1. What type of disaster are you preparing for?
1a. The type of disaster is critical because the conditions often limit potential resources, make egress routes more difficult, etc. Try to organize your potential responses by identifying the most likely disasters for your area and creating responses for each. Some portions of the responses will be shared across all scenarios. You should identify a safe destination for each scenario, including at least one long-term destination outside of the impacts or safe from the impacts of all of your scenarios. Always start with planning what you will need to have at your objective, or destination, and plan backwards to understand how you will need to get it all there, how you will procure it and what you need.
2. You really need a good defensive position for your long-term destination. The basement of your house in suburbia is not going to work for you—just ask the folks in Tuzla, Bosnia or any number of other places that witnessed the excrement hit the fan. Be sure that your destination is at least four hours outside of any city of more than 300,000 and well off of main roads (preferably an hour or more). Look for a position that offers concealment for your main camp and an area with long sight lines over all approaches that allows sentries to keep an eye on avenues of approach.
2a. Here is some guidance for urban areas if you wait too long to leave and find yourself stuck in a city for a time.
2b. Here is some guidance for rural areas and choosing/creating good defenses.
3. Water. Water. Water. You need to be able to purify large quantities on your own. A piece of defensible land with a network of fresh springs is best. I hear some of you thinking “I’ll boil it”. Be sure you have fuel to do so wherever you’ll be doing it and enough filtration or purification pills to provide what you need until you can boil enough to get you through. Plan for about 3 liters of water per day, per person. That’s what an active person needs for drinking and conservative hygiene. Plan an additional two liters/person for a quickie shower once every week too. The bump to morale a shower provides is a great thing. Purified water isn’t necessary for a shower but you should strain it and boil it anyway; there are some critters that live in water that you don’t want to make the acquaintance of without good medical care.
4. Think about teaming up with your trustworthy friends and family. Share the load, so to speak. If you are a “professional” with no real ties to those around you then I suggest you start making some. Right now.
5. I hear a lot of you also thinking “Guns.”. Well, technically you only need one. That’s enough to be able to get more. Stick to NATO/law enforcement rounds for survival situations (5.56x45mm, 9x19mm, .40 S&W, .45 ACP, 7.62x51mm, .300 WinMag—I would say .50 BMG/12.7mm but if you have that you probably don’t need this little primer). I also recommend a couple of good, accurate .22 LRs rifles or carbines and a 12 ga shotgun with interchangeable short (18 in.) & long (24+) barrels. A .22mag is also nice to have or a .44 Magnum lever action. These are for hunting. A .22 mag is sufficient for a good shot to bring down game up to and including deer at close ranges (under 175 meters) and a .44 mag rifle with good ammunition will bring down almost anything in North America within the same range. With solid bullets and good shot placement you can even kill small game like rabbits and pheasant without completely destroying the meat with a .44 mag carbine.
6. Think through all four seasons and remember that the staying local option may not be open or may close after a period. Do NOT go into the mountains in the late summer, fall or winter without having a place prepared with food, fuel etc. For more information on why this is, Google the “Donner Party”.
7. Remember that everything needs to be mobile—perhaps without gasoline. A market will spring up in the mid to long term but until then you may end up abandoning or caching whatever you can’t carry.
8. Precious metals and gemstones—but only if you can protect them. Focus on silver rather than gold. Gold is just worth too much and is hard to trade. Folks that have spent time in Bosnia or Beirut (in the 80s) say that ammo becomes currency. Get a bunch of .22 LR and you’ll not regret it.
9. Cattle and other livestock are good if they will be there when you get there and if you can protect them. They are a requirement for sustained living over a longer period of time, as is the ability to grow food during the growing season.
10. Have rally points for your friends and family. Think about locating a cache near one or more of the probable rally points.
11. Have a “Go/No Go” decision tree made in advance. Don’t allow your emotions to get in the way of survival. Make one and stick to it. Be sure your significant other/trustworthy friends and family agree to it without reservation and have them sign it. Be prepared to make the hard choice to leave folks behind if they won’t act when the trigger conditions are met.
12. Think. A lot. Most situations can be survived if you have thought about them in advance. Adrenaline is a poor substitute for planning—although any action can sometimes be better in a survival situation than doing nothing.
13. GPS is nice, while you have batteries and the satellites are flying. If you don’t know what terms like “magnetic deviation”, “pace count” and “dead reckoning” are and don’t own at least two milspec lensatic compasses then you need to do some studying and practicing and think about taking a course in land navigation.
14. Boots, boots and boots. Footwear is a treasure in survival situations—especially long term. Wool socks too. 100% wool. Lots of them. Foot powder. These three things are essential to your survival. They are as important as water and more so than food, in the short term.
15. Stop thinking about living and start thinking about existing. Make the change in your mindset now. Challenge yourself to cut back on thongs and find simple things to enjoy, like playing cards (not gambling) and dominos or reading. Things that can take your mind off of your situation that are available anywhere.
16. Do not do things like climbing, etc. that cause you to be in danger when you are in a survival situation. You are in enough as it is. Don’t take silly chances when medical care/rescue are not an option.
17. Take care of your feet and your back. This is one of the most important things I have said. If you have sores on you back from your pack, stop and disinfect and bandage them. Fix the pack so it doesn’t cause these any more. If your feet are wet, stop and dry them as soon as it is humanly possible and apply foot powder. If you have blisters, stop moving for a few days, if possible. Yes, it is that important. Yes, really.
18. Never stand where you can sit, never sit where you can lay down and never lay down without going to sleep. Keep someone on watch at all times. Stay low. Always. When you stop, take a knee. Face outward.
19. Fires are for cooking, killing your night vision and drawing bugs—and possibly drawing unfriendly people. Make the fire out of very dry fuel in a sharp depression where the smoke will diffuse through living tree boughs and put it out when the food is ready. Make fires only during daytime with really dry wood to minimize smoke. Cook enough to eat for your dinner too. Try to only light fires when there is a good breeze and you have a good line of sight downwind from the fire.
20. FAT is necessary to long-term survival. Not fat on you but fat in your diet. You cannot survive long-term on venison, rabbit, birds, etc. You have to have fat from bears or beavers or cattle/buffalo, etc. Fat from milk or dairly products is great if you have some cattle or goats to get it from.
Good stuff to have in a rally point cache: (Remember the rule: two is one and one is none. Always have two backups if you can carry them—since one is none)
1. A real, honest-to-goodness Bowie knife that is sharp-enough to shave the hair off of your arm (replaces hunting knife, machete and hatchet)
2. A good sharpener and leather strop.
3. Water purification tablets. Enough for everyone x2 + 20%
4. If you don’t have a weapon with you, you’ll need one here with a minimum of 128 rounds of ammo and no more than 250/person (too heavy).
5. Disposable rain ponchos in dark colors and a couple of bright ones. Have a few extras.
6. Emergency space blankets—have extras
7. Gorilla tape: 3-4 rolls
8. Bandanas (yes, bandanas). They are useful in all kinds of situations from keeping your face warm and acting as a sling, compress or tourniquet to straining large particulates out of water before purification. No matter how purified it is, crunchy or chewy water is never good–trust me on this.
9. If you can get your hands on it, 1 large roll of 300 lb Kevlar string (medical supply store). If not, ~ 50’ good rope (not climbing-grade) and some dark colored nylon string.
10. Really basic fishing supplies (hooks & fishing line) and a book on snares.
11. GPS and lensatic compass (remember the rule)
12. Backpack(s) that fits everything with a frame
13. Good hiking boots and extra socks
14. Paper currency and some silver
15. A serious multi-day first aid kit with first aid manual unless you are a paramedic. Be sure it has blister bandages or pack your own)
16. Foot powder—Gold Bond- 2 per person + 20%
17. A bottle of Absorbine Linament (get it from a veterinary supply store)
18. The Ranger Handbook (with each page laminated with holes punched in the corner held together with a D-ring) (expensive to do but priceless)
19. Flashlight with red and green lenses
20. Hand crank Shortwave/AM/FM/Weather band radio
21. Batteries and hand-crank or solar charging device
22. 1 gallon and storage size Ziplock bags
23. Boy scout style flatware and cook set
24. Quite a bit of paper and pencils and pens
25. Set of good Motorola radios (35 mile range)
26. Package of road flares
27. Several Lighters and matches
28. A few of the good Igloo 5 gallon or larger water containers. These can be used to bury everything in and then re-used as water or gasoline containers. Seal them with bathroom/kitchen caulk when burying everything.
29. Salt and lots of it. Bags, not packets.
30. Best to bury stuff on land that you have legitimate access to and is not close to any major roads.
One note: I have been through all of this before. We all thought Clinton was going to come for us or we were going to get nuked or Red Dawn was going to happen and before that there were many others (or so my dad said). I don’t really believe that anything is going to happen, anymore. I also know the price of being unprepared if it does. Be prudent but not paranoid and dial every rumor you hear down about 5 notches. The stuff above is good for a long time. You only need to replace it about every 5 years (batteries maybe more often). Put the perishables (first aid kit, absorbine, duct tape, compass, batteries, etc.) together so you have less digging to do when the replacement time comes. The Foxfire books are good to have around as well. All kinds of knowledge such as how to make lye soap (rendered fat and fine ash aka potash) how to preserve meats by salting, smoking, etc., how to tan hides, make clothing, medicinal herbs, fungus and plants and how to dig a root cellar for food and medicine storage, building a log cabin or dugout, etc.. All kinds of good information in them for long-term survival.
Take a Bible too. It is a very comforting thing to have when SHTF.