Most people spend time perfecting their bug-out bag, or their bug-in kit, ensuring they can adequately survive on their own in the event of a catastrophe here. Many envision themselves in the role of “Eli” from the recent movie The Book of Eli, a lone wanderer who fends for himself as he travels in a post-apocalyptic world. I am of the opinion, as are many true preppers, that it will take a community to not only survive, but to prosper in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.
Let’s assume for a moment that your current neighborhood is not conducive to building that community, or that, for whatever reason, the group around you fails to thrive. You may have to move on to another area. When you reach that area, you will likely be greeted as an outsider and any town you reach will likely be reluctant to let you into their community. You will likely be viewed as just another begging traveler who is looking for the safety of a group, but could end up being a free-loader who is nothing more than another mouth to feed, another potential trouble maker, or another carrier of disease.
What will you say to persuade a community to believe that it is worth their time to take you into their group? What do you have to offer that others can’t provide?
You don’t have to be a former Navy SEAL who can single-handedly defend the town. You don’t have to be a former military commanding officer-turned-mayor with the leadership skills to organize the community into an army. In some cases, you don’t have to be strong or even that smart. All you need is a unique skill. Lacking that, you need to have a skill that can aid others with a similar set of skills in accomplishing a goal more efficiently or productively.
If you don’t have anything to offer, you could be turned away and left to fend for yourself.
Now is the time to build skills that will be useful enough to gain acceptance in that scenario. These skills may have nothing to do with your current reality, but if you take the time to learn as much as you can, you will be an asset to a community that will make your presence not only worthwhile, but necessary.
This isn’t a how-to. It’s likely that you won’t learn anything from reading this. The point of this is to help you consider, if you haven’t already, ways to make yourself valuable in a post-TEOTWAWKI situation. I’m simply going to mention a few skills that you can build now to reach that end. The skills I talk about are not listed in any particular order, and some may be much more important than others. This is just to stir some thought on what you will be able to provide in the event that you need to. Also, this list is far from all-inclusive. You may think of many other skill sets that are equally (or even more) important. If so, work on them. Build them. Your life, and the life of your community, may very well depend on it.
1) Communications – No matter what form of catastrophe has caused the collapse of society, communication with the world outside of your immediate area can be crucial. People will want to know what is happening beyond the horizon, the condition the government, the condition of other communities, or just, in general, what is going on. It is likely, however, that you won’t be able to just pick up the phone and call anyone. Telephone lines may be interrupted or completely disabled. A viable alternative is ham radio. The skills required to operate ham radio are not as common as they once were, are relatively easy to learn, and the equipment can be cheap (although it can get expensive if you want the “latest and greatest” gear). Keep reference materials available. You may not be able to memorize everything. This skill alone may not be enough to grant you a position of esteem within a community, but it certainly couldn’t hurt your chances of being taken in as a member of the group.
2) Farming/Gardening – In many areas across the nation, this is a fading skill. The skills you can learn from maintaining a small garden in your yard could be critical when the SHTF. Even if you don’t have enough room for a small garden, read all you can on the subject and make a notebook or a manual. Make your own comprehensive version of “Farming for dummies”. The internet is bursting at the seams with information, but it’s likely that you won’t have access to it post-TEOTWAWKI, so make a survivable record of the information you think will be important. Gather information from multiple sources and record it all. Test out different methods if you can, focusing on techniques that don’t require heavy tools or chemicals. Find out how people did it a hundred years ago or more, and prepare yourself to mimic those methods. Set aside tools and seeds if you can afford it and if you have the storage space, but at a bare minimum, make yourself a written reference so that even if you’re not a farmer now, you have some hope of becoming one if the need arises.
3) Food gathering – Do you know what plants in your local area are edible? Better yet, do you know which plants taste good? Information on the subject is available in book stores, camping/hiking stores, or online. Find the information and read through it. Don’t just read it from the comfort of your recliner – get out and take a walk with your reference material. See if you can locate the plants in the woods or even along roadways. Learning what they look like in the real world now, when you don’t need them, can save you from the time and effort of trial and error when you do. Once again, make yourself a survivable reference book on the subject. Try to include your entire state, maybe even the surrounding states. You never know where fate may take you in the event of TEOTWAWKI. Learn to not only identify these plants, but how to prepare them properly. Learn which local plants have medicinal properties and how to use them. The ability to keep others well-fed and healthy can make you a very valuable member of a community.
4) Food storage – My grandmother and her friends canned all kinds of things, but if you asked my wife how to do it, I’m pretty sure you would just get a shrug for an answer. Canning/preserving foods as a hobby is not only a good way to stockpile your own emergency supplies, but it’s also a great way to build the skill necessary to preserve food later, when you really need it. I’m not just talking about canning here. Preserving meat will be necessary too. Do you know how to make jerky? Nope, I don’t mean with your 9-tray Excalibur Food Dehydrator, I mean with a purpose-made, wood burning smoker, or even over a campfire. Hunting in the summertime or growing crops may provide more food than your group can readily consume, and knowing how to preserve that food for later may make the difference when winter comes and food is more scarce. My grandmother may not be there to show others how it’s done, so if you know how, then people will want you around.
5) Mechanics – Even in the event of an EMP attack, (which would probably be the worst case scenario, technologically) older, simpler vehicles may still function. But if they break down, who will repair them? Or what if you want to use that engine to power a mill? Or to pump water? If you’re mechanically inclined, the skills necessary to maintain or build machinery will be highly sought after by any community.
6) Soap or candle making – In our modern world, we have grown accustomed to buying soap or candles, but before the age of Wal-Mart, making these items was the only way to get them. You may not get rich, or whatever version of “rich” exists after TEOTWAWKI, but both items will be in high demand if Wal-Mart ceases to provide them. Making soap or candles can be a fun hobby, a source of income even now, and can be a very useful skill to offer if it is needed in the future. Even if starting a new hobby like that is not your cup of tea now, making a reference guide from information found online or in books, and practicing enough to work out the details could be enough to give you something to offer later.
These are just a few ideas. Notice that I didn’t mention medical skills or security skills. Obviously medical skills (beyond the basics, which you should already know or be learning) are not something that you can learn in “on the side”. I believe that when it comes to security services, every able bodied individual in any community will most likely be recruited and trained for that task. Advanced knowledge or experience can definitely be an advantage, but that topic is covered a lot in other forums/articles/blogs, so any information I put in here would be rudimentary at best. I also didn’t mention blacksmithing, animal husbandry, gunsmithing, dentistry, carpentry and no doubt countless others. If you have specialized skills such as these, you don’t need to read this. You already have your ticket.
If you’re like most people, however, you might want to consider learning a set of skills, such as the ones I described or any other valuable skill that you come up with on your own, in order to make yourself a person who will not be a burden to your post-TEOTWAWKI community, but a valuable member who is worth feeding, supporting and defending.
One more thing I’d like to mention is that no matter what skills you have to offer, your worth in a community will also be based on who you are and how you deal with others. If you are to be a worthwhile member of a community, it is equally important that you maintain a community mindset when it comes to using your skills. I’m not saying that you should give your services away, but always keep in mind that while your particular skills may be necessary for the survival of the community, the community as a whole is necessary for your own survival. Be the kind of honest and fair person that you would want to deal with and it’s likely that others will want to deal with you.