Posted on September 10 2018
Jeff Kirkham and Jason Ross Pull It Off with an Emergency Preparedness Fair!
In Black Autumn, the new novel by Jason and Jeff, the neighborhood surrounding "The Homestead" dithers around after the collapse of the American economy, and their hesitation nearly leads to being overrun by a massive gang of criminals.
Assuming that you are bugging out in-place (which we recommend in certain situations), how can you avoid the fate of the fictional Homestead: being caught without a responsive neighborhood in an emergency?
- It takes time, and
- It requires that you sneak up on the topic of preparedness.
Jeff and I began writing Black Autumn almost four years ago, and when we began, we had virtually no buy-in with the neighborhood surrounding our “bug out location.” In short, we found ourselves in the middle of the predicament described in the novel.
Writing Black Autumn, scared us enough that we went to work on it. This week, we celebrated our greatest victory to-date, a big Preparedness Fair:
— over 150 people showed up to our neighborhood preparedness fair and many signed up for a food storage drive, a water filtration system and learned about rocket stoves. This last Saturday, in a single leap, we transformed our neighborhood into a coordinated team. But that “single leap” took months of work and ramp-up.
— around one-quarter of our neighborhood has committed to buy a year’s supply of food through our food storage drive over the winter and we expect to get to one-half of the neighbors committing before we order.
— our local congregations (Latter-day Saint “Wards,” because we live in Utah) are completely on-board and have appointed “emergency preparedness coordinators” and a big preparedness committee.
Again, this process consumed four years, and admittedly, it’s probably easier when dealing with Mormon church neighbors, since they have a history of buying food storage. With that said, most Mormon congregations have less than 10% compliance with their year’s supply doctrine. We’re getting our neighborhood up to 50% by springtime.
Here’s how we did it:
Step 1: approach your local church, neighborhood committee or HOA and offer to be the “Emergency Preparedness Coordinator.” If you don’t already attend the church, you might want to consider dropping in on occasion. Most organizations would be happy to have another volunteer working on a topic like preparedness, even if it’s only for floods, fires and earthquakes.
DO NOT MENTION GUNS. DO NOT MENTION GUNS. DO NOT MENTION GUNS.
There will be a time for guns, but it will not happen for a bit and it will never be something most people care about.
DO NOT MENTION POLITICS. DO NOT MENTION POLITICS. DO NOT MENTION POLITICS.
There will never be a good time to make preparedness political.
FOCUS ON LOCAL DISASTERS. DO NOT TALK ABOUT WHEN THE SHTF (AT FIRST.)
Step 2: present a plan for the most-threatening local disaster that your area faces. In our case, we had just had a wildfire and everyone wanted to discuss solutions. The wildfire scared us, but it was an accelerator for preparedness and really got us moving. Our first neighborhood meeting, we spent 75% of the allotted time talking about fire mitigation. But then everyone wanted to talk about long-term preparedness too! We dove right into a water plan and a food storage drive and our committee was launched. Everything started with fire prevention, because that’s a lot easier to discuss than a Zombie Apocalypse.
Step 3: form a committee made up of everyone who thinks preparedness sounds fun. Still, DO NOT MENTION GUNS and DO NOT MENTION POLITICS. When the committee wants to talk about those things, don’t take the bait. Take those particular people aside and go shooting with them, or go get coffee and blab about how you hate Liberals. Don’t do it at your meetings.
Step 4: make everything you do fun. Normal people don’t prepare because they are afraid of when the SHTF. They prepare because it sounds cool. Capitalize on the cool factor of preparedness. Hold gardening seminars. Bottle peaches together. Have a bread-making class. Pick berries in the forest. Go fishing together.
Step 5: plan a preparedness fair. Pick four or five preparedness topics, invite the local police and fire departments, and SERVE FOOD. Local churches, HOAs and neighborhood organizations will usually chip in on this if you will quarterback the effort. People will come if they don’t have to make dinner that night. Then, they will drift around and learn about preparedness. Also, we set up a PA and played seventies rock and roll in the background (that actually made it 30% more fun, easily.)
Booths we chose for our fair (we kept it simple):
— Food storage signup and education (we had free equipment and prizes for everyone who signed up. Things that were donated by local folks and companies.)
— Water purification and Rain Catchment. We sold monolithic water filters and taught proper catchment.
— Rocket Stoves. We taught folks what a rocket stove is and how to use it. We have a lot of firewood in our neighborhood.
— Bread Making. We fired up two wood stoves and baked bread for everyone from food storage wheat.
— Get Home Bags. We had Jeff Kirkham teach about what should go in a Get Home Bag.
— Fire Department. Four fireman came out and talked about fire prevention.
— Gardening. The best gardener in the neighborhood set up a booth to talk to gardeners.
As mentioned, we had over 150 people show up and it was an amazing time. We got to eat together. Someone brought games for the kids. The firemen gave the kids fire hats. The neighborhood dutch oven guy ran 30 dutch ovens and roasted three pigs. Everyone chipped in on food, bringing veggies and fruit from their trees and gardens.
Step 6: launch a food storage drive. This is where you will significantly increase your neighborhood survivability. Find the cheapest possible source for bucketed, dried food storage and organize it so that people can write you a check and you deliver buckets to their door. We figured out a process where it would cost our neighbors $650 for one year of dried food for one adult. We got the church to agree to send their young men to deliver the food to the homes when it arrives. Assuming you have water figured out (VERY IMPORTANT), food will be the biggest stressor on your relationship with your neighbors in a collapse. Getting the local pastors on-board will be CRITICAL, since they are a one-stop way to influence your neighborhood. The same could work with an HOA, PTA or other neighborhood leaders.
Step 7: continue the momentum and move into other topics such as rocket stoves, canning, gardening, hunting, fishing, Bug Out Bags, Get Home Bags. Start sneaking off to do firearms training with an ever-growing group of guys. (We’re up to seven or eight shooters at this point in time.)
Again, this process took FOUR YEARS for us. It was not a small endeavor and it required a little time each week and then a LOT of time for the fair, though the emergency preparedness committee did more than their fair share of the work. The neighbors now want to do the “Harvest and Emergency Preparedness Fair” every year.
If you remember one thing, remember this: KEEP IT FUN. Preparedness is a blast and people love baking bread, canning fruit and gardening. Focus on immediate and easily-imagined disasters and then drift into long-term preparedness. Even though I always wanted to talk about long-term preparedness, I made the committee drag me into it before I would jump into doomsday prepper mode.
It’s okay that your neighbors don’t “get it” about the coming Dark Age. Have them read Black Autumn and then maybe they will get it (just kidding.)
(Actually, not kidding.)
Good luck and have fun getting to know your neighbors better!