How to Survive the Apocalypse



Paul and I went with friends to see Terminator Salvation last night.  The movie was deliciously exciting, a vision of a grimly desolate world in which artificially intelligent machines have undertaken to exterminate mankind with cold brutality.  I loved it.

What can I say?  I have a thing for movies set in bleak, dystopian futures of post-apocalyptic horror:  Terminator,  Road Warrior, The Stand, Matrix, 28 Days Later, The Postman.  Humanity’s last struggling remnant fighting for survival in a dying world is a recurring theme in the movies.  True, it’s not so cheery.  But as fans of the genre know, bleak, dystopian futures make great backdrops for showing off the indomitable nature of love and the triumph of the human spirit.

Also, post-apocalyptic fashions are fantastic*.

The important thing to remember is that it’s much easier to enjoy the end of the world (and all its fashion possibilities) when you live long enough to see it.  What can you do to insure that you are among the small band of courageous survivors struggling to rebuild society in the husk of a burned-out Walmart using a gas-powered generator and a battered copy of an eighth grade history book?  I’m glad you asked.  I’ve given the matter a lot of thought, and I’ve come up with a basic primer that increases your chance of surviving the coming cataclysm from a meager 2% to a robust 2.8%.

Tips for surviving the apocalypse:

1.  Arm yourself. Apocalypses come in all varieties–nuclear, pandemic, mechanized, and, of course, zombie**–so the type of weapons you’ll need may vary according to the threat.  Assault weapons are good for fending off the roving bands of lawless thugs that inevitably emerge to loot and pillage the countryside as society collapses, whereas an industrial-sized can of Lysol and a hazmat suit might serve you better if the government accidentally releases a deadly plague from an experimental test facility in the Nevada desert.  And everyone knows that the best zombie deterrent is a sturdy cricket bat.  (As an added bonus, you don’t even have to buy ammunition for it.)

*2.  Dress for success. Almost anything can be incorporated into post-apocalyptic couture: chest armor made out of hubcaps, discarded aviator goggles, fraying sweaters patched together with wire torn from now useless computer consoles.  Utilitarian chic, I call it.  Just be sure, when you’re choosing the dirty rags you’re going to be wearing for the next few years, to avoid bright colors.  Bright colors make it easier for the zombies/desert warlords/sentient death machines to find you.  Better to blend in with the debris.

3.  Acquire transportation. Think “all-terrain”.  The post-apocalyptic vehicle has to be able to roll over broken glass and skirt around washed-out roads.  It must be able to keep going even after being riddled with bullets and pancaked between a speeding semi-truck and a cannon-bedecked school bus.  A tank is the best choice, but a jeep or a Humvee will do in a pinch, especially after you weld three-inch steel plates all over it and mount an Uzi to the roof.

4.  Get some skills. You definitely can’t survive the apocalypse without useful skills.  Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing ahead of time which skills will be useful in your individual circumstances.  For example, suspending the chassis of a defunct sixteen-wheeler a hundred feet in the air in preparation for dropping it on enemies who stumble onto your hideout in an abandoned toy factory requires a proficiency with winches and industrial strength cable.  Rigging an ancient ham radio to broadcast a signal out to other survivors across three continents, on the other hand, demands a working knowledge of transmitters, frequency, and electromagnetics.  Since there’s so much to learn, I suggest you start now.  Get to the library and check out books on subterranean agriculture, first aid, basic tank maintenance and repair, and hand to hand combat.  You might also want to take a cooking class, specifically one that specializes in creating healthy and nutritious meals out of expired canned goods, dog food, and whatever roadkill can be scraped out of your tank treads at the end of the day.

5.  Group up. Look for other survivors.  But be cautious.  Before throwing in with the first fellow refugees you see, observe them carefully to make sure they are not a) insane, b) violent criminals, or c) insufferably annoying.  This especially applies to people of the opposite sex, as there is a high probability that you will fall in love with one of them, get married in a casual civil ceremony over a wedding cake made of scavenged Twinkies, save each other repeatedly from those roving bands of lawless thugs, and feel honor-bound to do your part to help repopulate the earth.  On the positive side, the standards of beauty go way down when 98% of the world’s supermodels aren’t around for comparison.  Anyone with more than two teeth and the ability to string a complete sentence together should easily be able to find a soulmate after the armageddon.

6.  Start accumulating SPAM. As my brother-in-law pointed out to me, SPAM is truly the lynchpin of post-apocalyptic survival.  It’s portable, it’s packed with protein, and, properly sealed, it has a shelf-life of one million years.  (Note to nuclear meltdown survivors: irradiated SPAM lasts even longer.)  Also, while still in the can, it makes a handy blunt weapon, good for fending off marauders who are trying to make off with your carefully hoarded SPAM supply.

This concludes your disaster survival tutorial.  Of course, these are just the basics.  To a great degree, the end of the world is a learn-as-you-go proposition, so don’t worry if you never get around to taking those welding lessons or ordering that AK-47 off of ebay.  When the big one hits, just slip a can of SPAM into your pocket and take to the streets.  In the end, you’re only a little less likely to make it to Tomorrow-morrow Land than the rest of us.

I’ll even save you a seat in my tank.


**Zombie Apocalypse would be a good name for a rock band.


19 responses »

  1. My thoughts on my wife’s excellent guide:

    Arm yourself: Shotguns. Why does everyone go for the shotgun in the movies? You have to be close to use it effectively. Close is not where you want to be.

    Dress for success: Why is there so much burlap after an apocalypse? Really.

    Acquire transportation: I’m always amazed that the lack of natural resource refinement in an apocalypse doesn’t affect the ability to drive vehicles whose efficiency is measured in “Gallons to the Mile”. I guess a Geo Metro couldn’t travel with 3-inch plate.

    Get some skills: Get some real shoes. I think the ratio of dead people to bad pairs of shoes is 1:1 in an apocalypse.

    Group up: A coworker of mine was playing an online game involving defense against waves of zombies. He realized that there was no hope for him and his 4 teammates, so he did what any hard core survivalist would have done. He shot the leg of the member of his team closest to the zombies and ran away, saving the remainder of his team while the zombies had a snack. Choose your friends wisely, or at least keep them in view.

    Start accumulating Spam: Perhaps replace the 16-wheeler drop trap with a pack of about 16 cans of 20-year old spam.

  2. I think I will just stick with you…you know how to survive already. WAY easier than studying up on survival tactics. hee hee

  3. I love it when I learn things that I didn’t even know that I needed to know. Weapons, goggles, tank, skilz, friends, and Spam. Got it.

  4. Hahaha!!! I have students who play this computer game called Pandemic on free monkey (or something like that) where they try to spread communicable diseases throughout the human race and obliterate the species. I’ll bet they never figured on the Spam angle.
    (They’re prepared for the shotguns…)
    I’ll share your thoughts with them–just in case. 🙂

  5. I am soooo laughing. These sorts of things actually run through my mind, each & every time we watch an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it movie! I think my favorite in recent years was “I am Legend”, (1) because I am a die-hard Will Smith fanatic and have to see each & every movie he does, and (2) because the world didn’t actually end, it got to start over, thanks to his heroic sacrifice 😉 I’m all for do-overs!!!

  6. Very entertaining post, Katrina! I saw the preview for this movie and actually shuddered a little. Definitely not my favorite genre. Way too much gray. 🙂 Loved the survival tips- made me chuckle.

  7. I am with Ada, I think I will just stick with you because you know what to do. Our family already got the SPAM thing down, we have a dozen stored in our pantry right now, we’ll just have to add some more – we’ll share with you guys 🙂

    excellent post – this ought to be published in a magazine!

  8. i’ve gone soft. if things are going to get that horrible, i’ve got a much better place to be, so i hope to go early in the game. however, best of luck to those of you who anticipate a long, drawn-out, drab-and-burlap-clad, SPAM filled resistance. i’m sure you will kick some zombie/desert warlord/ sentient butt.

  9. I think one can adequately prep for acquiring transportation by watching multiple episodes of “The A-Team”. I think Mr. T attached 3 inch steel plates and an uzi to just about every vehicle he was asked to drive.

  10. Katrina-
    As I just saw Terminator, I readily identified with your post. One thing I would like to add to your list is a high degree of physical fitness in post-apocalyptic survival skills. Although you may be sitting down to a stew of boiled shoe leather, you apparently also must maintain rock-hard abs, extremely toned arms, and the stamina of a small nation. A high degree of tolerance for sleeping in non-breathable fabrics (leather, rubber, burlap?) is also a must.

    I also agree with Paul – a good pair of shoes is a must. You never see survivors in Old Navy flip flops…
    (Love the list!)

  11. I’ll hang with ya’ll. I’m a dang good shot with a rifle and can hold my own with a pistol so if its zombie hordes or raving mobs I’ll so back you up. Seriously though what’s with the burlap? If 98% of the worlds population is dead its not like there’s going to be a line at the mall.

    • I accept your offer, Nikki. We need a firearms expert. I’m pretty sure I’ll be wielding something low-tech, like a rusty pipe.

      And good point about the wardrobe. I’ll have to rethink my assumptions. After all, this may be my only chance in life to get my hands on a pair of Jimmy Choo’s and find out what all the hype is about.

  12. I swear I was thinking about this earlier today , thought about blogging on Myspace . I think killing somebody and taking their weapons is the way to go, cops have nice guns and plenty of ammo.

  13. I still think the Road Warrior had it right hockey gear or leather and dog food for dinner you can’t go wrong with that combo.

    Anyways great site I also have a post apocalypse survival guide but taken from my former military experience and I would like to exchange links with you. If you’re interested feel free to check out my site and let me know

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