I guess I have always been a survivalist. As a small child during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I remember bugging out from our house near a SAC bomber base in Florida to a piece of land my dad owned about 70 miles away. I was awakened in the middle of the night by my parents, had a blanket draped over my shoulders, and was carried to my dad’s pickup. I didn’t really know what was going on, but I could tell my parents were scared. My uncle, who was in the military, called my dad in the middle of the night and told him to get the family to a safe place. His wife and son were to join us. Looking back, it’s not surprising to me that my dad had a bug-out plan. We lived near a nuclear bomber base that was certainly a target. He had 20 acres with a cabin and a couple of lakes on it. It was far enough away to escape blast effects and in the right direction to miss fallout patterns for most of the year. We spent a few days there and then went back home after things settled down.
As I got older and went to elementary school, we had weekly nuclear attack drills, where we leaned our desks over and got under them for shelter… given where we lived, I’m not sure it would have helped much, but it made an additional impression on me.
I think this profoundly affected me. Although my parents really never taught me much about preparedness specifically and my Dad didn’t talk about any preparations he had made, the attitude of being prepared and self-sufficient was pretty prevalent. In Scouts, I had a great interest in wilderness survival and spent a lot of my time as a teen reading and practicing those skills. A friend and I even dug an expedient fallout shelter in the woods near our home. All this is to say that I have been learning and practicing survival and preparedness skills ever since I can remember.
Today, my prepper group is my family. I have lots of kids– seven of my own, three step-kids, plus kids’ spouses and also grandkids. There is a very broad range of sentiment among them concerning preparedness. We get everything from “You guys are crazy, the Government will take care of us…” to those who are fully on board and can’t wait to take the next tactical rifle class. However, if the SHTF, I expect pretty much all of them will come live at the “The Homestead”. Some have preps, some don’t, but that won’t matter then.
I’m currently the security, medical, agriculture, power system, water system, and communications guy. I am “Dad”, so I felt that I needed to learn everything I could to help my family through anything that might come. I’ve tried to teach my kids as much as possible, but most are grown now and have jobs and families, and they just won’t make cross training in these critical areas a priority. It’s great for a group member to have a lot of valuable skills, but if one person is the only one with some of the critical skills, everyone could be at risk if that person is no longer around.
I have people to fill roles of mechanic, builder, IT guy, child care, and cook. I have a lot of books on almost every topic concerning preparedness and homesteading, however, as we all know trying to learn skills after the fact is not a good plan. Gaining most skills requires study and most of all practice and more practice.
So, what’s the plan for filling these roles, if something happens to me? Let’s face it, if we are in a collapse situation, WROL, PAW, TEOTWAWKI, or whatever you want to call it, the world will be a much more dangerous place than today, and all of our life spans may be shortened. How do you make sure everyone in your family or group has the best possible chance of making it? It’s easy to just say, “Have a backup or alternate for every critical skill”, but the reality is that you can’t pick your family, only your friends. You also can’t force people to prioritize what’s important to you and maybe not to them.
So, here are some ideas that I have used:
- Schedule some “fun” training.
I invited my two oldest sons to join me in a tactical training course. Both of them liked it and have retained a lot of what was learned.
I scheduled and got my two youngest, who were teens at the time, to join me in a Wilderness First Aid course. They both got the certification in Wilderness First Aid, CPR, and learned how to use an AED. I would consider this level of training a minimum for everyone and would prefer that everyone had more than this.
I attended an Appleseed event with some of my kids. It was good training and gave them a greater level of confidence with their rifle.
I’m not sure it fell into the category of “fun training” for her, but my dear wife studied for and got her Amateur Radio Technician license.
- Buy them a gift.
It’s not a guarantee, but it will hopefully move them in the right direction. I got my wife and older teens Baofeng Dual Band handheld radios for their go bags and spent some time teaching them how to use them. Only my wife and I have Ham licenses, but the kids can use them on the public bands, like FRS and GMRS, and even on the Ham bands in an emergency. I’m still hoping this will get them interested enough to get their licenses, but so far it hasn’t worked. I’m planning to get radios for my older sons this Christmas. We’ll see how that works to motivate them. Hey, I plan to get them something for Christmas anyway!
I bought my wife a .22 rifle. Guys, it’s probably not a great idea to make this her Christmas or birthday present, unless she’s really into guns. This worked pretty well. My wife never liked guns at all before we met, but now she routinely practices with her rifle and handgun.
I got a 9mm pistol for my youngest son, who is now an adult. His interest in shooting and marksmanship has definitely increased.
My daughter-in-law is interested in herbal medicine, and this year for Christmas she will be getting books on herbal medicine from me.
- Blend it with entertainment.
I bought some Survival, Evasion, and Escape training videos and managed to get the family to watch them with me. Several topics caught their attention, and I saw the boys trying some of the skills they saw on the video.
We go camping and backpacking a lot. So, personal outdoors skills are all pretty much in place for most of my family.
We are into traditional archery and make our own bows for competitions. Several of the kids have done very well at the State Championship, using bows they made themselves.
I have a yearly clue hunt at Easter time for the family, and I can often insert tasks that require orienteering, encryption and ciphers, radio communications, and bush craft. At this point, they are pretty good. It’s getting harder and harder to make this a real challenge for them, but I’m accomplishing my purpose and they are learning. All of that is accomplished for just a little bit of my time and a bag of candy!
- Make a game of it.
Even though this is serious business, sometimes games teach skills and get people thinking. For some people competition brings out a lot of energy and focus to win or be the best.
Play the Conflicted card game. One very thought-provoking question asks about what skills you have that would be useful in a survival situation. One family member confided afterwards that they didn’t know if they had any useful skills, and it motivated them to begin learning.
I once bet two of my teenage sons $20 if they could do 20 legitimate pull-ups without stopping. In a couple of weeks I had to pay up.
Paintball can be good for developing skills and learning to work with others in a tactical situation.
Orienteering and Geo caching are great for honing map and compass skills. Just be sure to know how to use the low-tech approach as well as your GPS .
Ham radio contesting can be a lot of fun and keeps you fresh on the radio equipment and antenna setup. Summits on the air (SOTA) is a contest where you transmit from mountain peaks using portable equipment you pack up there yourself. I’m still building my portable rig, so I haven’t gotten to do this myself yet, but I plan to take my son when I do.
I do have some duplication of skill sets in agriculture, and security, and hope to encourage development of communications and medical skills in a couple of others, but in the end it is up to them, and I have to work with what I have in order to give them all a fighting chance.
So, do these things create a solid continuity plan? No, not really. But, given the realities of everyone’s schedule and priorities, it’s the best I can do right now. It exposes them to the areas that I feel are important skills for the family to have, even if I’m no longer around. If and when things go bad, I’m sure that there will be more motivation for everyone to learn skills and cross train, but it’s certainly risky to wait until then.