By Kevin Samson
It is an interesting phenomenon that very often people perceive prepping and survival as completely different categories; readers might even have seen that distinction on various websites they’ve browsed. That perception can create gaps in various emergency situations, however. The “prepper” can become a hoarder, sometimes assuming that all emergencies are of the slow-decline variety where one needs only to ride out economic hardship or a literal passing storm. On the other end, the “survivalist” can become the lone wolf ready at the first sign of chaos to be equipped for full-on combat, but perhaps not so well-equipped to shelter in place where community building becomes a central component of best dealing with a stressful situation.
Sure, these are generalizations, but I’ve met enough of my share of both types of people to conclude that we would do well to address these potential shortcomings in our evaluation about how ready we truly are for the widest range of potential emergencies.
Overall, I personally like the term “Self Sufficiency” to describe an adaptive mindset that is best for any short-term emergency or longer-term disaster scenarios. To illustrate this approach and what is often required of the human beings that endure such hardship, let’s reflect on two recent events that highlight the importance of having the skills and equipment from both prepper and survivalist camps in order to best ensure our safety, especially when unexpected details can evade even the most judicious among us.
The sheer physicality of a disaster like Hurricane Harvey is one that put even hardened preppers and survivalists to the test. The historic rainfall and scale quickly overwhelmed the ability for the government to be relied upon as a source of rescue or refuge. Moreover, the duration of the impact offers a glimpse into what might be required for even longer-term disaster scenarios – environmental, war-related, terrorism, or even viral outbreak.
The need to evacuate quickly is something that is often overlooked; or if it isn’t, it’s assumed that it will be directed in some orderly fashion by town officials. This was not always the case during Hurricane Harvey. Floods can happen nearly anywhere, but the people of Texas learned that it wasn’t only the water, but what the water carries along with it that can provide some overlooked potential threats – like snakes, alligators, and fire ants. People who had boats were able to help themselves and others, while staying a step removed from the hazards that could lie beneath. This doesn’t have to be expensive either – an inflatable boat or raft is certainly preferable than the risk of attempting to drive or walk out of flooding areas.
While it is also clearly important to have a go-bag at the ready for each family member that contains provisions, first aid supplies, and weapons if possible, it’s often overlooked that the water is filled with contaminants. Products that can effectively provide chemical decontamination need to be quick, ready to use and available in home, go-bags and vehicles.
The aftermath of a storm like Harvey can be even more challenging than surviving the initial onslaught. Reports of injuries, infections, mosquitoes and mold infestation gripped those who were left amid the remains and had to begin rebuilding in deplorable conditions.
It’s also worth mentioning that collapse survival does not have to be a solitary endeavor. There were certainly many reports of communities spontaneously coming together to gather provisions and provide some order amid the chaos. In fact, people’s generosity is most often on display during emergencies, but it is too often overlooked that much of the panic can be alleviated by forming your tribe ahead of time; whether that be a core group of family and friends who are all equally stocked and prepared, or even better to have your entire neighborhood on board with disaster preparation and survival. Such community organization can ironically be a key component of true self-sufficiency.
And don’t forget to develop proper contingency plans for your animals! There were too many horrific reports of stranded or abandoned animals that could have been saved with better preparation.
Lastly, a disaster of this scale can even disrupt communications. Here is an interesting home-made item that is probably not in the average prepper’s arsenal: the “Cantenna” – check out how a router and a Pringles can might just be a hidden gem to have in your community.
Ongoing Economic Collapse of Venezuela
Most people have not lived through a true economic collapse of any duration. A stock market drop of 1,000 points does not constitute a true emergency despite how ugly it might look on paper for your portfolio. If you want a real look at how bad it can get – quickly – I would point you to an ongoing series written by a man named Jose Martinez who is documenting his experiences during the widespread social and economic collapse in Venezuela. It’s a harrowing account that perfectly illustrates some of the overlooked skills and equipment that need to be employed as one shifts gears from prepping to survival.
Jose describes himself as a well-educated, middle-class, and a fairly recent adherent to the prepping mindset. His prepping began in earnest with news that his first child was on the way. It was at this point that he began to consider the various life emergencies that could erupt. What if the car breaks down? What if the electricity temporarily fails? Such considerations led him to have a decent stockpile of food and basic first aid supplies, as well as a generator. These were the concerns of someone who identified a need to be self-sufficient and was taking action to become prepared for any basic inconveniences that might affect his ability to provide for his family.
However, it was becoming more apparent to him toward the end of Hugo Chavez’s tenure that deep political problems were beginning to manifest. It was at this point that Jose’s mindset shifted toward what he describes as “preparing for the worst.” He began to acquire additional supplies, fearing shortages if a major crisis erupted. He focused on newly defined necessities:
- A Duxtop portable induction cooktop
- A cheap used game for the kids to play and leave my computer alone so I can take up freelancing
- A HAM radio
- And a range of construction tools for repairs and projects
It wasn’t too much longer before the situation began to spiral deeply out of control … and prepping did indeed turn to survival:
No doctors, no medicine, and a rising mortality rate.
Jose describes how he was forced to quit his job and empty his savings account as he geared up for things to get even worse. Chillingly, he states:
I would like to emphasize how fast things went down the toilet these last few years. It goes a lot faster than you can imagine.
Post-2015 has seen food rationing, riots and looting, outrageous inflation, a collapse of public transportation, almost non-existent healthcare, a world-leading murder rate and an existential threat to nearly anyone who lives in Venezuela. This final shift to flat-out survival has led to new adaptations in Jose’s daily life. However, he also emphasizes that his situation is far better than most “just because we made the necessary financial and food preparations.” Still, he has had to fortify his home in new ways and consider personal safety constantly when he leaves his home, which now includes a heightened skill to anticipate a threatening situation before it becomes a grave danger.
Among his 10 Home Security Tips, he includes:
- Steel-reinforced windows and grilles
- Steel shutters and backup barricades
- An unassuming door, ornamental, but steel reinforced with 3 locks
- A microperforated steel foldable door for the garage and to enclose the front yard.
- A concrete safe room stocked with provisions and weapons … and preferably an escape route underground.
- A well-maintained vehicle, but nothing flashy
Perhaps even more important than the various stages of physical preparation and security for survival is the fortification of one’s mentality. It begins first with being prepared, then adapting to a shocking new reality — going through the stages of anxiety, anger and anguish that Jose describes so vividly. It’s never too late to begin considering these uncomfortable possibilities no matter where you live; and, if you already are well on your way to feeling prepared, it’s important to listen carefully to the stories of people who already really lived it.
Please also read the work of Selco who describes his year in Bosnia under a total blockade: no products in or out, no utilities and no services. The importance to have barter and trade skills in a situation where money has become worthless cannot be overstated, as he says that it “only took a few weeks” of total lockdown for this dynamic to emerge.
We would love to hear your experiences if you have encountered these or similar events in your own life. What caught you off guard? Had you known the extent of the problems you were going to face, what would you have done (or bought) to better fortify against what you faced? Or perhaps you were, in fact, completely ready for what life threw your way – we’d love to hear that as well in the comment section.