- organized collection – if you can’t get at or find what you need then what’s the point in having the information in the first place?
- resources – this should be information that you can actually use and/or would need to reference; books on gardening, medical, or how to build or maintain equipment are great choices.
- defined community – who should have access to this information? If it’s just “how to” references then everyone should, but if it’s more sensitive than that–such as your personal information–then perhaps access should be limited to mom, dad, and a trusted family or friend.
- reference – this is information that is good to have but not always something you should commit to memory. For example, I have a copy of a Physician’s Desk Reference which is easily thousands of pages; obviously, there’s no way I’m going to attempt to remember any of that!
Here’s how it all comes together…
Books and Other Hard-Printed Materials
Hard print materials are often the first thing people think of when it comes to building a survival library, and for good reason. If the power goes down and you have no ability to access computer files or the Internet, any and all resources you have compiled there will certainly do you no good. With that in mind, I like to keep a good number of survival books on-hand (dozens of my recommendations can be found here) not only to learn when times are good but for reference when things are bad.
In addition, I’ve literally printed thousands of pages of online reference materials (web pages or PDF files) over the years that I’ve found interesting or useful. The trick is to organize them so that they can be easily referenced later. What I’ve done is to use a few large binders and tab dividers to better organized this information; you know, like you would have done in school. Simply make categories that make sense to you using the tab dividers (e.g., “medical,” “water,” “food storage,” “sanitation,” or whatever works for you) and then begin your library. As you place new articles in each section just write a new number in the top, right corner of the first page and add it to your ever-growing table of contents list. I like to use a black permanent marker for easier identification.
As an example, one tab divider would be labeled “food storage” and inside I would have article after article relating to food storage. Each article gets a new number (1, 2, 3 and so on) and also added to the table of contents under the “food storage” subtitle. The way this works best is if you leave plenty of space in the table of contents to add new titles. The simplest way to do this is to just use loose-leaf 3-hole paper where each category gets it’s own piece of paper. In so doing, your library can grow and grow. Eventually you may even find that you’ll need to add more binders or tab dividers.
PDF and Other Electronic Files
Even though you cannot guarantee that you’ll have access to any electronic files in an emergency there’s no reason, in my opinion, not to include as many as you can. Even a relatively basic level of backup power should allow you to be able to access these files for quite some time.
What can you do? Let me answer by explaining what I’ve done…
Network Area Storage (NAS)
I’ve compiled quite an array of “how to” articles here, many of which I’ve downloaded to my computer in case I cannot access the Internet. Actually, they’re all on my NAS (pictured left) which is something else I recommend for avoiding computer-related emergencies. In fact, I’ve talked about a NAS here and here. The only problem is that building such resiliency is a bit expensive. Regardless, we have had problems in the past with unexpected computer crashes and would really hate to lose sensitive personal data. A NAS help prevent unwanted data loss.
Tablets and Readers
While something I’ve tried to avoid, the day is coming (perhaps over Christmas–hint, hint) that we’re going to acquire a tablet of some sort. While the everyday use would be for portable access to the Internet, apps, and what not, my interest in a tablet would be as an additional PDF file storage system. I’m actually implementing this idea using our iPod touch and have literally hundreds of documents stored on it. The only major problem is that an iPod touch is nearly impossible to read on for any length of time, though, battery life would be another concern.
There are so many choices and I’m not familiar enough with them to offer any solid advice here. The major considerations for me with respect to these is that they are reliable, not too costly, relatively lightweight in case we need to take it on a bug out, and perhaps most critical: has a long battery life. This Kindle Fire (pictured left) seems to be a good choice but an iPad would be good too.
External USB Hard Drive
Remember, it’s all about resiliency here. So, just in case something goes terrible wrong with my computer and/or NAS, I also have an occasional backup of my important files on an external drive as well. Granted, this is for more than just my survival files but, since there’s plenty of room on my external drive, I happily keep my survival files backed up too.
Regrettably, this requires you to remember to do manual backups regularly. I’m not perfect but try to do so every few weeks. That said, and though I don’t do so myself, there are automated online backup services that you can use (such as Carbonite) to backup your sensitive PC files on a regular basis if you’re the forgetful type.
Jump drives are so amazingly inexpensive these days that you just cannot be without one, or several. What I like best is that many can be very easily attached to your keyring and they’re so lightweight you wouldn’t even know it’s there. Any files that you would keep on your home computer or tablet can also be transported on a usb drive as well, which makes them great for EDC or bug out situations. I prefer this LaCie iamakey usb drive because, well, it looks like a key! Granted, it’s not built to withstand a nuclear bomb. In that case you might consider a Corsair Flash Survivor 32GB USB 3.0 (CMFSV3-32GB); it gets high praise for toughness.
One thing to consider is that if you choose to transport sensitive personal data on your usb drive (like I do) then I strongly encourage you to encrypt it as well. I’ve written about using TrueCrypt to do just that and suggest you use it (or something similar) to better safeguard your data.
There are many online (cloud) services that you can use to store data, some free, others paid. I prefer Google Docs (I’ve written about it before) which has recently been renamed to Google Drive. Anyway, I use it to store sensitive personal data as well as quite a few survival files. I know, I know… maybe that’s not the best of plans but I figure it’s about as safe as anything else I put out on the Net.
Of course, you can’t go overboard here either as you’re limited to the amount of space you’re allowed but most services allow at least a gigabyte or two of data (I think Google Drive is 5GB for free). You can easily store thousands of PDF files in a single gigabyte. One last thing to be aware of is that you can even use Google Drive to automatically sync files on your computer with files online saving you from having to do that manually too.
My resilient survival library looks like this:
- Many printed books to reference on my bookshelf
- Thousands of pages of hard-printed materials organized by topic in binders
- Files on my computer NAS
- Redundant files on an iPod Touch (soon to be a tablet/reader of some sort)
- Backups on an external USB drive
- EDC files on a keyring USB drive (better secured using TrueCrypt)
- A few sensitive files on the Net using Google Drive
About the only thing I can think of that would make this even more resilient would be copies at another location such as a trusted relative or friend. Don’t get me wrong, this setup can get a bit overwhelming so it’s not like I’m updating or adding files on a daily basis. Once you get your core set of files and information in place you wouldn’t need or want to add new survival files more than maybe a few times a year.
This system seems to work out pretty well for me. Start with the basics and do what you can and before you know it you’ll have more information than you’ll know what to do with.
“This article was first published at reThinkSurvival.com.”
- How To Organize Your Growing Stash of Preps (thesurvivalplaceblog.com)
- Taking Your Preps to the Next Level With the P.A.C.E. Concept (thesurvivalplaceblog.com)