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Even the availability of clean water, shelter and food can become secondary to security when faced with a complete absence of the rule of law in populated areas.
End of the Rule of LawIn 1989, Hurricane Hugo ripped across the Caribbean island of St. Croix with winds exceeding 200 mph. This hurricane tore the roof off of the National Guard Armory as well as destroying the fences and roofs of the local prison that housed drug lords, assasins and executioners awaiting extradition to places like the USA.
I had a close friend living there at the time with his wife and newborn baby. They survived the aftermath of that disaster, and he explained to me later that within a day of the storm receding, the local National Guard was actually looting, and drug cartel murderers now free from prison who had found weaponry at the armory were roaming the island with military hardware.
For a few weeks, there was wholesale murder, rape and torture in the main town.
How would you fare in a situation like this? What if you were a tourist or visitor and not even near your own home? What if most or even all of your belongings were destroyed in the disaster? Could you adapt with what you were able to salvage, and survive?
1) Learn to Avoid Danger All TogetherAwareness - As I've mentioned in a previous article, the 4 A's of survival as I teach them at my survival school (The Human Path) are: Attitude, Awareness, Adaptability and Accountability.
In this article, I'd like to focus on Awareness and Adaptability, and how we can use these aspects of survival to leverage our skills and survive the chaos and danger after a disaster strikes.
First and foremost in keeping yourself and your loved ones safe is to avoid danger altogether.
2) Avoid Being a TargetIf it is not possible to avoid danger, then your next option is to be perceived as anything but a target, or if you are a target then a target that is not worth the trouble or the return damage you might inflict on your attacker(s).
3) Strike First, and Strike HardFinally, if neither of those options is possible and you are face-to-face with the threat of agression that wants your money, your body or your life, strike first, strike unexpectedly and don't stop striking until the threat is no longer able to attack or follow you.
Concerned that you're too old, too weak, or too young to defend yourself? Play to your strengths, and adapt. A long knife concealed in your sleeve and pulled out at the last moment has proven effective in many prison-yard attacks and a bit of "cloak and dagger" can save your life also when your life is in immediate danger from an attacker.
4) Understand the "Urban Baseline"All of these events prior to, up to and after a physical fight for your life include very important aspects of awareness. Being aware of the urban baseline, even in chaos, and how to fit within that baseline and be aware of when it changes and when you stand out through:
5) What to Be "Aware" Of -- What to Look For
Even in your own neighborhood you can practice learning new routes on foot, bike and car you haven't explored before and practice awareness of the neighborhood baseline and how that changes when someone drives through, walks through, bikes through, motorcycles through, etc.
6) Think Outside the BoxAdaptibility - Once you feel you can operate securely, you must take care of the most basic necessities. It will likely be necessary to think outside the box for every step you take in this. This is where it helps greatly to have training, but even if you don't, necessity is the mother of invention and you must be constantly thinking of everything around you as a potential resource of some kind.
Having a few steps in place to avoid and / or resolve danger (security), is only part of the equation though, when it comes to staying alive, following a disaster, especially when you're miles from home and the only thing between you and getting home are dangerous, lawless forces. You might be prepared to navigate and avoid these people, but in a real state of emergency, you're going to need to also deal with the basics to staying alive: Water, Shelter, and (in the modern age), Power.
7) You Need WaterIn a post disaster environment one of the most critical necessities is clean drinking water. What are some of the options you can be searching for to achieve this? Here are a few things to think about: Is there rainwater collection available? Tarps, rooftops, clean containers, gutters or pipe? These are all resources to consider. If it can be collected cleanly, rainwater is usually a low-effort method to obtain drinking water. If there's no rain, is there a lot of sun? Another option is UV purification. Pre-filter any particulates (using cloth from a T-Shirt or bandana, etc.) and place it into clean, clear plastic bottles that are 1 liter or smaller and leave them in direct sunlight for about 8 hours, preferably with a black surface behind them to add heat disenfection. Sand, gravel and charcoal can also be used to filter, but it takes enough sand to give you about 30 inches of sand filtering medium, filtered at about 3-5 gallons per hour to be effective. Water can be distilled using heat or sunlight, but this is not a practical way to obtain the large amounts you will need. Chemical disinfection using chlorine, bromine or iodine are all relatively effective for bacteria but not very effective for protozoans like giardia or cryptosporidium. Finally, there is always the standby of heat. Pre-filter the water if it's murky and then place over heat and bring it to a boil to purify it.
8) You Need ShelterShelter is an aspect you might really have to push your adaptability in. Principles to guide you at a minimum (after conisdering security) are a floor to keep you off the ground and some kind of slope in a roof to keep you dry. Walls should preferably trap air or ground temperature as needed to keep you warm or cool as needed. In our urban survival courses at The Human Path, we search through dumpsters for materials to guild with. Old pallets, cardboard, bubble wrap and many other building and packing materials can be found this way. Don't forget the possibility of using earth if you have that available. Stacking tires and filling them with loose dirt is one way to form a very nice insulating wall.
9) You Need PowerPower can be heat, cold (refrigeration), light (security), communication (security) and more.
If you don't have your handy generator nearby, don't have an inverter to run off your car, or maybe can't spare the gas even if you do, and you aren't holed up in your solar, wind and hydroelectric powered bunker, how can you find power to charge and use radios, lights and more?
The first thing to consider is that going 12 volt is probably your best option. 12 volt power is easy to work with and easy to rig up for some of the most basic needs. 12 volt power is everywhere, from cars to exit signs in buildings (usually 6 volt) to solar powered street signs, backup systems for cell towers, train switching stations, golf carts and one place to consider strongly: RV lots of any type, since RV's will have 12V appliances as well.
10) What Can Go Wrong, Could Go WrongStay Aware, Stay Adaptable, Stay Alive - There is no way to predict exactly what a post disaster situation will look like for you. You could plan and save beans, bullets and bandaids for years and then be caught comletely away from your supplies when the SHTF, with no easy way to get home.
This is why it is essential to learn skills and to learn to be adaptable rather than assuming you can depend on technology and stored resources to get you and your loved ones through a disaster. It is still important to prepare, but make sure your preparation includes learning skills.
At my school, even just learning skills isn't enough. I force my students to use their skills under stress and with minimal resources. Then we take those skills out into the real world and work with them there. This creates a training environment that lasts a lifetime for the student, and most of all teaches them principles of being aware and being adaptable.
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