The new prepper often goes straight to the question, "Where would I go." and almost invariably answers that question with "to Walmart!" A better question to ask would be "Where would I meet?" It is hard to understand the difference at first. When we all start down this path of readiness, we often consider ourselves as either the lone wolf; traveling from place to place, surviving on the scraps of humanity, doing what is necessary to survive.
Some consider themselves to be the leader of a group of survivors; single handedly keeping our friends and family alive, and restoring order to (at least a small piece) of a world in chaos. While this might be true, in some select few circumstances, overwhelmingly it will not be the case. For every leader of a group of fifty survivors, there must be forty-nine followers. If your goal is to be the leader, there is an entire set of leadership skills and personality requirements that the majority of people do not have. In this case, learning to be an effective leader is much more important than having a bug out bag, or an alpha site, and should be the primary focus of the new prepper's education.
The average, every day survivor may in fact be better served by asking the question, "What can I do that provides value to the group?" This question will help guide the new prepper and help them to assess their strengths and weaknesses in a way that is not driven by ego and the stereotypes we all enjoy on our favorite zombie books and movies. As the author of the best-selling What Zombies Fear series of books, and the owner of a massive zombie survivalist website, I spend a lot of time working under the assumption that I will lead a group of survivors.
If you are a leader, you will naturally and organically move into that position within a group, even if the group originally chooses a different person.
There are hundreds of topics relevant to zombie preparedness. The survivor with the most breadth of knowledge will have the easiest time. Education is the key to survival. Read and practice skills in a wide variety of areas.Creating a Plan
The first step towards getting prepared is to make your plan for the initial upheaval. In any EOTWAWKI (End of The World As We Know It), WROL, (Without the Rule Of Law), or Apocalyptic scenario, the situation will likely escalate very quickly. Any slow moving outbreak would be controlled by the government. Anything that's going to clearly end the rule of law is going to happen very quickly, quickly enough to catch law enforcement, the CDC, the National Guard, etc before they can react. This is why zombies make such a great "best case scenario" for the end of society.
Your plan should include the people who you expect to survive with. Detailed information about their skills and liabilities. For instance, I am very proficient with firearms, a skill most people would consider an asset during the apocalypse. Unfortunately, I have had multiple knee surgeries. My knees are a definite liability to a group. Consider whether the survivor group is going to bunk in or bug out. Are you going to stay right where you are, fortify your position and wait out the apocalypse in your current location, or are you going to grab your gear and head for an alpha site.
When deciding to bunk in, there are a number of points to take into account. The defensibility of the home or current location, the comfort of the people in the group, the stores in place, and the location of the home are primary points.
In some situations, where people live in the city or major suburbs, and/or if a prepper decides their house is not defensible, and will make the call to bug out. For some people, this means heading out into the wilderness by themselves, and for others it means heading for a pre-determined Alpha Site. An alpha site is the first fallback position. It's a place where everyone in a survivor's group knows to meet. It is advisable to choose an alpha site that is away from major population centers, with accessibility to land, water, and security.Gather Supplies
Once the survivor has a plan for surviving the apocalypse, it becomes necessary to gather the supplies to do so. Weapons are often the first things that preppers look to for survival, although it is the opinion of this author that weapons are among the last items a prepper should obtain. Guns have their uses, and are a tool that every survivor should (where legal) have in their toolbox, but it is not the only or most important tool.Security
In an apocalyptic event, materials for fortifying a house will become scarce. During hurricanes, there is often no lumber to be found for miles, well outside the forecasted storm track. Gather and keep on hand the lumber and/or materials necessary to secure your location. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, you not only need security from zombies, but from those who would take what you have. if you look "too" prepared, you can make yourself into a target. Having hurricane rated, automatically controlled steel shutters on your house is likely to keep you very safe from zombies, but also make it a target for desperate survivors. Human beings often resort to violence in chaos. Examples of this are abundant throughout history, most recently in the violence that ensued in the days after hurricane Katrina in the United States, and in Haiti after the earthquake there. The time to gather, assemble, and store fortifications and supplies is before anything goes wrong.Water
After security, the number one concern is water. Having enough water, one gallon per person, per day, is fairly easy to do if the prepper is staying in one location. Water storage containers are fairly inexpensive, and if stored in a cool, dry location, bottled water will stay potable almost indefinitely. Knowing where water can be reliably found is a skill that will save your life. In most American houses for example, between fifty and eighty gallons of water can be found in the home's water heater. Another two gallons can be found in the holding tank of the toilet, although that water would need to be boiled before consumption. Streams and creeks with watercress growing in them can be considered safe to drink straight from the source. Although here is some risk of parasitic infection, watercress only grows in very clean water. If in doubt, always boil water prior to drinking, although it is reasonable to consider that human beings lived for tens of thousands of years before modern water treatment. It is better to risk parasitic infection or water contaminants than to die of dehydration.Food
Many survivalists know, and it has been detailed on this page, that many foods are perfectly edible and contain adequate nutrition well beyond their expiration date. Examples of rolled oats, stored in airtight containers for thirty years, and canned foods a decade after their expiration date being edible abound on the internet. As always, use your nose. It exists almost solely to tell you if a food is edible or not. Use it and trust it. For the new prepper, food storage can be a major undertaking. This site advises that the survivalist purchase extra food over a long period of time, for cost reasons as well as to give variation in expiration dates. Chances are that a preppers stored food stocks won't last beyond the expiration date, so the main reason is cost. Purchasing an extra 2 - 3 long lasting food items per week won't break the bank. Purchasing a six month supply of food for five people all at once will. It's better to make survival prepping a lifestyle, and do a little every week.Medicine
Prescription drugs and other supplies should be stocked at all times. There are many online pharmacies that will allow ninety day supplies, and most doctors will adjust prescriptions to allow for that. Some people stockpile medications by skipping a day every now and then. This can have serious health ramifications, and is not recommended. Talk to your doctor, and tell him your plans.Build a Bug Out Bag
Building your first BoB can seem like an expensive prospect. Most people who post their bug out bags online have been building, tweaking, adding to and removing from them for years. For the new prepper, it can be difficult to know where to start. Every member of the group should have a bug out bag, even if the plan is to stay put. A Bug Out Bag, also called Get Out of Dodge Bag or GOOD bag, or sometimes even a 72 Hour Bag is usually designed to get you out of an emergency situation and allow you to survive on your own for up to three days. Many ZPI users plan their Bug Out Bag to sustain them for much longer than that, but there is always a limit to what you can carry on your back and the three day target is an adequate starting point.
There are seven types of gear that should go into a starter bug out bag.
- Water is a survival basic, and the first priority in any survival situation. Water quickly becomes the most precious commodity.
- One liter per day per person is the bare minimum for survival in most situations. So a three day Bug Out Bag should have at least three liters of water.
- To expand the capability or survive longer than a couple of days, a water purification system can be added . This can be as simple as boiling water and iodine tablets, or a serious water filter.
- A collapsible water bottle makes space efficient extra storage.
- Use Coffee Filters to extend the life of your water filtration system.
- Bottled water is heavy, but an easy solution for your bug out bag.
- For a three day Bug Out Bag freeze dried meals and energy bars can be sufficient. Freeze dried meals are simple to prepare, just add boiling water to the pouch and let sit for three minutes. They are light weight and last a long time. The survivor will need a longer term food solution in any type of wide area catastrophe, but for a basic Bug Out Bag backpack meals are a good set up, and are reasonably priced.
- Canned food is heavy, but often full of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.
- Ramen noodles should be avoided. They are extremely high in salt, and will require you to drink extra water.
- Clothing choices will be similar to what a hiker would pack for a weekend backpacking trip.
- A pair of sturdy boots or shoes
- A pair of long pants (preferably not blue jeans)
- 2 Pairs of socks (preferably not cotton)
- 2 Shirts (Maybe 1 long sleeve and 1 short sleeve for layering)
- A Jacket that is both warm and protection from rain
- Warm long underwear of some kind, depending on location.
- A hat
- A Bandana. There are millions of uses for a bandana.
- In order to survive for three days, the survivalist is going to need protection from the elements and a warm dry place to sleep. That means at the least, some type of tent or tarp and a way to set it up.
- A ground tarp for underneath your shelter to stay dry or a sleeping pad (Never underestimate the importance of this)
- Some type of Bedroll, preferably a good sleeping bag.
- Trying to cover everything necessary in your Bug Out Bag First Aid Kit is another article entirely to itself, probably several more.
- It is my recommendation that the new survivalist start with a pre-packaged first aid kit. They're cheap and fairly complete. It is advised, however, that the contents of this first aid kit be tweaked to suit location specific needs, and to remove some of the unnecessary filler they all come with. Also, many of the items inside the first aid kit are of dubious quality. Band-aids that won’t stick are worthless.
- Rain Gear – at least 2 ways to stay dry in the rain. Poncho and Coat are good coupled with your Tent/Shelter
- Fire – Three different ways to make fire. A primary, like a disposable lighter, a secondary like a Swedish Fire Stick, and a third, perhaps waterproof matches. Survival often comes in rules of three.
- Cooking – A small pot/large cup to boil water in for both drinking and freeze dried meals. A small backpacking stove and fuel are better
- Light – Two dependable flashlights and a backup set of batteries for each. Don't skimp on the flashlight.
- Knife – A knife is essential. Human beings are not adapted to cutting or chewing through things.
- Cordage– Twenty feet of 550 Paracord. It's inexpensive and super strong.
- Duct tape– Duct tape has thousands of uses, and at least a yard of it should be included in any bug out bag. Many members carry a dowel rod with tape wrapped around it. Several feet of duct tape can be wrapped around a bic lighter, without affecting the use of the lighter.
- In any end of the world scenario, people will get desperate. People will try to take what they need by force.
- A firearm (where legal) is a tool, and as stated before, has its place in the survivalist’s toolbox. It is not the only tool that will do the job, nor is it necessarily the best tool for every self-defense task. The type, caliber and configuration of gun that is 'best' is different for every person. Ultimately, the best weapon is the one you have in your hand, not the one you one day dream of owning.
- In a pinch, the crafty survivalist can create a spear by tying their knife to a branch with 550 cord. This extends the reach of the blade, and gives the user an advantage.
Kirk Allmond is a father, author, and survivalist with extensive experience. His book What Zombies Fear: A Father’s Quest (Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers) is his bug out plan, in novel form.