Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life (Book Review)

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“Terrorist attacks. Natural disasters. Domestic crackdowns. Economic collapse. Riots. Wars. Disease. Starvation. What can you do when it all hits the fan?”

Sounds like great travel reading, right? Well, it was, at least for me. Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life by Neil Strauss is not, as you might think, a detailed survival manual, but mainly of one guy’s journey to try and protect himself from all that could kill him. He calls himself a “Fliesian”, based on the book Lord of the Flies, which in his words is “someone who believes that people, if put in a world where there are no consequences to their actions, will do horrible things.”

The first half of the book pretty much details all the things that could go wrong in the world, and his primary goal is to get a second citizenship from another country. The idea being that if the sh*t hits the fan here, he could in theory escape to safety to this other country. The main problem is that most countries, unless you are a citizen by birth or family, force you to renounce your US citizenship. However, it turns out that you can essentially “buy” citizenship in several countries for, oh, about $500,000 in the island country of St. Kitts. I thought this was quite anti-climactic, and not very useful knowledge for most of us.

One related theory that I did find interesting was on how to become a “perpetual tourist”, as to minimize your tax burden and maximize your personal freedoms. To achieve this, you will need “three flags” from three different countries:

  1. Have your citizenship somewhere that does not tax income earned outside the country.
  2. Have your businesses in a stable, low or no tax country.
  3. Live as a tourist in countries where you actually like to spend your time.

A nice idea, but we are not told how to make this actually happen. 🙁 We do find out that Swiss banks won’t even talk to U.S. citizens trying to open an untraceable account.

The second half of the book is more focused on actual survival skills. However, again it’s more of a story of how he takes a variety of different courses from shooting guns to camping to recognizing edible plants to tracking animals, and less of how to actually do these cool things.

The most practical part of the book for me was when he did a 3-day test where he shut off all of the utilities in his condo (water, gas, electricity) and tried to survive on his own. This is actually something I want to try. Most people know to keep some water and food. But how much water do you actually need? What if you don’t have enough? Another example of what you might overlook – where will you poop without flushing toilets? The cardboard port-a-potty he bought had bags that disintegrated in less than a day.

He also explores what’s needed in a bug-out bag, which is a kit designed for you to grab, run, and survive for about 72 hours. He points out that in a city-wide disaster like Katrina, it is unlikely that emergency crews will be able to help average citizens for up to a week. They’ll be too busy helping the seriously ill. You’ll be on your own.

This book was a very easy read, and definitely worth it the time spent if only to explore different possibles. I must say, I do have a certain fascination of living “off the grid”. In some areas near me, I figured that I could have a house that is both completely solar-powered with batteries, and could collect enough rainwater if not by a natural water supply. Too bad I get the shakes when I can’t check my e-mail for 24 hours…

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  1. :>0 If he wants to learn what it is like to be without power for three days- MOVE to that foreign (3rd world) foreign country. We were often without power in several places we lived. We learned to keep water in the house and a week food supply. We kept that habit here. It served us well for the week without power during an ice storm.
    I still contend that Canada and the US are the best places to wait out a disaster. I’ve seen some of the worst and will take my chances here. Just get out of the cities and go to the country!
    Doesn’t sound like a book worth the $$ for.

  2. This is interesting and i would love to hear thoughts on what you would actually do in an emergency such as a regional or national power outage. I use this scenario because it is not only possible but unfortunately likely given the aging infrastructure, the fact that it has happened before and that it is likely a terrorist target.

    Scenario – Power goes out to your home (in Ohio) as well in every state within two states of you. At first it will just seem like a major power outage but by the next day you realize the full scope. There is 0% chance power will be restored within 24hrs and 50% chance within a week. But, shit happens and it could be 30+ days without power (just look at the oil spill, currently day 67).

    What do you do?
    1) Bug out >> Where do you go? When do you leave? How do you get there? What will you need?
    2) Fort Up >> Are you going to make a run for supplies? Weapons? Power? (do you really want to be the only one with power?)
    3) something else?

  3. Eccentric: This Book Will F*&78 Your Life.

  4. You may like the movie (or the book) The Road, if you want to see what post-disaster survival looks like.

  5. I’ve always keep a JIT inventory of food and supplies at my house, so I would never be prepared. Where would I store gallons of water and cans of Spam?

  6. Similar experience as Jan, living up-country in a developing country. The older generations didn’t even have power or municipal water so are used to taking care of themselves. Power goes out here and it’s no big deal. Food comes from the local farmers market. A disaster that takes out all service is hardly noticed here.

    In the city a much different story. No power means no water, air conditioning (it’s very hot here), no fuel for cars and trucks, eventually no food in the stores or it’s all rotten from the refrigeration being out too long, panic and mayhem.

  7. Toughbook says

    Sounds like a good read, especially in these times where people are so dependent. I’ll have to order myself a copy on amazon.

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