Tag Archives: Surviving the apocalypse

Why Sharing Your Skills Is Important

20 May

We are often told that in today’s world, the key to success in life is making yourself indispensable. If you can do something that no one else in your work place can do, then when it comes to down-sizing, you’ll be the one kept on. This means we’re encouraged to specialise in ever-smaller niches; we learn to do one thing well and then hoard the knowledge, not showing anyone else how to do it. In this way, we think we can protect our livelihoods.

While this might be a good strategy for our work lives, when it comes to surviving an apocalyptic event (whether it’s the dead rising or a natural disaster) this is an exceedingly dangerous attitude. You might think the best way to ensure your survival is to be able to do something no one else in your group can do, but it’s just the opposite and it might even get you killed. This is because at some point you may find yourself incapacitated and in need of someone with your own specialist skills. If you’re the only one with those skills, you’ll be well and truly screwed. You don’t believe me? Think of it like this: if you’re the only one with any medical knowledge, who will treat you if you get injured? If you’re the only one who can navigate, what happens if you fall ill? If you’re the only one who can drive your transport, what happens if you get knocked out and those around you need to get you back to your safe house? The same goes for making traps to catch food, fixing engines, keeping your solar panels working, handling guns, making more ammo and so on.

This means it’s important that you share around any useful skills you happen to have. If you know which mushrooms are edible and which aren’t, teach this knowledge to those around you; if you know how to do CPR or set a broken bone, train others to be able to do the same; if you can read a map and use a compass to navigate, show others how to do it too. By sharing your knowledge, you’ll not only be helping others, but you’ll be increasing your own chances of survival. There’s also a flip side to this, if you come across someone with a skill you don’t already have, get them to show you how to do it too. It will expand your knowledge and you never know when you might find it useful.

This attitude of sharing skills isn’t just something that applies to post-apocalyptic survival, it applies to everyday life too. If you know how to do something, don’t just keep it to yourself; instead share your knowledge with those around you. In particular, if you are the only one in your group of friends happens to know something which could help when things go wrong, make sure you show at least one other person how to do it, or even better make sure everyone knows, just in case. Similarly, remember you can’t always rely on your friends, so if they’re the ones with the skills, get them to teach you. These needn’t be complicated skills, instead it can be very basic stuff, such as how to drive a vehicle or how to stop a deep wound bleeding. You might not think it, but this could be the difference between life and death for you or for others around you.

I can actually give you an example of this from my own life where I did something that, looking back, was exceedingly stupid but that at the time I did without pausing to think of the consequences. It was one tiny misjudgment but it could so easily have turned out to be fatal. I was out on a motorboat with a friend and her brother. While the friend had been out with me before, and so also knew how to drive the boat, her brother hadn’t. The day was going fine until my friend’s hat blew off into the water. This was in the Bahamas, so the water was warm enough that she chose to go in after it. However, she had trouble finding it because it had sunk. This is where I did the stupid thing: I turned off the boat’s engine, grabbed my mask and dived in.

Now I know what you’re thinking, how on Earth could that have fatal consequences? Well, what I hadn’t considered was the fact there was a 20 knot breeze blowing and because I hadn’t bothered to drop the anchor, the boat was gradually drifting away from us. By the time I’d retrieved the hat and the two of us started to swim back to the boat it was already a good 30 feet away. After five minutes of swimming, this distance between us and the boat had increased to about 50 feet and my friend was tiring (swimming through choppy seas is not as easy as swimming in the still waters of a pool). This was when I realised we could be in deep trouble: we were three or four miles from the nearest land, a distance neither of us would be capable of swimming, and since this was the Bahamas, there was always the worry of sharks, especially if you’re floating around in the water for a substantial period of time..

At this point, you’re probably wondering why the guy in the boat didn’t simply drive over and pick us up. There were two reasons for this. The first was that not having really been around boats before, he didn’t realise we were in trouble; after all, to him it just looked like we were swimming back to the boat. The second was more critical: he didn’t know how to do it; he didn’t know how to start the engine, let alone how to put it into gear and manoeuvre it. Before that, I’d always figured that as long as two people in the boat knew how to drive it, we’d have everything covered, and we would have if I’d simply dropped the anchor before quite freely and intentionally jumping over the side but I hadn’t. I figured I’d only be in the water for a few second at the most, and simply didn’t take into account of how quickly the wind would carry the boat away from us.

In the end, I left my friend to tread water (which is much less tiring) and swam ahead. By the time I finally caught the boat, I was close to complete exhaustion but once I was back on board I circled back and picked her up. That was when it occurred to me quite how lucky we’d been. If the wind had been just slightly stronger, I’d never have been able to swim fast enough or for long enough to catch it. From that point on, I’ve always made sure that whenever I take a boat out, everyone who comes with me knows at least three basic things: how to start the engine, how to stop it and how to drop the anchor. Beyond that, I also try to make sure I give them a go at driving it as well as other basic things like navigation and what to do if someone ends up in the water. By sharing these skills, I hope to avoid ever being in the situation again of ending up in the water watching my boat floating away from me.

These events were brought back to me recently when I heard about a similar event with a much more tragic ending. A British couple were sailing in the North Pacific some 500 miles from land when somehow the man, who was the experienced sailor, ended up in the water. He was wearing a life jacket so this shouldn’t have been a major problem, but his partner apparently didn’t know how to drop the sails or manoeuvre the boat meaning all she could do was watch as the boat sailed on, with the man disappearing off into the distance. The woman was rescued by the coastguard but despite an extensive search her partner was never found.

The critical point to take home here is that you should share around any skills you have which can help if things go wrong. Similarly, remember that you can’t always rely on others to be around to help you if you get into trouble so if you come across anyone with a potentially useful skill, get them to show you the basics in case you ever need them. Finally, if you ever go to sea, always make sure you at least know the basics of how to drive a boat because you never know when you might be called upon to do it.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.

To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.

Selecting Your Post-Apocalpytic Survival Crew

20 Nov

In business they say it’s not what you know but who you know that counts. Come the apocalyptic collapse of society as we know it (whether crushed under the shambling feet of the walking dead, devastation  wrought by nuclear terrorism or decimation of most of the population by a bio-engineered virus), it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to survive on your own, not for long at any rate. However, if you’re not careful, you may find that being part of a group is even worse. This is because if you don’t pick the people you’re planning on riding out the apocalypse with carefully, they’ll drag you down and your chance of survival get dragged down with you. Pick the right ones, though, and life will be easy (well maybe not easy, but at least you’ll have a reasonable chance of surviving). So who should be on your post-apocalyptic survival crew?

There’s three key issues here. The first is skills. You’re going to want people around you that know how to do things. Practical, old-fashioned things, like being able to fix an engine rather than modern, new fangled things like being able to complete angry birds in one session on the latest incarnation of the iPad. However, it’s important that the skills different members have are diverse and complimentary.  Having ten mechanics in a group is all fine and well, but what happens when you need someone to hunt, kill and clean a deer for supper? Yet, you also need some overlap between different people’s skill sets.  If you’re medic gets eaten by radio-active mutants, you’ll need to be able to divide his duties up between the remaining members. So what sort of skills should you have in your group?  I’d say at a minimum you’d need a mechanic, a navigator (one that can read a map and not just a GPS receiver!), a medic of some kind (since there’s going to inevitably be injuries), a weapons expert, a strategist (to work on your long-term plans), a driver, a hunter and a scrounger (you know one of those people who can always find you something that will do the job). While on the subject of skills, if you can’t work out what useful skills you’d bring to a group, you may find that no one else wants you on their team. In this case, I suggest you start learning how to do some useful, and fast.

So what about intelligence?  In general, you’ll find that a group made of intelligent people will do better than one filled with, to use an old Scottish term, dunderheeds. However, here intelligence isn’t about knowing useless facts, it’s about practical application of ideas and thinking outside the box, so don’t get the two confused. You may think that the members of that team who always win your local pub quiz are super-smart, but all their carefully remembered facts won’t help them work out how to escape from the killer zombies. Instead, go for the couple who sit in the corner keeping themselves to themselves while playing each other chess and backgammon at the same time. They’re going to be the type of people who can think two steps ahead and work out a plan to get you safely out of the city.

Now onto personality. This is critical. Someone can always learn a new skill, but few can change their personality. This is because personality is something that is pretty much set by the time you reach your twenties. Why is personality so important? I’ve spent a lot of time working in remote locations as part of small teams of people, and time and again, I’ve seen groups fall apart because of what would seem like minor clashes of personality in normal life. Sometimes it’s just that one person just rubs everyone else up the wrong way, causing friction either by accident or design. The apocalypse may be forever, and even if it’s not, it’s very likely that you’re going to be stuck with these people for a very long time. That guy down the road might be a great mechanic, but eventually his braying laugh and the constant double innuendos are going to drive you to the point where you start looking at death by zombie as a viable alternative to spending another second in his company. Yet, this is by far the most minor type of personality clashes you can encounter. Worse is when you end up stuck with someone who just sees the world differently that you.  They might be all gung-ho and let’s get ‘em, while you’re more of the sit tight, stay safe and avoid all conflict with the undead unless you can’t avoid it. Sooner or later will cause problems, and most likely at a critical moment and you’ll al end up dead because you can’t agree on what you should be doing next. Then you get to those with borderline personality disorders.  It’s important that you realise before it’s too late that you’ve included a closet sociopath in your group.  They’ll manipulate, they’ll undermine, they’ll kill you if they don’t get their own way, and they’re surprisingly more common in society that you might think (about 1% of the general population, but rising close to double digits in professions like banker, business and politics). These people are best avoided at all costs (both in the event of the apocalypse and in your everyday life). One of the best life skills you can learn is how to spot when people like this enter your life so you can kick them out before it’s too late.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.


Man’s Best Friend And The Zombie Apocalypse

16 Nov

If the zombie apocalypse were ever to come (and who am I to say it won’t?), your much beloved cat will sense the shift in the world order and immediately align itself with the living dead. That’s just what cats do. Now, with a dog, it will be very different. Dogs are loyal and they’d stick by your side no matter what. The question is would this be a help or a hindrance?

The thing that got me thinking about this was the scene in the first series of The Walking Dead where a herd of ‘walkers’ suddenly stumble into the camp and start attacking people with little or no warning. When I saw it, my first thought was that a watch dog or two would have solved that problem. Dogs can be trained to detect the smell of dead bodies (they’re regularly used by the police and are known as cadaver dogs) and they’d be able to pick up the scent of the undead long before they got close enough to cause trouble. Sure, it wouldn’t make very interesting television, but hey, when the dead rise, it’s all about survival not entertainment.

However, it takes years to train a cadaver dog, and useful as they might be, it’s unlikely any of us will be able to get our hands on one. So what about your faithful family pet?  How much use would he be? The answer to this question will depend on three things: The breed, how well he’s trained, and how much noise he tends to make. Basically, if you’re dog is something small, yappy and badly trained, it’s likely that all it will do is draw zombies to you from near and far. If it’s a bigger breed and you’ve taken the time to train it properly, then the chances are it will be much more use.  In particular, you’ll need to have trained it to come on command, stay, and keep quiet when needed. This final one will be particularly important. When you’re huddling on the roof your campervan praying that the herd will pass before they realise you’re there the last thing you need is for your dog to start barking uncontrollably at them.

You can also think about training your dog with some more specialist skills. The ability to sniff out the undead, may be particularly useful as you can use to check buildings (after all, look how often people are killed in zombie movies when they venture into a building they presume is empty only to find it infested with the living dead – a well-trained dog would put a stop to that pretty much instantly!), and warn you of any that are approaching your camp, especially under cover of darkness.  Of course, finding the right ‘Eau de Zombi’ to use in your training might prove difficult.

A well-trained dog could also act as a last line of defence.  There seems to be some debate as to whether zombies will attack other animals (in the Walking Dead, yes as they eat a horse, in the remake of Dawn of the Dead, no as they let a dog pass unmolested), but either way, if a zombie gets into your camp, a well-trained dog could provide you with the vital seconds you need to kill it or get away.

So where does your faithful friend fit into all this? Well, you might not be able to change it’s breed, but you can certainly work on the training, starting right now. If you’re going to be a responsible dog owner, you should be training your dog in the basics anyway, and all you’ll need to do is adapt this to incorporate some additional post-apocalyptic elements. If you’re not already training your dog, you need to start thinking about it now. Not only will it help you survive when the dead rise, but it will make your dog ownership much more enjoyable. After all, owning a well-trained dog is a pleasure, while a poorly trained one is likely to cause you all sorts of problems, even if the zombie apocalypse never comes.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.

Sailing Away From The Apocalyptic, Part Three: Kitting Out Your Vessel.

28 Oct

Once you have selected your vessel , you need to think about what you would need to have on it (see Sailing Away From The Apocalypse, Part Two if you haven’t already done this).  For this most part, this will be the same as for any long-distance voyage.  This means you will need the usual collection of water makers, extra fuel tanks, a nice supply of canned food, a wind generator, solar panels, spare sails, spare parts and tools for your engine and so on.

You will also electrical equipment such as a radar, a depth sounder and a GPS receiver, to help you navigate and move around.  however, you will also need charts, a sextant and a plumb line (and know how to use them) for when your electrical equipment finally gives out. For communication, you’ll need a shortwave radio, a VHF radio, and an AM/FM receiver. These will help you keep in touch with any other groups of survivors as well as any communications from what’s left of the government or security forces.

In terms of safety equipment, you’ll need harnesses and running lines (to stop you falling over the side when its rough), a flare gun and flares, a high-powered spotlight and a well-stocked first aid kit (including pain killers, antibiotics and the tools for minor surgical procedures such as amputating a limb or two – hopefully not your own, but it is possible if you have to).  A life raft is probably optional, after all if the worst happens and you end up in it, you are probably pretty much done for and your death is likely to be long and drawn out over many weeks, rather than being over in a matter of minutes if you go down with your boat.

You will find that a small fast runabout invaluable for going out on foraging and scavenging trips as it will let you get to places you simply cannot get to on a sailboat.  You can also cover larger areas much more quickly. This runabout can either be a small rib that would otherwise serve as the tender for your sailboat or a larger dedicated runabout that you have picked up from somewhere.  However, remember runabouts will use a lot of fuel very quickly and you will need to be careful when you use them or you will soon run out.

Finally, we get to the subject of weapons.  This is a tricky one.  Most people would recommend carrying a veritable arsenal of guns and ammunition.  However, unless you actually know how to use them, I say keep clear of them.  In the close confines of a boat, you will find they are probably more dangerous to you and your fellow survivors than they are to anyone (or anything) that is attacking you. Similarly, while crossbows have a certain attraction (mostly because the ammunition is reusable), if you don’t know what you’re doing, you’re likely to accidentally pin your foot to the deck with a bolt as you try to reload it, leaving you as the zombie equivalent of candy floss (a soft, gooey treat wrapped around its own little stick!). As such, they are best avoided by the novice. Instead, I would concentrate on ensuring that you have the types of weapons you can use to stop people, or zombies, or plague survivors, or whatever might be out there, getting onboard. This might include machetes, clubs, baseball bats, swords and so on.  This will ensure that you can fight off any attacks when people get too close.  If they are any further away, your best bet is to try to out-manoeuvre them rather than take them on.

So that’s my advice for sailing away from the apocalypse. I hope you find it useful, and Bon Voyage! Oh and if, in the event of the apocalypse it turns out this advice is no use, I can only apologise, but you can at least die safe in the knowledge that I’m likely to have followed it myself and so to have met a similarly gruesome end!

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.

Sailing Away From The Apocalyptic, Part Two: Your Choice Of Vessel

28 Oct

So you’ve decided that riding out the coming apocalypse at sea is a strategy that will work for you (see the posting called Sailing Away From The Apocalypse, Part One for more information).  Now all you need to do is select an appropriate vessel, and then make sure that it is close at hand when the apocalypse strikes. I know what you’re thinking, a sailboat is a sailboat isn’t it?  Can’t I just take the first one I find? If this is what you’re thinking, you might want to choose another escape plan as it sounds like you don’t know enough about sailing to make it a viable option and its likely you’ll sink and drown long before you start wondering which of your crew members it would be okay to eat simply to break the monotony of all the fish you’ve been living on. If, instead, you’re thinking, ‘Which would be better, that gaff-rigged ketch I’ve always had my eye on at the local marina, or that new yawl my next door neighbour just bought and keeps tied to the dock at the end of his garden?’ then maybe you’ve settled on the right way to survive.

There are three main issues you need to think about when selecting your vessel.  These are its size, its type and its age. In terms of size, I wouldn’t recommend anything less than about thirty foot in length, they’re just too small to live on for any extended period of time, especially if you have to cram it full of food and supplies. I also wouldn’t recommend anything much over fifty feet.  This is because such large boats will be difficult to handle on your own, and its important that you can still operate the boat single-handed, just in case something (disease, mutiny, they all get turned into zombies, that sort of thing) happens to everyone else onboard and you find out you’re the only one left.  Also, larger vessels are likely to have a deeper draft, restricting where you can go.  This means that as tempting and impressive as that tall ship tied up at the docks might seem, unless you have a well-trained crew of thirty or forty people and are only planning on sailing through deep waters rather than coming close to shore, it’s not really a viable option.

In terms of type, well this is really up to personal choice. However, I would tend to go for a multi-masted vessel, such as a ketch, a schooner or a yawl, over a single-masted one since you have more options in terms of sails, and if something happens to one mast, you have the other one to keep you moving.  The only exception I would make for this would be for a catamaran.  Their faster speed, the extra space they provide as well as their relatively shallow draft more than makes up for the fact most of them only have one mast.  In fact, a catamaran would almost certainly be my vessel of choice for these very reasons, and this is why I selected a catamaran for the main vessel in For Those In Peril On The Sea. However, catamarans are not necessarily common, and you may not have this option.  In this case, I would recommend a nice ketch as something that’s easy to sail as well as being flexible and roomy.

Finally, there is the issue of age.  You would have thought that the new the better would be the rule here, but it’s not as clear-cut as that.  Sure new vessels will be in better condition and will probably have newer equipment onboard, but often they are not nearly as strong.  In particular, modern technology allows boat-builders to work out what the absolute minimum thickness the fibre-glass needs to be for a yacht to be sea-worthy, making them more vulnerable to the occasional heavy knock.  In contrast, in the old days, boat-builders tended to take a belt and braces approach, making the hulls much thicker and stronger than the minimum needed.  This can make some of them as close to indestructible as it is possible for a sailboat to be, and so a better choice for surviving the apocalypse in.  For this reason, it might be worth considering that twenty year old ketch  that looks like an old tub over that brand spanking new yacht next to it.

What ever vessel you select, choosing it is only half the plan.  You also need to kit it out properly.  That will be covered in my next post.

From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in the UK. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more.