This article has been written by Wayne B. for Survivopedia’s contest “My Prepper Story“. You can vote for this article until March 29, 2015 using the “Vote Up” box at the end of the article.
Let me introduce myself. I’m a disabled Vietnam veteran who developed a penchant for the out-of-doors, self-sufficiency, and service at a very early age. I strongly believe in “God-Family-Country”. These concepts I have tried to instill in my family. This true story is more about my youngest son, his mission to Mexico, and how his training at home helped himself and many others survive without the physical preparations that many see as the end-all of prepping. Spending money on proper prepping is important, but not as important as spiritual, mental, and emotional training. We can’t spend our way into survival! It takes more.
This story takes place in the late 90’s. My son was 19-20 years old. I will skip most of this story, to meet the criteria, and focus on a specific time period.
Early one morning, my son and all of the area inhabitants were rocked out of bed by an 8.1 earthquake. It demolished the entire town. Communication was down. All the bridges into this area had collapsed. The river became convoluted and wild. People were running around screaming, not knowing what to do. It was a typical time following a natural disaster.
Interestingly enough, the news in the USA showed buildings falling in Mexico City and talked about the major disaster there. What we weren’t told was that the epicenter was 100 miles east of Mexico City! These smaller communities didn’t carry weight with the “ratings war”, so they weren’t covered. My story comes from the epicenter of that earthquake.
Much of the training my son had received while growing up was from the BSA. He used this training well. What I managed to get his Explorer Post involved with, as an extra, was the BSA’s new Emergency Preparedness program. So, he was a step up on others. One other critical program he was involved in was ARC Disaster Action Services. I highly recommend discovering if you have this program in your area and becoming a volunteer. There is much to be learned there. I was involved with DAS for many years.
My son began his training long before he was of legal age. He awoke early one morning when the phone rang, calling me out to a structure fire. He hid in my truck until we arrived at the scene. While performing my duties a fireman came over to ask if anyone knew who that kid over there was, working with the kids who were victims of the fire. I looked over and was shocked to see that he was my son. I stumbled over making my apologies but the Fire Captain came over and told me that, though he wasn’t of legal age to be there, please don’t discourage him, because he had a real knack for calming down the children and helping them to redirect their focus away from the tragedy they just experienced. He stated that social workers were not that good. He said that kids work better with kids than adults do. From that point on he went with me on carefully chosen disasters.
Note: Although he thought being with me would allow him to skip school that day, I still made him go. He needed to learn where his responsibilities were and that working with me on disasters was no excuse to avoid them. He still enjoyed coming with me.
Back now to Mexico and the earthquake. Know that my son had peace of mind. He knew his God was with him. He knew that he was well trained to handle disasters as he grew up. This gave him mental acuity and emotional stability. He was prepared!
My son and his companion began their work finding people buried in the rubble, applying first aid to those they could help, getting other people re-focused to helping others, thus creating a less harried situation.
On the third day of recovery another disaster occurred – the worst hurricane the area had experienced in over 20 years. This threw a new wrench into the works.
At this time family and friends pestered me to call his supervisor and find out if he was OK. I stated simply that if there was a problem, they would have already called me. Eventually, I did call and got an earful. Just before communication had been lost, my son was told to get out of there, now. His reply was that he couldn’t leave. There were too many people needing his help.
What hadn’t been destroyed by the earthquake was laid to waste by the hurricane. After a few days of drying out, the area experienced severe storms every day for the next 10+ days.
Now the work really intensified. By this time my son was pretty much on his own. Even his companion became useless. Like so many others, he became more concerned about his own comfort than supporting the rescue effort. Much of the town was flooded by the swollen river with all of its debris, snakes, cattle, all sorts of jungle critters alive and dead, as well as dead people.
My son and a local entered the flood waters in a craft that my son doesn’t have an English translation for. The only description I could come up with was that it may have been something like a Huck Finn raft with a Bass motor attached. My son would hang onto this craft, in these filthy flood waters, until they reached a home that was generally flooded up to the eaves. He would then swim down through a broken window or door and up into the attic, which was not yet flooded. At this point he would try to coax the people into following him out to safety. Those who listened were brought to safety – those who didn’t, drowned. You can see how his Scout training in Lifesaving helped out here, along with many other merit badges he earned, including his rank of Eagle Scout.
After this he organized a shelter in the only relatively untouched building in town. It even had its manicured lawn, flowers, and shrubs left virtually without damage. His description of this was simply that it appeared that God had lifted this entire plot of ground up into the air while the destruction ensued, then put it back in place for a place of refuge.
He immediately went to work organizing a shelter in its cultural hall; setting up triage in adjoining rooms; preparing rooms for children to play in; providing psychological help to the victims; coordinating what supplies could be found – medical, food, water, etc.; getting people to help with all of this including recording names and putting families back together, where possible. There was, of course, much more to do than I have listed.
During this time of organizing, the Mexican Army flew in one helicopter with some high ranking personnel and their press entourage – no food, water, or medical supplies. They brought a few soldiers to keep order in the community, supposedly. No airdrops were scheduled and no helicopters were coming with supplies, at least not in the near future. There were at least two dozen trucks loaded with relief supplies stuck at the first collapsed bridge, waiting for the government engineers to show up and construct temporary bridges. The government was extremely ineffectual, so what do you do?
My son was at least as upset with this photo-op as the rest of the town, so he took action into his own hands – again. He grabbed his companion and told him they were going to hike to the nearest town, which was about 10 miles away, to organize as many healthy people as they could find into a relief column.
Remember now, this entire area had been hit with these disasters and were all in need of some help. He didn’t know what he would find but this was the only choice left. Understand that this area is mostly rainforest and is quite slick for travel. They even have permanently attached ropes to help people climb over small hills. With the current situation, hiking became a major chore. At some points they had to slog through mud reaching up to their knees. At some point his companion lost a shoe in the mud. Upon sticking his foot back down into the mud to find his shoe, all he found was a sharp, pointed object that ran clean through his foot. My son carried him the rest of the way to the town.
Once they arrived, they discovered that relief supplies had reached this particular town. Hallelujah!! He found the medical tent and dropped off his companion for medical treatment. My son then went about organizing small groups of mostly healthy young adults to bring the necessary supplies back to his town. They packed in water, food, medical supplies, and clothing. With them came some relief workers trained in disaster relief. I believe he organized them in groups of ten and sent them out at given intervals. He returned with the first group, marking the trail for the others to follow.
At the top of the last hill overlooking the town, they all stood in wonder at the devastation below. One spot stood out above all the others. You guessed it! The one building and the grounds around it that appeared relatively untouched by the disasters.
When my son had determined he had done all that he could, he found a cot in a good foot of water and collapsed on it being extremely ill. At first, he tried to shoo off the snakes, roaches, spiders, etc. that crawled out of the water to get dry on him, but quickly decided they needed to dry out, too and left them alone.
Once communication had been restored I received a call from his supervisor. His tone had changed completely from anger, because my son disobeyed him, to one of enduring praise for the hundreds of people he personally saved from the disaster and the hundreds more who benefited from his knowing what to do. I am obviously very proud of my son and that he really did learn from me, while he was growing up. As a parent I often wondered if I was getting through to my kids. Apparently, I did. I also think his supervisor used numbers that were somewhat exaggerated.
There is much more to this story, but this is a good place to end. Let’s break this down into what we can learn from this experience.
- DON’T trust the government to help you. Your first line of defense will ALWAYS be what you can do for yourself. Remember, there are still displaced people from Hurricane’s Sandy and Katrina.
- Raise your children with a strong belief in “God-Family-Country”. This is your primary tool for family safety and self-sufficiency. On these three concepts, great nations are built. Once they break down, so does that nation.
- Like most things in life, prepping is generational. Teach your family and they will teach theirs, who will teach theirs…
- Become community oriented. Join ARC Disaster Action Services and other community based emergency preparedness programs, like Neighborhood Watch. Much valuable information can be gleaned in this manner.
- Have monthly prepper training at home with your family and others you may invite. Teach your family to learn and practice different scenarios. Take a day or a weekend to practice how your family will live without electricity, I-Phones, computers, video games, etc. The scenarios you can use are endless.
- DON”T think that hunkering down in your fortress will keep you forever safe. Take care of your family first, but don’t forget that you are part of a larger community that also needs your help.
- Prepping is not just a personal concept – it’s universal. Take care of your family first, then extend your reach without causing potential distress for them.
- Understand that you are NOT the first responder’s first choice to help. If their families are at risk, they can’t provide effective and efficient care for your needs. I introduced a concept in a large community I used to live in many years ago. The politicians didn’t like it but emergency personnel loved it. I suggested that a large, safe, and protected area be designated for the families of emergency personnel to be evacuated to when a major disaster strikes. Organize a group to be in charge of evacuating them to this point. Use emergency vehicles, buses, trains, and helicopters or whatever means is available to get them there FIRST. Now the emergency personnel will be able to concentrate on their jobs. Politicians only counted if their jobs had much to do with emergency situations. This city opted to follow this plan and used the county Sheriff’s training facility outside of town.
- Involve your families in the Boy Scouts of America, the YMCA, and other such organizations.
- Don’t put off for tomorrow, what you can learn and do today. Training takes time. No one in their right mind would step into a UFC cage to fight a talented opponent without extensive training beforehand. When an emergency occurs, you want to be prepared spiritually, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Here’s a simple example: You are on your way home from work in 110 degree heat, driving on the “LA Parking Lot”. All of a sudden your radio is producing nothing but white noise. You’re A/C stops working, followed by your engine ceasing to function. You try starting the engine but you don’t even hear a click. You look around and notice that the same thing is happening to everyone. What do you do now?
Most people will say a quick prayer to their personal Deity for help and for the safety of their families. You now know that the Skunks Have Hit The Fan! Most people won’t have a clue because, “This could never happen to me! It only happens to other people.”
Cell phones are down. No way to communicate with family or friends. People are panicking all around you. Are you, as a trained individual, going to panic with them? NO! You are going to get your BOB out of the trunk of your car, which should contain all you will need for 72 hours from weapons to water. You will use what you have learned about urban survival to make your way to your home or to your designated meet point. You are now in control of your situation. Because of your training you may feel some comfort in knowing that you properly trained yourself and your family for this situation.
You have met the criteria: Spiritual-Physical-Mental-Emotional.
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