Reading time: 4,990 words, 11 pages, 12 to 19 minutes.
If you haven’t read the first two introductory pages in Part 1, I recommend you do so. Among the things I wrote was that Selco is the most credible source for prepping and survival advice that I have ever read. He survived the Balkan war of the 90s and one year in a besieged city with no electricity, water, sewage, food distribution, medical system, police, etc. I arranged Selco’s lessons in alphabetical order to make it easier to search and review because Selco provides such an abundance of experience.
CONTENTS IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER – ‘C’ to ‘E’
CITY vs. RURAL
DECLINE BEFORE COLLAPSE
EVERY DAY CARRY (EDC) ITEMS
FEARFULNESS or BOLDNESS?
FIREARMS. See “WEAPONS” – in Part 5.
CHANGING SHTF. Selco writes that at the beginning of SHTF “People on street were practicing something like “fun“ with weapon, like shooting and having fun, so nothing like real reasons for attack or self defense. Later when folks realized that it is becoming easy to get killed, and hard to survive, more people tried to stay “put“ and move out of way of other folks.”
He also writes, “Lack of knowledge in the beginning days made people do stupid things, so people were killed in great numbers simply because they did not have clue about weapon and combat, so they use it a lot, and act like they had super powers.”
Former friends become enemies, and old enemies become friends. Selco writes, “‘Sides’ were always changing … when it comes to Survival you will fight to get what you need or protect what you have from whoever…”
Before SHTF, Selco recommends observing and identifying what could change our plans after SHTF. We may be unable to cross a bridge for many reasons, so we need an alternate method of crossing. A prison we daily drive past might become a dangerous area after SHTF as will an army base or police station.
He also talks about the constant change of the SHTF. He writes, “SHTF has at its core that “fluidity of the situation” and it can crush all your preparing or at least shock you if you do not count on it in your preps… That fluidity means that the situation and value and importance of all your preps, solutions and plans might change all the time, and many times during the SHTF.” In other words, no plan is bullet-proof, so we must prepare to be flexible in our preps and plans.
As well, we can expect regional differences. Selco says that salt was plentiful and cheap at his location, yet “300 km away, salt was so rare that some people had medical problems because of the lack of it. In that region, people would take perilous trips through the enemy territory over the mountains to get some salt from another city.”
CHARITY is another matter of great importance. In a long-term SHTF, do we have enough preps to share with anyone and everyone? Are we prepared to turn away unprepared relatives or a young mother and her small children? We will have to make some tough decisions, so we need to decide NOW before the SHTF. Once it happens and we haven’t agreed on a plan to deal with charity, then these emotional arguments can tear our group apart where group cohesion is a matter of life-or-death.
I strongly suggest reading the article written by a very level-headed woman who is prepared to do things that, in the comfort of our homes before the SHTF we might consider difficult and brutal. Read SHTF charity is for fools.
CHILDREN. Selco says children were protected physically, but not enough mentally. The children who saw and heard terrible things or realized how easy it was to take a human life grew up troubled. There was no time for home-schooling in their survival situation. Most people didn’t have time to explain death to children. Selco says that’s a mistake because many kids grew up full of problems. Children are like sponges that absorb everything. No matter how hard a day we’ve had, it’s important to spend some time with the kids.
He says there’s a happy medium between showing kids the world’s brutality or completely shielding them. “Worst thing would be to let them deal with something new alone.”
Also, in an SHTF we need to teach children there will be times they must obey their guardians immediately and unconditionally.
In the absence of medical services, children’s health must be understood. Prepare now before the SHTF by researching and learning about children’s illnesses, first aid, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, infections, etc. and how to deal with them. Selco writes, “If your kid lives with some health problems already, learn about it and also learn alternative treatments so you can help your kids when modern medicine is not there anymore.” See ‘MEDICINE’ – in Part 4.
Baby food and formula should be stockpiled and rotated before SHTF. It will be rare, non-existent or costly after that. Also, a reader recommends, “favorite dolls or stuffed animals afford more comfort to a child that we adults often realize.”
Consider durable distractions such as Magic Slates (cheap, light, buy several) that will let them draw pictures and letters endlessly. Legos and Lincoln Logs never wear out and promote creativity and imagination for hours; a few anthologies (Fairy-tales, Uncle Remus, etc.) can allow bed-time stories and also help teach reading; non-drying modeling clay can keep children distracted for hours and promote artistic talents. Board games, dice games, card games/decks of cards, chess/checkers are cheap, readily available, and can last for decades. Notice that none of these require batteries or electricity.
It’s a difficult decision whether to keep our children with us or send them to a (hopefully) safer area like relatives or refugee camp. Some children who were sent away disappeared or became estranged from their parents. Again, one of Selco’s biggest regrets is NOT bugging out to a small town or rural location to stay with family.
NOTE: As a result of overconfidence, Selco writes, “most of the killed, wounded and “missing” folks during my SHTF event were young people.” He means civilians, not military and the reasons are inexperience and overconfidence.
Expect children to suffer the aftereffects of SHTF. “After prolonged living in the situation that we went through, people changed on many levels, and some of those changes are pretty much irreversible. What is even more important is that some of those changes are transferred to our children, to new generations… As I said, it is somehow ‘generational knowledge’ so it passed on young people, too. Especially when it comes to not respecting authority.”
CITY vs. RURAL. Having survived SHTF in a city, Selco feels a rural, small-town community is better than a city. [Gerold comment: Ferfal of Argentina says an isolated rural setting i.e. farm is worse than the city because neighbors are distant so marauders can take their time raping, torturing and killing.] Selco had 15 family members in one big house, 5-6 pistols, 3 Kalashnikovs. Strength was in numbers because ‘lone wolves’ didn’t last long regardless of how well-armed they were. See ‘LONE WOLF’ – in Part 3. Stay close to family, choose friends carefully and prepare with them. Admittedly, this is difficult because most people have Normalcy Bias believing that things will always function the way they usually do.
Suburban defense is difficult because the distance between houses creates an area too large to defend and with too few choke points for attackers. It also made it difficult for neighbors to organize. The only remedy in a suburban situation is moving multiple families into one house, but traditional feelings of privacy and ownership make this unlikely until the bodies start to pile up.
Small rural towns have the best survival odds. Selco writes, “In the essence it always come to the resources and people… City meant more people less resources, country (rural) meant less people more resources, and because that level of violence simply was lower” (in the country.) Plus, country people are more ‘hands-on’ types, and most people know each other, who to trust and who the enemy is. In a city, everyone is our enemy.
In a complete SHTF, as Selco had, rural folks still lost electricity and livelihoods, but they had more resources like water, forest for fuel, animals for hunting and land to grow food. However, we need to establish ourselves there long before the SHTF because they won’t welcome strangers after SHTF. Closeness to large cities is dangerous because of the proximity of the hungry hordes.
CLEANLINESS in a complete SHTF is ancient history, but for psychological (as well as medical & hygiene) reasons we must not surrender to dirt and grime. Stockpile as much hand sanitizer, wet-naps, etc. as we can before SHTF. Before returning home, Selco cleaned himself as best he could in the yard and kept ‘outside’ clothes in a bag and boots in a corner outdoors. It was how he kept “all chaos and violence, suffering outside of my home on some psychological level.” One of his male relatives wore women’s pink slippers at home. Everyone develops ways of coping.
However, it’s necessary to walk a fine line between surrendering to dirt like an animal and not accepting that the SHTF is real and that things will never be the same. Too much normalcy will kill us. He tells about jumping behind a collapsed brick wall to escape shelling and ended up lying on a dead body and hugging the corpse to make himself smaller.
CLOTHING need not be ‘tactical’ to be effective. Selco disdains the very word ‘tactical’ as it’s overused and “has become one of the worst enemies in common sense prepping/survival today.” In many cases ”tacticool” is nothing but a marketing gimmick. A camo jacket makes us stick out in an urban setting. Tactical bags or pouches with cool fluorescent colors make us a target when we don’t want to be, and multi-pocketed ‘tactical’ nylon pants make a swishing sound that can be heard a long distance on a calm night. He writes, “Being seen and heard from a distance makes sense in some survival situations, but in others, it is completely undesirable and dangerous. Choose your clothes based on that, not based on how ‘tactical’ they are, or how cool they look.”
COMMUNICATION. Information is critical. A battery-powered radio can keep us in touch with the ‘outside world’ to prevent demoralization and the hopelessness of not knowing. Also, Selco says people got killed going out trying to get information locally. As well, there are a lot of local unfounded rumors.
COOPERATION. At first, neighbors cooperated, but after a while, fear replaced trust and cooperation stopped.
CORRUPTION becomes a way of life during the SHTF and even afterward (if there is an ‘afterward.’) We’ll get nowhere without bribery. It’s not just a 3rd World problem. Some developed nations and states are already corrupt.
After SHTF, we’ll still have ‘Rights,’ but only on paper. We’ll need to bribe every step of the way to get our ‘Rights.’ We’ll need to bribe a middleman (who’ll take his cut) in a company to get a job. We’ll need to bribe the police, the doctor, teachers, etc. Selco writes, “Corruption becomes not only part of system, corruption is the system to get things done.” We’ll also need to accept bribes to make ends meet. Connections will become more valuable.
DANGER SIGNS. What’s frightening is that Selco did NOT prep for a long time after the hell he survived, but now, twenty years later he has begun prepping. Why did he start now? He writes, “here is also everything going down, family values, respect, political situation crime and you can also feel anger here, like everything going to blow That is another reason why I believe things going to be bad again…“Bad times are coming again definitely, this time probably on larger scale.” [Gerold comment: I’ve also noticed increasing, pent-up anger even in Canada.] [Link]
He writes, “In a SHTF scenario some signs of danger will become common, use them to your advantage.” For instance, the military would throw empty cans where they planted landmines to confuse mine detectors. People learned to avoid areas with empty cans and even threw them around their shelter to give the appearance of mines.
DARKNESS. Selco writes, “In darkness we go out and do things. All things.” Moonlight is best after we wait for our eyes to adjust. Lamps or flashlights draw attention. If we need light, do it quickly for one or two seconds because it will destroy our night vision. Move slowly with many stops to look and listen for movement. A small flashlight is better because a large one gives away our location. On the other hand, shining a light at armed bad guys might give us a few seconds advantage as it destroys their night vision so only, in this case, does a, brighter light make sense. There’s no ‘one size fits all.’
DEATH. In a severe SHTF, we’ll see some or many of our loved ones die. Selco writes, “We all gonna lose somebody probably, and part of yourself too in a way if we want to survive.” None of our preps and training will prepare us for this.
Violent death and dying in an SHTF is not noble and clean like the Hollywood movies says Selco, who was in both combat and emergency services before SHTF. It’s ugly, dirty, and smelly with lots of screaming and pleading. We’ll feel guilty for being glad it’s not us.
Dealing with dead bodies will depend on:
• “Does it belong to a loved one?
• How dangerous is the situation outside?
• What is the level of SHTF?”
Dead bodies are a significant health risk. Deep burial is preferable to cremation. Fuel may be in short supply, and a fire attracts attention. Shallow graves attract animals unless covered with rocks, rubble, etc.
Another consideration is the cause of death. In a pandemic, handling dead bodies is dangerous without “bleach, tarps, face masks, gloves, heavy duty duct tapes, ropes…or even gowns. And obviously a shovel.”
DECLINE BEFORE COLLAPSE. Selco confirms what I’ve been saying for many years. We are in a gradual decline of EVERYTHING and, like the frog in water that’s slowly heating, many people don’t realize it. People ask me when the SHTF will start? I reply that it started long ago, but it’s gradual, so many people don’t realize it. [Link]
And we have endless diversions to distract us such as TV, movies, video games, drugs, etc. so we don’t notice the growing tent cities, declining medical services, wages not keep up to inflation, more people (& kids) on anti-depressants, poorer quality of food, degrading infrastructure, police ‘civil forfeiture’ in the U.S., legalization of pot for self-medication, etc.
Consider how many countries have been turned into shit-holes by Anglo-Zionist ‘liberation’ beginning with Afghanistan 17 years ago. Consider how “No Go Zones” are increasing in refugee-infested Europe. Gasoline theft in Mexico is now rampant, and more tourist areas declared unsafe.
Numerous times I’ve heard or read that in an SHTF we need to wait only (couple weeks, a month, three months) and 90% of the population will be dead. Selco says that’s a myth. Look at Syria; it’s been going on for many years with no end in sight, and people are still dying.
DISPOSABLE ITEMS are better than re-usable because in an SHTF we probably won’t be able to sterilize medical equipment or wash dishes and utensils properly.
DRUGS like marijuana were one way to take the edge off the constant fear and brutality. It was also used to get someone ‘numb’ before breaking the tragic news to them. Marijuana had little trade value because everyone was growing it. It was dangerous to do drugs (or alcohol) before going out because they needed to be alert.
Heavy drug addicts did not survive.
DURATION. We mustn’t be fooled by our own or other people’s experience during short-term survival situations such as hurricanes, floods, fires, etc. Most people will cooperate in the short-term. In a long-term survival situation, trust and cooperation fade as people become more desperate. Selco writes, “few days looks like camping maybe, few weeks looks like trouble, but few months is hell. Then everything changes.” In a long term SHTF, everyone becomes our enemy.
When the SHTF, we need to determine its extent and duration. An ice storm crashing the grid is short-term; we know that within days (weeks?) power will be restored. On the other hand, pandemics, war or some other global SHTF event will last longer or even forever, and there’s no one to come to our aid.
EDC see ‘EVERY DAY CARRY (EDC) ITEMS’ below
EMOTIONS. We must not underestimate the power of emotions. Desperate and emotional people will do terrible things. Selco uses the term “Survivalist Hate.” He writes, “Do not expect normal logical thinking. It does not happen much in normal times and is less in survival scenarios for most common folks.”
They will hate us because we survived and prepped. Helping others could kill us. Re-read ‘CHARITY’ above especially the linked article. Selco saw how a man who had helped some people before the SHTF was robbed and his family’s house torched because they felt he knew SHTF would happen and didn’t warn them. Don’t expect logic from desperate people who want to ‘kill the messenger.’
EMULATE. Don’t stand out. If we’re outside and everyone is cold, act cold rather than advertise we have warm clothes or a warm home.
ETIQUETTE among strangers is vital. Be observant, but low key. Dress down, so clothes blend in with the locals. Keep mouth shut and avoid comments that’ll put us on other people’s radar. Avoid the opposite sex. Avoid religious buildings and areas. Avoid alcohol and drugs in public to stay clear-headed. Avoid prolonged eye contact as it might be considered aggressive. Be aware of sudden changes in background sounds and don’t stick around to find out why. Avoid crowds. Don’t look ‘lost.’ Instead, we must pretend we know what we’re doing and where we’re going. Avoid sports logos so as not to offend the other team’s fans. Walk at the same pace as everyone else to avoid standing out. Don’t give to panhandlers or the poor. Don’t ask directions from street people like prostitutes, vendors and random strangers. Instead, ask service staff, waiters and store-owners (if there are any.) Be polite and respectful. We’re being watched even if we don’t know it.
EVASION – when the SHTF and mobs are rioting and looting, even if we’re not prepared we need to cover seven survival strategies to evade danger and do it as fast as possible.
1. Fire – as simple as a lighter.
2. Shelter – grab a few more jackets or emergency blanket or trash bags.
3. Water – several bottles.
4. Food – energy bars from a vending machine.
5. Communication – cellphone and hope there is still a network.
6. Medical – grab a first aid kit from our workplace or your vehicle.
7. Defense – a couple of kitchen knives or smash a chair for a chair leg/club.
Selco writes, “improvising and adapting is key here… don’t run away from danger, run towards safety.” Consider hunkering down in a building or rolled-over school bus or whatever and wait until it’s safe to leave. Be ready to change our plans as needed. Avoid violence, but if we must then be quick and effective without hesitation or rules.
Evasion requires adaptability, quick thinking, and sometimes unpleasant tactics. Selco writes, “five or six guys were badly beating a man on the street. In the moment when they saw me, I saw them too. I could not go back, only choice was to go right up next to them. They were pretty drunk, the guy who they beat was down on the ground covered in blood. When I was right next to them, two of them look at me, and on the face of one of them I almost saw question ‘what the fuck you are looking at?’ Maybe in the split second before he asked me that I yelled at them ‘yeah, fuck that asshole, mess him up man, go for it’… I put myself on their side. That lasted for a moment only, but I just needed that moment, I passed them, and I was safe… It is not my bravest moment in life, but again I am talking here about real life experience not nice stories.”
EVERYDAY CARRY (EDC) ITEMS are items that we have with us to help us deal in daily and emergency situations. These items aid our survival or help us get home or to a safe location.
Ideally, the list of items will be small in number and size to carry on our person without an extra container to lug around. As with a Bug-Out Bag, there is no ‘perfect’ or one-size-fits-all EDC as it depends on the individual’s lifestyle, locality, probable threats and season.
Selco’s suggested list includes “small fire starter around your neck; the second layer is lighters or matches in your waist bag or pocket, the third layer is fuel cubes or whatever other fire help you have… For the food category, you may have power bars in your pocket and then in your backpack, you may have food that is more adequate or ‘serious’.” Also, a small flashlight should be considered such as LED keychain light, headlamp (for hands-free work) or a small tactical flashlight (see ‘DARKNESS’ above.)
An internet search for ‘everyday carry items’ reveals far more items than we could carry, so review these lists and decide which would be most appropriate.
EVIL. Once the rule of law is gone, the temptation to do evil must be resisted. Also, be aware that people we once thought were ordinary or weak can turn evil after SHTF.
EXPERTS. Don’t trust the authorities or the media.
Also, most so-called survival ‘experts’ are keyboard warriors without real-world experience. On the other hand, Selco says we shouldn’t judge their advice based on politics, religion, race, etc. but we should trust our instincts.
FAITH. People gain and lose faith many times through an SHTF.
Selco says, religious faith can help some people, but not in all cases. He saw many religious people die because they put their lives “in the hands of God.” God helps him who helps himself.
Some people who did terrible things during SHTF became very religious after to cope with their demons. And, some people who claimed to be very religious during SHTF committed terrible atrocities using religion as an excuse. Selco says the main issue is people’s character, not faith.
FEAR is a powerful emotion, and no two people are affected in the same way. Fear can kill by ‘freezing’ us, or it can save our life by making us do things we might not otherwise do. If we survive long enough, we can learn to control our fear to some extent.
Fear can overwhelm us especially from superior forces whether its enemy tanks or Mother Nature. Our first reaction (run!) may not always be the smartest, so sometimes it’s necessary to stop and think. Controlling our responses increases survival odds.
FEARFULNESS OR BOLDNESS? Selco says neither. When confronted by the bad guys, do NOT show fear because that’s like triggering their chase reflex. He says looking or acting boldly is not a good idea either (doesn’t say why.) Be a ‘gray’ non-entity. See ‘GRAY MAN’ – in Part 3.
FIRE was essential for cooking, warmth and boiling water. We take for granted being warm and eating hot food.
Collecting firewood was difficult. We need to be ahead of everyone else in collecting firewood. Eventually, all the trees in Selco’s city had been cut down, and they resorted to burning furniture, doors, books, wooden floors and whatever wood they could scrounge from destroyed buildings. Take inventory of trees nearby before the SHTF and determine which types burn better and hotter.
There are many different types of stoves too numerous to list here. If necessary, we can handmake make a stove. Before burning wood, determine if the smell of our smoke will give away our location. If there is much wood burned by others or burning ruins, our smoke may not stand out. Burning wood is a distinct smell so if no one else is burning then our smoke can reveal our location.
Selco says we cannot have too many lighters. If we’ve never cut or chopped wood, learn now before SHTF.
FIREARMS. See “WEAPONS” – in Part 5.
FOOD. Selco suggests stockpiling food that we don’t like if it’s on sale because we can barter it and, if we’re starving, we’ll eat anything. [Gerold Comment: I think there is a downside to this when it comes to rotating food (using the oldest) before SHTF. Until SHTF, we likely won’t eat what we don’t like and end up discarding it when it gets too old.]
Storing healthy food is essential because SHTF stresses body, mind, and health so avoid junk food. Stockpile easy to prepare food that doesn’t impact our other resources like wood for a fire. Time is also a limited resource. He writes, “In lot of cases you will have just enough time to eat something quickly, not to spend a couple of hours to make complicated meals.”
Consider packaging so that food can be moved fast if we need to bug-out and store it in various places to avoid ruin in case of fire, flood or infestation. Stockpile the basics first before getting fancy, but consider comfort foods for psychological reasons. Hard candy lasts a long time and is a great barter item.
During Selco’s year-long siege, food was difficult to obtain so they had to improvise as best they could. They even made rough pancakes out of grass with a bit of flour and water to hold it together and quick-cooked on small, thin home-made stoves that heated quickly.
At first, they scavenged food from bombed or shelled homes, but with no refrigeration, it rotted quickly. Selco writes, “That period of time did not last for long. The stench of rotten food was pretty much substituted with another kind of stench. Soon there were more dead people then spoiled food in the city.”
He writes, “Acquiring food in urban settings comes down to the idea of taking food from other people – either people that are not there anymore (empty houses) or people that are still there (through the trade or attack). All of the above options (just like lot of other prepper activities when SHTF) usually are not fancy and romantic/friendly.”
Selco says that foraging for food in a city was difficult. Few people were knowledgeable about edible plants, and the supply was limited. Pine needles made tea, and there were some nettles and dandelion, but they were a supplement, not the primary source of food.
He writes, “people used a lot garlic and lavender as substitute for antibiotics, pine was popular as an antiseptic and of course camomile. MRE’s (military Meals Ready to Eat) and cans were luxuries, we acquired cans mostly through trade. Rice was popular to had, I quess one reason was because it easy to prepare it.”
Home-made flat-bread using poor quality flour was baked in pots or on metal plates rather than in the oven, so it took less firewood which was always in short supply. A small stove was critical, and they made them out of anything from large food cans to pressure cookers.
They used whatever herbs they could gather. Selco writes, “Spices were pretty important for the simple reason because most of the homemade foods tasted awful, or did not have taste at all.” NOTE: stockpile herbs & spices before SHTF and rotate (oldest first) in your everyday cooking.
Food storage wasn’t a problem for them because there was never enough to store.
Dried lentils, split peas, and black-eyed peas were preferable to beans as they didn’t waste water soaking overnight and cooked faster. He writes, “we ate a lot of “soups.” For example, if we had a small amount of meat and rice, but we have water and some plants, we would make a big pot of soup. In some cases, it looked more like tea (a lot of hot water with a small amount of food inside) but it solved the problem of how to make something big out of small amounts of something.”
They made ‘marmalade’ with tomatoes and lots of sugar. Cans of corned beef were popular, and the fat could be burned using shoelace wicks to provide light. Cooking aroma was not a problem because the city smelled so bad from dead bodies, broken sewers, etc.
FORAGING. The downside of prepping is by the time we run out of stuff and need to forage; all the good stuff will already have been taken. On the other hand, if we hunt right after the SHTF, we’ll have to fight for it because everyone else who hasn’t prepped will be foraging, too.
For night-time foraging, we need weapons, dark clothes, hatchet, sports shoes for running and walking through ruins, small backpack in case we need to stay hidden for a day(s) but not too heavy because mobility is necessary. It’s best to go out with 2 or 3 people. See ‘SCAVENGING’ – in Part 5.
It’s fortunate I saved his articles because they are no longer available on his blog https://shtfschool.com/blog/. However, his later ones are on Daisy Luther’s The Organic Prepper.
As well, I highly recommend Selco’s online course here: https://shtfschool.com/survival-boot-camp/. It costs $147 U.S., and it’s worth every penny. Disclosure: I have no financial interest to bias my judgment.
If you haven’t read Part 1, you can read it HERE. For Part 3 click HERE.
December 5, 2018
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Great articles. So in depth. I really appreciate the time that you devoted to gathering all of this information. Invaluable.
Thanks, Amy. I’m glad you appreciated my work.
I do confess I did it as much for myself as for others. I learn by writing. It makes it more permanent. That I could share with others is a bonus and a blessing.