Editor’s Note: Another contribution from Xavier, much appreciated.
After the SHTF and it stops falling from the sky and you’re alone, where will you go? Will you be a lone wolf or a member of a community of friends? What is your backup plan if you need to join a community of strangers? What will you bring to the table? How can you convince a group to take you on as a member? How do you sell yourself? Most preppers think about hoarding supplies, bugging in, and riding out the storm in their basement; but the fact is, accumulated skills are more important than what you can carry with you in a backpack. Not to mention, the chance of survival in groups can be multitudes higher than trying to go solo. There are a myriad of skills that are helpful in our current world, but if we’re in a world WROL, certain skills stand out, presenting value in a long-term survival situation.
Let’s discuss an obvious one first: marksmanship. Proficiency with a rifle, pistol or shotgun are important for community defense and hunting. This is a cornerstone of most preppers’ repertoire, and while definitely a skill to not ignore, it simply doesn’t stand out when petitioning to join a community. More likely than not, this role is already filled by some of the existing members. However, if you contain a high aptitude such as long range shooting, or you’re carrying a rare weapon such as an automatic machine gun, you carry more value. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t develop your marksmanship, but you’d better bring your A-game if you want to impress the survivalist community. If you don’t have any experience in this area, here’s how to start: go buy a .22LR rifle and get to the range in your area. .22 is cheap to shoot and won’t bruise your shoulder with recoil. I’m partial to the Ruger 10/22, it was my first gun. Practice progressively from 10 meters up to 100 meters. Focus on your breathing and trigger pulls. Be in control. Next, grab a .22lr pistol, it’ll use the same ammo from your rifle making logistics simpler. Practice from 3 meters out to about 10 meters. Again, focus on your breathing and trigger control. Now buy a 12 or 20-gauge shotgun along with a bunch of bird shot (#7 – #9) and go to a range and shoot a trap course. If you’ve done these three things and consider yourself proficient, I won’t have to tell you what to do next, you’ll know.
If you’re particularly adept at harvesting and gardening, you have more value than the average Joe. The majority of American’s experience gardening is an herb set they keep in their windowsill. The clear majority are clueless when it comes to growing a backyard tomato garden. Knowing when to plant, when to harvest, and which plants complement each other is of great value for a long-term survival situation. I’d estimate that more often than not, preppers have at least dabbled in this area and therefore you’d really have to set yourself apart to showcase value. One way to do so is to show an ability to handle livestock or even raise chickens. Fewer preppers have had the opportunity to raise live animals. This is an excellent way to demonstrate worth. If you’re green in this area, start small and work up progressively. Grow some potted basil, mint, or other herbs in your windowsill. If you’ve got the space, plant a few low maintenance vegetables. You’ll maybe have more success buying pre-planted pots and transferring them, but you can be successful on your first try with seed, I was. Easy varieties could include cucumbers or tomatoes. Learn about the climate in your area, frost dates, and soil mixtures for your chosen veggie. Find out the do’s and dont’s of watering plants, if and how you should prune your plants, and how to harvest. Find out which plants go well together, and which can’t be planted in the same place in subsequent years. What kind of fertilizer should you be using, Epsom salt or egg shells? If you don’t have space at your apartment, find a community garden, or grow indoors with an aquaponic system. Learn now, or be hungry later.
Household skills such as cooking, cleaning, mending, etc. aren’t particularly flashy skills to have, but they are the lifeblood of a camp, second only to perimeter security. It’s the monotonous day to day tasks that keep things running, and it’s a task that often rotated among members of a group, perhaps taking them away from a skill they’re more adept at. Peeling potatoes or replacing buttons on a jacket won’t make you stand out, but having minimal skills in this area demonstrate that you won’t be a complete burden to the community and can contribute a warm body to the day to day mundane tasks. If you’re an adult and don’t have basic skills in this area, re-evaluate your entire lifestyle, now! Enroll in a cooking class, join a sewing club, and practice at home. Understand that while you may do all of these tasks now, after the crash there will be additional challenges and inconveniences. There will be no washer and dryer to just throw your clothes in and select a spin cycle, and likely no running water at all. You’ll be cooking over an open flame, and it’ll be orange, not blue. How will you spice up a dish that you and your family have eaten for the past four days in a row to make it more palpable, especially with kids?
Can you re-purpose torn jeans into something useful? How about curing meats or canning food for less prosperous months? Do you know how to make candles and soap? Get these skills under your belt sooner rather than later.
Medical skills don’t even need to be presented here as an encouragement to augment your skill set. Skills encompassing first aid such as CPR, basic wound care, trauma wound care, emergency pharmaceutical treatment should be within the capability of any long-term survival camp. Knowing how to place emergency sutures or inserting an airway on an unconscious patient are lifesaving techniques. The knowledge of how to place a tourniquet, control a fever or reduce inflammation are essential skills. Even something as simple as a bug bite or small cut can become deadly or debilitating if not treated properly. Start at the local Red-Cross, they offer many free classes. CPR and first aid being first in your arsenal of medical skills. See if there is a CERT program active in your area, as they offer additional skills relating to disaster relief such as trauma care and triaging procedures. Find a pharmacy technician course, a phlebotomy course; enroll in a nursing program. They’re not cheap, but often value can’t be accurately measured in fiat currency. You’ll hopefully learn the difference between many common painkillers, some drug interactions to avoid, how to start an IV, and how to place sutures, among other awesome skills. If you can find an EMT level 1 course in your area, take it! Being highly proficient with medical skills would almost guarantee you a place in the ranks.
Being good with your hands with mechanical or handyman skills will serve you well in long term survival situations. Keeping small machinery running such as generators, motorcycles, quads, and larger diesel tractors should be an easy sell for a community lacking in such a person, but two is one and one is none. Knowing how to construct or repair buildings, build solar generators or properly put up a fence can make all the difference in not only comfort, but survival. Don’t kid yourself about your own abilities when it hits the fan, but putting up picture frames on the wall or putting together Ikea furniture isn’t going to cut it. This is a broad subject to jump into, so find something that interests you. Build a small solar farm at your house and use it to power your entertainment system and charge your electronics, or as a backup on your fridge in case your grid power is lost. Build a custom frame for your solar panels out of wood. Construct raised beds for a garden in your backyard. Run plumbing for that new garden you’re building, and a rain collection and water filtration system while you’re at it.
Change the oil in your car, and rotate the tires yourself. Brakes squealing? Change your pads and perhaps the rotors. Get your hands dirty. You’ll appreciate the callouses later.
Those practiced at communications hold an often undervalued position in a WROL situation. Communications include both those with skills around radio communication such as HAM, CB, and GMRS, but also those who have proficiency in a foreign language. This latter skill, is often overlooked and can prove extremely valuable for processing information discovered via the former. Those listening to shortwave or HAM radio months after a collapse may receive broadcasts in a language other than English. Encountering other groups after the fall can lead to potential conflict if there isn’t a mutual understanding between the two groups. This is particularly important if the camp is proximate to a border. Examples would be those groups near the southern border of the United States having a Spanish speaker among them, and those near the northern border having a French speaker. If you studied some Spanish or French in high school, start brushing up on it now. If not, enroll in a class at your local community college, or there are even free online courses. Pick a language that will be likely to have value in your area or that are likely to be encountered. Spanish, French, Chinese(Mandarin), Arabic, and Russian are common additional languages to adopt that can be put into play when listening to international radio; all of them (plus English), being the official languages adopted by the United Nations. For radio communications, grab a CB radio and take it with you in the car and practice. See how far the waves travel on the open road vs in a city, and what antenna positions give you a better signal. Grab FRS radios and learn the limitations of these types of radios as you play in the park with your kids. Getting your Amateur Radio technician class and general class will open up a whole world for you. Learn Morse code. Information is power. Redundancy in all skill sets is mandatory for survival of a community. Any downtime of members in an organization should be spent cross-training in other areas to make the group more well-rounded and resilient in case of a catastrophe. While the Internet and YouTube are still around, soak in as much information as you can, as this resource won’t be around when you need it after the crash.
More important than passively learning, is applying it in practice. Learn from mistakes now while you have a safety net. Consider building yourself a prepper library, with books on these skills mentioned, and more. They’ll survive an EMP, can help fill in the gaps in knowledge and make passing on skills to new members simpler. Never stop improving yourself in case you find yourself sitting for an interview to survive.