Surviving The Apocalypse: Come With Me If You Want To Live


Posted January 6, 2010 - By Andrew Pfister

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Over the holiday break, my brother and I went to see the new George Clooney picture, Up in the Air. Afterwards, we were discussing what we thought of the film, and through the course of conversation, the subject naturally arose of what the two of us would do in the case of an apocalyptic event. (This is how we think.) I revealed to him that this was not the first time I've thought of this, as my preferences in entertainment -- video games, LOST, stories about surviving something -- are prone to triggering daydreaming sessions about The Worst Case Scenario. In honor of this week's release of Darksiders and the pending release of The Book of Eli, I thought it'd be best to get my ideas down on paper and see if everything makes sense. This all assumes that you have chosen yourself to be the leader of your survival group. (Note that while I've read Max Brooks' excellent World War Z, I have yet to make my way through his first book, The Zombie Survival Guide...if anything happens to contradict or overlap with what Brooks wrote, it is purely by coincidence.)

The Andrew Pfister Plan for Surviving an Apocalyptic Event (beta):

1) Determine nature of apocalyptic event: religious or secular?


This is a tricky one, but probably the most important to determine as soon as possible, as it dictates your ensuing course of action. If your apocalypse is influenced by higher powers, it could go one of two ways: Some faiths view the end of the world as a simple sorting of the "saved" and "non-saved," while others take a much more literal view of an actual battle between good and evil to determine the winner. If the former, there doesn't seem to be much you can do except hope that your team was right. But if full-out Armageddon occurs and Good battles Evil, your main priority is to find shelter and defend against the panic-stricken damned until a winner emerges and we’re sent either to the streets of gold or lakes of fire.

But if the good Lord has other things to do and the apocalypse is triggered by your fellow man (or visitors from beyond), then you have a bit more control over the situation, and that’s where Steps 2 through 5 come in.

2) Perform threat assessment.

Angry Mob

This is an apocalypse, so we’ll have to make the following assumptions: survivors will panic, the rule of law will break down, and it’s every man for himself. If avenues of mass communication still exist, try to get a general overview of the situation, including what exactly happened, if certain areas are uninhabitable, how many people lived, and where it’s safe and unsafe to be. If you don’t have access to any of this information, survey your immediate surroundings, and assume the worst about everything that you can’t see.

If you perceive human threats, proceed to Step 3 with the goal of obtaining standard weaponry that provides adequate self-defense.

If the threats are human, but involve any sort of mutation that grants super-human abilities, or if they involve visitors from beyond the stars, then proceed to Step 3 with a focus on caution and avoidance. You will need to observe these threats more carefully in order to discover weaknesses.

3) Procure food, water, medicine, and armaments.


It should go without saying that you should have acquired some sort of backpack by now. Assuming that you will be constantly on the move and under an immense amount of stress, you will need energy. This means finding foods rich in carbohydrates and protein, and making sure whatever water you come across is potable.

After you know what you're dealing with, it's time to arm yourself with weapons. First priority is to raid dedicated gun stores, sporting goods stores, and abandoned police stations. Any home you come across should be searched for food, water, and basic medical supplies. It will be beneficial to start making maps to these viable resource nodes and safe travel paths. (Note that this is something that can be easily prepared ahead of time and included in an Apocalypse Emergency Kit.)

Now that you have what you need to keep yourself alive, it’s time to proceed to Step 4.

4) Establish shelter and gather resources.


The next priority is to settle on appropriate long-term shelter. The Helm's Deep principle applies here. Desirable traits include close proximity to key resources, good sight lines, high ground, and natural choke-points and barriers to entry. Secret entrances are a plus. By the time you find a suitable location, you should have accrued a number of fellow survivors. Now is the time to divide them into groups and send them out to obtain vital resources.

Vehicles: Car dealerships, parking structures, and impound lots are your best bets. Try to get your hands on at least one pick-up truck or bus for transporting larger cargo and supply caches. And don’t overlook sport vehicles such as ATVs, snowmobiles, and jet-skis, depending on your geographical location. They will be useful for your scouts.

(Note: Don’t forget about fuel -- you’ll need it, and it can be used as bartering material when you encounter competing groups. Try to locate your shelter near gas stations. If that's not possible, devise a system of efficiently obtaining, transporting, and storing large amounts of fuel. Make sure security is tight, because everybody’s going to want it.)

Electronics/Home Improvement: Shortwave radios, two-way radios, electrical cables, security systems, batteries/portable generators, refrigeration, basic tools, and lumber (for fortifying defenses).

Storage: You've got weapons, but you need a secure place to keep them. Send a party out to a sporting goods store and get yourself a gun safe. Share the combination with as few trustworthy people as necessary. While they’re there, have them stock up on sleeping bags, propane stoves, warm weather clothing, shoes/boots, and fitness equipment.

Books: One group goes to the library to obtain necessary reference material. Medical books. Paper maps. Field survival guides. Cookbooks. Mechanical and electronics manuals. Computer equipment. Anything that might prove useful in the future.

Socks: You’re going to need a good pair of socks.

5) Begin rebuilding process.


"Live together, die alone," a famous man once said. Trust is certainly going to become an issue, but really, you aren’t going to be able to do this by yourself. There are a few ways you could go about establishing a new social structure within your group, but I myself am probably going to go with a totalitarian approach, supported by a basic cabinet/ministerial system.

Minister of Law: Responsible for maintaining order and justice within the group. Hears grievances and settles disputes. Can only be overruled by the Leader (that’s you).

Minister of Health: Responsible for the well-being of all members of the group. Should it become necessary, determines who is to mate in order to perpetuate the species.

Minister of Food & Beverages: Responsible for managing equitable distribution and quality of food and water resources. Tasked with obtaining outside food as well as developing self-sustaining food production (i.e. gardens).

Minister of Security: Responsible for vetting new survivors into the community, maintaining viable internal and external defenses, and carrying out punishment as determined by the Minister of Law.

Minister of Communications: Responsible for establishing and maintaining diplomatic ties with competing survival groups, proposing mutually beneficial trades, and disseminating news from the outside world. Also checks out all the library books.

(Secret Minister of Espionage: Responsible for ensuring the Leader’s continued rule through information gathering, misdirection, propaganda, and other general subterfuge.)

As far as the “citizenry” goes, you’ll want to emphasize these key professions: Doctor, Police Officer/Military, Psychologist, Chef, Thief, Priest, Biologist/Ecologist, Mechanic, and Electrician. Anyone else belonging to a now-valueless profession (lawyers, investment bankers, game journalists, etc.) should be turned into valuable support classes such as soldiers, drivers, gatherers, sous chefs and nurses.

*   *   *

Oh, and it wouldn't be a bad idea to lie about having a nuclear warhead that you could set off at any time. You know, just to keep people on their toes. Good luck out there!

Surviving The Apocalypse: Come With Me If You Want To Live


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