No real recovery

After everything ended, after guns went silent and after roads opened again city started to live “normal” again.

But it was “normal” only for the people who have not lived through what happened. For the folks who gone trough all of that and survived nothing was and will be like before.

Whenever you watch TV or read newspapers about people or places or whole countries that have gone trough some shocking events, periods like war, earthquakes, famines or something similar, media folks gonna try to hook you with numbers of dead, cost of recovery in millions, amount of food that world is sending to the area, or number of troops that were needed to force opposite side to sign a peace treaty.

Most of the time it is gonna be news about facts, numbers, without too many pictures. I mean real pictures. Nobody wants to see the really bad / ugly real pictures.

Rarely some of the reporters gonna try to describe you stench of gangrene, or to show you kid who is eating macaroni with worms who is happy because it is a real treat compared to what the kid is eating most of the time.

Or even some small and simple things like “how bad it is to be completely wet in very cold weather, shiver and try to stay low for 3 hours because you need to hide”.

Anyway point of this is: there is no recovery after some things, I mean man can feel lucky because he is alive and went through that period and came out with all hands and legs still on his body. But real recovery is not how many aid packages are delivered to country or area, or if the local government building has flowers in front of it.

If you plan for survival scenario, don’t forget that massive change is part of this.

I see in many survival forums and communities that people talk about freeze dried blueberry muffins for breakfast, their big generators and what they do to keep life normal in survival scenarios.

I think this is just half of preparing and some people miss out on other half.

Get comfortable with change and to live worse.

When I was recording interview for my course, I was joking with Jay that we should add a hell week to course. A training week in which people stay in room, with just few drinks, a bucket as toilet, few grains or very basic food to eat and old piece of meat that is rotting for the smell.

This is of course too extreme but you get the idea. Instead just try to make trips to the outdoors. Get comfortable doing your toilet things out there if you have the chance and do this responsibly with digging hole and covering it up. Learn simple living like humans had to for many thousands of years.

If you do not plan or prepare your mind for change all those time you spend learning about survival and preparedness might help you survive physically but you will lose yourself mentally.

What happened to many people I know who went through the hard time during war?

Some of them are heavy drinkers, some of them are drug addicts, some are social “weirdos” unable to have friend, unable to have normal relationship. Some are normal on the outside but also have a very dark or dead side.

Some of them continue to live like they lived during SHTF, with violence, so violence became their job. It was like somebody draw a line in time and said ” OK before this moment lot of things were acceptable because SHTF, but from this moment we all need to behave like nice folks, no more killing, stealing…”

Some guys did not want to accept that, some could not, some killed themselves, some continued to kill others.

Once you have hit another human in face it is much more easier to do that again. You broke down a mental wall that is not easy built up again. This is also true for more serious violence.

Plan for a way back to normality. Plan how to explain your children why human do bad things.

I have friend who is working in institution for orphans who have lost both parents in war, or kids who have been left by the mothers who were rape victims.

That friend went through a lot of terrible things during the war, and he found some kind of vent or relief in helping others. In his case helping adolescents, war orphans or teenagers now.

He gave up his own life to live for these people. He does not have his own family, he does not have too much friends or some private life.
He is completely going with these kids through all of their own disasters and successes, when some of the kids are receiving some award at school he is drunk from celebrating, when some of them get into drugs he is sick for days, devastated.

Other from that job he is not existing. If he looses that job I am almost 100 % sure that he will kill himself. I help him sometimes, something like volunteering because of my medical background. Most of the kids actually now almost men and women, 17-18 years old.

Program is meant to work them through the “problematic” period of their life, teenagers years, after they spent childhood in homes for abandoned kids.

Anyway I’ve been called few nights ago into one of the those houses, call was “one girl is passed out, having seizures, hysterical attack or something like that”.

After we came to the place, checking the girl and talking with lady who is their psychologist – leader, and after we ruled out any possible real emergency we realized that girl- 17 years old had something like a panic attack. Girl was daughter of rape victim, her mother left her moment after she gave birth, hating her like she hated the rapist.

Through half hour conversation and lot of crying and wiping tears away she told us that she broke up with her boyfriend that night, she was devastated because of that.

I made mistake and laugh at that with statement that everything gonna be fine, and that she will have boyfriend again and that is not end of the world and it was only mild panic.

She yelled at me at that moment : “You do not know what real love is, real love can kill you, I can die because of this.”

At that moment something struck me. I’ve seen lot of bad things and lots of blood, and I guess after some time some things became normal for me.

But girl, 17 years old, born from hate, and left to be raised by strangers made me realize what I had lost.

Later that night I was trying to remember how it was when I was 16 or 17, when I had first girlfriend, first kiss or first breakup with girl. I could not remember too much, that kind of memories were pushed away by bad ones I guess.

I and people who went trough the things like I described are unable to see some things, things like real love and happiness. Things like that have been killed with all those kind of atrocities.

Some of the folks realized that years ago, and killed themselves, some with weapon, other with alcohol or drugs. Other ones are still alive, living, walking and working like some kind of zombies, only pretending to be normal, but in some strange way we have all been killed in that period.

I like everyone who survived that period had my portion of problems. I even tried to solve them with alcohol during one period, but luckily for me I realized there is no sense in that.

Somehow because of my job in medical field I learned that human is a very fragile thing, so human can be killed or die in many different ways. Everyones existence can be terminated in every moment, so I guess in some weird way I adopted some kind of philosophy that you can do whatever you want, but when your time has come , you are gone. This helped me. I take change now without getting stressed more or less at all.

That does not mean that you do not need to prepare yourself for every possible scenario, it actually means that when S. hit the fan you are not gonna be in control of many things, people will die so you have to be comfortable with this kind of massive change.

You can only take care, as good as possible, about small circle of problems around you, and your family, everything outside that circle depends on other things, bigger things. But inside that small circle you need to do everything that you can to be prepared. Taking care of things in that small circle helps me to cope with things that I went trough in my past. It became my life.

I still consider myself one of the more lucky ones, one of the rare ones, because I am channeling all of my experience and energy both positive and negative into preparing and talking about preparing.

I write to share what I know and this also makes the bad time I have been through feel valuable. It helps me and I hope you too.

I am preparing, doing everything to be prepared and ready when bad times come again, but for some emotional things I am just like dead.

None of us who survived that period completely recovered. Some scars never go away so prepare to not keep on living life like always only. Also prepare to get hurt, get comfortable with change and experiencing pain.

The 5 First Symptoms of SHTF

It is crucial to understand when SHTF starts. I think it is one of the most important things, to recognize that, in some cases it is more important to recognize that event and correct moment than to be prepared for that, no matter how strange this sounds.

I believe this is the truth because knowing when things turn bad can give you chance of escape.

But even if it is too late for escape, if you know this is a survival situation you think different. Make different decisions, think twice when dealing with strangers in need or accepting help from stranger who “want your best” or at least say so.

How do I prepare to know when survival mode has to kick in? Here are 5 symptoms that show that you might have a terrible disease in your area that can kill and that disease is called SHTF, society collapse or fight to survive. It comes with many names but if you know the first symptoms you can fight it better, earlier and smarter or avoid it.

Symptom 1: More violence in your area

Best information is a key for survival.

Personally I do not care much about press and media anymore. If you heard how situation went from bad to worse in my interviews in course area you know why.

Then there are global news of big events. They are good to keep an eye on and I read them but what really matters for me are local news. I get very few of important news from local newspapers but more from Police officers I chat with.

I also work in medical field so when things in my city get worse I know about it. More murder, riots, fights or other events where people get hurt.
You might not work in field like that but know someone, then talk to them. I did quick research and for the US for example there are law enforcement forums you could try to connect with some officers in your area.

If you find someone in your area, chat with them. Tell them you want to know their opinion. People who work in these fields have much better idea of how local situation is than what any media can tell you.

Media has to play nice with politicians, politicians need good news. Barack Obama ordered operation to kill Osama Bin Laden. Heard about it? It is election year, you will hear a lot more often about it.

But people who help victims or fight crime and give you their opinion will be able to tell you what’s really going on. Is violence up in your area? Is the media just hyping one incident or are there many more “normal” violent events like fights or stabbings nobody writes about.

Forget disaster media who write about new breakdown every day. Unless it is really something local it will take time before it affects you. Maybe you have local survival blogger or officer in your area who keeps people informed then you are lucky. Read those websites if you have them.

So besides real local street news what can help you to spot signs of SHTF?

Symptom 2: Group behavior changes, survival brings people closer and makes others less human

First you need to try to understand that SHTF event brings whole new set of things, and laws, together with complete absence of old laws.
Most important thing is, it is scary and when something is scary or people just sense things are going bad they band together.

They try to stick with people most similar to them. That’s in prisons and that’s everywhere once signs show something bad might happen.
Part of violence or why violence is easy is because the predator the one being violent considers his victim as someone very different. Almost like a thing. He is some else, almost not human. In these cases it is much easier to do bad things.

This happened during war, happens now in prisons and has happened through all of history. So once people band together and groups form and there is maybe your group or neighbours group and then there is this very different “other group”, then chance of things getting more ugly is bigger.

Symptom 3: Dead streets

Along with groups forming people try to stay with people they trust. Less people go out and if then also in group. People show up less often to meetings and social activitys.

Casual activitys like going to park change to visiting neighbors. When fear has spread so far that streets become less populated at certain times of day then it is time to get ready for disaster.

It means some people already live in survival mode but they do not know it. They probably will not have realized they have too little food storage and other things. Fear just makes them less social.

Symptom 4: New leaders emerge

Some people will use widespread fear to their advantage. Fear is powerful to control masses. Some election campaigns of politicians use fear to influence voters and get them on their side. This works with many people who do not know about it.

On local level this means that loud person in your favorite bar gathers more people around him. Some people organize groups for different also harmless things to make situation better. In times of fear people look for leader to hold on to. When things get tough those leaders will turn to be gang leaders.

Even some who did good things and became leader of good group to for example improve local situation turned into hard gang leaders who did everything to survive. I’m sure some of them never expected that but when things get tough everything changes.

Symptom 5: Nobody to trust anymore

I explain this with story of what happend to a friend.

Like great majority of people my friend watched in first days the situation deteriorating. I talked with him few days ago and I asked him can he remember right moment, or right event that he can call like something like point of no going back, or point when he clearly saw that everything is going to sh.. and something completely new is coming.

He lived in apartment building on seventh floor with his family, and he said that he like great majority of people watched in first week or two how things going down, stories of sporadic killing in city fueled by rage and hate, fear slowly started to creep into people’s mind, fear from unknown, still people believed things somehow gonna revert back to normal, nobody wanted to think too much about worst things, it was somehow unimaginable.

On one late afternoon or evening he heard shots, brakes and sounds of car crash. He goes to window and seen that truck went off the road to the dirt beside road, driver fell out from the truck, and screamed that sniper shot him. Vehicles were going on the road close to the guy but nobody wanted to stop and help him.

After 10 minutes, 10 or 12 policeman came with rifles, and take position close to the truck and wounded guy, I guess trying to figure where sniper was. Firefighters also came, but they stay 100 or 150 meters from truck. Also taking cover from possible sniper.

It was in first days when very few people knew who is fighting with who and why and who is enemy, nobody mentioned the word war too much, people still thought that things were some local unrests that gonna cease soon.

On the intersection, right across that burning truck and screaming driver, there was small store, „newspapers store“ they sell cigarettes, newspapers, lighters, candy and stuff like that.

When that truck crashed salesman ran away in fear from everything I guess.

Anyway police guys were hiding and lying down everywhere while that guy screamed, after some time one of them came to the store, used his baton and smashed glass and took couple boxes of cigarettes, after him few other also did that, he said one even took big box of bubble gums.

Police guys did not know what do with that sniper, after some time my friend says darkness came and someone started to shoot at them too, so they ran away carrying one Police man who was wounded. Firefighters ran away earlier, everybody forgot the screaming guy.

My friend said he did not even realize when the truck driver who has been shot stopped with screams. He said the image of police officers in full gear with weapon stealing things from that store was so new for him and so crushing that he clearly took that event and that moment as point of real beginning, moment when SHTF and his world broke down.

From that moment on he knew it was about survival now and rules had changed.

When you believe for years that guys in uniforms are there only to serve and protect you, awakening to something like that can be rude.
So symptom 5 is when behavior of authorities change. Clear signs now things are bad. Those might be smaller changes first and not so extreme like in my friends case, but at the end of day policeman are also fathers and sons and have family to take care of.

That night he and his family left that apartment, and moved to some safer parts of town, at that time they figured that S. had hit the fan. Not so much because of screaming guy, who died soon, but much more because image of police officers stealing things.

Also, few hours after police officers were gone, he sneaked out to the store and took some stuff, not too many things were left, but few boxes of cigarettes worth fortune in coming months.

Those are 5 important early warning signs or symptoms of SHTF. There are many more fine details to pay attention to of course. I speak in detail about all events that happened before we realized we were in a SHTF scenario in my course.

What are your early warning signs you watch out for?

Dogs in violent survival situations

I did not have a pet when SHTF, I did not have it later, most of the people who had it when SHTF let them go or in some cases probably ate them.

Just to clean up with some things I believe are myths. Dogs for protection did work but not that a dog guards you and fights for you. When human life matters little nobody has problems shooting a dog. Dogs were sometimes shot for fun.

So leaving family at home with dogs as protection is bad idea.

In civilized times somebody who breaks in house and never killed a human might wait long enough before shooting dog and get attacked, but in our case, nobody waited.

People who waited and did not shoot, did not live more than first few weeks after SHTF, or if they were and if they could not get themselves to shoot at living beings, they were just hiding somewhere.

Some families just locked dog out and never let in again. Food was only for humans after some point in time for most.

About eating dogs, not much to say about this. Dogs are animals and hunger can make people go eat everything. There were some people who nobody knew what they ate and how they got food. Most “exotic” meat I had was rat, some sort of big water rat, not sure if I would have touched dog.

I say not sure because of course I’m against eating dog now but once it is matter of your life or that of a dog, opinion can change.

One of the guys from my street had and kept his dog trough all of that, dog lived few years after all was over with them. I did not think too much about that dog, his importance for that family or burden or whatever.

But after many questions about pets when SHTF via email and in my course I decided to ask that guy about his dog and their SHTF time.

They get dog few years before war, ordinary mixed puppy, I mean no famous breed. Small dog, we call it “house” dog or “kids ” dog here. They called it Rino. Kids paid attention to Rino, but after few years when kids were grown up into teenagers they stopped to pay too much attention to him.

Oldest guy in family took him as something as a best friend, so it was normal to see grandpa walking trough the street with that dog.

When everything started family pretty much forgot about the dog, I mean a lot of much more important stuff were on their schedule. Some other folks moved in the house and it was crowded, with many problems, food, hygiene and all what our survival situation brought.

Dog still stayed with grandpa mostly, he shared some of his food with him, even some of the family members had opinion that giving food to the dog in that time was not so smart idea.

Anyway old guy went sick, he was pretty much old and had problems with high blood pressure and heart, and the stress and overall bad situation just speed up things. He lose his strength and fell into the bed.

For two months he was laying in the bed with Rino beneath his legs, that dog did not want to move from him. Grandpa and that dog became something like best friends. That guy from the street told me that it was like they both felt that they are not so useful in the whole situation, so they just move very close to each other.

Nobody told anything bad to the old guy, or show or act like he is a burden because he is sick, but being old does not mean stupid, the old guy felt useless.

Neighbor said it was at the same time so sad to see them together always. Like a picture of things breaking down.

Grandpa died in the middle of the hardest period, when hostilities and hunger was worst, and nobody knows what tomorrow gonna be. My neighbor also said, and he sweared to me it is truth, that night before grandpa died that dog was howling all night, and he said that dogs can smell death when is approaching the house. I do not know but when he told me that I got chills.

Dogs saved themselves from recent Tsunamis before they came so they seem to have some sort of sense for things.

In the morning they found grandpa dead, they burried him in the park, and they keep dog. In next few days they noticed that dog is blind, nobody knows when or how that happened, neighbor said nobody paid too much attention in those days what dog is eating or how clean it is, so everything is possible.

But he also noticed something else: when bad guys came in to the street, some 150 meters maybe that dog always would run and tried to hide, when somebody friendly came in the street dog is gonna stand next to the window frame with front two legs up there.

So they learned that and they use it as a some kind of early warning sign. He said that dog actually probably saved their lives couple of times.

When everything ended dog had something like special place in that house, something like special decorated war hero, best food, best care, best everything.

My neighbor told me at the end of the story that they found dog dead one morning, on exact place where grandpa was lying for months and where he died at the end.

I do not know too much about dogs, and I do not know if things from the story are possible, but that my neighbor sweared to me couple of times, he even cried at the end of his story.

He told me that story while we had few beers in a cafe, across the cafe was park where his grandpa is buried. They did not exhume people from the park, too many graves, too many problems and authorities after the war just turn that park officially in the graveyard with everything that goes with any other „normal“ graveyard.

So in short, no dogs will not be great fighters on your side when weapons are commonly used but dogs can help you with their senses. If you are dog owner please share your opinion about this in comments.