(LONG) Getting togeher to bulk-purchase supplies for disaster/Y2K preparations...

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First the background, then the guts... Feel free to skip down and backtrack if desired.

I've lurked on the board for a while now (yes, some of us Internet "old-timers" do actually lurk before posting so as to not appear totally brain-dead) and from what I've seen and read from all over the world on Y2K, there's a definite need to at least assume basic levels of disaster preparedness.

I live in a hurricane-prone area (a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico in Florida) and I've seen most of the worst things that a large-scale but localized disaster can do. (Andrew, Georges, Opal, and scores of others, some of which I lived through, others of which I was part of relief efforts for.) I've been quietly building up a pretty good amount of expertise in planning ahead for the loss of infrastructure and shelter a hurricane dishes out.

Y2K in all the moderate to extreme scenarios will match or exceed the type of infrastructure loss, albeit mostly without the physical damage to the affected area, that you'd get from a major hurricane. The only additional factors would be in dealing with the climate you're in since hurricanes don't like the cold.

Therefore, assuming that the same basic services, supply, and utilities shortages that Dade county, FL experienced when Andrew levelled its southern half (widespread homelessness due to structural damage, no power, no running water that was safe to drink if it ran at all, no fuel due to power failures, no telecommunications, very little shipping due to debris and road obstructions, all for two weeks or more) the same basic preparedness tricks can be applied.

The recommended preparations for basic disasters are common-sense: get everything you need to supply all your needs (and I do mean all your needs) for X amount of time. Andrew demonstrated the need for portable water-purification systems as well as temporary emergency shelter due to the damage to homes, an effect we should not see much of if the Y2K disruptions go supernova. But, if large-scale economic collapse creates a large-scale eviction of residents, poof, you have the need for water purification and shelter.

Okay, enough background. Just about everyone reading this board regularly knows this already anyway. On to the guts.

This stuff is expensive. A good "kit" with all the goods required to feed, hydrate, keep clean, and shelter say six people for one month would cost several thousand dollars, money that might not be available to everyone now and might be suddenly unattainable in the future for obvious reasons.

What I'm debating doing is setting up some form of arrangement where a group of folks would pitch in to bulk-buy the more difficult-to-get or expensive items (such as portable high-quality water purification devices and enough supplies for them to use them for X amount of time.)

The categories planned for research and acquisition (so far) are as follows. Substitute your family size for X and your expected duration for any impending crisis for Y. Feel free to suggest anything I missed.

1- Enough water-purification equipment to supply and store drinkable, reasonably contaminant-free water for X people for Y days, assuming each person needs at least 2 liters per day (increase the water volume if your climate requires it.) Water purifiers are expensive (the model I'm checking into, General Ecology's First Need Base Camp, is a few hundred dollars per unit in single quantities) so getting them in bulk at wholesale bulk prices should make for large savings. The water purifier to purchase should be portable and capable of meing hand-operated in the event of power failures and/or drops in water pressures. Also, supplies to maintain the equipment need to be obtained. If there's enough participation we might be able to arrange a package-deal in this regard.

2- Sufficient shelter for for X people for Y days. Presumably in the form of tents. Sleeping bags appropriate to the climate, cots, etc. etc. etc. and repair supplies for these items should be considered as well. Two large three-man tents, six cots, and six sleeping bags will keep a family of six out of the weather quite nicely. I've known people that have lived a year or longer at a stretch in camping equipment if it's of proper quality and fits the climate correctly. These folks were in near-perfect health, weren't unhygenic or unclean (they unsed those sun-shower deals to take hot-water showers), and clean-shaven. Proof that you can rough it and still take care of yourself if you think in those terms beforehand.

3- Food supplies for X people for Y days that don't require refrigeration, cooking, or outside services. The US military has been living on MREs (for Meal, Ready to Eat for folks outside the US) in the field for a while now, and I've tried this latest generation of prepackaged "Army" food (read: lived on them) when Hurricane Opal wiped out power and rendered water unsafe for drinking to my neighborhood for over a week. They vary from pretty good to revolting, but they're engineered to keep folks alive for long times in adverse conditions and the only thing you need add (and that's only if you want hot food) is about 4 oz. of more-or-less-drinkable water to use the chemical heater pack each pouch includes. A box per person per week will supply something like 36 meals per week, and with rationing you could probably stretch that for a very long time. (They have a 5- to 15-year shelf life and require nothing but drinkable water for their coffee/tea/punch pouches, not even refrigeration.) Purchasing these by the palette might be a good idea if you want food in ready-to-use form that requires nothing but ripping packaging open. (Side note: If your area gets hit hard, cooking food might lure people to you like a magnet as the smell of cooking food can drift a pretty good distance. This may or may not be a good thing.)

4- Medical equipment capable of tending to any problem not requiring major medical assistance. One large first-aid kit with everything under the sun, and perhaps one smaller kit per person to be kept with that person's personal effects would be wise. This was a bad problem in post-Andrew Homestead, FL, as the smallest cut was often left untended to and infections were common. (Nails through the foot were appallingly common since the destruction was so rampant. A shoe sole is often no match for the pointy-ended top 1.5 inches of a 3-inch-long framing nail jutting out of a board.)

5- Personal kits for each person, to hold a specific number of days' worth of personal hygeine items, toiletries, and the aforementioned personal first-aid kit. Perhaps a waterproof ammo-box style container (fishing fans like the plastic ones that are similar to M60 ammo boxes as they are decent sized inside and make great containers for assorted goods you want to keep dry) to put it all in. Maybe a group pool of these supplies can be doled out to ration the supplies, with each person then receiving responsibility for their stuff. Separating personal supplies out from the group stocks will help isolate disease spread as well. (In a post-bad-thing environment, disease spread will be a critical issue.) Agreeing upon what items to bulk-purchase in this category might be touchy; this one might be best left to the individual to acquire from local suppliers in smaller quantities.

6- Checmical toilets and enough supplies (TP, chemicals, etc.) for X people/Y days. A family pot of TP could be set up to dole out the TP in ration form. The men-folk needing to do a number-one can travel a distance from the cap and relieve themselves in a sanitary manner. (The ancient Israelites were widely known for their cleanliness and lack of disease and this was partially due to the fact that they went a certain minimum distance out from the camp to relieve themselves, and buried their wastes thoroughly. NEVER crap or pee anywhere near where you eat or derive drinking water from unless you like things like Shillegosis, Dysentery, etc. It's amazing how many people don't understand this simple concept. See? Religion does occasionally have its uses. )

7- Proper storage containers that can hold all this junk. These would need to be waterproof and be securable against being stolen or emptied by unauthorized personnel (looters, etc.) Waterproof lockable storage containers of decent size abound that would be suitable. Personal stuff should be stored independently of all other supplies (after all, if you've got a cold and your toothbrush is stored near the food supply, guess how much faster others in your group will get your cold.), see previous mention of personal kits. Also, if folks go withthe idea of smaller personal storage containers (see the mention earlier of plastic ammo-box type cases) these can be bought in bulk too.

8- Communications gear and batteries to run it. A radio might be a lifeline if only one station is able to transmit briefly. Amateur radio enthusiasts might want to stock up on batteries for their rigs and handhelds as they will probably be the telephone system used for the post-disaster relief efforts where it's possible to mount any. (For those that don't know, amateur radio operatiors often assist local disaster relief agencies by providing critical long-range communications services when everything else is wiped out. Operators saved a lot of people in post-Andrew Dade county by helping route what rescue services were still running to where they were needed most, despite the fact that cellular and landline phone services didn't exist any longer for the area. Side note: I remember seeing a cellular antenna tower blown over onto a business park in Kendall, FL. Wiped out cell phone access for several dozen square miles, wiped out the antenna tower and its antennas, wiped out the business park.)

The plan would be to organize and agree on a list of the best items for each function you'd need to tend to, and then contact manufacturers to get quotes on case-lots or whatever of the item. Each participant would then submit the cost of the item at the bulk rate and have it shipped from my place of business (p.o.b.) to themselves, and the group gets the goods for cheaper than retail by a long shot. It should be possible to cut the costs by a good 25% below small-quantity retail or more if there's enough folks involved.

There's always a catch, so here it is. I cannot afford personally to pay up-front for these supplies, especially given the quantities that will be involved, so we'd need to agree on how to pay for the goods, presumably up-front. So there's a need for a gameplan on how to pull off the financial aspect of the transaction. (Suggestions?) My only payment for playing ringleader and using my business as a purchasing and acquisition agent (hello bulk/wholesale prices) for the supplies would be enough of the items to provide for my family and the family of my assistant in the project if we get it going. So if twelve people want a water purifier, we'd order fourteen and the twelve people would split the cost evenly assuming each ordered one unit. Each person would also need to pay for shipping from my p.o.b. to their locales, although I'll deal with shipping from mfr. to my p.o.b. I have to justify my being involved in such a purchasing system somehow since it'll entail a lot of work to coordinate and this is the fairest-sounding way I could think of. Opinions/suggestions?

If Y2K does fizzle (*highly* unlikely) folks living in areas prone to natural disasters (southern states and hurricanes, plains states and tornadoes, western states and brushfires, whatever; life can suddenly go into "suck" mode anywhere if you're unprepared) can use their equipment for those, so the spending might just pay off one way or another. (I plan to use my equipment for frequently experienced post-hurricane conditions if Y2K fizzles.)

Now you know what I'm thinking. The questions I must ask:

Are there enough folks interested in participating to justify giving the idea a go? (It'll take at least enough people to order case-lots of items to get decent per-unit prices. Example: 24 people for ordering a 24-unit palette of purifiers or a palette of 96 cases of MREs.)

Who would be interested in participating in a group-purchase system like this once everyone agrees on items to order and how to handle payment and whatever else comes up?

What items/supplies/devices/etc. specifically would be worth consideration? (What make and model of water purifier, sleeping bag, tent, etc. etc. etc.) Also, what suppliers have the best rates on the given item?

Opinions welcomed. After all, this is an idea in its early stages and if I see enough potential to move on the idea I'll start putting things in motion with suppliers.

The ever crazed OddOne, who's managed to change his entire family and most of his friends from DWGI to GI...

-- OddOne (mocklamer@geocities.com), December 24, 1998



You and Leo should compare notes.

-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), December 25, 1998.

To work at all, this will have to be geographically coordinated. Good Luck!! CR

-- Chuck a night driver (rienzoo@en.com), December 27, 1998.

:: Begin quote :: To work at all, this will have to be geographically coordinated. Good Luck!! CR :: End quote ::

Not necessarily. The core components of such a setup are pretty much the same no matter where you are. The only real changes would come in the second category I mentioned, shelter. That one would need to be adjusted to fit the climate. After all, aside from the proper clothing and shelter, we all need clean water, decent food, personal hygeine articles, waste disposal that would actually help out, and masic medical gear. Besides, who says we can't decide on appropriate gear for their climate and bulk-buy them as well for those in the areas that need it? There's got to be enough folks scattered about to make it worthwhile.

OddOne, who's at it again...

-- OddOne (mocklamer@geocities.com), December 28, 1998.

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