Survival Strategy Basics

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Survival Strategies

Changing concerns and preparations

Survivalists’ concerns and preparations have changed over the years. During the 1970s, fears were economic collapse, hyperinflation, and famine. Preparations included food storage and survival retreats in the country which could be farmed. Some survivalists stockpiled precious metals and barterable goods (such as common-caliber ammunition) because they assumed that paper currency would become worthless. During the early 1980s, nuclear war became a common fear, and some survivalists constructed fallout shelters.

In 1999, many people purchased electric generators, water purifiers, and several months’ or years’ worth of food in anticipation of widespread power outages because of the Y2K computer-bug.

Instead of moving or making such preparations at home, many people also make plans to remain in their current locations until an actual breakdown occurs, when they will—in survivalist parlance—”bug out” or “get out of Dodge” to a safer location.

Watch some video of why you should be prepared.

survival food and gear

Mainstream emergency preparations

People who are not part of survivalist groups or apolitically oriented religious groups also make preparations for emergencies. This can include (depending on the location) preparing for earthquakes, floods, power outages, blizzards, avalanches, wildfires, terrorist attacks, nuclear power plant accidents,hazardous material spills, tornadoes, and hurricanes. These preparations can be as simple as following Red Cross and U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recommendations by keeping a first aid kit, shovel, and extra clothes in the car, or by maintaining a small kit of emergency supplies, containing emergency food, water, a space blanket, and other essentials.

Mainstream economist and financial adviser Barton Biggs is a proponent of preparedness. In his 2008 book Wealth, War and Wisdom, Biggs has a gloomy outlook for the economic future, and suggests that investors take survivalist measures. In the book, Biggs recommends that his readers should “assume the possibility of a breakdown of the civilized infrastructure.” He goes so far as to recommend setting up survival retreats: “Your safe haven must be self-sufficient and capable of growing some kind of food,” Mr. Biggs writes. “It should be well-stocked with seed, fertilizer, canned food, medicine, clothes, etc. Think Swiss Family Robinson. Even in America and Europe, there could be moments of riot and rebellion when law and order temporarily completely breaks down.”

For global catastrophic risks the costs of food storage become impractical for most of the population  and for some such catastrophes conventional agriculture would not function due to the loss of a large fraction of sunlight (e.g. during nuclear winter or a supervolcano. In such situations, alternative food is necessary, which is converting natural gas and wood fiber to human edible food.

Survivalist terminology

“TEOTWAWKI” redirects here. For the novel, see Patriots Novels Series.

Survivalists maintain their group identity by using specialized terminology not generally understood outside their circles. They often use military acronyms such as OPSEC and SOP, as well as terminology common among adherents to gun culture or thepeak oil scenario. They also use terms that are unique to their own survivalist groups; common acronyms include:

  • Alpha strategy: The practice of storing extra consumable items, as a hedge against inflation, and for use in barter and charity. Coined by John Pugsley.
  • Ballistic wampum: Ammunition stored for barter purposes. Coined by Jeff Cooper.
  • BOB: Bug-out bag.
  • BOL: Bug-out location.
  • BOV: Bug-out vehicle.
  • Crunch: A general term for a major, long-term disaster.
  • Doomer: A peak oil adherent who believes in a Malthusian-scale social collapse.
  • EDC: Everyday carry. What one carries at all times in case disaster strikes while one is out and about. Also refers to the normal carrying of a pistol for self-defense, or (as a noun) the pistol which is carried.
  • EOTW: End of the world
  • Electromagnetic pulse (EMP) – an extreme level of electromagnetic energy sufficient to burn out computer chips that may be caused by solar flares or by atmospheric nuclear explosions. Such an event would disable the Internet, telephones, computers, and devices that rely on computer controls, including automobiles, the electrical grid, and household appliances.
  • Goblin: A criminal miscreant, coined (in the survivalist context) by Jeff Cooper.
  • Golden horde: The anticipated large mixed horde of refugees and looters that will pour out of the metropolitan regions WTSHTF. Coined (in the survivalist context) by James Wesley Rawles.
  • G.O.O.D.: Get out of Dodge (city). Fleeing urban areas in the event of a disaster. Coined by James Wesley Rawles.
  • G.O.O.D. kit: Get out of Dodge kit. Synonymous with bug-out bag (BOB).
  • I.N.C.H. Bag: I’m Not Coming Home Bag. Similar to bug-out bag but usually kept to with the individual so as not to have to return to one’s residence to get a bug-out bag.
  • Pollyanna or Polly: Someone who is in denial about the disruption that might be caused by the advent of a large scale disaster.
  • Prepper: A synonym for survivalist that came into common usage during the late 1990s. Used interchangeably with survivalist much as retreater was in the 1970s. Refers to one who is prepared or making preparations.
  • SHTF: Shit hits the fan. A term used generically by survivalists to describe disaster situations.
  • TEOTWAWKI: The end of the world as we know it. In use since the early 1980s.The term was coind by Mike Medintz in 1996, in the Usenet newsgroup misc.survivalism.
  • WTSHTF: When the shit hits the fan. A term used generically by survivalists to describe disaster situations.
  • WROL: Without rule of law. Describes a potential lawless state of society
  • YOYO: You’re on your own. Coined (in the survivalist context) by David Weed.
  • Zombie: Unprepared, incidental survivors of a prepped-for disaster, “who feed on… the preparations of others”
  • Zombie apocalypse: Used by some preppers as a tongue-in-cheek metaphor for any natural or man-made disaster and “a clever way of drawing people’s attention to disaster preparedness”. The premise of the Zombie Squad is that “if you are prepared for a scenario where the walking corpses of your family and neighbors are trying to eat you alive, you will be prepared for almost anything.” Though “there are some… who are seriously preparing for a zombie attack”.

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