Beyond Collapse

Surviving and Rebuilding Civilization from Scratch

Generic Musings

Dealing With Death On Your Own

It’s that time again, campers! However, I want to bring up a little something that recently struck home for me, and how it can translate to a very real (and likely very common) post-SHTF chore: How to bury your dead. This topic came home two ways.

First way? My wife has an uncle who is now a (temporary) resident in our home. Loves fishing, beer, a former Hell’s Angel, and men in Los Angeles still feared him. He arrived by UPS, in a small box. So why is he here? Well, we live geographically closest to her family’s plot, so we get to make sure he’s deposited in it once the family can garner enough agreement as to who pays for the burial services. It’s been about a month now, but he’s one of the quietest guests I’ve ever hosted, so I don’t mind. He once weighed 220 lbs, now he weighs in at 17 lbs or so, and he sits on a shelf in the living room –  in a little brown plastic box labeled “Los Angeles County Coroner’s Office.”

Second way? Two weeks ago, a friend of ours left this mortal coil. Even though he was in his 70′s, he loved to exercise… as in, former Marine aviator doing a 16-mile trot for fun on Sunday mornings kind of workout. Vietnam veteran, but the happiest, gentlest, and most well-adjusted man I ever met. Loved getting his hands dirty. The autopsy discovered a stroke, and the police found him somewhere around mile 12 of his last run. It was the customary part of his run where he loved to “talk to God.”  My wife and I literally held his youngest son (26 yrs old), as he broke down in our living room while telling us the news. Given that he was a good man, I was a little choked-up myself.

Sitting in the funeral (ever been to one for a friend? Not Fun), my mind wandered a bit… As most good preppers are wont to do, I got to thinking about how one of these would go without the massive support and resources that civilization has. This is what I came up with…


Bring Out Your Dead!

Let’s start with first things – you say you’ve got a fresh corpse on your hands. Unlike in my above examples, there’s no friendly neighborhood funeral home, coroner, crematorium, etc. to handle this, so it’s on you, big guy… Now whatcha gonna do about it?

Well, first off, make sure the guy is well and truly dead. No really – you will want to be sure on this one.

Pictured: One indication that you screwed this one up...

Pictured: One indication that you really screwed this up.


I’m serious about this, by the way – before modern civilization, the number of people who were buried while still alive was disturbingly large. Folks would slip into a coma (usually from some sort of disease), only to wake up later, in a box, underground, where they would die a dark and horrid death by suffocation. Archaeologists would often exhume coffins from previous eras which had heavy scratch marks underneath the coffin lid, if that’s any indication of how common it was.

So – unless you want your loved one to suffer that kind of sendoff into the afterlife, maybe you want to insure that the person is well and truly dead. How to do this? Let’s start with the obvious: Heartbeat, respiration, reactivity. Find the carotid artery (on the neck – look for your own first if you’re not sure), keep your fingers there, and feel for a heartbeat for at least five solid minutes. With a small penlight (or a candle if nothing else), move a bright light on and off of the victim’s open eye, checking for the pupil (that little black hole on the eye) to contract and expand. Check the body temperature (anally, and be sure you never use the thing on a live person!) – the body will reach room temperature after a day or two. Finally, bathe the victim and let him or her lay on a table for at least 2-3 days between estimated point of death and burial – with someone watching the whole time for any sign of life. This can give you time to dig the hole, prepare the body, and give family and friends time to have a proper funeral if the deceased has them around.

Now in times of crisis, and when things are all hairy out there, you may not have the effort to spare or the means to pay close attention. In such a case, simply set the body out back with some dignity for at least 3 days.


Faces (and Butts) of Death

If you’re going to have a stiff hanging around for a day or two (and as a family, it’ll give you time to grieve and prepare the body for funeral, so this is a good thing) it helps to know what in the hell to expect. In this age of professional  funeral services, most of the dirty bits are hidden from the typical citizen.

So, in the interest of education, here’s some of what you’re in for…

  • The body often gains a blue or waxy tint, starting at the toes and fingers, even while the victim is alive. This is due to an increasing lack of circulation as the heart begins to fail. Eventually the lips and closer extremities turn waxy and/or blue as well.The body gets pale completely somewhere between 15 minutes and two hours after death.
  •  There’s a reason I said to bathe the body earlier, and it’s not a cleanliness fetish. At the moment of death, the deceased will have all of his muscles relax – including the mouth, diaphragm, anus, bladder, you-name-it. Those last two I mentioned mean that if there’s anything in the bowels or bladder, it’s gonna come out. On the sheets, so be prepared to burn those puppies once you’re done with them.
  • If you turn or move the body, you may feel an out-rushing of breath from the body – sometimes air is trapped in a collapsed lung and gets released when the body moves.
  • After a few hours, Livor Mortis begins to kick in – this is where the blood begins to settle towards the lower parts of the body. Without a heart to pump the stuff around, gravity kicks in and pulls the blood downwards.
  • The body will initially stiffen as Rigor Mortis sets in. The body starts getting stiff in about 3-4 hours after death, gets completely stiff 12 hours later, then gradually dissipates until somewhere between 2 to 2.5 days after death.
  • Gas buildup will be inevitable anytime after the sixth hour… all that half-digested food in the gut will begin to rot – this leads to a bit of farting and/or belching every time you move the body, and an odor that will guarantee you’ll smell death. This gas may also cause the deceased to sit up, twitch, move, and a whole bunch of other little things that will positively scare the crap out of you.
  •  If the temperature is hot enough outside, you’ll get to see (and smell) decomposition kick in early – within a couple of days (or sooner in really hot weather), the eyes will begin to deflate, fluids (and any uncoagulated blood) will start running out of any convenient orifice (as well as ooze through the decomposing skin), and the odor will quickly get unbearable. Note that the body will also begin to swell up heavily, especially in the abdominal area.

So now you have someone, and you know he or she is dead… now what? Well, you’re mostly down to two practical choices – cremation or burial. Any other option is, well, outlandish. So, let’s explore these two routes, shall we?


Burn Baby, Burn


No no no no NO! This will NOT work!


Cremation is the fastest and easiest to perform, right? Well, wrong. In order to properly cremate a body, you’re going to need enough long-burning fuel (e.g. wood or coal), going at a high enough temperature, and have it going for long enough to get the job done completely.  Consider that you’re trying to convert 100-200 lbs (or more?) of human flesh into dry ash – that’s going to take a lot of heat. Modern crematorium furnaces generate temperatures of 1600-1800 degrees F to do the job, running for about one hour per 100 lbs of body weight. (source:

A final potential obstacle is religious-oriented. Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Traditional Jews, and even some Mormon sects disapprove of cremation.

All that said: if you’re going to do it, do it right, else you risk the potential for disease and contamination. At least a full cord of wood (or the equivalent in coal) will be needed for one average 180 lb body. It would be preferable to have two cords, though any extra can be put to use elsewhere. Stack at least half the amount, then place the body atop it. if you have any sort of accelerant to get things started (gasoline, diesel fuel, etc), it’s a good idea to use it. Use the other half of the fuel to keep it going until there is no discernible body part left. You may have to gently push the extremities into the center of the fire, but keep it going at least until the bones are dry, then crack and come apart very easily. Once you are done, you can bury the remains or do what you will with them, as they will be generally safe to handle at that point.

Finally? If you do go the cremation route, have a designated place to do it, and make sure everyone in the community puts it to use.


How To Plant a Human

…one shovelful at a time.

The easiest way to dispose of a body is to bury it. The task of digging a grave looks a lot more arduous than it really is, but to be honest it requires less work than cutting/gathering all that wood and then tending a fire for hours on end.

Digging a hole requires just one person – mostly because during the latter stages of excavation, only one person will fit in the hole to finish digging it.  However, you’ll want more than one person if you can, because digging a grave is still going to be hard work, and a hole that deep will present safety concerns – especially in sandy or unstable soil, so you’ll want someone looking out for you. Be sure to refer to the book as to where best to site your grave (failing that, an existing graveyard from pre-SHTF days woks best.)

You’ll want more than just a shovel or two – a pickaxe is going to make the process much easier to do, as you come across tree roots, rocks, and sundry other chunks of stuff. It’s preferable to do this in shifts if there’s more than one person. Dig the hole at least 4′ deep, 3′ wide, and 1′ longer than the deceased. In regions where there are large predators (e.g. bears, cougars, etc), be sure to dig 6′ deep to prevent, say, a bear, from digging up your loved one and eating him or her.

Note that in winter, the ground may well be as hard as a rock down to the frost line for your region. In that case, building a fire to melt the ice out of the soil for the first 18-36 inches makes for a workable solution to the problem.

Believe it or not, a coffin is actually optional. In many cultures (even colonial America), the body is usually buried in a cloth shroud, and coffins were usually used only by wealthier people. That said, a coffin is fairly easy to knock together, assuming you have enough nails and lumber to get the job done.

After whatever ceremonies you feel appropriate are completed, and the body is interred, be sure that *all* of the dirt which came out of the hole is put back in, then piled on top. Over time, the coffin may collapse, the dirt will settle, and time will make the ground level again.


Disposal In Numbers

Let’s face it – a true civilization-ending SHTF situation will produce a *lot* of corpses. Disposing of them is not just a matter of cleanliness, but of health. In such a case, you’ll want to find somewhere convenient and quick to dispose of all that dead flesh. In situations like this, it is not extreme to put a working backhoe or bulldozer to work, building a mass grave and quickly covering the bodies. Yes that’ll cost diesel fuel, but the savings in health (and life!) will be worth it. Find a suitable site, then dig a trench large enough to hold all of the bodies, plus enough dirt to cover them to a depth of 4-6 feet. If necessary, dig multiple trenches and break up the pile of bodies into manageable numbers.

Cremation at a mass level is doable, but it will require a *lot* of fuel, time, and work – and the smoke will get everywhere. This is an option if you’re very short on manpower, but have way too many bodies to dispose of, then it may be your only real choice. For instance, find a large(-ish) house that is vacant and away from anything that could catch fire (like trees, other houses, etc.) Pile in as many bodies and fuel as you can. When ready, add some liquid fuel to the bottom floor (or lowest point), and torch the whole thing from there, keeping watch over any stray cinders and/or sparks, so they don’t start fires elsewhere.

Other alternatives? If there’s an abandoned mineshaft, sewage piping, cave, or other sufficiently-sized hole in the ground (that you otherwise have no use for), mass burial in these places can be done. If you live next to an ocean, a mass burial at sea (in shifts) can be done as well. Just be sure that weights are used to prevent the bodies from bobbing back up to the surface.


How Not to Dispose of a Body

Dumping your dead, say, down-river? Not recommended, at all. First off, you may live upstream of another group of survivors, and they’re going to get awful angry at you for contaminating their water supply. Secondly, bodies have a habit of not floating very far, so some of them will still contaminate your local area. Finally, dead bodies attract scavengers and predators, and the local wildlife will not be as scared of you anymore – especially since there won’t be so many of you around.

Cannibalism? Umm, no. Even if you’re literally starving to death, don’t even think of trying it. Unless you know exactly what killed your intended dinner, and you eat him or her promptly, you’re risking near-certain disease and death yourself. Decomposition quickly renders a body completely risky to eat, even in very low temperatures. Cooking under primitive conditions won’t remove all viruses, bacteria, and cancers… all of which would be very receptive towards inhabiting another human body – namely yours. Best to eat a dead animal –any non-primate animal– where the diseases present in it aren’t as risky to your own life and limb.

Displaying the body of a raider or other criminal as a warning? After writing the book, I thought about this a bit… and it’s probably not a good idea. For one, the chance of disease is pretty high, even if no one touches the thing. Secondly, if the deceased is related to someone in the next settlement/town/etc over, they may take exception to one of their own being displayed as a trophy… even if the guy had it coming.

Most other means have their pros and cons, mostly cons, unless a very narrow circumstance happens to dictate otherwise, so you don’t have to worry too much when it comes to your preps.


Bits and Bobs

Speaking of preps, some things to keep on hand? That depends on how you intend (or to be honest, prefer) to bury your dead. This is not to say you have to prepare for failure, but it does mean you should prepare for the inevitable; even if you survive and live 40 years beyond, you’re still going to croak, so you may as well have the things you need for that eventuality.

For burial, keep a few shovels and at least a couple of pickaxes on hand. You can go the economy route by having a couple of large cloth sacks (large enough to fit inside) for use as burial shrouds. If you want to go one better, then store enough lumber to build coffins for everyone. No need to build them just yet… you may have a more immediate use for the materials before then. Just be sure that in either case, you include enough rope to gently lower the body, shroud, and/or coffin into the ground. Also be sure you have a bunch of spare rags or towels to use in order to soak up any fluids from the body between point of death and the burial.

For cremation, your best bet is to store some fuel (gasoline or diesel), and the means to get as much firewood (or coal) as you need to get the job done… and that’s it.

No matter which route you take, it will be handy to keep a lot of extra sheets around, and keep a thermometer specifically to check dead bodies with if you’re not certain (in colder weather, it’ll be harder to tell otherwise).

Anything beyond that? Depends on your religious preferences and moral ethos.

Finality, in Finality

I want to mention that in spite of the attempts at humor above, death is a very serious thing. It has the unfortunate aspect of being rather final, and with very few biblical exceptions, it is rather irrevocable. Having this happen to a loved one is one of the harshest aspects you will ever experience, and is gut-wrenching to the extreme. What this means for you is this: if the body is of someone you do not recognize, treat it with respect. At one time, someone loved that person -even when the corpse is your problem, someone likely still does love him or her. Treat the body gently, kindly, as if it were your sibling or parent. Even in the case of mass burials, try your best to give a modicum of respect and dignity.

Even if you’re selfish and hateful beyond belief, remember this – someday, it will be your body being carried to burial or cremation. You see, death happens to us all…including you and I. Keep that in mind the next time you have to deal with someone else whose turn has come.

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Sunday, June 30th, 2013 Generic Musings, Immediately After, Long-Term, Short-Term Comments Off

Mini-SHTF, and How To Survive Them

For a moment, let us forget the massive civilization-ending events. Let us set aside the things which threaten humanity itself. For a moment, while we’re all busy prepping, let’s take a moment to consider SHTF events that occur on a more personal basis. I’ll give you a little personal example, as it may help out…

Feces, Meet Air-Handler:

Recently, on a Friday, we got word from the boss that all telecommuting is to be suspended, and that we all need to arrive on site each working day. Puzzled, angry, and not a little fearful, our merry tribe of worker bees speculated aloud on what was going down, and why.

Monday answered all questions. We all arrived, and it became apparent that the reason we all had to be on site was so that we would have our company-issued gear with us, when meant they could more easily retrieve these items as they downsized (that is, lay off permanently) a number of us.

This included me.

Here’s what normally happens to those without a prepping mindset (I can speak from past experience)… First there are the emotions – fear, shock, anger, betrayal. They quickly cloud your mind as you fight to utter coherent sentences and struggle to keep up with the conversation. The next urge is to frantically scan your mind (to the exclusion of anything else) as to your present financial situation – how much is in the bank? Which bills are due? When will unemployment kick in and how much will that be? How am I going to make the rent/mortgage next month – OMG will I be homeless!? While all this is swimming in your head, you don’t hear (much less comprehend) what the suited drones are telling you, so you quickly grasp for whatever you can, including some really dumb options – like signing anything they shove in front of you.

The good news is, after a split-second flash of emotion, none of this happened to me.

What Prepping Can Do For You:

Fortunately, I’ve done a bit of prepping, including all the social interaction bits, which I cover a lot of in the book. I am happy to report that the results are, to date, far different from how I experienced layoffs in the past:

* I kept personal and professional relationships alive, even with folks whose ideology and outlook differ from mine radically. I mentioned my situation on a couple of social websites, then by email and phone when I got home. By the next afternoon, I had trusted agents and employers calling me up with potential job offers. I had two interviews scheduled by the end of the day. Mind you, this is an environment where jobs are scarce at best. I barely had time to polish the resume before I had recruiters and employers coming out of the woodwork asking for a copy of it. Score one for being an outgoing person, no?

* Due to a habit of setting money aside, I can cover the gap between the unemployment checks and the bills for quite a few months. I cannot begin to tell you how much of a difference that makes in how you feel during the initial news of being downsized: I did a quick mental scan of my expenses, knew almost immediately how much I had (and had coming in), and was able to clear my mind to think of next steps. This extra thinking time also allowed me to insure that my former employer didn’t try to screw me over on the way out (yes, they tried). While others were frantically wondering where they would get income, I was looking at all the paperwork and going over it, line by line (and crossing out a few lines – they resisted at first, but when I told them that I would be stopping by my lawyer’s office on the way home, they quickly became quite amenable).

* Thanks to a pantry full of food, I can go a month or two without seeing the inside of a grocery store, and that’s not even touching the long-term food preps. With the price of food these days, that’s a pretty huge load off my mind (and wallet!)

* Because I chose vehicles that have a good balance between cargo capacity, performance, and fuel efficiency, I can drive some pretty solid distances for interviews, yet still remain within my new (smaller) budget.

* Due to (again, as per the book) mentally training myself to ignore emotions (for now) and instead seek solutions in the face of adversity? I was able to think with a clear mind – even though it isn’t easy to mentally shove back the surge of anger, betrayal, and worse, I was still able to manage it very well. This also allowed me to think ahead as to what steps I needed to take next, and to discuss them with the missus. I was able to calm down my wife over the phone before I left the office for the last time, formulate a plan as to what needed done immediately (versus the medium term and long-term things I can tackle later), then put it into action. By the time I left town on the drive home, I was calm, thinking with a careful and considering mind. I even saw a rainbow among the mountain passes on the way home, and enjoyed the view.

Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, because I strive to improve myself spiritually? I was able to get home, hug my wife, answer all of her questions calmly and clearly, and together take stock of our new situation. We both dropped to our knees, thanking God for what we have been given so far, and for what we see. We asked for forbearance, charity, a discerning mind, to dismiss any thoughts of revenge or anger, and to show us which way He wants us to go. Not my will, but His.

Now this may sound silly to the atheists and agnostics among us. Well, think what you will, but the feeling of peace, clarity, and calmness I experienced afterwards? It made an already calm outlook optimistic and hopeful. We were cracking jokes and cheering each other up within minutes, and began working together to discuss options (…options? Things like possible relocation and to where, trimming the family budget to maximize the money situation, then to go watch the sun set quietly.) Let me put it this way – I was able to sleep in a little the next morning, wake up optimistic, and have that optimism proven throughout the day. You can call me whatever silly names you like for being a devout Christian, but as for me? I make it a habit to not argue with success.

How To Avoid Disaster On The Micro Scales:

Now job loss (or any similar-sized life event) is pretty stressful.

I won’t lie to you – my top priority is to resume making money doing what I love as soon as possible, and I’m working hard to that end. My wife still cried. When things reached a quiet point, I found a quiet place and let fly with my own emotions. There are still lingering uncertainties, though as each day passes some of these uncertainties have become potentials and opportunities. I spend each day working connections both professional and personal. I tear into job sites, so that I have gained a very good picture of what’s out there both locally and regionally. All that said, here’s how I was able to do it without massive stress, anger, or thoughts of planting bombs in any offices. Note that this can apply to any SHTF situation that doesn’t affect the world at large:

* Save up! I cannot stress enough how important it is to build up a nest egg against emergencies like this. Even if it isn’t in precious metals, having money in the bank will take a huge load off of your mind when that layoff announcement comes. It also comes in handy for other similar emergencies – car crashes, sudden medical emergencies, the odd tornado that deposits a stranger’s car into your garage by way of your roof…  As long as the outside world considers the money to have value, that extra bit of dough can help remove all worries, or at least blunt the impact that your new calamity will have.

* Train your mind to seek solutions, not blame or revenge. For most folks, it is impossibly hard to set aside emotions in the face of bad news. However, this must be done – you cannot give in to anger, fear, or worse, as it paralyzes you, making the situation worse. You can always curse or cry later – but right now, you have to act decisively, and to work towards solutions. Keep your eyes on the prize, and be prepared to update that plan as events change. If you are able to take in a situation, you can formulate a plan of action.

* Identify now what you really need, versus what you can jettison. In my wee example, I work in an industry where I had access to folks’ bank records, so they are justifiably paranoid about what you can do after being told you no longer work for them. When I was escorted to my desk to pick up a few things (they’ll ship the rest), I was able to identify what things I needed, and was able to leave the rest behind without a thought. On a more important scale, it applies to knowing what needs focus (food, water, shelter/warmth, tools) versus what isn’t needed (a large TV subscription package, snacks/sodas, etc). Those of you out there with massive smartphone contracts can throttle back to a cheap prepaid cellphone. A family of four who has six cars can probably be rid of a couple of them. If you have a hobby that costs you money but does not directly contribute to your continued survival, ditch it. While most of this is common sense, too many people get rather defensive about it, and justify the most outlandish things which contribute nothing towards continued survival.

* It never hurts to plan ahead. Think through various scenarios, even if they are painful (job loss, death of a spouse/child/etc, auto accident, whatever), and form tentative plans as to what you can do about them. More often than not, if you mentally prepare yourself, you will be the most likely to remain a calm rock of support in a family or group that may be losing their heads.

* Drill this into your head: You can live with less. Orient your life towards that end. Do you really need a massive cable/sat TV package, or a bleeding-edge smartphone and tablet on an expensive data plan? Is there some logical reason for driving some shiny new car on a pricey lease? Do you really need to live in a house that swallows 1/3 or more of your current income? Hawaii or Europe …really? How often do you use that boat or RV camper, anyway – is it enough to justify the expenses that it incurs? I’m not saying to cast aside some once-in-a-lifetime thing you’ve been dreaming of (and building up to) for years – but if you’re buying caviar with a beans-and-rice income, maybe you should sit down and re-think your priorities.

* Constantly build on and improve your personal relationships. True story: When I got downsized in 2005, my ex-wife’s first reaction was to pack up her things and say that “this isn’t working”, and filed for divorce. I’ll leave out my emotions on the matter, but I mentioned it to point out that unless you have a strong relationship, and know your spouse and family members well? A bad situation may end up amplified into a worse one. Knowing your personal relations also helps you to know how to help them through the given crisis, since you will know how they will react, what they will need both physically and emotionally, and it helps you to prepare them in advance if possible.

* Constantly build on and improve your relationships with neighbors and co-workers. Having a large number of friends at work (even if they leave for some other job) better helps you to find work if you lose your job. Keeping in touch (even infrequently) on a professional networking site (e.g. helps you keep in touch. Being on excellent terms with your neighbors, not just superficially, can help you (and you can help them) when tragedy strikes in your neighborhood. For small SHTF events, everyone can get together and help the stricken neighbor. For the ultimate SHTF events, you can band together and survive. I daresay that helping neighbors through the smaller/personal stuff will increase the chances that you all can band together and help each other through the bigger/global stuff.

* Pray. If you’re atheist/agnostic, then meditate or something. The point is, get in touch with who you are, and do so on an ongoing basis. As much as some folks tend to sneer at religion, it serves excellent purposes in the secular realm: it helps foster community, helps to prepare oneself to withstand adversity, and in general is a great way to stop and calm yourself. Take full advantage of that. On a spiritual level, it does some rather amazing things. If you know, then no explanation is needed; if you do not know, no explanation will suffice.

* As long as help is still around, take advantage of it. Don’t rely on it solely (or even plan for it to be there), but consider this: In my little situation, my former employer paid into unemployment insurance all this time, so I intend to take full advantage of it. Just note that if there is help, there may be strings attached – no matter who or what the source may be. Know what those strings are, and evaluate them carefully before accepting any of it.

* Orient yourself to optimism, with a dose of realism. Pessimists need not apply. Unless you can look forward to the future and honestly asses the facts at hand, you won’t be able to keep your head.

In conclusion:

Overall, prepping for small SHTF events isn’t much different than prepping for the Big One. Take your time and plan carefully in advance. Be prepared to adapt to new developments. Love your neighbor, your co-worker, and your family member. Orient your priorities towards continued survival.

If you can do all of this, life suddenly isn’t as nasty and surprising as it seems when things go rotten.

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Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 Before Collapse, Generic Musings, Short-Term Comments Off

Stocking Up On Memories

Yesterday, I came across something that, while simple, turns out to be pretty profound; it was enough that I got to thinking beyond that.

You have folks that stock up on almost every conceivable thing – bullets, food of every sort, tools, and whatever the big sites have managed to scare them into either buying, building, or improvising. However, that one little post has brought something to light that few preppers ever bother with in their rush to get out ahead of doomsday: Stocking up on good memories.

Certainly, this is covered in the book, and multiple times – enjoying life is a prime reason that we as humans live (right behind reproduction), and one really does need to enjoy civilization while it is still around – else why the hell would you want to bother trying to rebuild it?

There are too many out there who have their heads down, openly eschewing the world as we know it entirely. Some avoid it because they’re fixated (way too much) on whatever their pet prophesy happens to be. Some can’t because they’re too busy working on top of getting the preparations down. Some aren’t able to because they reason that buying an AR-15 before the government bans them all is more important than taking the kids out on a one-in-a-lifetime trip to Yellowstone.

Once Upon A Future Time…

It’s been 45 years since The Big One. Your little community has managed to come together, and in spite of all the death, destruction, and various other hardships, things have become stable, and look to be growing for your little town. Your little group of survivors have turned what used to be an elementary school into your community buildings, and converted its wide grassy fields into a farm from which most of you garden off your own plots and eat. The playground became the market, which has become quite prosperous in the past 10 years. Everyone is reasonably well-fed and relatively happy, and have made their homes and fortifications among the houses along the periphery of the school property.

As the oldest resident, you wound up being the village elder of sorts. At 66 years old, you are among the last to have lived as an adult during the pre-collapse era. Once a week, you sit by the side of the building after church. Almost all of the kids (and not a few adults) all gather around, listening to your stories of life during “The Magical Times”.  What exactly do you intend to tell them there, Mr Storyteller? If your answer involves talking about prepper websites and books, and how you packed all your stuff in preparation, then man – is your town ever going to be boring! If your answer involves made-up conspiracies and the greatest editions of The Tinfoil Bulletin? That’s even worse, and I wouldn’t blame the kids for blowing you off and going somewhere else to play. Most of the kids would think: “What a miserable effing experience! No wonder the world blew up – they deserved it!

Now what if your stories told of wonderful things – wild-but-accurate descriptions of amusement parks, of driving for hundreds of miles in one day just to see a beautiful valley? What if you could tell them of magical gatherings of people to light a Christmas tree, or to celebrate a new year? What if you could tell them of the time you walked the streets of cities across the ocean, and how you got there in less than a day by flying? What about all the basketball games you and your long-dead friends once attended, and how you and thousands of other people shouted and cheered as one? You could even tell them about the games you would play on a box, and play against people from all around the world. Then there was the time you went on this giant ship and sailed to some cool island…

Memories: More Important Than Most Other Preps

As you might have noticed by this point, there’s more to preps and gearing up for a civilization reboot than just stacking, racking, and packing. There’s more to it all than just getting good at the rifle range.

There is civilization itself. It contains a vast catalog of really awesome stuff to see and do. It not only provides you with enough leisure time to prep, it helps give you time to create, to ponder, and to wonder. It has the means to let you do some really cool stuff. While I harp on it in the book, I want to harp on it here, too. Get your ass out there and have some fun once in awhile. I don’t mean fun like in camping and drilling for preps, I mean fun like take a camping trip to a national park. Go out sport fishing some time. Pick a random town on the other side of the continent (or for those in the middle, pick a side) and go play tourist. If you have the means and the world situation isn’t too far gone, pick some spot on the globe and go visit it.

The idea here is that if you’re going to want to rebuild civilization after it’s gone, you need to explain to future generations why they should even bother. That’s where the good memories come in, no?

One Prep, Multiple Benefits

Taking time to make these memories is pretty important for you too, boyo. It does more than provide a lot of cool stuff to talk about, and even does more than help educate future generations. It allows you time to relax a little. It gives you the very needed chance to talk to other people you don’t know, and to get their insights and viewpoints – that alone will force your mind to stretch a little. It prevents you from your own form of normalcy bias… or rather, your growing abnormalcy bias. It helps give you greater insight of your own.

As someone who does prep, I do gain one benefit that most non-preppers never will: I appreciate the things I see – and do so far more than they can ever hope to. In an age where you can see wonders on your television in retina-stretching HD, seeing them for real has an almost transcendental effect. Knowing that it could be gone within a decade or two means that my mind soaks it in just that much more intensely – I find that my enjoyment of the item, act, and people last long, long after the photos, tchotskies, souvenirs and baubles have broken, faded, or become lost.

I think that if you seriously do prep, you may indeed experience much the same things – you enjoy that which may be gone tomorrow, whereas the typical tourist yawns and wonders when the buffet comes up next.

Your Mission, Should You Decide…

I’d like to close this wee blather with a mission for you: get out there and have some serious fun at least once this year. Plan and take a vacation. Get you and your family out somewhere cool, interesting, and fun. Talk to everyone you meet (just don’t get suckered), and enjoy the hell out of it. Try some new activities, new food, and new stuff. Do something that scares the crap out of you. Don’t forget to buy a cheesy t-shirt of the event.

Most importantly, soak it all up as if it will be the last vacation you will ever get to take. Why? Because you never know – it may well be.


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Sunday, February 3rd, 2013 Before Collapse, Fun and Games, Generic Musings, Long-Term Comments Off

So, You Want An “Assault” Rifle…

With all of the buzz and media extravaganzas surrounding “assault weapons” (never mind that no one really gets the definition right), I figure it’s time to look at these firearms and how they pertain to a post-collapse situation. For our purposes however, let’s concentrate on semi-automatic rifles with high-capacity magazines here…







You actually have a wide variety of choices out there, but that’s not what we’re going to discuss. What we’re going to look at involves a few things first and foremost, so let’s start with the important bits

Before-Collapse Considerations

  • cost
  • potential legal issues
  • accessories, parts, etc.

Beforehand, one of these rifles are going to set you back by a lot of ducats (and getting more expensive by the day from the looks of things). Potential legal issues? Well, we knew that already, didn’t we? To be fair, any firearm falls under this threat at some stage of governmental degradation, though the semi-auto ones will likely be picked on first. Just know that if you decide to get one of these bad boys, you’ll want to set up and put a good hiding spot to use before anyone else does. You can go crazy with options and accessories – scope, laser sights, alterations aplenty, stock options (and we don’t mean “Dow Jones” here) are among the bewildering variety of things you can do to make one of these as unique as you are. Thing is, the costs rack up, and it is all too easy to get caught up in it. Oh, and did I mention that the ammunition is extremely expensive too?

After-Collapse Considerations

  • ease/costs of maintenance
  • availability of ammunition

Okay, forget about all the picking and choosing for a moment… let’s talk about what happens after the balloon goes up, shall we? Because most of the issues beforehand can be justified, honestly rationalized, or worked around in some fashion. Barring doing anything stupid (like, oh, having an accessory such as a night-scope that requires batteries), odds are good that you can have one in your hands while it all goes down.

Let’s talk about ease of maintenance. You got enough spare parts for that thing? They tend to go through parts more rapidly, especially given the more complex mechanisms. There is also the fact that you’ll probably go through more ammunition when you use one in a combat situation (why? Because for anyone who is not a trained SEAL? If you can, you will, especially if you’re scared. It’ll take a lot of time and training to suppress the urge).

Let’s talk about ammunition, because these things can really eat a lot of it. Finding the military ammunition can either be incredibly easy, or impossibly hard. If governmental troops are in a nearby battle and there were a ton of casualties, you may come into a gold mine of ammunition. On the other hand, and in any other situation, well, good luck with that. Mind you, this goes for any other rifle that doesn’t have a common, cheap cartridge. You see, unlike .30-06, .30-30, or other common hunting round, you either have a ton of ammo and reloading supplies stocked-up, or you’re liable to wind up with a goofy-looking club. As mentioned in the book, at least 1,000 rounds is a must, and if you’re toting a semi-auto, expect to keep at least 3x as much in stock at the very minimum – preferably 5x as much. Why? Because you’ll have a much harder time getting hold of that particular caliber (be it by scavenging, barter, or whatever). The good news is, the stuff keeps better than most, because the military is very good at specifications that lend towards reliability and long-term storage.

Mind you, this ammo thing will still be a long-term problem when it comes to any firearm that isn’t a muzzleloader (assuming it’s a match/flintlock). So, the only question is, how long until the bullets run out? For a semi-auto (or worse, full-auto) rifle with a non-hunting caliber, that date will probably come sooner than most, unless you have free access to a good military stockpile. If it’s any comfort, the exotic hunting rifle owners will likely run out before you do.

So, What To Do?

Back to the present day. You’re sitting here, reading this, and thinking: should I get an AR-15, an SKS, or a Mini-14, or…? Well, first and foremost, ask yourself: How useful will one be to you?

If you’re just buying it to be scary-looking, or because it holds a buttload of cartridges which you can spray at inbound enemies? Don’t. There are few situations where a semi-auto with a high-capacity magazine is actually useful – most of them are in urban situations where you expect to shoot a lot of people wanting to kill you, and are at ranges of 10-50 yards. less than 10 yards and a semi-auto pistol is more useful. Anything beyond 50 yards, and the shorter barrel isn’t going to give you the same accuracy that a decent long-rifle will.

All that said, there are advantages to the likes of an AR-15. The large-capacity magazine means less time between reloading – a very good thing in combat. The shorter carbine-length barrel makes it easier to swing around in tighter quarters. The design makes it almost perfectly easy for an experienced owner to strip down, clean, and re-assemble with very little in the way of tools.


So you don’t want just a hunting rifle, but at the same time you don’t want something that may get banned before Christmas? No problem…

First, allow me to introduce you to the M-1 Garand. It is reliable, solid, quite accurate without a scope, and it uses common (.30-06) ammunition. If you know how to look, you can cheaply stock up enough spare parts and ammunition for it to last a decade or more. Overall, not a bad deal.

Second, an uncommon suggestion: The humble, evil, but paradoxically loveable Mosin-Nagant. You can get them extremely cheap – enough to buy multiple rifles of the same model for use as spare parts. Reliable? If you select the right ones at purchase (hint: check the inner rifling), they are nearly indestructable. The ammo, though non-standard, is cheap enough to buy in stupendous quantities, and the stuff is amazingly reliable (that is, if you find a good supplier). There are exactly two downsides: First, they kick like a constipated elephant… a butt-stock cushion of any sort is a must (they come with a steel plate on the butt, if that tells you anything). Second, they are loud beyond belief, so don’t expect to find anything resembling a silencer.

Still Gonna Do it then? Okay…

In those situations where a semi-auto carbine with a big magazine would come in handy, go for it. Just don’t get stupid with the accessories; for instance, anything needing a battery should not even be considered. Keep to the basics, and learn to be proficient in it, and without all the crap hanging off of it.

Buy it with cash, preferably through a private sale. This leaves no records for the authorities to follow to your house if the topic of confiscation ever does become law.

Keep it in perfectly clean and working order. Know how to take it apart and put it back together with the bare minimum of tools. Be doubly certain to insure the magazines are in perfect working order, and keep spares around – mis-guided cartridges are among the biggest causes of jams.

Be certain you have a damned good hiding place for it and its ammunition. Odds are good that as government gets more fascist (or if you prefer, anti-freedom), it may go from banned sales to banned possession. My suggestion would be to find a place where lots of metal is located, dig a hole next to or under that, then put your rifle and ammo in waterproof containers before burying them. Another alternative would be to have more than one rifle, hiding one where you can get to it quickly, then burying the other one. Be sure to do the same with half of the ammunition. By the way, this also goes for your magazines, accessories, receipts, and anything associated with your rifle.

Don’t write anything down, but maybe take a picture of your spouse, dog, or suchlike standing next to the concealed burial site(s), so you remember where to go look when you need to dig ‘em up. For instance, if you bury it next to a metal fencepost, have your sweetie pose for a portrait standing next to that fencepost, taking care to not photograph the fresh dirt at her feet. Print that picture, and post it in the same room you keep your gun cabinet/safe. Suddenly, you have a map of your hiding spot sitting in plain sight – neat, huh?

Sadly, this next bit is necessary for way too many of you out there: DON’T BRAG On THE DAMNED THING! Don’t take pictures of it, and especially don’t take pictures of you standing near or next to it. The point is that this rifle is a tool for survival, not a prop to make you look like a badass. Those who mistake it for a prop, even in jest, will quickly lose it.

Finally, keep a very sharp eye out on the political situation, so you know when to do something about these rifles, and all of their gear.

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Thursday, January 10th, 2013 Before Collapse, Generic Musings, Long-Term, Short-Term Comments Off

Religion, Post-Collapse

Religion, Post-Collapse

This past weekend, as I sat in church, my mind began to wander a bit. Normally, this is considered a bad thing, even sinful. On the other hand, there are times during the service when I think it to be a good thing, so long as it revolves or involves one’s relationship with the Divine.

Well, during all of this, I was thinking ahead to the Religious Education classes that I volunteer for, and something came up: What happens post-collapse? When happens if there is no priest, no bishop to ordain new priests, no pope, etc. Thinking even further, other religions have similar obstacles. I know that I went out of my way to list religious tomes in the book, but sometimes, there are things required which will simply not be available to the ordinary religious person.

The following are initial thoughts, and will likely require a ton of work and research (maybe it’s own 2nd Edition chapter?) But bear with me, and if there is something I missed (and I probably did) – please let me know! I’ve broken it down by popularity in North America:

Christian, Protestant:

This is perhaps the easiest of all to prepare for, since in most generic versions, almost anyone who is baptized can be a preacher (you just have to be persuasive and knowledgeable enough, I suspect). The more formal Protestant organizations would likely still require some sort of formal certification and/or ordination, especially if we’re talking about Anglican/Episcopal variants, and those would have to be tended to as needed.

Overall though, I think that as long as there is a Bible handy, and some sort of training available, it would be doable. For the loosest affiliations, I suspect that a solid understanding of the Bible and the ability to counsel, convince, and a strong sense of duty and service would be sufficient.

Preparation would simply require that an extra Bible is handy in your supplies, with perhaps some hymnals if you want to keep singing them post-collapse.

The only real long-term dangers would involve misinterpretations and personal agendas that would, over time, distort the original Word of God and the messages of Christ.This would require a watchful community, and an eye towards keeping as many bits of literature, dogma, and tradition as possible.

Christian, Catholic:

(Disclosure – I’m one of these).

Catholicism would be, in my opinion, the hardest to keep going on a formal scale. There are things which are required (gilded chalice and plate, a missal, unleavened bread and sulfide-free wine, beeswax candles, incense when possible, etc). There is room for improvisation, and some of the items can be scrounged from existing stock (candles, chalice/plate, etc).

However, the big problem lies in the fact that the host/wine can only be consecrated by an ordained priest. A priest is required to have training, and is required to be ordained. He is also required to be celibate and to dedicate himself to the community’s needs. A deacon (married man who can assist in most of the Mass) can fill in most of these roles, but the consecration and other functions (e.g. confessions) must be performed by an ordained priest. The good news is, any bishop can ordain a priest. Archbishops, Cardinals and even the Pope himself are all considered to be bishops in this regard, so no worries there (trivia bit: The Pope is considered as the Bishop of Rome). The bad news is, most bishops live in big cities – the one location which would come apart in a hurry in any type of complete societal collapse.

Preparation-wise, you will want to talk with your local bishop. If you can catch him when he’s personally doing confessions, that would be an awesome (and perfectly discreet!) time to bring the subject up with him. The idea is to convince him to bug-out, and have a family in your parish put him up. Failing that (the most likely outcome here), your community (if predominately Catholic) would have to go get him and bring him to you, or at least find out where he may have bugged-out to. If you have fellow Catholic preppers that you know in your area, now would be a great time to bring the subject up with them. Get as many as you can to add extra preps (food, medical supplies, etc) to provide for the priest as things go south. Note that if you believe collapse to come by way of fascism or any anti-religious sentiment, you may also need to find means by which to hide the good father from authorities (this is nothing new, incidentally – King Henry VIII made this a necessity for all British Catholics, and for quite awhile…)

Post-collapse? Provide for the priest you do have, and do your best to locate the nearest bishop. This way you can send any seminary candidates to him as needed as your priest gets old, dies, etc.  I think that once stability of sorts is returned to the area, things may revert to what once occurred out here in the Western US and other formerly pioneer areas – a priest will travel from community to community, performing Mass at homes, barns, or anywhere convenient. Your job will be to convince one to make their way to your community. This may mean attending Mass perhaps once a month at best, or once every 2-3 months if you’re almost as lucky. The rest of the time, someone can be ordained (again, by a bishop) as a local Deacon, holding communion services with leftover and/or pre-consecrated wine and hosts that have been suitably stored or sent for the purpose.

Long-term, the dangers lie in running out of bishops. Any three or more bishops can, in a pinch, ordain another bishop, but the trick will be in finding enough bishops in order to pull it off. Bishops ordinarily require that the ordination be done with the blessing of the Pope (to insure unity), but dispensation can be universally granted before or during collapse, and can likely be assumed after that. Historical precedent would be missionaries and times of persecution where a direct blessing/permission could not be gained in a timely manner (again, see also early Anglican England). Globally? It will be a very, very long time before a local diocese can reconnect with its neighboring ones, let alone connecting with the Vatican -this will lead to a lot of confusion (and not a little strife) before things are re-established. The good news is that most things which are Catholic have been around for nearly two millennia, so don’t expect any radical changes. However, there is a danger of local bishops (or even priests) using collapse as a signal or cue to start changing things subtly, mostly to suit his particular ideologies and any desired changes from the norm (obligatory snark: especially if the gent’s formal title ends in “S.J.”), so you would have to be on guard against that. A periodic diocesan council would prevent much of that from happening, as long as there are a sufficient number of priests and other clergy about to keep things honest.

Christian, Mormon:

In spite of living in and among the LDS communities of Utah for well over a decade, I still know very little here, so bear with me:

I presume that aside from the requisite Bible and Book of Mormon, there really isn’t too much in the way of equipment at the local (ward, stake) levels. I do know the temples on the other hand require the adherents to a special bit of undergarment before entering, that there are a few requirements to enter one (as well as a “Temple Recommend”), and that there are likely special temple ceremonies (marriage, baptisms of the dead, etc) and such that need to be passed along.

From research, I do notice that, as far as I can tell, any ordained LDS priest can ordain another (through the laying on of hands), but am unclear as to how exactly it is that one elevates to the titles of High Priest, Bishop, Seventy, Apostle, and Prophet… At the very least, there would be some form of local continuity if you have a going community of fellow LDS survivors.

Having a strong tradition of preparedness, I suspect that your local ward would have some sort of contingency/continuity plan in place that would come in very handy during collapse, but it would only work if you had a large enough community of LDS adherents. Outside of Utah, Idaho, and maybe Oregon? It may be tough going, especially if your local ward is so large that it would require a day or more of travel by foot just to reach the building.

Long-term, there is a strong chance of splinter groups forming and of dogmatic drift. Existing examples of this includes the FLDS church, which splintered over the question of polygamy (FLDS is for it, rest of LDS church is formally against it).


(this one is all from guesswork, so please send corrections as needed):

Post-diaspora Judaism has dispensed with the need for burnt offerings, Levite priests, and suchlike. Nowadays, all that would really be required are the proper books, tools and space (and preps!) sufficient to maintain kosher food laws, and a place to meet on a weekly basis.

As the Jews have traditionally been forced by society and history to be more mobile and improvisational than most, I suspect that most of the preparatory portions have already been ingrained by now. I would only suggest a deeper study of things, and a close relationship with your local rabbi, and maybe know of the closest place where one could find a means of making copies of the scriptures properly (if I remember right, there is a procedure for that which insures perfect copies are made, and that, for instance, any pen and perhaps ink which writes His title is kept separate from the ones used to write all the other words, etc).

Ordination of new rabbis is something I am completely unsure about, but I think that two or more other rabbis can do it (For the Jewish among us, please send corrections and clarifications – I’d actually like to know).

Muslim (Sunni and Shi’a):

This is actually easier than any other out there – a copy of the Koran, and perhaps the Tawrat and Injin as well (strongly suggested here, by the way). It also wouldn’t hurt to have a few philosophical treatises and books handy from prominent and historical Muslims. There is no formal hierarchy, as an imam is usually whoever had the religious respect and education to sufficiently run the local mosque.

All that said, the post-collapse Muslim will have one problem in North America that most other religious folks do not: the potential for persecution on an unprecedented scale. While said persecution is in direct violation of Christian morals, and there aren’t enough Jews or atheists around to do it on any real scale, nonetheless there will likely be a lot of problems in this arena. Of course, this does depend on the nature and type of collapse, but in a world where no one really has enough, the first to get picked on will be those who are different-but-minority, and Islam is about as different as it gets in this part of the world. 9/11 and global terrorism activities certainly don’t make this any easier. The best means of survival against this is to find and integrate with a community that is friendly to the religion, or form a large and strong enough community to effectively defend yourselves against incursions.

If you can survive and form a community that includes enough fellow Muslims, and can do so peacefully enough, the rest is easy to carry along. Your biggest long-term goals will be teaching Arabic/Farsi, and in not changing what’s in the books as they get copied over time. You and the Jewish folk will have one thing in common: the need to for food laws to be adhered to. Although circumstance may prevent you from always eating according to Halal needs, there is some leeway, and you can organize your preps and foraging/growing activities to them over the long haul.

Everybody Else:

This all depends on how you believe, how formalized the religion is (or lack thereof), and what would be required to maintain it over the long haul. I suspect more than a few atheists would hope that somehow people drop religion during their post-collapse travails (umm, not gonna happen). Buddhists and other very small religious bodies will get on well enough, though this depends on tradition and style of ordination. Not sure about the whole Wicca/Pagan thing, since (just in my opinion) most of the adherents aren’t really all that serious about it over time – at least not enough to dedicate an entire lifetime to it. There’s also the long-term danger of a return to medieval attitudes towards anything which can be construed as witchcraft, which most sane people can file under the ‘do not want‘ list for their children, grandchildren, etc. Finally, there is a lack of recognizable tradition (as in, a timeframe of 100 years or more) and any sort of means to keep it all unified enough to be recognizable over long periods of time.

On the other side of the coin? Odds are good that if the population is too small and the requirements too formal with no contingencies, the religion will likely die out in North America. The specific/discreet religions I listed above have populations large enough that they stand a good chance of long-term survival. The rest I wouldn’t place any long-term bets on.

Final Thoughts:

No matter how you pray (or don’t), one thing I see as a common thread is the need to prepare for not only short-term continuity, but the long-term as well. Priests and Bishops will grow old and die, even if every last one of them survive collapse (and since the Catholic ones are celibate, no kids to carry things on, either). Copies of sacred writings will, unless strictly controlled and observed, start gaining typos and errors which will magnify over time, causing meanings to become unclear and/or changed (example? Lets say some incompetent soul drops the word “not” from “Thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s wife” – leads to all kinds of confusions, not to mention a mandatory coveting, no?)  Even if you’re an atheist, the philosophical books and papers which you’ve scrupulously kept as  evidence of reason over religion may get all mis-copied, so…

The biggest take-away though is this: tradition is a huge part of what makes us human. It makes us appreciate our forefathers. It also helps give us a sense of continuity over time. This will come in very handy when building a new world, especially as you’re enduring the remains of the old one as it slowly snuffs itself out of existence.

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