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Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Steve Cole's thoughts on preparing for the apocalypse.
When the apocalypse comes, and it will, it probably won't be something we expected, predicted, or prepared for. Lots of everyday disasters (a storm, power lines down for a few days, a train derailed into a oil terminal, a deep water oil well blows out and pollutes the ocean) will happen before then.
Apocalypse scenarios come in various kinds (mega-volcano, asteroid, plague, solar storm, gamma-ray burst), and various speeds (developing over weeks or minutes), and may happen when you are at home, at work, in your car, on vacation, or whatever. A six-month stockpile of food and ammo in your home or a remote cabin won't help you if you're at work and cannot get to your cache. Your cache won't be of much use if others can get to it and steal it before you get there.
Preparation should cover every possibility (to the extent you can afford). It's about surviving the first 30 minutes (when you get away from the fire, the zombies, or whatever), the first three days (by which time you will run out of the food normally in your house), and the first three months (by which time you should have reached or formed some kind of group in some defendable area.)
So you need to plan for short-term survival (get out of danger), medium-term (last for three days to a week), and long-term (building a new society from the ashes).
1. No matter what happens, no matter where you are when it does happen, you will have your body with you at the time. You need to get your body healthy and keep it that way with proper diet and exercise. Smoking and other drug habits will be fatal flaws during the apocalypse, so break them. Exercise to build strength, stamina, and speed. Five extra pounds is part of surviving that first week, but any more than that will fatally slow you down.
2. No matter what happens, no matter where you are when it does happen, you will have your brain with you at the time, so prepare your brain by learning as much as you can about survival. Read a few books, watch a few TV shows, learn some skills. (Seriously, how many of us have ever made a fire by rubbing two sticks together? The guy who can do that will be the guy everyone wants to hang with and protect.) Learn enough about cars to keep one running. Take the Red Cross first aid and CPR courses. Actually learn how to make a fire by rubbing two sticks together. (It can be done.)
3. When it happens, wherever you are, anything you habitually carry in your pockets may be the key to your survival. Put one of those mini-flashlights in a pocket. Hang a multi-tool in a pouch on your belt. Get one of those bracelets of parachute cord. Fold up a $20 bill and tuck it into the darkest corner of your wallet; if you walk three miles to safety you can at least buy a meal while waiting for rescue. Most people my age carry a small folding knife; if you don't, you should. A friend of mine carries a lighter even though he doesn't smoke. (Carrying a firearm is a massive responsibility; be sure you have all proper licenses and training and obey all laws.) You cannot walk around your whole life with a 40-pound backpack of survival supplies, but a few simple items won't be too much. If your life depends on medication, you may want to get some kind of small plastic container and keep a few days of pills (a week if you can) in your pocket at all times. Unfortunately for you ladies, fashion designers decided you will carry all of that stuff in your bag and that will be the first thing you lose when fleeing the first crisis of the long-term apocalypse.
4. The simplest and most common disaster is a power failure, which is also part of many apocalypse scenarios. If you put a flashlight in your desk at work, beside your bed, in your car, and beside the chair where you spend most of your time at home, you'll at least be able to find your way around without tripping over something and breaking your ankle. (That would be fatal during the apocalypse and inconvenient if the disaster is minor and the lights come back on an hour later.) Make one of those a hand-cranked light (the kind that don't use batteries). The one I have includes a port to recharge my cell phone. A gasoline-powered generator in your home is expensive, the fuel has to be stored properly, and when you have the only lights on for miles you may attract hungry neighbors and wandering bandits, but if you want one, go for it.
5. Food and water are needed for even short-term survival. It wouldn't hurt to buy a box of power bars and put a couple in your desk at work, a few in your car, and the rest in your home. (Replace them every three months; you can eat the old ones as snacks.) Having a bottle of water on the bookshelf in your office comes in handy for no end of problems. (I last used mine when I had a mouthful of pills and suddenly discovered my drinking cup was empty.) A bottle of water and a power bar will get you through a day and a night. They aren't enough, but your body's reserves will make up for the shortages, if only for one day. Even Wolf has a survival plan. He has hidden Milk Bones all over the office and Jean's apartment. If a disaster strikes while we're out, those will keep him wagging and barking for a week, long enough for us to get to him.
6. Keep a "go bag" of essentials in your car. (If you don't drive to work, see if there is a place you can keep the bag at your office, and keep an identical bag at home.) Include key items like some food (power bars and a can of beef stew), a sealed metal water bottle, a water filter, a multi-tool if you don't want it on your belt, extra ammo if you carry a pistol, toilet paper, wet napkins, a small quantity of money, a first aid kit, a flashlight, a good hunting knife, local maps, matches, a metal pot to boil water, and whatever else is appropriate to your area (rain gear, winter clothes, etc.). You might also include a change of clothing and an old jacket. (A pair of dry socks in your desk drawer at work may come in handy on an ordinary rainy day.) A good pair of hiking boots could be kept in the car with the bag. You can go overboard and pack the trunk full, including a tent and an inflatable boat, but let's not. Instead, just stock 10 times the contents of your go-bag inside your home.
7. For medium-term survival, say a week, you need more supplies, and that means storing them at home. Buy two or three big three-gallon water bottles, fill them, and put them in the bottom of some closet. (They'll come in handy if the water system goes out and you need to flush a toilet. We have them in the office for just that reason.) While every home has an average of three-days of food, you need to store at least a week if not two. (Obviously, this must be canned or dried food that won't go bad.) The simplest way is to assemble one week of food for your family and store it somewhere other than with the food you just bought and plan to eat this week. Then replace it every couple of months and move the original supply into the pantry for use this week and next. (It is really too complicated to go through every week's groceries and swap some of them into the reserve and reserve items into the pantry. You'll end up forgetting to replace something. Better to replace the whole cache all at once.) Pick a variety of items, including chicken noodle soup which is a good supply of fluid to drink if it comes to that. Remember that things like Raman noodles require a dependable supply of water and fire.
8. For long-term survival, you'll need a way to grow your own food and purify water found naturally. Buy one (or more) of those "water filter straw" things and keep it where you can find it. (It's easier to purify water from a puddle than to find a stock of bottled water somebody abandoned.) You will also need to grow your own food, which means buying $20 worth of vegetable seeds and putting them into a waterproof container in a dark closet. (Write the date on the box and in two years replace the seeds and donate the old ones to a charity.)
9. For a true apocalypse scenario, you need trade goods. Gold and silver coins might work in a scenario where it is obvious that the world is going to return to order in a year or two. If 99% of the population is dead (or undead, as the case may be) you'll get more trade value with medical supplies, food, ammunition, hand-cranked flashlights, small cheap pistols, or other immediately useful items. Just remember when making a trade, that the guy you're trying to trade with may not be above robbing you at gunpoint.
10. I am not a big fan of building a big bunker full of supplies three states away. It could be hard to get to, and in a true apocalypse you'll get there only to find that the local contractor who built it for you has moved in and brought his gun collection with him. When the apocalypse happens, lots of people will be trying to move, jamming the roads. If you aren't ready to survive for the first week right where you are, you aren't ready to survive at all.