Rational Survivalism

Prepardness & Risk Assessment

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RATIONAL RISK ASSESSMENT: There are certainly many present and future risks it does makes sense to be prepared for. The main thing is do assess and weight the risks rationally rather than becoming paranoid or obsessive about low risk possibilities. In any case see my separate 'Doomsday' page for my assessment of probable future risks to well being and survival.

MINIMIZING GENERAL LIFE RISKS: It seems obvious but simply living so as to minimize all risks to one's health can help prevent random accidental events that can have permanently devastating effects on one's health. This includes the whole gamut of actions from driving carefully and defensively, not getting oneself into dangerous situations; everything from making sure you climb on something stable, to avoiding slipping on black ice, to not going to dangerous neighborhoods. While the probability of a serious event may be small, the effect of one occurring can potentially be catastrophic. As the saying goes, better to be safe than sorry. So it is always good advice to err on the side of caution and keep aware of potential danger. The Wharton Life Expectancy Calculator is the best I've found in assessing general life style risks and their effect on one's survival.

RATIONAL SURVIVALISM: It certainly makes sense to prepare for possible future disasters so as to best mitigate the potential effects on one's health and survival, and there are certainly real near future threats which I discuss elsewhere on this website, but this should be reason rather than paranoia based. It always amuses me to see self styled survivalists going to great effort and expense to prepare for all sorts of low likelihood events without first correcting their often incredibly unhealthy personal lifestyles from which they are probably much more like to succumb. Stocking up on guns, ammo, and underground bunkers when they could increase their survival chances much more simply by eating a health diet, not drinking heavily or smoking and not engaging in hostile confrontations with the powers that be. That's not real survivalism. Real survivalism is acting so as to maximize one's health and extend one's longevity in the face of from all potential dangers, rather than just the threat of black helicopters landing invading UN troops! It's highly probable that most of those survivalists will succumb to their own stupid life choices long before they have to use their guns or bunkers!

There is no question that there is plenty of irrationality and intolerance among the survivalist community. I was actually kicked off a couple of survivalist discussion groups simply for suggesting heresies such as these.

SHELTER: By far the best place to shelter in case of emergencies and ride out disasters, if at all possible, is one's own home, properly configured and prepared. The underground bunkers favored by many survivalists, are essentially oversized furnished coffins. They are easily defeated by attackers. All anyone needs to do is pile stones or dirt on the entrance and block the air vents, which for most designs is easily accomplished, and those inside are trapped and will die. Much superior if one has the resources, would be to build an aboveground home fortress one could live in on a daily basis.

Without major expenditures, the most reasonable options for most people is to reasonably fortify and stock their current house against the most likely threats. One should always balance the preparation for a threat against both its likelihood and probable impact.

HEAT: Firewood is by far the best fallback source of energy, both for heating and cooking. If you live in the right place there will be an endless supply that can be prepared either with a chain saw, garden cart and wedges and sledge, or with a crosscut hand saw if necessary. The gas, and mix and chain oils can easily be stored in quantities sufficient to cut wood for years. Don't be fooled by the ads for gas 'stabilizers'. 5-10 year old gasoline works fine. The most important thing is to keep your gas cans tightly sealed so they don't absorb any water vapor. Otherwise the gas will last for years.

An indoor wood stove is a necessity for any survivalist living in Northern climates. Just like in the old days before electricity one can heat and cook simultaneously with a good wood stove. Get a good large one that takes the largest possibly pieces of wood. That will save lots of time and effort in your wood cutting.

WATER: Indoor water storage is the best solution for short term emergencies. 5 gallon water storage containers with spigots are available at Walmart and other stores. A dozen of these will store enough water to get one through most short term emergencies.

For long term emergencies a reliable natural water source and the ability to purify it is required. Nearby natural lakes or streams are preferable. Water from these can be made drinkable by boiling or adding Chlorox (instructions are on the bottle).

FOOD STORAGE: Storing large quantities of commercially packed freeze-dried food packets is not that smart. First these are very expensive and will quite likely go to waste before ever being used. Much more reasonable is a large supply of long shelf life food one regularly uses. If this is continually used and restocked based in purchase date sequence one is always ensured a long supply of relatively fresh food.

One doesn't need to be excessive with this. Choose a balanced set of long storing foods that provide the essentials of a balanced diet. Get used to the idea of not expecting to survive in luxury, but just to survive to maintain strength and health.

BEST FOODS FOR LONG TERM STORAGE: (be sure to store grains and legumes in a cool place inaccessible to insects - old powered off refrigerators are ideal)

Dried beans. These store for quite a few years in the packages one buys them in. In my experience packages of dried lentils store best of all.

Rice. Dried brown rice also stores for years in the packages one buys it in. Beans and rice together provide most of a balanced diet and one can live on just these two staples with only minimal additional supplements. Though rice is best other whole grains store well also.

Multi-Vitamins. Multi-vitamins also store for years and supply most of the essentials missing from a rice and bean diet. With just these three ingredients one should be able to survive for very long periods of time.

Canned foods. A good assortment of various canned foods added to the above will allow one to survive indefinitely. Most commercially canned foods will last in the can for at least 5 years and again shoal be recycled regularly. Good selections are canned fish, tomatoes, green beans, and canned peaches or pairs.

ESSENTIAL SUPPLIES: A good approach is to store large quantities of all the items you use on a regular basis and continually recycle from those supplies. Some necessary essentials for emergencies are listed below.

Paper Towels. Essential for many uses. Especially when water is short one can clean almost anything including dishes with just a paper towel.

Chlorox. Will disinfect almost anything including drinking water. Especially useful in mitigating biological threats.

Rubber gloves. Again large supplies are essential to cope with potentially toxic or infectious cleanups.


Aspirin. Large supplies will last for years.

Anise. Almost always cures stomach upset.

Zinc tablets and nasal sprays or applications. Used immediately on first symptoms will almost always stop colds from developing and cure them up within a day or two at most.

Rhodiola. Excellent for treating fatigue.

Additional supplements. Stock supplies of whatever you use regularly.

Antibiotic ointments. Large supplies stay effective for years.

Antibiotics. Store fairly large quantities. Most stay effective long past their expiration dates. Tetracycline is the exception as it is said to become toxic. It's easy to get large prescriptions from most doctors by complaining of colds or other symptoms. Amoxicillin is an excellent long shelf life broad spectrum antibiotic with minimal side effects, and it's an inexpensive generic.

Clotting agents. Modern powerful anticoagulants will stop heavy bleeding from serious injuries.

Assorted bandages, gauzes, etc. including elastic bandages for compression of cuts, stabilization of sprains etc.

GUNS & AMMO: Many survivalists go off the deep end on this one. However it does certainly make sense to have a couple of firearms for self and home defense. A good pistol that can be easily carried in a holster over long periods of time when engaged in other activities, a large capacity 12 gauge shotgun for close in defense, and an automatic rifle and scope for more distant threats is a good selection. However be aware that in most situations where use of a firearm is necessary you probably won't last long. By far the best strategy is to avoid such confrontations at almost any cost. About the only survival situation in which guns will be really useful is in deterring unarmed or lightly armed persons, such as persons with knives, bats, etc.

In true long term survival situations you will also probably need a gun for hunting. A low caliber scoped rifle or even a good air gun will suffice for small game and might be a useful addition to the 3 above.

INFORMATION: For God's sakes be sure to print all essential information you may need (such as this page) in case of emergencies and keep it in a safe place. All the survival information in the world on your computer won't do you any good if there isn't any power!

MONEY: It's an open question how useful paper money will be in any collapse. At least in the short term, it's likely that it will be at more or less the same value it had previously. However banks may not be open, so it makes sense to store a fairly large cache of low to medium denomination bills for what purchases are available and to facilitate trade and barter.

In long term emergencies it's likely paper money will gradually lose its value and be replaced by more basic means of exchange. Silver and gold will no doubt be the most valuable of these so it makes sense to have fairly large stocks of silver (in form of pre-1964 US silver coins) as well as gold. One want plenty of small denomination silver coins for small purchases. One ounce gold coins won't be very useful in day to day exchanges and are likely to get you into big trouble. You certainly don't want to make yourself a target especially in troubled times where law enforcement may be minimal.

EMP'S: EMP's (electromagnetic pulses) can be generated either by the detonation of a nuclear device a hundred kilometers or so above the earth, or by sufficiently massive solar mass ejections such as the Carrington Event of 1859. In the event of a Nuclear EMP attack it's unlikely you'll need to worry since only a few countries could carry it off and it would be suicide for them to detonate a single EMP producing bomb over the US. Any EMP attack would slmost certainly be accompanied by a full scale nuclear attack against major military and population centers and the loss of electricity would be least of your problems! That's why no one needs to worry about nuclear EMP's.

As for extreme coronal mass ejections that could seriously degrade or take out the electrical grid they are certainly possible. It is estimated such events might occur every 500 years or so. However you will have up to several days notice of any such event. This is plenty of time to protect your electronic equipment by placing it within 'Faraday cages'. A Faraday cage is simple a box, preferably grounded, of metal or fine wire which conducts an EMP around its contents thus protecting them from harm.

Microwave ovens are Faraday cages designed to keep EM waves inside and thus can be used to protect small electronic devices from external EM waves as well. Home appliances such as refrigerators and ovens, to the extent that they have metal skins, can protect electronics as well. Metal bathtubs with either sheet metal or AL foil over the top also function as Faraday cages, and metal trunks also work. Any such device would protect electronic devices from harm even if the external grid was damaged. In all cases devices inside Faraday cages must be placed on insulating material so as not to contact the metal surface.

EMP's don't harm humans directly but they could potentially cause fires from large electrical surges sparking from wires. To minimize this risk all switches in a house should be turned off, and all individual circuits isolated by removing fuses and tripping circuits, especially where the main power enters the house.

With these issues addressed the EMP risk is essentially that of long term loss of electricity which is addressed separately here.

You need to worry about thing like not smoking and eating healthy and driving carefully much more than EMP. After all survivalism is about survival from all causes. It always makes me LOL when I see so called survivalists storing guns and bunkering down when they don't even know how to live healthy right now...