Turkey and Syria were hit with a massive earthquake on Feb. 7th. There’s a lot of coverage about it. If you’d like to see pics of the devastation you can look here. It’s not pretty. There is drone footage here, as well. You can also read a bit about the where and why of it here.

Yes, we can blame shoddy building for some of the damage. There’s the usual groups talking about how people are stupid for living on fault lines. Their president is being told he could have prevented it (sort of like Bush was supposed to prevent the levees breaking in New Orleans after Katherine?). There’s a small amount of merit in all of these statements, but not a lot.

The bottom line is that you cannot really prepare for this kind of destruction. Yes, it happens. Yes, it happens more often when you live on a fault line. But this is the largest quake in decades. It’s just not something you can plan for. In a world that’s rapidly becoming overpopulated, we can’t simply seal off huge tracts of land because “something bad MIGHT happen.”

Some of you reading this probably live in Tornado Alley. Some may live on fault lines. Others live near nuclear reactors. And so forth, and so on. There’s only so much you can prepare for, and only so much you can avoid. Humans aren’t meant to live in bubble wrap, after all.

But how can we prepare for survival? And what should we prepare FOR? That’s the question that you have to answer for yourself.

Me, I live in New England, on top of a hill, near a number of clean bodies of water. I don’t need to worry about floods, because by the time flood water gets high enough to affect my ho use, there will be too many other problems to worry about. I don’t have to worry about running out of water to drink and clean with. I do have to worry about cleaning that water, though, because if disaster happens, I can’t be certain that the water will remain clean and potable either due to the disaster itself or other people being idjits.

I am not near a major city, so it’s likely that if disaster does hit, it’ll be weather related. The most usual types of issues in my area are loss of power, loss of running water, and lack of food. I determined this over the past ten years, observing what happens in my area, as well as researching what’s happened here historically over the past 200 years.

I know how to cook without power. I do so on a pretty regular basis, actually. I have a nice fire pit that I use for fun. Still, cooking over an open fire is not a great way to do daily cooking. In an emergency that lasts more than a few days, an open fire pit will be detrimental to my own safety. For that reason, I’m working on plans for an outdoor kitchen behind the house, where it’s private and no one can see. I’ll be putting in a small wood burning stove of some type (likely cement with metal parts) that works like a rocket stove. I’m hoping to build a cobb oven in which I can bake breads and other foods.

My home is full of oil lanterns, solar lanterns, and stores of candles. Seeing what I’m doing in the dark is not going to be an issue. I have the means to carry water from nearby places to my home, and methods to use to clean that water so it’s safe to drink under most circumstances. I know how to grow a garden, hunt, and raise and butcher animals for food.

Whether the disaster that hits my area is ecological, weather-related, or political doesn’t matter. I have my plans, and all of them are tested. When the power goes out, it’s no big deal. I’ve gotten the kids to the point where power loss equals fun stuff, because we pull out the popcorn and make special foods, and we spend time around the wood stove in the living room reading and playing games. No panic, just preparation and readiness.

I can’t tell you how to prepare. Everyone is different. I look at the disaster in Turkey and I find myself in tears. But I know I would never live in a high rise apartment, even one that was supposedly earthquake proof. I’ve seen too many buildings go down like jenga blocks in the past 25 years. That’s MY choice. Other people make their own choices.

I would say that if you have to live in an apartment or multi level condo of some kind, make sure you have preps elsewhere. If your building is burning because someone played a stupid game and won stupid prizes, you may not have access to go back and get your preps. If you are facing a social uprising, you may want to get out of Dodge rapidly, and having 2000 lbs of goods isn’t going to be the least bit helpful. If you are running because of flooding, mudslide, or earthquake, there may be no time to load up with your preparations. Always have your eggs in more than one basket.

Even I do this, and I’m personally in a “best case” situation with my preps. I have most of my preparations “in big”… food, water, filters, weapons, ammo, etc. all stored neatly and out of the way. I cycle through some stuff (food, ammo) and leave the rest for long term storage. But I also have car kits for every car we own. Mini versions with food, shelter, first aid, water, and information. Why? Because we might be away from home when disaster strikes. We may be caught up in something. We may need to flee. We may need to hide temporarily, for a longer or shorter time. And for those reasons, I have caches of all those things, too. In several places. Because I cannot know what MIGHT happen, some random day between tomorrow and forever.

Beyond all of that, however, the single most important prep you can have? Skill sets. Learn to do for yourself. Think about what might happen, from most likely to least likely, and prep for what you can. Practice it. Turn off the power at the main breaker at odd moments and force the family to practice rusty skills. Learn how to cook over a fire. Know what foods you can eat from your local tract of land. Understand how to filter water. Practice making a fire (because if you lose your Bic, then what??). On and on. Continue to acquire skills until you literally cannot anymore (ie you’re dead).

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

I am DAMN proud that I can do most of those things. I’ve never had the opportunity to conn a ship, and solving equations is probably my weakest point. And I’ve never died gallantly, and hope to avoid it for some time to come. But I’ve done all the rest. What can you do?


Heuristic Hagar

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By hagar

7 thoughts on “Survival”
  1. Good read. I too live in the northeast and I find it amusing (to my twisted self) how unprepared most are around here. Some will treat you like there’s something wrong with YOU( what are you? A boy scout or something?in a snarky voice)… I just smile and walk away. Many don’t know that Maine is floating on a great big fault line.. we are somewhat prepared here..

    1. Where I’m at, there are more who are prepared… but still not enough. Not by far. It is what it is.
      I’m not interested in going it alone. I have a small network of people who will work together should Bad Things happen. We try to hedge our bets by being as prepared as possible for all of the likely things, many of the unlikely things, and as best as can be for the outlandish things. That’s all you can do, really.

  2. I was fortunate to have family members who loved living off the land in a primitive state in the remote areas of Canada and upstate NY and NH. No running water, no electricity, phone, car, or neighbors. Learned to trap, hunt, fish, and store resources. Know what edible plants are available and know the procedure that works best for producing what the body requires to remain healthy in extreme situations of life. My degree in environmental engineering has been foundational in the quest to remain adaptable and fluid in all unexpected conditions.
    And preparing for the worst, expecting the unexpected, and forgetting about ‘The Ideal life” is essential. I’ve always said that to be an optimist, one must first be an educated pessimist. And being tested, is a blessing which one should consider a privilege, for every failure is the first step in success. Your failure rate must be understood in order to learn how to be successful. The science of survival can’t be learned without it.
    Living in the land of Hurricanes now, and it’s……exciting.
    Thanks for the post, Hagar. Made me smile.

  3. I’ll blame shoddy construction all day, as well as a corrupt government that wouldn’t enforce building codes if the population could afford them.

  4. Tools in the toolbox and switches in your brain. Experience and training gives you both. Even as things get worse and budgets get tighter today is the next best time to take a class, learn a skill, practice something! Better now than trying to figure it out fresh when you’re cold and hungry.

    An outdoor kitchen is a life goal especially for getting a good sear without setting off the fire alarms.

    Iffen anyone is looking for a good school teaching outdoors skills I can highly recommend the Pathfinder School but if thats out of your area of operation a decent camping store like REI has classes on everything from land nav to plant identification. Your local library might have listings too.

    Hagar I applaud your analysis on your area and the layered approach you mentioned in spreading out your methods. We can all take a lesson from that.

    We need to look at where our sources of water are. Can we get water back from them to our homes. Will someone try to defend them or follow you? A garden wagon with some 5 gallon cans will move a decent bit of water but do you have a pre-filter and water filter for it then?

    Plan for what is likely historically then plan for the unknown. Like that chemical spill in Ohio. Take the pain now rather than when it matters.

Only one rule: Don't be a dick.

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