I recently experienced first hand, the large earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand.
Completely out of the blue, with absolutely no prior warning, the ground started to violently shake. I was caught in the back of a removal van, helping a friend move house. The force threw me off my feet and I was shaken around the inside of the van for some 20 seconds or so.
After the initial shaking subsided I jumped out of the van to assess the immediate situation.
Dust. Demolished buildings. Silence. Screaming.....
A bit about me:
I'd describe myself as a down-to-earth, practical survivalist. I don't believe "the world is going to end soon" (but you never know... ) nor am I a fear-mongering capitalist. I do believe that each and every individual should take responsibility for themselves and their families survival, should any unexpected event happen.
I've built this website as a starting point for those who think the same, and who are looking to achieve some extent of "disaster preparedness".
Definition of Survival Skills
"Survival Skills" lacks a dictionary definition, so i'll give you mine: "The skill set required to be able to survive any event, unexpected or otherwise".
Often preceding "survival skills" we'll find a word defining the specific unexpected event or situation:
- Wilderness Survival Skills
- Urban Survival Skills
- Disaster Survival Skills
- Earthquake Survival Skills
- Nuclear Survival Skills
And more. Although there are specific skills and knowledge required for each type of event, many skills are universal.
The first thing many families discovered after the earthquake is that their houses had been rendered uninhabitable. Whether they had collapsed, been destroyed by falling rocks or flooded - the reality was - the home which they normally slept each night was now not going to provide shelter.
After making my way home through the flooded, cracked, and in some places impassible, roads - I tested the faucets. The water mains had been severely damaged. Many people did not have access to clean water.
The power was out, with electrical lines having been destroyed, underground cables torn apart and substations blown to bits. No power = no fridge or freezer - and in many cases, no warmth.
Every grocery store was in the same boat, with their goods having been smashed all over the floor. The little food available was quickly snapped up by panicked buyers. Large grocery stores shut up shop immediately.
Within seconds of the quake the queues at gas stations started growing, what gas was available was quickly bought up, with queues hundreds of meters long in some places.
People lined streets stunned, crying and sickened with panic that their loved ones might be hurt.
What lessons can be learnt from this?
Each year worldwide, there are hundreds of catastrophic events, this I knew. Would one of them strike little old safe New Zealand, at the bottom of the south pacific, where we work hard, enjoy a high standard of living and the freedoms of a democratic society?
Tucked away safely in my suburban home, having never seen a war, flood or disaster of any kind - believe me - I didn't see this coming!
But I WAS Prepared.
Practically, shelter provides
- Can provide protection from creepy crawlies, snakes, or predatory animals
- A morale boosting base to sleep
Shelter may also be required to protect from:
- Nuclear radiation
- Chemical weapons
- Other threats like bomb blasts etc.
Type of disaster or emergency, climate and surroundings dictates the necessity for a specific type of shelter.
The type of shelter required for my survival in this described earthquake will be very different from the type of shelter required in, say, a nuclear attack. Then again, the cost and threat level is very different as well. These factors need to be weighed up in disaster planning.
Ultimately, shelter is a necessity for survival, and the ability to find and/or construct shelter is one of the fundamental survival skills.
When the faucets didn't work, the shops were shut down, and there was minimal clean water available, I thought to myself "this situation is serious".
Water is essential to survival. Every day we take it for granted without thinking - yet when it becomes scarce or unavailable, trust me, it is the one thing that you'll want the most.
Water is easy to stockpile, but hard to move. It is relatively easy to purify with the right tools or methods, but can be difficult lo locate in certain climates and environments.
As with shelter, water sourcing should make up a portion of your disaster plan. The ability to find and purify water to a safe drinking standard is another fundamental survival skills.
Over half the worlds population live in cities. The only way the populations in these cities eat, is by transporting food into them. Daily. In the event of a supply breakdown, such as that caused by the aforementioned earthquake, food becomes short in supply very quickly.
Although humans can survive weeks without eating, it is not a sustainable existence for long. Energy rapidly deteriorates, mental state and focus diminishes. An effective plan for the sourcing of food is essential.
Depending on the type and length of event, climate and surroundings we're planning for, food can be stockpiled. Like water, food can not be easily moved in large quantities.
The ability to source food requires knowledge of your surroundings, and may require certain tools and materials:
Whether a simple wood fire, petrol or other fossil fuel, electricity or otherwise - since the discovery of fire some 790,000 years ago, man has relied on energy for warmth, protection from predators, and comfort. Many hard-core wilderness survivalists debate whether "energy" is essential for survival, and instead prefer to refine this requirement as "fire".
In an urban setting however, as soon as that earthquake hit, in reality the gas stations quickly became overrun.
Petrol allows us to travel away from a disaster zone (or ground zero, as it is often referred to). It allows us to utilize complex tools such as:
It allows us to move stockpiles of food and water to "safer" locations and allows us and our loved ones to retreat to locations that may provide for a safer existence.
Of course, depending on where you are based will depend on how essential petrol is for you. In a rural setting with ample natural food and water sources it is less essential than in a location with little or no food or water sources.
Wood is generally a plentiful and easily accessible energy source for fire, but to be useful for fire needs to be cured. Depending on climate and requirements wood or other energy sources may become scarce, making cooking, purifying water and warmth impossible.
In the immediate events after the Christchurch earthquake thousands of people required medical treatment for injuries ranging from bumps and cuts, through to life threatening trauma. Medical facilities were tested to the limit.
In the coming weeks medicines such as asthma inhalers, heart medication and antibiotics were in strong demand. Fortunately, our infrastructure coped and no-one went without for too long.
In the larger, Japanese earthquake, sadly the outcome has been different.
Many will argue that there is no substitute for professional, "western" medicine - but what if we are without choice?
The knowledge of alternative medicines for your personal heath ailments, should your regular medicine become unavailable is highly recommended. This knowledge will need to be worked into your emergency plan.
For example, I know cold air; dust; pollen; smoke; spicy food and dampness all aggravate my asthma. I know a hot drink, breathing exercises, turmeric brew and mental relaxation can relieve it.
Whether complete urban disaster or remote accident - a sound knowledge of first aid is a fundamental survival skill. Knowledge of the human body and alternative treatments to your and your loved ones personal health issues is recommended. Rotational stockpiling of medicine is recommended within use-by dates.
10 minutes after the earthquake I had managed to get home to comfort my partner who was in tears. The phone networks were down. No electricity, no news, no TV. I fired up our battery radio. The news flooded in.
All I can describe my mental state as, is "stunned". Repeatedly I tried to kick myself into action. What should I do? What could I do?
I had been through this scenario a hundred times before in my head, but this was real - it was actually happening.
Travel by vehicle was virtually impossible. Complete gridlock ensued. Gas stations were bombarded, shops closed up, water and food sold out. Some remained cool - most panicked.
As the days turned into weeks after this disaster, panic transforms into despair, depression and paranoia. I've seen, before my very eyes previously rational people transform into miserable messes.
Whether urban disaster, or wilderness survival - whatever the scenario, a positive, strong state of mind is essential.
The psychological elements of survival are much more complex than the simple practical requirements. Mental preparation helps, as does simply discussing threats and problems pre-event, and discussing feelings post-event.
Protection, when discussed in conjunction with a "human threat" (ala zombie survival), is a controversial topic. However, protection is an essential survival skill none-the-less, and especially so when we become knocked down the food chain some. Bears, wolves, crocodiles, snakes and stinging insects are all valid threats to our survival and protection from these threats is essential.
Many associate a disaster with looting. On the contrary, there was virtually no looting post-earthquake in my experience. In fact, most visible was people offering help and support to others.
Other disasters worldwide have shown different outcomes. First that comes to mind is the Hurricane Katrina Fallout, where society was reported to have broken down almost completely. Reported Violence and desperation during and after the Pakistan Floods was horrendous, yet in the recent Japanese Earthquake there has been no reported looting or violence.
It seems that the type of event, culture, organisation of society, availability of essentials and infinitely more factors dictate how the proceeding events post-disaster will unfold.
It may be that, given the likely threat and social consequences in your particular region, weapons for protection from other humans is essential. Others may require survival guns for hunting and protection from animals.
Whatever your situation, protection is a fundamental survival skill and something that much be carefully weighed up when formulating your survival plan.