by Dan W
Intro: As I read the posts on MD’s Blog the other day I was thinking about our prepping. I figured we are very well prepared but it was also obvious that there were some areas where we could improve. One thought led to another and soon I was deep into thoughts of #10 cans and ammo! I was brought back to attention by movement outside of my office window. A small group of deer was browsing the forest floor. I was pleased to see that they had survived an especially hard winter and thought how it was that they didn’t have to prepare for each season …….. just eat as much as they could before snow covered the ground and their browse.
One thought led to another and then it hit me! We are all working so hard to be ready; everyone is talking about their preparations for the SHTF ……….. we all want to be ready for whatever unpleasant times the future may hold. But……….What about “AFTER” the SHTF? I mean immediately after! How we act during the first few critical moments or hours after an event will to a great extent determine if we’re even around to live in a new world and enjoy all those dehydrated meals. Kind of like we are all athletes preparing for the big game, exercising to get our muscles in shape, eating healthy food, buying special equipment but not giving much thought to “getting” to the actual game we’re preparing for.
Seems like every now and then this issue arises as a sideline to another topic but, as far as I know, it hasn’t been addressed directly. This article offers some of my thoughts about what we can/should do to successfully ride out those initial moments after the SHTF. Acronyms are a great memory aid and teaching tool and, as you can see, I’ve used that technique here.
A = Assessment: The first thing to be done is to assess your actual situation. This must be done pretty much without regard for whatever it is that has caused the SHTF. To use an oft quoted saying; “It is what it is”. Regardless of what you were doing when the SHTF, you have now been forced into a state of flux. An immediate and accurate critical assessment of your situation will be the best tool you have at your disposal to ensure survival. As you make observations you will begin to develop a picture of your surroundings. Use this mental picture to help you establish the facts.
F = Facts: Are you hurt? What has happened? Where are you? Must you decide between fight and flight? What do I do next? Odds are good that there will be little to no information immediately available for you to base your decisions on. Expect all electronic communications to have ceased so you’ll have to rely on your observational skills and powers of deduction. I’ve only been in a SHTF type situation once and then it was what would be considered a local event ………… if you call something that effected several hundred square miles local! Let me share the story with you: I was living California when the 1989 Loma Prieta California earthquake occurred.
At work in Sunnyvale, I knew right away that it was a bad quake. When the ground had stopped its initial rock and roll there was a total loss of power. The silence after the quake was unsettling. From one end of the radio dial to the other there was nothing being broadcast ……. just static. Nearby buildings appeared to have ridden out the quake with minimal damage but I could see smoke rising in the distance.
I’ve always thought of myself as a logical thinker as I’m an engineer and it kind of goes with the trade ……….. but the magnitude of this event was outside my experience. The quake had put me into a situation where immediate decisions were required. At first, the only facts I knew for sure was that there had been a big quake knocking out all power and there was a fire somewhere.
I didn’t know if the problems were localized, whether or not my wife was okay (she’s a nurse and was working in the O.R. on the third floor of a large hospital), how bad the roads would be as I tried to get home (10 miles away), would our home still be standing when I got there, and so on. My fact sheet at that time read: Big Earthquake, No Power, No Radio, Car runs okay, I’m not hurt nor is anyone else around me! I decided that I needed to get home ASAP. As I slowly drove I found traffic gridlock. No traffic lights were working. Many large storage buildings had partially collapsed into the road and sections of the roadway were damaged. (Much later I would find out about the collapsed freeway to the north).
Each of these observations added to my growing ‘known facts” list. I made it home safely without incident. Once home, I focused on the immediate situation and adjusted as conditions changed. I knew that my wife would stay at the hospital and contact me as soon as she could (if she was able to). I decided to wait 24 hours before trying to go to the hospital. It was more than 20 hours before I talked with her ……… she was okay! The hospital had extensive damage and all of the patients had been evacuated to the parking lot! She finally made it home two days later.
Itemizing the facts should be done before you take action. Prioritize the known facts with regard towards those that threaten your immediate survival heading your list. Your fact list may be small to begin with but it will grow as things evolve. Be prepared to revise your immediate plans if the circumstances dictate. Once you’ve evaluated the facts you will then be able to take action with a greater chance of survival.
T = Threats: Analyze your situation in terms of threats to your safety. Identify them and quickly categorize them as immediate or intermediate. Once you’ve assessed the situation and the known facts you will need to take action. You won’t be any help to your family if you don’t survive! What do you need to do first? The sequence of your actions will prove to be critical to you and your family’s survival. “Temerity” is defined by Webster as “unreasonable or foolhardy contempt of danger or opposition, Rashness or Recklessness”. This is not how you want to act! If you’ve taken time to assess the situation and have made note of the facts as you see them, the last thing you want to do is proceed with abandon throwing caution to the wind as you try to bull your way ahead. Of course things will be moderated by considerations for your loved ones. Issues such as whether or not you’re alone, where you are, where your family is, what actions you must now take and so on must all be quickly determined. Only you know your limitations so the answers to these questions must be realistic. Prioritize the “immediate” from the “eventual”. Focus on gaining control of your circumstances and you will begin to find the strength that comes from having a plan.
E = Engage: “To actively participate”, not the wedding ring thing. The military and others tend to use the term “situational awareness” to describe this. Every day we are all actively engaged as we go about our routines (driving, working, going for a walk or hike, etc.). But, we do this all more or less subconsciously. We’re usually operating in a somewhat relaxed mode (unless you happen to live or work in a very bad neighborhood) where we are surrounded by the familiar. Our senses are turned on but they are operating like elevator music ………… low and in the background! After the SHTF we must shift gears and become more like a hunter after a dangerous predator. We must pay heed to all that is going on around us. You may find yourself in an area where you are intimately knowledgeable of your surroundings ……… but things have changed. The buildings and roads may look the same but the people around you are not! The sights, smells, noises, and especially our natural animalistic intuition for danger must become more pronounced if we are to survive.
R = React: Based on what you have discerned you will need to react to your situation. Being a Prepper is a pro-active condition ………. you’re preparing for the future. At this point in time your ability to react quickly and thoughtfully will enhance your chance for survival! I repeat: Surviving an actual event will depend on your ability to react appropriately to your circumstances in a timely manner. If you are suddenly thrown into a frightening or threatening crisis you must be able to react according to an intelligent plan. In my opinion it is not true that any action is better than no action. (See “Temerity” above!). Be sure you take time to think through what you’re going to do before you do it! But be quick about it! If you freeze (deer in the headlights) you’ll find yourself to be a victim rather than a survivor.
Summation: The comments above were written with the first few minutes after a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI event in mind ……. those first moments when you realize that it has happened, it’s real! I believe that they are applicable to the long term situation as well. If we are able to survive the first few minutes, hours and days of an event we will find ourselves able to take advantage of all our preparations ………….. we’ll be ready to put our prepping plan to work.
Discuss this with your group. Take time now to create a simple plan that will give you, your family, and any other folks in your group a common “initial reaction” to a SHTF event. We all react to stress differently so this guide is a simple way to tip the odds in your favor. Plan as if phone communications and transportation will be nonexistent. Decide on and agree to the critical details:
– Where will you all go to meet up? Home, BOL, etc.
– Determine the length of time (walking) for each person to get from their furthest expected location to the gathering place.
– If you have a short or long term BOL, but a different location will be used as the initial gathering place, how long will you wait for missing members before you bug out?
– Will you attempt SAR if members of your group are missing?
– How long will you wait for everyone to show up at the agreed upon location before any SAR is attempted?
– Will anyone, such as children at school or the elderly, need to be gathered up or escorted?
– Will those people to be escorted remain in place? Where?
– Designate realistic responsibilities while paying heed to the ability of each person to accomplish their assigned task.
– Which of you will be the decision maker? Designate an alternate leader.
Most of us spend our daylight hours in repetitive patterns; home, work, school, shopping, etc. Unless you are a long haul trucker, pilot, travel for business, etc. the odds are good that you’ll be fairly close to your castle when the SHTF. Use this proximity to your advantage. Consider making a simple map with multiple alternative routes for each member of your group. Show where they are likely to be and the subsequent potential routes to your gathering location. Figure out alternate ways to get everyone to the chosen gathering location. Print out a small note (specific to each individual) with the details of your overall plan and listing their assignment and instructions. They should keep this note on their person at all times. Make a copy of each note and, along with the individual route maps, store them for future reference. That way those at the gathering location will know where a “missing” member may be travelling.
The power of positive thinking is one of the best tools you can carry with you. You will not survive if you don’t believe you will. Resolve to succeed! Bravado and tentative actions will only put you in harm’s way ……… you’ve got to have faith in yourself to follow through with your decisions. If you’ve got a plan, whether it is a plan to simply get you through the early stages of a SHTF situation or one to be followed for the longer term, you are more likely to be successful.