Introducing Apartment Prepper Bernie Carr:
Apartment Prepper Bernie Carr started her website, ApartmentPrepper.com, in response to Hurricane Ike. The category 4 hurricane wreaked havoc on her home state of Texas as well as various islands south of Florida. That said, Bernie developed the resolve necessary to educate herself and her readers about prepping. Since the storm, Bernie has published hundreds of posts on her website and has written best-selling books like The Prepper’s Pocket Guide, The Penny-Pinching Prepper, and Jake & Miller’s Big Adventure. Bernie was generous enough to take some time out of her busy day to discuss apartment prepping, budgeting, and what inspired her to share her knowledge. Below is the interview transcript:
Bob: On apartmentprepper.com, you mentioned that you became interested in emergency preparedness following Hurricane Ike. What made you focus in on apartment prepping at the start and how did apartmentprepper.com expand from there?
Bernie: Hurricane Ike was the first hurricane I ever experienced. The day before it was scheduled to make landfall, I left work a couple of hours early to pick up a few supplies and gas. What I found at the market shocked me. All the shelves were empty. Canned foods, breads, and fresh foods were all gone and I was only able to buy one pack of toilet paper, which was the only thing left on the shelf. The gas lines were several blocks long, so I decided to just go home. Fortunately, we had a few days worth of food at home.
After the hurricane, we went to restock and found there was a line just to get in the supermarket.
When we finally got in the store, we found the shelves were still empty. I spoke to the manager to ask if they had any items in the “back room.” That’s when I learned about “just in time” inventory. Stores only carry as much as trucks bring in, and they do not keep excess inventory. If the trucks stop coming, the shelves remain empty. I realized we needed to have emergency supplies at home.
I scoured the internet looking for information about preparedness. The sites I visited were helpful, but they were all geared for people who have a rural retreat or a large home that can fit a lot of gear. We had downsized to an apartment. I thought about all the people who may be in the same situation who may also want to be prepared. I decided to chronicle my journey by writing the Apartment Prepper blog, not really expecting a lot of readers. More and more readers found me. After a few months, I received an email from an editor at Ulysses Press inquiring whether I’d be interested in writing a book. I initially thought it was a scam, but after investigating it I realized it was a legitimate offer. That’s how my first book Prepper’s Pocket Guide was born.
Bernie’s Children’s Book
Bob: I was excited to see you published a children’s book called Jake & Miller’s Big Adventure. It’s incredible that you’ve made an effort to communicate the importance of preparedness to children in an easily digestible way. What inspired you to publish a children’s book?
Bernie: Kids are naturally curious and whenever our family engaged in preparedness activities such as repackaging long term storage foods or setting aside emergency kits, our kids would ask what it is we were doing and why. I realized explaining disaster preparedness to kids may cause worry. I thought a children’s book that encourages them to be prepared without being scared would be a good way to communicate the idea of preparedness.
Bob: One of my favorite themes threaded throughout your Apartment Prepper website is that prepping does not need to be expensive. You’ve shared hundreds, if not thousands of tips about prepping on a budget. What are the main pieces of advice you share with your readers concerned about the cost of prepping?
Bernie: I tell the readers to first do an inventory of what they already have. Maybe they already have camping equipment such as tents, sleeping bags, lanterns, propane stove, etc. that can also be used for emergencies. Once they know what items they are missing, set aside whatever they can afford in the budget and designate that amount to supplies. Even just $5 a week can get them started in getting food and water supplies. I do not recommend going into debt to buy supplies.
Bob: The Great Recession forced millions of people to contend with insecure financial situations. What lessons would you lend to those hoping to become financially prepared?
Bernie: I think a lot of people have never fully recovered from The Great Recession. People lost homes, jobs, savings, and it can happen again. Losing a job is a very real disaster that is even more likely than many natural disasters. For this reason, I recommend a cash emergency fund that is separate from other long term savings accounts such as retirement or vacation funds. The cash emergency fund is one you can use in case banks are closed or the cash machines stop working. They need to save enough to have at least three months of living expenses in case they lose their job.
I also tell readers even if you don’t like your job, to find something about it that they enjoy (even if it’s just the paycheck), so they can perform as well as possible and avoid being fired or laid off. Also, while they are employed, to use their benefits to the maximum such as using their health insurance benefits to stay healthy and contribute to their 401k, so they can get the employer match.
Bob: In the Penny-Pinching Prepper, you provide details about alternative investments like land and precious metals. You also suggested people can monetize their hobbies. What investments of time or money do you think people should consider?
Bernie: Continue building the emergency fund to cover 3-6 months living expenses, as well as increase the emergency supplies to cover a month or more, depending on the storage space. Once they have the basics covered, land and precious metals (gold, silver, and platinum coins) are good alternative investments to consider.
I advise readers to start a side gig, so they have an additional source of income. Start small and do not get into debt building it. It can be something they enjoy such as pet sitting, dog walking, organizing closets, writing a blog, selling garage sale finds, etc.
Self-Reliance and Critical Needs
Bob: You stated on your website that you believe we should not rely on our government to help us in an emergency. Others in the prepper community, like Joe and Amy Alton of Doom and Bloom, have voiced the same sentiment. Where do you think the line should be drawn between self-reliance and government reliance?
Bernie: I believe we should all have our own water, food, hygiene, first aid, communications, backup shelter, lighting, etc. set aside for a disaster because government cannot physically be there to provide these things when a disaster happens. There is some aid available in the aftermath, but it takes time for help to come. We recently experienced Hurricane Harvey in Houston and the massive flooding caused many of our neighbors to lose their homes. We had new residents moving into our apartment complex who only had the clothes on their back. They received temporary housing from FEMA, which allowed them to get back on their feet and move into an apartment while they considered either rebuilding or selling their damaged homes. In those cases, they were able to get some government help and there is nothing wrong with that.
Bob: In The Prepper’s Pocket Guide, there is an entire chapter devoted to water needs. Can you share why water storage is so critical to preparation?
Bernie: Water is critical because we use it for drinking, cooking, cleaning and hygiene on a daily basis. Based on the survival rule of three, a person can live three minutes without air, three hours without shelter in extreme weather, three days without water, and three weeks without food. In terms of needs, we need water even more than food as one can last a lot longer without food. I recommend stockpiling one gallon of water per person per day; more if you also have pets.
Bob: While water takes priority, food storage is also incredibly important. What are some of the basics you’ve learned over the years of storing food for a family?
Bernie: Eat what you store and store what you eat. Before going out and buying large amounts of storage food, take a few days and write down what foods you normally eat. If you have family members on special diets, make a note of what they can eat. There is no point in stocking up on canned tuna even if it’s on sale if your family hates tuna.
Decide on an amount you will devote to food storage. If you can only afford $5 per week, use that and buy what you can for your stockpile.
Choose items that are easy to prepare. In a disaster, you don’t want to have to be making complicated meals, as you may lose power and water.
Rotate your foods – Use the “first in, first out” inventory system. Use up the items that are close to expiring. This way you avoid wasting foods. Even though some foods can be consumed after the expiration date on the package, I avoid waiting too long.
When in doubt, throw it out. If you have a food item that is several months past expiration, looks or smells funky, just toss it. Don’t risk your health.
Collaboration and Staying in Touch with Apartment Prepper Bernie
Bob: Over the years, I imagine you’ve had numerous opportunities to meet others in the prepper community. Have you engaged in any collaborations? Has anyone served as a mentor or inspiration?
Bernie: When I was starting out in 2010, I read everything I could find, including Survival Blog by James Wesley Rawles, Survival Mom, and SHTFplan.com. I’m in the Prepared Bloggers Facebook group, which includes emergency preparedness and homesteading bloggers, as well as the Prep Club that was started by Daisy of Organic Prepper.
Bob: How do you suggest readers stay in touch with you? Do you have any books or projects you’re working on that you’d like to bring to our readers’ attention?
Bernie: Please visit https://apartmentprepper.com and subscribe to my newsletter.
You can also find me in various social media:
YouTube: Apartment Prepper YouTube Channel
I realize a lot of readers may not prefer social media. That’s why I read all comments on the blog and respond to emails and questions sent by subscribers.
My new article on How to Prepare for Disasters while on Vacation is featured in the latest issue of Prepper Survival Guide Magazine, available at newsstands nationwide.
Bob: Thank you so much, Bernie, for engaging in this discussion. I’ve learned a lot from you and am so please you gave my readers the opportunity to learn from you too.
Bernie: I enjoyed participating in this discussion. Always happy to help, come visit me at Apartment Prepper and leave a comment!
Want to see more interviews? Leave a comment below or contact me directly.