Good info for new preppers!
Read it here on the original blog: http://wisdompudding.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/q-a-with-mike/
The second interview in my Q & A sessions with experienced preppers is Mike, also known on Twitter as @CivilDefenseBk he is a prepper, writer (my review of his book coming probably next week) and all round awesome guy with a rich history and tendency to help out newbie preppers!
I notice you have a extensive list of experience in various fields, would you mind sharing some of your background?
I started off working as an urban Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) and Paramedic and then later worked as a police officer in a suburban town. I’ve been working for the U.S. federal government for 15 years. I also served with the U.S. Army in Operations Desert Shield/Desert Storm and most recently served for a year with the Army in Iraq. In addition, I served on two humanitarian assistance missions with the Army in Guatemala after Hurricane Mitch. And never one to not be at the wrong place at the wrong time, I was working at the World Trade Center in New York on 9/11/2001. So, I have a great deal of on the ground experience in preparedness, emergency response and seeing what SHTF looks like in the U.S. and other countries.
How long have you been “prepping” in your personal life? Was there a specific event that led you to begin prepping personally, or was it gradual?
Because of my various occupations, I have always been into emergency preparedness. I got more heavily into preparedness after 9/11 and the Northeast blackout of 2009. As to when I tripped over the edge from “preparedness” to a “prepper” it may have been gradual, but another blackout during the Northeast ice storm of 2011 definitely put me there, if I wasn’t already. I was gradually realizing just how dependent we are on the electric grid, and how fragile the grid is.
Are you located in an urban or rural setting? Which of the two do you view as the optimal setting to be in when the SHTF?
I live in an area I would describe as the “border of suburban and rural.” There are a lot of factors that can come into play as to what the “optimal” setting would be, but I think that generally speaking cities are going to have an extremely rough time quickly after SHTF. But nobody is going to be immune from hardship, so while rural towns may have many advantages, without preparing hard times will visit them quickly as well. Geography, resources and security will all play into how a town will fare post-SHTF. And preparing ahead of time will be critical. SHTF is going to be “come as you are” for every community. Whatever you have right now is all you are going to have if the grid goes down 5 minutes from now.
How did prepping change your lifestyle, if at all?
Prepping should not be at the expense of enjoying the things you like to do. I am the same person; I just feel a little better about my ability to handle an emergency and take care of my family – whether it is a 3 day blackout due to a storm, or a major national disaster. But I still like to ride my Harley-Davidson, read books, goof off when my wife isn’t looking – all the normal things. Also, as a prepper, you are never really done. I don’t think I ever met a prepper who thought they had everything they needed, had learned every skill and was completely prepared. Prepping is a journey, not a destination.
In a SHTF situation do you plan on working with a group or independently? Why?
I plan on working in a community. For many reasons that I discuss in detail in the book, being a “lone-wolf” prepper, or just preparing for you and your family alone is going to be a losing proposition for most people. Here is a really interesting couple of YouTube videos that I think illustrate the point: “Why most doomsday preppers will die” http://bit.ly/13ys6BZ and http://bit.ly/1cLBlHk. In a WROL (without rule of law) environment, the “lone-wolf” prepper or family will have a real security problem. Security is best done collectively by a community. And in a WROL, without security, your preps may not matter and your family will not be safe.
What are some of the biggest mistakes that beginner preppers should avoid?
The biggest mistake is not preparing at all, so beginning preppers have at least avoided the biggest mistake! I think it is easy for beginners to feel overwhelmed because there are so many disciplines and skills involved in prepping. Prepping isn’t just about “stuff” (beans bullets and bandages). Skills are critical. So, in addition to beginning to think about supplies, you also need to learn all the skills you can. Get recommendations from other preppers and read several books so you start to get an idea of the skills you need to work on.
Starting with achievable goals is also helpful to new preppers. You may not be able to afford to buy 1 years’ worth of food storage today. So work on having 1 months’ worth for now. You may not be able to afford an expensive water filtration system right now, so start with 1 months’ worth of stored water and some modest water purification supplies. And so on. Once you are satisfied that you and your family could live a month with no grid, then begin to work toward two months. Take small steps on a regular basis. Make sure you are working on skills as well as supplies.
Here is an excellent video for new preppers: Prepping 101 What to do first. http://bit.ly/14IiJDH.
What is (in your opinion) the main must-have item for a prepper to invest in?
I bet if you ask 10 preppers that question, you may get 10 different answers! And, depending of n your geography, resources and situation, there very well may be different correct answers. But high up on everybody’s list will be a water source and ways to make water safe. So let’s say you have a typical well at your house for water. If we lose the grid long term and your well pump has no power, how are you going to get water? So one person’s “must have” item may be this: http://bit.ly/1a3D8r4 to be able to provide water to their family post-SHTF. Others who have a source of water like a stream or a lake, may think that a quality water filtration system (and plenty of spare filters) is one of their most important “must haves.”
But if that isn’t sexy enough, then the must have prepper item is a good multi-tool. Once you have obtained that and are satisfied that you now have the “must have prepper item” on your belt, then immediately go and figure out your water situation!
What skill (again your opinion) do you think is most important for a prepper?
I would say problem solving. If you are the type of person who can take a few common items from your garage and build a camp stove, that is what I mean. The ability to adapt and solve problems with what you have on hand will be extremely helpful. There are so many skills involved in prepping that we all have a lot to learn. Growing food is an important skill. Security Training (with weapons, unarmed self-defence, etc.) are important skills. First aid is an important skill. Canning and preserving food is an important skill. Starting a fire is an important skill. And there are many others. We all need to learn as much as we can. For new preppers, I would say that try to learn a little about all the various skills and then try to increase your expertise as you go. If you have expertise in a certain area (like if you are a nurse and have medical expertise) you can teach others around you and then learn from them about skills they have expertise in.
Are you married? If so, what was your partner’s reaction when you stated that you wanted to start prepping? Do they support your decision? How do they participate?
I have been married for 14 years. And my wife is not a prepper. She’s not likely to ever be a prepper. But if she’s really nice to me, I’ll share some of the stored food with her after the apocalypse! Funny story, (at least I think it’s funny, I’m sure she doesn’t) I was ordering some long shelf-life food and I asked her for an opinion on what items I should order. She rolled her eyes, said I was nuts and refused to participate in such foolishness. A few days later, several cases of food arrived. She looked through the #10 cans at the items I had ordered and declared: “I am not cooking lentils after the apocalypse! Do you have any idea how much work lentils are?”
Moral of the story, it is certainly easier to prep as a team, but if your spouse isn’t interested, I’d avoid the lentils.
Do you have children? How do they participate?
We have several rescue cats and being that we are animal lovers, they are like children to us. Two of our cats are preppers, the others, roll their eyes at me and go back to sleep.
What if nothing happens? Would you feel prepping had been a waste of time and money?
Not at all! Being prepared is not just about SHTF or an apocalypse. There are going to be hurricanes, tornados, floods, earthquakes, power outages – all the garden variety disasters that most of us can expect to encounter at least once, if not several times. Being prepared means we are ready for those things. What if you lose your job? Having food storage will take a great deal of stress off of you. If you don’t have to worry about what to feed your family for a while because you have been prepared, then your time and money were not wasted.
Think of prepping sort of like an insurance policy – if you have car insurance do you get mad if you don’t get in an accident? This is paraphrased from a video I saw from one of my favorite preppers, YouTube’s Southernprepper1: http://bit.ly/15ogpgW. Being prepared for whatever life may throw at you makes sense and I don’t think preparedness is ever a waste of time. It’s about having the peace of mind that if something (large or small) does happen, you can take care of your family.
What advice would you give a beginner prepper?
Learn from other preppers. This will save you a lot of money and “trial and error” mistakes. There are many, good preppers on YouTube and you can learn a lot from them. Some that I would recommend are: Southernprepper1, ThePatriotNurse, MainePrepper, Zion Prepper and SensiblePrepper. Subscribe to these YouTube Channels. There are many others, so look around.
If you are on Twitter, check out the hash tag #PrepperTalk. There are a lot of great preppers there and you will meet some great people and you will find a valuable exchange of prepping information. People will help you to get started.
Also, get recommendations from preppers you know on books to read. There are many books on preparedness, survival skills and homesteading skills and every prepper should have a library – hard copies. Your Kindle is not going to work if the grid goes down long term. After SHTF, having this library will be critical. None of us know everything (and if you meet a prepper that says he/she knows everything, I recommend finding one that admits they don’t know everything and listen to that one!) We are all constantly learning, constantly honing skills or learning new ones and constantly trying to improve. Having a good library of information and skills will be invaluable.
Is there anything else you want to share?
A few things:
Politics, religion etc. My personal policy is to keep politics out of prepping. To me, survival is not a political issue – Democrats and Republicans will all die of starvation at the same rate. You will find that there are conservative preppers, liberal preppers, Christian preppers, Jewish preppers, Pagan preppers, white preppers, black preppers – and as I’ve recently discovered through my friend Patricia – Australian preppers! Preppers come in all shapes, sizes and political beliefs. The bottom line is that this diversity makes us stronger as a prepper community. Nod politely if somebody says something you don’t agree with and then say “so back to water purification: what is the best way to…”
A prepared community. The most neglected or missing “prep” is a prepared community. This is why I wrote “Prepping for a Suburban or Rural Community.” For most people, without a prepared community, it is going to be hard, if not impossible, to get through an SHTF with individual or family preparedness alone. All preppers, whether new or experienced need to think about this.
Bugging out. It is seemingly a rite of passage for preppers to build their bug-out bags – and I have them too – I’m not saying anything is wrong with having a bug-out bag. But bugging out is a bad option for most people. It generally should be the very last resort. If you bug out without a destination, you become a refugee – like all the other refugees. What if you have elderly family members or kids? Where are you going to “bug out” to with a 90 year old or a 4 year old in tow? A better option is working to prepare your community so that bugging out would net be necessary. Now, if you are lucky enough to have a farm in upstate wherever, fine. That may be a viable plan. But if your plan is to bug out to “the woods” or “the mountains” and your name is not Jeremiah Johnson, you really should rethink your plan.
A prepared family in a prepared community has a much better chance of survival than a “lone wolf” does.
Mike is able to be found on Facebook, and his book is available both on his website and on Amazon. He is a very active participant in the aforementioned #PrepperTalk and with helping people out in general. As you can see, his knowledge base is wide and his information is both useful and interesting! Round of applause for our wonderful guest this evening (*claps all round*) and you should go check out his website and social media, and buy his book – I did, and it is worth every cent!