During the course of preparation, you may find yourself asking yourself, What should I do? Peak Prosperity's excellent WSID series, devoted to developing a strategy for cultivating a more resilient lifestyle and drawing on the knowledge of dozens of subject matter experts, has become one of the most important contributions this site has to offer, in my opinion. The series gives readers great insights into how to influence their external world for their betterment; underlying it all is a subtle question that has remained unasked: What CAN I Do?
This is a question of pivotal importance. As preparedness-minded people, we continually audit our readiness in terms of supplies, wealth, ability, and skills to provide for ourselves, but we rarely stop and do a practical and comprehensive audit of what we can do, should necessity call upon our most base abilities. So, with that, let’s continue on and learn how to audit our abilities to provide the items we need for ourselves.
There is a longstanding tradition amongst survivalists and self-styled preppers that gives a curt nod to the “Heinlein” man (or woman), who is, in short, a jack of all trades and a true master of none. This approach is admirable and definitely something that we should strive for – not only for the useful skills it provides, but also for the self-satisfaction that comes from being ‘capable’ of taking on difficult tasks and prevailing. Being exposed to many different concepts and skills can help build upon others and enhance the ones you are more proficient at.
Even so, the concept is out of date and out of step with ten thousand years of post-agricultural revolution of humankind. The specialization that modern society has afforded us is, however, a byproduct of societies that are not in ‘need.’ Because of this, I believe that one of the most important skills is the ability to foster community and establish connections to other skilled people. As you continue on the path of honestly evaluating your skills, improving your capabilities, and making and maintaining contacts with others who are skilled, you'll find multifactorial benefits:
- It affords us injuries or illness without removing the only member of a group who is “in the know” on a specific subject
- It grants us the opportunity to develop our skills under the supervision of those more capable than us
- It gives us the chance to solidify our knowledge base by teaching those who wish to learn
Truly, in every instance, sharing skill development is the epitome of community and the root of commerce. As we did with my prior article, Understanding Emergencies, we will view our pool of skills in metrics of Ability/Mastery and Immediate/Mid-/Long-Term.
It’s important to note that although none of us will achieve mastery of all these subjects in a paltry single lifetime, we can learn to be competent in a great many of them – all of which builds our net value to our communities and our personal satisfaction.
One of the most difficult aspects of self-evaluation is that we often have no meaningful way of measuring our skills or our progress. We may assume or expect that we are making strides and improving, but without a way of measuring, it can be very difficult to parlay one's practical ability into a measure of overall skill. I don’t believe that a simple “strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree” is the best method for the individual to use to determine their skills. It’s a great diagnostic tool for others to get a view of you, but as an individual, you can afford yourself much more detail and honesty than these categories provide.
While it’s not possible for me to say what constitutes proficiency in all the areas of knowledge that I think should be pursued, we can set points on a continuum that should allow us a ‘rough gauge’ of where we are at, starting with the very most basic skill level and working towards mastery.
In each of the topics presented, consider your level of proficiency and how you would handle said situations. Make note of your level of confidence, and if you’re unsure in any way, ask and discuss with others who know more! Once you’ve developed an honest, cogent assessment of where you’re at, we can begin to share the necessary information to improve.
So, we can identify some skills and weigh our own sense of priority with our level of proficiency with the task. A high-necessity skill with no proficiency is an oversight in one's training and should be fixed, whereas a low necessity skill that you’re already proficient in is something that you can teach others as you advance other knowledge bases.
It should be noted that this process is not supposed to be easy – it’s supposed to be an honest audit of what you know and what you need to learn. It should be uncomfortable (like any form of change) and should make you feel vulnerable.
Find the time, print off the following questions, and answer them – then use the results to make an actionable plan to enhance your preparedness.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the skills in question, and why they’re of consequence.
Agriculture – Can you…
- Identify the conditions that your plant needs to thrive?
- Estimate the amount of food you can grow on your land? How long will it take? How long will it last?
- Germinate and transfer seeds?
- Maintain your plants with proper watering and sunlight?
- Maintain your plants by preventing insect infestation?
- Maintain your plants without using petrochemical fertilizers or insecticides?
- Prevent tampering and theft from insects, critters, and people?
- Recognize soil erosion and nutrient depletion potential in your growing area?
- Maintain and use compost as fertilizer in your growing area?
- Manage water resources without access to public infrastructure?
- Reconstitute nutrient deprived soil?
Animal Husbandry – Can you…
- Feed and take care of your animals? Provide sufficient water in times of need?
- Identify potential threats to their health?
- Identify the nutritional needs of your animals?
- Understand and maintain a schedule for milking, shoeing, vaccinating, or otherwise treating your animals?
- Relieve suffering when needed? (put an animal down)
- Butcher/dress your animals if need be?
- Preserve eggs, meat, or milk gained from your animals?
- Secure competent care for your animals if/when you are away (planned or unexpectedly)?
Building/Construction – Can you…
- Build a foundation? A simple structure?
- Repair roofing? Manage simple plumbing problems? Replace or repair common electrical components?
- Lay flooring?
- Build a complex (multi-story, multi-angle) structure?
- Do you have repairs for common fixes on hand? (Leaking pipes, broken windows, blown fuses, leaking roof, broken furniture?)
- Do you have building materials and supplies on hand? How will you find building materials during an emergency?
Domestic Skills – Can you…
- Cook without power? What will you use?
- Store food without power? How will you react to a sudden outage that leaves your food thawing?
- Where will you get fuel for fires? Where will you burn? How well ventilated is the area? How much heat is retained? How will this impact your family in your climate?
- Where will you get water? How will you clean it?
- How long could you survive off your pantry?
- What staples do you have – flour, sugar, salt, pepper, grains, etc.?
- How well do you know your neighbors? How prepared are they?
Environmental Knowledge – Can you…
- Read a map? Navigate by compass? At night?
- Create a compass or determine direction based on sun position?
- Identify key terrain features? (Saddles, spurs, ridges, draws, hills, cliffs, and valleys?)
- Use terrain to navigate?
- Do you know the different types of trees in your area? Coniferous vs. deciduous?
- Do you know how to relate terrain to vegetation to identify areas that have better water tables or running water?
- Do you know how to assess these areas for hazards?
- Are you in a region that has natural disasters? Are you in a local area that is commonly impacted by these disasters?
- How do these disasters impact agriculture, game, and water cleanliness?
Martialism/Tactics – can you…
- Establish personal space and maintain it in public?
- Identify potential ruses, threatening situations, or unstable people, and avoid or react as necessary before physical conflict occurs?
- Verbally diffuse unwanted contacts?
- Stay conscious and mobile against an opponent who is attacking you? Two opponents? Three?
- Strike a dummy for 1 continuous minute? 3 minutes? 5?
- Deal with an opponent at close interval? Armed with a knife? A gun?
- Do you own and maintain proficiency with firearms?
- Do you understand the F.A.S.T. and “+1” principle?
- Do you understand “use of light” principles and how they relate to tactics and security?
- Integrate with other members of your family/circle to address threats?
- Pass the Defoor Pistol/Carbine tests #1 and/or the FAA Air Marshal’s pistol test?
Trauma Medicine – can you…
- Identify injuries by type? (Cuts, lacerations, abrasions, perforations, deformities, and burns?)
- Identify the basic types of fractures? (Open, closed, compound)
- Identify the types of bleeding?
- Stop capillary or venous bleeding?
- Perform closed heart massage/CPR?
- Move a patient without putting them at risk?
- Relieve an obstructed airway with a nasopharyngeal airway (NPA)?
- Use an occlusive seal to stop tension pneumothorax?
- Use a decompression stint to relieve tension pneumothorax?
- Use a tourniquet to stop uncontrolled arterial bleeding?
- Treat a sickness or infection?
Physical Fitness & Health – can you…
- Perform a pull-up? 5? 10?
- Run 1 mile? 3 miles? 5?
- Swim 50 meters? 100 meters? 500? In clothes?
- Lift your body weight?
- Wear a backpack all day while walking? For how many miles? With how much weight?
- Split firewood, tend garden, or prune trees for ~4-8 hours?
- How many calories do you need to perform this work over long periods of time?
- What’s your resting heart rate? VO2 Max? BMI? Ideal weight and current weight?
- How dependent are you on caffeine? Cigarettes? Prescription drugs? Alcohol? Illicit drugs? How do these affect you when you do not have them? How reliant on these are you?
Physical Security – can you…
- Identify potential weak points in your home’s security?
- Identify most likely avenues of approach for potential criminals?
- Identify danger areas within your home (hallways, doorways, staircases, etc.)
- Secure your valuables by concealment or physical security measures such as fire-safes or vault safes?
- Use security measures (such as alarms, door sensors, and home security systems) to gain “initiative” in case of a break-in while you’re home?
- Rely on a friend or family to house-sit if you’re away?
- Secure your home if you have to evacuate it in an emergency?
- Understand locks and how they work? Know how they’re defeated and how to make them harder to defeat?
Piloting – Can you…
- Use defensive driving to avoid collisions and altercations?
- Identify and repair common problems in and around your vehicle? (Flat tire, eroded battery terminals, overheated vehicle, etc.?)
- Do you have the necessary equipment to jump-start or repair your vehicle if needed?
- Quickly dismount your vehicle in an emergency? (Vehicle trapped under wreckage, submerged vehicle, blocked or disabled vehicle)
- Use your vehicle off-road if need be? Do you recognize pitfalls and hazards of driving off road?
- Apply these same principles to a boat? An airplane?
Pioneer Skills – Can you…
- Identify the “rule of 3’s”? (3 minutes without air, 3 hours without shelter, 3 days without water, 3 weeks without food)
- Build a shelter from native flora?
- Insulate shelter with native flora?
- Waterproof the shelter?
- Gather water using sources, solar stills, or capturing water from vegetation or rainfall?
- Filter and purify water without using chemicals?
- Build a fire in any weather conditions? (Rain, snow, extreme heat)
- Build a fish net? A trot line? Jig for fish using minimal man-made resources and relying on natural implements?
- Identify edible plants, roots, and berries in your area? Identify poisonous flora and fauna?
- Identify, trap, and process game in your area? Prepare it with only a fire you’ve built?
The ability to transfer the unlimited amounts of energy provided by the sun, wind, and water to our families gives us an opportunity to maintain some of the comfort and luxury provided by modern technology. Can you…
- Identify the best resources for your area, home-site, and living situation?
- Install and utilize a small setup that can be used for backup lighting and emergency communications?
- Install a grid-tie system with supplied parts?
- Fabricate solar cells, a hydroelectric alternator, or wind turbine from available materials?
Water Procurement/Purification – Can you…
- Identify water sources, flushment options, and storage methods?
- Identify your water needs and estimate volume required for your family in an emergency?
- Purify water through sand/charcoal filtration method?
- Purify water using other filtration methods and/or distillation?
- Store and maintain water supply in your home or shelter?
- Identify potential hazards and contaminants to your water supply?
- Are you prepared to neutralize these contaminants along with parasites that could cause illness?
This list of tasks is by no means comprehensive – and I’ll admit that many of these are built from my own knowledge or known deficiencies. Please feel free to share the results of your assessments, people who’ve instructed you, or the experiences you’ve gained from them or your own experience, and/or elaborate on other tasks and topics that I’ve overlooked.