What to Do When Things Get Exciting
An Emergency Preparedness Guide, prepared by a leftist emergency services professional.
Everything is just a bit much these days isn’t it? I am reminded of a line from the Godspeed You! Black Emperor album F#A#. Between a couple of the songs is an interview taking place on the street:
“Do you believe the end of the world is coming?”
“The preacher man says it’s the end of time. Says that America’s rivers are going dry. The interest is up, the stock market is down. You guys got to be careful walking around here this late at night. This is the perfect place to get jumped.”
“But do you think the end of the world is coming?”
“No, so says the preacher man, but I don’t go by what he says.”
That album was made back in 1997. The Dead Flag Blues intro on that album is fantastic and listening to it today makes you wonder if they were prophets. Sure seems that the Empire of America is in its crumbling phase.
I also do not believe the preacher man. It is not yet time for the Apocalypse or Ragnarok or Kali Yuga. I do however see, with America in particular, a breakdown on the horizon. If you look at history and the collapse of other empires there are countless similarities to what America is going through.
But this is not a history lesson. Odds are, if you didn’t already feel such things in your bones you wouldn’t be reading this article.
As someone who has spent the better part of the last 16 years working in emergency services, what I do is prepare to handle things when it all goes a bit pear shaped. As an American now living in Wales I also get to see things and learn things from different perspectives.
What I want to share with you today is not any theories on what is going to happen, or how it will happen, or getting into super detail about step by step on how to survive specific scenarios. Entire books are devoted to such things and when things get exciting I am not expecting you to pull out a book and read step by step how to survive.
What this article will go into is a return to basics and a simple theory on things to think about so you can care for yourself and your loved ones. When the structures of society that we are all quite used to either no longer exist, or are working against us, we need to be ready to care for ourselves.
Just in case the preacher man is right, yeah?
We take a lot of things about our daily existence for granted. A good practice is to ask yourself questions you do not normally ask so you will be prepared in emergencies.
Here’s an example. Let’s say there is a protest march scheduled for today. Find out what the route is and the time. Will it affect the bus route you take home from work? What if you can’t take the bus home? How far is the walk? What time do you get off work? If a curfew gets put in place could you walk home before a curfew would get put in place? What would you eat and drink along the way?
Food and transportation are two things we do not usually think about. I don’t know about you, but when I got done with work I usually was hungry and ready for food. If I had to walk 5 miles home, perhaps uphill, and didn’t have money or access to food, it wouldn’t kill me–but it would suck. So maybe start keeping a couple granola bars in your work bag along with a bottle of water. Do you check the weather when you leave for work? When you dress is it based on the fact that you will be warm and dry in your car? What happens if you can’t drive home and have to walk in winter weather?
Another lesson of survival is thinking laterally. Ask yourself questions, but don’t stop when you have come up with a solution to a problem with the first step. Think two or three steps down the line.
Also think about likelihood vs impact. This is how governments determine how much effort and resources to devote to preparedness. Zombies, for example, would have high impact but low likelihood, so they do not prepare for them. Winter weather tends to be in the middle of this scale (and is affected by location—think New York City vs. Seattle).
The best way for you and the people around you to survive any major event is to come together to help each other out. Is one of your neighbors a medic that could help out with medical care? Does one of your neighbors have a garden where they grow vegetables? Does one do a lot of camping and have tents and sleeping bags? Yes, we all have immediate survival needs which I will touch on, but while we may have enough food and water to live, we need community support.
If you believe the US Army, they go by the rule of threes. 3 minutes without oxygen, 3 hours in extreme weather without shelter, 3 days without water, and 3 weeks without food.
Guess what? The military is quite good at survival manuals. Why? Well, at the end of the day, even an infantryman is expensive to train, an Air Force pilot even more so. The Air Force survival manual is the most detailed survival manual I have ever come across. The military is quite good at trying to kill others, but at the end of the day it wants its own soldiers to stay alive.
So why is the rule of the 3’s important? It is the basis for survival. Those are the things that will kill you. If you can sort those out, you will have time to figure everything else out.
To bring this into your day to day life, let’s look at food and water. How would you eat dinner tonight if you could not go to the shop or have a functioning stove? Think about breakfast tomorrow, then lunch, then dinner again. What about water to cook that food with, or clean with after? How would you wash your dishes or brush your teeth?
When it comes to taking care of one’s self, sort out the basics. This will give you a foundation that will help you keep your head clear when things go bad. One thing that came out of the earthquake in Japan in 2011 is that quite a lot of people were used to daily trips to the shops for food or even did not cook for themselves and ate out all the time. When power was down and shops and restaurants closed, people had no stockpiled food and some didn’t know how to cook. These days there are services that deliver prepped meals to your door, microwave quick meals are available at super markets, but how available will these be for you if there is no power?
I experienced a similar thing as a kid in Seattle where one Christmas close to a foot of snow was dumped over a couple days, including Christmas Day. Power was out at the local grocery store, food deliveries were delayed due to road issues, but because my family had a general habit of keeping a good stock of staples, we did not go hungry.
If you want to prepare yourself divide your needs into three categories: Red, Yellow, and Green.
Red: Without these everything else becomes a bit less important
Reds are what will keep you alive. Use the rule of threes as a basis for your plan. Remember to think about particulars to your personal situation. If you have a backyard you may be able to cook on an open fire; if you have an apartment with a deck you could use a small grill. But if you have neither, using a grill inside is a good way to kill yourself because of inadequate ventilation. Natural gas camp-style stoves are safe in a room because there is minimal off-gassing, but long term burning can be dangerous in a small room so don’t use it for heat.
You can purchase (online or at surplus stores) military MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and some of these come with their own heating packets. These allow you to heat the meal without an external source. Plenty of calories and the full meal kits usually come with a tasty treat like M&M’s! They also last forever. My own practice was to have 14 in my truck and 14 in my apartment. This would keep me alive for 28 days without any other source of food, or allow me to share with others. The reason I split them up was in case I was at work when things went bad or my apartment collapsed due to an earthquake, I would still have half my food supply.
Maybe you live near a stream that flows year round. Could you perhaps buy a camping-style water purifier or water-purification tablets instead of stockpiling bottles of water? A person needs a gallon of water per day, half for drinking, half for cooking and hygiene. Remember to think laterally, though. What happens if you have a friend in town staying with you when stuff happens? Would you really deny a neighbor who asks for help?
Another thing to add to this list is medication. If you take medications on a daily basis, make sure to not let your prescriptions get low. This is particularly important for medications taken for mental health reasons or other chronic health issues. The side effects of being off them can be life threatening in and of themselves, especially without access to any sort of support networks.
Again, think laterally. It is all well and good to have supplies in your house. but you may not be home when things go bad. For most of us, unfortunately, we spend most of our time outside of the house at our place of work. How would you survive if something happened while you were at work? Could you walk home? An average able-bodied person walks at 3-4 miles per hour over level ground. If you can’t walk home, do you have friends that live nearby? Could you store some supplies and just shelter for a while at work? Perhaps a possibility if you work in an office, not so much if you are a waitress at a restaurant. But good news if you work at a restaurant: you have ready access to food! Same for you grocery store workers out there.
Later, I will touch on putting together a “bug out” bag. This is a backpack that you keep that has the basics for survival that you always keep in one bag and keep accessible whenever possible. I used to keep mine in my truck so that whether I was home, at work, or visiting friends, it was there.
Yellow: I’m not dying, but I’ve got stuff to do
These are the things that are helpful but not necessary for immediate survival. One example would be a pair of heavy duty work gloves. These are great for clearing debris or throwing tear gas canisters back at the police.
Also rope. As Samwise Gamgee said, “Rope! You’ll want it, if you haven’t got it!” A good length of 50 foot rope can be picked up at boating shops in particular. It doesn’t have to be climbing style as that is quite expensive and you most likely will not be needing it to hold an adult. It can be more used for building shelters and the like. Also picking up some smaller parachute cord from a surplus store is quite handy and very inexpensive.
Tarps are also great to keep around. A tarp, a tree, and some parachute cord are all you need for a shelter that will keep you relatively warm and dry in most weather conditions.
Another thing to consider is: Do you know how to turn off the gas, water, and electricity mains to the place where you live? This is important for a variety of reasons. The main one is for those of you in earthquake or hurricane areas where you face the risk of building collapse. More people tend to die due to fires caused by gas leaks post-earthquake than from the actual quake itself. Being able to turn off your water can be important if the water supply becomes compromised. You can turn off the mains to the house and use what is already stored in the boiler.
Green: What’s the point of living if I don’t have tea?
There are plenty of examples of people having plenty of supplies and still dying. There are also plenty of examples of those with no supplies managing to stay alive. It often boils down to mental strength and morale, and that’s what this category is.
Green items are those that make life worth living. But please don’t buy a mini solar panel from REI with a USB port just so you can keep playing candycrush on your iPhone. There will be more exciting things to do after the collapse!
In all seriousness, think about something that will bring a bit of happiness to your life. Tea, a can of soda, chocolate, a deck of cards, a favorite book, a journal, colored pencils and paper… These are all small, relatively light things that can be that bit of happiness while the world is falling apart around you.
Our culture loves the idea of the lone wanderer in the apocalypse. From Mel Gibson in Road Warrior, to Denzel Washington in Book of Eli, to Robinson Crusoe, to the Fallout series of video games. Realistically, it is much harder and less likely that anyone can survive without community. After the collapse of the Roman Empire in Europe, communities still survived by working together. There was no need for a central government. That is why the idea of the collapse of civilization is somewhat silly to me. First off, what the shit does civilization mean anyways? Seems an unnecessary construct that was created to impose a belief system on others and make it seem like a central government is necessary. Historically speaking, we as humans do pretty well on our own without being civilized.
But I digress. Working together is the key to getting beyond the survival mode and into the living mode. So think about your community. There are many definitions for this; it could be the social group you are a part of, more so than the other people in your apartment building. Either way, start talking to them now and think about what you are each good at or want to learn about to help each other. Maybe none of you has any medical training, so one of you takes a first aid course. Money is tight for all of us, so pool resources. Each person could perhaps contribute to buying heirloom seeds. One person can take the time to research what edible foods can be planted in your area, and another person take some basic carpentry classes.
Another thing I can recommend is taking courses. One really good government resource is the CERT (community emergency response teams) program put on by FEMA. This program is built around the theory that emergency services provisions will not be available for the first 48-72 hours following a massive incident. I have done some teaching for this program, and what is most beneficial is that it gives you hands-on experience in dealing with various issues. How many of you have actually used a fire extinguisher on a fire? You get to do that on this course.
These are all voluntary, non-governmental people that take these courses. Usually it is a community group, or people from the same cul-de-sac or village that get together to take the course together. Not only does it provide practical knowledge and hands on experience but it gives a group a chance to work and learn together. The website for info is on the main FEMA page—get it while it’s still available.
I want to touch briefly on the more violent side of things.
As the old saying goes, the best way to survive a knife fight is to not get into one in the first place. How is the best way to avoid this? Situational awareness. Vigilance. Being aware of your surroundings and knowledge of de-escalation. Just basic street smarts, but these days so many people get so used to walking with ear buds in and staring at their iPhones. If wolves still roamed the streets, they would have a feast.
That being said, sometimes you have to throw down. Like everything I have written about so far, knowledge and preparation will mean the difference between life and death. Take a self-defense class. Lift heavy things to build strength. If you decide to purchase a weapon, even something “minor” like pepper spray, practice with it. Just make sure you know the wind direction so you don’t spray yourself in the face.
I am not going to sit here and preach to you on the “goodness” or “badness” of violence. Statistically speaking, most people will never actually be in a violent situation. Unfortunately, the odds go up significantly if you belong to a non-white-male group, because you will get targeted by the majority white male group. If the United States post-Trump election follows the United Kingdom post-Brexit vote, attacks against minority groups will go up. In fact, this is already the case.
All I can say in this brief document is that if you find yourself in a scrap, you have to act without hesitation, without holding back. Be decisive in your actions. Once you start don’t stop until you and those you are protecting are safe. I say this from many violent encounters from years in the ambulance service. People having a mental health crisis who truly believe you are the devil trying to steal their soul can become very violent and very forceful. I became quite good at knowing where that line was, and knew that once that situation crossed that line I would either have to remove myself completely to a place of safety, or get stuck in and hope I could hold my own until the police arrived. In this new environment, I suspect the police are not the people that will be coming to help you.
That leads me into the next bit, again about community and helping each other out. If you see a violent confrontation developing, a lot of times numbers can cause an aggressive group to turn away. Particularly if it’s a group of frat boys deciding to corner an individual, the more people that arrive to stand with them, the more likely they’ll back off.
So what should you do after reading this? Have a tea party. Invite those that you feel connections to over and talk. Get pieces of paper and write Red, Yellow, Green at the top and start thinking about the things you need. Learn about each other, who is good at what, who has a friend who knows how to do a thing and can teach everyone. Consider building a Solidarity Network. Remember: You all are in this together. Go carefully and be the shield wall against the darkness.
Here’s what my own emergency supplies generally looked like. Adjust according to your own circumstances.
- Sleeping bag (30-degree) in waterproof stuff sack
- Footprint from ½ dome tent
- Tarp (One side brown, other green)
- 50 feet of rope
- Camel Back
- Assorted maps of Cascade Range
- Plastic map case
- 1 novel (morale item)
- 2 boxes of Magic cards (4 decks) (morale item)
- 1 deck regular cards (morale item)
- 1 notebook
- 3 assorted clippable black pouches
- Work gloves
- Camp towel
- Waterproof cover for pack
- Olive drab medic shoulder bag
- Rain jacket
- Long underwear, top and bottom
- 2 pairs wool socks
- 1 pair white cotton underwear
- 1 pair boxers
- 1 fleece cap
- 1 black BDU
- 1 long-sleeve Underarmor top
- 8 granola bars
- 5 packs fruit snacks
- 5 Emergenc-C packs
- 1 Pack jerky
- 1 Pack tuna
- Small bag trail mix
Survival Pack (attached to outside of pack)
- Parachute cord
- Trauma shears
- Small light
- Clear goggles
- Sunglass goggles
- Large Swiss Army Knife
- Hand sanitizer
- 7 tent stakes
Fire kit (in survival pack):
- Flint spark
- White fire starter
First Aid Kit:
- Emergency blanket
- 4-inch roller gauze
- 2 tongue depressors
- Wilderness first-aid guide
- 1-inch clear tape
- 5 x 9 Combi pad
- 1 sterile occlusive dressing
- 1 4 x 4 burn gel dressing
- Assorted small burn gel packs
- Multiple triple antibiotic packs
- 5 Band-aids
- Various alcohol prep pads
- 2 pairs gloves
- Pack of Advil
- Pen and small pad
This document is also available as a free pdf: when-things-get-exciting
Ferrus has been working with emergency services even longer then he has been working with the spirit world. A companion of Freyja, spirit animals, and angels, he is doing his best to help those still stuck in his former home of the US. He’s living in the UK, hoping this island doesn’t follow the same path as their former colony.
He finds tea, candles, and frankincense and myrrh necessary for life, and his favourite dinosaur is the Triceratops.