The World Needs Survivalists by Andi Mezel

In October 2016, a friend of mine texted me to turn on the TV. A mandatory evacuation for all of Chatham County was in effect immediately. Hurricane Mathew, a category 5 storm, was hurtling towards Savannah GA. Every store was slam-packed full of panicked people and quickly running out of stock. Within a matter of hours, gas stations were out of gas, grocery stores were stripped bare, electric and water companies were turning off utilities, and hotel prices were skyrocketing. The governor declared Georgia was in a State of Emergency and we only had $96.00 to our name.  As a survivalist, I was able to think on my feet and make a plan, quickly. We were forced out of our home for ten days with no money for a hotel or food. My wife and I packed what we could fit in our car, along with the dog, two cats, and our hermit crab. We hit the road and drove West for several hours, eventually, we discovered a free campsite far enough away from any major impact by the storm, we spent our entire evacuation here. It was perfect considering the situation. The property had a thick forest for shelter and foraging, a pond for fishing and hydration, and plenty of space for the six of us to live for the unforeseeable future. Situations like this happen around the world, for a mass of different reasons, and with little to no warning. You should always have some sort of emergency plan for you and your family. 

I believe survivalists are a vital part of the population because they have extensive knowledge of edible or dangerous plants, already have a ZAP, and always have a tenacious mindset. 

When someone says “I’m a survivalist” what do you picture? The majority of people today picture a massive underground bunker, with stockpiles of food, guns, water, etc. Although some survivalists may have these things, doomsday preppers are more accurately aligned with this vision. Oftentimes, the two terms coincide or relate to each other, but they are two different types of people entirely. While a prepper may have a luxurious underground bunker, a survivalist will have the skills and knowledge to build a shelter anywhere on the fly. A prepper will generally have a multi-year plan with food, water, and even modern conveniences like electricity and entertainment. They may have even formed a small community with multiple bunkers in one area. Preppers cannot carry everything with them if they needed to move quickly, or have the option to move at all. Preppers tend to create a lifeline in the event of an apocalypse. Survivalists, on the other hand, will not have stockpiles of food or water, they will rely on their vast knowledge and skills to find themselves food and water as they move along the surface. They will know what is safe to eat and what is poisonous. Everything they take will be able to fit in a rucksack or backpack. Survivalists won’t have a permanent place to stay, at least not as first, they will press on and build a shelter in a suitable location based on the scenario and environment. Survivalism is a lifestyle.

The term “survivalist” has greatly evolved over time. In fact, years ago the term never existed. There was no such thing as a survivalist until modern conveniences came to light. Before that, it was simply how people lived. Every family had to hunt, fish, and forage for food, or they would go hungry. The first grocery store in America opened in Memphis Tennessee in 1916, and the need for foraging and hunting began to become obsolete.  Then in 1929 the Great Depression devastated the country and suddenly those survival skills that had been lost to most would become invaluable. The federal government was even putting up posters, urging people to forage and grow their own crops and raise their own animals. Just like a survivalist would be doing. 

By studying the past, we know that the future is extremely unpredictable, with a constant threat of pandemics, wars, and poverty. Having a base of knowledge about the world around you can help save your life. 

Mother Nature provides many resources, but knowing which ones to rely on and which ones to avoid is vital. Visualize a 100-foot tall tree with grey bark, sharp cone-like spikes running along its entire trunk, and little pumpkin-shaped buds growing from its branches. Sounds pretty cool right? I thought so too. This is a Sandbox Tree, native to the Amazon Rainforest and other tropical areas in South and Central America. Remember those pumpkin-shaped buds I mentioned? They explode, shooting seeds in a 60-foot radius at 150 miles per hour! In addition to all those weapons, did I mention its sap is poisonous? A survivalist could teach you to make poison darts or spears for self-defense without becoming a victim to the Sandbox Tree yourself. Not all trees are made of nightmares though, in fact, many trees can be very helpful in a survival situation. Spruce Trees are found in every corner of the globe and are a fabulous source of Vitamin C. Spruce needles hold moisture, making them a quick source of hydration, or boil them in clean water to make a tea rich in Vitamin C. Pinon Trees can be found right here in Colorado and produce a great natural source of protein, the nuts from Pinon trees are delicious roasted or raw. It may seem like an easy source of food, but it can be hard to find! Certainly do not rely on finding these. Pinon trees only produce nuts every five to six years and only during summer. Other examples of useful trees include WIllow bark as an aspirin substitute, Birch bark is fabulous kindling and can also be eaten raw or boiled and Maple trees produce a candy-like sap that is super delicious and can even be used to patch holes in a shelter. In a survival situation, knowledge like this is priceless and could save lives. A survivalist has and continues to study which plants to avoid and which to seek out. 

This may sound crazy, but do you have a zombie apocalypse plan (ZAP)? Maybe not because you think it’ll never happen, or maybe you think Hollywood knows exactly what zombies are and believe those aren’t real?  Nobody truly knows what a “zombie apocalypse” would look like, but imagine if the Rabies Virus was mutated to an airborne virus, or became highly contagious by surface contact as opposed to only being transferred by animal saliva. Once symptoms set in for Rabies, it’s basically a death sentence.  The hospitals would run out of the vaccine before being able to treat everyone. Personally, I’d like to have a plan in place before those headlines hit the news and everyone begins lashing out because they are infected with Rabies. What if I told you that a ZAP is more than just preparing for brain-eating mindless dead things? In your household, a ZAP could also include natural disasters and wars. When I first began making my ZAP, there were five key points I started with. Point one is always to have an evacuation plan. You should be familiar with your surroundings, no matter where you are. Become familiar with new places, bring maps with you on vacation, and have local maps in the house and in the car. Evacuation isn’t always the answer, but always have a plan for it when it is needed. Secondly, have an “I’m never coming home” bag packed with essentials and have it readily available at all times. Bring it with you while traveling and have it in an easy-to-grab spot at home. It should include copies of important documents and survival gear. 

Third, on the list is having an established meeting spot within your family. It could be another family member’s house, a cabin up north, or quite simply GPS coordinates for someplace in the woods. Everyone in the family should know this location and how to get there, including children. Establish this meeting spot, before sh*t hits the fan. Fourth, everyone in the family should understand how any and all self-defense weapons work, and how to use them safely. Take gun classes as a family if you own them, learn how to hold a knife properly for self-defense, or practice swinging your cast iron skillet. It’s harder than it sounds. Whatever your family uses as self-defense, everyone should be able to use them safely. Finally, include specific plans for all animals within your care. No animal is too small or insignificant. Always remember that when you adopt an animal, you are assuming all responsibilities to that animal, that doesn’t change because the weather got bad, or brain-eating zombies are after you. Plan accordingly to protect your pets and livestock.  

This is a rough outline to start creating an emergency family plan. The plan should be flexible to be effective against all threats, whether that’s brain-eating zombies or a natural disaster. Survivalists have a plan that can be enacted at a moments notice. A prepper may not be able to get to his bunker in every scenario, he or she would need a warning to make travel plans to their bunker. 

You can read every survival book, watch every documentary, and ace every class in survival, but if you do not have a tenacious mindset you will die. Do you want to survive at all costs? Do you have people who rely on you like children or pets? Are you ready mentally to do whatever it takes to survive? Survival situations are not pretty. It’s not drinking beer and hanging out around a campfire with friends. Surviving a tough situation will be the hardest thing you ever have to do, if and when it happens.  A survivalist has tenacity and a drive to survive. A life or death situation doesn’t start when you get your shelter set up, or once you find food. It begins the moment you realize you are in trouble. That could be the moment you realize you are lost on a trail, stuck in a ditch without cell service, or a tornado siren just alarmed in town. The first moment is the most important moment, are you freaking out and unorganized or are you putting your emergency plan into action with purpose and determination? This moment is often the deciding factor. Do you have the drive to survive? I know I do, my family needs me and I will be there.  

There are situations happening around the world as we speak, major events, that require citizens to tap into their survival skills and to be pulling out those dusty emergency plans they thought they would never need. By enhancing the knowledge of the world around you, you gain flexibility and freedom in your emergency planning and surviving. If you only have one place to go and minimal knowledge of what Mother Nature offers, you limit your flexibility and threaten your chances of survival. As someone from nothern Minnesota, I never expected to be caught in a category five hurricane, but I was and I survived because of my survival knowledge and my ability to adapt to the rapidly changing environment around me.

Armed with their expansive knowledge of the world around us, their ability to enact their emergency plan, and their incredibly tenacious mindset survivalists have proven to be a vital part of the public. Throughout both current and historical affairs, the way of the survivalist has conquered everything that has been thrown at it. That tenacity will continue to conquer forever. Do you have your emergency plan together already? If not, go get started.