Sam Sheridan is a Mixed Martial Arts fighter and a Harvard grad. He's a former wildland firefighter, Antarctic construction worker, and professional sailor.
He is a tough, smart guy and he has written a tough, smart book, entitled "The Disaster Diaries: How I learned to stop worrying and love the apocalypse."
Sheridan uses the construct of his nightmares about a variety of disasters – some realistic (earthquake, tsunami) and some not (zombies, alien invasion) – to consider the skills necessary for surviving TEOTWAWKI.
If you’re an REM fan then you know this acronym: The End Of The World As We Know It.
Sheridan goes about learning those survival skills, including high-speed driving, hunting, trapping, combat shooting, making fire, surviving in extremes of heat and cold.
This is NOT a “how-to” book.
He’s not trying to teach you what he learned but, instead, to show you the complexity of survival when civilization fails.
Let’s say that you have time and money to become an excellent combat shooter by going to a shooting academy for a few weeks. How will you maintain that skill while learning how to trap game or to drive like a stunt man or practicing your desert survival skills or maintaining optimal physical fitness?
All of these skills are perishable and some are illegal. Sheridan goes to a few junkyards with experienced car thieves to practice taking cars like you would have to do in a world without unzombified mechanics and working gas stations.
For all of the nightmares and the complexity and difficulty of becoming able to survive in all of the various scenarios that might present in an apocalypse, this is an inherently optimistic book.
Read it and you just might stop worrying about the apocalypse.
There is a lot to be said for personal responsibility, for maintaining enough food and water and medicine to take care of yourself for awhile. Knowing how to make fire and how to defend yourself are great skills, too.
The kicker, though, is that any apocalypse is not going to be as bad as you expect.
Sheridan, who is also familiar with David Grossman and with Gavin DeBecker, examines the myths about New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.
How many murders happened in the Superdome? Zero.
The National Guard believed the reports of conditions inside the stadium, generated by persons outside of the stadium, which had no cell phone service.
The Guard brought hundreds of body bags. How many did they need? Six. Four elderly persons succumbed to conditions, one person overdosed, and person committed suicide.
When Police Chief Eddie Compass reported, “They’re raping babies in there,” he was wrong, and how would he even have known?
The shots allegedly fired at rescue helicopters? These are now regarded as misguided attempts to summon help. How many bullet holes were found in rescue aircraft? Zero.
During the New York City blackout in 2003, gang members walked little old ladies home.
Your neighbors are not going to turn into savages. In a disaster, neighbors help each other. That’s a fact.
The mass panic that we’re taught to expect? It’s not going to happen.
Forget the movies.
Panic only happens when crowds are tightly pressed together and the persons in the crowd think that they could be trapped and feel helpless and feel isolated.
For an incident of mass panic, you need all 4 factors. Remove one and there is no panic.
Sheridan does caution us about “elite panic,” however. This is the overreaction of government and law enforcement, those with the most to lose from the temporary suspension of order.
This is something that actually did happen in New Orleans, the “shoot to kill” orders when responding to survival looters.
Law and order are returning soon. Civilization quickly resumes.
However, the government that you may – or may not – entrust to restore order may look upon you with great suspicion.
You can’t be fully prepared for a disaster but you can sustain yourself for awhile.
You can take responsibility for your own life and health and security.
Your neighbors may not become your enemies.
Some of us will survive, whatever comes.