After A Disaster, Who Will You Be?

by David Morris on June 16, 2011

After a Disaster, Who Will You Be?

I really appreciated reading the comments and feedback last week on “Charity vs. Self Preservation.” It was very interesting to see how people aligned in their desire to be prepared for upcoming disasters had such different views.  If you didn’t get a chance to read the article or the comments, I’ll put a link at the end of this article…it’ll be worth your time.

Humans are amazing beings. We are all unique in our appearance, how our minds work, the skills that we’re naturally good at, our personalities, how we learn, and what tasks bring us happiness.

Awhile back, I was driving home from spending a couple nights out in the woods practicing survival skills. Dr. Dean Edell was on the radio and happened to be the most interesting thing on the dial. I don’t know much about him…whether he’s generally on the mark or if he’s out in left field.

That particular day, he was talking about hunter/gatherers and farmers/gardeners, how different their personalities are, and how differently they’re built. He talked about how the activity of hunting rewarded people who had a heightened sense of awareness of their surroundings and does not reward people who are able to go on auto-pilot and “zone out.” This is good not only for spotting movement of prey, but also for detecting nearby predators. It also rewards people willing to explore different areas and take physical risks.

Farming and gardening, on the other hand, reward a different set of traits…namely the ability to do many of the same things on a regular basis. You may be able to get away with only going hunting once a week, but if you stop watering, weeding, and checking on your garden for a week, you’re likely to get smaller yields. They get joy out of nurturing and tending to their garden, knowing it, and watching it grow.

Of course, people who are master gardeners can also hunt and vise versa, but usually people are better at one than the other.

Dr. Edell took this idea a step further by talking about methods of learning and risk tolerance. Specifically, he talked about how many entrepreneurs dropped out of school, didn’t do well in school, and how the majority had been diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder of some sort or another. In reality, they were just “hunters” who’s attention flits from one thing to another in an educational system designed for “gardeners” who can focus on the same thing for long periods of time.

Obviously neither personality type is better than the other. They’re different and the world needs both to function smoothly. I am a hard driving hunter/entrepreneur who craves new challenges and school drove me nuts, but I’m very happy that there are people in the world who are more nurturing, and detail oriented than I am and who find comfort in doing the same thing every day.

What’s all this have to do with preparedness? A lot, actually.  For the most part, if you are talking to someone about preparedness, they’re going to emphasize the importance of the particular facet of preparedness that they’re best at.  Are you a gardener?  You’ll probably place an emphasis on how important gardening would be during a long term survival situation.  Are you a hunter and/or fighter?  You’ll probably place an emphasis on hunting and protecting.  Are you a counselor/minister?  Are you a cook?  Are you a medical professional?  You get the idea.  For a short period of time, someone with any one of these specialties could survive or even excel, but to truly build stable micro environments after disasters, it takes communities of people with different strengths.  And this is true whether you are considering a post-disaster situation in an urban area or a rural area.

Because of my previous training and life experiences, I’ve got an abundance of tactical and me-against-the-world training in both urban and wilderness situations.  There is a completely different approach that you may be interested to hear about.  A friend of mine told me about a preparedness conference that happened in Austin TX last weekend. Actually, the training started last Monday and is still going. About 200 people spent between 8 and 60 hours getting CERT trained (Community Emergency Response Team) and CISM (Critical Incident Stress Management) trained and some are spending another day getting trained to teach CISM.

The organization that sponsored all of this is the Austin Disaster Relief Network. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re quickly getting known around the country as THE example of how local disaster preparedness is supposed to work. Besides these trainings, either their people or members of churches they’re working with have also gone through training to run shelters, cook up to 20,000 meals per day, tarp roofs and run post-disaster childcare. The Baptists even have chain saw crews trained and ready to go out and clear downed trees.  They purposely leave out tactical responses to lethal force encounters so that people who abhor violence in any form will have a vehicle to use to get prepared.  They emphasize the number of complete strangers that they can support after a disaster as much or more so than how long their family can survive.  If you’d like to do something similar in your area, shoot me an email and let me know.

Again, what’s this have to do with you? Well, the reason that I’ve brought up this topic in the past and am bringing it up today is because there is no one-size-fits-all survival plan.  It’s the whole idea that the body is made up of many parts and functions best when all are present and functional.

There are people involved in preparedness who are willing to use any and all force necessary to protect their supplies and there are people who would rather die than turn away someone in need.  In last week’s newsletter, people on both sides of the spectrum gave intelligent, well thought out reasons for their decisions on this matter.  If you think it’s a Christian/non-Christian issue, you’re mistaken.  There are strong Biblical arguments on both sides of the issue and I believe that the same God could give two neighbors completely different guidance and both could be correct.  The charitable neighbor could show the love of God to several people in the early stages of a disaster and God could suddenly change the heart of the 2nd neighbor when the first neighbor runs out of food.  During the whole time, the 2nd neighbor could watch over and provide cover for the first neighbor from wolves seeking to take advantage of him.

If you’ve been following me for very long, you know that I lean towards practicing operational security and protecting what you’ve got stored rather than advertising your home as the place to go. I firmly believe that it’s easier to start out with a protect and defend stance and later decide to be generous than to start out being generous and try to switch to a protect and defend stance. But at the same time, I’m very glad that not everyone’s like me. There’s room for both camps and both sides can learn a lot from the other.

I want to encourage you to think about preparedness through YOUR particular lens. As an example, almost every preparedness “expert” says that you’ve got to have a garden and that you need to be good with a gun and hand to hand skills. I agree that these are vital skills to know, but they may not be the areas that you naturally excel in.  I garden but I am not a particularly good gardener and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I have the supplies to garden after a long term disaster, but if I have to garden to survive, it’s not going to be pretty.

I’m counting on giving my seeds and supplies to someone who’s good at gardening and who actually enjoys it. I can provide security, help them market their produce, or do something else for them that they need and that I’m good at and enjoy.  They’ll be able to produce more food in less time with less frustration and actually enjoy what they’re doing while I do something in return that is frustrating for them but that I enjoy and excel at.

One of my favorite examples of this is Special Forces “A” teams.  In an A team, you’ve got a group of highly trained guys who are all cross-trained in each other’s disciplines, but when things get tough, they rely on their specialists.  How do they break things up?  Here’s a brief example:

18 Alpha — The officer of the group.
18 Bravo — Weapons sergeant who specializes in weapons and tactics.
18 Charlie — Engineer who is trained to build structures and blow them up.
18 Delta — Medics who are trained to be able to handle trauma in the field and set up 1-man hospitals in remote villages and work on people as well as every kind of animal they might run into.
18 Echo — Communications guy who makes sure that the unit can communicate with each other and Batallian as well as setting up communications networks for locals.
18 Fox — The intel specialist who collects, analyzes, and forwards intelligence and the head guy for interrogations and debriefings.
18 Zulu — Runs the team and recruits locals.

Again, everyone in this group is cross trained, but specializes as well.  The medic may have a passion for saving lives, but he is also highly proficient at eliminating lethal force threats as efficiently as possible.

After a disaster, you’ll want to be able to do something similar…ideally you’ll want to be a jack of all trades and a master of one.  (Not “none” as has often been misquoted)  Maybe your passion will be cooking up big pots of beans and rice, manning a radio communications center, counseling and debriefing.  In other words, just because you don’t have a big arsenol and a lifetime of training doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to be a vital part of the group that stabilizes your area.

There is a movie playing in many people’s minds that after a economic collapse or breakdown in civil order after a disaster, life will be a continual war zone…and it might be.  But not everyone will be fighting…and even if everyone is fighting, it will only be for a time and people will have to get busy living life between spurts of violence.  I’ve talked with lots of guys coming back from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia who told stories about being in the middle of a firefight in a built up area only to see someone walk across the road between them and the enemy with produce or their goat.  In other words, no matter what level of breakdown, life goes on.  People trade and barter, people specialize, and people seek some form of regular day-to-day life, even though it might get interrupted by extreme violence on a regular basis.

What about you? Are there any stereotypical survival/preparedness skills that you know you need to learn and know how to do, but wouldn’t be the best use of your time in a survival situation? If so, have you figured out something that you could provide in exchange for someone else helping you in that area?  What areas do you think are essential, no matter what your skillset?

I included my list of essential skillsets and required knowledge for surviving breakdowns in civil order, as well as some areas where you might want to specialize and strategies for finding other like minded people after economic collapse or other disasters in the Urban Survival Course.  Many preparedness groups around the country have called it “required reading” for their members.  Career military and law enforcement personnel have said that it was the best book they’d read compiling a lifetime of disaster preparedness into an easy to follow course.  If you haven’t gone through it yet, please check it out by going to

Also, I’ve got a comment and a question over on the forum on how to keep temperatures stable when you live in a climate where there are large fluctuations in temperature. To read more, go to:

Until next week, God bless and stay safe!
David Morris

P.S.  Here’s the link to last week’s article on “Charity vs. Self-Preservation.”  I’d suggest reading the article to get the context of the conversation, but the real meat is in the comments at the end:





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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Vote -1 Vote +1Stephen
June 17, 2011 at 8:59 am

Hey David,

Great, great article!

As you well know I agree with you 100% and you certainly know how much I love your Special Forces A Team outline.

Now that we’re in KY 100% of the time my wife and I are very interested in establishing training seminars based upon the Austin prototype. Along with this I would like to tie in the Survival Fitness Training Program.

What a wonderful combination this can be! Individuals would have a choice of both programs or just one.

Keep up the terrific writings!


Vote -1 Vote +1Pastor Garry Parkin
June 17, 2011 at 10:02 am

A well balanced article David. Fence stradling is uncomfortable… but that is where I find myself. As a former military officer, pastor, and tech teacher, I must agree withh all of your points. Protect what you have untill you have a good ‘lay of the land’, do your best to accumulate about you like minded people with a diversity of skills, and help all those you can (which properly done builds a larger community of diverse skills).

Canadian culture is different… but people are people are people. The Dallas example is what is needed here as well. We have many many small communities in our rather large land. Many will be over-run and overwelmed by the desperate dwellers of our large cities because few communities have organized any kind of relief planning. How much better off we would have been in our flooded communities this spring if the communities themselves had been prepared to organize their own relief efforts… instead of complaining that the various levels of government were to slow to repond to their plight.


Vote -1 Vote +1Joseph Hyde
June 17, 2011 at 10:26 am


It occurred to me that after a ‘Disaster’ (Natural or Man Caused-maybe deliberately) that if the Gov (FEMA) or some such steps in for mass evacuations that your survival kit or preparedness materials may be taken away from you by them, if the point is control, because they can’t be sure of control if you have some means of communication or self defense that they can’t control… very bad for them.

It’s something to think about.


Vote -1 Vote +1Pastor Garry Parkin
June 17, 2011 at 11:51 am

Its a good point Joseph… and underscores the need for looking like the neighbours (a point eloquently put by Bill M [loose weight like your neighbours] on David’s post “Charity or Self-preservation.”) I can’t help anyone…. especially my own family… if the government (or anyone else) takes what I have so carefully prepared…. hence… keep a low profile UNTILL you can see how its coming down.

Pastor Garry


Vote -1 Vote +1Ron G
June 17, 2011 at 9:37 pm

I enjoyed your article especiallly the listing of the special forces personal you listed along with the specialtys they have. I think forming a specialty will be very important in the times ahead.


Vote -1 Vote +1Leonard M. Urban
June 18, 2011 at 10:36 pm

A gardening tip I’d like to share with anyone interested is DO NOT water entire rows of your garden plants unless you have lots of time to pull weeds and unlimited water. Where I live (Albuquerque, NM) we’re a mile above sea level. Rain is unpredictable in this high desert, and if you live in Albuquerque Proper, there are harsh restrictions on water consumption. We’ve been in drought mode for over a decade, and because our state and municipal politicians have been “selling” water to other states (or setting it aside to “save” the Silvery Minnow), one cannot be too lavish in watering a garden lest one draw unwanted attention from city inspectors, and pay exhorbitant fines. What I do is dig a hole about 18″ deep and 12″x12″ for each plant (or pair of plants, like squash or melon vines). I fill it halfway with composted leaves (I don’t ever use household “compostables”), then fill the hole with dirt within about 2″ of the top. I press the pre-soaked seeds about 2″ into the soil, and pour a gallon of water into the hole. Each garden plant is in a “hole” thats 12″x12″x2″ deep. In this way, I’m not watering soil between plants (giving water to nutrient and sun-stealing weeds–silverleaf nightshade, tumbleweed, mustard grass, lamsquarters and goatheads in this region). On the hottest days, each hole gets a gallon of water. On cooler days, I water on alternate days. Although our city govt. recommends watering being done early in the morning or after dark, this isn’t always a good idea. Many of the flying insects whose larvae will eat up your plants, are active at night, and home in on areas of higher humidity in which to lay their eggs. My personal preference is to water just after midday, when the sun is highest, and plants most stressed on hot days. If you live in an area where “Harvester Ants” (Pognomyrmex spp) are found, DON’T poison them. They won’t eat your plants, instead they “harvest” the seeds of weeds and other undesirable plants that will otherwise compete with your garden plants for sun, nutrients and water. Yes, these ants do sting like wasps (to which all ants are related), but, unlike Fire Ants, they’re not dangerous, and if you don’t step on them (they’ll spray you with a pheromone as they die that will draw others to attack you for many months), they’ll leave you alone. I’ve often worked among Squash and Melon vines barefoot (to avoid crushing vines concealed by large leaves) finding and killing squashbugs, and because barefeet don’t usually kill the ants, I’ve rarely been stung.


Vote -1 Vote +1Robert
June 21, 2011 at 6:17 pm

Drip irrigation is a good method for deserts. It conserves water, grows few weeds, and can be automated or put on a timer to avoid waste. Wide bed with flood type irrigation is also an option with pathways between the beds. Row cropping will indeed use too much water, but can be useful if the water is very saline.


Vote -1 Vote +1Stephen
June 19, 2011 at 6:40 pm

Excellent points Leonard!
We live in KY and have quite a large organic farm. The major portion of our crop is positioned very much as you recommend. It saves huge amounts of water and the crops do much better with this application. We have a system to catch rain water and by using the techniques you suggest or similar ones we save a great deal of money and we have a high return.
If anyone wants to set up a large area of land using these techniques, they must be ready to spend a lot of time prepping the earth. It takes longer than trenching with a tractor. It takes a lot of backbone. However, it’s worth every bit of sweat! We live 100% off our yield.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Urbivalist Dan
June 21, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Leonard, Rob and Stephen would definitely be the ones you want helping you with your crops!

Great thoughts David. Interesting thoughts on how you can maintain a necessary degree of self-sufficiency AND at the same time take advantage of inter-dependence.

Appreciate the mental kick-start.


Vote -1 Vote +1dan
July 17, 2011 at 4:29 pm

The critical aspect of self preservation will be preserving ones humanity when, not if the excrement hits the rotary airfoil. I dont have huge stockpiles of supplies, but i have determined learn more about the people around me and to seek out opportunities to assist neighbors in need, such as those with children or the elderly. Unfortunately, many who are currently living as if they have’nt a care in the world will need to learn to hunt/forage quickly, I won’t be able to do much for them unless they just as quickly learn to pitch in and be part of the solution.


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