Prepping the smart way: Full-spectrum Disaster Preparedness

Looking at the state of the world, and the record of historical events even as recent as the previous century, it’s difficult to justify not prepping for potential survival situations. Hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and all sorts of natural disasters happen every year, and it seems like at least somewhere in the world there’s a war or a revolution going on every moment of every day.

But do preppers take into account the full scope of disasters? I think it’s a good idea to expand what is commonly referred to as a “disaster” from a survival point of view, to encompass personal disasters such as unemployment, heart disease, cancer, and other health problems too. They might not make the evening news, but they can end your personal world as quickly as any earthquake or tsunami.

I’ll quickly review the scope of what I refer to as full-spectrum disaster preparedness, at least with those  disasters I tend to prepare for the most.

Worldwide disasters

Electromagnetic Pulse

One study shows that there’s a ~12% chance of a Carrington level event happening in the coming decade. Carrington refers to the solar storm of 1859. This wiki article is a good start.

Given the effects of a worldwide EMP on infrastructure, especially in more developed countries, such an event would kill billions of people (I’m extrapolating based on the 90% casualty rate in the U.S., that a similar rate would prevail in all other developed countries). That’s billion with a B. If you think EMP is something to be taken lightly, have a look at the Critical National Infrastructures Report (careful, it’s a PDF) released by the congressional commission on EMP.

Yet surviving such an event is entirely possible. I think prepping to survive something like a nuclear winter would be a lot more difficult. To me, given the billions of lives lost, and the trillions of dollars in economic damage, preparing for a solar-induced worldwide EMP that has a 12% chance of happening is quite sensible. You don’t have to go crazy, you could prepare for non-specific disasters, but then dedicate a small amount of your efforts to EMP-specific preps.

Here’s just a quick look at what would happen with no electricity, a permanently damaged power grid, and most electronic components fried. You won’t have:

  • Water. Which for most people requires an intricate system of filtration, purification, and pumping to get to your home. Most of these systems are controlled by SCADA computers, and are not shielded from EMP. Bottled water in shops will run out in the first day or two.
  • Food. Your food supply is even more complicated, requiring a complex chain of Just-In-Time deliveries to supermarkets by trucks (which wouldn’t work), coming from shipping containers unloaded at ports (which also wouldn’t work), canned and produced at factories (which wouldn’t work either). Oh, and you can forget about refrigeration too.
  • Medicine. The factories producing it, the trucks delivering it, it all requires the same electricity and intact electronic components. So expect supplies to run out very quickly. Without refrigeration, a lot of temperature-sensitive medication would go bad, too.
  • Access to information. Even if you went through the effort of EMP-proofing a radio, most radio stations and other hams would be fried. Same for the infrastructure providing us with T.V., internet access, etc.
  • Your motor vehicle. Bicycles will work though 🙂

I should also mention man-made EMPs. The congressional commission on EMP, and some congressional hearings I read, seemed largely preoccupied with a North Korean EMP threat. The fact though is that any nuclear-capable country could launch a High-Altitude EMP, as all it requires is a nuclear bomb detonated at the proper altitude above ground.

In fact, since the United States military has such an obscene budget and is perpetually at war, they could only be beaten in an asymmetric attack (or a defensive guerrilla war, but EMP scenarios usually revolve around an attack). Thus, I believe it’s reasonable to assume that ANY less developed (and less dependent on electricity) country would open their first salvo of any war with the U.S. with an EMP, if they have that capability. That includes China, Russia, and all the other enemies NATO seems to be frantically trying to make with their wars.

Economic decline or collapse

Then there’s the economic collapse or decline, which as far as I’m concerned is more of an inevitability than a merely “possible” event. The only question is when it will happen, and whether it will be quick, or slow.

The West is on an unsustainable debt trajectory into oblivion, with there being no chance of politicians reducing their power by spending less. I’ll talk about the various scenarios and outcomes in another post, but suffice it to say that economic recovery is not one of them – not until after it gets worse, anyway.

And when the West’s debt-fueled consumption collapses, China’s mercantilist export-based economy will collapse too, since they’ve still not developed a sustainable domestic market for their own products as a result of their unwillingness to let the Renminbi appreciate (which would increase the real wages of their workers, and allow them to actually buy what they produce). Since keeping the Renminbi devalued requires a constant stream of new currency to be printed, the bubbles in China (such as in real estate) are getting to be very, very bad. It also seems that a large portion of China’s GDP comes from government construction projects that build uninhabited ghost cities.

And when China and various export-driven countries collapse, their demand for natural resources falls too, hitting countries like Brazil, Russia, and probably the entire MENA region too. The world has globalized, and while market-driven globalization is a good thing, the current iteration, driven by politics, imperialism, inflationism, and mercantilism, is not.

Prepping for an economic collapse, or at least a significant decline in living conditions, is also I think entirely reasonable. I would go so far as to say that anyone who doesn’t have at least some plan that they’re working on in case of economic turmoil is afflicted with normalcy bias, and will be in for quite the shock.

There are all sorts of other potential worldwide disasters such as nuclear war, environmental collapse due to genetic vandalism on the part of companies like Monsanto, and others that I’m still researching and learning about.

Regional/national disasters

Then there are the regional disasters specific to where you live, such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and other such events. Whether you ought to prepare for these depends on where you live.

Man-made disasters are especially prevalent in this category, and would include wars, civil wars, revolutions, civil unrest, economic depression and collapse, rise of totalitarian dictatorships, etc. You’d best have a bug-out plan involving leaving the country to deal with these, in my opinion.

I’ll leave those for another time though, because my main point is…

Prepping for Personal disasters

Now here’s where we go from the more apocalyptic or conspicuously painful disasters, to the ones that are actually the most likely to affect us or our loved ones.

Like unemployment. How long can you last without a paycheck? Is your life currently built around savings and investments, or debt-based consumption and being one paycheck away from losing your house? There are millions of homeless people in the world, and for them, the ‘S’ has already hit the fan.

Or say a house fire. Assuming you manage to get yourself and everyone else out of the house safely, what then? Are you insured? Will your vital preps all burn down? House fires kill about 3,500 people per year in America.

But that pales in comparison to how many die of heart attacks – about 599,413. What are you, personally, doing to avert or reduce the possibility of a heart attack?

The human mind is often a poor judge of risks, confusing and putting improper weight on apparent, rather than real dangers. While dying in a blazing inferno, or being swept away by 100mph winds sure sounds scary, it’s not that likely. You’re far more likely to die of an illness or disease, and they’re a lot more preventable than you might think. For example, there are all sorts of lifestyle changes you could make in order to vastly reduce your chance of a heart attack.

Cancer prevention as personal disaster preparedness

The same is true of cancer. Cancers kill approximately 567,627 people per year in the U.S. alone, and most of those cancers were caused by smoking tobacco. The CDC believes that smoking kills 443,000 people every year (although how many of those were from cancer I’m not sure).

If a father supporting his family dies prematurely because of a stupid habit, is that not a disaster, as clear and traumatic to that family as if the children’s father had died in a flood?

If you’re a prepper and you smoke, your smoking is statistically more likely to kill you than any natural disaster, man-made war, or economic decline.

Did you know that tobacco contains large numbers of radioactive isotopes?

If your idea of preparedness is having a nice bug out bag full of cool gear, but all the while you’re irradiating yourself and filling your lungs with thousands of carcinogens, then you’re a strange kind of prepper.

At best you’re someone addicted to buying camping gear, knives, and firearms, whose using prepping as an excuse. Don’t take it personally, I was like that too. I still have a large knife collection. But how many knives are in my bug out bag? Two, and one is just a small food prep knife.


Drinking alcohol is also a cause of various cancers (such as throat cancer).

If you need a certain blood-alcohol level just to enjoy yourself with friends, then you might want to re-evaluate what you define as “enjoyable”, and perhaps whether you’re friends with the right people. Socializing shouldn’t require alcohol.

Drinking alcohol is no safer than smoking marijuana. It’s actually worse. Just because it’s ubiquitous doesn’t make it a good idea.

College kids get drunk because they lack self-restraint, are immature, and are easily influenced by peer pressure. You’re an adult (probably, I don’t know the demographics of who reads this blog), and if you’re reading this, you either accidentally stumbled upon it, or you’re a lot more awake to the issues going on in the world than most people. That shows you have critical thinking skills, a good measure of independence, and are more interested in getting to the truth of the matter than fitting in. If that’s an adequate description, then you have no reason to be drinking.

Not only are smoking and drinking very unhealthy, and provide no lasting enjoyment, but they’re also very expensive. Imagine the amount of money you could save from alcohol and tobacco, and instead spend on growing a garden, buying a water filter, buying canned food, taking a first aid course, etc.

The amount of money the average smoker spends to feed their addiction is probably a livable sum of money in and of itself! Never mind that needing cigarettes on a regular basis is a massive disadvantage in any prolonged SHTF scenario, since there will be added pressure and stress from a lack of cigarettes, while others who aren’t afflicted with that addiction won’t have any withdrawal symptoms.

So how can you prevent cancer?

Now back to cancer, which kills half a million Americans every year. Let’s say that you either don’t drink or smoke, or you’ve resolved to quit (good for you!). What else can be done? Well, apparently changing your lifestyle and diet can have a substantial role in reducing an existing cancer, lowering the likelihood of a recurrence, and diminishing the likelihood of cancer occurring in the first place.

There are all sorts of diets that many claim have helped them, and that are (allegedly, I’m still researching this) scientifically quite sound. The Anti-Cancer book has quite a following, for example, and cites some studies as evidence for its dietary suggestions.

In the end, prepping is all about increasing the likelihood of your own survival, and the survival of those you care about (even if they themselves sometimes don’t seem to care). And that means approaching survival from a holistic perspective that encompasses both the terrifying, and the mundane, personal, but no less deadly disasters.

p.s. If those cancer and heart death statistics give you some motivation to lead a healthier life, then consider also that Iatrogenic deaths are even higher, at as much as maybe ~783,000 per year. Iatrogenic deaths include people who die of infections and bedsores in hospitals, adverse drug reactions, etc. Think twice before swallowing those pills, they might hurt you more than they help!

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