Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Novel Tool for Disaster Preparedness

Published under GNU FDL v1.2

We all read up on the latest survival-related products and pore over websites that give us new hints and strategies. We clear the vicinity at parties when we "talk shop" with fellow survivalists. Many of us run rehearsals with our family and friends. How about taking a break for fun, and educational gameplay?

I propose that you consider playing role playing games (RPGs) to help you and your family to prepare for emergencies and TEOTWAWKI. Since their "origin" in the late 1970s, RPGs have been used successfully in therapy and in helping with communication skills. RPGs have the potential to improve players' social and problem solving skills as well as being relatively low cost simulation/practice activities. By their very nature, they help improve the cooperative and problem solving skills of the players. What a good, fun, supplemental tool for the survivalist.

For FRPs to be usable for us as a teaching/rehearsal tool requires a few vital features. We all work and have obligations, and little time to study complex rules and matrices. So the rules must be clear and concise. The system must be flexible and speedy enough to allow "what if" scenarios that include various real world elements; it must allow for one's character (game simulacra) to use a shotgun one moment and model the same character's attempt to apply first aid to a party member the next with minimal time needed to game out the event. Finally, the system must be fun.

We have all heard of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D), a fantasy, some what Tolkienesque RPG. Not much utility for the survivalist as it is set firmly in a fantasy mileu and has very complex "combat"and skill rules.

Cyberpunk comes a little closer as it deals with a high tech society with extreme social and financial disruption. The skill and attribute (e.g. intelligence and strength) system is clear and challenges are quickly resolved. But Cyberpunk is less than ideal for survivalists as it is based strongly around implanted technologies and general high tech' and so it will not be ideal for modeling a contemporary disaster situation.

The Chaosium Basic Role Playing system (BRP), and its predecessor Call of Cthulu (COC) fit the requirements for survivalist use: easy to understand rules (practical attributes for character, percentile-based skill proficiencies), very flexible system (built to deal with Stone Age to the far future and fantasy environments), and allows excellent design of characters.

How can you use FRPs in your prep' plan? You and your family could spend a few hours discussing your roles and emergency evolutions/drills or you could play an FRP in which a certain disaster occurs and each person must react to it given their set of skills and available resources. A bit more engaging, especially for the kids.

You and your group could get together and game likely scenarios using an FRP. A good way to identify potential group communication problems before the Big Event (see my post of 27Jul09 below)! You can also identify potential chokepoints in planned movements/bugouts, test exclusion [of outsiders] policies before the Event, and have fun at the same time.

Here's an example of an implementation. I am currently involved in an FRP, called End of Days, which involves our characters trying to survive in the aftermath of a worldwide pandemic of a hemorrhagic fever, in the Portland and Coeur D' Alene areas. The game has been most instructive as our group of individuals try to collect the resources and cultivate the contacts with other survivors that will mean the difference between life and death.

Our group consists of a strange mix of types: the doctor, exhausted from fighting the plague and trying to hold the others to her high moral code; the "drop out" professor of Roman history who possesses many skills for rebuilding a viable society; the drifter jack-of-all -trades who is expert in negotiation and bargaining; the Army sergeant who was an NBC expert, now he must apply his combat skills to defense of the party's retreat; and the White Nationalist paramedic who had a smallholding set up for TEOTWAWKI, he must learn to cooperate with his "enemies" lest all die out.

Through the interaction of the players, key real world issues of cooperation, "creative scavenging" (what items will be needed), and small group dynamics under extreme pressure are all played out in the course of the game.

Setting up to do an FRP is simple and inexpensive. Visit one of the links above to locate sources for rule books. Buy the necessary dice and rule books. One source is I have no connection with them, I have only heard good things about the firm from others.

Consider adding FRPs to your learning tools. You won't be sorry and you'll gain a new diversion which will enhance your necessary skills.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Survival Group Commo' Breakdown

We actively seek like minded individuals to cooperate with if times of emergency come. We get to know them, we exchange tips, we size each other up. Then, if the facts and "look and feel" are right, we invite the new person(s) into our survival group. But if we choose the “wrong” person to admit to our group, that person can later turn your group in to looters or the State for profit or vengeance. Plus they can leave a wake of resentment and mistrust that could compromise the survival of you and your group.

We would all like to think we are a good judge of character and some of us also pride ourselves on good intuition in sizing up people. So when we decide to accept someone as a friend, or survival group member, we tend to ignore the little warning signs that might point to nascent problems with the new friend or recruit. Acknowledging the developing problem can mean acknowledging that we made a mistake in trusting the person.

If one suddenly discovers that Mr./Ms. Right has a few annoying personal habits, no big material loss though the social machinations involved in rectifying the situation can be embarrassing or stressful. But if one suddenly discovers that a member of the survival group has blabbed to the world your defensive layout and supply inventory just post-disaster, you or other group members could pay with your life for the member's indiscretion.

People behave the way they do socially because of many factors. This can add “some spice to life” or it can result in serious conflicts maybe even death of one of the parties involved. Some people are Machiavellian, others lack common social skills and compensate with an over emphasis on factual information, still others are guided by their religious beliefs primarily in social interactions for better or worse.

In times of crisis, people's social styles can become more exaggerated or they may drop into a primal individual survival at all costs approach. Even in “baseline stress” times such people can be dangerous to you and the group as they can carry information you confided in them to outsiders who can endanger you and your group in time of real crisis.

Imagine having a group member who has not been contributing much in the way of labor or resources during normal times preparation. Now imagine you or the group “voting” the problem person out. The slacker takes exception to this and goes to great lengths to make sure everyone in town knows that your group has a large supply of goodies to “share” in time of disaster. Maybe the person is also vindictive and goes to the local police or the ATF with “information” about your “hate group” and its cache of “illegal weapons”. You and the members of your group are now in a hard position through no real fault of your own.

How to protect yourself in choice of group members? Common sense is still safeguard number one. Do the person's words and deeds match up reasonably well. For example,if all agree to help with caching firewood, does the person do their share, within any obligations or restrictions they may have? If the person claims prior military experience, do they demonstrate a good grasp of basics such as physical security in conversation and in the "field"?

If your group has members of varied religious or ethnic background, does the person's language and behavior toward the various group members appear respectful and do they appear capable of cooperating with those who don't agree with them or look like them? Does a cursory check of the person's background and “introduction story” match? Or does the person appear to be a mere “survivalist poseur” or, worst of all, an agent provocateur or potential “confidential informant”?

Operational security is as important to the individual survivalist, or group, as it is to the police or military unit on campaign. Always be wary of what you tell someone. Always be careful of expressing your plans or your personal ideology to someone else for you might hear them narrated into the court record some day with you in the docket. Thoroughly research new survival friends or group recruits. This will go a long ways toward preventing entanglements with those too mentally ill to cooperate. “plants”, and those whose lack of work ethic is coupled with disruptive manipulative or Machiavellian dreams.

It is human nature to give more weight to the statements of those we have known for a long time or to members of our primary family or birth family. But even here danger lurks. Just because you have known someone for twenty years does not magically mean that they always speak the truth. Soap operas run for years based on deceit by intimates. I know from personal experience that family members or long-term friends can lie if it will give them a crucial advantage in a stressful situation.

Imagine the damage in a SHTF disaster when one group member tells a lie to cover an error they made, blaming a newer member. In a situation where you must all cooperate to literally live, the snake has entered your Garden. Discord has been sown because you will probably believe your long-term friend over the “newcomer”. Trust goes down the hydro flusher, group efficiency falls when you can all least afford it, survivability goes down.

Beware when one group member complains to you, sub rosa, about another group member. Keeping confidences, is one thing but in this case you need to analyze the social dynamics which lead to this quasi-gossip and work together to eliminate this incipient problem. Those who work in business know this lesson instinctively; when a problem arises, the marketing department's spin is of less use than getting engineering and the impacted parties together to work out a real, practical solution.

And you must strive to ensure that lines of communication stay open always for rumor and morbid speculation thrive when truth is not exchanged. The classic example is the call to Tech Support. The Support person runs through a problem solving algorithm, the caller resents the highly structured communication (“stupid”, “talking down to me”). The Support person resents the “stupidity” of the end user (“luser”) because the Support person cannot understand that the end user only wants to get their work done, not tinker with arcane configuration files for an hour (as the Support person would do if they were the one with the software issue). No communication possible here if both parties don't truly try to see things from the other's perspective.

The same applies, when lives not software, are at stake, in survival group interpersonal interactions. This resource, though written from a military perspective, can help the survival group coordinator assist group members in good interaction both before and during a disaster. Chapters 3 and 6 are on point for survivalists.

More on this subject in a future post. Study hard, train hard, survive easier.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

NRA Refuse To Be A Victim Class Change

RTBAV class will be held at Lewis and Clark County Library (120 S. Last Chance Gulch, Helena in the large meeting room) this Tuesday, the 21st from 615PM-830PM rather than on Wednesday, the 22nd.

Sorry about the change; room was not scheduled, luckily I checked. No publicity done either. So if you are in the Helena, Deer Lodge, or Butte area, come on down for this class which deals with security issues related to survival. Network, exchange tips with each other, learn from the experiences of those who have faced living in high crime areas and learn some opsec tips for SHTF.

Again, class is free of charge. You get a good student book too.

For those outside SouthWest Montana, try these websites for tips on surviving the coming "Change and Hope": A site for women, authored by a woman, on armed self defense. Very good on the mental aspects of surviving violence, light on technical minutae of bullet weight and esoterica of powder choice. Blog article on defending your supplies from looters and the State. Ignore this aspect of survivalism at your peril. Defend University. Great name, great articles on crucial aspects of self defense and situational awareness. Site has a few good articles on crime prevention from a country which made our recent mistakes, from 1994 on; so read this material to prepare for our descent into the abyss when SHTF here. Solid advice from a place which makes Oakland or Detroit look like heaven. A few good, brief, articles on what to do when SHTF and your side has WIAs! Practical articles that will appeal to the survivalist medic looking for ways to prepare for beyond Check Call Care first aid. 100 things that you need to be prepared. The comments at the end from a survivor of Sarajevo are both instructive and chilling when you read them.

Be safe. Be prepared, be strong in faith (of your choice).
Montana Preppers Network Est. Jan 17, 2009 All contributed articles owned and protected by their respective authors and protected by their copyright. Montana Preppers Network is a trademark protected by American Preppers Network Inc. All rights reserved. No content or articles may be reproduced without explicit written permission.