We are at the cusp of rapid and severely disruptive changes that will lead to widespread disorientation, anxiety, and social breakdown. As I've said before, we are facing the end of industrial civilization itself. The duration is forever. This is not akin to preparing for some small event like a hurricane or wildfire, or even one that we as a country would eventually come out of on the other side of - like a financial market meltdown, or even a civil war. This article will be the hands-on, practical how-to guide that so many have asked me to cover. This article will cover this idea of practical preparation steps. I doubt it will be popular, but it needs to be said - and enacted, at least by those who are serious about building resilience.
Not to self-promote too hard (I don't get any income or accolades from writing on this blog) but I would highly recommend that you start by reading my two articles 'What Will The Future Look Like?' and 'Preparing.' They give a big-picture perspective and help you orient yourself to the situations that you are attempting to prepare for.
In any case, let's get into it.
"Prepping," at least from the sources I've routinely seen, seems to be focused on middle class and above. Which is no surprise, really. Prepping is a booming business model. They want to sell you stuff. But with their focus on "stuff," they lose sight of practical advice. Preparing is not primarily fun. If you're just having fun, you're doing it wrong. You're probably buying cool "stuff" and thinking that prepares you. In reality, the most important preparation can't be bought - it can only be done. Of course, doing things is much harder than buying stuff. Which is why most people who have a sense that they should prepare for a hard future have a shed full of survival stuff (or a garage, or a closet, or an attic, etc) and no contingency plans. They think their stuff makes them prepared.
Step 1: Health
The absolute first thing on the list of things to do should be health, to get as healthy as you can. I've written about this briefly before. Health looks different for an able-bodied, hardy 18 year old than it does for an able-bodied 70 year old. And it certainly looks different for a person with an autoimmune disorder, or an amputee, or a person who suffers from schizophrenia, etc. But the point is to get in the best health you possibly can, whatever that looks like for you. This isn't easy, as we can see from obesity and poor eating and exercise habits in this nation. But it is far more essential than having an arsenal of guns you have never done anything with, or having a bunch of gold coins in your basement. The point is that you are consistently working on your health, always addressing your physical limitations, finding alternative ways of doing things where your body limits you, and becoming as accustomed as you can to a world that does not have medications readily available. This is literally essential to your future. Without it, even with all the cool toys and prep gear you're still going to be SOL (shit outta luck). There will be severely limited medical care in our near future (or none at all), and an inevitably great amount of much more physically-demanding days.
Now, don't get me wrong. The right tools for the job make the job easier. There's no doubting that. If you have a bunch of arable land but no tools to farm it, you're going to have to look at other options. If you have a huge storage tank of gasoline you might be able to power vehicles and have post-oil mobility for a while. There's plenty that is useful that you can buy. The problem is twofold: 1) there are other things that should be primary (like health, etc), and 2) if you don't have an analysis based on what you expect at your specific location then you won't have any clue how to prioritize what you buy to help you. You really have to do first things first - like work on health and basic skills (self-defense, trauma/EMT/medical training, etc) - and then do an in-depth intelligence analysis of your vulnerabilities, before you can really understand what kind of prep items you should be buying.
Step 2: Intelligence Planning
You can't train effectively without standards - you have to identify learning objectives, meet the requirements, and then find ways of doing them better: more accurately, more quickly. But you don't know what to train for in the first place if you don't have intelligence. And in this case I'm not talking about IQ or how smart you are. Intelligence in this sense means being able to produce actionable and predictive standardized threat assessments to aid in emergency preparedness of your family and community.
Understanding the threats you are facing is usually an estimation rather than an in-depth analysis. Saying "breakdowns" will occur is correct, but too vague to prepare for. So is saying "financial/economic collapse" or a host of other things people normally throw around online and in the bar with their friends. The less we know about the threats we are facing, the worse our decision-making is going to be. Do you know how to set up streams of intelligence information? Do you know structural methods to analyze intelligence information so that it is timely and relevant? Collection and analysis are two very distinct things, but combined they allow us to understand the threats and the operating environment.
Focusing on Intelligence in this way enables you to be much better prepared because you will understand the threat environment, you can articulate the mission and mission requirements needed to meet those threats, and begin preparing for facing known or suspected threats that you’re likely to encounter.
There are very few places to learn this stuff. Outside of joining the military and becoming an Intelligence Analyst, the next best thing is to learn from those who have done so. Sam Culper at Forward Observer is the only one I know of who does this kind of training for civilians - and he does a damn fine job of it. In the military it's called Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB). Sam has taken this and put together courses that translate to collapse scenarios that he has dubbed IPC (Intelligence Preparation of the Community). He has written countless articles about it that you can read, but his courses that you can take are the real deal. He does both webinar courses (webinar videos plus an e-book that you can work through) and in-person training classes all over the country. He has written books about the subject as well, the best and most recent being 'SHTF Intelligence: An Intelligence Analyst's Guide to Community Security.' Which is available as an online download or as a softcover book. <link>
Put aside time to take one of his courses if you ever get a chance (or a few, really). Definitely become a subscriber to Forward Observer - for the webinars and immense literature content if nothing else. In the meantime, pick up and read his book - and put into practice what you read. I don't agree much with Sam on politics or the way that this collapse will play out or why, but his Intel training is literally invaluable.
Step 3: Skill-sets
Survivability is a lot like poker - some luck, depending on what cards are dealt (in our case this might be limiting health factors, socio-economic status, personality traits, etc), and as much developed skill as we can muster in order to have better odds. Skill-sets and the 7 P's (Proper Previous Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance) will go a long way towards survival. As such, step 3 should be investing in skill-sets.
Basic individual examples of these would be:
self-defense classes (jiu-jitsu/mma type)
medical training (Wilderness First Responder, EMT, and trauma/combat courses) (not basic first aid)
HAM radio licensing
CERT (Civilian Emergency Responder Training) - basically free course offered in many locations
More involved, group-centric, examples would be things like this (partial) list of classes that Mason Dixon Tactical offers:
Notice how those courses are numbered. A lot of my friends like to talk about homesteading. Those kinds of skill might be useful, even essential, at some point. But there is a lot of groundwork to cover before you get there. Skipping over the 100-level skill-sets would be like cutting off your legs before starting a training regimen to run a marathon. [I warned you at the beginning that this article wouldn't be popular.]
If you don't know how to defend yourself, what to do in a medical emergency, how to work together with local officials and services in a partial breakdown scenario, or how to operate effectively as a team with your family, tribe, and community members, then it does you no good to know how to plant a garden or plow a field.
In conclusion, there's a lot of things to do before going around buying stuff we think might help us be prepared. As Tyler Durden said in Fight Club: "Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don't need." In this case it might be more relevant to say that prepper advertisements have us chasing canned goods and tacticool gear, keeping us emotionally occupied while our health deteriorates and our minds grasp at vague shadowy threats we cannot define or adequately prepare for. Let's change that dynamic and start filtering the bullshit out. Get healthy, get a plan, know your threats - and then go about the business of responding to and preparing for those threats.
The future is going to be far different than the past. The next decade is going to look vastly different than the last decade. This blog is about the transition.
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Tactical Gear Considerations
Interview with Derrick Jensen
2020: A Marker For Collapse
Firearms And Our Future
Thermodynamic Failure: Phase 2
Firearms and Defense
Explaining Peak Oil
The Significance of Renewables
What Will The Future Look Like?
What Do The Experts Say?
Hope is Complex and Fragile
Personal Change Does Not Equal Social Change
Why Genesis 1:28 Doesn't Apply
It's Not About Running Out of Oil