their life when many feel insecure.  Is it the structure that gives them that sense of security?  Only in part.  It is the structure, combined with its inhabitants – their parents and, possibly, siblings – that gives them a much-needed sense of well-being.

So, as we look at the role of the permanent structure in survival, we see that only a fraction of its value is physical in nature.  Certainly, human beings need protection from the elements and from those who would do them harm.  What humans also need is hope.  Hope and emotional well-being are the things that make the permanent structure – and its inhabitants – so critical to long-term survival.

Food for thought as you consider your preparations:  Is your primary home adequately equipped for survival?  Do you need to establish alternative structures in different locations?  Are your permanent shelters truly secure?  If not, how can you make them more secure?  And, perhaps most importantly of all, will the members of your household be with you when you face disasters and uncertain circumstances?  Will you have the touchstone of hope to help you maintain your survival mindset?

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DIY Family Water Filter

I would imagine that many of our readers have looked longingly at the Berkey water filters and thought, “If only the price was lower, I could really use one of those.”  Well, I thought exactly the same thing.  As I was thinking that exact same thing, I was looking at some of the free buckets I had recently gotten from Sam’s Club for food storage.  Suddenly, a light bulb appeared over my head.  Why not make my own filter?

The heart and soul of the Berkey filters are the filter elements themselves.  I didn’t really need a fancy stainless steel container to dispense my filtered water.  Maybe, just maybe those free give gallon buckets sitting across the room would work.  I decided to give it a try.

Here’s what I came up with:

Materials Needed:
2 Black Berkey Filter Elements: $107.00
1 Berkey Light Spigot: $10.00
2 Four-gallon Food-grade Plastic Buckets (free at Sam’s Club)

Tools Needed:
3/8″ Drill Bit
5/8″ Drill Bit

Step 1: Stack the buckets and drill two 3/8″ holes through the bottom of the top bucket and the lid of the bottom bucket

Stacked Buckets

Step 2: Insert the threaded tubes of the filter elements through the bottom of the top bucket and the lid of the bottom bucket. Screw the keeper nuts onto the filters and tighten them to finger-tight (do not over-tighten). The included washer should be on the filter tube inside the top bucket.

Insert Filters

At this point your buckets should look like this:

Filters In Bucket

Filters in Bucket

Step 3: Drill a 5/8″ hole in the side of the bottom bucket near the bottom. Make sure you leave enough room for the spigot’s nozzle below the hole. Slide the threaded spigot tube through the hole and tighten down the keeper nut. There should be a washer on either side of the bucket.


Your finished filter will look like this.

Finished Filter

The twin filters are good for 6000 gallons of water.  I can filter about four gallons of water an hour.  You might want to make tic marks on the lid or the side of the buckets to keep track of how many gallons you’ve filtered.  You might also want to buy a second pair of filters.  You know, just in case ….

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Digging Your Own Well

We all know that water is high on the list of things required to survive.  However, a reliable source of clean water can be difficult to find.  If you own your own rural property, Fred Dungan has written a great article with step-by-step instructions for digging your own well and installing a manual pump for less than $500.

Check it out here:

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Welcome to Plan | Prepare!

Welcome to Plan | Prepare.  We’re glad you found us.  We hope you’re ready to plan and prepare to survive a disaster.

If you don’t think you need a disaster preparedness plan, you’re probably in the wrong place.  If your plan is to wait for the Red Cross or FEMA to arrive, you’re probably in the wrong place.  If you’re like Blanche DuBuois, from A Streetcar Named Desire, and you’re depending on the kindness of strangers … you may have come to the right place.

No one from Plan | Prepare is likely to show up on your doorstep with a goodie basket after you’ve experienced a disaster – then again, maybe someone will – but they are likely to provide you with experience and expertise from their own preparations.

Feel free to take a look around.  Feel free to make comments.  Feel free to sign up to be notified by e-mail when new articles are posted.  Feel free to plan and prepare.

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The Bug-out Bag, Foundation of Preparedness?

If you found yourself here on Plan | Prepare, you’re probably familiar with the venerable bug-out bag (BOB).  You may call it a Get Out of Dodge (GOOD) bag or a 72 Hour bag or some other moniker, but a rose by any other name smells … like stale food and mothballs.

The BOB, Foundation of Preparedness

If you’re not familiar with the BOB, it’s a bag, often a backpack, filled with supplies intended to assist its carrier in his or her attempt to survive for a period of approximately 72 hours.  The bug-out and get out of Dodge names come from the intent that the bag support an individual who must leave his or her residence and rely on the bag’s contents until they reach a safe location.  To bug-out is to leave quickly … or get the [bleep] out of Dodge.

Now that you know, for sure, what a BOB is, I want to discuss whether or not the BOB is truly the foundation of preparedness.  In other words, should you put together a BOB before you make any other preparations for emergencies or disasters?

To help answer that question, let’s go back to The Rule of Threes.  What does the Rule of Threes teach us?  It gives us a basis for planning and preparation.  It gives us an order for preparation.  It helps us establish priorities.

If, then, our priorities for preparation are air, shelter, water, food and hope (in that order) and we agree that medical care over-arches all of those priorities, then why not assemble our preparations in an easy-to-carry “container” like a backpack or messenger bag?  Personally, I can’t think of a reason – other than expense – not to do so.

Let’s talk about expense for a moment.  I’ve seen BOB’s that probably cost $5.00 and I’ve seen BOB’s that probably cost closer to $500.00.  In my opinion, you do not need an expensive bag to have a functional bag.  In all likelihood, you could go down to your local Goodwill or Disabled Vets store and find a perfectly serviceable BOB.  Military surplus ALICE packs, like the one pictured, will work just fine and are easy on the budget.  It might not have a high-end manufacturer’s logo on it, but that label isn’t going to help you survive.  It might have a stain on it or have a few frayed edges, but that shouldn’t stop you from using it.  It must be serviceable.  It must be functional.  Ideally, it will be comfortable.  After all, you may end up carrying it quite some distance in a worst-case scenario.  Spending more money on your bag will not necessarily improve its serviceability, functionality or comfort.

Now that we’ve discussed the expense of a BOB, I want to address the BOB’s primary function and why I believe the BOB is the foundation of preparedness.

Why does one need a BOB?

“I might need to bug out,” you say, “so, I need a BOB.”

That logic is a bit circular but let’s take a look at it nonetheless.

Why might you need to bug out?

“Emergencies, disasters … zombies,” you say.

OK.  I’m not buying the zombie reason, but the other two seem plausible.

If you need to bug out, how much time will you have?

“Minutes, maybe hours,” you say.

Possibly quite right.  I agree.

What if it makes more sense to bug in?

“Bug in?” you say.

Uh huh.  What if it’s safer to stay in your home than to leave it and head out on the highway?

Got you thinking?

My point is that a BOB keeps everything in one place.  It has everything you might need to survive for 72 hours.  It’s organized.  You know where it is.  You’re not looking in the cupboards or going to the basement or rifling through stuff in the garage.  A BOB’s primary purpose is to keep everything you need in one place – preferably a place that is easily accessible regardless of the situation.  You might also consider the most likely disaster scenarios as you think about where to store your BOB.

In a disaster or emergency, the last thing you want to have to do is go hunting for your essentials.  The BOB – the Foundation of Preparedness – saves you the trouble.  Everything is assembled in one place … and easily portable, if necessary.

One last question about the Foundation of Preparedness ….  What holds up the foundation?  Footings.  What are the Footings of Preparedness?  Plans.  Without preparedness planning, the BOB is almost useless.

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The Rule of Threes

If you’re new to disaster preparedness, you may not be familiar with the Rule of Threes.  The Rule of Threes, like most rules, is a useful guideline.  It’s not intended to be an absolute.  One of the first rules of planning is to recognize that there are no absolutes.  There are two types of plans: those that have failed and those that may fail. 

Knowing that there are no absolutes and recognizing that any plan can fail, one can utilize the Rule of Threes to develop one’s plan … and one’s contingency plans.

Remember the Rule of Threes

Here are the rules:

  • You can survive for three minutes without air
  • You can survive for three hours without shelter (in a harsh environment)
  • You can survive for three days without water
  • You can survive for three weeks without food
  • You can survive for three months without hope

As an ancillary to The Rule of Threes, if you require medical treatment (either ongoing or immediate) or first aid, you may not survive long enough to find out if the other rules apply.

So, as you make your plans and preparations, keep The Rule of Threes in mind.  I’ve seen a lot of people’s Bug-out Bags (BOB’s) filled with weapons and ammo and food with little consideration given to air, shelter or water.  I won’t argue the fun in acquiring weapons and ammunition.  However, if you can’t breath clean air, weapons and ammunition are unlikely to be of much use … unless you can quickly trade them for a gas mask or dust mask.

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