James Wesley Rawles is a former Army Intelligence officer who runs the popular disaster and emergency preparation website SurvivalBlog.com.
As an expert who has spent over a decades advising people on how to plan for a wide array of crises — including pandemics — we wanted to sit down asap with Jim to learn his practical recommendations for defending your home and family from the coronavirus threat.
In this interview, Jim and I get into the nitty-gritty of the “how to’s”, including:
- Masks/Gloves/Eye Protection/other PPE: What kind to get? How often can you use them? Tips for disinfecting? What options are there when supplies run out?
- Surfaces: What cleaners/sanitizers are best? How to disinfect? How to deal with package deliveries?
- Disinfection: How to re-enter your home without contaminating it?
- Food & Water: What supplies to have in case of quarantine/store closures/prolonged utilities outages?
- Home Care: Which supplies — like nebulizers and oxygen concentrators — will be useful in helping sick family members cope?
- Community support: How to help prepare your neighbors in advance of an outage in your area? How to support each other during a community quarantine?
You’ll want to listen to this podcast soon, as many of the resources Jim recommends are fast disappearing from retail shelves. It’s nearly too late to acquire certain PPE (like N95 masks) and Jim identifies which supplies are most in danger of disappearing next (he strongly urges getting bulk food supplies asap before the run on those begins in earnest)
Click the play button below to listen to my interview with James Wesley Rawles (65m:27s).
Adam Taggart: Hello, and welcome to the Peak Prosperity podcast. I'm Adam Taggart. I’ll be your host today. I'm the cofounder of Peak Prosperity along with my partner Chris Martenson. We’ve been covering the coronavirus now for a little over a month since it initially burst into the scene in Wuhan, China.
Many of you listening have probably heard the daily video updates that Chris had been giving online. I'm filling in Chris’s shoes today because he is working on the next video that we’ll be getting live early tomorrow.
With me here is James Wesley Rawles. Jim is a former US Army officer, and he’s the survivor of survivalblog.com, which is a comprehensive online resource and community for folks interesting in preparing for nearly any kind of disaster or emergency.
Jim’s also the author of several books including The Patriot Novel Series and the book Rawles on Retreats and Relocation which, while now out of print, is an exhaustive survey of which regions in the US are best and worst suited for riding out various different forms of crises.
So given Jim’s extensive expertise in survival and disaster preparation we’ve asked him to come on the podcast today to help us address the top question that Chris and I are hearing from well, everybody, right now. And that is what do I need to do to keep myself and my family safe from the coronavirus?
Jim, thanks so much for being willing to join us on such short notice.
James Wesley Rawles: Thanks for having me on, Adam.
Adam Taggart: Your welcome. Total pleasure. Big fan of your work. We’ve had you on the podcast before in past years. But we have a lot of new people who are listening to us now who I think have joined us with the coronavirus coverage.
So before we get into the details here, can you just give folks a quick summary of your background and the practical expertise that its helped you develop around preparation?
James Wesley Rawles: Sure. I served for six years as an Army Intelligence Officer, primarily in signals intelligence. But one of my secondary skill sets was in nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare. I attended the US Army NBC school, and I was an NBC defense officer for one of my units, and I’ve had a pretty strong interest in preparedness that dates back all the way to my teenage years.
I came from a pioneer family, and also grew up in Livermore, California, which is the home of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories. And most of my childhood friends were the children on nuclear physicists, some of whom developed nuclear weapons. My own father was in experimental physics with particle accelerators.
And growing up in Livermore gave me a really strong appreciation for what a fragile world we live in and the effects of nuclear weapons. And, in fact, Livermore, even to this day, had more privately owned fallout and blast shelters than any other community in the United States.
Adam Taggart: I did not know that, and I don’t live all that far from Livermore.
James Wesley Rawles: Well, they’re still there. Most of them were built in the early 1960s. A lot of them have sadly been converted into rumpus rooms, but I think that that mentality that I grew up with really never wore off, and that was one of the inspirations for starting Survival Blog.
Adam Taggart: Great. And could you just give a real quick overview of the mission behind Survival Blog and the types of information you publish on the site there?
James Wesley Rawles: Sure. Well, I designed Survival Blog to be kind of the go to resource for family preparedness. So everything from food storage to water filtration, bug-out bags, retreat security, communications, night vision equipment, advanced first aid and medical topics, pretty much everything you’d want to know about preparedness is there in the archives of Survival Blog.
All those archives are available free. They date back all the way to 2005. There's over 30,000 archived articles and columns covering just a panoply of topics, and with far more knowledge than I have personally.
I really depend on the brain trust of my readership. I have a little over 100,000 regular readers, and the amount of knowledge and expertise that’s out there is just tremendous, and people have been quite willing to share that knowledge. And again, it’s all added up in the archives of Survival Blog.
Adam Taggart: A lot of the folks who are listening here who are long time Peak Prosperity listeners, we have a similar dynamic at peakprosperity.com where the community itself is the brain trust, to borrow your term there, and is cataloguing a lot of their collective knowledge in forum posts and in user comments on the site and whatnot in the articles.
And I’ve been to Survival Blog. I’ve read it for a number of years. Very much agree, it is an incredibly rich wealth of information on really any topic that you can think of relating to preparing for anything. Like you said, anything from a short term power outage to a nuclear blast to a global pandemic. And that’s what we're here to talk about today.
So Jim, for someone who has been writing about this and speaking publicly, presenting on this for years, decades, I believe, even on a subject as specific as what to do in a pandemic, what is your assessment of the coronavirus outbreak, and what are you talking with your community about it? Short story, how seriously should we be taking this from your perspective?
James Wesley Rawles: I think we should take it very seriously, but presently more from the potential economic fallout rather than the public health crisis, although that, I think, will probably be upon us within weeks, it’s pretty clear that this virus is transmissible before people are showing visible symptoms, and there's even talk that it might even be transmissible from people who don’t ever realize they're carrying it.
So odds are it’s going to end up being literally global. It’ll be a true global pandemic, and although it’s likely to subside a bit in spring and summer, I think it will come back with a vengeance in the Northern Hemisphere this coming fall and winter.
While we're experiencing summer, the Southern Hemisphere, of course, is going to be in winter. They’ll have their cold and flu season, and I think the Southern Hemisphere may actually bear the brunt of this starting in two or three months.
Adam Taggart: Well that comports very closely with what Chris and I had been looking at.
If you look at the data right now, it’s 95 plus percent of cases have been in the Northern Hemisphere, and very few so far have been in the Southern Hemisphere. And part of that might be due to under reporting and a lot of developing countries that maybe aren’t doing a good job at testing.
But I think it’s hard not to conclude that there is a big seasonality factor to it, that the virus just prefers colder weather, colder, dryer weather.
And like previous epidemics and pandemics, they do last for months and sometimes years. And during that period they're evolving into another – they're mutating into another phase. So these viruses come in waves. I believe in the Spanish influenza of 1918-19, it was the second wave that was actually the really virulent one.
So as you just said, that could easily happen where the virus might subside a bit as the Northern Hemisphere begins to go into spring and summer, but it heads into the Southern Hemisphere, infects a bunch of people, continues to evolve and then, as you said, it can jump the equator again as we go back into winter time. And who knows, that could be a strain that we're just completely unprepared for.
I'm not trying to scare people, but just saying that it certainly has happened before.
James Wesley Rawles: And I think your listeners should be made aware the general tendency of viruses is to mutate into less virulent and less deadly strains. That’s the general trend simply because if a virus is too virulent it kills off its hosts to quickly and doesn’t have a chance to propagate.
But in the case of the Spanish flu of 1918 – I think that’s a really good example you brought out – in the first wave it was killing a lot of older people. In the second wave, it was killing a lot of younger people. In that instance, what happened was they had what’s called a cytokine storm response where their body’s own immune systems overreacted to the virus.
And there's been a lot of talk in the comment section of my blog about being prepared for this, and a lot of people are saying, oh, you really need to go heavy on colloidal silver, and you need to have elderberry extract on hand.
And there's some folks there who are very quick to point out, hold on a second folks, you don’t want to artificially raise your immune response until we wait and see if there's the risk of a cytokine storm.
Adam Taggart: And just to sort of explain a little bit in more laymen’s terms. The reason why the Spanish flu – in that second wave, it was the younger people, or the people in the prime of their lives who were hit harder is essentially, as you were saying, the virus turns your immune system against you in many ways. And so it was the people with the stronger immune systems who suffered the most in that second wave.
So Jim, we could talk about the science all day long. I would love to. It’s germane here; let’s continue to do so. But Chris is doing that on a daily basis on our site.
[Audio interruption 00:11:24]
James Wesley Rawles: …practical prepping.
Adam Taggart: Exaclty. That’s why I wanted to get you on here because I think people are really hungry for some additional guidance on that part, which is okay, I’ll believe what you tell me on the science, just tell me what I need to do.
So as I think about it, and you correct me if this framework is incorrect., you sort of approach this as a three pronged strategy. First it’s look, don’t come into contact with the virus if you can. The best way not to get infected by it is just to not come near it. So that’s where self-isolation, social distancing, that type of stuff comes into play.
The second is okay, if I get near it, don’t get it on my or in me. And this is where we talk about masks and gloves and dressing gowns and other things, sterilizers and hand sanitizers and stuff like that.
And then the third is okay, if it gets in me, I want to increase my odds of beating it. And in general you would say this is where I want to have a strong immune system so that if the virus comes in my immune system can rush to the defense and either kill it before it goes systemic or at least if I get it, I get a mild case versus a harder case.
Now, there's some issues there with the cytokine element and whatnot, but I think right now the data is showing it is the older and the more infirmed people that are succumbing to it in terms of getting the serious cases or the high mortality rates.
So does that framework of sort of don’t come into contact with it, if you get it one you make sure you takes steps not to get it in you, and then if you get it in you be as healthy as you can. Is that a good way to look at it?
James Wesley Rawles: Absolutely. But there's a lot that goes into all three of those.
In terms of family preparedness for this, people really need to think in terms of hunkering down at home in isolation for a period of not weeks but months. And there's a lot of logistics that go along with that.
For anyone that lives in the country, if you don’t have a lock and chain for your front gate you should buy one because you want to be able to make sure that no one’s going to come onto your property. And if someone does, you don’t want to answering your door.
In terms of the logistics for being prepared for that extended period of time, the shortages that we're seeing right now are basically the generally dumb public, the GDP as I like to call them, really waking up to the basics. Things like N95 masks and gloves and hand sanitizers and maybe nebulizers. I think the next thing that’s going to disappear will probably be oxygen concentrators.
But beyond that, in a matter of weeks, if this does hit the United States and propagate the way I expect it to, we're going to see shortages of storage food first and then pretty much all nonperishable foods off the store shelves. And then, at the very late stages, people will even be cleaning out the perishable foods to take home to freeze.
Adam Taggart: Got it. I think we’ve already begun seeing photos online is China and South Korea, and I think I’ve even seen some in Iran and Italy, of the completely bare store shelves.
James Wesley Rawles: And there's already been a report here in the United States that Costco – they have a mail order arm where you can do an internet order for item either for pick or delivery – they’ve completely sold out of their storage food packages.
Adam Taggart: Interesting.
All right, before we get into to details there you’ve mentioned a few things that for the people who haven’t been perhaps listening and reading every day for the past month of this, I don’t want to skip over for them.
So you mentioned masks. You mentioned N95 masks. Just a quick description of N 95 and what benefit…
James Wesley Rawles: An N95 is designed to stop 95 percent of viruses from reaching your respiratory track. They're not perfect. If someone has the money and the opportunity, they should go ahead and get a full Mill-Pac N24 series or better military NBC mask and a lot of spare filter cartridges. But the availability of those I'm sure is already pretty low and probably going to be completely depleted soon.
Your best bet is to try and find some N95 masks if you haven’t already stockpiled them. And as an absolute worst case backup, if you can’t find N95 masks, you can at least wear a doubled pair of surgical mask, but surgical masks really aren’t designed to stop viruses. They’ll stop some of them, but not as well as an N95 mask.
N95 masks are designed to be disposable. They basically come in two flavors. One is a disposable fiber cup that’s held on your nose and mouth area, usually held with rubber bands back behind your ears or over the top of your head depending on the design.
The other type of N95 mask that’s commonly available at hardware stores in the construction department is what’s called a half-face mask, and that usually has a pair of filter cartridges. Usually they're oblong in shape and there's a number of different brands on the market. With the half-face mask, the advantage is you get a better seal, and you have more surface area for the mask filters so there's less breathing resistance.
One thing about all masks, especially military masks, is people who are not accustomed to them tend to get claustrophobic very quickly, and they find themselves lifting the mask with their hands, which is like a major no-no because you're contaminating your own face by doing so.
So I like the half-face masks simply because they have less breathing resistance, and you can handle some fairly heavy chores while wearing those.
And those filter cartridges are replaceable with new filtered disks, although you have to follow a procedure. You can actually find that online at YouTube, for example, for changing filter elements or filter cartridges without contaminating your mask in the process. It actually requires two sets of gloves.
Adam Taggart: That’s really interesting. The question I was going to ask you is how long or how many times can you wear these masks?
James Wesley Rawles: That’s subject to debate. You know, most of the people who have a lot of experience with them are people who work in contracting. And they so oh, I’ve gotten five or six weeks’ worth of use out my N95 mask. Well, that’s really well and good if you're dealing with fiber glass or sheetrock dust.
Not with viruses because once a mask is contaminated you really don’t have a good way of decontaminating that mask without destroying the filtering capacity of that mask. Because if you're wiping it down with alcohol you're basically going to clog up that mask and make it ineffective. You also run the risk of contaminating yourself in the process of attempting to decontaminate and reuse a mask.
And N95 masks, in the medical context, are disposable for a reason. Unfortunately, we now live in the of scarcity for N95 masks, and people are going to have to do their best to kind of fake it. And again, you’ll need two pairs of gloves.
As you come back into your house, in some sort of vestibule area, say your back porch, front porch or whatever, or maybe even the trunk of a car, you're going to be wearing gloves. You're going to remove your N95 masks, lay it mouth-side down on a table or in the floor of your trunk, and then after you close your trunk you're going to have to remove those gloves.
And then, if you're going to try to reuse that mask, you have to very gingerly, wearing a new set of gloves, attempt to handle the mask only by the straps, and get it onto your face without contaminating yourself with the exterior touching your face, especially your eyes and your lips or the soft mucus membranes of your nose. You don’t want to have the exterior of the mask come into contact with anything that’ll transmit virus.
So it’s really a tricky proposition. But again, we are now in the age of absolute scarcity for N95 masks. From a couple of news reports I’ve read, the Chinese are no longer exporting any masks. They were the source of 98 percent of N95 masks on the world market. They’ve diverted all those for domestic use. So there will be no more coming into the country, and it’ll be months before domestic manufacturers can ramp up to meet domestic demand. So essentially, what you’ve got it all you’ve got.
In my blog we use a lot of acronyms. One of them is yoyo. That stands for you're on your own. And unfortunately, what people have in terms of their current supplies of N95 masks, unless they're very lucky finding them on the open market, finding some small town hardware store that still has some tucked away, what you have is essentially your entire supply for at least the first wave of this outbreak.
Adam Taggart: Two quick questions, then we’ll get onto non-mask related questions.
One is, so it sounds like you can perhaps figure out how to change/replace the little filters in the N95 mask. And for those that are handy, if you can find the instructions you can figure it out. But probably for the vast majority of folks they're either not that handy, or they're not skilled enough that they're probably going to end up maybe infecting themselves in the process of trying to so or destroying the filter of the mask.
So my question is, if you're one of those people and just don’t want to screw around with the filter, is it better to try to reuse an N95 mask, or is it once you’ve worn it once in a place where you think you’ve been exposed to people that might have it, is it best to just ditch the mask?
James Wesley Rawles: That’s a really tough question. You're really playing a game of Russian roulette if you do that. So if you have been out and about and you think the chances of exposure to someone who’s actually ill are low, then it might be worth the risk to reuse an N95 mask. Otherwise, they only belong one place, and that’s in a burn barrel.
Adam Taggart: So now you’ve either used up your N95 masks or you're one of those you're on your own people where you just don’t have any.
James Wesley Rawles: Then you're down to wrapping socks around your face or something.
Adam Taggart: That’s what I was going to say. Obviously, the simple solution is just don’t go out into public places.
James Wesley Rawles: Unfortunately, because of people’s work situations, family obligations, or just the need to go out and buy food for people who didn’t stock up, people are going to be forced to face a very unenviable position and that is forced to be out in public without proper PPE, which is protective equipment. I don’t envy that for people in that situation, but a lot of people, unfortunately, are going to be there.
Adam Taggart: And are there any hacks that are worth talking about? I’ve seen some things online of kind of jerry rigging.
James Wesley Rawles: I’ve seen some pretty comical photos coming out of China with people using a brassiere cut in half and the cups from the brasserie in the place of a mask. I’ve seen pictures of people with disposable diapers over their face.
Adam Taggart: And are these all just placebos, or these better than nothing?
James Wesley Rawles: Well, probably better than nothing because at least the chance of a fairly large spill drop coming from someone you're talking with reaching your mouth is minimized.
The problem is, in addition to the large spill drops that you can see, there's really a fine mist that people give off, and unless the lighting was right you’d never see that. At least it’s better than nothing.
Adam Taggart: Boy if you can get yourself some N95 masks get them. If you get them though, realize that they largely are single use unless you can figure out how to replace the filters and handle them in such a way that that you're not contaminating yourself in the process.
And then, if you have no masks and must go outside, jerry rigging something is probably better than nothing, but don’t expect it to give you too much protection.
James Wesley Rawles: And in all cases, do not forget that you need at least wrap-around glasses, for example, because you don’t want a droplet of spittle to touch your cornea. That’s one of the main avenues that viruses get into the human body.
Adam Taggart: So we're not talking about regular glasses or sunglasses here. We're talking about sort of a self-contained wrap around, almost sort of like painters use when they're paint spraying, right?
James Wesley Rawles: That would be best, but at least shooting glasses where you have side protection. But standard glasses don’t provide that much protection at all because you can have a droplet of spittle come in from the side. Just wrap around glasses, like wraparound sunglasses or wrap around shooting glasses.
But proper goggles, like you’d see in a home workshop, are far, far better. And those can be reused and be decontaminated. Any glasses or goggles are much, much easier to decontaminate and reuse than a mask.
But again, you're going to have to use two pair of gloves, and you're going to have to a pretty large supply of at least alcohol on hand.
Now, preferably you're going to be using a bleach solution. And the very best solution is povidone solution, and that’s actually two or three chemicals involved, but the main one is iodine in that solution, and you’d be using a light solution of that to rinse your goggles. You let them airdry and reuse them.
Adam Taggart: So where would one get povidone?
James Wesley Rawles: Well, you can actually still find it on eBay and Amazon, and you probably will be able to find it at your local drug store. Just ask your druggist for povidone solution. It’s sold under several different brand names. It has a brownish tint to it, and it’s made in very large quantity, so the chances are you’ll still be able to find that.
And that same solution is what you're going to want to use with, for example, you’d start with either a rag or a standard baby wipe, dip that in povidone solution, and that’s what you're going to be wiping down your front doorknob with, for example, or telephone handsets or god forbid you have to go to the store after it hits, but shopping cart handles.
Adam Taggart: Got it. So in addition to maybe bringing the hand sanitizer with you wherever you go, bring povidone to wipe down public surfaces.
James Wesley Rawles: Correct.
Adam Taggart: So in terms of sort of a shopping list then, we’ve got masks if we can get them, we’ve got the wrap-around glasses, we’ve got – everybody should just go get some bottles of Clorox because it’s super cheap and you can distill it and use it as your backup. But go get some povidone if you can get that.
James Wesley Rawles: One other piece of equipment that most people overlook and that’s booties. You can find those in drug stores still, or they're widely available again on Amazon or eBay. But disposable booties like those that are used in surgical suites or electronics clean rooms. because you don’t want to be tracking virus into your house.
So just before you're going to remove your gloves as you come into the house, the first thing you're going to do is remove your plastic booties, throw those into the burn barrel, then you're going to remove the gloves carefully not to contaminate yourself, then the gloves go in the burn barrel.
Adam Taggart: Got it.
James Wesley Rawles: Someone inside the house is going to open the door for you. You're not going to touch the outer doorknob.
Adam Taggart: Got it. And you're talking about these booties, they're sort of like galoshes. You put them on before you go out.
James Wesley Rawles: They lightweight plastic. They have a little elastic strap to go around your ankle, and they're designed for one time use. Now, if you run out of those, or you can’t find them, you can simply use Ziploc bags and rubber bands.
Adam Taggart: That’s sort of the poor man’s booty.
James Wesley Rawles: Quart size work pretty well unless you have really big feet or you're wearing boots.
Adam Taggart: So I want to talk about gloves…
James Wesley Rawles: I'm sorry. Did I say quart size? I meant to say gallon size.
Adam Taggart: Maybe for kids – they can wear quart size.
Let’s talk real quickly about gloves, and then the question I want to ask you is at what point do you start adopting these behaviors? I mean, we're talking about you leave the house, you're wiping everything down, you’ve got your booties and stuff like that. Should everybody…
James Wesley Rawles: Adam, to be safe, at the first report of a confirmed case in your county is when you should start adopting that.
Adam Taggart: That’s a great reference point to have.
James Wesley Rawles: You know, it may be over cautious, but I guess it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Adam Taggart: And with this disease, you mentioned earlier on, that people can be asymptomatic for such a long period of time. There were reports of up to like 27 days where the people are contagious but they feel fine and they don’t know it. So, of course, they're going out about their daily business, but they're shedding the virus everywhere they're going.
So buy the time there's a confirmed outbreak in your county, you can probably have confidence that there are dozens to hundreds if not thousands of people that may already be infected but not know it.
James Wesley Rawles: And on that same day, for any of your listeners who wear beards, that’s the day you shave it off. You can keep your mustache, but everything else has to go. You have to have a good seal on flesh. You don’t get a good seal with any sort of protective mask if you're up against beard hair.
Adam Taggart: So just to be clear, we're back to masks now. So any beard hair, even just sort of day or two stubble can compromise the seal, right?
James Wesley Rawles: Correct.
Adam Taggart: Gentlemen, time to become cleanshaven.
Quickly, let’s get back to gloves because you mentioned them a bunch. Are we just talking the relatively cheap box of 50-100 surgical gloves that you can buy at a pharmacy?
James Wesley Rawles: Just regular nitrile gloves. Actually a significant portion of the population is allergic to latex, so if you can, it’s better to get nitrile exam gloves rather than latex gloves just in case someone might have a reaction.
Just regular exam gloves are probably sufficient for most tasks when you're just going to be out and about going to a bank or going to a store. Heavy gloves for heavier tasks, of course. Wear like rubber cleaning gloves, for example, if you have to do anything heavy duty
Adam Taggart: Like the big Playtex dishwashing gloves, you're talking about?
James Wesley Rawles: Yeah.
Adam Taggart: Well, let me put it this way, the nitrile gloves or the surgical gloves that we're talking about, I assume those are one and done gloves, right.? You come back home…
James Wesley Rawles: Yeah, there's just basically no good way to try to decontaminate gloves. They really are designed – maybe with your heavier gloves you might try it where you would basically soak the gloves in povidone solution and then hang them up on a clothesline perhaps.
Again, it’s going to take another pair of gloves just to handle them to get them into the povidone solution. It’s problematic.
Adam Taggart: So basically get yourself a whole lot of surgical gloves while you can.
James Wesley Rawles: Absolutely. They're currently widely available, still inexpensive. The price on N95 masks has gone ballistic recently. One of my readers mentioned having seen one disposal N95 mask, which three months ago was selling anywhere from $0.80 to $1.10 selling at $40 on eBay. One mask.
Adam Taggart: Wow, I'm rich in masks now. Sadly, I wont be putting them on eBay anytime soon.
So we’ve talked a lot about protecting yourself if you have to go out in the wide world. Let’s assume for a moment you are home, you are self-isolating, it is for a prolonged period of time. Hopefully you have enough food storage, but we're going to talk about that in just a moment.
James Wesley Rawles: Hopefully all the public utility workers are going to show up so water still comes magically out of your tap, and your lights magically turn on when you flip the switch. If those public utility employees don’t show up for work, we could be in for a whole cascade of events.
And that’s one of the things that I talked about for many, many years in Survival Blog is that the three US national power grids really are the lynchpin of modern society. And if the grids go down all bets are off because soon after the grids go down, within 72 hours for most people, that means their water is going to stop flowing as well.
Because of current EPA standards, there's a pump in every civic water supply because they usually are running water through giant filters to meet the nephelometer, the turbidity standards, that are set by the EPA for water clarity. There's no longer gravity fed systems in probably 98 percent of American cities.
Adam Taggart: I'm going to just wind you up and set you lose here, Jim, in terms of okay, somebody is settling down how for an indeterminately long self-quarantine to be prepared for not only their family but feeding and caring for their family if these public services go down.
So I knew there was going to be a lot of information, but what are the top things that you think people just need to go get if we don’t have right now?
James Wesley Rawles: Well, I guess the absolute would be a water filter. The supply of those is incredibly thin. Right now, most water filters are marketed to backpackers and a few preppers. The number of filters out there – you know, we have a nation of 350 million people – there's probably only one or two million, at most, good quality water filters in the supply chain right now. That’s not a lot to go around.
So at the very top of people’s list would be a top quality filter that’s fine enough to treat water from open sources. They won’t stop viruses, but they will stop bacteria. And in a public health crisis, the main risk, if we're grid down, will actually be bacterial infections, not a viral infections.
So even, ironically, in the midst of a viral pandemic, a lot of people are going to be dying from bacterial infections. So it’s really important that people have a really top quality filter that they can use to treat water from open sources, and here I'm talking about downspout water from off of people’s roofs or pond water, creeks water, water from streams or whatever.
The brands that I like are like the Sawyer mini filter, for example. Any of the filters made by Katadyn. It’s K-A-T-A-D-Y-N. And then, for a large filter for your kitchen, I like the big Berkey filters. That’s a stainless steel filter made in England by Dolton. In fact, it’s the same Doulton company that make china because the filters inside are light ceramic.
So water filtration should be right at the top of your list.
Then you need to think in terms of how you're going to cook if there's no power or if eventually even the natural gas, if you're on utility, will stop working. So how are you going to cook? How are you going to source water? You need to think in terms of not just being able to filter water but how you're going to transport that water.
If you have to go to a nearby stream or pond, water weighs 8.0 pounds a gallon. So how are you going to get that home? You need to think in terms of five gallon water cans to carry that water and perhaps something like a two wheeled garden cart so you can carry several cans at once because it’s absolutely exhausting trying to carry a five gallon water can any distance whatsoever.
So water filtration, food storage, cooking. Then you need to think in terms of lighting, home security, first aid, and then acute care for anyone who’s ill or injured. And if it’s someone ill with a virus, then you need to have a completely separate structure. You're going to have someone out in a guess cabin or a barn perhaps where you can isolate someone who does come down with this so that everyone in the family doesn’t.
[Cough 00:41:00 - 00:41:16]
So you need to think in terms of security for you family, self-defense, lighting, night vision equipment, the list goes on and on.
If your listener are folks who ready websites or blogs like mine, they're probably ahead of the power curve. Some of your listeners may be behind the power curve, and their chances of finding something like night vision equipment while they still have a decent budget are pretty slim.
But there's a lot of things you need to think through. Basically, sit down, make yourself what I call a list of lists. Make a food storage list, a water list, a first aid list, a communications list, a lighting list, a bedding list, a clothing list, a gardening list. And prioritize those lists, and just think through logically all the eventualities of having to live with your family in full isolation for a period of months.
Again, there could be some pretty lengthy lists. And for anyone who’s behind the power curve, you're going to have to very carefully prioritize those lists.
If you go to my website, survivalblog.com, up at the top under resources, if you click on list of lists, I actually have a large list of lists with quite a few details in an Excel spreadsheet, and that’s available for free download.
Adam Taggart: Oh, great. I was going to mention something similar at Peak Prosperity for new users. peakprosperity.com/usid; that stands for what should I do. We have a what should I do guide there. Step zero is all about emergency preparation which touches upon a lot of what Jim mentions here with specific product recommendations.
But Jim, it sounds like you’ve already got some existing lists on your site too. And, again, that’s right off the homepage there?
James Wesley Rawles: Yes. Look under the resources tab at the top of the main page at survivalblog.com.
Another thing under my resources page is I wrote about, oh, gosh, eight or nine years ago, a standalone page titled how to protect your family from an influenza pandemic. And it’s available, again, free of charge, and you can get to it right from the resources tab at survivlblog.com
Adam Taggart: Fantastic. We’ll also link to the general list for that specific resource from the write up of this podcast, Jim, so people can get there directly.
James Wesley Rawles: Thanks, Adam.
Adam Taggart: No worries. Thank you for putting that together.
A question for you. So we are going to have a mix of people listening to this podcast, some of whom are in front of the power curve, some of whom are behind.
And for the people who are not already well stocked up on a lot of the things that you’ve mentioned, a huge part of getting through a multi-month crisis like this is going to be your community, relying on other people to help provide some of the things that you can’t provide on your own, and you being in service to them and vice-versa.
And, of course, a pandemic is dicey because you're going to be careful about person to person contact. But can you talk a bit about how to leverage social relationships during a time like this?
James Wesley Rawles: Well, I’ve always put a premium at Survival Blog on barer and charity, and I come to it all from a Christian perspective. And my philosophy is to give until it hurts and to be as charitable as possible. And not everyone’s going to be in a situation where they’ll have anything extra to share, but for those who do, I would ask them to pray about it, examine their own conscious, and think through what items you have that you can spare to help your neighbors and friends and coworkers.
And also think about how you're going to get that into people’s hands without compromising yourself. You know, the context of a viral outbreak, how are you going to get it them without also bringing home a virus?
And even in just a social collapse, let’s say an economic collapse situation, how you would get charity into other people’s hands without compromising your physical security because you don’t want to be known as the rich guy with extra stuff. That’s the guy who gets his house knocked off.
So I often write in my blog about the importance of making contact through local charitable organizations or churches where you would very quietly approach church elders, let them know that you have some extra things available, and ask that your name would never be mentioned. And then those charitable items would be distributed through that third party.
Adam Taggart: That sounds real prudent being the anonymous donor to a service organization that can then get the materials to the folks who need them most.
I'm going to ask an even more pointed question which is, hopefully most people listening right now there has not been an outbreak reported in their county yet.
So what questions or topics would you recommend they discuss right now with their neighbors, whether you live in an apartment building or you're talking to people who live on the floors around you or whether you live in a neighborhood and you're talking to the houses down the street. What kind of things should people prearrange now before the quarantine comes into play?
James Wesley Rawles: Well, for anyone who lives in a suburban environment where some of your neighbors garden and some don’t, I think it would be apropos to approach your neighbors and let them know what sort of produce that you have available to trade. And I think bartering will become very important because people literally, even if there's still food on the shelves, are not going to want to go to stores, but they might feel more comfortable bartering across their back fence.
So it’s appropriate to talk with your neighbors, ask them if they’ve stocked up. If they haven’t, urge them in no uncertain terms, tell them, I'm stocking up, I expect you to stock up. If you don’t stock up, don’t come looking to me for charity because I won’t have that much extra. Please. Please stock up to the best of your ability.
I don’t recommend that people go out and max out their credit cards, but while supplies are available, this is the appropriate time to stock up on beans, bullets, and band aids, and to the best of your ability, your should stock up.
And the extra that you have on hand will be appropriate for both barter and charity. So do talk to your neighbors, encourage them to stock up as best they can.
And if possible, in just the last few days or weeks available before this thing goes like wildfire across the United States as I'm expecting, people should think in terms of getting together for group purchases where saying to your neighbor – say you have an elderly neighbor – I'm going to be going to Costco, can I help you stock up; do you want me to pick up a few things for you, let me know what you want, you can reimburse me. That sort of thing.
So buying in quantity always makes sense, and it’s just a matter of having the appropriate containers to divide things for barter or charity. And extra containers are one of the things that you want to have on hand.
Say that you have a – if you're fortunate enough to have a 500 gallon underground fuel tank, how are you going to get fuel into the hands of people for barter without letting them know that you have a 500 gallon tank? You're going to have to have a whole bunch of empty one or two gallon cans.
So you got to think all those things through.
Getting back to discussions with neighbors, you need to talk through with your neighbors, find out who might have a nebulizer. Find out who might have an extra oxygen concentrator, for example. A lot of families…
Adam Taggart: I hate to interrupt you here, Jim, but can you just very quickly describe what each one of those things is? I'm not sure everyone listening knows what those two things are.
James Wesley Rawles: A nebulizer is basically a steamer that you basically put your face directly above, or often they're set up with a face type mask where steam is going to be brought up from this machine as it warms up, and you breath it in either through your mouth or your nose.
And you can actually, with a nebulizer, infuse that with something like colloidal silver. So they're very practical.
Adam Taggart: Which is for antibacterial.
James Wesley Rawles: If you're having difficulty breathing, a nebulizer can literally be a lifesaver. But it’s only a $20 item.
The next step up, of course, is an oxygen concentrator for anyone with a chronic breathing condition, whatever it’s emphysema, COPD, which is chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder. Anybody with a chronic problem like that will probably either be on bottled oxygen or these days more likely an oxygen concentrator. They make then two different styles, an AC unit that plugs into a wall outlet, and they're really a marvel of modern technology.
It’s machine that sits there with a little compressor, and very quietly takes ambient, regular air from your room and concentrates oxygen, puts it into tube, and that’s run to a canula or a face mask to go on someone’s mouth, and it’s just like medical oxygen they would have at a hospital.
Adam Taggart: And one of the reasons why…
James Wesley Rawles: And then they also make portable oxygen concentrators which are run off of batteries, but, of course, the batteries have to recharge.
What I recommend people find is a floor model oxygen concentrator such as the one’s – I'm trying to think of some name brand here. Like the Everflow, for example, is one of the main ones on the market.
You can find those used currently on Craigslist for around $175 to $300.
If you have just one of those in your extended family, and someone in your family comes down with a life threatening illness that causes pneumonia, it can literally be the difference between life and death.
Adam Taggart: And that’s what I wanted to underscore here. The reason why that’s so particularly relevant to this coronavirus outbreak is that the serious complications generally get pneumonia.
James Wesley Rawles: Let’s face it, there's only 900,000 hospital beds in the United States. Of those, I would say maybe 75 percent of them are for acute patients. That’s for a population of 350 million people. What happens when we go from past 900,000 to 2.0 million, 3.0 million people infected and with symptoms severe enough to send them to the hospital?
There simply will not be enough hospital beds available. So home healthcare is going to be folks only option, and unless they have something like a nebulizer or, preferably is they can afford it and find it, an oxygen concentrator, you're basically just going to watch your relatives lungs fill up and watch them die.
Adam Taggart: And just to put some numbers behind that, you know, we're dealing with the official numbers, most of them reported by China, so we really don’t know how much we can trust the numbers right now. We know we're working with imperfect data.
But given the numbers we have it looks like the complication rate is around 15 percent. So let’s anything 100 million people in America get infected, that’s 15 million serious complications. And you said that there's only 900,000 hospital beds. That’s something like…
James Wesley Rawles: And even worse than that, for the people who have severe complications, they're going to need more than just medical oxygen. They're actually going to need a hospital – they’re either going to need to be intubated, or they're going to need to be on what used to be called an iron lung, which is a hospital respirator.
Adam Taggart: There are how many in the country? Not very many.
James Wesley Rawles: There's very few of those out there. Most hospitals only have one or two of them. And if we have a public health crisis with a 15 percent population rate and a good number of those patients require more than medical oxygen, we're going to see some pretty high morbidity.
Adam Taggart: Well, Jim, we're going to begin to enter lightening round here only because I’m looking at the time and realizing I could go on for another two hours with you, and I don’t think we would have gotten halfway through the questions I’d like to ask.
I want to acknowledge I interrupted you for those descriptions when you were talking with the people in your community about who’s got what resources so that you could come up with what I believe you were going to recommend as sort of a communal resource pool that we know what assets, what skills everybody has so we can leverage that if we need to.
James Wesley Rawles: Who has a medical background? Who would have a guest cottage, for example, where people could be isolated who are ill?
Adam Taggart: That could become a sick room.
James Wesley Rawles: So that would be converted into a sick room. Who has medical oxygen? Who would have oxygen concentrators? Who would have nebulizers?
Just think through the logical chain of events. And it’s really a cascade, and unfortunately, it’s a real steep downhill slope, but think through all those eventualities in terms of how you structure you conversation with your neighbors.
You want to find out what key resources are out there. You also have to be very diplomatic about this and judge people. You have to be very discerning about people and figure out who’s going to be willing to part with things, and who’s willing to barter, who’s willing to be charitable, and who do you really just need to keep your distance from?
Adam Taggart: Got it. So talk to me about medical, really quickly, on the premium side of peakprosperity.com, Chris and I wrote a piece about how we're personally preparing for the coronavirus. And in there we have instructions of creating a sick room, on over the counter medications that you can get still in a pharmacy that you should have on hand. And those were not put together by Chris and I but put together by a member of the Peak Prosperity community who is an ER doc.
And so I think our best think is in that piece, do you have any resources on Survival Blog you want to point people to in terms of self-care, if you have somebody who gets sick?
James Wesley Rawles: Actually, the archives on Survival Blog date all the way back to 2005. Luckily, there's a search box, and I would recommend that people just bring up topics in that search box.
There are hundreds and hundreds of articles that relate to medical topics and it really is outside of the scope of our conversation here to try to list them all. It’s a pretty, very deep, very rich set of archives.
So please, folks, take full advantage of it. It’s all available free of charge. You can print out whatever you want. You can save whatever you want as electronic files.
Yes, I do sell an archive memory stick, a USB stick, with all the blog archives, but you don’t need to do that. You can actually copy individual articles to your heart’s content.
Adam Taggart: At least as long as the electrical utilities are up and running. [Laughter]
James Wesley Rawles: You might want to have the memory stick and an adapter for your iPad or your Smartphone.
Adam Taggart: A couple practical questions that we get from folks a lot. At this point, I'm going to assume international air travel you would say don’t do it.
James Wesley Rawles: Absolutely.
Adam Taggart: Domestic travel?
James Wesley Rawles: Avoid. Avoid. Avoid. And also, we didn’t talk about the economic issues here and what stocks you might want to be shorting right now. But I'm basically short on the airlines and long on the cocooning stocks, as a I like to call them.
Basically, any web based business where the delivery model is electronic, things like Netflix, Amazon Prime, they're going to do wonderfully because as this pandemic develops the natural tendency of that is going to cocoon at home.
And they're going to want to have things delivered, and then, of course, sit and watch those packages with anxious eyes after spraying them down with Lysol or whatever.
Adam Taggart: Let’s go there for a moment. I will not challenge, but toss a concern into some of your cocooning companies, so Amazon, for example, we’ve had a lot of the Chinese supply chains get disrupted, and Amazon has a lot of…
James Wesley Rawles: A lot of the stuff is coming out of China. But in terms of what companies are going to go under versus which are going to survive, I think Amazon’s going to survive. I would not want to be running a movie theater, a shopping mall. I certainly would not want to be a cruise ship operator. Those are going to absolutely crater.
Adam Taggart: Completely agree. And I wasn’t trying to poke holes in your Amazon theory.
My question was going to more, so those packages arrive, right, or let’s say while you're under quarantine the town is still allowing grocery stores to do home delivery. When you get the package on your doorstep, if you're concerned about surface contamination what do you do?
James Wesley Rawles: You leave it in full sunlight would be ideal. So ask the delivery person leave it on the sunny part of the porch. And then you’re going to, while you're wearing a mask and gloves and booties, you're going to spray that down with Lysol or something stronger, preferably a povidone solution. Then with your bootie you're going to gently kick that package and roll it over. You're going to make sure that all six sides of that package get sprayed down. Then, wearing gloves after a delay to let that solution take effect…
Adam Taggart: And let’s be specific, how long of a delay? Minutes?
James Wesley Rawles: I would give it a half hour just to be safe. Unless time is absolutely of the essence to get into a package, give it a half hour.
Then you're going to be opening that, wearing your protective gear, you're going to open that package, and then you're going to have to spray down the contents of that package unless it’s a packaged product that you have a very high confidence level was packaged before this virus ever hit the United States.
So then you're going to spray down the interior, the components within that package, and hopefully they’ll be items that won’t be destroyed by your spray that you're using. And then, and only then, would you feel safe using them.
Adam Taggart: So let me ask this question then. I think that works fine if you're ordering a package from Amazon. Would you, given that you need to treat it like that, would you order a pizza? Would you order restaurant take out?
James Wesley Rawles: No, I would not order any prepared foods that are not packaged. If it’s canned or retort packaged, no problem. If it’s soft packaged, you probably want to spray down, well, you at least spray down the exterior of that package. But even then, you have to worry about the integrity of that package, whatever there was a hole in it that might allow contamination.
So your best bet would be retort packaged foods or canned foods.
Adam Taggart: Got it. And at the point where you're self-isolating – let’s say it’s not a mandatory quarantine but you're self-isolating – at that point if you geared up, would you even go to the grocery store and get something like fruit, or would you only be buying packaged food at that point?
James Wesley Rawles: I’d rather hunker down at home and grow sprouts than risk going to get fresh fruits or vegetables. So a sprouting kit might be a great thing for people to order right now, for example, that way you're going to have fresh greens.
Adam Taggart: That makes a lot of sense, actually. So a sprouting kit. One thing I went and got today was a bunch of frozen fruit, frozen berries just in case my access to them gets cut off for a long period of time I still have backup access.
All right, Jim, we are over the one hour mark. Like I said, I could literally keep going forever on this. What haven’t I asked you that you think is important for people to know before we sign off here?
James Wesley Rawles: Well, I’d like to leave your listeners with one important thing. Proceed with prayer. I think it’s important that even if you're a person who’s a back-slid faithful person, it’s time to get down on your knees, prayer, ask for God’s guidance, providence, and protection. Because at this point we're going to need it.
Adam Taggart: I think that’s well said. We talk a lot about the important of community and the importance of emotional resilience, and I think you're tapping into that on the spiritual side there.
All throughout human history and human civilization humans have gone through trying times. And what carry us through those times often times if belief or faith that tomorrow is going to be better and that we're going to make it through it and that we're all in it together.
I know you mentioned personal protection in the vain of home security. We didn’t get a chance to talk about that, at least in today’s discussion. But if I could interpret the spirit of what you just said, you know, remember that we're all in this together. Remember the spirit of brotherhood. We're going to get through this much better than if we turn on one another.
Let’s be good caretakers of ourselves but each other as well.
James Wesley Rawles: Indeed. Indeed.
Well, thank you so much, Adam, And I pray the 91st Psalm for you and all your listeners.
Adam Taggart: Thank you, Jim. Appreciate that very much. Again, I appreciate you sharing all your expertise with us coming on at such short notice upon our request. And I'm sure we're going to get lot of questions to this podcast which we will share with you. Please feel free to give it access to the Survival Blog folks as well.
But I'm going to guess that we may have a lot of requests to have you back on. So at some point if you're free we’d love to do that.
James Wesley Rawles: I’d certainly enjoy doing so.
Adam Taggart: Fantastic, Jim. Well, stay safe, my friend.
James Wesley Rawles: You too.
Adam Taggart: Bye-bye.