Starting to prepare for survival situations, disasters and crisis situations is a complicated task. It is very broad field with thousands of factors, threats that must be taken into consideration. This post will address some basic considerations for those how’s thinking about starting to prepare.
Start with Yourself
The best survival tool there is isn’t any particular piece of gear or equipment. The most effective tool is yourself and this is where I suggest that you make the biggest effort. By training on regular basis you can reduce the chance of heart disease, diabetes and other types of illness that is related to overweight. This will not only make your life in general easier and increase your wellbeing; this can also mean the difference between life and death if you ever need some extra endurance or strength. Start to exercise on a regular basis at least three times a week, find an activity that fits you and that you like. Also try to eat healthy and avoid tobacco, alcohol and other harmful drugs.
Also learn basic skills like First Aid and CPR, How to build a fire, Orienteering and How to construct Shelter. If you never been camping or hiking before go for a trip with some friends or family. Start with an easy trip and then move on to harder activities. Make sure to tell someone where you going, when you plan to come back and how they can contact you before you go.
Identify Risks and Threats
Why should one prepare for risks and threats? For me this is a question about reducing the negative impact that events can have both for myself, my friends and family. Many people can go almost their whole lives without having to deal with a medical emergency or a survival situation. But life can change in heartbeat, missing to look out in traffic one time can lead to devastating consequences. Not knowing what to do can mean that you can’t save the life of partner, family member or friend. A forgotten candle can cause a fire that cost your life if you don’t have a fire alarm or a mean of evacuation. A fire extinguisher can sometimes prevent the fire from spreading and insurance can compensate for the economic loss of the event. All risks can’t be identified and foreseen, but some can and with very little time and effort.
So what I suggest that you do is to first identify the risks that you can think of. Start to list these risks and then first give them a number from 1 to 5 depending on how likely you think it is that this risk may take place. 1 means it is very unlikely and 5 quite likely. After you done this think of the consequences this risk may have and list them from 1 to 5; 1 means that the event would have quite limited consequences and 5 that the consequences would be devastating. After you have done this multiply the How Likely it is that the risk would come true with The Consequence of the Risk. This is the Risk Factor. This can give a general idea of what risk may present the largest danger.
Coping with the Risks
At this stage you have now identified the risks, tried to understand how likely they are and what consequences they may have. This is a beginning but what can you do about them? Now start to analyze the risks more specifically.
• What knowledge do you have about this type of risks? Where has this type of events taken place in the past and what has the consequences been? Is there any events that have taken place in your region and what can be learned from this events?
• What type of skills can help you overcome this type of event and do you have these skills? If you don’t have these skills how can you learn them?
• What kind of equipment can be needed to overcome this type of risk? Do you have this type of equipment? If you don’t can this type of equipment be improvised or bought? What would the price for this equipment be?
Rate you capacity for each of these three factors; Knowledge, Skills and Equipment from 1 to 5. 1 means that you have a very low capacity or knowledge 5 that it is very good.
Now you have made an assessment of both the risks but also your own capacity to deal with these risks; how can you reduce these risks and where should you get started? This is a personal decision that you must make yourself. Update this assessment on a regular basis and try to identify additional risks that may have manifested because of changes in your personal conditions or other changes resulting from external factors.
So what are the Basic Needs for Survival?
For short term scenarios the ability to stay shield from the elements is very important. A person can die very fast from heat or cold if subject to exposure. Clothing and Shelter can provide protection from this type of dangers. Try to keep some extra blankets, sleeping bags or some type of heater in your home.
Water is absolutely critical for survival and human will normally not survive for more than a few days at maximum without the access of water. Normally the absolute minimum need of water is around 5 liters per day for drinking and cooking as an absolute minimum, but if the climate is warm this amount may have to more than doubled. I suggest that you store a minimum of 15 liters of water per person in your household. If you add water purification tablets and store your water cold it will last around 6 months without having to be rotated.
Most people will make it quite a long time without food. If you don’t have any access to food you will however quite fast lose endurance, stamina and your energy level will go down. Making it a few day without food is normally not a big problem but after around three days stops being an uncomfortable situation and will start to become an obsession. Many people will become ready to steal or hurt others in order to get food relatively fast. The just in time system of today’s supermarkets with a minimum of products being kept in store mean that problems in transport etc can leave the stores empty in only a few days. Having a week or two of food available in your home is enough for getting through most problems caused by natural or man-made disasters. Few people today have ever had to go hungry for long period of times so the risk might be perceived to be quite low for most people.
So what should you store?
The easy answer is to store what you normally eat. For example: Instead of buying small packages of rice, pasta, salt, cooking oil, washing powder etc buy it in bulk. This way you will both get a lower price and also have some extra in store. In a long term perspective this will not become a cost: It will save money, especially if wait until there is a sale when you get a particular good price. The most critical aspect of your food storage is that you will eat it and then buy more so that you rotate your storage. If not your food storage WILL become a ROTTEN investment.
If the water and sanitation system stop working for even short periods of time it’s very good if you have a simple emergency toilet available. A simple bucket can be used but I suggest that you get a stronger purpose built emergency toilet. If you live on the countryside an outhouse is an excellent alternative. Alcohol based hand sanitizers can be a practical alternative to soap and water.
Make sure that you have the proper insurance so that you and your belongings are properly insured in case of fires, accidents or medical emergencies. Make sure that you make serious check for different alternatives; you can often save quite some money by choosing the right one.
I suggest that you constantly try to save 5-10% of your income into an emergency budget. Unexpected cost like if you break a tooth, lose your job, have to move, repair your car, motorbike or home may suddenly arise. Having a budget so that you can deal with these types of events is very important. Investing some of your budget into silver or gold can be a good idea if you want to have a physical investment.
It can be hard to svae 5-10% but even if you only can save 1% it is a start.
Now You are a Prepper / Survivalist! Or are you?
If you have taken the steps described above you have taken quite a few steps towards becoming more self reliant and ready for various types of disasters. You have started to identify risk, reduce these risks, work on your physical fitness, you have learned some basic skills, you have an emergency budget, a basic water and food storage and insurance. You are now more prepared for a crisis than most other people.
The End of the World As We Know It and Shit Hit The Fan
Within the Survivalist movement the terms The End of the World as We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) and The Shit Hits Fan (SHTF) are common terms to describe a more or less sudden event that can mean the end of our society and everything that we enjoy in it. Is this even a possibility? Can the world that we take for granted come to an end? This is not an easy question to answer. For most people this seems like a more or less absurd scenario. I will give three examples of possible events that can result in collapsing societies.
1.) Nuclear War, Electromagnetic Pulse and Solar Storms
Some events could with certainty result in a collapse of the contemporary world. A full scale nuclear war is one of the most frightening scenarios that one could imagine. Such a scenario could directly result in the deaths of hundreds of millions, maybe billions. A nuclear war head that detonated in space can disrupt the electrical grid and all unprotected electronics by creating a High Altitude Electromagnetic Pulse. Extremely powerful solar storms could also have similar effects. This type of events could result in a sudden collapse of the electrical grid and thereby knocking out computers, telecommunication and other key systems that is the foundation of our modern day society.
2.) Collapsed States and Civil War
Human conflict is another type of events is another type event that can cause a society to collapse. Modern Civil Wars like the genocide in Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Congo, Afghanistan and Iraq are examples when the government no longer can control the country and different factions go to war against each other. Even if this type of events is often described as civil wars they can also be described as collapsed societies. Fixing this type of situations is extremely complicated something that can be witnessed at all locations where peace building and state building missions is taking place. This type of events is most common in relatively developing countries but has also taken place in Europe; the international community has still not been able to completely withdraw from the former Yugoslavia.
3.) Long Term Threats
Many modern researchers focuses on the combination of the depletion of non-renewable resources, environmental destruction, Peak Oil and Global Warming in combination with the ongoing population explosion as the most complicated problem for human societies to overcome. This perspective has been lifted by in the National Geographic Documentary “2210: The Collapse”, “Home” and by others like Michael Ruppert. The perspective is not new and was highlighted in the report “The Limits to Growth” by the Club of Rome back in the 1970:s. This type of scenario stands in direct contradiction to most political ideologies and most people’s basic perception of the world, most people assume that growth will go on forever and that technical solutions for problems will be found. If this will be the case or not is impossible to say, but this type of scenario could put an enormous stress on human societies in a short and long term perspective.
How does one prepare for this?
This type of threats presents extreme scenarios that may seem like more or less impossible to be prepared for. Within the Survivalist Movement two basic strategies dominate: The Bug In and The Bug Out Approach.
The Bug In Approach basically means that one plans to stay in place if this type of event takes place. By storing massive amount of supplies and becoming more or less self sufficient the idea is to ride out the event in the home. This approach requires both planning and some serious considerations regarding what equipment that should be stored, storage solutions, how to gather and purify water, long term sanitation, food production etc.
Since disasters may strike when one is not at home tools have also been developed for every day preparedness. The Get Home Bag is a system indented to provide the necessary tools required in order to make it back to the home during an ongoing disaster. What the Get Home Bag (GHB) should contain is a debated subject and depends very much on your local terrain, how far you normally travel from your home and many other factors. A Pocket Survival Kit may also be a useful addition to always carry with you in your jacket, clothing or bag. The items that you carry with you on an everyday basis, known as your Every Day Carry (EDC) is also very important.
The Bug Out approach focuses on evacuation in a SHTF / TEOTWAWKI scenario. In order to accomplish this one can prepare escape routes and prepare specific evacuation kits that are ready to go on a movements notice containing all the supplies the one could need to survive for a few days in the wild or on the move. This type of kits are often referred to as Bug Out Bags (BOB), Get Out Of Dodge (GOOD) bags, I’m Never Coming Home (INCH) bags or 72 Hours Kits. These kits is often combined with some type of vehicle like a car, 4 wheel drive truck, motorcycle, sailing boat or airplane. This Vehicle is often referred to as a Bug Out Vehicle (BOV). The BOB and BOV is designed to bring the person to location that has previously equipped with supplies called a Bug Out Location (BOL) normally located in a rural or wilderness setting. A Bug Out Bag may be fully equipped, be designed to be as light as possible or somewhere in-between. If one would evacuate with a group there is also special consideration that should be taken into account.
Getting a basic preparedness for disasters and unexpected events can help to minimize the negative impact or allow an individual to avoid threats. Getting a basic ability to handle a crisis or disaster does not have to be hard. But many Survivalist / Preppers are trying to prepare for events with massive consequences. Preparing for this type of scenarios is generally based on two basic tactics: The Bug In and The Bug Out response. During Civil Wars and in Collapsed States it’s not uncommon that 75% of the population or more are forced to flee their homes to avoid violence, torture and ethnic cleansing. Staying in place during this type of events is most likely not a successful tactic. A full scale nuclear war can leave areas devastated and force an evacuation in order to avoid radiation and other dangers. What response that would be the most appropriate depends on the situation; having a means of evacuation can be critical in some situations and unnecessary in other situations. In short: even if you favor one tactic it may be good to have the ability to employ both.
Other more complex threats like the combination of Peak Oil, The Depletion of Natural Resources, Environmental Destruction and Global Warming could require a more gradual adaptation by focusing on local food production, a reduced dependency on carbon fuels for transport and learning how to make do with fewer resources. Most types of disasters do not call for an evacuation or the ability to make it by yourself in your home for months without external assistance so the Bug In / Bug Out may not be the most appropriate way to prepare. This does not mean that the concepts cannot be valid in some situations and provide tools to deal with other types of situations. But it is also very important to focus on the type of scenarios that does not fit this approach like Fires in your home, Unemployment, Health Problems and Disease, Accidents, Unexpected expenditures and Natural Disasters.