PHILOSOPHY - Why are you doing this?

SurvivalistWhat are we trying to do here anyway?  What exactly are we afraid of?  Why are we doing all of this stuff?  Beyond the obvious purpose of building an insanity plea in a later court case, I mean...

I think it's useful at this point to start exploring some of those questions. 

I used to have the mindset that I was preparing for Armageddon.  The big one.  The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI).  God unwilling, and the creek startin' to rise. 

I had (and have!) various preparations, stores, kits, and a tremendous amount of knowledge and ability.  I got mad skills, yo!  If I got on the Survivor TV show, I'd have my pants off, a fire going, a shelter up, and be eating roasted road-kill by the light of the silvery moon while listening to the crickets before you could say, "Boo!"

But why?  At some level, yes, it's nice to imagine that you are prepared for the collapse of modern civilization - but the possibility of such a thing is so remote, why bother at all?  Is a laptop computer really going to be useful for that kind of thing?  No, probably not. 

While Listening to Katrina, one of the lessons I learned was that when civilization collapses, people are going to put it back together to whatever extent they can.  When the lights do come back on, we are all - collectively - going to have to figure out where to go from there.  Preparing for the end of the world helps with that kind of thing.  Before Katrina, we had some theories on how to do that.  Post Katrina, we have some very good practical experience.  Katrina was Armageddon light.  Low sodium, fat free, diet Armageddon.  No sugar added Armageddon.

According to FEMA, 950,000 applicants (one applicant per family!) required housing assistance following Hurricane Katrina. 550,000 applicants in Louisiana and Mississippi were placed under the DHS Transitional Housing program for homes that were inaccessible to inspectors due to persistent flooding.  Never before had the world seen an evacuation on that scale, a disaster on that scale, or a reconstruction on that scale outside of war zones. 

I have invited you to provide for yourself the following things:

1.  Laptop Bag (or box of important documents)
2.  BOB (Bug Out Bag)
3.  Complete documentation of your entire life using a digital camera
4.  60 Second Escape Plan
5.  Collection of people to communicate with
6.  Dependable escape pod
7.  One Hour Escape Plan & Checklist

Why?  Because if you went around to those 950,000 FEMA applicants and you asked them one year later, "Knowing what you know now, what would you have done before Katrina?", the most common answer would be, "MOVE!"  The second most common answer would be some variation on the checklist above.  The third most common would be, "Bought more (or better) insurance."

Disaster MapUnder the GET A CLUE rule, we can argue that "MOVE!" is the right answer.  Living in a flood plain is obviously tempting fate.  The fact of the matter is, though, that 12% of Americans live in a flood zone.  Shuffling 12% of the American population just isn't workable.  If you live anywhere west or just east of the Rockies, you live in an earthquake zone.  Trying to move all those people is impossible by several orders of magnitude.  Millions of people live in tornado alley.  People live in fire zones, tsunami zones, near nuclear power plants, around areas of strategic military value, and in other areas of some risk.  A lot of people live in places where more than one of these zones applies.

The question arises, then, "Is the preparedness list (above) all inclusive?  Does it apply to all types of possible disaster - real or imagined - that may occur in the United States?"  I think you will find that the answer is, "Yes."  There are obviously some preparations that we have yet to cover, but so far everything on that list applies to all disasters - widespread or local, public or private.

If you agree, the question becomes, "If you don't have these preparations, and you aren't working on them, WHY THE HELL NOT!?"

Tsunami WarningSome of the accomplished survival type persons reading this think that they already have it covered.  Even to the point of having an 80 pound backpack full of stuff that will be handy if they find themselves on foot, having to scavenge in the wilderness and live off the land.  I, myself, still have that backpack...I've actually got more than one...but the backpack is a lie.  It's a lie that we have bought into because all the books and magazines tell us that we need such a bag, which seems perfectly logical until you start asking questions like, "Where are you going to go?"

"Into the HILLS!  To live like MEN!  To WEATHER the storms of FATE until civilization ARISES from the ASHES of DISASTER!"

Yeah.  Try that with 30,000 other people who have that plan all worked out too, and who happen to have picked the same 'wilderness' area that you have.  If your wife is anything like mine, that shit is going to get real old real fast, and your kids are going to hate you - especially after the beef jerky runs out.  In a matter of days you will run out of toilet paper, and we all know where that leads.

When survivalists grow up a little, we figure out that the backpack is a lie.  That doesn't stop us from having one, making more, and purchasing enough ammo to thwart the undead hordes that will assault our positions when the Zombie Apocalypse comes to pass in accordance with The Prophecy.  (If your sarcasm meter is broken, you're going to be in trouble on this page.)  Yes, I still have my Backpack of Apocalypse Survival and I still maintain it, but Katrina has made me wonder what the thing is really for - if it really is for anything more than some kind of psychological pacifier.  Please don't ask me how many I have, gentlemen.  It's embarrassing...

If you have been backpacking, or otherwise lived in the woods for any period of time as I have, you discover two things.  The first thing that you discover is that connecting with nature on a primitive and personal level is more satisfying than any civilization.  The second thing that you discover is that while nature is lovely and all, eventually you need to resupply.  Eventually, you'd like to sleep in a real bed, have a real shower, eat a decent variety of food, and have a stable living arrangement.  Being past my hobo years, I now like to have a house, a car, a refrigerator full of ready-made eats that I can pop in the microwave and then stuff gluttonously into my pie hole while I watch Oprah on my wide-screen TV.  In order to do that, I need to have an income.  At my time of life, that means I have to have a job.  In order to have a job, there has to be some kind of civilization, some kind of organized cooperation between people, and some peace and security.  I've had life both ways, and I'm here to tell you that living out of a backpack when you know you have a home to go back to and living out of a backpack when you don't have anywhere else to go are two vastly different experiences. 

Don't get me wrong;  I'm not disparaging that kind of preparation.  I'm even going to talk about how I do it in later pages.  A person has to have a hobby, after all...  Still, despite the fact that the evacuation of southern Mississippi, Alabama, and south east Louisiana was the largest successful evacuation in United States History, how many people needed their 'live alone in the woods' preps?  Despite the fact that Louisiana ranks last in many things, and New Orleans is generally agreed to be the arm-pit of the nation, the residents of New Orleans collectively carried off the first, last, and only successful evacuation of a major U.S. city EVER.  To my knowledge, only one person actually walked out of the disaster area.  Everyone else was smart enough to use a vehicle.

While living in the wilderness has its advantages, if you have no money in your pocket, no home, and no means of living, then we have a word for that.  Homeless.  Before political correctness, the word was bum or hobo.  After a disaster, you can use the word 'refugee'.  When in that situation, the first thing that some people do is start lamenting, "Where's FEMA?  Where's the government?  Where is someone to give me something that I feel owed?"  Folks like that could be found at the Superdome and the Convention Center in some abundance. 

There are some other people who, when finding themselves facing refugee status, make their way to their carefully prepared remote Bug Out Location where they intend to be self-sufficient for as long as they need to.  Sitting around in your mountain cabin with a bunch of books on sustenance farming is endlessly fascinating for a week or three, but in the end, you're going to miss microwave popcorn.  I'm not disparaging that kind of preparation either.  If I had the wealth to buy an abandoned missile silo somewhere, I'd write the check and be writing this blog from deep underground, safe from nuclear war, alien invasion, and government mind control.  Seriously.  I'd do it in a heartbeat - and before you ask, yes, I'd get laser guided robot sharks if I could afford those too.Robot Shark

The rest of us, though, are in the middle.  We want to avoid the Government Vacation Plan, but we also don't have a long-term shelter in our ASSETS column.  We have to appreciate our options (which I hope this blog is helping you do!) and we have to have a long term strategy in mind.  All the preps we have been making so far are all about tactics.  Tactics are the specific methods that we use to achieve the objectives of our strategy.  Even hard-core survivalists rarely think of their strategy.  They are frequently too focused on the tactics and gadgets.  (I have been guilty of that before, and I'll likely be guilty of it again.  Gadgets are just so sexy.  Gads...  Now everyone knows I'm a geek.  Alas...)

EvacuationWe are going to talk about strategy as we go along, but for now let's plant that brain-eating bug in your head so that you'll start thinking about it.  The goal in all our planning is revealed as a three part strategy.  The first part is to escape any danger and to safeguard our Health and our Wealth.  The desirability of that is self explanatory.  (We have yet to talk about staying home as a means of 'escape', but we're coming to it.) 

The second part of the strategy is that once we have escaped the immediate danger, we want to be able to put our lives back in order as soon as possible.  We want to go back to our homes, return to our jobs and schools, resume making our car payments and surfing Arfcom after the kids are in bed.  If we are unable to go back to our homes, then we need to find (or build) new homes, get new jobs, find new schools, avoid having the car repossessed as long as possible, and go back to surfing Arfcom after the kids are in their new beds.  We want to go back to making preps and planning for Armageddon, because the idea of post-apocalyptic survival is a lot sexier than the actual realization of that idea.

We want to ESCAPE, and then we want to find HOME.  If your plan is (like mine was for so many years) to ESCAPE and then wander the earth, then I invite you to reconsider that.  If you can manage it, going back to your old neighborhood and making a stand for civilization is one of the most useful things you can do.  If you cannot manage it, then we need to find some kind of stable living arrangement that doesn't involve eating roasted road-kill.

What we have done up to now is the basic minimum to ESCAPE and then to REBUILD. 

The third leg of the strategy after ESCAPE, and doing the HOME thing, is to use the rebuilding as an opportunity to grow wealth.  The cheat-sheet version is ESCAPE - HOME - PROFIT.  By Profit, I don't mean to sell water for five dollars a gallon to thirsty people, and I don't necessarily mean material wealth either, although that happens too.  I have had friends open successful businesses post-Katrina that they would never have gotten off the ground before.  Again, we'll talk about all of that as we go along so that you will be ready if the opportunity presents itself.

Better LivingThere is, however, one more angle on this that doesn't involve disaster.  If you HYST and have your plans, strategies, and tactics in place, your life will be better on several levels - and who wouldn't want that? 



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