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‘Self-Reliance During Natural Disasters and Civil Unrest’ by George R. Bradford

If you’re like me, you have a small library of books related to outdoor survival, communication, edible plants, land navigation, and all other topics of similar interests.  What is often missing from these libraries is a resource that outlines basic skills for working around the house during the more likely natural disaster and civil unrest events.  In this article, Woods Monkey takes a look at a new book put out by Paladin Press.

‘Self-Reliance During Natural Disasters and Civil Unrest’ by George R. Bradford, gives the reader those necessary skills to get things back up and running shortly after things go terribly wrong.

From the beginning, Bradford strongly promotes his concept of an ‘Immediate Responder’.  The immediate responders are the average citizens who are on the scene of an emergency or disaster first.  The disaster could be a wildfire out in the boonies, a flooded city neighborhood, or the small town just hit by a tornado.  Regardless of the situation, regular folks, the immediate responders, will be there first.  Bradford takes great care to instill a can-do attitude in his reader, and strongly promotes self-reliance and the idea that most of the time, regular folks can take care of themselves.  I’d certainly like to think so.             

Bradford’s career as a fire fighters shows through early in his book.  He starts Chapter 1 with Disaster Firefighting, and takes the reader through everything from types of fires, fire extinguishers, and how to fight fires.  If you’re firefighting knowledge is like mine, you basically rely on the “put water on it” principle.  That’s worked for me in the past with a few errant BBQ debacles, but this is much more serious.  Disaster firefighting is about saving life and protecting property, and after reading through Chapter 1, I’m convinced I need to invest in a more substantial fire extinguisher, at the very least.  At the worst, I have a basic knowledge of firefighting should things go terribly wrong on a large scale.

Chapter 2 was one of the most interesting chapters for me.  Bradford calls it “Controlling Utilities to Prevent New Problems” and this chapter has a wide variety of information.  Chapter 2 discusses everything from shutting off household utilities, to locating emergency water supplies in your plumbing, safe generator use, basic fire building, water purification, and staying warm/cool in your home without power after a disaster.  If you were only going to read one chapter, I’d recommended Chapter 2.  It contains the most information for the typical day-to-day post-disaster activities.  I did find one point I disagree with, however.

During Bradford’s discussion on purifying water by boiling, he suggests adding 5 minutes of boil time for every 1,000 feet above sea level.  That would result in me having a prescribed boil time at my house of a staggering 35 minutes!  That’s seemed a little excessive, and potentially wasteful of fuel sources.  Bradford cites a 1988 US Army manual for this information, and I couldn’t help but do a little fact checking.  FEMA recommends a one minute boil time, regardless of elevation, and the EPA and CDC both recommend a three minute boil time above 2,000 meters, or roughly 6,500 ft.  Now, I know those are gub’ment agencies, but where I work, in the middle of the Colorado Rockies, at 8,100 ft, the recommendation is 5 minutes of rolling boil.  I’ve done that out in the wild places, and while I may have been lucky, I’ve never had any issues.

The following chapters on Salvage and Decontamination for Homeowners, and Search and Rescue with Light Tools complement each other and contain content that would prove necessary directly following a natural disaster.  The salvage and decontamination chapter does an excellent job of covering breathing protection respirators, as well as in depth instruction of the proper methods to lay sand bags for protection against water.  Search and rescue with light tools does not intend to teach the reader how to make a SWAT entry, rather it keeps a realistic view on the type of post-disaster work an immediate responder may be required to perform.  Getting past doors and locks is covered adequately, and the proper use of jacks, cable pullers (come-alongs), and other common tools is done extremely well.  One thing I remembered while reading the search and rescue chapter is just how useful my old Hi-Lift jack was.  I used it for the most random jobs, and it worked great.  That jack has since gone by the wayside, but after reviewing that section, I think I may replace it, especially with my old Bronco up and operational.

Bradford follows these chapters with two more on hose-dragging… err… firefighting.  One chapter revolves around vehicle firefighting and rescue, and the next concentrating on woodland fires.  In my law enforcement experience, I have seen dozens of vehicle rescues performed by well-trained fire fighters.  I, and likely you, will not have access to their job specific tools should the need arise to rescue someone from a vehicle.  Bradford does a good job of explaining how vehicle rescues should be performed by initial responders with tools you would likely have handy.  As far as woodland fires go, Bradford is right, only you can make the determination to stay or go.  I recommend you review Bradford’s chapter on this and make that determination now.  Set yourself trigger points, and when they’re hit, get out!

Bradford finished the book with several chapters that contain content that you should review, and practice.  The chapter on first aid is excellent, and covers something rarely seen in first aid manuals, how to deal with gunshot wounds.  The sucking chest wound that results from a gunshot is treatable, and Bradford explains how to do this very simply.  Bradford also does a great job of detailing how to transport wounded, and how to triage a group of wounded individuals to ensure the most injured receive the earliest care.  Bradford concluded the book by discussing neighborhood watches, and how our security is truly our responsibility.  I couldn’t agree more.  Lastly, Bradford includes a detailed description of knots, complete with real life photos of how to tie them.  We’ve all seen the guy securing his canoe to his pick-up with fifteen half hitches in the rope and a roll of duct tape.  Don’t be that guy.  Take a few minutes and practice some basic knots.

If you’re looking for a survival manual that teaches you how to live off grubs you found under a log, this isn’t it.  If you are looking for a complete resource that will give detailed instruction on how to deal with the scenarios you’re likely to encounter, this is the book for you.  Bradford does a great job of telling you what to do, why, and what to do it with.  He covers everything from limbing the tree that fell on your house, to dealing with the encroaching fire.  Even if you have a full library of outdoor and wilderness manuals, you’re sure to learn something from Bradford’s book.  I read it several times and picked up a couple things I’ll be doing.  Pick up a copy of ‘Self-Reliance During Natural Disasters and Civil Unrest’ for yourself directly from Paladin Press at  for $26.95.  You’ll be glad you did. 

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