Five Imperatives for the Preparedness Community for 2019 – Forward Observer Shop

Five Imperatives for the Preparedness Community for 2019

I don’t presume to speak for the “Preparedness Community” so I say the following as both a member and an observer: there are areas ripe for improvement.

It’s 2019 and while you’re reviewing your New Year resolutions, here are five things that absolutely must change for the Prepper Community in 2019 if we want to move the ball forward. (The podcast version is below.)


1. It’s time to move past bug out bags, lensatic compasses, and fire starters. We have to move past the focus on the accumulation of “stuff” for the sake of preparedness. The list of standard click-bait fare (“The 37 items that disappear from grocery store shelves” and “The 6 items you MUST have to survive”) don’t offer readers anything new, and the quality of these articles has not progressed in the past ten years. That’s because many of these website exist for traffic, which is to say they exist for ad revenue. Furthermore, the focus is almost entirely on buying things that make us feel safe and prepared, but they’re not addressing anything beyond the most basic needs in a SHTF scenario.

Case in point: there are thousands of articles on bug out bags or some variation thereof — 90 percent of which offer nothing new, unique, or helpful, and 50 percent of which are “below average” when it comes to advice. There are probably hundreds of bug out bag articles for every one article on the work of building a community, setting up an information sharing network, and organizing a neighborhood response to an emergency scenario. The most effective emergency preparedness is not a well-packed bug out bag, but a well-directed team of local people solving local problems. That means that you need to turn your neighbors and community members into preppers. And there aren’t nearly enough articles on this important topic, which is my point. (I take this point to heart and will start taking my own medicine.)

Furthermore, there’s a definite sense that having gear means you’re prepared. You’ve heard this before. “After I bought muh third gun, I wasn’t really any more prepared than when I bought muh first, so I went and bought 17 more just in case.” The same goes for tourniquets, radios, tactical gear, and anything else folks are buying but not using to develop skills.

More than ten years since the birth of the modern preparedness community, it’s time for everyone to move past the basic stuff. The websites still promoting the “stuff equals preparedness” mantra are holding the community back from the real work of long-term and networked preparedness. The accumulation of “stuff” is entirely the wrong focus. So enough with the bug out bag articles. (There’s really one video you need to watch, here: Let’s put our heads together and start addressing more complex problems.


2. It’s time to prioritize skills ahead of the “stuff” we’ve accumulated. My observation: people in this community are way more proud of the “stuff” they’ve accumulated than the skills they’ve developed. Instead of buying that next $1,000 tub of Mountain House, go take a ham radio course, or a concealed carry/gun fighting course, or an intelligence gathering course, or attend a sales conference and learn how to talk to people. Learn how to carry on a conversation and identify the needs of your neighbors, or learn how to enlist their help and build a team for the next emergency, before the next emergency. The more cooperation you’re able to build now, the less dependent you’ll be on what you’re storing up, anyway.


3. It’s time to stop “training” and start developing skills. Maybe this imperative comes down to a game of semantics, but the volume of time you spend training cannot be a metric for skills development. Plinking thousands of rounds on a square range won’t make you a gunfighter. Conflating your range time with your ability to win a gunfight is wrong, yet that’s exactly what many people do. Training must have an objective, and the development of our skills must be measured. The next time you go to the range, or go do any other kind of training, ask yourself what skills are you actually trying to develop? What task are you trying to improve? Are you trying to shorten your draw stroke? Are you trying to become faster and more accurate with reflexive shooting? How can you measure your results? For all the time and resources you’re spending, what is your objective? Unless you’re training for a specific and measurable objective, most of the time and resources are going out the window. Be deliberate with your training time and develop skills. For most people, that means getting expert advice, so pony up the dough for a reputable trainer and then continue refining those skills on your own. Skill level is what matters, not your training time. And in terms of skills, develop your Mission Essential Task List (METL) and then go get the training required to master those skills. (METL refresher here.) Once you learn these skills, you have to demonstrate proficiency in as near a real-world training environment as you or someone else can create. If you can’t demonstrate proficiency, you do not have the skill.


4. It’s time to allow analysis to drive our decision-making instead of allowing fear to drive us. Back in 2008 when I first started reading SurvivalBlog, I was in the pits of despair. I was a sergeant in Baghdad, listening to Ron Paul and Alex Jones in my time off (two figures to whom I had recently been introduced), and I was gravely concerned that the United States Government was going to collapse. More specifically, my fear was that a government collapse would preclude me from getting back home to my family, and I remember feeling a sense of urgency and fear over that. My frame of reference was very narrow and, looking back, that narrow frame is what allowed that fear to thrive. We as a community, some more than others, spend a lot of time reading some really bad takes about what’s going to happen in the future. A random cruise through Prepper YouTube will yield dozens of such doomsday videos with tens of thousands or more views. Much of that content is fear-driven, not analysis-driven, which is why so many predictions turn out to be wrong. And not only do those doom and gloom predictions turn out to be wrong, they end up steering readers, listeners, and viewers into making some really bad decisions based on some really bad perspectives. (For example: on numerous occasions, collapse economist David Stockman has predicted a stock market crash that precedes economic collapse. Lots of people have made decisions based on his bad calls. That’s unfortunate.) Fear of the future can be a great motivator, but he’s a horrible master. Don’t allow fear to master you.

Several years ago, I was teaching an SHTF Intelligence Course in North Carolina, and a student emailed to let me know that he couldn’t make it. I asked why, and the student responded that the course was over 60 miles from where he lived, and he was worried that if an SHTF event were to occur that weekend, then he wouldn’t be able to get back home. The course went on as scheduled, a dozen students learned SHTF Intelligence skills, that guy didn’t, and none of us experienced an SHTF event.

Frequent readers and listeners know my maxim: the more extreme the prediction, the less likely it is to come true. Low frequency events don’t occur often. That’s not to say that one will never happen, just that they’re rare. And the chances that any black swan event will happen on any given day are extraordinarily rare. There is a better way to drive decision-making than counting on the worst to happen.

We can, in fact, obtain a more accurate perspective on what’s happening or what’s likely to happen in the future through the work of intelligence. It’s not easy; it’s very time consuming and there’s a steep learning curve. But through consuming lots of information and applying some analytical rigor, we can get a much better picture of what’s more likely and less likely to occur in the future. Structured analysis gives you a much better perspective on the future (it’s measurable) than reading prognosticators vying for traffic and ad revenue.

In the most likely SHTF scenario, you’re not going to be rubbing sticks together in the woods to survive, you’re going to be trying to figure out  what you and your kids or adult children will do without a job for a couple years.

You’re going to be more worried about random criminality in your neighborhood or a week-long power outage than you will be about an EMP.

You’re more likely to be concerned with finding and using money or a store of value than you will be about running around in the woods in camo and shooting guns with your compatriots.

You’re going to be more concerned with long-term and persistent corruption in local politics and law enforcement than you will be about a grid-down, martial law, or civil war scenarios.

That’s not to say that none of these things will ever happen, just that they’re so unlikely that more of your time would be better spent preparing for the effects of the more likely scenarios.

It’s important to take stock of all the threats and risks, but it’s also important to be realistic. It’s important to think clearly and soberly about the future with a wide and deep frame of reference, and not be controlled by fear or by fear-mongering.

There’s that great quote by Thomas Sowell: “The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.” Similarly, many in the preparedness community can’t think and their decisions are driven by emotional reaction. Their problem is that they confuse an emotional, fear-based reaction with thinking. That’s 100% normal (it’s a survival heuristic), but that’s not thinking critically. And then these people, who think they’re thinking, write articles on prominent prepper/survival websites and feature some pretty heinous analytical leaps that lead them to some very poor conclusions. That inspires more irrational fear, which drives poor decision-making.

We do run the grave risk of some tough years ahead; that’s why I continue to prepare. I would even say that dark days are likely. But a well-reasoned approach to local threats will do more for you than allowing fear to drive your decision-making. Be prepared to deal with specific threats and implications that are unique to your locality. When you prepare for economic collapse or a grid-down event, you’re actually preparing for the local effects of those events. If you can’t form some conclusions about what those effects and threats will be locally and regionally, and then develop some plan to mitigate or deal with them, then you’re really not all that prepared. Prepare for the specific threats and conditions, and you’ll be head and shoulders above your prepping peers.


5. It’s time to get serious about where our center of gravity is. First of all, predicting the future is a heck of a way to make a living, most are not good at it, and the longer the timeline, the more difficult that task becomes. But given the past several months, it’s not that difficult for me to see a scenario where a Democrat is moving into the White House in January 2021. Whether it’s in 2021, 2025, or 2029, I have a high degree of confidence that as long as elections are held, there will be another Democratic president. And all those who work for or those whose success is tied to a Republican administration will have to find a new job. Similarly, your job, your community, or your region is likely tied to an industry or company. That thing is one part, maybe the entirety, of your center of gravity.

For instance, by the stroke of a pen, the coal industry in America was killed. That pen was in Washington D.C., but its effects were felt across the country. Coal workers’ center of gravity — not just their jobs and industry, but the livelihoods and well-being of their families — was disrupted by a veritable stranger in the White House. That’s not the only industry that’s going to be disrupted over the next few years.

It’s time to get serious about where your personal center of gravity is, and also the center of gravity for your community. Think of a gyroscope and its center of gravity, which is spinning at its core. The gyroscope stays standing as long as its core is spinning, but when that core slows down, the gyroscope starts to wobble and then eventually falls over. The same thing happens to entire regions when a center of gravity is disrupted.

First-order thinking is to develop a backup plan in case some part of your center of gravity is disrupted. That’s a good start, but what’s even better is to identify the parts of your center of gravity that carry the greatest risk of disruption and work towards decoupling yourself from that dependency. Long-term preparedness is taking those element of our spinning core.

All those “off-grid” folks who network and barter at the local food co-op are trying to decouple themselves from everything in a system at risk of disruption or collapse. We know what’s at risk: banking and finance, fuel and energy, large scale agriculture, access to clean water, the list goes on and on down to your local government and local law enforcement.

If you’re at risk, adjust your center of gravity and get serious about building local economic systems and resilient communities. Identify the things are you dependent upon, and then find some tenable solutions. Ensure that your center of gravity is relatively unencumbered from these sectors at risk of disruption. And go back to Imperative #4, which is using intelligence to drive your decision-making.


Maybe you have some imperatives of your own, or other areas where we as a community can improve. What are your observations? Let me know in the comments section below!


Always Out Front,
Samuel Culper



Mike Shelby is a former military intelligence NCO and contract intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.


  1. Some great points Sir, and a couple I’ve reflected upon myself over the last couple of years. Especially the continued Bug Out Bag craze that still pervades in the community. I chuckle because it’s often some guy going on about what you’ll need to survive in the Appalachians or North West Washington State, and seldom about what one might need and be useful in the Great Plains or the Rockies, both of which are far more arid. Your other points are spot on. It is time to move past the fear of this week’s impending crisis, and begin to look at our long term survival needs. Not just our personal, but our community and neighborhood survival needs.

    1. I would go even beyond community and neighborhood survival — maybe this is what you mean — but we need to start figuring out what culture we need to save and how we’re going to do it. The more we read from history, the more we see that civilizations are lost over hundreds of years and wiped from the face of the earth. Unless we stop that, we will be no different, save our digital records.

      1. Preserve alright, but check out how new cultures were built, in case preservation doesn’t work and starting from near-scratch becomes the required plan B.
        The Frenchman’s question (from ‘South Pacific’) instructs me: “yes, yes – I know what you are against; what are you FOR?” Growing some apologists in the midst of Mutual Assured Destruction would seem to be the way through the knothole we may well face.

  2. I already have a list of endeavors to complete, or to undertake, that is longer than I probably can accomplish in the time I have and with the present level of will to succeed. Prioritize, then:
    * the standard disaster-assessment chart:
    one axis is likelihood of occurrence;
    the other axis is estimated effect (irritation–>cataclysm)
    * the steps I don’t lack some resource to start/continue, come first; don’t get caught in paralysis by analysis; just because the Mah Jongg tile you really want is buried 2 levels deep is not a reason to quit the game. I too will take my own medicine…
    * learn while you earn: “A good plan today trumps a perfect plan later on…” -Geo. Patton

  3. My 2019 resolutions are somewhat derived from your podcast, and largely from my own goals and technology background, which are:
    * Find a way to recruit neighbors who will be reliable in a crisis, without depending on social media. (Social media participation is collapsing due to self-censorship and corporate-imposed censorship). That is, revert to old-style participation in community groups, from the Cub Scouts to the volunteer fire department’s pancake breakfasts, and everything in-between.
    * Assist others in setting up their emergency communications, to get their ham radio licenses, and to establish their information security cryptologic baseline (hardware and software)
    * Assist others in setting up their anonymous communications and data processing networks — emphasis on “anonymous.”
    * Learn from experts on how to establish or operate as a member of an underground resistance cell under a totalitarian police surveillance state
    * Identify techniques used by the radical left that can be turned against them

  4. Sam, your words and thoughts on this are accurate, and shared in my experience in preparedness. Like you, I started getting educated, seeking training, and preparing about 10+ years ago and were also heavily influenced by the information put out by Rawles/Jones/Skousen (not to disparage them per se, just acknowledging their influence). I have read, studied deeply and thoroughly, taken many courses, invested possibly more resources than I should have, collaborated with many like-minded friends, even studying Emergency and Disaster Management in a graduate degree program and have come to a very similar conclusion as yours. We need to spend far more time building community resiliency and intelligence (gathering and analysis) and less time on acquiring and deep-storing “stuff”. Food, water, fuel, clothing, tools, weapons, ammunition, gear, communications, transportation, retreats, etc. are all of value, but as I have stated many times, they are rendered nearly useless if you are not aware of what is going on around you and within regions that affect you and yours. That is why after many years of developing myself towards a more informed and ready disposition, I decided to finally begin working on a blog to approach preparedness from a complementary, or perhaps even same-but-different approach, by encouraging local and regional analysis, balanced plans addressing the more-likely disaster scenarios AND keeping in mind the potential for those “black swan” style events as well. It is still in work, but I hope to offer something to fellow Christians, Americans, families, and the like to learn not only how to prepare, but to learn how to identify and learn new and needed skills. It may well be like one more voice crying out in the wilderness to listen and heed the warnings, but based on many conversations and resultant reactions I do not have high expectations. Nevertheless, I am compelled to press on. Thank you for your insight and perseverance. Please keep it up. God bless.
    Numbers 6:24-26, “The Lord bless you, and keep you; 25 The Lord make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you; 26 The Lord lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.”

  5. Another excellent article. After reading this and also what John Mosby wrote this week, y’all either spoke or along the same wavelength. Since both of y’all are looking to accomplish more routine interactions with your followers, do you think the two of y’all could throw in some quarterly discussions be it podcasts, interviews, blogging, classes or whatever?

  6. I’ve always found your writings to be based upon your experience and knowledge and I continue to learn and build my confidence. Thanks for your focused logic and perceptual clarity especially with the Center of Gravity point.My family ties go back to 1912 in the area I reside, so now my children and grandchildren will continue to reside and maintain our center here. Fear and anxiety in times of peril can reek psychological response (Fight-or-Flight Syndrome) to the psychological incapacitation (Freeze-and-Submit Syndrome). We have a large family here with many with military service, from law enforcement, construction and medical. The Center of Gravity point will be our new foundational focus for our 2019 readiness expansion. My area just survived hurricane Michael and I’ve witnessed many in my community following your steps while remaining positive, focused and mentally healthy. It proved to be an excellent test run in survival.

  7. “The most effective emergency preparedness is not a well-packed bug out back, but a well-directed team of local people solving local problems. That means that you need to turn your neighbors and community members into preppers.”

    Ah, but the devil is in the details. It has been my experience when I have reached out to friends and neighbors that I have failed to convince the majority them to do much at all, and most of the time, to do anything at all. The power and influence of the Normalcy Bias is considerable with most people. They expect that because things in society have always functioned in a certain way, they always continue to do so.

    If a “preparedness proselytizer” brings up the subject, the chances are very high that a prospective recruit will do nothing. Yet, that same person will know exactly where to go when things turn spicy, figuring that the preparedness proselytizer’s residence will become the new neighborhood commissary.

    For neighborhoods that actually do join together after a disaster and form a defense plan, gnawing hunger will begin at different times for different families. Those families that ultimately exhaust their resources will regard those individuals with resources with increasing hostility for not “sharing.” “Hoarder! Hoarder!” “How can you sit there with all of your food and watch my family starve?!?” The results will be ugly.

    I have been active in proselytizing in the past, but almost entirely with people from whom I am separated by considerable distance. My biggest regret is my failure to convert a neighbor with whom I made serious efforts. Now, should a dramatic societal breakdown occur, my preparedness OPSEC has been compromised and I am confident that he will be knocking on my door and looking for handouts for him, his wife, his three sons and their families. This is, to say the very least, “not good.”

    Once idea of prepping or preparing a community preparedness plan is brought up, then the odds are that the listener will continue to do nothing, but he will know exactly where to go when a crisis develops.

    I have been seriously interested in prepping since the 1980s. (The only word for it then was survivalism.) Back then, the main focus was on surviving thermonuclear war. Those who would blow off the need for them to do anything would say to me, “I’ll just walk outside and get evaporated.” I would reply, “No, if you do that, you might just be burned over 60% of your body and wind up dying over a three day period while you lay among the rubble.”

    Times have changed. Today the typical cop-out response for those who have not been convinced to lift a finger to increase their preparedness level is typically, “I’ll just come to your place.”

    1. I tend to agree. Although I’d love to be part of such a community I feel safer keeping my mouth shut and going it alone.

      1. I guess I shouldn’t say “alone,” I have like-minded family and friends who practice their own forms of preparedness. But no true organization of neighbors/immediate community.

    2. I agree with your reluctance. Our solution in my neighborhood has been to seek out like-minded families, hold rotating social parties (dinners usually) and only then, when comfortable with one another, discuss mutual defense preparations and strategies. It takes a LOT of time (years) and work. We all agree to never reveal or discuss anything about our food, water, medical, fuel, or ammunition storage to one another. That pretty much removes the worry that one of the families would turn into a bunch of freeloading threats to the other members during a disaster. The key is: Preparation takes a LONG time. Don’t delay.

      1. Stephen,

        I believe that your approach is a good one. Identifying like-minded individuals is a good first step, but then there are other issues.

        A like-minded individual may not have the wherewithal to spend the necessary funds to obtain the level of resources that others in the group have, so at one point, he becomes a user of group resources, not a contributor. Having a one month supply of food, a couple of firearms, and a couple hundred rounds of ammunition may be all that is in his growing family’s budget.

        After that, the newbie may think that a month’s supply of food is more than sufficient. The money may be there for him to buy more, but he would rather spend that money on a summer vacation. The result is that he will be a contributor after a disaster occurs, but only to a certain point.

        Back to one of the points I made in my initial comment, having several like-minded individuals in a group will not help much unless they live close together. A member who lives a mile away will not be much help in a crunch.

        A preparedness group has to have a “go to” location and be willing to leave their homes in a crisis in time to actually be able to get there. Members of a preparedness group also have to be willing to take a “blood oath” not to bring others with them, or to tell others where the location is if the group is going to be very effective. How many disaster novels have you read where the characters conveniently have no close relatives to be concerned about after a mega-disaster? How many readers here will be able to ignore the welfare of their parents, siblings, grown children, and in-laws because they failed to heed in advance the need to prepare?

        All of the foregoing is not to say that an effort should not be made. “Perfect is the enemy of good.” I am simply pointing out issues to keep in mind. I am not saying not to try. “A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.”

        1. One more thought: one way to offset the burden created by unprepared family members and friends who might show up seeking admission to the group after a disaster is to simply obtain additional resources for them in advance.

          Family ties and friendships aside, your interests will likely be well-served if you set aside a couple of hundred pounds of beans and rice for a dependable friend or relative who is likely to be unprepared when the need arises.

  8. Bravo!
    I appreciate you Mr. Culpepper for how well you wrote this.
    Many good parts. The topic you raised I like the most is about critical thinking. If one aspect of being a prepared individual counts the most, its ones mindset. All else flows. Until the worse happens, them much changes.
    Thats a whole other topic.

    Like to add something to this, it goes back to how we are either raised, brought up, and how we now live.
    I think to put it simply, the more you live in a fashion where you are “anti-fragile”, the more you are simply naturally living and being a prepared individual. Or family/Tribe also.
    If you perky grow a large amount of food, where your gardening and other husbandry of your land is under sustained operation, having been years or a lifetime in the making, you are inherently prepared for food shortages, or if say the State weaponizes food, your have certain built in stoutness in your food chain, because along with growing raising and or bartering your sources of foods, its a positive consequence, a value added feature, your prepared.

    And this applies in all the ways we can live self determining, or self sufficient ways, not just in food.
    Like burning wood for heat. Think of all the potential cutouts you are not subject to if it goes south. Long as you have a wood source and the tools and labor resources, you are automatically prepared for avoiding the loss of commercial energy sources.

    Thats not just thinking, that is living prepared, but it is also, thriving, not just preparing to survive or subsist.
    Large differences here.
    Profound differences.

    We built our own off grid wind solar electrical system. Its great saving all that money on electricity. Its even better not having to deal with the things associated with a power outage, but whats better, is we thrive without hardly knowing we do, because the built in advantages are kind of like unseen bonuses. Like a return on the money spent on energy. We get a power bill dividend each month. Our current bill is 35-50 bucks a month because my fabrication shop is not on our off grid system neither is a freezer, a fridge, and a dryer. We heat our domestic water with the dump load when the battery set is at full charge, using 12volt dc water heater elements and an electric water pre heater tank for our 220voltac mains power water heater.
    We save in so many ways it is difficult to see all the value added positives.
    We are building a water cistern next, gravity feed, so much less wattage to run a water pump because of head pressure from gravity feed, we can use a 12 volt small booster pump instead of a AC jet pump.

    This “living” thriving prepared, becomes holistic, and so does our state of preparedness. Our way of thinking. Our way of life. Its built in robustness.

    Does this all make sense to anybody?
    Its difficult to define it exactly in written words.

    Now I grew up in a house with no electricity or running water. Well under the kitchen table, wood heat, propane fridge, 4 hole outhouse. We raised a truck garden, pigs, chicken eggs, trade for cow meat, lot of hunting and fishing.
    Never gave it much thought till I was a young adult. It was just what we did.

    We do that now, but with some added twists.
    Its how you think, how you thrive, way of life.

  9. …..a word on #3:

    Your point here cannot be overstated. I work as the director of training for a company that delivers national level “force science” expertise to a wide array of Military, Law Enforcement and civilian markets. The sad current state of “training” is that it simply does not do what we think it does. What I see most can be boiled down to a few ineffectual categories: EnterTRAINment- paying a celebrity trainer to shoot in front of you for 8 hours with the expectation that your spectatorship will somehow improve your skill. Bolt on skillset- buying yet another gadget to strap on your rifle, pistol, “kit”, thereby almost always increasing complexity . Reduction of ammunition to noise- shooting with no purpose, no goal, no discipline.
    Resources are limited (not the least of which – time) in order to make the most of them you have to develop… and more importantly- stick to… a human performance centered plan. Identify the appropriate desired skill. “Baseline” to determine where you are on the development continuum. Practice Deeply (painfully slow, broken into the smallest manageable nodes, focused coaching). Re-asses your baseline to measure ACTUAL improvement.

    Read Daniel Coyle’s “The Talent Code” and others like it. Skill is a biological process, nothing more. Sports psychologist have had this figured out for some time. The information is out there-

  10. Years ago I was tired of the numerous schticky narcissistic bug-out-bag blogs/YouTubers with tens of thousands of subscribers and worshipping comments after each article/vid. Thanks for a plea for examining a center of gravity and thinking about appropriate decision making.

  11. Now that I’m at least mildly well prepared in materials, my thinking has changed in this way too. A big shoutout to Glen Tate and his 299 days series for making me think about systems of community in a collapse scenario. A lot of preppers seem to imagine themselves in these huge firefights with their hungry neighbors bravely defending their shit and dying in a pile of spent brass. This is a counterproductive mindset.

    Start thinking about systems of small government at the community level. When the collapse happens, no man is an island, and you need a tribe. Start slowly building the foundation for that tribe as best you can, start thinking about how that tribe can maintain order. Think about how the tribe can feed everyone. And in the macro sense, remember that the group that prevails in the larger sense will be the group that can actually feed people and keep them safe.

  12. Unseen by most people in the ‘preparedness community’ is the fact that even the government has reached these same conclusions and is sponsoring an attempt to change the entire culture to one of general self-reliance and preparedness. I am a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) leader and an alternate member of my County Emergency Operations staff. Both of these are volunteer positions. There are other organizations I deal with regularly: As a Ham radio operator I deal with ARES (Amateur Radio Emergency System); As a licenced EMR (Emergency Medical Responder) I deal with the Medical Reserve Corps. Almost all training for these organizations is local or within a Regional Council of Government (generally 3 to 6 Counties) or the State Emergency Management Agency. FEMA is seldom seen or heard from locally though I suspect that the state level people interact with FEMA Federal Regional offices fairly often. The training is always free, and IMO, of good quality.

    In several of Vernor Vinge’s science fiction books he makes the point that eventually the quest for ‘efficiency’ in a culture like ours leads that society into a paradoxical situation where collapse is seemingly impossible and yet is highly likely because there is little or no redundancy, all resources are allocated and in use. This leads quickly to ‘failure cascades’ because one glitch in the system rapidly becomes several and the several become myriad. So for instance every time there is a major blizzard in the Great Plains 70 to 100 k Semi-trucks pile up for several days because the way is closed. This then endangers many ‘just-in-time’ delivery systems as the supply stream dries up. Even worse, so much is now dependant on the electrical grid that in only 24 to 30 hours of a power outage social and commercial chaos is already beginning — when credit and debit cards cannot be used, ATM’s are not operating, and stores cannot sell because they can not account for the items being purchased in the inventory systems directly connected to their cash registers or access the electronic financial systems then there can be almost immediate social unrest.

    In addition, although ‘black swan’ events are very rare and their occurrence can not be precisely predicted, they are statistically inevitable. Yet human nature is such that either their possibility will be denied or swinging all the way around will become the focus of intense angst. This makes recruitment for preparedness, as you point out, very very difficult.

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