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  • Mike L

The ABCs

Updated: Apr 13

As preppers, we tend to place a great deal of emphasis on food, water, and other supplies, as is appropriate. The third side of the preparedness square is, of course, community. Be it a close-knit group of likeminded individuals or simply neighbors helping neighbors, you need other people. Training is the glue that completes the square. Firearms; CPR/First Aid/AED; CERT; bushcraft, foraging; trapping; canning; hunting; psychological first aid, the list goes on. In fact, the list is only limited by your needs, level of interest, and time available to pursue said interests. If you’re forming any kind of group, I highly recommend that as a group, training becomes a top priority.

Individuals skills are the basis for admittance into the group in the first place. Not everyone has the competence to change a tire or the ability to build a deck. The value of a nurse or paramedic is clear. What do Millennials know about sewing? In a pinch, could you repair a tear in a pair of pants or make a house dress? Do city slickers know anything about hunting and dressing game? I’m making some broad assumptions, but you get the idea. We’ve forgotten many of the useful skills that were second nature to our grandparents.  

A buddy’s wife is going to teach me the time honored and immensely practical art of canning. In return, I intend to compensate her for her time with some supplies from my stores. Bartering is no longer a regular thing in American life but in other cultures and countries, it’s a daily practice.   


There’s no shortage of outlets for training. Businesses large and small, as well as private individuals offer online courses and, free or paid, this is a booming field. You certainly can’t beat the convenience of online courses. Some subjects are best taught in classroom settings, and this offers the added benefit of, wait for it… people! You should rarely pass up an opportunity to expand your network, especially if you can find an individual or two with skills complementary to your own. Even better if they possess some of the useful skills that you lack.  Below I’m going to highlight a few skills that are worth pursuing and honing if you already have them.


I’m not wading into the political debate about firearms. Instead, I’m telling you to strongly consider not only purchasing a firearm or two for home security and defense but to get quality training while you’re at it. This goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. Regardless of where you live, always purchase firearms from licensed dealers and retailers. For that matter, everything you include in your supply of preps should always be acquired legally. The variety of firearms available for civilian use is mind-boggling so your selections will come down to personal choice and your comfort level. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use your weapon or new skills but in the event you do, knowing how to handle yourself is crucial.

The absolute worst outcome in a crisis is to allow another to relieve you of your weapon and your advantage. You may not have intended to pull the trigger, but once disarmed, you’re truly at the mercy of an angry, frightened, and unstable person. Get training! Look for firearms instructors with a background as such from either the military or law enforcement. Aside from the individual being a certified expert in the field, you should also be comfortable with them, which makes the process of instruction easier.  

A final note on firearms. Keep them in a secure location such as a safe, not under pillows, nightstand drawers or under the seat of your car. Also consider trigger locks, extra magazines and ammunition, holsters and cleaning kits. There's a huge range of accessories for firearm owners, some of which are quite useful. Do your research and consider your potential needs. Another point of redundancy; never leave a firearm regardless of whether it’s loaded, lying around or in reach of children. Children should be neither afraid nor curious about firearms. There are lots of resources available to help you talk to children about firearm safety.   


I read Deliverance by James Dickey in high school, and it remains one of my favorite novels. The all-star cast of the 1972 movie makes it a must-watch. Not sure where I’m going with this tangent but suffice it to say, whenever I think of hunting, I think of the book and the movie.

Another myth about life post-SHTF and grid down situations is that everyone will take to the woods and forests, and we will become a society of hunters and trappers. I don’t see this one working out at all. Trapping requires a fair amount of engineering skill as well as trial and errror. I often think that it would be easier to carry a stout stick and bludgeon to death the first possum or raccoon to cross your path.

I get it that in the wild, chicken breasts aren’t lying around in cellophane and shrink wrapped with an expiration stamped onto the label. Unless you’re hunting free range chicken on someone’s property- a serious and likely costly transgression- you’ll be unable to get close to most wild fowl. The flocks of Canada Goose that seem to be everywhere are the exception; however, hunting them in urban and suburban areas is a no-no. I have nothing to say about pigeons. Hunting is a learned skill and if you’ve never handled a rifle, you’re first foray into the woods with the intention of hunting will likely end in failure, if not disaster.

Aside from basic firearm safety, hunting is about stealth and patience, two traits most contemporary men and women lack. There’s the added requirement of being observant and versed in the behaviors of the animals you’re hunting. Are they nocturnal or diurnal? If you don’t know these two terms, grab a book, or sign up for a class before you spend hundreds of dollars on firearms, clothes, pheromones, and other paraphernalia.

Likely, there’s someone in your circle who hunts or knows someone who does who can give you some pointers or direct you to a reputable and affordable outfitter who can help you in this regard. Again, do not assume that you’re going to grab a rifle and go stomping into your local forest preserve and bag a buck. A universe of laws and permits are required for hunting and fishing, not to mention permission to be secured in advance to hunt and fish on private land.  

Volunteering and CERT (Community Emergency Response Team)

If you did nothing other than join your local CERT, you’d be light years ahead of those who don’t. CERT was developed by the Los Angeles Fire Department in 1985 and implemented by FEMA on a national basis in 1995. CERT is a volunteer training program that consists of:

o   Disaster preparedness

o   Fire safety & utility controls

o   Light search and rescue

o   Team organization

o   Disaster psychology

o   Terrorism Response

o   Disaster medical operations

While CERT doesn't touch on food or the basics of prepping, I think it's an excellent skill set to have. For the average person, I think this training is more than adequate.

There are also faith-based organization such as the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities as well as perhaps the granddaddy of them all, the American Red Cross. The American Red Cross is a great place to acquire a wealth of skills and you get the added benefit of volunteering for teams deployed to local events such as residential community fires and power outages as well as to regional disasters following an event such as a tornado or hurricane.

Many former military and special forces personnel as well as firefighters, medics and law enforcement officers offer training in tactical and emergency response techniques. Look for a program that gives you the most bang for your buck- they teach you a wide range of practical skills with real world applications for situations you'll encounter. As always, look for subject matter experts with whom you’re comfortable.

Churches and businesses of all size partner with the American Red Cross and other social service agencies to allow their employees the opportunity to volunteer. You receive basic training relative to the volunteer need and such outings can also be fun and life-changing. There are lots of options in this space so there’s no reason to not volunteer and get free training. In all of these options, you're interacting with other people and the benefits there are clear.  

Culinary Skills

I often wonder how prevalent canning is in urban and suburban communities. Almost everything we eat nowadays can be canned. Canning extends the shelf life of foods by three to five years, longer in some cases. There's a plethora of online tutorials but I'm going to encourage you to find instruction in a store or classroom setting. Again, aside from enhancing your knowledge base and skill set, you're meeting other likeminded individuals.

I'm amazed at the number of people with near chef-level skills. This is a huge plus in your favor because underlying the skill is creativity. Creativity can't be taught. Maybe now I'll say something nice about pigeons! Aside from food preparation, pairings and nutritional content must be taken into account. Food allergies, portions and long-term storage are all important when putting together a pantry. Cooking classes are great for a variety of reasons and most of us can benefit from one.

Dehydrating is largely done by machines, which aren't cheap! This is something a church could buy or a group can go in on and everyone can enjoy the rewards.

First Aid Skills

The American Heart Association and the American Red Cross both offer CPR classes for healthcare professionals and laypeople, alike. Again, these classes are best taken in person and are offered through a range of small private businesses often operated by nurses and medics. AEDs, automated external defibrilators, aren't cheap but they're also no longer prohibitively expensive, either. One of the reasons I'm suggesting groups is that you're able to acquire far more equipment than any one individual can, if cost is an issue.

CPR is only half of the equation, though. I'm a big fan of first aid training, preferably advanced training, if you can find it. Former and current nurses, EMTs and medics have awesome skill sets that lend themselves nicely to prepping groups. Doctors are more desirable, of course, but their range of specialty is so great they might be out of practice with the most basic skills in the absence of diagnostic equipment. If you can get one, by all means do it!

Wilderness first aid training is intended for those in isolated settings where help isn't readily available. I'm a big fan of this type of training and it's something you should consider if you're planning to bug out to a remote location where your neighbors are wild animals and miles and miles of trees. You're after privacy and seclusion, not isolation; however, in a crisis with help over an hour away, the isolation can be deadly. Knowing what to do and just as important, what not to do, makes all the difference.

As with all emergency kits, you can always buy first aid kits but you're better off making your own. Not only are they less expensive but you're able to tailor them to your specific needs and applications.

Psychological First Aid

This is a tough one becuse it's a rare person who doesn't want to ease the pain and suffering of others. I place PFA, Psychological First Aid, up there with firearms training. Knowing how to frame your current circumstances as well as maintaining a healthy perspective is critical to your emotional well-being and that of your group. Age, cultural, religious, and a host of other dynamics exert enormous influence on our mental states and it's difficult to know what to say or how to say it. In such moments of crisis, the onus is on the individual to articulate what he or she needs; however, they're likely in a spot where this isn't possible. In the case of young children, they may lack the words to adequately explain how they feel.

That being said, we tend to say things that in the moment are logical and appropriate, but offer no comfort in the slightest. On some level, we tend to think of long illnesses as being particularly painful. Upon the passing of the individual, we solemnly proclaim that "At least their suffering is over!" This is a true statement but the survivors are nowhere near this place of acceptance so quickly. In fact, their suffering is likely just beginning. The absolute last thing you should ever do is diminish their feelings or tell them to toughen up. Just as offensive and unhelpful is making the moment all about you.

I'm a big fan of simply listening when others are in distress as they may really need someone to listen, not offer solutions or opinions. If you've been paying attention, you know that I'm going to encourage you to look for a classroom for this training. A classroom setting allows you to practice with others and there's the ever present benefit of bonding with others over shared interests. A simple Google search can point you to training resources. You can also get this training through volunteering with social service organizations such as the American Red Cross and your local CERT.

Prayer; medication; a walk in the woods; the unconditional love of a pet are all excellent ways of calming down and changing your mental state. I'd jump at the chance to include someone with an appropriate sense of humor and timing into my group. Equally, a crisis counselor or counselor in general would be a huge asset in difficult times.

Navigating and Orienteering

Nearly everyone takes full advantage of the GPS functionality of their smartphones. In fact, most need the extra help. In the absence of a working electric grid, GPS is useless. Most people have no idea how to use a sextant and struggle with a compass. Printed maps and road atlases are still a thing and a necessity in every Bug Out Bag. Navigating is as much by landmarks as it is physical addresses which survive all but the most catastrophic disasters. This shouldn't change just because the power is out. Learning how to navigate in the community you live in without the aid of electronic devices is essential. In rural areas the challenges are greater but not impossible. Geographic features such as hills and bodies of water can help you orient yourself and figure out your direction of travel.

I think this about covers it. Let me know in the comments below if you think I've left something out. Be sure to read the posts Community Building and Buck Wild.   

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Apr 11

No sir, I think you covered it all; at least all I can think of. I'm glad you mentioned printed maps. I think they will be invaluable and while an Atlas is good, I think one should have a local map especially if for whatever reason you're not too familiar with the area. Great information. Thanks

Mike L
Apr 22
Replying to


Thanks for visiting my site and sharing your thoughts with me and others. You only miss things when you need them and don't have them! I'm a fan of maps and Atlases living in everyone's car, or at least closeby when planning a road trip or a leisurely Sunday afternoon drive.


Feb 27

Straight to the point with straight facts. A cell phone only does so much and if the grid is down it does nothing but replay those dirty videos you made with that ex, that is now a zombie...🤣

Mike L
Feb 28
Replying to


Thanks for visiting my site and sharing your thoughts with me and others. Yeah, so much of the trappings of our success and the accoutrements of our modern lives will become utterly useless in a permanent grid down world. The opportunity now is to develop alternatives and to wean ourselves off such heavy and unhealth dependence on technology. As for the cell phone with the dirty videos, I recommend that you safeguard that as you would your most sensitive financial records and other important documents!

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