Estimated reading time: 14 minutes
Of all the calamities that could befall us, probably the most serious is for our nation to be attacked by EMP. By anyone’s reckoning, that would not only destroy most of our electronics, but also take out our electrical grid. Considering that we use electricity for just about everything, we can expect society, our infrastructure, and our supply chain to come to a sudden stop, if such an attack ever comes.
This is the scenario that true preppers use as their outline for preparing. That’s not so much from the viewpoint that such an event is bound to occur, as it is from the realization of just how hard it would be to survive, after such an event occurred.
If we prepare for an EMP, than we’re also prepared for just about any smaller disaster that might come their way. While there are exceptions, preparing for an EMP covers the loss of electricity, water, sewage, communications and our stores.
The big problem during such a time isn’t going to be what preppers have and don’t have; but rather, what everyone else has and doesn’t have. According to the report of the EMP Commission, somewhere between 60 and 90 percent of these people will die of starvation, within a year.
They will be desperate for equipment and supplies of all kinds and willing to trade or do just about anything to get them. Even preppers will end up finding that they’ve forgotten to put some things in their stockpiles, necessitating bartering for those items in the post-EMP world.
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This offers a great opportunity for those preppers who have the necessary items in abundance. Not only will they have what they need, but they’ll be able to take advantage of the situation to barter their stock of supplies for valuable items that others have.
This would not be the first time that people who had emergency stocks benefitted from a disaster. Farmers in the occupied countries of Europe became rich, bartering preserved foodstuffs for silver and jewelry brought to them by visiting “relatives” from the cities.
The tricky part of this equation is figuring out just what to stock for use as barter goods. This should be over and above your survival stockpile, as you don’t want to be trading away anything you need for your own family’s survival. Make sure you have plenty for yourself, before even starting to build a stock of barter goods.
1. Preserved Food
The biggest need that anyone is going to have during such a time is food. With transportation and ordering systems down, stores won’t be able to restock, once they sell out what they have. While there may be food around; it probably won’t be where it is needed. Local supplies will be all that anyone has available to them.
Those local supplies may not even make it to the stores; but even if they do, what about when those stocks are used up? Unless there are food processing plants nearby, with a stock of raw foodstuffs to process, even local stocks will dry up rather quickly, leaving people without food.
The value of food is based on its necessity for survival. The scarcer the food, the greater its value. This means that the value will increase over time, as shortages increase. You’ll need to keep your pulse on the supply lines, so that you know how much your food is worth.
There are more coffee addicts in the United States than all the alcoholics, smokers and drug addicts combined. An awful lot of people need a cup of coffee or two in the morning, just to get them going. In a time when everything else is lacking, just being able to drink a hot cup of coffee will become a great comfort to those who can get it.
For the best results, store whole beans, not ground coffee. The moment that coffee is ground, it starts to age, losing flavor and becoming stale. Of course, the problem with this is that you’ll need a means of grinding that coffee, preferably something big enough that you can grind a half pound in a few minutes.
Keep in mind that you won’t be able to use an electric coffee grinder, so you might have to do a bit of hunting to find the perfect solution.
There’s a chance that small electronics, such as handheld electronics, will continue to work, even after the EMP. With that being the case, people will need batteries for those electronics; most likely AA and AAA sizes, although some Lithium Ion and button cells will also be needed. The trick there, is figuring out which sizes will be the most useful. That’s why it is most useful to stock AA and AAA batteries.
Fortunately for us, battery manufacturers have just recently come out with the statement that alkaline batteries can store up to 10 years, rather than the previous 2-year life expectancy. This means that we can safely stockpile batteries, without worrying about them going bad.
If you keep 100 or 200 batteries of each size on hand, rotating your stock, so that you’re using the oldest ones, you’ll always have a nice pile of batteries and they’ll never go bad. Of course, for bartering, you might want to up that quantity.
People will often put their vices before their needs, especially in a time of crisis. Dealing with stress is harder than dealing with hunger, causing people to seek out their smokes and drinks, even when they need food. That can offer a great opportunity, for those who are seeking to make a profit from bartering.
You’re better off stocking cut tobacco and rolling papers, then cigarettes, as they will keep longer. While I’m sure smokers would prefer their favorite brands, they’ll still go for what you’ve got. Factory made cigarettes don’t keep as well as raw tobacco, mostly due to the additives they put in them.
Just like cigarettes, people will be wanting alcohol to drink. Actually, there will probably be more people interested in the alcohol, as the number of smokers has been dropping. Everyone enjoys a drink and stressful situations being out that desire, converting it to a need.
For effective bartering, you’ll want you alcohol in small bottles, rather than larger ones. That will cost more; but when it comes time to barter, you’re still trading a bottle. People will increase the value of that smaller bottle, in their minds.
Not only that, but it acts as “small bills” in that you can trade a small bottle of booze, for something smaller than you could trade a large bottle for, while maintaining your profit margin. If you need to trade for something larger, you can trade multiple bottles.
6. Medicines of all Kinds
One of the first things that will run out are medicines, both prescription and over-the counter meds. Trying to create a general stockpile of prescription medicines will be virtually impossible, unless you happen to be a pharmacist. Nevertheless, it will be a good idea to stockpile over-the-counter medicines for trade. Pain relievers, antihistamines and medicine for diarrhea will all be popular.
The other important category to stockpile, if you can, is antibiotics. There are a lot of things that can be treated with general antibiotics, which can be used for a variety of ailments, including infections from injury. If you can’t find a way to buy them here in the US, you might want to consider a trip to Mexico, where you can buy antibiotics over-the-counter in any pharmacy.
An alternative to medicines is herbal medicines, if you’re knowledgeable in this area. Don’t try doing it if you don’t know, as you could cause some serious problems or get in trouble for not being able to cure someone. But for those who have knowledge of natural remedies, this could be a sure means of establishing your value to the community.
7. First-aid Supplies
Along with medicines, people are going to need first-aid supplies. They’ll be doing things they’re not used to doing and using tools they’re not used to using. This will cause some people to become injured. Treating those injuries is going to be a constant problem, with medical facilities becoming overrun.
Pretty much any clean fabric can be used as bandages; so, that’s not such a big deal, if you have old sheets in the house. What’s a bigger need is antibacterial cream, alcohol and other things to keep the wound from getting infected. Other, more unusual first-aid supplies, like butterfly closures, chest seals and elastic bandages should go in your stockpile too.
It may seem overly simple, but soap can be a big deal in a post-disaster world. Most people don’t know how to make it for themselves, and don’t keep much extra on hand. Yet soap is one of the most important things there is for protecting ourselves from disease; something we all learned during COVID.
9. Personal Hygiene Products
Besides soap, other personal hygiene products will be important, especially toothbrushes and toothpaste. While people may get by without shampoo or deodorant, brushing our teeth is an important part of preventing tooth decay. We were all raised on this and it would be hard to leave behind.
10. Toilet Paper
We all lived through the great toilet paper shortage of 2020, as people panicked and bought all they could find. It took months for the stores to get their stock back in order, as only a little was coming in at a time. Considering how bulky toilet paper is, it was probably difficult to ship enough to restock.
Yet toilet paper is one of those things we all use, every day of our lives. The amount that we collectively use is staggering. While there are other options we can adopt in a post-EMP world, none of them are as convenient. Having a stock of toilet paper available for trade could make you the most popular guy in town.
11. Fire Starters
As a general rule, we’ll have to go back to using fire for heating and cooking, just as our ancestors did. That will be a problem for many, especially people who aren’t good at starting fires. I have a funny feeling that a lot of people are going to go through a lot of matches, just learning how to start a fire properly.
Granted, this is not a high-dollar trade item. Nevertheless, it can be useful as an “extra” when trying to close a deal. Throwing in a small package of matches (not a full box) won’t cost you much and can seem like a generous gesture to someone in need.
12. Fuel of all Types
Cars might not be running, but that doesn’t mean that gasoline won’t be needed. Gasoline can be used for other things, such as starting fires and running chainsaws. As long as the gas will burn, people will find a use for it, cars or no cars. The big problem is that gasoline doesn’t store well, although it stores better in metal gas cans, than in plastic ones.
But that’s not the only type of fuel that people will need. Just about anything that can burn will be useful; propane, kerosene, mineral oil and wood. Wood might be particularly useful, although most people will probably try to cut their own. While some of these may not be all that practical to store, you can be sure that someone will want whatever extra you can add to your stockpile.
13. Water Filters/Purifiers
As we know, any water needs to be treated as suspect in a survival situation. Others may not know this, but they’ll realize it quickly enough, when they get diarrhea from drinking untreated water. Then they’ll be searching frantically for some means of making their water safe to drink. If you time it properly, you can be seen as their savior.
Keep in mind that any water filter goes bad, as its pores fill with sediment. One solution is to use filters that are back-flushable. These are more expensive; but at least they don’t go bad so quickly. Another option is to use things like chlorine bleach to chemically purify water. Whatever you do, make sure you do plenty of it, thinking of the long-term.
A Final Thought
Keep in mind that bartering in a time of crisis can be a risky business. People who see what you have, may choose to attack you for it, rather than barter for it. Considering that those people will be desperate, they’ll be likely to do just about anything to get what you have. If that means killing you, they’ll weigh that against their own children dying and decide you have to go.
Always be well-armed, with good defenses, when bartering in a post-EMP world. Never conduct business at home and take the necessary actions to make sure you’re not followed, when you return home at the end of the day. You won’t be able to trust anyone outside your survival team, until you have the time to develop a solid relationship with them.
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