in: Outdoor/Survival, Podcast, Skills

• Last updated: September 30, 2021

Podcast #423: How to Survive a Grid-Down Disaster

We’ve all probably thought about it. What would we do and how would we fare after a societal collapse? My guest today has spent his career helping individuals get ready for such a situation. His name is James Rawles. He’s the owner of and the author of several bestselling books on prepping, including How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It.

Today on the show, Jim and I discuss how our dependency on the power grid makes us more vulnerable to disaster than we’d like to think, and all the downstream consequences that would happen if the power grid went down for a significant amount of time, including loss of water, sewage services, and a disruption of supply chains.

We then dig into what you can do to prepare for such a situation, including securing a water supply, storing food, and the skills and mindset you need to weather a crisis. Even if you don’t think you’re interested in prepping, it’s really interesting to think through what you’d need to do to survive an apocalyptic scenario.

Show Highlights

  • The vulnerability of the US power grid, and scenarios that might cause it to go down 
  • How water gets from its source to your home 
  • The public health/sewage nightmare of a power grid collapse
  • The importance of knowing how to filter and purify water 
  • Why grocery stores no longer have extra stocks of food 
  • The problem with a hyper-optimized and hyper-efficient society 
  • The “YOYO” mindset 
  • Getting started if you have no plan for survival preparedness 
  • Making physical room for long-term food and water storage, even in a small living space 
  • Why you need to practice cooking and eating your survival foods 
  • Why you need self-defense/weapons training
  • The two-key force multipliers in modern self-defense 
  • Dealing with medical needs in a survival scenario 
  • The value and importance of being health and in shape 
  • Why you need patience in developing your survival plan 

Resources/People/Articles Mentioned in Podcast

Book cover of "How to Survive the End of the World" by james Wesley Rawles.

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Read the Transcript

Brett McKay: Welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. We’ve all probably thought about it at one time or another. What would we do and how would we fare after a societal collapse. Well, my guest today has spent his career helping individuals get ready for such a situation. His name is James Rawles. He’s the owner of, the author of several best-selling books on prepping including How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It.

Today on the show, Jim and I discuss how our dependency on the power grid makes us more vulnerable to disaster than we’d like to think, and all the downstream consequences that would happen if the power grid went down for a significant amount of time, including loss of water, sewer services, and a disruption of supply chains. We then did into what you can do to prepare for such a situation including securing a water supply, storing food, and the skills and mindset you need to weather a crisis. Even if you don’t think you’re interested in prepping, it’s really interesting to think through what you’d need to do to survive an apocalyptic scenario.

After the show’s over, check out the show notes at

Jim Rawles, welcome to the show.

Jim Rawles: Thank you so much for having me on, Brett.

Brett McKay: So you’re the founder and chief editor of I’m sure a lot of our listeners have been there, and you’ve also written some books about prepping and getting ready for natural disasters, and just being ready in general. I’m curious, how did you get started with this, getting prepared, and teaching people how to prepare for things?

Jim Rawles: Well, I really grew up with the lifestyle. I was born and raised in Livermore, California, which is the home of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. My father worked in experimental physics, and most of the kids that I grew up with were either the sons and daughters of ranchers or the sons and daughters of physicists. Because they designed nuclear weapons at Lawrence Labs, there’s a very high recognition of the nuclear threat. There always has been, and even to this day, Livermore has probably the highest per capita number of privately owned fallout shelters in the United States.

I just grew up with that mindset and it never wore off.

Brett McKay: I’m sure as you got older, you just acquired more skills. I mean, did you have any military background where you learned things, or was this something you just sort of did on your own?

Jim Rawles: Well, no. I studied a bit on my own. I grew up the great-grandson of a pioneer family, and I did a lot of study on my own while I was in my high school years. I already had a recognition that I wanted to prepare on my own in addition to our family’s preparations. And then in college, I enrolled in ROTC, partly and in fact, originally, because I wanted some free training. I went to ROTC Basic Camp at Fort Knox, Kentucky, which was basically a truncated version of Army Basic Training with more leadership skills taught. From there I was really hooked, and I went ahead and continued with ROTC. Ended up graduating with three degrees, and a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Army. I got a reserve commission as an intelligence officer, and one of the nice things about Army Intelligence is you get to do your wartime job in peacetime. You actually get to work a live mission.

Working in intelligence also gave me a much higher recognition or realization of the fragility of society. I was involved with some country studies, and I could see, here we were breaking down the vulnerabilities of various countries, and in the back of my mind, I was always thinking, “Well, gosh. Here in the United States, we’re even more vulnerable.” I recognized, in particular, our vulnerability based upon our dependence on the power grid. There’s an Eastern grid, a Western grid, and a Texas grid, here, in the States, and we are incredibly vulnerable and incredibly reliant on those power grids. If they go down, all bets are off.

Brett McKay: Yeah. Let’s talk about that. That’s a big point you’ve made throughout your writing on the blog and in some of the books you’ve done. The power grid. I think a lot of people don’t even think about it because they take it for granted because every time they flip on the switch, the lights come on. What would cause the power grid, these different power grids, to go down?

Jim Rawles: Well, there’s a number of different things. Of course, we live in the modern ages of terrorism, so there’s always the risk of a terrorist cyberattack that could attack the SCADA software, which is the system control and data acquisition software that runs the power grid all the way from generation through distribution, all the way to your, in fact, nowadays, all the way to your power meter is a SCADA control device. So there’s a vulnerability there.

There’s vulnerability to solar storms, in particular, X-class solar storm. There’s vulnerability to EMP. And the one that most folks in the mass media completely ignore, and that is the vulnerability of staffing. If nuclear power plants don’t have a set level of staffing, they by law must scram the pile on that power plant and shut it down. That’s by NRC regulations. So that’s 20% of our power generation right there, and more than 20% on the East Coast.

And staffing is also a problem, say there were a pandemic, or an economic collapse with widespread rioting, looting, just lawlessness, power plant operators will not feel comfortable leaving their families and going to work. They’re going to want to be home protecting their families. Again, if there isn’t a certain level of staffing, even hydroelectric plants need a little bit of staffing, but in particular, nuclear, to a lesser extent you need natural gas or coal-fired plants require very heavy staffing, and then at a minimal level, hydroelectric plants even require a little staffing. If the staff isn’t there, the lights are not going to be on. The grids will go down.

Once the grids go down, bringing them back up is a pretty complicated process. They refer to is as a dark restart, and it actually takes power to make power, so a dark restart would have to start in, if the Western grid were to go down, that dark restart would have to start in the Northwestern United States and restart the system all the way down to the coal-fired plants in Arizona, for example.

The complexity of the power grids is going up year by year. Right now, they’re in the process of creating grid interties between the Eastern grid and the Western grid. In part, so that if the Eastern grid were to go down, it could be dark restarted with power from the Western grid.

Brett McKay: I mean, I think most of us, most people who are listening to this probably, I’m going to say in their 30s. They probably don’t remember, I remember reading about blackouts that occurred in the East Coast, and it would go all the way from New York through the Ohio River Valley. I mean, it was pretty massive because everything’s all connected.

Jim Rawles: Yeah. The level of interconnectivity and level of dependence is only greater now than it was back in the 1970s. We rely on the grids for so much now that life as we know it simply wouldn’t be going on without them. Because not only are we dependent on the power grids for pumping water, which is like 98% of civic water supplies are not gravity fed any longer partly because of federal standards for turbidity, that by law, most water has to go through filters, and that’s all electrically pumped through filters rather than going through from gravity tanks. There are very few civic water supplies that are gravity fed all the way from a mountain source, say, all the way to someone’s tap.

Ironically, one of those systems is the San Francisco Hetch Hetchy system, which is fed by an enormous reservoir up in the Sierras. It was kind of a sister valley to the Yosemite Valley, which was flooded. That’s the Hetch Hetchy dam. They have gravity fed water all the way from end to end, but that system is a very small minority of systems. Most civic water supplies rely on grid power to pump the water out to enormous gravity tanks. We see them dotting the landscape, especially in the Midwest, for example. Wherever you see those tanks, they’re completely dependent on grid power, and the water will be gone in two to three days if the grids go down.

Brett McKay: Okay. So when the grid goes down, power goes out, two to three days no water. I imagine you’ll have problems with sewage as well.

Jim Rawles: Oh, yeah. Yeah. If toilets aren’t flushing then, unfortunately, we live in a society that is not used to the Third World standards of cleanliness. At least in the Third World, people are taught not to foul the water supply upstream. We have a highly urbanized society with people who just don’t have a clue. I think it will be a public health nightmare if we have a grid-down collapse because people will begin fouling streams and creeks, and it’s going to end up fouling all the water supplies that people could otherwise be drawing on.

So one of the crucial things is to have the ability, not just to transport water from open sources, but also have the ability to filter water, or bring it up near a boil, or treat it with chlorine. Those are skills that every family should have, and there’s tools to go along with that. You need to have the water filters. You need to have at least plain hypochlorite bleach on hand, and you need to have some way of transporting water even if gasoline gets short. If there’s a shortage of gasoline, you’re going to have to think in terms of having like a two-wheeled garden cart and several big water cans. Five-gallon military plastic water cans are ideal. Without that, you are going to be a refugee in very short order, and if the 20th century taught us anything, it’s that the life of a refugee is nasty, brutish, and short.

Brett McKay: Okay. So power grid goes down. I want to kind of flesh this out for people. We take this stuff for granted. Power goes out, power grid goes out. Water gone, two to three days. Sewage gone as well. You might think, “Well, there’s natural gas,” but that probably also depends on the power grid. Right?

Jim Rawles: Mostly, although in the Western United States, they’re in the process of switching over the compressor stations on the major natural gas pipelines to be powered by natural gas-powered compressors, engines that run on natural gas. That’s the logical thing to do, but ironically, that wasn’t done up until about five or 10 years ago, and they’re just slowly in the process of doing that. Very few people have natural gas that’s piped to their home that depends on local wellhead pressure, natural pressure. Everyone else has to depend on pressure stations, and if the power grid goes down for an extended period of time, the pressure on the natural gas lines will drop, and by the time you get all the way out to a civilian tap, a tap out at someone’s domestic residence, they are going to be out of natural gas. So people need to stock up on propane as well, for example.

There’s just a huge cascade or chain of events that most people just don’t recognize. They have an expectation that tomorrow is going to be just like yesterday. Unfortunately, that may come back and bite us. Again, as a modern technologically advanced and technologically dependence society that risk is large and growing with every passing day.

Brett McKay: Right. Also, when the grid goes down, logistics systems also go along with it, go away as well, so food will probably go away in a couple of weeks, possibly.

Jim Rawles: Yeah. Two weeks or less. Most grocery stores are not very well stocked. When I was growing up in the 1960s, our local grocery store had a backroom with cases and cases of wet-packed foods and staple foods, things like rolled oats. All the main staple foods were stockpiled in the back. In a modern grocery store, that backroom is not for extra inventory. It’s simply a breakdown area for what comes off the pallets from the back of trucks. What you see on the shelf, is all the store has, and that is not a very deep supply.

Unfortunately, the modern, just in time, inventory control system, which is a modern miracle, actually was copied from the Japanese kanban system, is incredibly efficient. It is, again, a modern miracle, but when the power grids go down and telecommunications go away, the store’s automatic reordering system is just going to fall apart, so any supplies that come in will be sporadic at best, if the 18-wheelers are still rolling.

Again, it’s this huge cascade or chain of events that is almost unavoidable when you see a disruption in a modern First World country.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I think that’s sort of the irony. As you said, the world we live in is a miracle, and it’s hyper-optimized, but the problem with hyper-optimization is that it’s extremely fragile. You mess up one little part and the whole thing just falls apart.

Jim Rawles: Exactly. That’s what Survival Blog is all about. I’ve been encouraging people for many years to recognize the fragility of our society, secondarily, to recognize the inability of the government to respond in the event of a disaster. We have organizations like FEMA that have, time and time again, dramatically, spectacularly failed to be able to respond to any even localized disasters. Lord knows how they’d respond if it was a nationwide disruption. I like to say that FEMA actually stands for “foolishly expecting meaningful aid”.

Brett McKay: Well, before we get into specific tactics and gear supply, that’s the stuff people love to talk about when they talk about prepping and getting ready for these sorts of things, but I think mindset. You talked a lot about mindset. What is the mindset shift that needs to occur in people in order to get ready for a disastrous situation, but also to cope when something happens?

Jim Rawles: Sure. Well, I think the mindset you need to have is what I refer to as YOYO, which stands for “you’re on your own”. You need to recognize that government won’t be there to help, and that everyone rushing to the store at the 11th hour is part of the problem. Everyone who stocked up in advance is one less person rushing to the store, so they’re actually part of the solution. You have extra on hand to dispense as charity or to have on hand for barter. If you have the mindset of a well-prepared individual who’s looking out for the best interest of his family and his neighbors, and you stock up accordingly, and arm, prepare yourself, get set up with communications equipment, first aid, the whole works, you’re going to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

From an actuarial standpoint, your chances of survival are going to be an order of magnitude greater than your neighbor’s because the average American suburbanite has no water filtration, no water storage, and virtually no food storage. The average American family has less than a three-day supply of food on hand at any given time. That makes day four a very hungry day.

Brett McKay: Right. So when it comes to prepping, my experience, when you read a book, you look at a website, you get really excited and you can get overwhelmed at the same time. It’s like, “Man. Where do I start?” Right? Because there’s so much. Say there’s someone who’s just starting out. They want to get prepared. What should their top priorities be?

Jim Rawles: Sorry. For example, we have a quick start guide for newbies. If you go to my website,, and click on, there’s a link marked Getting Started in the top bar, that will take you to kind of a basic introduction and then there’s a link there to a Excel spreadsheet to what I refer to as a list of lists. There you can kind of break down what basic requirements are for family preparedness, and get yourself started in a systematic way to stock up, team up, and train up.

Brett McKay: Gotcha. So yeah, we’ll definitely put a link to that in the show notes. I imagine water is probably a top priority when getting started. Right?

Jim Rawles: Yes.

Brett McKay: We’ve mentioned having water filtration systems, but I also imagine having water storage, just water on hand can go a long way.

Jim Rawles: Yeah, although, of course, you know, there’s limits to that, especially for someone who lives in an apartment. There’s only so much room available, so you really need to think in terms, again, of if you’re planning to hunker down in a suburban or an urban environment, you need to locate a open source of water, like a pond or a lake, and set up a plan for transporting that water, and unfortunately, human nature being what it is, if you’re in a city or suburb, and you’re wheeling along a cart full of water in the midst of a major societal collapse, someone’s probably going to walk up and stick a pistol in your back and say, “I’m taking that cart.” So you also need a security plan to go along with it.

I’m actually a big believer in living at your intended survival treat year-round like I do because I don’t think that bug out plans are very realistic. If you think that you’re going to have more than one trip out of town with your gear, you’re dreaming. At most, you’ll have one vehicular trip out of town with what you can carry in your vehicle. Everything else will have to be prepositioned at a well-stocked rural retreat. Hopefully, you’ve got country cousins that you can depend on, or that you have a well-stocked vacation home, for example, in a remote area that’s not on major lines adrift.

I realize that most people don’t have the means to do that or don’t have country cousins, so you may have to make plans to hunker down right where you are, but the logistical tail to that is pretty long. It takes some planning. It takes some thought, and prayer, and some budgeting. Let’s face it. Unless you are willing to commit part of your annual income to stocking up, no one else is going to do it for you, and unless you do it, if something major happens, you may end up having to look across the dinner table at your family and say, “Sorry. I didn’t plan ahead.” It’s not a very pleasing prospect.

Brett McKay: No, definitely not. Okay. So water, you want to not rely so much on water storage, find an open source of water, and rely on filtration. I guess would food be the second thing you need to think about?

Jim Rawles: Yeah. Food is probably, yes, the number two on the list. I go into a lot of detail in my book How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It. If you also go through my blog archives, which are absolutely free, and they date all the way back to 2005. We’ve been posting daily at Survival Blog. There’s tens of thousands of articles and letters and column items that have been archived there. We go into great detail on storage food, both commercially packed or bulk foods that you can pack yourself. Typically, that’s done with a five-gallon food grade HDPE plastic bucket, or the tall version of that, the seven-gallon, what’s called a super pail bucket. Typically, those will have an O-ring seal lid and then you can convert those with what’s called a gamma seal lid, which is a lid ring that has a spinner lid set into it to make it easier to get into those buckets.

You need to think in terms of stocking up in bulk foods, your basic staples, wheat, rice, beans, honey, and smaller quantity of wet-packed canned foods, perhaps some MREs as a short-term supply as well. And then, if you have the money for it, some ultra-long-term storage food. Those typically come in the number 10 size can, which is just short of a one-gallon can, and those are typically nitrogen packed. Those are designed for extreme long-term storage. We’re talking 30, 40 years with full nutritional adequacy, even after that length of storage. They’re pretty amazing foods.

But you’ve got to figure out what your budget can handle, and also, what your palate can handle. A lot of those foods are pretty high in sodium, for example, and if you’re on a sodium-restrictive diet, a lot of those long-term storage foods won’t do for you.

Brett McKay: Yeah. People are probably thinking where do you put this stuff? Well, you can get creative. I’ve seen people replace their box springs with boxes of food storage.

Jim Rawles: Yeah, it’s very easy to line up a whole bunch of super pails of storage food in place of your box springs. You’re going to end up with a bed that sits maybe four or five inches higher than normal, but it’s not that noticeable. A lot of people also just plain replace a coffee table with cases of long-term storage food, and then draping them with a large piece of fabric, and then you can lay piece of glass over the top, or decorate over the top, or whatever, but it’s really not that noticeable unless someone goes tugging at the drapes to see what’s underneath there.

Anyone with bookshelves could line up small cans of food behind all your books. There’s a lot of different techniques they use, even for an apartment dweller, to maximize food storage, but typically, the best and ideally the best storage space would be the classic cool, dry place. If you have a house with a basement, a dry basement, that’s the ideal place.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I know a lot of people think MREs are the first go-to, but those don’t last very long, contrary to popular belief.

Jim Rawles: Also, they’re fairly bulky in terms of the weight because they’re packaged with utensils and an MRE heater and toilet paper and all the little accessory items. In terms of bulk, you’re only getting 12 meals in a case that measures about 18 by 18 by 24. That’s a fairly bulky way of storing food. They are handy in that they don’t require me cooking, but there’s just so many drawbacks. Your per unit cost, your per meal cost is also quite high. They’re fantastic for someone who’s in a military field environment because they’re just packed with calories. You’ve got 2400 calories, typically, in one MRE. They do have their advantages, but for the typical suburban prepper, I would recommend keeping more than one or two cases on hand.

What you mainly need are staple foods that you use on a regular basis. Not only are they things that you already know how to cook, you already are accustomed to eating for your digestion, but even better, kids will enjoy eating them because you’re going to be on your normal menu, your normal diet, and because you’re stocking up in quantity and using foods that you normally buy anyway, there’s not going to be any waste. You’re not going to worry about things reaching their expiration date and having to be donated to charity or thrown out. You’re going to be rotating those foods constantly and using them up.

So you’ve got the advantage of zero waste, and you’re eating cheap because you’re buying in quantity. If you buy oatmeal in individual serving packets, you’re paying literally 30 times the price of oatmeal bought in bulk.

Brett McKay: I think it’s an important point you made there because I think there’s a lot of suburbans, say, suburban preppers, they’re like, “I want to get ready.” So they buy bulk flour or wheat or oatmeal. They’ve never cooked with it before, and they expect, “Oh, whenever something happens, I’ll figure it out.” But probably not the case.

Jim Rawles: Yeah. Of course, if you buy wheat, which is the ideal way to store rather than flour. Flour only has about a three or four-year shelf life. Wheat can store for decades or even centuries. You’ve got to practice using those foods, and you’ve got to integrate them into your family’s diet so that you have … There’s a learning curve with every individual food in terms of preparation, and there’s also a acclimation curve. When you integrate these into your menu, into your daily diet, your individual digestive system has to be used to it. If people were to switch to all wild game, for example, they’d run into a lot of trouble in a hurry digestively. It could be disastrous.

Brett McKay: I think that’s an important point throughout all this stuff. I think a lot of people when they think prepping, they just thinking buying the gear, buying the stuff, but if you don’t know how to use it, it’s useless.

Jim Rawles: It’s not about stuff. It’s not about gear. It’s about skills and what’s between your ears. A lot of these folks who get involved with prepping think that they can buy a off-the-shelf one year or two-year food supply, set it in their garage, and they’re prepared. They’re dreaming. Again, there’s a learning curve that goes with each of these things.

When you buy tools, you need to have the skills to go with them. That takes experience. It takes time. It takes trial and error. Whenever you buy a tool, you need to have a full set of manuals to go with it, and spare parts, and lubricants. It’s a whole list of things that you have to think about, and again, it’s about skills, not gadgets.

Brett McKay: So after food, so we’ve got water, food, what would be the next thing someone needs to think about that they’re probably not thinking about?

Jim Rawles: Probably self-defense, or if things fall apart in the middle of winter, I guess, fuel would be closer to the top of your list, but self-defense is very important, especially for people living in a urban or suburban environment because you can have the best preps in the world, but if someone comes barging in your front door and takes it all away from you, you’ve got nothing. You’ve got to think in terms of self-defense, and again, there’s a learning curve there. I’ve often been quoted as saying owning a gun doesn’t make anyone a shooter, any more than owning a surfboard makes someone a surfer.

Brett McKay: Right. So, again, we’re going back to that thing. You can’t just buy a gun expecting, “Okay. I’m going to be ready.” You gotta practice with it.

Jim Rawles: Right. I would much rather own just one gun and have plenty of magazines, plenty of ammunition, and most importantly, plenty of training, than own a half a dozen guns and just a little bit of ammunition. It’s all about balance. The training to go along with every item or tool that you have, or every vehicle you have, is just as important as that item itself. So don’t think in terms of solving this problem with a checkbook or a credit card or a click of a mouse on Amazon. Okay? It’s not that simple. You’ve got to stock up, team up, and train up.

The team up part of it is the people you associate yourself with. You’ve got to find trustworthy friends, who are like-minded, who you can really rely on when everything hits the fan. You’ve got to identify those folks now and start teaming up with them and training up with them now because you don’t want to have to be working the kinks out of the system after everything hits the fan. You want to have a well-oiled machine, in terms of your neighborhood, for example. You want to have a neighborhood watch on steroids, but you got to plan for that now. That means commonality of calibers. It means training. It means having extra field phones and commo wire, for example, so that even if the grid is down and the telephones aren’t working, and the cell phones aren’t working, you can still pick up a field phone and talk to three or four of your neighbors on a hot loop.

And anyone who’s listening to this who doesn’t have military experience probably thinks I’m talking Greek right now, but you’ve got to get up to speed on all these technologies. Part of teamwork, in defending a community when everything falls apart, is going to come down to communications, solar charging for batteries, and night vision equipment. Without night vision equipment, you’re going to be at a huge disadvantage. I’ve often said that it’s much more important to own one gun with a detachable night vision scope, than it is to own a half dozen guns. I would much rather have one gun that I’m truly competent with and that is capable of defending my family at night, than having a dozen guns.

Brett McKay: All right. So night vision is a force multiplier?

Jim Rawles: Absolutely. Communications and night vision are your two key force multipliers in modern combat. If you can’t shoot, move, and communicate, you’re ineffective. Part of being able to shoot is having good night vision. In terms of moving, mobility, you want to be able to cover pretty good distances in a short amount of time. Communication is crucial because if you cannot coordinate security with your neighbors, everyone is going to be every man for himself, and you’ve got to be able to watch each other’s back, and communications is key.

I’m a big believer in MURS band radios. MURS stands for multiple user radio system. M-U-R-S. That’s a fairly lightly used band. It’s ideal for short range, push-to-talk communications. It’s fairly low probability of intercept because most folks will be listening to CB, including the bad guys, but they won’t be listening to the MURS band, most likely. The other advantage of MURS is it’s right next door to the National Weather Service Alert frequencies, so your same walkie-talkie can have one of its frequencies set to the National Weather Service broadcast channel, and it’s off the same band that is used by most infrared driveway alarm systems. The best well-known is sold under the brand name Dakota Alert. That uses the MURS band.

So the same walkie-talkie that you have on your belt can have push-to-talk with your neighbors. It could be tuned to the National Weather Service frequency, and you can normally leave it on the frequency of your Dakota Alert driveway alarm, so if someone comes rolling in off the county road onto your lane, you’ll hear “Alert, zone one. Alert, zone one.” That’ll at least give you some time to react. So it’s all there in one package.

Again, that is MURS. M-U-R-S.

Brett McKay: Can you buy this on Amazon or do you have to go somewhere more special?

Jim Rawles: Yeah. You can find Dakota Alerts, including Dakota Alert compatible walkie-talkies on Amazon. I’ve got a link on my website that folks can use to get to those Amazon products.

Brett McKay: Cool. So you mentioned mobility, getting places. What’s the plan, and we talked about the grid goes down, gasoline logistics is probably going down with it, so how do you stock up on fuel in a safe way?

Jim Rawles: Well, there are limits, of course. Of course, the safest way to store fuel would be diesel because it has a fairly high flash point. Gasoline is problematic because it doesn’t store as well as diesel, and there’s more fire hazard if bullets start flying. I’m a big believer in diesel vehicles. If anyone listening to this thinks, “Oh. Well, I’m going to stock my country cabin,” you need to have enough fuel on hand at all times to make that one trip out Dodge.

Ideally, I look at vehicles like a crew cab, diesel, four-wheel drive pickup would be just about ideal. In the bed of that pickup, if your retreat is a long distance away, you should probably have an 85-gallon fuel tank. They make a lot of them that are L-shaped, and they’re designed to have a toolbox on top. They kind of blend in. They don’t look really apparent that you’re carrying a tremendous amount of fuel. If you have a diesel pickup that has a 32-gallon tank of its own, and an 85-gallon reserve tank, you’ve got a tremendous amount of range. We’re talking over a thousand miles of range one way.

Brett McKay: I imagine medical supplies and training would probably be something you want to think about, too, as well.

Jim Rawles: Certainly. That’s something that’s certainly not to be overlooked. Every retreat group, if you’re getting together a group of friends, you need to at least find a nurse and, preferably, someone who has a medical degree and a background in emergency medicine. That would be a key person to have on your team. But even without that, you should at least take all the American Red Cross courses, the CPR class, the basic first aid class, the advanced first aid class, and if you have the time, I would recommend you join your local volunteer fire department and get training as an EMT. That would be fantastic. That’s what my son did.

Brett McKay: Yeah. I imagine if you or someone in your family has special medical needs, I’m thinking diabetes, dialysis, like you need to think about that, too.

Jim Rawles: Yeah. Unfortunately, if the grid goes down, folks are not going to have access to kidney dialysis. But just think of the number of people who breathe every night with a CPAP machine. It’s a huge number of people who have COPD, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders, but there’s a huge number of people with COPD or who have severe sleep apnea, who depend on a CPAP machine, that’s a constant positive air pressure device. It’s basically a mask you wear at night, hooked up to an air pump. If the grid goes down, most folks are going to be out of luck because they don’t have battery-powered CPAP machines.

So between kidney dialysis and other chronic medical conditions like COPD, and there’s a huge number of people who are dependent on insulin for diabetes, there’s a huge number of people who are dependent on heart medications. If we have major disruption, we could probably expect to see a 20% die-off in our population even if there was still food and water distribution. If there’s no heating, there’s no power, there’s no water, there’s no food distribution, we could see a die-off of as much of 70% of our population over just one winter. That’s how system dependent we are these days.

The numbers will be staggering. The social interaction coming out of all of that will be horrendous. I think you’re going to want to be able to hunker down for not just one year, but two years while waiting for a die-off if we have a grid-down collapse where the grid doesn’t come back up.

Brett McKay: Okay. Thinking about that as well, I think you talked about this. One of the things you can do to prepare now is get in shape, get your health right.

Jim Rawles: Absolutely. Yeah, if people don’t have a vigorous lifestyle, now, they should. Just before this interview, I was out hauling slash, getting my firewood in for next year. Here, where I live, I’m out cutting firewood every summer. We’re talking five cords every summer, which I fell, buck, haul, split, and stack every year. It’s great exercise. Meanwhile, my wife is very busy with our gardens. We have two different gardens.

You really need to have a vigorous lifestyle and don’t think so much in terms of just sitting on a exercise bicycle or running on a treadmill. Make it useful. Make it practical. Again, I love splitting wood, but find exercises that will match your lifestyle after a collapse because if you just concentrate on running, you’re only going to have lower body strength. Or if you just concentrate on one particular type of upper body exercise, you’re not going to have lower body strength you need. Unless you are involved in vigorous work, digging post holes, splitting wood, all that sort of thing, you’re not going to have the back strength you need.

For anyone who’s stuck in an urban environment, I actually recommend swimming, ironically, more than any other because it works your entire body, all your muscle groups. If you swim quickly, aerobically, you’re getting really good exercise. But physical condition is crucial. A normal diet and normal body weight are crucial, and if you can’t get serious about this, you gotta ask yourself how serious you are about living and providing for your family.

Again, it all comes down to priorities. It all comes down to time. There’s always a ration of sweat to dollars. If you’re willing to sweat more, you can spend less. You can do a lot of these things yourself. You can hire someone to build fences for you, but why not learn how to do it yourself and get exercise doing it at the same time?

Brett McKay: Right. I guess another mindset question is where we talked about some of this kind of bare-bones, right? We’ve barely scratched the surface of this stuff. But as I said earlier, I think for a lot of people, it can be overwhelming. I guess there’s set expectations. This is not something you can do in a month or even a year. It probably is several years of investment. Right?

Jim Rawles: Yeah. It is a multi-year plan to get up to speed. It can take quite a while to find a group of people that you can really trust and train with them. Again, there’s learning curves with all these things, and if you’re establishing a rural retreat, it takes times to establish fruit and nut trees, for example. Those take years to grow, or even just berry bushes take two or three years to start really producing. So there’s a time component to all of this, and for anyone listening to this who feels behind the power curve, they have some catching up to do.

Brett McKay: But, yeah, get started. Right?

Jim Rawles: Yeah. Don’t just plan. This is not a pencil and paper exercise. This is not an armchair exercise. This is a get up out of your armchair and do it exercise. So if you feel serious about preparation, I believe as a Christian, you should get down on your knees and pray and ask for God’s providence and guidance in this, and then once you feel firmly convicted to prepare, forget the halfway measures. Dedicate a good part of your budget to preparedness, and if that means skipping your planned vacation to Hawaii, or selling your big screen television, or selling your Jet Ski, or whatever it takes, get your finances in order and get prepared because no one else is going to do it for you. And again, statistically, your chances of survival, for you and your family, will be much, much greater.

I look at it from a 19th-century pioneer perspective. My family came out West by covered wagon in 1852. I grew up with that mindset, that we provide for ourselves, and that’s what I tried to instill in my children. For those of you folks listening to this, I think that’s the good, sound, and historically proven approach. Use old technologies where appropriate, and high technology where appropriate, but old-fashioned common sense at all times.

Brett McKay: Well, Jim, this has been an interesting conversation. Thank you so much for your time.

Jim Rawles: Thank you so much, and God bless you and all your listeners. Again, I encourage them to take full advantage of all the archives at They’re fully searchable and free.

Brett McKay: My guest today was James Rawles. He’s the owner of You can go there. As he said on the podcast, he’s got thousands of free articles on prepping over there, from all sorts of things. Also, check out his book on, How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It. Also, check out our show notes at, that’s R-A-W-L-E-S, where you can find links to resources where you can delve deeper into this topic.

Well, that wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website at As always, thank you for your continued support, and until next time, this is Brett McKay telling you to stay manly.


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