Almost everyone in America has watched as southeast Texas bears the brunt of Hurricane Harvey. At the same time, disasters like Harvey happen with some regularity. In the aftermath of disaster, barter skills can save you time and trouble. Or executed poorly, they can lead to your death.
We all face the risk of one or more natural disasters: wildfires, earthquakes, hurricanes, earthquakes or tornadoes to name a few. Most people in today’s world have a hard time overcoming their normalcy bias when it comes to disasters. Sadly, most would rather daydream about winning the lottery than prepare for a little adversity in their lives.
Obviously, even a modicum of emergency preparations will serve most folks well. Those who utterly fail to prepare set themselves up to become refugees. Or worse. Yes, preparations help, even if only to help the prepared safely escape with critical items before their home floods to the roof or burns to the ground.
For those who think they have thought of everything, Mr. Murphy will pay them a visit. On the other hand, the rest of us know we will miss something and prepare for that eventuality. Much as even the best of us try to cover all our bases, it can be impossible to prepare for everything. We’ll all need something, if for nothing more than comfort or convenience. Bartering can fill that niche when your hard cash runs out, or when others don’t want cash.
What not to barter…
First off, do not barter anything that can later be used against you. Seems like most folks think small arms ammo will always make a great post-disaster currency, but not so much. Desperate people do desperate things. That box of .22s you trade today might come back to you at 1200 fps tomorrow. So don’t buy stuff with ammo – not even .22s.
Another point: never trade away a gun. Even to Neighbor Dave. You do not want him – or someone else – to use it to shoot you in the back a week later.
Top barter currency…
While lots of folks will want guns and ammo following an emergency, what else can you sock away to trade besides guns and ammo? That’s easy. The big three nearly universal barter currencies consist of fuel, grain alcohol and sugar.
Probably most folks will need fuel. Have you noticed the lines at gas stations in the aftermath of emergencies? Gasoline will become precious for running generators. Storing a couple of extra five gallon containers of (treated) gasoline will provide your family options. Because you can use it – or you can trade it for favors or overlooked needs.
Do you live in colder climates? Store a couple of extra five gallon containers of kerosene. Since people like to stay warm, those with kerosene heaters will trade for more fuel once their own supplies run dry. Also, by adding a quart of Marvel Mystery Oil for every twenty gallons of kerosene, it will fuel most diesel engines.
Once again, with your own kerosene heater, you can burn that extra fuel yourself or trade it away for last-minute needs. That’s another win-win!
Also, grain alcohol makes a nice barter commodity. Even better, it stores easily and lasts a long time. With one in eight Americans supposedly alcoholics, the market for booze runs wide and deep. A bottle of decent whiskey or vodka might facilitate a very favorable deal for you and yours. At the same time, a bottle of cheap swill might do the same for someone a little more desperate. A word of caution: don’t let the alcoholics know you have more booze back at the homestead. Otherwise, their desire to trade may turn into a desire to take.
In a pinch, grain alcohol like vodka also works as fuel in some cases.
Sugar makes up the final barter commodity. Because of the versatility of uses, sugar should find a place in any prudent preparedness plan. People use it as a sweetener of drinks, foods and treats. Old-timers will recall how the government rationed sugar in World War II. More significantly, sugar and a little yeast will make grain alcohol. Once again, you can trade grain alcohol for just about anything.
Sometimes, wise and prudent men will barter for goodwill in return. Everyone needs water. Almost everyone prefers drinking water that will not make them sick. Giving away clean, potable water may help make you a very popular and well-liked individual in your neighborhood following an emergency.
Even in a place like today’s southeast Texas, with floodwater everywhere, finding drinkable water can pose challenges. Through forethought and planning, you can spend a few dollars now to ensure your family has clean water.
A person can store water for emergencies. Cases of bottled water fetch less than $4 in good times. For those living in arid regions, storing water in barrels can cost a little more.
Alternatively, surface water or precipitation can be filtered or chemically disinfected to make it safe to drink. Filtration costs more, but yields very high quality, very pure water. Chemically disinfecting water can serve to very cost effectively kill the nasty bugs that make people sick.
“How cost effective?” you ask. A $4 one-pound package of 68% calcium hypochlorite crystals will disinfect up to 10,000 gallons of untreated water. The more commonly available 50% calcium hypochlorite crystals will disinfect thousands of gallons as well.
10,000 gallons of drinkable water will earn you a lot of goodwill from young and old alike. It will do so without the risk to you or your family as would trading away a firearm or ammunition.
In short, a little planning and preparing can help keep your family safe and (more) comfortable following a natural disaster. Better yet, it can help keep you out of a refugee center. And for those things you’ve forgotten, some fuel or a bottle or two of vodka can fill those gaps quite nicely. Without risking someone shooting you in the back with ammo you foolishly traded away.