ZOMBIES! *Face Palm*
Most of us are sick of hearing it. Zombie this, zombie that. A few gun industry folks were late to the game too, thinking they could capitalize on the “craze” and brand zombie green items accordingly. And while there are legions of zombie-lovers out there who still cling to draugr lore and keep undead-themed wares and media a worthwhile capital venture, all of it has been a red herring from what most of us already know. The zombie apocalypse is a broad euphemism for what we more commonly encounter in reality as mayhem or disaster. While we may lighten the mood and refer to it as the zombie apocalypse, what we are really considering are the realities of life and the disorder of panic.
There is a problem. Popular movies and shows like Zombieland, World War Z, and Walking Dead are pieces intended to entertain and yield profits. Because of entertainment media, many end up taking a rather naïve approach to what they believe to be preparedness. Well expectedly so, as there are no common remedial courses on disaster preparation, though there have been a few, very good books on it (one in particular is zombie-themed and worth a read!). To approach preparation as flippantly as many do is just not preparation. It is not a shallow endeavor. It takes a great deal of planning, of investment, and an extensive practice of games theory, not to mention physical training. Merely following the rules of Zombieland might get you farther, but probably not much.
Everyone has an opinion as to which is the best course of action. Hundreds of extensive forum threads and write ups litter the Web with both useful and not so useful tips on how to survive the SHTF bombshell. Rather than truly offering an opinion, I’d like to just take us through certain questions to consider when making your preparations. I can’t fix your problems. I can’t write just one article to comment on the various risk factors that will apply to everyone’s particular situation. We just want to look at some of the prevailing thoughts and question them. Those questions might save your life… or save you from getting infected. *Face Palm*
WHY WE PREPARE
While I have been fortunate enough to avoid serious disaster, I have been in exceptional proximity to a number of events to make me keenly aware of the need for preparedness and to see its aftermath. As a youngster growing up in Southern California, I’ve had my feet knocked out from under me by the Whittier Narrows Earthquake, my school library totaled by the Northridge Quake, my city held under siege by the LA Riots, and mass evacuations in the wake of numerous impending brush fires, not to mention the occasional NBA Championship taken too seriously by unruly Lakers fans. As a Texas resident I’ve seen firsthand the wake of Hurricane Katrina and boarded up my own house while Hurricane Rita sighted in the Gulf Coast. I also used to live in New Jersey, which at the time was just the worst place in the world to stop for McDonalds. Having seen these disasters up close, I may not have figured out the ‘correct’ course of action in a disaster, nor did I really know (except in hindsight) what was best in terms of what to prepare. All of that is somewhat left to chance. What I have experienced though is a reality check. Seeing what happens and recollecting what I’ve seen, I realized that disaster presents unforeseeable obstacles and limitations. Let’s first go through why we prepare:
1 – FEMA just isn’t big enough, fast enough, or well-funded enough to deal with you. – Originally FEMA was never intended to be a highly-organized, uber-efficient, rescue force that could be deployed nationwide. The agency itself was intended to help create organization and planning for the States to deploy their own conjoined resources to handle disasters. So for Katrina victims to blame FEMA, is really just absurd. The verdict: no one is responsible for your well-being or even survival, except you.
2 – Your locality cannot sustain your local population for more than a few days. - And that is if they can get those resources to you. Ask your local city councilperson whether city hall has stores of high nutrition non-perishables and stacks of bottled water. They may say something diplomatic like, “Bring it up at the next meeting good citizen.” What they’re really saying is, “Dude, go to the market and buy some water and Chef Boyardee.” If you aren’t prepared to sustain yourself and your loved ones, don’t expect anyone else to. Relief does exist, don’t think that it doesn’t. But there aren’t enough resources to get everyone out of trouble at the same time. It may be days, weeks or even months before help arrives.
3 – “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.” Agent K, Men In Black – There isn’t much that certain folks won’t do when it comes to survival (or looting). It won’t always be a rational or a humane course of action. When that happens it does not matter at whose expense it will occur… perhaps yours. Some of you are thinking, “Oh people aren’t like that.” Probably not in most cases, but it just takes one to ruin your day. And it probably happens more than you think. Point is, as much as we’d like to believe in the goodness of humanity, it’s better to be prepared for when the city folk go wild.
4 – Life happens, nature happens, and neither of them care too much about you.– Plate tectonics, fluid dynamics, and pyroclastic surges are all processes of nature that don’t really take human feelings into account. And since they don’t care about you either, it’s best you stay out of their way. Now since they usually like to show up unannounced, your best bet is to make sure you’re ready for them, as best as you can prepare.
There is a lot more to say than what we have just mentioned. Your preparation may not save you, and it may not even help, but it does increase the likelihood of extending your survival until help can arrive. There shouldn’t be any argument at this point. If you’re still under the delusion that some hero is going to come and save you if you just stay put, well you’re welcome to do what you want… best of luck. Sometimes help does arrive. Sometimes it doesn’t. If you live in a large metropolitan area, ask yourself how many helicopter trips it would take to rescue everyone from off the rooftops of all of the homes in your city. How many buses and thousands of gallons of fuel to evacuate the city? How many bottles of drinking water per day will the city need to stay alive and how many truckloads will it take to do it?
THE REALITIES OF DISASTER AND MAYHEM
Sometimes the movies get it right. Usually they get it or some aspect of it wrong though. After all, the goal of the movie writer is to drive the story of the protagonist and not necessarily educate the public as to the extensive complexities of disaster fallout. So always take movies with a grain of salt. Speaking of salt, include it in your food plan as it helps you to retain water.
REALITY #1: You cannot carry 10 guns and 10,000 rounds of ammunition. Really. You can’t do it. If you are on your own in a firefight, you would be fortunate to survive through a single tactical loadout much less enough ammunition to arm a decent sized squad. Many of you have training so I have no doubt you can carry a lot. If you’ve never done it before, I dare you to try it. Put on a full loadout and as much survival gear as you will dare to carry and cook dinner with it on. Then go out and wash your car, take the dog for a walk, and take out the trash. Once you’ve done that, come back inside and imagine humping all that gear all day on your feet while maintaining a high situational awareness and at the same time asking yourself, “Where the hell am I going to get a refill of clean water?” There are limitations and you will need to be mindful of them.
REALITY #2: You are not the only one who is armed. Just because you can make quarter inch groups does not mean you will survive. You have to assume everyone out there is trained and capable, because, hey, that’s what we Americans do, we shoot stuff and we’re good at it. No matter how much training you have, you are always in a position to lose a fight. There is good argument here for constant training and practice, and I highly recommend you take every opportunity to learn as much as possible and practice what works for you. Split second advantages are as important in Zombieland as they are in personal defense situations. But remember, the next man is as motivated to survive as you are.
REALITY #3: When resources are scarce, they are valuable. If you have resources, they are also valuable to other people. If they are valuable to other people, those other people just might try to take them from you. Keeping those resources discrete can save your life. Walking around like a high-speed super warrior with bars of gold jingling in a sustainment pouch, a ballooned up water reservoir, and stacks of ammo splayed across your belly, might get you a steel pipe across the back of your head. You’ll wake up with a bad headache, a growling stomach and a giant load off your back (literally). There are exceptions to this that I’ll get to later. But consider making your egress package consist of a small concealable firearm rather than a full battle load. Situations will dictate the most prudent course of action. For instance: North Korean paratroopers landing in suburban Spokane… light ‘em up [watch Red Dawn (2012)].
REALITY #4: If you just happen to have the same plan as everyone else, it’s not a good plan. In Southern California the most common plan I heard was “I’m heading to the mountains.” When mass evacuations occur, there is no quick route to any kind of safe zone. When Hurricane Rita hit, Houston ran out of gas, freeways were stopped in both directions, and Houston evacuees were trapped. It happens in small neighborhoods as well. Irvine, California was sieged by a brush fire causing the county to call for an evacuation of the Turtle Rock tract, a process that took all night while the fire bore down on them.
REALITY #5: There are skills other than marksmanship that are required to survive. You may need medical skills beyond first aid to treat yourself or a loved one. If you have left home, you may need knowledge of the local flora to help sustain you during egress. You may need to hunt, dress, and cook game. You may need to know land navigation to get you “through the mountains.” Your escape will not likely occur in the way you imagine it so you want to make sure you are equipped with the kind of knowledge that will ensure your survival.
REALITY #6: Night falls on disasters too. Ever try to move around on a moonless night where there is no electricity? Now try to do it discretely. Technology can help you here, but it is incredibly expensive. More choices to make here. Night time can also be extremely cold. Cold drains both energy and optimism. If your goal is to stay alive, cold can be your enemy.
REALITY #7: In contrast to night, sunscreen can only do so much. The sun is basically a giant oven, and you’re inside it. If you’re unaccustomed to heat, you will need to manage your body temperature to prevent going into shock. Even if you can prevent getting sunburned, heat stroke can still get you. And drinking water can’t always save you, especially if it is as warm as your environment. The problem will be compounded if you are carrying/wearing a plethora of gear.
There are too many realities to list, but let’s get to one more:
REALITY #8: From the moment disaster strikes, you must make life and death decisions. There is no best course of action because every situation is different. Ultimately no one can decide but you. Do you decide to leave the relative safety of your home and head for a place where you can get help/resources? Will you try to acquire more resources from your friendly neighborhood looter’s market? Now that services have stopped and you have no air/heat/water/electricity, do you hunker down and wait for aid to arrive and services to be restored? Every single decision you make in an emergency can affect the safety and welfare of you and your loved ones. You’ll have to decide and you’ll have to bear responsibility for it.
WHAT MAKES SENSE AND WHAT DOESN’T?
Future Warrior = Survivor – There are a lot of preppers out there who are also gun people who believe that the best chances for survival is to be a soldier, or at least someone who is equipped as a soldier would be. Thus the key elements of their survival kit would include a rifle, one or more secondary weapons, military style camouflage and deuce gear, and not to mention several session of MREs (Meals Ready to Eat) and a hydration system among other things. All of that makes sense but what about as a lone wolf?
Keep in mind that soldiers act as a single unit in a much broader organization of members. A soldier is part of a fire team, which is part of a squad, which is part of a platoon, etc. which on varying levels have deployable resources including communications, medical assistance, food and water, fuel, intelligence, air support, supply and to tie it all together, a highly disciplined command structure. I have no doubt there are commando types out there who can do just fine on their own. But the everyman is not that person.
If you own a plate carrier, FAST helmet, and an MBITR radio, you’re probably preparing for something other than a natural disaster. This is also an aspect of preparation that deserves your attention, but not quite what we’re talking about today. If you’ve set yourself up to be a warrior during a natural disaster, you may be psyching yourself up for battle. From a preparation standpoint that might not be a bad idea. But you’ve got to ask yourself if as a fully-equipped, fully-loaded unit you are nothing more than a walking tactical thrift store. What if you are in a crowd? What if you fall asleep? If you hear, “Check out that guy’s rifle“ behind you while you’re walking down the street, you may want to walk faster.
Stockpiling – How much ammunition can one man use: Probably not too much of it. Well, it will all depend on a lot of factors and whether or not a substantial amount of luck exists. Nonetheless, I’ve seen firsthand certain individuals stockpiling thousands of rounds of ammunition and dozens of firearms for their own use. The stated reason for it varies. Now is there truth to the “you can never have enough” motto that everyone uses when wiping out the local Walmart’s ammo supply? Of course there is: oftentimes there just isn’t enough ammo to go around. Does it mean you should do it? As a fellow shooter I’m begging you not to. Buy a few boxes and then come back and buy a few more. Try not to hoard all of the ammo from the sporting goods department. Everyone needs at least some ammo. Your taking it all is just needlessly greedy. We are talking about preparation, not plundering. If you really need cases of ammo, buy it on the Web and have it delivered. It’s what Web vendors do and you’re likely to save a little money that way anyway. Buying up practice ammo is fine. When it comes to tactical/defensive/hunting ammo: please save some for others.
As for why stockpiling may not be as practical: if you have to leave and possibly do so on foot, how much can you possibly carry? As a matter of perspective, even a 7 magazine loadout of 5.56mm NATO has some good heft to it. Combined with a full hydration pack and a “tac’d out” rifle, one quickly remembers those famous words, “Ounces equal pounds, pounds equal pain.” Again, some of us have training and can bear that kind of load for considerable time and distance. Not all of us. Know your limitations.
If you get into a firefight and you’re lucky enough to have 10,000 rounds of ammunition stockpiled, are they all loaded into your 358 magazines? Wait, you don’t have 358 thirty round magazines? Me neither. Nor do I want to be loading magazines in the middle of a firefight. I’m not saying you shouldn’t have the ammo. I’m saying you need to be cognizant of the limitations you may face. Your ammo will be useful for collecting food and providing security, but it takes up both room and increases weight. You will have to make compromises to accommodate the other basics of survival and how you prioritize those basics is up to you. After evaluating those needs you may find the cost of all that extra ammo might be better used to pay for other items.
Bomb Shelters – There is a flaw in the individual fortress concept. In order for humans to survive, they must have air, water, and food. Panic rooms and bomb shelters introduce limitations to accessing all of these and they are incredibly expensive. You’ll be able to hold out for awhile. But these are not zombies trying to get in to your goods. These are intelligent, resourceful, and motivated human beings trying to take your stuff. Depending on how desperate they are, they may figure out that one of the pipes on top of your house is your fresh air supply. No shelter is planned out perfectly and even a minimally intelligent individual will eventually figure out how to flush you out. Best to keep your cache of prepared foods, fluids, and supplies a secret.
Awesome Guns – There is nothing wrong with having great guns. In fact, your guns should be of a sufficient quality where they can be dynamically employed in a multitude of situations while being both reliable and effective. That said, maybe you can plan out your guns while considering continued access to resources. For instance, the most popular handgun caliber in the US is the 9mmx19 cartridge followed by the venerable .45 ACP. Law enforcement agencies tend to favor the .40 S&W cartridge but otherwise will tend to use one of the other two if not all three. It would seem logical that if you choose to use one of these calibers, you stand the highest chance of being able to replenish your supply. Think likewise of rifle calibers like 5.56mm/.223, .308 Winchester, and 7.62x39mm Russian.
Now I like to think that there is a useful need for a long range bolt action rifle, a tactical shotgun, a sub-compact handgun, a crossbow, a tomahawk, and two swords. But try to choose a flexible firearm that can handle the bulk of, or all of your needs. Skills acquired while playing Call of Duty will not save you, and the Quick Draw and Marathon perks will not be available.
Going It Alone – If you are resource rich at the time the mobs encounter you, you likely have your work cut out for you. No one likes to get shot so feel fortunate if you are armed. But also assume that you are not the only one present who has a gun. Assume, that they’d prefer to win a fight rather than lose.
If you are equipped like a high-speed 99 Zulu, you are better off fighting in groups where you can divide defensive responsibilities into sectors, support each other during movement, and share the burden of collecting and carrying supplies and equipment. This means, ally yourself with as many capable individuals as possible in order to increase your numbers, enhance your security, and multiply your capabilities with regard to resource acquisition and safe movement. Hopefully you and your group have the scruples to not end up being a gang of post-apocalyptic thugs a la Dennis Hopper’s Smokers in Waterworld. Better yet, you may have like-minded friends or acquaintances. Perhaps you can all plan to muster at the first sign of trouble to a pre-arranged location.
Egress – This is probably the most important section in this article. Leaving the disaster area is the best way to ensure your safety and access to food, water, and shelter. If you are one of the fortunate few who are able to leave the disaster area before anyone else, you might squeeze through before everyone else gets stuck in traffic or runs out of fuel. If you are not, you should think about preparing contingencies. This can mean everything you can think of including carrying one or more extra fuel cans, choosing the right vehicle to carry you out of harm’s way, choosing the right resources to carry with you in the vehicle (as you likely cannot carry it all), where you will be going, how you will be sleeping, even which seat in the vehicle each specific person will occupy and whether or not they will be armed. Getting out of the disaster area is the most logical way to survive. If you are trying to leave an urban disaster area, it will be difficult. Access to roads will be limited and the already densely packed population will be attempting to leave all at the same time. If you wait too long, fuel may run out, looters and rioters may take to the streets, and roads might be blocked by abandoned cars.
OPSEC (or Operational Security) – We use this as a generically applied term referring to protecting your assets while working to achieve a goal. Posting a picture of your preparation supplies on the Internet along with your address is probably not a good idea. Certain unscrupulous individuals, or even desperate friends may attempt to take advantage of you. If you choose to be discretely armed, you’ll want to be able to carry discretely and protect your most powerful means of personal security. Someone might want to take that Glock from you but only if they know you have it. In other words, safeguarding your resources so that you can use them is a good idea. Protect them like you protect your identity now.
Whatever happens, hindsight is the only real perfect preparation and that is unfortunately not available. But what we can do is plan through the most likely scenarios, plan for the most important needs like food and water, and be mentally prepared to survive. What one can expect to encounter during a disaster is exhaustion, pain, and frustration along with environmental stresses, possible shortages of supply, and very little available information. Keep your head up and fight for survival!
The best thing a prepper can do is support his/her community and help them prepare for disaster as well. Communities have tremendous potential to provide safety and support for individuals during disasters as well as security for the entire area. There is usually a diversity of skills that exist in most neighborhoods that include doctors, mechanics, and tactically trained soldiers as well as a collective knowledge of various useful sciences. Keep in mind, your neighborhood LEO is often required to report to duty during disasters and likely will not be able to help. But there is still safety in numbers. The prepper would do well to help prepare their neighbors… so they don’t have to share… as much.
In all likelihood you will never have to encounter Hollywood-style mayhem and most of your resources will be safe and unnecessary. Most of the time some help will be available. Don’t get carried away and compromise your quality of life. Preparation isn’t a lifestyle, it’s an insurance policy. You should still take it seriously because it may save you and your family. Plan and mentally prepare. Train, practice and then do it some more. Then give yourself a pat on the back. You’ve just prepared for danger which is something most Americans don’t do. Then take stock of what you’ve done and live on. Don’t spend your life preparing for that moment, prepare for that moment so that you can live your life.