Being part of the preparedness community doesn’t guarantee your survival, and it doesn’t mean that you are incapable of making a fatal decision. It doesn’t even mean that you’re automatically going to know what to do and have the things you need to do it with. All it means is that you’ve made a decision to do what you can to prepare yourself and your family, so that when disaster strikes, you’re as prepared as you can be for it.
Granted, going through the process of preparing for emergencies will greatly increase your chances of survival. But that assumes that you don’t make any fatal mistakes. It also assumes that you’re not going to make the wrong decisions about how to prepare.
You’ve got to be careful in this realm, because not everything you hear will be right. While there is some excellent material out there, there’s also some really poor information. You’ll find information written by one expert which directly contradicts what another says. When the supposed experts can’t agree on something, it makes it real hard to figure out what the right answer is.
Part of the problem is that there is no one right answer. There is no one perfect solution for every survival problem. You’ve got to figure out what’s going to work for you, and then you’ve got to do it. But you want to make sure you avoid the deadliest mistakes, such as these:
1. Being a “lone wolf” survivalist.
Survival is hard work — there’s no two ways about it. There are just too many different things that need to be done to ensure that your needs are met. If you try and do it all on your own, you’re going to find yourself overwhelmed with work, without enough hours to do it all.
That’s why we come together in society. Working together, the tasks of survival can be split up, allowing each to concentrate on one part. That makes for greater efficiency, and it reduces the amount of knowledge that each person has to have. In the end, everyone ends up better off.
Rather than trying to make it on your own, find a survival team you can join or start your own. If your extended family or even your circle of friends are like-minded, you’ve already got what you need to have in order to put a survival team together.
2. Planning on living off the land
There was a time when our ancestors lived off the land. Those early pioneers and settlers came to a land that was rich in resources and teeming with game. While living off the land was work, it was possible.
Things have changed since then. No longer is the land and the game so plentiful. While there is no shortage of game in the woods, many hunters return home empty-handed from their hunting trips. That’s OK when you can stop at the local supermarket and pick up steaks and burgers, but if there’s a breakdown in the supply system and you’re depending on shooting a buck for dinner, you might have too many hungry nights.
America’s population has grown too much to realistically plan on living off the land. Considering that preppers and survivalists make up less than 2 percent of our population and there are more than 300 million firearms in the country, it seems to me that there will be a lot of people out there trying to hunt, and many for the first time.
3. Ignoring the need for a bug-out plan
Most survival writers, myself included, recommend trying to bug in, rather than bug out. There are several reasons for that, most notably the fact that few of us have a good survival retreat to bug out too and even fewer have the bushcraft skills to make a long-term shelter in the wild. Besides, staying home keeps you where your stockpile is, as well as providing you with shelter and familiar surroundings.
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But that doesn’t mean you don’t need a bug-out plan. Things can happen which make bugging in impractical or even dangerous. If that happens, you’ll need to be ready to get out of Dodge and take your family to a safer place. Hence, the need for a well-thought-out, well-organized plan.
4. Not having a survival retreat
If there’s a chance that you’re going to have to bug out, and there is, then you need a destination that you can reach. Whether that’s a cabin you own in the woods, a friend’s home in a rural community, a cave you found in the wilderness, or even a state park, you need a place that you can go. Actually, you need more than one such place, as not all disasters will treat you the same.
The idea of heading off into the woods and building a log cabin with your tomahawk and wire saw is fantasy, not reality. If you’re going to build that log cabin, then you’re going to need better tools than that. You’re also going to need supplies to keep you going, until you can get to the point where you’re growing your own.
If you can’t afford that cabin in the woods and don’t have a family member who lives in a rural setting, then you’re going to have to find something else. But more than anything, you’re going to have to pre-position equipment and supplies, so that when you get there, you can survive.
5. Waiting too long to bug out
This is a tricky one, as each disaster is different. Therefore, it’s all but impossible to say with any level of security when you should bug out. You’re going to have to look at the likely threats for the area where you live and try to determine a trigger that you can watch for, which will tell you that it’s time to leave.
Generally speaking, it’s better to bug out when things start looking dangerous, than to stay home. I realize that sounds contradictory to what I said a moment ago, about it being better to bug in, but it really isn’t. Yes, it’s better to bug in, but if you’re going to have to bug out, then do so quickly and don’t waste any time. You want to beat the rush, especially if it’s the type of situation where everyone will be leaving the city and blocking the roads.
6. Having the wrong people in your survival team
I mentioned earlier the importance of having a survival team. But I need to add a word of precaution to that. That is, having the wrong survival team is worse than having no survival team. The last thing you need is to be burdened with are people who don’t have much to contribute when you’re trying to survive.
I’ve seen a number of survival teams through the years, and I see two mistakes being made over and over again. The first is to ignore the personalities of the people who are invited to join the team. If you can’t get along well together, it doesn’t matter what skills they have; it won’t work. Worse than that, if they are lazy and complaining, expecting you to do everything for them, they’ll be a burden.
The other big problem is to concentrate on the wrong skills or accept only skills without preparation. Some skills are more valuable than others, and that needs to be taken into consideration. Someone who is a trained medic is worth a lot to your team. Make sure that each member has skills that truly are to the team’s benefit. In addition, make sure that they invest in the equipment and supplies necessary to put those skills to work when the time comes.
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