To answer that question, I found myself in the Siloam Cafe in Siloam Springs, Arkansas, seated across from Martin Fletchall, a disabled veteran who says God called him and his family to the Ozarks from Montana. He prefers to be called Fletch. Fletch is in his 40s, wears a white beard, a camouflage hoodie and matching hat and orders toast, eggs and steak, which costs less than $4. He agreed to meet me after a few weeks of exchanging emails and vetting that I wasn’t actually a “social justice warrior.”
We get that creature comforts will be ever more important as the things that used to make us happy slowly break and crumble around us. But do you really want to put a ton of effort into opening a bakery when everything is going to shit? And we hate to be the bearers of bad news, but no amount of odor elimination is going to stop the uncivilized world from smelling really, really bad.
Part of prepping is not just stocking up on items, but also acquiring certain skills and training that will prove useful. Below is a list of many different skills you can learn. While you can’t be a master of all trades, it may be beneficial to focus on 2-3 skills you can become an expertise at. Then you will become the go to guy time and time again 🙂
Communication: Our preferred portable radio is the BeoFeng BF-F8HP 8-watt two-way radio. You don’t need a Ham license to listen to local emergency services and broadcast when SHTF — see our beginners guide to amateur radio. We like this signal mirror instead of the cheap acrylic ones that scratch and fade quickly. Also, try these tiny whistles and signal flare kit.
No matter where you live, it's also nice to have some materials at hand to patch up broken windows on a stormy night. Window security film can be used to keep broken glass in place, while a roll of thick plastic sheeting or tarp from a hardware store can come handy for temporary repairs; space permitting, you may also want to keep several wooden planks. For suburban and rural homes in regions prone to extreme weather, pressboard and sandbags may be worthwhile, too. Traditional sandbags tend to be extremely labor-intensive to fill, so plan accordingly; water-filled barriers are much easier to deploy, but cost more. Absorbent sock-style barriers can be used to deal with minor flooding, but only up to an inch of water or so; they may be less useful for inclement weather, but may prove indispensable for dealing with backed-up sewage or similar ills.
When he gets up to show me about his cabin, Pense stands with the height and permanence of the dignified trees that encircle the property. He doesn’t say “um,” or “well”—the slow, deliberate syllables that emanate from his jowls feel like historical record, perhaps with a sprinkle of Americana, but not quite jingoism. Listening to him talk about his life is like having R. Lee Ermey recite your high school American studies textbook, but gentler.
Jack Matthews, an American who is the chairman of MediaWorks, a large New Zealand broadcaster, told me, “I think, in the back of people’s minds, frankly, is that, if the world really goes to shit, New Zealand is a First World country, completely self-sufficient, if necessary—energy, water, food. Life would deteriorate, but it would not collapse.” As someone who views American politics from a distance, he said, “The difference between New Zealand and the U.S., to a large extent, is that people who disagree with each other can still talk to each other about it here. It’s a tiny little place, and there’s no anonymity. People have to actually have a degree of civility.”
An argument can be made that even in an emergency, potable water is never too far away; after all, most human settlements have been erected near natural reservoirs: rivers, lakes, or easily reached underground aquifers. But this is an oversimplification. In rural areas, water supply can be fairly meager and vulnerable to weather fluctuations and other cyclic phenomena. For cities, it is true that many of them are seated on the banks of major lakes or rivers, but suburban sprawl can easily put some residents 10-20 miles away from the nearest reservoir; on top of that, some of the 20th century settlements in semi-arid and desert climates rely on water hauled from tens or hundreds of miles away.
Sooner or later, you may find yourself unable to access your bank deposits for a couple of days or weeks. It could be a matter of IT trouble at your bank, of a lost wallet, or of being a victim of identity theft. Heck, take Greece or Cyprus: when the confidence in the nation's financial institutions is shattered, it's easy to get caught up in government-imposed bank closures and withdrawal controls. (Folks in the United States may also recall the forced closure of Washington Mutual in 2008, or several state-level "bank holidays" imposed to combat bank runs during the savings & loan crisis back in the 80s.)
Of all the supplies they suggest you legally or illegally procure, epinephrine sounds like the biggest stretch. We don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but if you suffer from life-threatening allergic reactions and really think you're going to survive limited food sources and practically nonexistent medical care, we've got a mint-condition fallout shelter to sell you.
Not all of these hobbies can be turned into well-paying gigs unless you truly excel at them - but they are guaranteed to be challenging, meaningful, and fun. The Internet gives you ample opportunities to learn from others, compare notes, and get feedback on your work - all without prematurely subjecting yourself to the pressures of the commercial marketplace.
Those impulses are not as contradictory as they seem. Technology rewards the ability to imagine wildly different futures, Roy Bahat, the head of Bloomberg Beta, a San Francisco-based venture-capital firm, told me. “When you do that, it’s pretty common that you take things ad infinitum, and that leads you to utopias and dystopias,” he said. It can inspire radical optimism—such as the cryonics movement, which calls for freezing bodies at death in the hope that science will one day revive them—or bleak scenarios. Tim Chang, the venture capitalist who keeps his bags packed, told me, “My current state of mind is oscillating between optimism and sheer terror.”
If you have a spouse, walk them through your plans and make sure they can access the essential supplies and know how to use them in your absence. If you have children, give them the very basics as well. For example, in case of a fire, they should know the safest way out without having to wait for you; tell them how to react to home intrusions and medical emergencies, too.
You can survive several weeks without food, but you won't be having a very good time. Food is costly, its supply is fairly easily disrupted, and it's a resource that the government may be much less inclined to deliver to your doorstep when things go wrong. So, with a variety of reasonable scenarios to worry about - anything from natural disasters to economic downturns - it just makes sense to be able to feed yourself even if you can't buy groceries for a while.
If the fire is around you and you can’t escape, you don’t have many options, says Shane Hobel of the Mountain Scout Survival School. If there’s a pool or a pond nearby, jump in and try to wait it out there. Otherwise, if you have time, dig a trench that’s two to three feet deep and long enough for you to lie in. Soak a blanket in water, wrap it around yourself, and lie down in the trench. It’s risky, but at least you’ll have a chance.
(For folks who consume coffee or caffeinated beverages daily, and who have near-complete tolerance to caffeine, adrafinil pills can be a viable emergency choice. Adrafinil is a powerful wakefulness-promoting agent with no stimulant properties, and is not a regulated substance in the US and many other parts of the world. Note that daily long-term use carries some risk of liver toxicity and other side effects. Do your homework.)