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Folks worry about zombies, asteroids or nuclear war as the agent of humanity's demise. It's the more mundane things, though, that should keep us up at night. To wit:

ARkStorm: California’s other "Big One"

While this is a hypothetical scenario, it still scares the crap out of me. Floods always have since childhood. I grew up in hurricane country. This is a tough balancing act, though, because you don't want to be too far from a water source.

This is also another reason to ensure you understand your local climate. Your life may depend on what you know might be possible.


Man vs. Wild, starring Bear Grylls
Man vs. Wild, starring Bear Grylls

Starring Bear Grylls

This show should be required watching, period. Granted, none of his shows focus on the undead since this was recorded pre-SHTF, but that shouldn't stop you. The host is a hard-core dude who will eat anything, scale sheer cliffs and self-administer enemas. You don't argue with that kind of crazy.

Crazy like a fox, though. You would do well to listen to the man. Mr. Grylls teaches you what you need to know in order to survive in extreme situations. His approach is simple, focusing on the basics:

  1. Water: This would seem to be a no brainer, but back when potable water was ubiquitous, folks who suddenly didn't have ready access to a plastic bottles of water were at a loss. You need to know where to find it, how to decontaminate it and how much your body truly needs. Basic, yes, but absolutely life saving.
  2. Food: Ditto for food, but the emphasis here is getting over the icky factor. I've written about picky eaters before and want to re-emphasize some of the points I made. Eating is first and foremost about fueling your body. Everything else about a meal is a luxury. Bear shows you various sources of protein that will help you in the short term. Master that gag reflex and eat some bugs!
  3. Shelter: A mistake many folks made was waiting too long in the day to seek out shelter. You cannot do that as the sun is going down. I realize that many folks were in a hurry to get back home to their loved ones, but it was death to be caught out at night. Bear teaches you when and where to look, which applies even in a world overrun by zombies, but I would try to elevate my shelter more than he recommends. Another issue to consider that wasn't taken up by Bear is escape routes. You may be out of reach of grasping hand when you're up that tree, but you'll surely starve to death.
  4. Rescue: This is where Mr. Grylls' usefulness ends. There is no rescue in a world ruled by the undead. Even uninfected humans are a danger, indeed your greatest threat. This speaks to your ability to pace yourself. Patience is the key.

There are 5 seasons' worth of episodes, but you do not need to watch them all. At minimum, find those shows which match your local conditions. However, don't limit yourself since you never know where you might one day find yourself. I would watch at least one of each of these type:

  • Desert
  • Mountain
  • Arctic / Winter Conditions
  • Jungle / Swamp
  • Ocean / Desert Island

Bear Grylls is a man I want on my team, though probably not as chef.


A Canticle for Leibowitz
A Canticle for Leibowitz

by Walter M. Miller, Jr.

I have to be careful how I say this or I might come across as one who enjoys the end of the world: If the world must end, the swiftness and violence of TeoTWaWKI can be a blessing. You have no choice but to accept the fact that the world as you knew it is no longer. When the destruction is so complete and return impossible, you can look to the task at hand. Such is the case in A Canticle for Leibowitz.

This masterfully written novel posits a world in which we infer a nuclear exchange wiped out civilization sometime in the mid-20th century. The story is broken up into 3 parts taking place 300, 600 and 1,200 years post-SHTF. Unlike most stories I've reviewed here, you do not see what happens during the crisis, only after stability has returned. And the fact that we're dealing in centuries should tell you the extent of the damage that occurred, that we're talking sociological far more than physical infrastructure.

Nothing had been so hateful in the sight of these mobs as the man of learning, at first because they had served the princes, but then later because they refused to join the bloodletting and tried to oppose the mobs, calling the crowds "bloodthirsty simpletons."

A common mistake for pre-SHTF planners is to assume reasoned behavior on the part of survivors, that even violent behavior would be guided by a rational sense of survival. That has consistently proven to not be the case. Beware the man who is having difficulty redrawing his mental map, especially if his is armed. You cannot appeal to his senses. You best get out of his way. Woe to the land over-run by a mob of such people.

The thon's gaze seemed to clamp calipers on the abbot's cranium and measure it six ways.

One other aspect of end of the world scenarios that this book covers well is that of scope. There is the short term: how do I survive the crisis? Then there is the long term: I have survived, now what? This book deals in the epochal, survival not just of a man, but of mankind. There are three stages to this process:

  1. Archive the Knowledge: Gather everything from the old world, wherever you may find it.
  2. Protect the Knowledge: Both from enemies who would seek to destroy it as well as time that would corrupt and erode it.

  3. Disseminate the Knowledge: When the time is right, release it back into society so that it may help humanity to grow and prosper.

I highly recommend this book. The characters are engaging and the issues raised provoke much thought after you done reading. Compared to the world the author describes, I feel we got of light. What's a horde of zombies compared to full scale nuclear war?

Police: Woman bites man after being called fat

There's been a lot of stupidity lately in dealing with the undead. Perhaps too much time has past since the catastrophe that people have forgotten how to handle themselves.

Don't taunt a zombie! They don't get it, you look like a fool and you'll probably wind up a zed yourself. Leave it to the professionals.

Fat zombies, ugh! That brings back some unpleasant memories. They might be slower moving, but when they get a head of steam going, they can barrel through all but the strongest barriers. I had a particularly nasty encounter in a dark hall way in which the freaking thing, though finally killed, still blocked my exit. I still have nightmares about that.

This is a constant subject of conversation: What could I have done to improve my chances once we had an outbreak of undead? If you knew for sure that it was coming, yes:

  • Build a fortress
  • Stock it with a lifetime supply of food and ammo
  • Heck, build a solar array and a reverse osmosis water purification plant

Truly, though, even with 20/20 hindsight, you'd've been an idiot to do that. Taking such steps would have meant completely writing off a normal life. If the end of the world never came, you'd be broke and probably lose contact with your kids after they leave the nest, seeking a normal life.

This is not to say, however, that you couldn't prepare in a way that would still be beneficial if you never encountered a single zombie in your lifetime. This is just general good advice.

  1. Get in shape: The ability to run long distances interspersed with quick sprints not only maintains a healthy cardio-vascular system, but also allows you to escape the hoards of undead giving you chase.
  2. Get regular checkups: The last thing you want in any TEotWaWKI situation is to experience a health issue. Make sure you're always up to date on your vaccinations, get your teeth checked every 6 months and pay special attention to foot health. Zed would just love it if you had a bad case of plantar fascitis.
  3. Know how to use and maintain a fire arm: First, get a lesson on how to fire a weapon. You're local gun shop or firing range should have classes. Once you're comfortable with that, buy something. Become an expert in how it works. Keep it clean.
  4. Understand your local weather patterns: This means more than just reading the weather report everyday. You need to be able to rely on more than just your newspaper and be familiar with the whole region. Quick, tell me, when does the first frost usually happen where you live?
  5. Be the map: I know, you're thinking, "I have no problems getting from point A to point B." I'm telling you, post-SHTF, your points A and B are going to change. Can you navigate off road? What are some terrain features that could impede your progress? What if you're half way to point B and learn you need to get your butt to point C?

Like I said, I believe this to be valuable advice whether or not the dead rise again.


Cops believe teacher ate piece of ear she bit off man

I want to urge caution here. Enough time has past since the Zombie Wars that the risen dead are quite rare. Odd behavior is not enough to indicate someone is a zombie. Play it safe, follow the standard protocol:

  1. Clear the premises.
  2. Alert the authorities.
  3. Monitor all exits.

Don't risk going to jail on a murder wrap if you can keep everyone safe without resort to violence.


After Armageddon on the History Channel
After Armageddon on the History Channel

Aired on The History Channel

I DVR'd a bunch of stuff that aired during "Apocalypse Week" on the History Channel back in January. I was reluctant to watch this one since it's a talking-head-SMEs-with-reenactors show typical of the History and Discover channels. I was pleasantly surprised, however, that it was both informative and entertaining.

The show posits an outbreak of a virulent disease that wipes out the vast majority of humankind. We follow the experiences of a family during and after the pandemic, through multiple cycles of delay, deliberation and action stretching over years. Their experiences clearly demonstrate fundamental aspects of a survival mentality as well as practical advice.

The show reinforced some basic skills that we should all be familiar with now:

  • Don't be a picky eater
  • Look for water where ever it may be
  • Beware of strangers

I was bemused to learn a new way to gather fuel that would have saved me many a foul mouthful of gas: Puncture the tank and drain it. Why didn't I think of that? I feel like a n00b. If you don't need the vehicle containing the gas, this is much easier than siphoning. I would imagine, though, that you'd need to be careful not to create a spark.

More important than the tactics of survival are the approaches they recommend:

  1. If you have a valuable post-SHTF skill, it's probably best that you hide that fact until you'r certain of your position. You wouldn't want to be held against your will just because the town you passed through doesn't have a doctor.
  2. Don't be stingy with your help, but remember your priorities. Lending aid when it would cost you little may pay you back many times over later.
  3. Understand that the old way of life is over. We were nice back then because we were well off. We could rely on people's good behavior because there was a long term cost to screwing someone over. But when your event horizon is no more than a day or two into the future, those long term concerns evaporate. This makes bad behavior easier.

Those who fail to grok all of these points tend not last long when TEotWaWKI hits.

Finally, the show ably addresses the issue of scale. Knowledge of the extent of the problem — the area affected and how long it will last — greatly increases the chances of survival. However, most people do not have access to this information or reject it when they do. It is hard to part with the world as you knew it. Most people were strongly invested in it: a nice house, a good job and kids in school. I've heard many comments criticizing the family's failure to act in a timely manner. But I understand, it's hard to let go.

I will usually applaud efforts to prepare for the worst. Even just thinking about what you might do in a given scenario can help you make the right decisions in a stressful situation. This is something all individuals and families should be doing.

I get a little leery, though, when larger groups of people or, especially, political entities do so. I'm not saying that it cannot be done right; with careful planning and a reasoned and transparent prioritization process, it can be most effective. However, it's been my experience that this is rarely the case.

First of all, who is or is not to be protected is a critical decision that is frequently not clearly spelled out. Of course, not everyone can be covered. No one has infinite resources, so you have to limit your efforts. The reason why these limits are not made explicit is because of the deal making in deciding who is included and the bigotry in the exclusions.

Secondly, the lack of training and skill in those implementing the plans can make the situation worse than if nothing at all was done. The last thing you need is some jack-ass shooting of his mouth or gun at the wrong time and you'll have mass panic on your hands.

A case that worries me: Louisiana Cops Plan for “End of the World” Scenario.

Deen’s plan is to protect Bossier Parish’s vital resources, like food and gasoline, in the event of a catastrophic event, such as war or a terrorist attack. Deen said he had been thinking of the plan since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, reports Drew Pierson.

Under Deen’s plan, the police will use volunteers, supplemented with active public safety personnel, that will be dispatched to vital areas in Bossier to protect them from looters and rioters. Deen listed as examples grocery stores, gas stations, hospitals and other public meeting places.

Instead of normal riot equipment such as shields and batons, the volunteers will be armed with shotguns and have access to a .50-caliber machine gun mounted on a vehicle dubbed “the war wagon.” On February 20, the volunteers were trained in hand-to-hand combat techniques.

I think I'd be a little worried if I lived in Bossier Parish.

OK, before the first wise guy comments, I know winter is nearly over. I had considered writing this article in November, but I realized that it's too late at that point to prepare. You need to start now if you want to be ready for the next winter.

Stop and think!
Take Time to Plan!

These are some basic steps to help you make it through the cold, dark months:

  1. Plan for the long haul. Assume you're going to be isolated, without chance of resupply, for at least 6 months. Sure, this may be more than enough even for the Canadians, but you shouldn't count on a normal winter pattern. Make sure you have enough food, water, heating supplies, sheltering material and entertainment (don't forget about mental health). Even if you over plan, you have left over stuff. That's certainly better than the alternative.
  2. Establish more than one location. That effort you did up in step 1, repeat it at least once more. The last thing you want is to be forced to abandon your shelter in the middle of sub-zero temperatures with no other place to go. This is a very real possibility: You could be attacked by others or maybe you just got careless and burnt your house down. Having the option may save you from risking your life unnecessarily.
  3. Do not reveal your presence. Smoke discipline is a year-round skill you probably have already mastered. Snow tracking, though, can trip you up. Try your hardest not to leave any tracks in the snow around your shelter. I realize that this might not always be possible. Judicious use of hedges can hide your trails in such cases. If that doesn't work, then go to the other extreme. Leave tracks all over to make it appear that large numbers of folks frequent the area.

There is no guarantee when it comes to winter. The meteorological gods may be against you such that no planning would suffice. However, if you think it through ahead of time, you can increase your odds.

Apocalypse Man starring Rudy Reyes
Apocalypse Man starring Rudy Reyes

Starring Rudy Reyes

The History Channel recently aired their Apocalypse Week. I had very low expectations, but surprisingly, they were exceeded. There is enough useful advice in the shows that I watched to make it worthwhile watching.

Case in point: Apocalypse Man. Rudy Reyes, a former Marine, walks you through the steps necessary to survive a general TEotWaWKI event. Since this was made pre-SHTF, he didn't know to include advice about the undead. Still, he gave some useful advice. This ranges from the general — make your shelter on the second floor of a building: high enough to be defensible, low enough to still escape if necessary — to the specific — steel wool and a 9-volt battery make for a great fire starter.

Still, not all of his guidance is tenable. I'm not talking about about instances where zombies render his suggestions invalid, like making for the hospital (truly, that would be the LAST place I'd've gone). Rather, he seemed to contradict himself by saying, on the one hand, keep a low profile, don't let others know of your existence, yet, on the other, literally broadcast your plans to anyone with a radio. Also, while he's transmitting his destination over the shortwave, he's telling you to get there 24 hours before anyone else so you can scout them out. Wouldn't that be a little difficult now that you've communicated your intentions to everyone within a 20 mile radius?

My daughter also raised the issue that it's fine and dandy if you've had the training it takes to be a member of a Marine recon platoon, but what about the rest of us? I nearly concurred, but realize that this is just the point. You need more than the knowledge of the strategy and tactics of survival. You need to be in shape, you need to have useful skills and a crisis shouldn't be the first time you're doing these tasks. Perhaps that is the real lesson Rudy is teaching.