Friday, November 25, 2011

Prepare: One of the oldest prepper stories

They loaded up into two vehicles for their bugout location. The situation had deteriorated and they had no choice but to pool all of their resources and make a deal with some of the most unsavory characters they could find for passage across a wasteland to their final destination.

Men, women and children were the core of their community. Yes, there were a few with skills which would be useful in their new home, but most had little to offer other than their faith. They were leaving behind what had once been a civilized and safe place, but now offered no refuge for them.

Shortly into the journey, one of their vehicles developed trouble. Supplies and people were hurriedly moved to the remaining vehicle, yet some things had to be left behind. The remaining trip was not uneventful. Several died en route. Sickness and poor food dogged the survivors. Then, after nearly three months, they arrived at their new home.

Their bug out location was selected based upon what the group could afford. There was clean water, good soil and plenty of timber for shelter and fuel. But the group had little experience with the elements and soon there were fewer workers than those to be take care of. And then came the locals.

Suspicion led to shooting, yet the newcomers were untrained in the proper use of the firearms they brought along in spite of the presence of at least one of their numbers who had extensive military experience. This, along with their lack of experience and inability to complete the work necessary, led to more of their number dying the following winter.

Then, when all seemed lost, they were able to work with the locals in the area and were finally able to turn a decent harvest of both grown food and game. The survivors celebrated, and enjoyed what we know call the first Thanksgiving in the United States in 1621.

The Pilgrims, for whatever history says, were nothing more than a group fleeing to their bug out location in the country. They were ill-equipped for what they had to deal with and paid for their ignorance with their lives. Without the assistance of some kind locals, they would have perished of starvation and sickness in their second year.

If planning on "bugging out", remember..

- know what to do with what you have when you get there.
- know the locals and the local terrain.
- be ready that some of your numbers won't make it in spite of all your preparations.

Happy, belated, Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

SHTF: The problem with neighbors

Something has been stuck in my craw lately which comes up frequently and bugs me to know end. Read this:

"I am not to worried about my neighbors. This is a semi-rural area and most of the folks around here are good people. Lot of blue collar types, gun owners, a fair number of vets. We have never talked about it, but I am sure most have the same mindset we got if the SHTF..."

Heard that before online, maybe in the forums you frequent or even in some bit of prepper-inspired fiction?

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Never make assumptions about the people you don't know well and have never had "The Talk" with. That same good natured neighbor next store might be the same one who steals gas from your car or borrows something from your shed in the middle of the night.

Or might be the one who calls the feds and tells them about the nut next door with all the guns and buckets of rice.

Or might be the jerk who decides "those that have (you) need to share with those that don't (him)" and brings the rest of the neighborhood to inventory and redistribute your supplies.

Here's the way it works:

If you want your neighbor to back you up, find out now. If you need an excuse, use the next storm or power outage to feel them out. Do they stock food and supplies? Are they security minded? Do they have a plan if the power is out for an extended time or if the grocery trucks stop running?

In my opinion, there are more FEMA/Big Brother/handout fans out there than not. Do the math.

Nope, don't assume that anyone around you has the same plan you do. Find out or keep a very low profile.

Again, never make assumptions about the people you don't know well.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Prepare: Why Do People Like Zombie Stories/Movies?

World War Z is a new zombie movie coming out with Brad Pitt. This comes on the heels of several other zombie movies the past few years like Sean of the Dead, 28 Days, and so on.

Check out the book store and it's clear that zombies are about to replace vampires as the mythical creature du jour in Hollywood and in the publishing halls of New York City.

Why zombies? We are talking about reanimated rotting dead people who wander around hungry for human flesh and blood. How is that appealing to well, anyone? I have a few theories...

Survivalism on steroids - Survivalists love a good story. The problem with the genre is it involves something really bad happening (like a nuclear war, plague, societal breakdown) which makes day to day living difficult. It's hard to wander around examining the effects of a nuclear war, let's say, if there is fallout about making life difficult.

Zombie stories are great because survivalists in the stories are only concerned with a) staying away from zombies and becoming one and b) acquiring nasty ways to get rid of zombies who come their way. The rest of life is not so bad - no laws, stuff laying around for the taking, plenty of normal food that zombies don't want and so on.

Killing is bad, unless they are already dead - I think this is a big appeal with zombie fans. You get to shoot something without the moral implications of killing another living creature. Zombies are dead, no morals or ethics to get in the way!

Everyone's a zombie, including people I know and hate - This is another appeal that zombie fans have. Here's the boss or their worse enemy, or the girl who dumped you in high school wandering around undead, looking nasty and craving a nice arm or leg to gnaw on. What fun!

Personally, zombie stories get old for me. There are plenty of places around where there are no people (thus no zombies) and even if there were, your garden variety zombie is plenty slow enough to whack over the head with a bat or zap with a high powered rifle from a distance.  But zombie stores seem to go on and on as the characters make one stupid mistake after another and slowly get picked off one by one.

Zombie stories are fun sometimes, it's just interesting to me why some people like to read them. Your mileage may vary.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Prepare: What If You Had To Walk Home?

I work about 20 minutes from home. That's 20 minutes, by car, without traffic or roughly 15 miles.

While stuck in traffic this morning, it occurred to me: "What if I had to walk home?". Let's say there was an EMP burst, solar flare or other event which rendered most modern transport useless? What if the roads were closed by the authorities (like how 9/11 grounded all flights) and people were told to stay put or walk at their own risk?

Fortunately for me, it's a straight shot from my office, to the main road, to my home and the weather mostly cooperates. However, what if I had to walk?

First, I try to wear well broken in shoes to work and I always keep a pair of athletic shoes in my car. So my personal transportation mode is covered.

Next, I generally dress for the season and keep some backup clothing in the car for "just in case".

So my first concern would be about what to bring with me and how to carry it. I carry my work stuff (laptop, etc) in a backpack. The first thing I would do is dump all the heavy electronic junk and leave it at work. Laptop, power cable, extra chargers, etc would all go in my desk. Next I would comb through my bag and remove any extra unneeded weight. Papers, notes, pads, envelopes, etc. would all go into the desk as well.

Then I would prioritize what I am carrying. Does every object provide for either food, water, navigation, heat, light, clothing or personal aid? If not, it stays.

Then I would take what I needed from work to augment my personal supplies, both in my bag and in my soon to be abandoned car.

There are always sodas and bottled water in the break room. Based upon my walk, I would take a minimum of six bottles of water and fill up any other containers I have in my car which can carry about a quart of water. Any more than that would weigh too much.

Next would be lightweight snacks. I carry some with me, but there's more in the break room as well. That means crackers, candy bars, etc which I can carry in my bag for the walk home.

Finally, I would want a hat, an umbrella or something else to keep the elements off me such as excess sunshine or rain if it happens.

Weapons? It depends upon the situation. Most of my route home is not through bad neighborhoods and I am a big believer in the first 24-48 hours of an emergency most are too shocked or stunned to do much of anything but wait for "SOMEONE" to come along and tell them what to do. Regardless, we all have tricks up our sleeve.

In the end, the answer is to be ready for the long walk, get prepared and start walking as soon as ready.

One more note: If at an office or school, buddy up with other walkers and go together if possible in the same direction as long as possible. It's common sense.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

SHTF Fiction: Alas Babylon

Alas Babylon by Pat Frank was written in the late 1950's and describes the effects of a massive nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War. Specifically, it details the life in small town, Fort Repose, Florida during the first year after the war.

Lauded as one of the best SHTF books written, Alas Babylon follows the life of Randy Bragg, a single lawyer and Army Reserve officer as he pulls together his disparate community following the events of "The Day". Bragg organizes his neighbors on River Road including a retired company president, two spinsters and the ever more useful clan of African-American neighbors, who in a time of segregation and organized prejudice, are more prepared than most of the other townspeople.

Frank accurately describes the possible scenario which leads up to the nuclear war in Alas Babylon. The Soviet Union, using the pretext and cover story of an in accidental attack on a Syrian port by the US Sixth Fleet leads them to launch a pre-emptive strike on the United States with ICBM and sub-based missiles. The US military, at the time of the book's writing, was dependent primarily upon land based bombers carrying nuclear weapons as part of their defensive strategy. The result being World War III lasts several months rather than the few minutes described in most stories.

But readers of Alas Babylon only hear snippets of the big war outside the borders of Fort Repose. The real war for residents is starvation and depredations by raiders and disease. Only a couple of characters fall victim to radiation poisoning while far more are done in by simple violence or abandonment.

Frank covers the immediate effects of a nuclear war on small town America; an out of town visitor upon learning of the destruction of New York City keels over of a heart attack, the bank president whose bank is cleaned out of cash by panic stricken residents commits suicide, vandals from the city attack the towns only medical clinic for morphine, and nearly every business in town, grocery, gas station and hardware store, are emptied of supplies in one day.

The story's hero, Bragg, is given one day's advance notice (actually about twelve hours) of the impending
attack by his brother who is a high ranking officer in the Air Force. Told to expect his sister-in-law and her children, Bragg is given a check for five thousand dollars and told to obtain supplies for the duration. In one of the most frustrating scenes in the book, Bragg manages to make only one trip to the grocery store (to pick up about three hundred dollars in food), fills up his car with gas and picks up a case and a half of liquor. All the rest of that cash becomes nothing more than toilet paper. Readers like me were screaming at Bragg wanting to know why he did not hit every store between Orlando and Fort Repose.

Further, it is not until after the day after The Day that Bragg realizes he better get some more ammunition for his guns, that he did not obtain salt, paper products, more canned meat, toothpaste and so forth. All that cash his brother gave him went to waste.

To their credit, the characters do get inventive when it comes to making do. They find a salt lick several miles upstream of their home. They make and trade moonshine from their excess corn production. They get rid of their gas guzzling 50's cars in favor of the petrol sipping Model T hidden in a barn. They make medical instruments out of steak knives and fishing line.

By the time the US government arrives, in the form of a single helicopter one year after The Day, Fort Repose is limping along but better off than most of the rest of the country. They have food, trade, law and order and some sembelence of normalcy.

Read this book if you have not yet. Before all the other SHTF fiction came along, Alas Babylon was first. It's a great and compelling read.

You can get Alas Babylon on Amazon of course. It is also available in abridged format online on some websites.

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