Selco survived one year in a city surrounded by the enemy army and cut off from the rest of the world. He has been through hell during the Balkan wars 1992 – 1995. Learn what it took him to stay alive.
In today’s world it is easy to get fooled and think that all media is there for us, to help us, to keep us updated, to make life easier or whatever.
Some 20 years ago, I was lying in improvised shelter on side of the street, behind big iron garbage truck that was rolled over and full of holes. I waited for dark so I can move on.
I was not alone, me and my friend shared that small piece of cover from open view and snipers with three guys. I know one of them from before, but that did not actually meant anything.
When shooting started we all jumped there almost at the same time. After few minutes we agreed that we gonna share it until the night.
Some half hour later one of them pull out from his bag small fm radio, kinda that we called “pensioner radio”, for walking and listening sports events in normal world.
Actually it looked like he pulled from his bag some brown package and on it was radio taped. That brown package was some kind of homemade battery pack, made I guess from different batteries, 2 times bigger than radio.
Anyway it was important thing in that time, I speak about how important information was in my course.
We all looked at that “machine” like bunch of cavemen would. It was ticket to get more information, real information, not just rumors and reports of crazy killings, that was our hope.
He turned that on, and all that he could find was radio station in other country, pretty close by distance, but light years away at same time. We were listening to some music very quietly, then news came.
We were listening how speaker talked about events in our region, he was something like: “and battles continued …” and that was it.
After that there were long talks about some songs contest, and some dude was interviewed. He talked about his terrible problems in finding correct clothes for movie scene, then about his stage fright… And then radio stops to work.
Big dude who owns it says comically “screw it, it looks like batteries needs some break.”
Rest of us were quiet. But I am sure that we were thinking pretty much same. Here we are, couple of guys in rags, one has some kind of uniform made from 3-4 different uniforms, some have weapon, one has kind of fishing hat on his head, like in some parody.
One guy chewed something, I do not think it was food, he just chewed it for too long. Like he was trying to chew piece of shoe.
Other had two different snickers on his legs, probably result of looting some mall in starting days. Probably all of us together in last 24 hours had like one meal shared among us.
We all hiding behind destroyed dumpster truck, waiting for the night, while some other dude on other side waiting for our heads to come up so he can shoot us. He probably was hungry and weird looking like we are.
And at same time few hours driving distance from there, main problems were how some probably funny looking guy is afraid to go to movie scene, and end of the world problems about choosing correct clothes for that same scene and musical performance.
I had moment much more dangerous before and after that event, but somehow in that moment, I emotionally touched the bottom.
Simply nobody cares for us, we were no news anymore. Left alone. “Battle continues…”
Few months before that same media were screaming about “problems in regions, fear of people getting armed, we need to defend, we need to fight, freedom does not have price, we will prevail, democratic changes, we have the right…”
Leaders from all sides were frantically announcing new age of democracy while in background they prepared to flee. Media helps folks to form opinions, to do things, to start things to happen. And then when all is set in motion you are simply not news anymore.
Same radio host screamed about need “to protect our rights” and “do not fear”. Then same guy told us that it is impossible that war happens because “we have leaders that will find solution” while at same time leaders were leaving area, or piling stuff for tomorrows black market.
We figured later that same leaders own the media actually.
Then when S. hit the fan, pretty soon when every day becomes same in meaning that every day is killing, starving, violence etc. It is not news anymore. Media just covers exciting stuff, because its their business. This is same for all media, also media that keeps saying collapse happens tomorrow and then the week later and then month later.
Mainstream media says everything is good, politicians take care of you and some alternative media keeps promoting news that everything is bad, collapse happens even before it happens. They also need to keep people interested. They all play news theater to keep people interested.
The lesson I learned is dont trust and care about any media much. Be prepared but not scared whole time that collapse happens tomorrow. That is why you are prepared, no need to worry too much. Just monitor events but forget about “opinion pieces”. Look at history of reporter if you plan to trust someone. He uncovered “big scandal” already 3 times but it was only big scandal for him? Forget about him, he or his media company just wants attention or save your time and realize most reporter wants big story and attention and just a few want to really inform people.
Few days ago I was checking one internet page about “world events by years”. I checked the year that I was writing about here, and there were many “important events” in that year.
I found two events very loosely linked to my region, out of the many. One was about some politic demonstration, other was about some agreement. Both of them were in my wider region, but not even close to my city.
Nothing about people in rags fighting for their lives, eating grass boiled in water, catching rain, drinking mud sometimes.
Media showed us in a way. Then media forgot us, we were not usable anymore, we simply did not exist. I understand that, same guys still fighting in same city and so on. It is just important that news show what is new and not really what is going on.
For years I very rarely watched TV, or listened to radio. Not following famous shows, my opinions are not formed by actors, singers, sport stars, or idiots who are famous for one season.
If I find something specific that I want to check I will check it, but I do not want to be pulled in media grinding machine of opinion forming. I read different news articles from different networks and try to find people on twitter who are on the ground of event.
As survivalist and prepper you need most accurate information to make decisions and that is why knowing what is really going on in neighborhood or city is often more important than some shooting of single guy hundreds of miles away. But media always needs drama and presents it in way that its interesting for most people.
Every time when I hear somewhere on radio or TV “shocking news” or “battle started” I imagine few guys in few months laying somewhere in dirt, while nobody cares for them because there is a new star with huge butt, and everyone knows her, in biggest city or in smallest village, even somewhere where electric energy is still new thing. Keep the stupid masses entertained.
Point of everything again is that when SHTF you are alone with what you have prepared and learned. Do not expect media to paint real picture of situation. They are there for news. After initial news and maybe even help from outside because your area is in spotlight you are left alone. Don’t be surprised when you are forgotten.
That’s why we learn to take care of ourselves.
Some call it 72 hour bag, Get Out Of Dodge Bag, Get Back Home Bag or however. Making the perfect bug out bag definitely can mean difference between life and death, and there are many philosophies about what should be in it and what not. This is my take on it. It is a budget / cheap bug out bag and makes sense for me. I have some different products but tried to find most similar I could on Amazon because this is what most people have access to.
First lets start with some considerations before assembling it.
Do you need a bug out bag or survival bag?
A bug out bag is for bugging out and not living forever in woods. Survival bag is more for long term living outdoors. A bug out bag is smaller and light, a survival bag is big and has more stuff in it of course.
My philosophy for bug out bags is, you need to have things with you that gonna bring you to your desired location. Nothing less and nothing more. Traveling light is key here, not traveling comfortable. If you can do both – great, but if you need to choose then choose to travel light, fast and maneuverable. You are maybe gonna be forced to run, jump, duck, use weapon with that bag on your back.
I see long lists of things from people who seem to go on camping trip with their bug out bags. Makes no sense to me. You have survival bag or camping bag if you have no bug out location and plan to live in the woods. But before you head for the hills “to live off land” you better know what you do. Otherwise bugging in is better. Anyway, that is something for another article. But if you have a bug out location, getting there fast is most important.
Choosing the right backpack is matter of what you like, your items you carry and of course it must always matter that you keep low profile. So if you are bugging out from city you do not want to look like you are SWAT team member. Nobody survives because of style as well. If you have bug out bag at office then choose a bag that looks like laptop backpack. If you have bug out bag at home, choose a casual sports backpack in darker colors (and without any reflector).
How long are you bugging out?
You are making your bug out bag for bugging out to a safe location your bug out location and it takes you X days to get there. Depending how many days you gonna be there you gonna carry that many items.
It is great thing to have lot of useful things with you on your way to bug out location, but even better thing is to have some useful things and be able to move fast and efficiently.
Just take your perfect bug out bag and do some testing in real life, in some hard conditions, with bad weather.
Here is what I recommend for basic bug out bags.
I carry trash bags that you can also use inside your backpack to keep things dry and three emergency blankets. Here is higher quality emergency blanket but watch out that it is not too heavy or takes too much space.
I also sleep in shelter in form of a poncho. This is cheap poncho, you look unprepared with it and that is great if you are in city.
Alternative could be to use a tarp of course.
Perfect way to keep yourself clean or take care of small cuts in quick way. Some soap is good to have too. Not brushing teeth for few days, bad breath is least of problems.
Do not think about your way to bug out location as a picnic, or nature trip. It is gonna look more like dangerous escape from war zone, so you need to act like that. Most probably you are going to eat very fast and you need something simple or you are too tired to cook anyway.
You are maybe not gonna be in position to start fire, maybe you are not gonna need it, or maybe it is gonna be too dangerous to start it, but once when you needed you need to be absolutely positive that you can start it safe and quick. A small fire does much for your body and in many situations maybe even more for your mind.
I want to have more ways to start fire because I still remember how important it is.
One night I was stranded out in one ruined building while outside was raining like waterfalls. It was unsafe to travel so I spent night there, hidden behind pile of rubble in something that was months before living room.
I choose only 5-6 square meters where was relatively hidden and start fire. I start it with lighter and some remains of curtain, then I used wood junk from the rooms and apartments to keep it going. It was stinky, my eyes were burning from wet wood and my attempts to “cover” light of the fire with some steel plate without extinguishing it.
I was wet, tired, hungry, and without too many plans for future.
It was spooky and weird to have fire in complete darkness of ruined and half burned apartment where still on wall were pieces of some tiles with different flowers. I did not cook anything on that fire, or boil water for coffee, tea or whatever, I did not have anything.
Only “material” use of that fire was that I dried my socks on it, but it was not too important at that moment, I survived many days with wet socks.
Real use of that fire was that I felt that my strength and will was coming back to me. After some time I felt much better, I had my will again.
Everything is different when you have fire with you. It not only helps your body…
Canteen cup kit, water treatment solution, filter and a hydration reservoir. I also have water bottle to fill up hydration reservoir quickly next to it on shelf. Do not carry too much water but make sure you have everything to make clean water yourself.
6. Tools and more
It’s nice to have smartphone with GPS but also carry a map of the area, compass and make sure you know how to use them.
I carry three lights. A torchlight, nano light and a headlamp. Sometimes it make sense to use strong torchlight, but in other circumstances it make more sense to use small light, without making yourself visible from great distances.
Try to carry FM radio to get some information. If you have space there are good hand crank radios available. To have information in moments of bugging out can be very important. Listen to radio with headphones to conserve energy.
When it comes to types of carrying all of this and how to organize it you must always have things that are very important close to you and in a way separated from your backpack.
That means that you will keep your weapons on your belt or under the jacket, your small survival box, some ammo, flask, means to start fire and some power bars in some small bag on your hip, around your neck or similar.
We all probably carry our pistol as every day carry (EDC). In my case EDC is just gonna be small addition to bug out bag. It usually consists of pistol, extra magazine, lighter, flashlight, folding knife, keys, cell phone, heavy duty scissors and wallet. But keep in mind that how many things you have in your EDC depends on your “moving” distances. Or how far you are from more stuff (in your car, job, home) so I have not much with me all the time.
Clothes in layers makes easy to you to take off something if you feeling too hot, or to take peace of clothes on if getting too cold. Do not forget that by making mistakes in this area can lead to hypothermia or in other cases in heat exhaustion if you losing too much water by sweating without controlling it.
Check for clothes that repel wind, dry quickly, clothes that stay warm even when wet etc. Try polyester (military style pants, shirts etc) wool underwear and some insulation layers with fleece. Have one set of extra clothes in your bug out bag.
Clothes that blend in
You do not want to look different remember that so also when it comes to clothes try to have usual stuff on you, or if you want and have something special just try to cover it with something usual. Remember that looking too different draws attention and that is bad.
If your clothes looks too good or too “new” it makes sense to make it look dirty before you move on. Even today when I buy new sneakers for example I first make them dirty but that is because I live in high crime area.
Your footwear needs to be chosen completely based on nature of your trip, not on other folks ratings. So it make sense to wear for example sneakers in city because of speed and mobility, and when you move to woods to change to something else. Pair of gators in combination with boots make sense.
Remember that you need to wear your new footwear before emergency scenario. Do not make mistake and put your new boots on for the first time when bugging out. Blisters can cripple you and I saw people losing feet because of infected blisters.
Your compass and map you are keeping in your pocket or small waist pack. In that way if you find yourself in situation that you need to loose your backpack you are still gonna be able (hopefully) to finish your trip.
My shelf system
Having your bug out bag always ready somewhere on some shelf makes much sense, but having the things ready for bugging out on shelves and way of quickly assembling your bug out bag is much better idea in my opinion.
Point is to have all things that you gonna need for your three or more day trip to your bug out location ready and sorted on one shelf, so you can easily check it every day.
Another reason is that there is no perfect bug out bag for every situation, so it makes sense to have some stuff available for your BOB so you can quickly choose something and leave something else.
Remember that you can not take everything.
In some situation it is gonna make sense to take gas mask with you maybe and leave something else.
Making bug out bag, and putting it on shelf and then waiting for SHTF can be problem, you have to check stuff that is in your bug out bag, you have to know each item very good, and check it often. It is easy to forget about what you have in your bag when you have assembled it and put aside for some time.
Choosing correct bag type is important too, so it is good to have few different type bags ready for quick packing.
Some more thoughts
Your bug out bag must have things that you KNOW how to use, so it is much better to have butterfly closures that you know how to use than full wound sewing kit without real knowledge about it (and without real need).
If this concept of bug out bag sounds like you are missing lot of things, please consider again the fact that your task with this bag is to reach your bug out location on quickest and safest way, not most comfortable way. Do you want to be slowed down for a bit more comfortable night? I don’t. I also speak in detail about reasons why mobility mattered so much during my time in war in my survival course. Sneakers beat big boots back then.
If you still think to add more things to your bag to make your way easier then think about possibility of hiding some stuff on your way to your bug out location.
It has many benefits. You get to know your way to your bug out location in detail when you search for good hiding places for example.
In setting those secret places with stuff on your way to your bug out location follow few rules:
1. Always use three possible ways to bug out location, and hide stuff there because you never know what way you are gonna use.
2. Hide small stashes at many places, instead more stuff at few places. Reason is again fact that you do not know what circumstances gonna be during bugging out, and what kind of obstacles you gonna have. Just have more choices.
3. Have some system in tracking correct places where you hid the things, it is much easier to forget places than most people think.
It can be GPS device, or simply some photos taken, or some coded message describing correct place. Remember that you may give that info to someone (friend, family member). Get creative, maybe some place only you and your wife know as a starting point.
What you gonna hide depends how long your trip is, and what kind of situation is gonna be but every small thing gonna help in those times.
Canned food, MREs, fuel, aluminum foil, ammo, first aid kits, duct tape…
You can have best equipment available but if YOU did not test it, it does not mean too much. After you assemble everything go on hiking trip and test all, test equipment in rain, in forest during the night time, try to make yourself shelter from trash bag with insulating it with leafs, or whatever else you have for shelter.
Try to find a stash at night or to read compass at night… You may say here “OK what about mosquito repellent, sun lotion, survival manual, tent, solar charger … and lot of other things.”
If you want those, my suggestion would be that you buy ALL things that you like to have with you, assemble it in bug out bag and have two day trip that includes sleeping in woods, running (from someone) trying to hide, trying to get to the bug out location on time etc.
Speed counts more than comfort.
After that take all equipment and sort it again to make it lighter, you will see that suddenly you are going to find some stuff you do not want to have actually (or you find something you missed, but practice is important).
More about bugging out and weapons in next article. Please share some ideas about your bug out bag in comments.
Last thing that you remember is that you were standing with few of your friends in street, now you are laying on ground and looking around you and there is blood running next to your leg, there is something in your throat and it suffocates you, you are trying to remove it with your fingers but nothing comes out, you are trying to swallow it but it is of no help, you are trying to scream but nothing comes out of your mouth. And thing that scare you most is that you notice blood on your pants in groin region, and you think that all future fun is gone.
Your friend gets you on your feet and his mouth are moving but you can not hear sh!t. With his hands he is explaining you that shell exploded some 50 meters from you and your friends.
You are (hopefully only temporary) deaf from blast, you can not talk because blood in your throat because you bite your tongue when that thing exploded. “Luckily” blood running next to your leg is not yours, it is your friends , he is seriously wounded.
And that wet stuff running down your legs and on your pants is not your blood, you just lost your bladder control when detonation happened. It happened unconsciously not because of fear, you did not have enough time even to feel fear.
And then (thanks God) you pass out. Everything starts to hurt later.
This all happened long time ago, but I still remember everything like it is happened yesterday, or like it is happening everyday. I feel very sorry for those innocent killed people in Boston.
I feel sorry for wounded too. Even when they recover they will be wounded for the rest of their lives.
Few times people told me that my experiences are war experiences and they are not applicable to some future SHTF scenarios. Horrible event in Boston clearly shows that you do not need to be at war to have civil victims because of explosions.
I witnessed numerous explosions, blasts, detonations etc. And also I helped many bomb explosions victims, during war and later in emergency services. Unfortunately here carrying small bomb with you is not so unusual (even today). Its considered here weapon just like knife or gun and we have bombings in our area still every month.
So I have been with people immediately after the explosions and later too during the course of healing.
Also I helped lot of people to cope with psychological injuries that they sustained from similar events. And I suffered from that too.
Being at the scene of incident that involves many injured people will „hit“ you like a train, and even if you do not succumb to the widespread panic and start to help injured people it will require some kind of training and knowledge.
Never forget one thing: in any kind of incident your absolute priority is your safety. If you get hurt or killed you are not gonna help anybody. Always assess safety of scene.
Of course you are gonna help injured people in any way that you can, but in order to give as best help as you can you need to understand what actually happens with people with blast injuries.
Explosion and injuries from explosion can be divided into the three parts.
In first phase injuries are caused by the pressure wave of the blast. Injuries like pulmonary bleeding, pneumothorax, perforation of the gastrointestinal organs. The pressure just blasts your soft part inside.
Important thing too is that wave can cause severe damage or death without external signs of injury. Common injuries in first phase are also burns on the body area that are exposed to the side where explosion happened.
In this phase injuries occur from the flying pieces of glass, wood, stones metal etc. So you are gonna see lacerations, burns, fractures.
In this phase body of the victim is becoming missile and is thrown against object. So you can expect injuries at the point of impact. Usually trauma injuries and some bleeding, depends on where body lands on.
Now this three phases maybe look to you not important in terms of helping the victim, so you could say that injury is injury whatever phase it is.
It is not so simple, especially when specialised help is not so close, you need always to suspect the most serious injury until it is ruled out.
For example after some explosion you find man who looked perfectly OK, but actually he suffers some serious internal injuries from whom he can die in half hour without proper treatment. You can not help people with internal bleeding much but you can make them priority to get professional help. Transport them before transporting others and so on.
Some of the signs of internal bleeding can be:
- Pain and swelling (pain and swelling in the leg can be caused by fracture of thigh bone for example)
- Victim looses consciousness (internal bleeding in the brain)
- Abdominal pain can be sign of damaged internal organs and bleeding
- Disorientation of victim, dizziness and fainting
Most of these signs do not necessary need to be signs of internal bleeding, but point is for you as a man who want to help it is very important to always suspect worst case injury, let the professional medical services rule bad conditions out.
Don’t forget laws if they still exist
We are talking here mostly about time when there is no law, but still we need to mention (just in case) that you need to be familiar with laws in your area.
So in some countries you could end up in jail if you try to help victim and actually you do some harm (by mistake, or lack of knowledge…) in some other regions law is actually protecting you.
Level of knowledge
It is all up to you what kind of knowledge and skills you are gonna learn and use when SHTF. There is a system of course today so you can choose to go for first aid classes knowledge or EMT or you are gonna choose to learn what you think it is important to know.
Nobody says it is forbidden to you to go online and research how to stitch (sew) wounds or splint broken leg.
What to expect and how to act
Now we are coming to most important part of all this. You need to prepare yourself mentally to deal with injured , possibly dying people.
Some says that there are people who are born to stay cool in stressful environment, other say that training is key. I can say that after more that 20 years in medical field, including SHTF period that on some things you can not get used to and dying people is one of them.
What you can do with proper knowledge and training is to reduce the moments between shock and reaction, and to act how you are prepared (train).
Emotions and stress
Nature of emergencies are that they are stressful. Be ready to be overwhelmed by emotions and be ready to cope with stress.
Stress alone is huge topic, and you are gonna deal with some events even after 20 years, but important thing is to DEAL with it. Do not be alone with your problem.
Jay has background in psychology and has helped people with traumatic events here is his part on what everyone can do to help people after disaster, even without any training. I see these things also work every day in emergency situations at my job.
—–Jay about helping survivors in the acute aftermath of traumatic events—–
1. If you are safe, make sure other people and victims of the event feel safe as well. Tell them what happened and that they are safe now (and help is on the way if that’s the case). If necessary affirm the victim multiple times that they are safe now and the event is over. They just experienced something that was very hard to even imagine for them before and they need to come to terms with that. They will show all sorts of emotions, from anger to fear to depression and disbelief.
2. Make sure they are in a comfortable position. Do not make them move if they don’t want to, they might have injuries that you do not want to make worse. Let professionals take care of this unless you know what you are doing.
3. Talk to them in a calm voice and ask them neutral questions about what happened. What happened before the event and what lead to the event? Let them run through everything step by step. Ask specific questions and try not to get emotional in any way. This will calm them down and help them to understand what happened.
4. If you set off to find out more about friends or relatives of the victim who might have been also injured or killed, explain what you are going to do and that you will be back shortly. Give people the feeling you are there for them as good as possible.
5. Be honest about the information you share. If someone got killed say it in a compassionate way. Lying about this and then the victim finds out about it because the corpse of her relative gets carried away just means a deeper fall and loss of trust in you which can make the situation even worse (what else might be the wrong information? Am I really safe?….)
7. People after traumatic events sometimes act as if nothing happened. They might want to find transportation to get to where they planned on going to or call work to let them know they are late. This is normal because many people simply do not accept that what happened is part of their reality. Its a protection mechanism. If it doesn’t hurt the victim try to be supportive and borrow them your mobile phone or help them in any other way.
In general people can handle natural disasters best, while man-made disasters or violence is the worst because the fundamental trust in people is destroyed.
Here is some personal advice from me.
I experienced many explosions, I mean very close explosions, not sure how many but it was way of living for year.. From hand grenades, tear gas grenades, mortars, tanks, howitzer, improvised bombs…
But all comes down to same. Jump down and pray to God, later you stand up, clear debris from hair and clothes, throw up maybe from smell and blast that shocked your organs and go on. If you survived, and without injuries. Only thing that changed over the time that we all (more or less) became numb to all of that, so we just care for everything less and less.
I describe how I transition from normal young man to this numb creature that just wants to survive in interviews in my survival course. I bleed from ears several times after the explosions. I hear poorly on my right ear for the rest of my life.
Events like mass killings, bombings and similar will change you completely, and you are not gonna be same anymore. Event alone is traumatic with injured people, screams, blood and all that, and there is few basic rules in helping the victims and helping yourself to cope with everything.
Sometimes listening to victim is gonna be only thing that you gonna be able to do. You can not „treat“ victim with listening only, but trust me to man who is in pain, great fear and uncertainty is he going to survive to have someone beside him makes a great difference. Maybe you are gonna find yourself in situation that man is dying, man who is total stranger to you, but he is gonna have only you for comfort.
Because fear and shock, you can expect all kind of reactions from injured people, and very often that reaction gonna be angry one. Just be tolerant, that anger is not actually directed towards you.
After being involved with dealing to the victims of some catastrophic event you can also experience excess stress. It can be triggered by simple traumatic event or many of them. For someone it can be caused by watching a car accident for example.
Some of the symptoms of stress are: problems with concetration, irritability, anxiety, loss of sexual interest, nightmares etc.
Dealing with stress (this has worked for me):
- Change your food habits. Avoid fatty foods, nicotine and alcohol
- Relax. Try meditation or check what relaxing techniques are good for you
- Spend more time with your family and friends, talk to them and just go and include them in your stress problem solving.
This is what Jay and me think about this. The bomber from Boston is not only one who benefits from people being afraid. People who are scared are easier to control. Just dont let the bomber be a prepper…
Please share in comments what you think about Boston bombing and maybe also personal tips how to deal with traumatic events.
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