I was going over the books available for Christmas and, as I do, I checked out the “survival” books. I don’t know how else to say this. If you are lost in the woods and separated from rescue these books have good and helpful information, but In a disaster scenario the advice in some of those books will leave you exhausted and friendless within a week.
During 33 years of working in disaster situations and conflict zones, and after hundreds of interviews with war and disaster survivors, I have never heard a single soul say; “I wished I’d had a gun, that would have made everything better.” What they said was, “I wish I’d have had my friends and family.” The other most heard desire was, “I wish we had a safe place to go.”
The two most common desires of people who are displaced by disaster or war was people they could trust and a safe place to stay. This was even in places where there was little food and water. This aspect of access to community is important.
Survival vs. Surviving a Disaster
There is a distinct difference between “survival” and “surviving a disaster”. In a survival situation you are separated from society. You have to survive on your own because you are separated from people, services, shelter, and supplies.
In a disaster situation you will often find yourself in a group with others who are similarly affected by the disaster. This can be an advantage. The reason you can survive is because you are not separated from people even when you are separated from services and supplies.
Myth of the Lone Wolf
The absolutely most effective thing you can do to improve your situation in a disaster or social disruption event, before the disaster, is to be on friendly terms with your neighbors and socially active within your community. How you do this us up to you. Be active in your congregation at church, join 4-H, participate in the local farmers market, organize a block party once a year; anything you can do to meet and interact with the people in your community.
Participation in your community, and being around people who have a habit of socialization, will give you access to medical, material, and emotional support. As long as you are willing to do the same, your friends will bind your wounds, share their food, and watch for trouble while you rest.
I never understood the “lone wolf” mentality to disaster preparation simply because planning to be solo and aggressive is so ineffective. Also, the description of the lone wolf as strong is completely false in nature. Wolves live and work in structured, cooperative packs. Lone wolves are social outcasts who do not last long specifically because of the lack the social structure that provides cooperation and support. The same is true of solo and aggressive “survivalist”.
The reality is that in today’s socially isolated world it is emotionally easier to isolate yourself, but during a disaster it is medically, materially, and emotionally easier to be in a cooperative group.
There is the secret! Did you catch it? A cooperative group. The trick is to make choices before the disaster strikes to give yourself the best chance of being in a cooperative group. The best way to do that is to get out there and be sociable.
Take a risk, make a friend.
For more details on practical preparedness check out – Disaster Response SMARTBook 3 – Disaster Preparedness, 2nd Edition