What can survivalists and preppers learn from a TV show filled with shambling corpses and interpersonal drama? If that show happens to be “The Walking Dead,” the answer is “plenty.” Here are five hard-won lessons Rick and the rest of the cast have already shared:
1. Partner with Others
Rick has a way of collecting other characters as he wanders down the road. Whether it’s meeting up with Glenn in Atlanta, reuniting with Shane and Lori out in the countryside or banding together with Tyreese and company in the prison, people gravitate to Rick’s band. And more often than not, Rick sees the value of keeping them around—unless they’re Merle.
All of these people have valuable skills that can contribute to the group’s survival. In the face of disaster, those around you can do the same. Get to know your neighbors, and understand what knowledge and abilities they might be able to share in a pinch.
2. Prepping Supplies Matters
More than once, “Walking Dead” viewers have watched characters risk life and limb as they pillage through a pharmacy in the middle of a zombie-infested town in order to get much-needed medicine or supplies. Inevitably, such as the case of Glenn and Maggie, the zombies figure it out and chaos ensues.
You might not have to sneak into a hostile setting and scavenge for medications, but the lesson here is simple: If you’ve done a good job of prepping, you will have far less need to put yourself at risk. Stockpile supplies before disaster strikes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that families have a 3-day supply of food on hand at all times. That’s a good start if you expect a flood or tornadoes. If you expect zombies, or a more realistic TEOTWAWKI scenario, you may want to stock up a little more heavily.
3. Emphasize Safety
One of the most breathtaking moments of “The Walking Dead” occurs when there isn’t even a zombie in sight. Rick and Shane are with Carl in the woods, when Carl becomes transfixed by a buck stepping out of a stand of trees. The next moment, a shot rings out, and a bullet passes through the buck and Carl drops to the ground.
The episode ends with Rick and Shane running to the boy, and the audience is left to wonder who made the shot. It’s a tragic, vivid example of how quickly things can go wrong when stalking wild game. The best way to protect yourself is to get intimately acquainted with the principles of hunting safety. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission cites hunter education as the primary reason for the 50 percent reduction in hunting accidents over the last 20 years. Take the time to train properly before disaster strikes. Time spent with a knowledgeable mentor is best, but if that’s not possible, you can go online to begin hunting safety education. Remember, this lesson could be applied to any skill or piece of gear. Survival often depends upon both knowing what to do and how to do it safely.
4. Train Under Realistic Conditions
Remember when Shane was training Andrea to use a firearm? She seemed like a natural at putting a bullet through a target, but that all fell apart when Shane decided to shake things up by moving the target. Andrea wasn’t going to be shooting at immobile targets; she was going to be taking out walkers. She needed to train for her real task, not an idealized version.
The lesson is simple. No matter what situation you anticipate, you need to train for it under realistic circumstances. Do this consistently, and your mind and muscle memory will respond appropriately when the time comes.
5. Have a Bug-Out Location
For many “Walking Dead” fans, all those episodes dedicated to the relatively tame and domestic happenings on Herschel’s farm were, well, kind of boring. That’s because Herschel, despite his arguably unwise decision to let a vast number of the zombies hang out in his barn without worrying about them overrunning his home, is something of a genius.
While Rick and the other cast members were spending their days running away from wave after wave of the undead onslaught, Herschel and his family were cultivating crops and building a homestead. In the face of disaster, all you need is some land and a little isolation. In other words, a bug-out location. Keep in mind that this is not a place you should be searching for in the face of disaster. Have your bug-out location chosen before you ever need it. Rebuilding civilization can wait until the dust settles. For now, it’s far better to mend your fences, and tend your garden.