Letter Re: Situational Awareness, Complacency, and Common Sense

Dear Survival Blog,
As a journalist, I’m constantly intrigued by the dissemination of information in our world. Obviously, with the advent of social media, people have become exceptionally lazy about seeking out information. There are very few circumstances in our modern society where your technology can’t help you find out what’s going on within seconds. However, every now and then, we encounter a situation where your technology can’t help you – unless you’re prepared

Earlier this week, I was in just such a situation. I was near the front of a interstate closure caused by a burning catering truck. Because I was in such close proximity (about a mile) from the closure, no one around me knew why we were stuck. The burning trailer was around a bend, hidden from view by trees. 

First some background: Years ago, my life was saved by a second-hand CB radio that I carried in my truck. I got caught in a violent, blinding snow storm in Colorado and – using the CB – I was able to estimate position based on the feedback from truckers also caught in the storm. Since that night, I have always carried a CB in my car and later I added a police scanner. I learned that night that yes, information can save your life. 

Fast forward back to my traffic jam. I realized that the closure had just happened and so the local media was not aware of it. Within the first two minutes of being stopped, I turned on my CB and police scanner and I knew all the information I needed: I knew who, what, when, and where. (The only thing I didn’t know was what caused the fire – which really didn’t matter) Satisfied with my knowledge, and knowing we would be there a while, I pulled my car off to the shoulder and hiked toward the fire so I could get some first-hand knowledge of what was going on. It was actually quite uneventful. The firefighters were waiting on the fire to die down a little because there were two propane cylinders on the trailer. 

The most interesting part of the whole experience was on the way back to my car. Probably less than 250 yards from the burning trailer I was stopped by a car full of women whose first question was “what’s going on?” They were stuck behind two eighteen-wheelers and 45 minutes or more into this experience they still had absolutely no idea why they were even stopped. They hadn’t bothered to get out and look with their own eyeballs. They couldn’t call anyone who would know, and unless one of their Facebook friends happened to be stuck in the same traffic jam, social media wouldn’t help them either.

After I explained to them in great detail what was happening, I said goodbye and began walking when I was stopped by the driver of the very next car. They saw me chatting with the women ahead of them and immediately sensed that I knew what was happening. After all, I had come from the direction of the closure and looked like a guy who knew something. 

All told, I repeated the same story five times in the walk back to my car to people that were either too lazy to find out on their own and simply had a passing interest in this event that was directly affecting their lives. I examined each of these people as I spoke to them and one word kept coming up in my head over and over again: unprepared. What if this had been an EMP attack? How long would these people sit there waiting for someone to tell them what had happened? It was chilling to think about. That day I realized that even if every car on the Interstate was dead in the water because of an electromagnetic pulse attack, most people would have no idea what had happened and would simply sit there and wait for information or help. 

After an hour and a half, the authorities re-opened the Interstate and suddenly everything was “normal” again and people got on with their lives. 

Continuing on, I pondered how disinterested some people were in finding out information. They relied on someone else to get it for them. I realize that in the case of an EMP attack, I would not have had my CB or scanner, but I did have my curiosity and a determination to find out information. In a grid down scenario I realized that much of the battle would be seeking information and determining what was true and what wasn’t. And even more importantly, I realized that having the knowledge in your head beforehand about what could or is happening is as equally important.  I would know within two seconds that if every car on the Interstate inexplicably rolled to a stop, that we had been attacked by an EMP. (And beyond that, my car is a rolling bug out bag.) But the vast majority of people simply would not know what was going on.  

Information can save your life. 

Prepping with physical things is much simpler. It’s tangible. You can see it and hold it. But after my experience this week, I am now going to double up my efforts on being able to propagate and receive information when TEOTWAWKI happens. Having knowledge and information allows to you to act and act fast, and that will save your life. 

Sincerely, – W.H.