A Survival Plan That Works

(Survival expert and author David Morris is our newest regular contributor. His articles on survival will appear the second and fourth Mondays of each month and complement the offerings of food storage expert Peggy Layton, whose articles appear on the first and third Mondays of each month. — Bob L.)

A few years ago, I had a serious wake-up call about how vulnerable my family was to natural and manmade disasters. There were dozens of threats that could quickly disrupt or end life as we know it, and Katrina gave us a glimpse into breakdowns in civil order and the Federal government’s inability to effectively respond to localized disasters.

I already lived a preparedness lifestyle from growing up with an Army helicopter pilot dad on a farm in tornado and blizzard country and had advanced backcountry, fighting, shooting and medical skills. But I realized that I’d bought into the “just-in-time” myth and didn’t really have ANYTHING put aside or plans made to take care of us if there was a short or long term disaster.

When we were hungry, we went and got food. When we were cooking and needed something, we just made a quick trip to the store. We didn’t keep much extra around the house because it was SO easy to simply buy stuff right when we needed it. Just like most families, we were a just-in-time family.

I realized that grocery stores were operating on the same just-in-time system. To minimize waste, maximize freshness, use space efficiently and maximize profitability, they set their inventory levels so that there were no more than nine meals on the shelves at a given time.

This combination of just-in-time families and just-in-time stores meant that ANY hiccup in the system, whether accidental or intentional, could lead to unrest or even violence in as little as three days.

As I started researching solutions, every “expert” said that cities would be burned to the ground in a disaster and that there were only two options for survival. First, when a disaster happened, we had to be ready to immediately pack up our stuff and “Get Out Of Dodge” and go to our fully stocked rural retreat (which we didn’t have.) The second option was to move to the country and quickly learn to live like the Waltons in “Little House On The Prairie.” This didn’t make sense for us and flew in the face of history and logic.

Cities were originally formed FOR survival. I can earn a living easier in the city — and so can most people. When we need specialized products or people with specialized skills, we can find them in the city. Most military, law enforcement, first responders and their families live in cities. LOTS of good people can’t leave cities because of medical conditions. And many people live in the same city that their families live in and they wouldn’t think of abandoning their loved ones in a disaster.

Moving wasn’t an option for us at the time and I knew I had to quickly come up with a plan to keep us safe in our current typical urban-America situation. If a disaster happened, I knew that we wouldn’t be the only good people left. We just had to figure out a plan.

So, I started contacting my friends in the Special Operations community, from the Pentagon, former “spooks,” private military contractors, military survival (SERE) instructors, first responders, law enforcement, even a geneticist, a bio-weapons specialist and 30+ other subject matter experts.

One of the interesting things that came from all of these interviews was the common sentiment that each of these experts could survive anything, but they weren’t sure how to transfer all of their knowledge and skills to their loved ones. As long as they were with their families, everyone would be fine. But in a disaster situation, they’d be doing what they loved and their families would have to take care of themselves. I knew after I’d compiled and organized my research, I’d have the tool they were looking for to get their families up to speed.

While this was all happening, I was running my small businesses, times were changing, we were new parents and we were going from earning a great living to barely making it. Any solutions that I came up with had to be easy to put into action and not take much time or money.

As a result, I developed a survival philosophy that guided our preparations. For me, it’s based on simple reality. Time and money are limited resources and we need to spend them wisely.

Our plans have to mesh with reality and history. Mass evacuations (like Katrina) tend to only be a good experience for first movers. In sudden disasters, by the time most families get reunited, packed and on the road, they have missed their window of opportunity for “Getting Out Of Dodge” and hit traffic jams, fuel outages and possibly roadblocks and detours.

Our plans have to work where we live with our current situation. For us, that means that if we were to “bug out,” we’d be doing it with two adults, two car seats and two dogs in a mid-sized SUV. As a result, the most pragmatic plan for us is to stay in our house in a disaster situation unless we absolutely have to evacuate.

Everything we do for preparedness needs to have value regardless of whether or not a disaster ever happens. As an example, most of our food storage is made up of food that we regularly eat rather than food that might sit uneaten for 25 years.

More than that, some day I’m going to be on my death bed looking back over how I spent my life. I want to be proud of how I spent my time and not regret investing all of my time into preparing for disasters that never happened. As a result, any time that we spend on preparedness simply MUST have a clear, immediate benefit.

We focus more on skills that will enrich our everyday lives… not just skills that will only have value in a disaster. We focus on skills like situational awareness, operational security, bartering and negotiating, armed and empty hands defense, natural medicine, having a positive mental attitude and motivating others rather than developing and maintaining our skill at attacking and overrunning an enemy position with multiple fire teams.

If a breakdown in civil order happens after a disaster, we want to have the training, skills and tools to be the solution to the problems that are happening in our immediate area. This might be supporting first responders, helping neighbors or simply taking care of ourselves so that we’re not a burden on others.

We enjoy the benefits of technology, a maximized infrastructure that’s nearing the end of its life and the low prices that a just-in-time economy provides. At the same time, we continually learn and practice skills to live without all three of these luxuries. The realization that conveniences could disappear at any time and the first-hand knowledge of how much time and effort they save make us thankful on a daily basis. I can tell you, it’s much nicer to live in a continual state of thankfulness than it is to feel like we’re entitled to these luxuries 24/7.

We keep most of our preparedness plans invisible to others and strive to look like an ordinary family to outside observers. Two huge benefits of this are that we don’t look like targets for thieves now or looters later. We don’t want to be the house that a neighborhood teen thinks of as a good target to rob. We also don’t want to be the first family that our neighbors think of when their kids are hungry and the store shelves are empty.

And our plans need to be written down and set up so that my wife can implement them if I am traveling, sick, injured or acting in my role as a first responder when a disaster happens.

It sounds like a tough set of criteria to meet, and it was. Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing the nuts and bolts of the system with you so that you can implement the same type of plan for your family.

Actually, it’s quite important to me that you do implement my preparedness system, or something similar. You see, I firmly believe that our families, neighborhoods, cities and even our country becomes more stable as more and more people become self-reliant. In a disaster, history has proven that decentralized solutions (individuals like you and me) almost always outperform centralized solutions (government).

By self-rescuing and helping maintain order in their immediate area, prepared individuals can create stable micro-environments in their neighborhoods and delay or completely prevent breakdowns in civil order.

I’m thoroughly looking forward to sharing this information with you. More than 10,000 people have gone through my SurviveInPlace.com Urban Survival Course since I released it in early 2009, and I’m confident that you will benefit from it as much as they have.

– David Morris