Wouldn’t it be nice to have a survival book that tells you how to get gasoline out of an abandoned gas station with no electricity? (Why do people keep looking for the key?) Or how about a way to take a propane powered car and convert it so that you can attach one of those canisters stacked outside nearly every retail or convenience store? Or, that a piece of cigarette pack plastic wrapper can be used to stop a sucking chest wound? And, of course, how about an illustration of how to use that ink pen as a tracheotomy tool? (Click pen or stick pen?) One can still hope. The answers are available when one knows where to look.
Since reading “Alas, Babylon ” and “Earth Abides ” Americans have been captivated by the concept of TEOTWAWKI . One need not be a survivalist, per se, when disaster strikes, but one always needs to be prepared when “the balloon goes up.” The first real preparation training one had might have been in the military (while stationed in Germany) or cleaning a rabbit after a Saturday hunt with dad. Soldiers had to have an emergency evacuation kit to get families out of Europe if war between the USA and the Soviet forces actually happened. Same thing was true in Korea, which is more appropriate nowadays, because of the recent incessant “saber rattling.” And here, one could tack on to the list SARS, H1C1, bird flu, monkey flu/pox, smallpox, or just an extreme variant of the common cold (circa 1900, millions and millions dead). And a squirrel will taste real nice after three days without a can of soup.
The world may be past a total nuclear war, but pandemics (massive quarantine), market crashes (no access to your money), and future terrorist attacks are a fact of life. It has been said that the United States is only three days away from starving; if the semi-trucks stop running the food stuffs are not delivered. Scenarios say that a dirty bomb could get set off in Memphis or New Orleans thus blocking the Mississippi River or a dirty bomb could be placed at Houston wiping out the gasoline processing facilities? Hurricane Katrina did a fair job on Houston by crippling American commerce and the economy when the average citizen couldn’t get gas for weeks. And Heaven forbid a tanker ship loaded with explosives gets set to go off at New York, San Francisco, or Long Beach harbors. If any one of these disasters were to happen or there was no gasoline for a month, the average person may be turned into a survivalist by necessity.
All serious survivalists have questions about “what is the best we can do” to prepare for that disaster lurking in the near future which just might come true. There are great books and resources out there that make serious lists and “to do’s” to help get one prepared. Of course, most reliable sources make the statement that “you can’t prepare for every situation” and the contained information is probably limited. Can’t one be prepared for “most” of them even if there are differing circumstances and scenarios? Yes, one can with a little help and a little pointing in the right direction.
Most savvy survivors know that the first thing needed in a desperate situation is water, food and then shelter. Weapons are the next must. Everyone knows that it would be good to have ambulance driver, or a cop, or Kung Fu sword expert for their best friend (or Amish down the street) when real disaster strikes. The EMT (ambulance) and the cop have knowledge and access to resources that just are not available to the everyday somebody. The martial arts expert may keep you alive a little longer (may not help if you are stranded in the desert) and one can certainly learn from any of them. It also may be nice to know someone who can use a primitive forge, birth a baby or who can make a real bow and arrow. One should take Krav Maga classes. One should have several weapons available (more bullets help) and, please, try to be best friends with a cop (they need solid, rational people, too).
The survival expert reads extensively all types of survival books and manuals. The Foxfire Book  series should grace your bookshelf (you know you love butter, but you have to catch the cow first). But, what the novice really needs is more practical knowledge that is easy to remember, practical, and available. Uncle Bob, whose cabin you are heading for, can’t use the Internet if the power is down. But that fancy propane powered generator in the basement would be super useful in getting the power back on (one must keep it hidden and quiet as the noise attracts varmints). Having the paper copy of such titles as “Special Operations Forces Medical Handbook ,” a copy of “The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook ”, Mosby’s EMT-Basic Textbook , a copy of “The Encyclopedia of Country Living  ”, the “SAS Survival Handbook ” or even “Introduction to Surgery ” (how does one stitch up a wound?) should be essential additions to one’s arsenal of knowledge. Of course, there are also many free texts available like “Where There Is No Dentist  ” and “Book for Midwives ” that are downloadable from Hesperian.org ; nice to know stuff indeed. Make sure that you books are all kept waterproof.
The lists of survival skills can be overwhelming, but one needs to do a little research. The “Encyclopedia Britannica” (1911) , “How Things Work”, veterinary medicine (husbandry), beer brewing, basic organic chemistry, a still, windmills, hydroponic gardening, a 1900s book of formulas on how to make soap and other simple needs, etc., etc. can start the list. One can quickly see that a near library of texts is necessary to jump start yourself into at least the first few months of staying alive and doing so in measurable style.
Our friends in science fiction have also given us a horde of end of the world titles that contain numerous tidbits about how to be successful in a very hostile, left-over, world. “Lucifer’s Hammer ” “Wolf And Iron ”, “The Stand ”, various zombie-type novels and others, all contain useful information (kudos to the authors). There are flocks of end time novels and sources that can be used to garner information about staying alive in face of very ugly circumstances. A cornucopia of sources and texts are available if one does a small bit of digging (no, the books don’t have to be buried).
“How do I start?” one may ask. Where is the beginning of the knowledge that is needed and “how deep does the rabbit hole go?” By regularly visiting this blog and reading this article, part of the battle is over. Identifying a problem is half the cure. One does not need to spend mountains of money on food storage, automatic weapons, bunkers nor pricey “survival” books. The basics can be as simple as the “Boy Scouts Handbook ” (preferably an older edition). Yes, it will take time to visit the Krav Maga class and attend weapons safety and shooting training. One doesn’t need to join the military to pick up most of these skills in day to day living. Ninety percent of one’s staying alive boils down to common sense (the good old fashioned kind). The other ten percent comes from luck as the odds are one will not survive a massive civilization wide disaster in any case. But, one can be aware of the possible threats around the daily environment and can be mentally prepared. Buying a hand cranked powered radio and flashlight is just down right simple; and cheap (hooray, no batteries). Having a sturdy knife, aspirin, matches that are waterproof (dip the heads in wax) and strike anywhere (that little sandpaper thing won’t work if it is wet), candles, a week’s worth of canned food, extra bullets, duct tape (fixes almost anything), extra water and possibly a decent first aid kit are essential. Can’t leave home without it important, and this is just the beginning.
Don’t be fooled into buying tons of fancy kits at outrageous prices that may or may not contain what you “might” need. One can build a fantastic, workable, expandable kit easily and economically and the above items thrown into a backpack is a good start. Maybe taking the example of most Mormons, who keep a year’s supply of food on hand per their custom, is a good way to go if one has the money and the space to store the stuff. One can’t carry that much of a chuck wagon and the horse might get eaten. If it is stored at the up-in-the-mountains retreat, one has to get there safely (no one following) and in one piece. At the very least, one should have a “get out of Dodge” plan and a kit ready and several means of initiating that plan. The plan might contain places to meet, time tables, message drops, a bicycle, and code words. Yep, someone may have kidnapped your loved one and you need to hear a code word to make sure things are as they should be; otherwise survival becomes rescue. One movie even portrayed a means of powering a motorized dirt bike by using chicken manure for methane fuel (still looking for this one).
A little bit of planning will go a long way in making a smooth transition from “normal” to “survival” mode. Reading a mountain of material is not accomplished in a short time and one needs to foster a mindset of keeping things ready, way before the “rogue event” takes place. The route to survival is definitely a preparation effort. Thinking and procuring the lists of needed items ahead of time will save mountains of grief and “what ifs” later. Rainy days spent reading (emergency medical handbook), sunny days spent stocking up (watching for bulk sales of dried goods and canned food) and preparation that takes place every day is necessary. Doing one’s training now, in small increments, makes the knowledge one needs to survive more easily thought of. And there is no panic or hurry. Survival is an ongoing process and a search for ongoing information and preparation is a lesson in time management. If one has the need and the means, now, to avoid a disastrous situation on easy days, then the “terror” will appear much smaller when the event does happen. Self-control, patience and being ready for the unknown will pare down that “worry,” because one is prepared and equipped to face survival with surer, rational knowledge. Half the battle will be won when one does not go into shock worrying about “what if.” And when the TEOTWAWKI  happens, all the preparation and reading will pay off handsomely. Get ready. Do it now.