When you have food, water and shelter, you have covered the basics. And the good news is that the basics will take you a long way. The basics will cover you in 80 percent of your survival situations and help you in the other 20 percent.
In fact, if you prepare for one specific emergency — say a nuclear attack — you will find that you are 80% prepared for some other emergency, such as a terrorist attack or earthquake. The majority of your preparations will serve in any emergency; the last 20% is just customization.
To go beyond the basics, you need to prepare for emergencies that last longer than a hurricane or a blizzard, are not geographically limited to one region, and from which recovery takes years. We are talking about TEOTWAWKI, or the end of the world as we know it.
Let’s take a look at a couple of the world’s worst disasters in recent times – the Tsunami that struck Indonesia. It came and went, wreaking havoc, but the rest of the world was unharmed and able to respond with food and water. Similarly, Hurricane Katrina destroyed the better part of two states, yet people were rescued and relocated to places where there was food, electricity and running water. While severe, both of these disasters were regional events.
Imagine if the entire country had been in a situation similar to New Orleans and the coastal regions of Louisiana and Mississippi. What if the rescue helicopters never flew, the transport busses never rolled, the search and rescue teams never arrived, and there was no food brought in because the rest of the country was in equally bad condition. What if those communities were entirely on there own for the foreseeable future? That is an “end of the world as we know it” scenario.
How could this happen? Nuclear war or multiple EMP blasts is one possibility. A pandemic or plague is another. Another 1929 depression/dustbowl disaster would probably qualify. World War III, with Muslims against the rest of the world. A large asteroid plunging into earth. Severe collapse of our government or loss of confidence in the dollar leading to an economic collapse of the U.S. monetary system. Global trade disruption. Even the cessation of oil from OPEC could cause a massive shift in our economy and living conditions. All of these could be world-changing events that turns our current society on its head.
Clearly, these are heavy duty survival scenarios that require hard-core tactics. This goes beyond keeping three months or more food on hand. Surviving a TEOTWAWKI disaster requires the ability to live independently from much of the rest of society. Luckily, however, we are not pioneers setting out to tame our acreage with only what we can haul in our covered wagon. We get to harness the conveniences and advantages of our modern civilization until the SHTF. That means time to prepare, plan and provide for the future. Now, before it is too late.
Beyond the Survival Basics
When we go beyond the basics of food, water, and shelter, we need to look at tools
Most of us live our lives surrounded by LCD panels, cell phones and automobiles. We cook in microwaves or have food delivered. We have hot water at the turn of the tap and police, fire and ambulances are a phone call away. If your grandmother falls and breaks her hip, she can use her necklace amulet to summon help. If you breakdown on the highway, you can call Roadside Assistance. We are coddled, protected, customer-serviced and waited one to a greater extent than anyone since a king in the 1600s.
But what would you do if all that stopped? What if the satellites stopped working, gasoline was no longer being pumped, electricity flowed rarely or not at all, the water no longer poured from the taps, and food no longer appeared in the drive through lane or the grocery shelf? Chances are that you would be glad to trade your big-screen TV and microwave for some more useful tools. So take the time to decide what those tools would be and buy them now, before disaster strikes.
One way to plan is to think back to the late 1800s when power came from steam engines, horses or human toil. Assuming you don’t have a steam engine or a team of horses to pull your plow or your wagon, you will have to rely on muscle power and hand tools. Here are some things to consider while you are brainstorming.
Tools for Food Prep and Gardening
First, let’s tackle food preparation and production. For preparation, Dave recommends a set or cast iron cookery that can be used over an open flame or on a woodstove. You should have at least a Dutch oven or two and several frying pans of different sizes. (Cast iron cookware is marvelous stuff – we use it every day and don’t even own a Teflon frying pan, so this should be no sacrifice.) Sauce pans and a teapot or percolator coffee pot are also useful. Large pots for boiling water and cooking soup are stew are also important. You should have metal or other non-breakable dishware and cups. Sure, they used China 100 years ago, but you can bet that tin cup and the old percolator coffee pot saw a lot of use as well. For cleaning, it’s good to have large plastic buckets or tubs that can hold the water. If the faucets do not work, you will need to carry water to your sink, or carry your dishware to your water source.
If you are cooking over an open flame, utensils are also important. For example, that plastic spatula isn’t going to cut it; you need a metal one. You also need lid lifters that allow you to lift the lid on a pot or Dutch Oven over a fire without burning your hand. Wooden spoons, ladles and oven mitts are other must-haves.
After you cook, you need to clean up. Steel wool or similar scrubbies are a good idea. Just don’t over do it with soap on your seasoned cast iron.
When the time comes to grow your own food, you may not be able to count on a rototiller or a plow to break the soil. That means digging up the sod, turning it over, working in compost and other back-breaking, finger-blistering work. You will need hand gardening tools like rakes, hoes, spades, shovels, trowls, pitchforks, scythes, sickles, pruning shears, and a watering can. If you need to clear new land, you will need saws, axes and other tools. Sure, you can use a chainsaw, but at some point you may run out of gas. Once clear, you will need a fence-post hole digger, fencing materials and a way to stretch your fence. Garden carts or wheel barrows are terrific labor saving devices as well.
This is just a start; serious gardeners know that tools are labor saving devices that allow them to increase production and be more efficient. They also allow you to increase yields and extend the growing season. So going beyond basic tools can include investing cold frames, tomato cages, stakes, drip water systems, seed spreaders, sprayers, etc.
If you have orchards, nut trees, or berry patches – either domestic or wild – you may need specialized tools for gathering the fruit, trimming the trees, propagating it for the future, and ensuring continued harvests.
Once you harvest the garden’s bounty, do you have a way to preserve it? Will you dig a root cellar or do you have lots of canning jars and lids? Do you have a pressure canner and instructions? If you are planning to make jelly and jam, do you have pectin, or know how to make it naturally? Do you know how to dehydrate your fruit and vegetables? Do you know what will store through the winter and under what conditions? Do you have salt and vinegar to pickle things? Do you know how to make more vinegar?
If you are planning to trap game, do you have traps and snares? (see Buckshot’s Survival Trapping section.) Do you have the raw materials and know-how to make more? Do you have fishing line, nets and other gear? Do you have the equipment to butcher an animal that you have caught, from skinning it and removing the offal to cutting steaks, grinding meat, making jerky or sausage? Do you have what do you need to tan the hide?
Common wood-working and other “work shop” tools are also important to build things, from furniture to buildings to other tools. We’re talking different kinds of hammers, saws, screwdrivers, hand-powered drills, chisels, files, clamps, vices, plumb line, level, measuring tape, planes, rasps, tongs, punches, hatchets, and especially knives. Don’t forget spare saw blades and a grinder and sharpening stones.
What about nails, screws, even nuts and bolts? Once Home Depot shuts its doors, where will you go to get these important fasteners? You need to have a good stock, or it will quickly be time to call a blacksmith or salvage nails from a teardown. Or perhaps whittling pegs – a real step backwards.
If you know how to weld, do you have a welder and appropriate supplies? Maybe you want to become a blacksmith or do other metal fabrication – ouch that takes space, lots of tools and training as well as fuel and raw materials. Or maybe you want to work metals like a machine shop – however are you going to do that without steam power or power from a water-driven mill wheel. (This is getting complicated!)
For heating and cooking with wood, you may need wedges and a maul or sledge hammer to split wood as well as a large saw to cut it. Two-man saws work best for cutting large diameter trees or logs, but are not something you run across too often. Stock up on D-shaped hand saws and spare blades. (Obviously, if you are in an apartment, you won’t have most of this, but if you live in a rural setting, you may find value in having many of these tools even with our modern conveniences such as chain saws and hydraulic wood splitters.)
You also need some way to haul that wood from the forest where you cut it, such as a sled, skid or wagon. Without a team of horses, you may have to haul the firewood yourself, but that is why it warms you twice.
Inside the house, you will need tools too, things like needles and thread, sponges, dishtowels, rags and scrub brushes, maybe an old washboard. And what about a clothesline? Forget vacuuming without electric power – you will need a broom, dustpan and mop. And if you want to make your own clothing, we’re talking spinning wheel, loom, maybe a peddle-powered sewing machine… uh oh, there we go getting complicated again.
Generally useful things that can be used in many areas include the ubiquitous duct tape; several kinds of glue and epoxy; pocket knives; rope, string, cord and everything in between; pens, pencils and paper to write on or maybe an old manual typewriter; lighters, matches, and other fire starting devices;
Do you have any oil lamps, candles or lanterns? What will you do for re-supply?
Do you have kids? If not, and you are between puberty and menopause, what are the chances you will have them if your birth control method runs out or wears out? Do you have bottles and nipples? How about a supply of cloth diapers? Expect infant mortality rates to climb and more women to die in childbirth. But at the same time, expect obesity to drop, probably drastically.
What about cleanliness – do you have a good supply of toothbrushes and toothpaste? What about soap and shampoo, laundry detergent and dish detergent. Do you know how to make more? Good sanitation is critical to healthy living.
Whew! Surviving sounds like a lot of work. No wonder our ancestors were such hardy folk – they had to do everything the hard way.
Captain Dave is not suggesting that everyone moves to a five acre homestead, raise goats and chickens, plant a big garden, install a solar power array, or build a steam engine to power your machine shop, grain mill and loom. But it is a good idea to strive for self-sufficiency and to prepare by laying in supplies and building your skills. The more you have stored today, the better prepare you will be to live through a TEOTWAWKI situation.
Your ability to survive in a multi-year global societal break down – or the end of the world as we know it – will depend not just on what is stored in your basement, but on your attitude, ability, tools and your skills. Having a needle and thread will not help if you don’t know how to sew. Having an axe will not help if the first time you use it you take a chunk out of your leg. You need to know how to use these tools, both in theory and practice.
It is easy to know you need to line up the front sight in the notch of the rear, but it is a completely different thing to actually shoot a deer.