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OTG – As a supporter of the “it takes a community” survival mindset, what tips can you give for not becoming a victim should such a natural or man-made disaster occur?
RF – I think that far too many preppers are fixated upon prep secrecy or OPSEC because they believe that telling anyone anything about your food stores or views on preparedness is a huge mistake. Now I am totally in favor of applying basic common sense OPSEC, but the fact remains that it is also extremely important to begin building a like-minded community before a disaster strikes.
The old adage, “No man is an island” comes to mind in this regard. Look at the pioneers of the old west for example. There was a division of labor and goods just like today, but it took the community and neighbors help to build and sustain even the most dirt poor farmstead. Most preppers do not realize that being a “lone wolf prepper” is neither feasible nor sustainable in the long run. I can almost hear a collective groan from the prepper readers right now in disagreement, but this because most preppers are individualists and are very strong willed and confident in themselves. These are traits that we in the preparedness community are all guilty of, although this type of mindset tends to help us get through difficulties, these traits can also work against us.
It is hard to sell people on the true community aspects of prepping with all the focus on internet conspiracy theories, bug-out bags, guns, doomsday scenarios etc. etc. overwhelming our brains and pocket books. That’s why in my books you won’t find the usual “shoot ‘em up” scenarios that are popular in the survivalist and post-apocalyptic fiction genre.
OTG – What can your characters teach real American preppers?
RF – My characters are aware of and prepare for the need to defend themselves and families, but they generally come to the realization that the biggest threat to their survival is not the angry starving hordes, but the lack of sharing and community cooperation that is going to do them in. As brief as possible I will give you a few good reasons why it takes a tribe or community to survive a long term disaster.
A. First off is security. You can’t guard your stash 24/7 by yourself. In war torn Sarajevo, neighborhoods organized for defense against other neighborhoods, gang bangers do it in L.A. etc. A bigger force always has the advantage.
B. Most people can’t afford the resources for long term self-reliance. What you lack others may be willing to share if they are in your network.
C. You are one serious injury or illness away from being essentially useless.
Let’s look at it another way, most disasters will not result in a total breakdown of society. It takes grains and legumes for even a minimalist diet in an impoverished country. For folks to survive after the preps run out, you better be thinking on whose land you are going to plant that can of wheat you have stored, as well as how many people it will take to contribute labor to the effort, rather than how you’re going to shoot the first person that tries to take it. Organize to protect the field and granary the community will need to survive after you donated that can of wheat to jump start the effort back to recovery.
OTG -Instead of going through a mid-life crisis, you basically went through a massive mid-life career change. After working professionally as a gemologist and serving our country as both an Air Force Airman and as an Army soldier and you have earned multiple degrees. Given your extensive military and emergency management background, what advice would you give folks concerned about civil unrest after a disaster?
RF – I have researched this subject academically for six years, as well as had plenty of boots on the ground experience responding to hurricanes. Having had experiences with hurricanes both as a victim and a responder, I am much more optimistic about the true state of peoples mental health after an occurrence than my reading and understanding any lessons in a college lead me to consider.
Let me clarify this statement by repeating what hopefully all the readers of this article know as a fact by now about the media hype of Katrina and the dome etc. The rapes, murders, and violence etc. was nothing more than hype and spin to sensationalize an incident. They didn’t happen for the most part. Now I could write whole papers on why this outright lying by the media will continue to influence the uneducated or unawares psychological response to future devastation, but we are to focus for this discussion on how the occurrence should truly affect those that experienced the event.
I submit my opinion not as one in this particular situation but who has experience with similar events and hopefully can add some insight into human nature as a more positive and nurturing reality versus a reverting to uncivilized or psycho-traumatized rationalization. Statistic research will show you that the vast majority of people, somewhere around 97 percent, help their fellow man after a disaster.
Yet, for some reason, the countless acts of selflessness or heroism never made it to our papers. If you disbelieve that the media lied, just do a search or watch the news on any station as it is common knowledge and a great way to start a lesson in this academic forum about critical thinking. What happens after a storm is people reassess their values.
What is important in life, what do they value most? The elderly tend to migrate oftentimes because it’s a sensible solution, not always based on a fear of not being able to start over or a fear of a storm. They realize they are not as young as they used to be and realize they have certain vulnerabilities; that’s called wisdom, and it’s time to move back around the grandkids, etc. The emotional stresses from storms can break apart families however and this can be trying times for all, especially those with preexisting psychological conditions.
The average person in these environments relates to their nature or nurture response on how they view the expectation of another occurrence of the same tragedy. Many people will put on a tough front that belittles those who have experienced the same tragedy. Many people will put on a tough front that belittles those who have legitimate or like fears and others will use the event as a crutch that supports other underlying tendencies.
The U.S. House of Representatives’ Katrina Report  on media coverage that led to militarized responses in New Orleans is the first place people should delve into in order to comprehend both sides of the question of civil unrest after a disaster.
Ok, now for a prepper point of view, there is very limited data on a long term, unsupported disaster event. Now you can expect the worst out of everyday good people and take suitable precautions. But your timing must be right, too little or too much response can be your death knell. That is what I write fictional accounts about. How and when does a community decide it is an all or none situation?