Recently, I became a prepper– a term that is still considered taboo to the general public. It often times draws ridicule and judgment from most people, including friends and family. Television has exacerbated this by airing shows on prepping that make its participants look like backwards hillbilly idiots that are getting ready for a zombie apocalypse.
Now before anybody gets all up in arms about the use of the term “hillbilly,” I am one. That means I am allowed to say it. (Chuckle) In all seriousness though, because of this awkwardness, a person can have some serious difficulty in helping people to understand why it’s important to prep.
I ran across this with my own family when I made known my intentions to change our lifestyle.
My wife, Melody, and my three children were very confused at the dinner table when I told them our budget, diet, and hobbies were about to be quite different from now on. After many questions and complaints were blurted, seemingly all at once, I calmly asked one question. “What would we do if…?” There I stopped short. My 8 year old daughter quickly popped off, “If what, Daddy?” I said we should think about that for a second. Maybe there was a horrible storm, and we had no power or maybe our country was attacked. Immediately all three kids, ranging from 5 to 8 started naming things that could happen. My wife, who I had briefly discussed this with over lunch that day (and thought I was crazy by the way), started to get involved and chimed in with her own what if’s. Over the course of the next hour, many possibilities were discussed, and it was clear to me that I had their attention. After we cleaned up from dinner, everyone sat in a circle in the living room.
I proceeded to dump a large cardboard box in the middle with dozens of items. I placed a few backpacks in the bunch– one of which was pink with a bright sparkly “hello kitty” picture, and the other was a condor, OD green, 3-day load out bag. Other items included silver bars and coin, waterproof matches, water filtration items, blades of different shapes and sizes, a snare kit, Para cord, Mountain Foods #10 cans, pocket fisherman kits, ammunition, gps, compasses, iodine tablets, a seed bank, survival books, medical kits, and many other useful items for bugging out. I did throw some curve ball items in there that children might consider important– popsicles, sugary snacks, noisy video games, toys, and a few other items.
At this point my kids got excited. I explained that they should pretend they had 10 minutes to pack a bag before we left our house, never to return and that we had no idea where we would go. My instruction was to pick five items you think you would absolutely take to survive. I let each person go independently, while the rest watched.
First was my five year old son, Joe. As I knew he would, he went straight for the tomahawk, then the machete, the SOG seal pup combat knife, the silver coins, and finally the Popsicles. We all got a giggle from his run on the “cool” knives. Once he was done and had grabbed the condor pack to load his stuff up, I had him explain to us why he chose each item and what purpose it would serve. He did not have much in the way of reasoning for so many edged tools, and that was ok. I was just glad he didn’t go for the video games and pop tarts! It seemed like, if we ever had to take on a pack of ninjas, we would certainly be able to match them for steel with Joe around.
Anyway, once he was done talking about his choices, his mom asked him a few questions. What would he do for water and food? Also what were some uses for the tools he did pick? This Socratic Method got his critical thinking going. He realized that tripling up on blades was counterproductive and that he should be wiser in his choices. He did give some good uses for the tomahawk– building a shelter to keep warm, cutting wood for the fire, and hunting, which is unlikely but possible. This was the result I was looking for. Critical thinking about survival.
Next was my daughter Mackenzie who is seven. She smartly picked the OD green bag first, grabbed a small knife, the seed vault kit, a life straw, waterproof matches, and silver. I was proud that she considered all the necessary things needed to live. Water, food, defense, and heat. The silver was a surprise to me so I asked her to explain this. Her reply was that money is just paper, but silver and gold are real money and people like sparkling things, so we could use it to buy a new house. Such a cute answer, and while it may have missed the mark regarding a new house, she did nail the fact that paper money would more than likely be useless. Great job Kenzie!
My oldest daughter Makayla is eight and went next. She was paying close attention and could not wait for her turn to go. Kayla grabbed the same bag as her siblings, grabbed the machete, a survival book, iodine tablets, an MRE, and matches. She went through her rationale, which was fairly sound. We discussed how she had covered her basic, immediate needs but that there were a few items that could cover those same needs and allow for a more long-term solution. This was the case with the MRE. I explained to her that it would provide nutrients for a day or two but what would she do after that? At this point she asked to change her pick to a pocket fisherman. Score!
My wife went next; her motherly habits already kicking in. She grabbed the stomp medical bag, machete, sawyer water filter, seed vault, a GPS, and Bear Grills flint fire starter kit. The kids asked her why she picked the medical bag. They were adamant that there was not enough room for the rest of the items she picked and this was not smart. Then they realized how many things in the medical bag were in the pile that would have counted as one of their five choices. They also became aware that Mommy was ultra-resourceful when she was able to attach all but one item she picked to the outside of the MOLLE gear bag.
Next was my turn. I chose the bigger 5-day assault bag and grabbed the tomahawk, snare kit, sawyer filter, compass, and ammunition. At this point I explained to them that in a real emergency situation, we would already have our bags packed, and it would have much more in it than just those five items. To finish off the game, I asked them to get one non-survival item that they would miss and would like to take. The kids ran upstairs and brought down their favorite toys. Makayla brought her American girl doll. Mackenzie selected her toy dog that walks and barks. Joe brought Legos.
At this juncture, I was stumped. I obviously didn’t think this one through. How do you tell a little girl, who just got her most wanted item for the last three years this Christmas that she could not bring a noisy, yappy WHITE toy dog with her? Needless to say, she was heartbroken. Her American girl doll was the second choice, but she was disappointed. Joe was a little easier. I had him put his Legos in a plastic container and jump up and down. It made way too much noise, and he understood. So, he went and picked another item.
I took this opportunity to explain how it will be hard giving up a lot of things we love, but that we would all have to make tough choices and sacrifices. This little game can be expanded to include building an entire bug out bag (BOB) for individuals, bags and plans to accommodate the needs of an entire family like mine, or even going deeper and find a way to build redundancy into packing bags for the family. Other games to try for different segments in prepping are below:
* Evacuation drills. Make this a game for everyone. This kind of drill happens weekly on offshore vessels. Let your family know that at some point in the week, an alarm will sound and from that point everyone has 5-10 minutes to be out front with their BOBs. You can adjust the time and parameters to fit different scenarios.
* Short notice storm drills. This scenario would prepare the family for a stay-on-site emergency. The focus here will be to pre-educate everyone on the different safety items and areas within the home so everyone can react quickly. For example, knowing where all fire extinguishers are and how to properly use them. Have everyone bring their assigned items as quickly as possible to the safe gathering area. Proper clothing and shoes are important here also. In the case of tornados, which allow for minimal response time for your family and extreme wait times for first responders, it is essential that you have foot and body protection, along with food, water, and a small medical kit. Having the preplanned meeting area as well as assigning each person with grabbing particular items will allow for quicker response, accountability, and assurance that nothing and no one is left behind.
* Long survival hikes. In the event that you and your family are in or near a big city and homesteading isn’t an option, it is important to have a bug out plan in place. You should have a backup just in case vehicles are not an option. For instance, in an EMP situation, you have waited so long that the escape routes are jammed. In this situation if staying isn’t an option, you must be ready to walk it out. With small children like mine, setting a realistic range in getting to safety is a huge factor to consider. Within 100 miles is ideal. Children who are not extremely active would have a difficult time with this. Grabbing your go bag and hitting some trails on a sunny day will help to familiarize everyone with what bugging out on foot would be like.
There are a ton of variations and ways to prepare. Practice like you play. Take it seriously, but at the same time this isn’t the military, so keep it fun and some humor involved. My family has taken this new passion of mine and embraced it because they see how important their lives and safety are to me. They understand that life isn’t always iPods and pizza. Over the summer we have made plans to do more camping and hiking, start scouts, participate in more hunting and fishing, and generally be without modern electronics. Changing the mindset of our children and family early is important. Teach them how to survive without depending on outsiders. Playing simple games like this and others and doing dry runs and drills also helps build a sense of urgency.
One thing I feel I should mention, never wait until zero hour to pack. It’s great to get motivated and go buy and stock all the gear for your bag, but if it’s not organized and packed, you will more than likely forget an essential piece of gear when you’re in a hurry. Have everything stowed and ready so that all you need to do is grab and go.
The Boy Scouts sure did get it right when they coined the phrase “Always be prepared”. No matter what SHTF situation you believe will happen, it’s important to prep for anything. That means all your basic needs should be considered. There are many different levels of prepping and countless strategies to consider. Starting down this road can be very confusing, expensive, and engrossing. Just take it one step, one day, one item at a time. This blog has more than enough study material and is just as much an asset for preppers as most items in your bag. Study, learn and, most certainly, keep prepping.