Breathable air is probably the greatest and most common thing taken for granted. There are actually many airborne threats, or ways you can be deprived of breathable oxygen, or be exposed to toxins that can kill you, but thankfully most are unlikely. In the natural word, smoke is probably the most common, such as a forest fire, but smoke is usually hotter than the air around it and rises up and out of the way. Volcanic (and super volcanic, ie. Yellowstone) eruptions is one of the bigger threats, releasing some toxic gases, but mainly ash, pumas, which are usually very tiny, sharp, and porous. It will choke engines of all types, and you will have to filter the air so you can breathe or it will basically turn to cement in your lungs. Similar conditions can be caused by an asteroid (meteorite) or comet impact – this will be presumably less uniform and contain stuff from whatever is thrown up where the impact took place, to the material of the meteorite itself.
Besides fires, man made threats come in three main categories, nuclear, chemical and biological. Nuclear ground bursts – which create huge amounts a radio active materials, are similar to the volcanic and asteroid impact scenarios with the addition of latent radiation in the particulates, hence you want to filter them out, OUTSIDE of where you are if you can to keep them away from you. As chemical threats, the only good news is that they generally dilute and dissipate over time. Unless you are in a confined area, such as a terrorist attach on a subway or tunnel, getting far enough away from the source is adequate if you can avoid concentrated exposure. This means the life of the threat is also short of there is dissipation. A biological threat however, keeping regenerating as it is passed one. The worst part about chemical and biological threats are that unless you are aware of an attack or outbreak (others have already suffered), it will be hard to know when to use a gas mask, HEPA or NBC filters. Instruments what detect these are prohibitively expensive. Fans of the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind may remember the low tech approach, the “canary in the coal mine”. Canaries die before people do in bad air, or at least in low O2 or high CO2, such as in the coal mines. Also, in the absence of oxygen, fires, such as candles, go out. Simple things to know and watch for.
BASIC LEVEL. – The most inexpensive and simple thing you can do is buy some N95 masks which are available at pharmacies, big box retailers, and hardware stores (or something close people wear for protection from working with fumes and dust).
INTERMEDIATE LEVEL – You can make a simple air filtering system off a vacuum, or inexpensive shop dust collector. Any kind of fan with enough pull to draw air through a filter, like some of the better furnace filters. Plastic and duct tape can do the rest for you to seal off an area if you had to, and blow fresh filtered air into it.
ADVANCED LEVEL – For your home or retreat or shelter, you should have a positive pressure air filtration system in place, provably one that can run on battery backup also, or at least part of it. As for the fallout threats, nuclear, asteroid impact, volcanic, all three of these are really particles that any good furnace filter (short of HEPA) will be effective in removing. Even consider getting a used furnace blower, they can be found cheap, talk to a HVAC guy to buy an old (used) one – in fact consider hiring a HVAC guy to set up a layered system of filters for you for intake in of air from a high level of free particulates. This will clog a single small filter quickly, so you need a lot of draw filter surface area. You also can back flush – use air pressure in reverse to blast clean clogged filters and start over. Consider starting with a fine wire mesh, which you can back flush easily. You probably would want to back flush with an air hose if possible, and moisture may create a paste and clog it up worse.
When I first started the Yahoo Group SurvivalRetreat in late March of 2004, I tried to set forth my goals in an outlined form of what I wanted to accomplish. The goal of course is survival, and in order to survive, the necessities of live must be maintained for life to continue. Thus, I started with the old “Food, Shelter, Clothing” standard, and expanded on that, attempting to prioritize them best I could logically. My updated list is now as follows:
You will notice air is first, since you can only live a minute or two without breathable air, something we all take for granted, unless you have experienced something like smoke inhalation. Next is drinkable safe water, which you can only last a few days without. Food, is actually something you can go without for weeks if you are healthy with at least a little extra weight, while shelter and clothing are completely dependent upon weather. For instance, if it is below freezing, clothing and shelter are now more urgent than even water if you are freezing.
Going forward, I will devote an article to each of these 12 categories as it relates to a survival retreat (or secure home). I take some comfort in the fact Joel Skousen, in his “Secure Home” and “High Security Shelter” books and on his website also incorporates his survival philosophies, and I think you simply can’t separate the two.
Designing a good survival retreat/secure must take all this into consideration. Thus in entering into this endeavour, I believe it is necessary to present it comprehensively with my outline, which I briefly describe as follows:
Breathable air (smoke, gas, CO detectors), mobile (gas masks) to Retreat forced air filtered system with backup power (HEPA, charcoal, UV, positive pressure directional flow)
Water purification, mobile and fixed, well or water collection/storage system, and a sanitary system goes hand in hand.
First storage (best types to buy, best system to store your own), then production (seeds, livestock, square foot gardening to small scale farming) and foraging (to the extent you can hunt/trap/fish).
Location matters, you must be in a survivalable area. Design (built to survive the most likely threats in your area). Energy (off-grid, generation of electricity mainly) and heat (heating while being able to maintain your air tight system).
Not just regular, but also specialty clothing appropriate for outdoor use for your region, such as boots, military and hunting gear, etc.
Security and defense is to keep others from taking what you have, and includes surveillance systems, perimeter defenses, alarm systems, firearms, other weapons for defense (notice this is #6, not 1, 2, or 3)
Under this section is also some limited “command” and who’s in charge structure.
Medical cabinet and supplies you should have, first aid kit, drugs, etc.
Health – besides food, what else can you do for preventive medicine, herbs, etc. Don’t forget women’s health products and special needs of children here.
Women and needs of children taken into account.
TV, radio, digital and analog, cell phones, Ham radio, short wave, CB, satellite, internet, hard line telephone, scanners
How will you move around, and trade. Do you have fuel stored?
Tool chest – do you have everything you need to fix everything you have?
Survival skills are somewhat unique, hence to have a library or resource center for information would be a good idea. This also includes various domestic skills like sewing, etc.
Psychological and sociological needs do become and issue over time, especially with children. From toys to sporting goods/exercise equipment, you do need to have this for long term survival.
Over the years I have heard a lot of suggestions that I have tried to fit in, but as you can see from the list, this is really a listing of tangible means you need to survive, of actual stuff you need to have, buy, or build. Many people want to put “survival skills” at the top of the list, but I instead keep that and things like “survival planning” and other mental intangibles off the list. This list presumes you are doing that, and is intended to serve as a comprehensive checklist that you have adequately considered, planned, and stocked for these areas. Remember this is for comprehensive long term survival, so I don’t bother with a bug-out-bags or things of that nature. I don’t talk about skill sets, such as having people training in different professions and trades. Now that that is clear, I hope, we’ll start next week with the first topic, and go week by week through them.
My introduction to the term “survival retreat” came in book 3 of the Jerry Ahren’s cold war era fictional book series The Survivalist. As a teenager in the early 1980s, it was an exciting idea and concept to me, and a very far cry from images that would come to mind for a “bunker” or “fallout shelter”. Mr. Ahren’s idea was a far more sophisticated place of refuge, hidden and defendable, with sustainable off-grid capacities, more than I had ever considered prior to that. After the coming and non-eventful going of Y2K, followed by 911, and then Katrina, we have seen some significant changes in the survivalist movement and community, and I think some changes in the image of what a “survival retreat” now is, and should be. I still say though, I find myself
always reaching for Mr. Ahren’s original vision.
Let us start with the term on its face looking to Wikipedia, the unofficial source for popular consensus (not scientific nor official proof). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Retreat_%28survivalism%29 What you should notice is that a “retreat” is something you are not normally at, and would thus in crisis, retreat to. Another similar term is “bug out location”, but I suggest this brings to mind less infrastructure (improvements and supplies) and really just references a location. There are also important related military terms such as rally point, or fall back position, which we will get to in later articles.
While “survival retreat” and “secure home” are two terms often used interchangeably for anyone who considers their primary home to also be their “retreat”, I
beg to differ, that these terms are interchangeable, in fact, they are mutually exclusive. If you plan to make your stand on your homestead, then to you don’t have to “retreat” to it. I don’t know if he coined the term, “secure home”, but I believe it is safe to say Joel Skousen wrote the treatise on the subject. http://www.joelskousen.com/Secure/secure.html This large, pricey, but information packed book focuses on all you can do and should consider in making your home more secure, and more survivable in the face of threats, natural and man made. It is not as simple and intuitive as you might initially think, especially if you don’t have construction, architectural, tradesman, and military experience. You are likely to learn something reading his book, or at least his website. While I believe that surviving an extended and severe crisis in an urban area would be very difficult, there are certainly things you can do to survival all but the most major catastrophe. I say this from the perspective of attempting to have both a secure home and survival retreat myself.
Thus I believe a “survival retreat” is something away from your homestead which includes improvements, supplies, and certain off-grid capacities intended for survival. I think Ragnar Benson is a leading non-fiction authority on the concept with his two books, Survival Retreat and The Modern Survival Retreat, but several others have touched on the concept. Mr. Benson does cover survival in both rural and urban areas, calling upon his experiences in Africa. Some goods stories and advise, consider buying at least his first book on the topic.
My personal concept once again is something rural, and largely hidden. This is something beyond a mere bunker or shelter (unlivable and usually without utilities, even toilet, made for only hours of stay), cabin or cottage (often not designed for year round living), or a secondary rural home or farmette, in that it is a place you and family and friends can stay at, and defend, for an extended period of time (months) if necessary. You can certainly call upon many of the concepts in Mr. Skousen’s book to help accomplish this as well.
Before Kurt Saxon coined (he claims) the term “Survivalist”, there were those who called themselves Retreaters. As noted in the Wiki article above, Retreat Survivalism has basically become a subset of Survivalism, Survivalists who also have a retreat to go to. While the term retreating may at first seem less than macho, or even sound cowardly, remember that in a survival situation, avoiding an unnecessary fight is really a fight won if you were one who had more to lose (such as a stockpiled survival retreat).
In my opinion, a survival retreat allows you to have the best of both worlds, living conventionally in the here and now, while also being able to face TEOTWAWKI. More than half the World’s population now lives in urban areas. This is where the jobs tend to be, along with other desirable attributes. My rule of thumb has always been to try to have a survival retreat within 100 miles if you can, in case you would ever have to walk to it. In some areas of urban sprawl that my be impossible, and 300 miles, nearing the limits of an average tank of gasoline, is the secondary rule. Yes, having a survival retreat is an expense many can not afford, alone at least, but there are ways to accomplish it on a budget, and to use the retreat recreationally to help justify the investment, which came be made as a family or group. More on ideas on how to do that later……
-Rick Rourke (more…)