Disability has many faces and people with disabilities come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you are born with a disability or become disabled at some point in your life, learning to survive “differently” than able bodied persons is a challenge. Life in general is geared for those who are strong in mind, body and spirit. Having a disability, whatever it is, does not mean that you are less of a person or unable to have a good life, or survive catastrophe should it occur. Our Disabled Veterans would surely agree since some of their injuries are visible and some are not, and this is true with all people. We must not judge a person’s value by how they appear.
Growing up I learned a great deal from my parents from how to paint a wall to refinish furniture. I loved using tools and became confident about building and repairing things. Broken tile? Need a new light switch? Leaky water pipe? No problem. I learned to do things that were traditionally male type tasks and I enjoyed it as much as I did art, cooking, gardening and sewing. Suddenly, I found myself disabled at 40 years of age. I was physically unable to do many things that I once took for granted. Some days, just standing up was the victory of the day. I am 53 now, with good doctors and treatments and while I will never be able to do the things I once did, I am always looking for ways to do something useful, to be an asset rather than a burden. Even if the world wasn’t in a state of turmoil, and I was not compelled to make preparations for what could be radical, desperate and life altering changes, I would still want my life to have purpose. I like and need a reason to be.
I began to think, especially as the idea of survival preparedness loomed ever larger with the start of 2012. I live in the woods, on good defensible land, with an abundance of fresh spring water and resources. Even though I know what to do, have made some preparedness plans and continue to do so, what can I really do? As someone unable to run, get down on the ground, lift heavy objects or survive without medication, what am I going to do? How can I make sure that I am not one of those counted as a liability? The thought made me cringe.
By the way, did I mention that I am a woman? Sure, I can cook, and cook well but when the rubber hits the road I have to act to protect me and insure that I can handle myself with the trials that may come. However, with an uncooperative body there are extra steps that I want to take, and anyone with physical challenges may want to think about them as well. I need to be able to do what I have to do in order to stay alive, and this is where I started.
It helps to enjoy the outdoors and be comfortable with less. I think that surviving an apocalyptic shift depends on being able to adapt and make due. The richest man in the world, comfortable in his condominium with a view and a private chef to feed him won’t be able to pull out that credit card and build a fire, or have fresh water to drink. Sure, there are a small percentage that will buy the bunkers, stock them, and be ready for a while but those provisions will run out and that is when true survival begins.
As a person with physical limitations, it has also limited my ability to make a living and greatly diminished the “disposable income” that one needs to prepare for a future of uncertainty. Do the best you can to obtain the things that you will need and teach yourself some survival skills. Find like-minded people who are willing to work and purchase as a team if that is what you need to do in order to make survival realistic. Cooperation will become very important and a strong core of individuals or families who have been preparing together and working together will fare better than most, but be sure that you teach yourself the basics and buy the best that you can, whenever you can, where supplies are concerned.
I have a gun and I am willing to use it. I imagine that some people see disability as a weakness, and it is. Some may think that because I am disabled that I am an easy target but they are wrong. This is why it is important to own a gun, or guns for self-defense. (As well as a variety of other weapons and tools) Purchasing a handgun is a very personal choice; one you must be comfortable with. You need a pistol that you can comfortably clean, load, carry and shoot based on your limitations.
Go to a gun store and ask questions, (talk to gun-owning friends if you have them) handle multiple weapons and look at the differences between automatics and revolvers. They are different in weight, ease of use, cost and ammunition. Remember, if you are going to one day raise a gun in defense against another person, you want to stop the oncoming attack. Be sure that the pistol and ammunition you choose will do that.
Go to an indoor range that rents guns and test them because handling at the gun shop is not enough for you to make a final decision. Firing a pistol is not like in the movies and it takes time to learn how to do it well. It is a good idea if you have not handled firearms before, to take a gun safety course. Learn about your weapon. Learn everything about it. Take it apart and reassemble it until you can do it comfortably and quickly. Clean it often. Practice firing until you can hit a target consistently well at 25 and 50 feet and then practice some more.
Once you have chosen your weapon, start putting ammunition away as you can afford to do so. Every chance I get I buy a box of shells and lock them up because it is getting harder to find ammunition, and it is certainly hard to afford on a fixed income. Do the best that you can.
Now that you have a pistol, think about a rifle. A pistol will help you defend yourself up close, but in a situation where you must protect your life, property and supplies, a long reaching weapon will be needed. You may need a way to hunt for food including large game or keep away intruders from a distance. Follow the same rules as when buying a handgun. You have many choices. The most important thing is being able to use the weapon effectively should you have to. To my way of thinking, a variety of weapons is ideal. A 9mm pistol, long range centerfire hunting rifle, .22 rifle, BB rifle and shotgun are my basic choices where guns are concerned but what you need is what you can shoot.
For protection there are a myriad of choices beyond guns and all have their uses. From knives to crossbows and everything in between it is smart to have a variety for defense and beyond because bullets can run out. Knives and hatchets have a hundred uses and are necessary components for any survival situation. Your research and physical abilities will dictate what works well for you.
Cooperation or Creating Your Own Army
No man/woman is an island, especially when disabled. We are disabled due to specific limitations, and those limitations will affect us in a time of survival. There are some things that I cannot do and I rely on someone else to fill that gap in my everyday life. The same is true in a survival situation and we have to be able to adjust or rely on others. It doesn’t seem to matter who I talk to these days; everyone has varying concerns about the state of the world and the desire to prepare for “something that is coming.”
It didn’t take very long for me to find a small group of people who shared my concerns as well as my desire to plan ahead. Some of these folks have limitations and some are able bodied and between us we have the physical capability, knowledge and a growing arsenal of supplies to support ourselves safely and effectively. Do the best you can to build a reserve of supplies and create a team of like-minded people, even other disabled folks with the same thoughts on surviving. I may be crippled, but it is my able-bodied friends who are asking to be in my home for safety should the world become apocalyptic that let me know I am heading in the right direction.
Do the same for yourself and remember that these are the people who you will have to be around, work with and depend on for a long time. Take into consideration the personalities, ethics, (work, personal and political) and habits of your army. You will rely on them, live with them, and answer to them so make sure all of you can work together and compromise when needed. Your very lives will depend on these bonds and each person should have skill sets that make them a valuable asset to your team. You must also have skills to make yourself an asset, and when your body doesn’t work, let your mind fill the void. Let your knowledge of survival tactics be part of your contribution.
Knowledge is power, and throughout history this has proven to be true time and again. The Spartans repelled thousands and their performance at the battle of Thermopylae (480 BC) is often used as an example of the advantages of training, equipment and good use of terrain to maximize an army’s potential, as well as a symbol of courage against extremely overwhelming odds. It was the knowledge of the few that led the Spartans to historical glory. As a disabled person with physical limitations, your place in your army can be solidified by having great knowledge. Survival can be learned by reading and watching videos on everything from fire making, stockpiling, shelter and weaponry to turning your living space into a defensible fortress. Be the one with the answers by gaining knowledge. Create a library of reference, but hold as much as you can learn in your head for later. This is part of your contribution.
Looking Beneath the Surface
We have to look deeply at ourselves, our habits, and the habits of our survival companions. I mention this in order to give examples of how deeply we will be affected when a quick trip to the corner store is no longer an option. Let’s say that one of your potential team members is an active pack-a-day-or-more cigarette smoker and they are now out of smokes; or perhaps someone who must have “a few beers” after work. I am talking about “addiction”, or “dependence”. When you talk about disability, prescription medication often goes hand in hand and that is a frightening consideration, but many people are dependent on over the counter substances as well and all of these things will have an effect on a person’s abilities and state of mind when those items are no longer available. Now is an important time to consider these things and learn to do without, rather than when you need all your senses to protect yourself.
Cigarettes, alcohol, allergy medicine, foot powder, antacid, calamine lotion, eye drops. How long will these things last? How much money do you have to put aside in order to buy a lifetime of things that we take for granted? Take a look at all the little packages in your bathroom, just as an example, and make a list but don’t include prescriptions. In all my research and with the people I speak with regarding survival preparation there is a commonality. Everyone focuses on what we need to survive; what we must know, possess, do and think. Now, look at your list and decide on what you must do without in favor of food. My list was long and detailed because I enjoy comfort and instant gratification. If I sneeze, I want a tissue. If I have an itch I want some cream.
Survival means knowing about how to live with less and I believe realistic preparation includes preparing your mind. We reach for a little pill here and a bit of lotion there without a thought and it will take a toll on your psyche if you don’t take the time to think and prepare for this in advance. As a disabled person I am already used to discomfort. It is an unfortunate part of my disability but in a way it puts me a step ahead. I have learned over many years to make due as my physical and financial abilities decreased. It is the little things that will disturb people more than the bigger changes. Let this be your strength, and with it add to your arsenal of knowledge.
Natural remedies are many and the “health and wellness” business is big, but much of it is in the form of compressed pills, processed liquids and foul smelling powders for “convenience”. It all has its place in this world but in the times to come; natural will mean plants, herbs, insects, animal parts and more. We will be forced to find our own remedies. For instance, poison ivy is the bane of most people. Growing near ivy in many cases is a plant called jewelweed. Crack the stem open and you will find the inside to be gel like and similar to aloe. Rub it on your affected skin and you get instant relief. Being able to recognize and use medicinal plants in the old days made you a valuable asset to any village. The Healer had Power. Get it?
But What About…
Prescriptions. My disability requires medication. It is illegal to stockpile prescription medication. We are given prescriptions in the amount we need for each month with instructions on exactly how to take it and when. At the end of each month the medication should be all used and you should be better off for it. For those of us with chronic conditions requiring maintenance medicine every day without fail, apocalypse is a frightening consideration, and we have to think about and consider how we will live if we must do without. Blood pressure, thyroid, depression, heart, oxygen, and the “biggie” – pain relieving prescriptions are critical to survival for many people.
There is nothing that I can tell you to do that is legal. There is nothing any of us can legally do right now to prepare for a time when and if prescriptions will not be readily available. What I can say is to think about it. Consider natural remedies that will help replace your prescriptions when possible and talk to your doctor about options. In some cases there will be none and we will all be facing the same thing. It is up to the individual or group to figure out how to bridge this formidable gap. Do not try to replace your medications with herbal remedies without the advice of your doctor. As long as you are able to get your medications you should take them without fail. Again, knowledge is key so utilize the doctor, pharmacist and reference material to prepare yourself and help others do the same.
Time To Go – Right NOW
You may be forced to move suddenly to avoid danger. Whether you live in a metropolitan condominium or a backwoods cabin the need to flee may arise and it is important that you have a plan and a “Bug-Out Bag” or “Personal Survival Kit”. This is a small, easy to manage collection of basic items that you must have in order to survive if required to suddenly leave your home, or wherever you are. The items in this kit will vary from person to person and even from week to week based on weather and other factors. The choices you will make will be personal and important, but all kits must contain items critical to survival.
As a disabled person, my needs differ somewhat from an able bodied person. If I have suddenly been forced out of my home I need shelter and a way to create it. I must be prepared to tailor my shelter to my needs. For example, I am unable to get down on the ground and get back up without help. Based on your disability, you must formulate a shelter that you can create on your own if you have to. In order to do that, you need basic tools and equipment as well as any specialty items that will assist you in your ability to survive. Give this careful thought, as these specialty items will be specific to you. There are a variety of items that each person needs to have without fail. Start with the items listed below.
- Knife and Scabbard – A strong, sharp single edge knife with a sharpening stone is a tool for many operations. There are so many to choose from that you may find it difficult to decide what to buy. Quality is an important factor because if you are out on a cold day with the sun going down and the blade breaks while getting your first piece of wood you will be stuck. Buy a knife designed for outdoor, strenuous use.
- Fire Starting Kit – Keeping warm, cooking and treating water are only three reasons you need to make fire. Lighters and matches are great and will serve you well for a time, but knowing how to make fire from “scratch” will save your life. I have a small tool the size of my hand. It is a rod of magnesium and striking steel fixed to a wood handle. Attached with a cord is two pieces of saw blade. A spark hitting a little pile of magnesium in a bed of tinder will quickly become a blazing fire once you know how to do it, and the tool will last a lifetime. Find one that you can manage with your disability.
- Cordage – You can use rope or twine but paracord is light and strong and reliable. Shelter comes faster and easier when para cord is used, so a fifty foot roll will keep you out of the weather with enough left for traps and many other uses. Also include a finer gauge nylon cord to help with repairs and small snare traps.
- Mess Kit – A small complete kit for your meals is necessary and inexpensive. They are light weight and take up a small amount of space in your bag. Choose one that includes a pot with lid, pan, dish, cup and cutlery. They come in their own waterproof bag for easy storage.
- Tarpaulin – For use as shelter, windbreak and protection from the wet ground, a tarp or piece of heavy duty commercial plastic is an asset. In a pinch, you can wrap your supplies in it and use it as a pack. A tarp helps to radiate the heat from your fire, collect water, and shelter you, so use a good, lightweight but strong tarp measuring 8’ by 8’ at the minimum.
- Space Blanket – A reusable “blanket” with a ton of uses, but in this instance, for sleeping. You can substitute a tarp for this, but to me, a Space Blanket goes the extra mile to keep you comfortable, and you must be able to sleep in order to have the mental alertness to effectively survive.
- Backpack – The above items, which are the top six survival items you need, should be stored permanently in a weatherproof, easily accessible backpack or bag that is easy for you to find and carry. You should keep your pack, your Bug Out Bag, in an easily accessible place at all times. Keep it clean and well stocked.
- Additions – To increase comfort and ability to survive there are other items that can be included in your bag.
- Fire Kit – An assortment of items ignitable under any circumstance. These can be made at home or purchased.
- Duct Tape – Carry a roll of high quality tape. When in doubt, use duct tape.
- Saw – A folding saw will help you create shelter and manage firewood. Camp saws are both strong and inexpensive.
- Ax or Hatchet – A perfect tool to help with firewood and to fashion more permanent shelters.
- Sharpening Stone – Your edged tools work best when sharp, so you must have a stone or kit to keep them that way.
- First Aid Kit – A waterproof basic kit is good protection and a comfort to have when adapting to a survival situation. There will be small injuries and keeping them small with bandages, topical antibiotics and cleanliness is important.
- Containers – Lightweight collapsible containers are important for liquid and food. You must be able to store water.
- Compass – In a survival situation, GPS systems may not be available to help orient us as to our locations. The use of a compass is easy to learn and will tuck into any small pocket of your pack.
Continuing your Bug-Out Bag is personal. For me, my medication has to go in, along with my book on medicinal plants. I also have water, a small assortment of food and clothing. Consider your needs and add to the bag accordingly. In the end, your bag needs to be light enough for you to handle and close enough to grab in a hurry.
The need to understand how to live under survival conditions could be upon us tomorrow, and what we may face is unknown, but it is certain that those with a plan, tools and the cooperation of others will stand a better chance than the average person who has not done any preparation. As disabled people, we need to take a few extra steps to claim our place in the new world, because we do belong, we have much to give and we can certainly prepare for whatever may come. Our advantage is in knowing how to operate with limitations, and our ability to show others what we know will solidify our place in the world of tomorrow.