Before getting into the basics of survivalism, let us first consider the basics of a survivalist.
The creation of a survivalist or prepper seems to follow a specific path. With several pitfalls or dangers along the way which can derail the process. The first step is for someone to conclude a threat to his and his family or community’s welfare exists, and that the local community / government / society in general may or will not be able to provide timely protection and help. This mental attitude can come about in several ways. Some people have simply been brought up to believe that way, following the example of parents or other relatives who for a variety of reasons have taken to heart the motto of the Boy Scouts and are ‘always prepared’. Others may observe disasters or problems which have happened elsewhere or in their area, past or present; apply such observations to their lives; and decide that what can happen to others can happen to them, too. Some may have lived through ordeals that showed them a threat did exist and been dissatisfied with the protections offered by society. And there are those who have been TOLD they were at risk and if disaster strikes they are on their own. Examples of this are southern California, where local, state, and Federal governments have warned people for years that massive earthquakes are certain, and when they hit it may take days, weeks, or even longer before relief efforts will be able to reach everyone. Or the East and Gulf coasts of the U.S. during hurricane season, where the dangers have been well publicized. It’s a bit hard to insist a hurricane or earthquake might not be a danger, when everyone in authority is telling you they are.
But acknowledging a threat is real doesn’t do much if no further action is taken. And that happens a great deal. As was mentioned, many in California KNOW a disaster may strike them someday. But they’ve made no preparations for it. There are a variety of excuses given for this, usually beginning with “I know I should, but-“. The bottom line is, even in the face of information as to the danger, and pressure on the part of government to prepare, many will not. The problem seems to be Normalcy Bias, a mental state that can be summarized as “since a disaster has never occurred before, it won’t occur now; and if it did occur before, that was a once in a lifetime event and it will never happen again. I don’t HAVE to make any changes.” Humans have a disinclination towards change unless that change is seen as positive. For many, preparing for disaster is not a positive thing at all, and they won’t do it no matter how commonsensical it may be.
There are some who see or come to see preparing differently, however. As a matter of security, or insurance, or increased options. Or as an excuse to buy interesting equipment and learn how to use it. Whatever the motivation, those who decide to begin prepping, immediately run into problems: Where to begin, what to get, how to store what they get; basically, how to prepare for a disaster. For some neo-preppers, the size of the undertaking proves so daunting their efforts are still born. Especially if they come in contact with established preppers or survivalists via a website or blog. And are disheartened by the huge amount of food, water, supplies, and equipment some survivalists have, the result of years of accumulation and preparation. Such mountainous quantities – a year or more of stored food, alternative means of heat and light, medical supplies, weaponry – all held by people who seem to know what they’re doing, and have gathered things the fledgling survivalist hadn’t even dreamed of, often seem beyond the reach of normal people. And many would-be preppers quit before even beginning.
But many DO continue. Partially due to encouragement from the very websites and blogs that prove so discouraging to others, interestingly enough. Survivalists tend to want others to become survivalists; as a matter of survival, so to speak. The more people who are prepared for disaster, the better it will be for everyone . So new people who join survivalist boards or websites like the appropriately named Survivalist Boards or the Prepper Website or Survival Monkey are usually welcomed. Although spending some time checking out the ‘stickies’ and frequently asked questions threads before posting comments may prevent eye rolls and complaints about the same subjects being brought up again and again. And once beginning preppers start interacting with other survivalists and learning from them, usually they continue to develop and to gather the resources and skills that they feel will enable them to survive disaster. Although changes in financial circumstances or priorities, or prepper ‘burnout’ from continued effort or a return to Normalcy Bias, may yet lead a survivalist / prepper to cease being one.
And now, a brief look at the actual basics of ‘prepping’.
No less an entity than the U.S. government through the Federal Emergency Management Agency is trying to get people to prepare for disaster. Indeed, FEMA has set up this website that lays out, clearly and intelligently, what people should plan for, what they should buy, and what they should do, to increase their chances of survival. To briefly summarize:
1) Figure out what could be a danger to you. Not just the big things like a major earthquake or pandemic, but also the smaller but just as deadly personal disasters like a housefire or automobile accident.
2) Plan ahead of time what to do in the event of disaster. Practice fire drills in your home so escape routes are clear, consider means by which family members will be able to communicate with each other in a disaster, think what might go wrong and how to react to it. Make sure everyone knows what they are to do if troubles happen, and is prepared to do it.
3) Gather essential supplies. Water, food, radio, flashlights, first aid kit, and other items that you may need.
4) Once you have your family and home squared away and prepared for disaster, expand your attention to your community. What is the local disaster plan? What resources will be available in a disaster? How will information be distributed? What can you do to help?
These are things everyone SHOULD do, have thought of and found out, and have ready and in place; but very few people do.
Next: The basics, in depth.