Surviving the end of the world Part I: getting out of dodge means being prepared

As the zombie-like attacks continue to pop up in the news, I’ve been forced to consider (not for the first time) what a probable end of the world would be like.  And while I’m certain a flesh-eating infection is probably one of the most unlikely ways humanity will meet its doom (thank goodness!), it’s also the most fun to talk about.  Besides, many of the situations we would face in a Zombieland society would still exist in any other post-apocalyptic world- desperation for ownership of resources, the letdown of modern technology, the need to pack up our easy, familiar lives and start over somewhere new.  Whatever the reason, self-reliance and quick-thinking will always be key.  In homage to one of my greatest fears, I’ve decided to post a several-part series compiled of survival and thrival tips for when the shit hits the proverbial fan.

Along with my many years as a GirlScout, where our motto is “be prepared,” I’ve been turning to my favorite survival movies and shows for inspiration.  Whether you’re concerned with becoming a Walking Dead Daryl or avoiding a widespread government breakdown, please enjoy the first installment of surviving the end of the world: being prepared for the worst.

Sexy-ass Daryl from the Walking Dead

The first, and most important thing to remember about being prepared is, well, you have to be PREpared.  Seems like a “duh” comment to make, but clearly a necessary one.  Unsurprisingly, the largest downfall of most of our favorite horror movie characters; and indeed, of most people in real-life disasters, is their last-minute approach to survival.  Yes, it’s true that no one likes to think about unpleasant things.  We would much rather focus on the good things in life- if you’re like me, passing your exams and having enough money to still buy drinks after paying rent is a cause for celebration.  I’m one of the last people who wants to spend time and money setting resources aside for a possible future.

However, ask any one of the richest and most powerful people in the world (not those fifteen-minute reality stars, I’m talking Bill Gates and Michael Symon here), and they’ll tell you that their success stems from hard work and saving for tomorrow.  In the recent economic downturn, we all saw the free-spending McMansion owners lose their houses and their credit-bought possessions to foreclosure and debt.  Every theater-major college coed knows that Mommy and Daddy will eventually cut off the gravy train, and their student loans will have to be repaid.  Even Aesop told us that being prepared means copying the ant, not the grasshopper.  The idea of using the present to better secure your future is a tactic passed down from the first human to drop from the evolutionary tree.  Sadly, many of us Americans reject this time-tested wisdom and chose to live in fantasy land, a place that tends to come crashing down once its support systems are taken away.  After all, if there is no more government to run the delivery trucks (or the drivers all get eaten by voracious zombies), where will the groceries come from?  The tools? The life-saving medications?  THE TOILET PAPER?!?!

With that thought in mind, surviving ANY disaster depends on what you do NOW to prepare.

1. Get in shape.  This is probably the most important rule of surviving.  No matter how many weapons or cans of food you’ve stashed in your bug-out-bag, if it’s too heavy for you to lift and you can’t run more than a minute without being in danger of a heart-attack, you’re boned.  As a violently addicted foodie with a jam-packed schedule, I understand that it’s hard to find time to exercise and avoid those chili cheese fries.  But with two-thirds of adult Americans classified as obese, this is a point that needs to be made: start taking the stairs and packing your lunch.  If you’re so fat you can’t get out of bed, there is no way you are going to survive any situation where McDonalds is closed.

2. Be able to survive at least three days off the stuff in your house.  This means you need to have enough canned or dehydrated food and bottled water to make nine meals without stepping out your front door.  If the government declares marshall law, riots ensue, or a flu-like disease begins running rampant, you won’t be able to stop at your favorite restaurant for dinner.  As a farmer’s daughter who grew up in a family of six, it amazes me whenever one of my friends admits they have nothing but butter and Red Bull in their fridge.  Speaking from a place of practicality, it just makes logical sense to have basic supplies lying around.  Rivers flood, blackouts happen, and snowstorms abound every single year.  It is just plain stupid not to stockpile some canned food.

3. Brush up on basic first aid and survival skills.  Does a high-powered executive living in New York need to know how to skin a rabbit and climb a mountain?  No.  Should he know how to tread water, build a fire, and dress a light wound?  I sure think so (especially in New York!)  In today’s modern society, we are all WAY too dependent on our technologies and conveniences.  Making yourself more self-sufficient will only help you to survive.

4. Have an exit strategy. This entails several different things:

a. Identify at least three different ways to be able to leave your place of residence and high-tail it out of your town or city.  A big SUV won’t help much if all the main roads are jam-packed with other panicking citizens.  Consider another method of travel, or map out a back-roads route that will be less populated.

b. Build a Bug Out Bag (or B.O.B.) and always have it READY TO GO.  Massive hurricanes and roving bands of looters won’t wait for you to gather supplies.  You may not have more than a few minutes to grab your stuff and run to safety.  This is where my dad fails in his “just-in-case” planning- for all his Y2K paranoia, he never had any supplies packed up and instantly portable.  My folks may have massive amounts of canned spam and plenty of other tricks up their sleeves, but when it comes to being able to leave the family farm in under five minutes, I highly doubt they could do it.

This is where the handy Bug Out Bag comes into play.  Also referred to as a 3 day or 72 hr. kit, the point of a B.O.B. is to keep you alive until you can get somewhere safe.  Everyone’s kit will be different to reflect their environment, level of skill, and personal needs; however there are a few basic items everyone should have.

-Three ways to gather water.  You’ve heard the saying: an average human being can only survive three minutes without air, three days without water, three weeks without food.  It is a good idea to not only have some water already stored, but to be able to collect it in at least three different ways, in case one method fails you.  Drinking straight from a pond or stream can be a bad idea because of those pesky, invisible viruses and bacteria that can lay you up with diarrhea, vomiting, or worse.  Hand-pump filters, water-filtration caplets, and even a light-weight kettle for boiling water will get rid of most pathogens.  A refillable canteen is also a must.

-Three ways to start a fire.  Are you noticing a theme here?  The preppers cardinal rule of three- ensuring you always have a backup.  Magnesium fire starters are a great resource because they last much longer than matches.  However, it is always a good idea to have waterproof matches stored in a film canister or small jar.  Old egg cartons filled with flammable candle wax and stored in a plastic ziplock bag are great, inexpensive, portable tinders we used in GirlScouts to start our fires the lazy way.

Magnesium fire starter

-Food: dehydrated and freeze dried are the best because it’s lightweight and lasts longer, though canned foods are usually cheaper and easier to find.  Don’t forget a can opener.

-Cooking supplies: you can usually get nestled camping pots and pans, which fit inside each other and take up less space.  A collapsible bucket takes up less space than you’d think and is invaluable after a few days.

Seattle Sports Collapsable Camping Bucket

-Shelter and Extra Clothing: a warm, mummy-style sleeping bag, a foldable rain cover or tent, and most importantly, a waterproof tarp or mat to put underneath.  Nothing sucks heat out of your body faster than lying on the unprotected ground.  Gloves, a hat, and extra socks and underwear are the minimum.

-First Aid.  This is one of the most important things you can take with you.  Traveling without the help of modern conveniences will always put you in danger of hurting yourself.  Bandages, scissors, a cloth brace, a sewing kit, activated charcoal- all these things are relatively cheap and can be put together for a personalized first aid kit.  Pain and prescription medications are also a must.

-Lights and tools.  Consider two forms of illumination: a battery-powered LED light and a crank-powered light.  Imperative tools include survival knives with a full tang (the blade goes all the way down to the end of the handle), fishing line and hooks, rope, and a lightweight axe.  Simple plastic bags take up almost no space and are always useful.  Duct tape can be used for anything from keeping bandages clean to repairing tools.

Smith and Wesson survival knife with full tang

Energizer crank-powered LED flashlight

-Weapons.  This is really much more of a personal preference, but a strong knife or machete wins out over guns in my book.  They’re quieter, require less maintenance, and don’t use any finite ammo.

c. Lastly, make sure you run an evacuation drill or at least discuss with your family or friends ahead of time where you would meet and what you would do in an emergency situation.

I know this was a long article, but it doesn’t even begin to cover everything in a “get out of dodge” plan.  Though recent movies and shows like “Doomsday Preppers” definitely over-hypes rather unlikely situations, they all provide an undeniable kernel of truth.  Those who are prepared will survive, those who are not will have to rely on the mercy and kindness of others.  History has proved again and again that society is not immune to total anarchy.  And if there’s one thing an un-serious comedy like Zombieland proves, when the rules break down, humanity often goes with it.

Click here for the next installment of survival planning.

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2 thoughts on “Surviving the end of the world Part I: getting out of dodge means being prepared

  1. […] The Other Welcome to Part II of the apocalypse/disaster survival guide!  (For Part I, click here)  Now that you have what you need to be prepared for the worst, are you prepared to defend it […]

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