Friday, October 1, 2010
Final Survival Preparations
By Giordano Bruno
Many Americans rarely if ever consider the issues of fundamental survival. By “survival”, I do not mean having a successful career, a low rate mortgage, a savings account, pension fund, nest-egg, etc. These are illusory means of survival in an economy not based in reality, but held together by deceptive government policies and a general lack of awareness in the population. The system we live in today is flawed in every sense, in terms of debt to savings, government spending versus government revenue, monetary policy, stock market value versus concrete company earnings, reported unemployment versus real unemployment, and numerous other factors. In my years observing and writing on our financial system, I have not found a single sector of the economy that is NOT in disarray or on the verge of complete collapse (except precious metals and certain other commodities). None of the methods for self-sustainment we are accustomed to today are even remotely practical under such conditions. Any American hoping to protect his family’s well being, or their freedoms, must realize and accept one simple fact:
The world we live in today is not necessarily the world we will live in tomorrow. Assumptions can kill…
There is nothing paranoid about survival preparation. Actually, those people who really believe that they are completely safe from any national catastrophe, or that they can rely on the Federal Government for total support during a crisis, are either terrifyingly stupid, or bewilderingly insane. In light of FEMA’s performance during the Katrina incident, an ill-conceived trust in our bureaucracy to protect us is utterly outdated and foolish. In fact, FEMA’s actions only made the situation in New Orleans worse, and caused substantial loss of life. NEVER, ever, put your fate in the hands of strangers, especially strangers from government organizations that have little to no vested interest in your well-being.
In previous articles such as ‘Surviving Economic Collapse: Tips, Tactics, And Gear’, we covered the Big Four in survival; food, water, shelter, and self-defense. For those who have not yet established themselves in these four essentials, I highly suggest they stop reading this article now and come back to it after they have begun dealing with the above issues. The following information is meant for those who are already well on their way towards survival preparedness, covering more advanced strategies and gear.
For the sake of being thorough, let’s briefly rehash the Big Four…
Shelter: The issue of shelter is highly dependent on which strategy you plan to use during a crisis; ‘homestead’ or ‘retreat’. If you feel that your best bet is to remain at home and fortify your position there, then you are what I would call a “homestead survivalist”. If you feel that the place you live now will not be safe or is not defendable during a collapse, then you will probably make plans to fall back to a “retreat” location. Each strategy has advantages and disadvantages.
Homesteaders have the advantage of setting up their survival situation where they are everyday, plus they probably know the surrounding terrain like the back of their hand. During a collapse, Homesteaders don’t have to worry about the dangers of traveling to a safe location since they already live in a protected area, and they don’t have to worry about how to transport all their supplies. However, some homesteaders do not make a backup plan, and tend to put all their eggs into one basket. Homesteaders should not assume that they will be able to stay where they are permanently, and should always have a retreat setup as well.
Retreatists are survivalists who have taught themselves to make no assumptions and to rely on ingenuity rather than a vast supply of goods. They know how to streamline, organize, and make do in expert fashion. They have a preset location (or several) that they have scouted and deemed prime for safety. They also have the advantage of mobility in the event that one location is compromised. Their obstacles though are many. Getting to a retreat location can be very difficult without foresight into what is happening in the country around them. If they miss the signs of imminent collapse, they can be caught with their pants down and unable to go anywhere. Also, Retreatists have severe logistical concerns; moving supplies to the retreat, dealing with limited resources due to space limitations, sacrificing extra food and gear for speed, etc. There are inventive ways to counter these problems, but they will always exist for the Retreatist to some extent.
Despite common perceptions on survival, people in the country are not necessarily any better off than people in the city, they just have a different set of problems. City survival is possible, but requires greater planning in terms of water collection, food storage, and defense. Cities also become pits of disease during collapse. Fires can burn down entire blocks including your retreat if it’s not protected. Rioting and looting will be widespread, but if you know how to stay out of sight, the chaos could actually camouflage you. Collapses in cities historically bring out hoards of amateur snipers, making extended foot travel during the day nearly impossible. Country dwellers will have to contend with the masses of wandering refugees from the cities looking for protection and sometimes handouts. Dealing with otherwise harmless people who are starving and unprepared will bring up considerable conflicts of conscience. How much can you help without putting yourself in jeopardy? Which people deserve to be helped, and which people represent a liability? The answer will be different for every survivalist. Country survivalists who do not have an adequate community of people for defense are at serious risk. Looters can be vicious beyond imagining. Study the history of the Bosnian/Serbian breakdown during the mid 1990’s for insights into this. Any country retreat without solid defense will be overrun by people whose only care is their own survival. Some men will stop at nothing to get what they want. History is filled with nightmarish examples…
Food: Homesteaders would likely rely more on bulk foods and grains, since they have more room and time to store. Retreatists would rely more on freeze-dried and very lightweight meals that are easy to transport and are individually packaged to make them resistant to the elements. A mixture of both is preferable. A three year supply or more would be nominal for the survivalist, but many do not have the money to afford this kind of preparation. Anyone who does not have at the very least a six month to one year supply of food equaling over 2000 calories a day per person will be in trouble. The less stored food you have, the more effort you will have to make to find supplemental foods in your immediate area (wild edibles, hunting, snaring, etc.). If you have a family, the food problem is greatly multiplied.
Water: Homesteaders should have water barrels stored, and a nearby water source or well. Water storage is easy, requiring inexpensive plastic barrels and a small amount of bleach or water-saver chemical to kill microbes. Rain gutters connected to barrels make a very effective water collection system. Filters should be used as needed to make the water safe for drinking.
Retreatists will not be carrying much water. Two weeks worth maybe if they are in a car, far less if they have the misfortune of having to hike to their retreat. The Retreatist will be very reliant on rivers, streams, lakes, ponds, and rain, and should plan his route to intersect natural water sources. Small rain collection systems are easy to make using a thick garbage bag or poncho, some tree branches, and a container. The Retreatist should have a portable water filter, such as a Katadyn, with at least two filters minimum. If the Retreatist has planned correctly, his retreat location will already have natural water sources very close by when he arrives.
Self Defense: Everyone thinks they are a gun expert. We all have that uncle or cousin who hunts on a regular basis (or plays a lot of video games) and has a memorized list of weapon types and calibers to drone on about whenever the subject of survival arises. It seems there are as many strategies for survival self defense as there are survivalists, and everyone disagrees with everyone else. The fact is, many hunters are not necessarily good survivalists by default, and people who get all their insights from video games or playing airsoft are quite literally doomed. All I can say is, research the issue for yourself and take the measures that seem the most logical. Take random and unsolicited advice from know-it-alls with a grain of salt. The following is a general self defense strategy that I found works for me, meets practical standards, and may work for you…
There are three types of survival firearms; primary, secondary, and hunting, and you should try to stock all of them. The weapon you choose as your primary is of the utmost importance. Only a designated combat effective rifle will do, and the longer its range, the better. Combat rifles are normally designed around one of three different common calibers: .223, 7.62 by 39, or .308. They are made to take a beating and to be fired repeatedly without failing. They can also be expensive. Make the sacrifice, save the extra money, and buy a well made combat arm. It is your life that is at stake.
I believe the .308 is the best choice of the three common military calibers, because of its incredible range, accuracy, and stopping power. Range, in my personal opinion, is the key to self defense.
Secondary arms, like pistols or pistol caliber carbines, leave more leeway for choice, and so do hunting rifles. Never rely on a pistol caliber weapon, shotgun, or hunting rifle, as your principal means of self defense. Pistols and shotguns do not have significant range and will be soundly outmatched by anyone with a combat effective rifle. Hunting rifles are NOT made for the heavy fire rate necessary in a defensive situation and break easily under strenuous conditions. Always choose the right tool for the correct situation.
Now that we have gone lightly over the basics, let’s look at some gear and other items for the advanced survivalist…
The equipment and strategies listed below are not a paramount concern, and it is possible to do without them. Those who feel they don’t have the savings necessary to purchase more expensive items should focus on the Big Four. That said, it would make your life much easier if you had this gear in your inventory.
Advanced First Aid: The best first aid strategy is to be careful and not get hurt in the first place, but no one can foresee everything. During a collapse in a gun heavy environment like the U.S., the survivalist should expect to encounter people with bullet wounds, or to be wounded himself. A first aid kit should be equipped with a scalpel, sutures with silk or biodegradable thread, irrigation syringe, extra-long tweezers, a clean plastic bag to deal with a punctured lung, trauma bandages and pads with high absorption, and Celox blood stopper.
A lack of sterility is one of the greatest killers in combat first aid. Always ensure that tools and bandages are sterile, otherwise they will do more harm than good. Any kind of anesthetic is difficult to come by in a collapse scenario. Every account I have researched on countries that have collapsed in the past show that hospitals are either quickly looted or they run out of medications within weeks. If you are prescribed pain medications such as codeine for certain ailments, or antibiotics, you should store some of them in your first aid kit. Otherwise, alcohol can be consumed by the patient if he does not have a stomach wound, and herbal immune boosters like Echinacea or Elderberry can be used later to help fight infection.
‘Snivel’ Kit: Almost every household has one of these. A ‘snivel’ kit is simply a minor first aid kit with band-aids, aspirin, Neosporin, etc. It fits into a small bag and can easily be nestled into the corner of your backpack. However, many snivel kits lack certain items which could come in very handy. Poison Oak/Ivy soap wash might save you a lot of pain and discomfort if you are constantly in wooded areas. QuickClot-Sport is a great item for stopping blood loss on minor to medium range injuries. Echinacea/Elderberry tea packets to prevent colds or improve immunity. Migraine medicine for those people who have chronic sinus issues or who have become chemically addicted to caffeine, artificial sweeteners, alcohol, etc. Remember, you may have very limited access to your once daily Diet Pepsi, Nutrasweet, or wild turkey, in a survival situation. Your best bet is to cut yourself off from these or any other chemical dependencies now before an event occurs. And, not to contradict myself, but you may want to include caffeine pills in your snivel kit for emergencies in which you MUST stay awake for very long hours. This is, of course, a last resort.
Sanitation: Don’t count on running water during a collapse. In fact, expect a blitzkrieg of sanitation problems within the first few days of any breakdown. Overflowing or stagnant sewer systems, inoperable water treatment facilities, complete loss of water pressure, and that’s just for starters. Think about the effect of millions of Americans letting loose wherever they please all at once without following proper latrine procedures because they are too dumb to know any better! I think I might rather deal with looters!
Setting up your latrine and waste water area downhill from your retreat is the first step in ensuring the clean soil and tranquil air of your area is not disturbed, but there are extra methods as well. Using bleach powder or lime can help. Also, using biodegradable products such as RV-Trine Bacterial Formula, or degradable Wag Bags, will not only neutralize odors and diseases, they introduce good bacteria which breakdown waste products and make the soil usable after a short time.
Bushbuddy Stove: These stoves are made by a company in Canada and are not available in your local sporting goods store. They can be purchased at a few places online. Its design is similar to the pack stoves used by mountain climbers in severely cold climates such as Everest, which circulate and re-circulate the heat produced by a very small amount of fuel, making them extremely efficient. The great thing about the Bush Buddy is that you can use tinder and twigs straight from the ground, and you need no extra fuel beyond that to boil water within minutes. It also releases far less smoke or light than an open fire, in the event that you wish to remain unseen. I still have my Coleman duel-fuel stove, but my Bush Buddy weighs almost nothing and is my first choice for pack use. My initial impression of the Bush Buddy was that it looked like a soda-can stove and that I had spent too much money. After using it, though, I can say it was well worth the cost.
Brunton Solar Panels: Brunton makes some great products but my favorite has to be their folding solar panels similar to those used by the U.S. Military in the field to charge various electronic items. These aren’t just solar panels, they are extremely resilient, hard to damage, compact solar panels that work even when it’s cloudy outside! The mid-range panels do have some problems running items such as 15 min battery chargers. I have found that by hooking the panels into a Brunton battery pack, then connecting the battery pack to the charger, you can refill your reusable batteries all day long without any trouble. The only downside to this item is its high cost, but consider the advantages you will have in being able to recharge all your electronic gear whenever you wish without need of an active power grid.
Sanyo Eneloop Batteries: These things are awesome! Rechargeable up to 1000 times, and they hold an 85% charge for years while being stored. I have found no battery that works better. Also, the AA batteries slide into lightweight cartridges making them usable as C or D batteries! Batteries can be heavy and this saves a lot of weight. Absolutely fantastic technology that solves a lot of problems for the survivalist.
Night Vision: Night vision is not perfect. It’s not going to catch everything and without proper vigilance someone could still sneak up on you. However, it will give you an important edge and I believe it is worth the extra cash. There are many affordable models out there for less that $300 that work just as well as some higher grade goggles and scopes, and I recommend anyone interested in purchasing shop around carefully.
Thermal Vision: Thermal vision is still outrageously expensive for the average survivalist. Expect to spend at least $6000 for a cheaper model, and that’s on ebay! But, if you are a well funded survivalist then thermal is an excellent technology to have. It can still be evaded. Insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan use thick blankets to reduce their body heat and avoid thermal detection, and a heavy duty emergency blanket which reflects back 90% of your body heat would work even better. The advantage to a survivalist using thermal though is that it is so expensive, and most would-be attackers would not expect you to have it.
Ammo Reloading: I have not yet delved into the field of ammo reloading, but I can certainly see the advantages of doing so in a collapse situation. Ammo will be at a premium, and anyone who has the ability to reload spent brass will have serious advantages in a barter economy. This also goes for anyone trained in gunsmithing. In a severe depression, or a total meltdown, people will be forced to relearn how to make their tools last longer. Gone will be the days of the Sunday jaunt to Cabelas to replace damaged items on the old credit card. People who know how to make things last will be the most sought after during financial upheaval.
Shortwave Radio: Many people already have cheap shortwave models in their inventory, but I recommend shelling out for a midrange model such as the Sony ICF-SW7600, or the Sangean ATS-909. Digital shortwave radios have the advantage of locking on to signals and memorizing them for later, not to mention the mid-range radios have much better reception. Many of them allow compact antenna to be connected as well, improving their range. During a collapse, you can be assured that FEMA guidelines will be fully implemented. These include continuity of government regulations which allow FEMA to take control of all mainstream radio, television, and internet. This is, of course, if power grids are still operational. Information lockdown will result, and you may find yourself completely in the dark as to what is actually going on outside your own small corner of the country. A shortwave radio can allow you to pick up news signals from across the world, and there is a possibility that at least one of them is not compromised with propaganda or disinformation. Another great aspect to shortwave is that it can also pick up HAM radio transmissions, which means if there are HAM’s out there broadcasting their own underground radio news shows, you will be able to hear them.
Ham Radio: If you feel that your calling in a post collapse environment will be the dissemination of unbiased information, HAM radio is the way to go. HAMs can have incredible range, and your services as a HAM will be appreciated by survivalists across the country. Dangers are present, though. Under martial law conditions, HAM broadcasters could be labeled a threat because of their ability to go outside government parameters for “acceptable” news. Radio transmitter triangulation is unfortunately very easy for the FCC with the advent of advanced technologies, so unless you broadcast from a zone they can’t reach, or you move your transmitter constantly, they will find you. During a severe collapse though, our corporately controlled bureaucracy may have much bigger issues on their minds than little old you, and, the more HAMs out there broadcasting, the harder it will be for them to control information flow. Owning a HAM radio is perfectly legal, but operating it without a government license is strictly prohibited. I recommend NOT getting a license, for numerous and obvious reasons. Such rules are pretty irrelevant during an economic collapse, after all.
Cell Phone Jammer: This might sound a bit cloak and dagger, but if you think about all the tracking technology that is going into cell phones and GPS, as well as the possibility that many new cars may soon be required by law to carry “black boxes” with GPS tracking, it makes sense to take precautions. Cell Phone Blockers emit signals that overpower cell phone reception within a certain radius, making phone calls, as well as tracking, impossible. Again, you never know when this may come in handy.
Edible Plants: I’m not sure how, but somewhere along the line it became taboo among many survivalists to discuss wild edibles. Many people now seem to turn their noses up at the idea and I suspect it is an overreaction to the “crazy hermit” label that is often forced on anyone who openly admits to being a survivalist. Survivalists today have advanced far beyond the old cliché of the lone wolf “Rambo” who thrives in the boonies with nothing but a bowie knife, his wits, and a stylish headband. Yet, we are still constantly accused of pursuing that kind of lifestyle by clueless yuppies. In response, many survivalists have abandoned all talk of wild edible foraging for fear of perpetuating the characterization.
Lately, I hear claims that wild edible foraging is futile, and that you will rarely find such plants anyway. This is silly, and simply not true. Edible plants are EVERYWHERE, including your own backyard. It would be fantastically ignorant not to use them to your advantage.
I recommend picking at least four easily identifiable edible plants native to your part of the country. Take hikes and learn how to spot them, and then try eating them. In this manner, you can ensure you will never be without food. Below are four edible plants common everywhere in the U.S.
Dandelion- During the Great Depression, migrant workers would sometimes live on dandelion soups and broths in between rare full meals in order to get the vitamins they needed to survive. It is without a doubt impossible to walk across a field without finding hundreds of dandelions. Young leaves can be used in salad or boiled, and the roots can be peeled and roasted.
Chickweed- Another weed that grows literally everywhere and is easily identifiable. Rich in Vitamin C. Good for salads or can be boiled.
Cattail- Easily identifiable and common to marshy areas around the U.S. Spring buds, underground stems, and young shoots can be eaten raw or steamed. Underground stems can also be dug up in winter and ground into flour.
Wild Parsnip- Provides a root similar to cultivated parsnips. Can be boiled or roasted.
Survival Reference Materials
Great collection of inexpensive survival books
There are plenty of great how-to survival books and writers out there for you to choose from and I can’t list them all, but here are some of my favorites, along with some books that reinforce the common sense of survival preparedness.
Tappan On Survival – by Mel Tappan: Mel Tappan was one of the best survival writers ever. His books have inspired numerous other preparedness researchers for years. He had a Ph.D. in English and Humanities from Stanford, moved on to investment counseling, corporate finance, and president of a mutual fund. Alarmed by the trends in our economy he saw as an insider led him towards the survivalist lifestyle. In ‘Tappan On Survival’, he correctly predicted exactly how our economy is faltering today, and it was compiled in the 1980’s, over two decades in advance!
The Survival Retreat – by Ragnar Benson: Great book focusing exclusively on the how and the why of retreat survival. Offers a solid overview of steps needed to start on the path towards building a solid retreat plan.
Living On A Few Acres – by U.S. Department Of Agriculture: Very informative book on the workings of a small non-corporate multi-crop farm.
An Instant Guide To Edible Plants – by Pamela Forey and Cecilia Fitzsimons: Nice compact wild plant guide with detailed illustrations and plant usage information.
Stress Fire – by Massad Ayoob: This book was published in the mid 1980’s, but as far as I know, Ayoob still writes successfully in the firearms defense field. ‘Stress Fire’ is a valuable guide to common police tactics for dealing with being shot at, a distinct possibility for anyone living in a post collapse world.
Sniper Training – by Desert Publications: No book is going to teach you how to hit a target center mass at a thousand yards in high wind. That takes a precision rifle, and lots of practice. However, ‘Sniper Training’ does offer valuable tips for breathe control, camouflage, evasion, tracking, and counter tracking. Better to know these things and never use them, than to not know them and suddenly need them.
Atomic Warfare Defense – by Navy/Army: A military guide to surviving nuclear attack (no “duck and cover” in here).
The Guerilla And How To Fight Him – by Marine Corps Gazette: This one is very old, but still useful. The U.S. military used to be a lot more honest when writing about its enemies way back when, and this book holds a lot of no-nonsense information on guerilla fighting. No government injected opinions or biased rhetoric, just cold hard info on the strengths and weaknesses of the guerilla strategy along with the examination of various combat scenarios throughout history.
Street Survival Tactics For Armed Encounters – by Ronald Adams: This is basically a textbook for police recruits. Excellent information on surviving a gunfight, along with instinctive shooting techniques. As far as the police are concerned, this book is dated, and focuses on single officer or partner encounters with multiple assailants. Today, police rely much more on “shock and awe” SWAT team tactics rather than those displayed in this book. The survivalist though is more liable to be far outnumbered by his opponents, making the mechanical by-the-numbers methods of SWAT tactics less effective and the “shock and awe” philosophy rather useless. The intuitive strategies in ‘Street Survival’ seem much more practical for the average prepper.
Wire Antennas – by William Orr: Fantastic book on building your own HAM antenna, even those that are completely invisible to others. My favorite hidden antenna idea; using your metal rain gutters as a broadcaster!
Safe Area Gorazde – by Joe Sacco: This is not a survival book. It’s not even a real book, it’s a comic, but don’t let that fool you. ‘Safe Area Gorazde’ is journalist Joe Sacco’s animated account of the war in Eastern Bosnia from 1992-1995, including his many interviews with survivors. If you want to know what total societal breakdown will look like in the U.S., read this book. Refugees, wandering droves of bandits and murderers, military slaughters, war crimes, gas attacks, betrayal from friends and neighbors; its all here and it all really happened in a once Westernized and relatively modernized culture. Have a family member who thinks your survivalist lifestyle is “loopy”? Make them read this. It will horrify them, and perhaps force them to open their eyes a little.
Awareness And Purpose Are The Keys To Survival
It may sound peculiar, but the strongest survivalists are very often those people who have moved beyond simple self preservation. They are aware of the bigger picture, and they have a goal they strive to attain. Survival for its own sake is nowhere near enough in a cultural wasteland with no principles and no freedom. In reality, it behooves each and every survivalist to abandon the “every man for himself” mentality and think in terms of community, and a solidarity of ideals. Building a future in which liberty is the foundation and individualism is encouraged makes surviving much easier for us all in the long run, because it helps to guarantee impending crises will not harm us for generations to come. Survival is not a purpose in itself. Survival is a means to achieve a better tomorrow. Whether we as survivalists like it or not, our destinies demand something more. We have responsibilities to a greater cause, and that cause needs us now more than ever. Regardless of the chaos we encounter in the near term, logic and conscience require that we think beyond and act accordingly, so that our descendants do not have to clean up the mess we refused out of one sided self interest to confront.