How to Survive the Apocalypse? Is the TEOTWAWKI Inevitable?

apocalypse /əˈpɒkəlɪps/ The complete final destruction of the world, as described in the biblical book of Revelation involving destruction or damage on a catastrophic scale.

Hey guys, welcome to the apocalypse! Can’t say you haven’t been warned according to the first definition. However, if this is the case, there’s not much use in reading onwards unless you have a spaceship (and the final destruction won’t also destroy the rest of the universe). So, this is probably more for those who found themselves in, or are preparing for, the second definition, where a major catastrophe uproots the world around you in such a way that it will never be the same again and may take years to recover, if ever.

In survivalist circles, this phenomenon is also known as TEOTWAWKI, a strange abbreviation pointing at a very existential question, which could come knocking at our door one day: what to do when local or global catastrophes lead to The End Of The World As We Know It? There you go, an abbreviation learned you’ll never forget. 

welcome to the apocalypse

Of course, civilization won’t just fall away from under our feet, right? We have steady jobs, insurances, presumably live in a well-off country with established law and order, there’s no imminent war on our doorstep and natural disasters are not threatening to wipe out our entire system. Right? Well, this is probably what the wealthy Roman merchants and nobles thought while sipping vinum in their fluffy domus.

Rome was sacked by so-called barbarians in the year 410, and soon the population of what once was the greatest, richest, and mightiest city on earth shrank to about 5% from what it was during its heydays. Trade collapsed, grain supplies stopped, inflation spiraled out of control, law and order turned to anarchy, and all securities people thought they had, were wiped out. Some saw it coming, others didn’t.

A similar fate befell the Egyptians, some of the mighty Chinese dynasties, as well as the people of the Mayan Empire. All very sophisticated and complex civilizations where at least a part of the people enjoyed great wealth, comfort and a feeling that all these good times would just keep rolling. Now, most of what we know about the Mayans had to be dug out from the thick jungle. Buried by nature, overgrown, and trampled by unknown feet or phenomena. 

Even in modern times we saw the collapse of the Soviet Union, which left an enormous vacuum, fear, lots of war, ethnic conflicts from Serbia to Tajikistan, and a massive downfall in production, living standards and life expectancy. Not to speak of World War I and II, which changed the face of Europe and many other parts of the world forever.

So, with history and the holy books as a warning, let’s see how we can prepare for such a terrible event. 

Can we really prepare for the apocalypse?

What causes an apocalypse?

The collapse of society can be caused by different factors, or sometimes a cocktail of several. To list a few:

  1. War

Humans seems capable of finding infinite reasons to go to war with one another. Whether plundering Mongols, raiding barbarians or, as recent history showed, terrorist militias, superpowers flexing their muscles, or certain ethnic or religious groups wanting to violently control those who think differently.

  1. Natural disasters

Not worried about natural disasters? Neither were the people in Pompeii, nor those living in coastal Sumatra during the 2004 tsunami. Other than that, think earthquakes, meteorite showers, hurricanes, floods, heat waves, tsunamis and, a slow and mean one, drought. 

  1. Disease
    Yes, COVID sucked, and was in some ways a little apocalypse, since many things will never be the same as before. Yet, it pales in comparison to the Black Death, or the plague, that depopulated medieval Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia. Scientists estimate the plague killed 30 to 60 percent of all Europeans between 1346 and 1353, and in England life expectancy dropped to a miserable 17.33 years. Or, as in the novel Blindness, where suddenly a whole city turns blind and falls into deep and cruel chaos.

blindness novel
  1. Famines  

Mostly due to bad governance, greed and climatological circumstances, famines are among the most desperate and uprooting scenarios societies go can through, with abundant evidence in history of lawlessness, infanticide and cannibalism by people driven mad by hunger. First food, then morals, right? 

  1. Punishment from above

“…blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood (Joel 2:30-31).” Whether it’s the apocalypse of the Bible or Hindu God Shiva’s dance of death that destroys the entire universe, we can’t say we haven’t been warned, and various religious cults have rich descriptions of what awaits us when doomsday comes. Other, less religious books claim marauding aliens or zombies will descend on us.

How to prepare for the apocalypse?

Since you might be too late when disaster strikes (think alien invasion, a sudden attack on your country or a tsunami), you want to have a bag at hand carrying your survival essentials, in case you’re in a situation where you only have a few minutes to grab your belongings and run.

Stock up!

Make sure you have a stockpile of foods and other supplies which will last you at least three to four months, as you never know if or when food will be readily available in case of a nuclear or climatological disaster, or when the world turns to anarchy. 

Here are a few things that can sustain you for a long time:

  • Freeze-dried meal packages
  • Canned foods
  • Jugs of water
  • Warm clothes
  • Medicines
  • Sleeping bags
  • A tube-tent
  • Tools

Something for self-defense. Possibly a gun if you live in a country where possession is legal.

More detailed

  • A good pair of boots
  • Long sleeve clothes of good quality and for various weather types. Think warm and waterproof.
  • A good quality camping stove that takes any kind of fuel to burn. I personally love the Biolite stoves, which burn efficiently, can charge your phone, and even have a lamp built into it.
  • Some fuel tablets for wet days
  • Some basic cooking gear like a pot, a pan, a cup, a spoon, and a plate that can double as a cutting board
  • A Swiss knife with can opener, unless you know the spoon-trick
  • A wind-up radio which doubles as a charger. Good exercise while hiding from the zombies.
  • Waterproof matches and a couple of lighters. Or go for a fancier solar lighter.
  • USB chargeable flashlight
  • Sunglasses and a hat
  • A bundle of good quality rope
  • Strong tape
  • A machete or an axe
  • A good survival book such as Lewis Dartnell’s The Knowledge, and a zip lock bag to safely store it in. This could become your new holy book.

What medical supplies do you stock for the apocalypse?

Since, in the case of a full-blown collapse of society, all hospitals, supply of drugs and medical supplies can be ground to zero, it’s good to prepare well. Cause when you’re suddenly back in the Dark Ages, you’ll find that an infected wound can turn lethal if left untreated.

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Paracetamol
  • Antibiotics
  • Antihistamine
  • Iodine
  • Bandages, plasters, medical tape, and gauze
  • Tweezers
  • Trauma scissors
  • Superglue (great for sealing wounds in infection-prone areas)
  • Toothbrush (toothpaste can be taken, although at some point you may need to switch to charcoal powder from your campfire)
  • Soap, because keeping clean will suddenly not be a luxury, but a necessity
  • Female hygiene products (menstrual cups are great if you have the means to properly clean them)
  • Whatever specific meds you’re on. Get plenty of those
  • A few packages of pocket tissue

What not to forget if you want to prepare for the apocalypse?

  • Sewing kit
  • Waterproof backpack
  • NIOSH N95 safety masks
  • Gas mask
  • Multifunctional survival whistle that also serves as a compass, signaling mirror, waterproof matchbox, and a fire-starter flint
  • Waterproof markers to leave signals, directions, or messages
  • Good quality garden gloves
  • They’re tough, they’re cheap, and they illuminate your surroundings for 12 hours if you get a good one. Make sure to include glow sticks in your survival kit!
  • Multitool
  • A quick drying towel
  • Fishing gear
  • Solar panel
  • Learn to make a bow and arrow and how to use it. Or, to get a head start, bring a foldable bow and arrow.
  • Vegetable seeds
  • Life jackets, in case you live by the sea or in a low-lying area.
For those who read Genesis.

How to take care of your personal hygiene when the world collapses

Whether or not you meet the love of your life during the apocalypse (romance can be found in the most horrid environments, it seems), keeping clean is of utmost importance, as a flaw in your newfound hole-in-the-ground-toilet routine can cause disease and even death.

Tough times can be survived without toilet paper. Use some good old leaves or any product that looks clean. However, make sure you wash regularly, especially your hands, so bring soap or learn how to make your own now, so you’ll know what to do when SHTF! To make digging a bit easier, take one of those foldable multi-function shovels!

How to stay safe during the apocalypse?

Learn how to defend yourself. A good self-defense course never hurts, as well as knowing how to handle a knife and firearms in case it’s needed to keep the zombies, aliens, and wild beasts out of your area.

An apocalypse-proof vehicle

It’s a bit much to build Noah’s Arc in your backyard, and perhaps your budget doesn’t stretch as far as the 3.8-million-dollar Karlmann King Bulletproof Ground Stealth Fighter, but any vehicle that can handle rough terrain (and potentially runs on diesel or even homemade biofuel) can make a huge difference during apocalyptic circumstances.

Even on a good quality bicycle with quality panniers, you can quietly cover great distances and stay away from trouble more easily. If you live near bodies of water or even an island, consider bringing an inflatable raft or go for a more ambitious amphibious APC, scavenged from an army surplus dealer.

Where to go when the apocalypse comes?

As soon as you grabbed your emergency supplies, stuffed them and your loved ones in a car and fled the presumably tumultuous city, stock up some final supplies, if possible (if your currency is still accepted and hoarders have not yet taken everything), and get out.

During the apocalypse it’s essential to leave the city, as it will stop functioning completely after gas, power, and especially water supply are cut off. It will just be you and a million others scavenging for survival, and then we’ll finally learn that cities are stunningly artificial places that cannot independently sustain life. To stay away from all the others looking for food and safety, it’s best to go as far away from populated areas as you can.

Drive to the most remote place you can think of which can sustain life, has fresh water supply, land for farming and, if possible, some wood. Communities throughout history have adapted to rough conditions in remote places, simply by the will to survive, seen in the lives of the Inuit, desert Tuareg and the different Himalayan tribes.  

How to get safe drinking water during the apocalypse?

No matter what disaster you’re up against, ensuring a steady supply of clean and safe driving water is crucial. Luckily, there are a few easy ways to turn potentially contaminated water into potable water using things you already have in your house. According to survival author Lewis Dartnell you can chemically disinfect suspect water by using kitchen bleach or even pool chlorine, as long as you dilute it enough and make sure there aren’t any other additives like fungicides.

“Just a few drops of a 5% liquid bleach solution that has sodium hypochlorite listed as the main active ingredient will disinfect a liter of water in an hour,” he claims. Another way is to get a couple of LifeStraws, which can keep a person hydrated for a good five years.

If you live in a sunny climate, another low-tech way to safe drinking water is so-called solar-disinfection. Leave water in a clear plastic bottle in the sun for about a day, so the ultraviolet rays of the sun get the chance to deal with any biological contaminants like bacteria and viruses. 

After a nuclear blast or in other cases of severely contaminated water, you can filter water in a homemade still. Take a bucket, poke holes in it, fill it with pebbles, then a towel, then a layer of 6 inches of compressed dirt, dug up from deep down, then another towel and some rocks to keep everything in place. Then poor your water though it. This way the water is decontaminated, but not purified. This you can do by boiling. 

How to get food after the apocalypse

Forget supermarkets, money, and medical care. You could face a situation where everyone will have to fend for themselves, with people out there willing to cross any imaginable line for the sake of their own survival. Therefore, you must learn to be self-sufficient. The aforementioned bow and arrow can come in handy if you’re in an area with game or even birds.

Those hours spent preparing on the archery range will finally pay off now! Besides hunting, give fishing a try, and make sure to have a wide variety of seeds on you, ready to be used in different types of soil or climatological circumstance. It’s generally best to take heirloom varieties of things that grow well, depending on the climate you face. Tomatoes are good, but first focus on things like corn, wheat, barley, potatoes, and rice. 

Another approach is to carefully establish contact with others who have settled down in the remote area near you. Find out if there’s any skill within your team that is sought after and see if any trading can be done. However, be extremely cautious, as apocalypse-desperation will bring out the worst in people. Assume gangs will form, roaming the land to loot and kill if needed. 

In this regard, you have to trust your gut feeling, as surviving will be very difficult all by yourself in the long run. So, you have to decide who to trust.

How to find shelter after the apocalypse?

Unless you have a well-supplied bomb shelter in your backyard, or better, in a remote place far away from civilization, you may need to improvise a roof over your head yourself. Of course, you can hold out in your car and tent for some time, but if a habitable place has been found, and there’s no abandoned building at your disposal (which there usually will be after the apocalypse), it’s good to start building something more permanent. 

One thing that will make a huge difference is to learn how to produce your own renewable energy, like solar, wind or hydro power in advance.

underground bunker

How to survive the apocalypse while unprepared?

Laugh at that doomsday-prepper friend all you want, but if that uneventful day happens, you’ll hit yourself in the head for not having taken at least some basic precautions. You may end up begging at their door, if they haven’t already started their post-apocalypse farm somewhere remote without telling you and the other skeptics. 

If you are the prepping one, be extremely selective in who you share this with. Because you can bet that all those people will call on you when things get out of control.

If you were that laughing one, you may have to face the apocalypse without any advance preparations and wing it from the start. Here are a few tips to survive a sudden collapse of the world around you.

To stay or to flee

Each type of disaster calls for different measures. In case of an imminent violent attack on your city, it’s best to flee as fast as possible, but if a nuclear bomb gets dropped nearby, it’s much better to stay indoors for at least 24 hours or hide in a basement, or a designated bomb shelter. In each circumstance you have to ask yourself the question, ‘is this the safest place for my family now, and will this be safe in the immediate future? If it seems safe for now, at least start working on an escape plan, cause if you live in a city, you will want to leave at some point, as quality (and value) of life will plummet after the collapse of society. 

In case you have only minutes to escape immediate danger, here’s what to grab:

  1. Some warm clothes, good shoes, and a blanket
  2. Any food and water you can carry or get your hands on. Ideally, stuff that won’t spoil and that is relatively lightweight. Think freeze-dried food versus a box of fresh strawberries, and you get the idea. 
  3. Something to defend yourself.
  4. The best wheels you have at your disposal.

Conclusion

Though the bomb shelters and armored vehicles may not be in everyone’s budget range, it doesn’t take much to build a basic stockpile of emergency gear, and learn about surviving the apocalypse and being self-sustainable. It’s simply a set of really cool life skills that may one day safe the lives of you and your loved ones. 

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