At Guns Save Life meetings across Illinois, we welcome subject matter experts as our guest speakers.  Sometimes the presentations make history come to life with people who were there, such as survivors from the Bataan Death March, the Battle of the Bulge or the Iranian Hostage Crisis. 

Other times, we hear from insiders and experts.  At one of our Pontiac GSL meetings, we heard from a man with 30 years’ experience in America’s Special Operations Command.  Terry Riccolo shared his thoughts on family preparedness for emergencies.

“Forget the super shelter,” he said.  Instead, get together with a group of like-minded people with skill sets you will need in a location that allows for the safety and security of the inhabitants. This might be in small town USA or it might be on a farm with shelter for a large group.

Either way, you want to join up with people with diverse skill sets. For example, you want medical professionals as well as those skilled in animal husbandry, agriculture, communications, dentistry, canning, marksmanship, tracking, security and so forth.  (Odd how he didn’t mention lawyers on that list…  or Hunter Biden.)

Have places you can go (more than one ideally) if things get bad. And if there are major natural barriers (like large rivers) between you and there, you better have a plan to navigate those waterways that doesn’t involve bridges which may be blocked by the government or by bad guys.  In fact, as far as you’re concerned, they might well both be one and the same if they won’t let you through unmolested.

Alternatively, if you’re holed up by yourself as a family unit and things go really badly, Mr. Riccolo doesn’t think you will have a positive outcome for too long.  Why?  “Because everyone has got to sleep sometime.”

Terry Riccolo.

How else, you ask?  Even if you’re living well, what are your neighbors going to do when they smell you cooking sausage & eggs for breakfast and their kids are begging them for something to eat after a week or two of no food?

How long can you last at your residence remained a common theme in his remarks.

Do you have what you need for the short term, including backup power for a well pump if you live in a rural setting?  Do you have heat, food and water for that short term? Food that you (and your spouse/kids/grandkids) are already accustomed to preparing and eating?

While it might seem obvious to those of us who have practiced preparedness for a long time, you must prepare for the most critical necessities (heat, water, food) first.  Everything else comes after that.  All the guns and ammo (or precious metals) in the world won’t help you if you stepped or fell into near-freezing water and you don’t have a way to dry off and warm up.

From a practical standpoint, what’s the point of storing a year’s worth of food for you and a dozen others at home if your neighborhood won’t remain stable and relatively orderly for more than a week or two without water and electricity?

If you’re really into prudent preparing, you will pre-position some limited food and supplies into one or more of those trusted places you would likely fall back to in a serious emergency. Fortunately in America, those sorts of emergencies are very rare and typically fairly localized (think Hurricane Katrina) and short-lived. So plan accordingly. 

Two or maybe weeks’ of food and supplies might be all that’s needed.  Or if the New Madrid tears loose or the Yellowstone Caldera burps, you might need a little longer, but you get the idea.  Unfortunately, both are those dystopian disasters are far less likely than Joe Biden getting us into a shooting war.

Worried about the government?  Don’t be, Riccolo says. They have bigger fish to fry than even a large, well-run group in small town USA.  Unless you’re stepping on their toes in some way, the government has limited resources and you won’t be in their crosshairs.  Their priorities will be to first keep their facilities secure and safe from looters and other bad guys, and secondly tackling the really big issues at hand impacting hundreds of thousands or millions of people.  Not Smallville USA, population 4,423.

At the same time, if you live in the really big cities (or Chicagoland suburbs), he suggested that your plans should involve getting out at the first opportunity.

Emergency management people have plans to keep city dwellers penned up in the big cities if something really bad happens. “For their own good,” sort of thing. You would be wise to make sure you’re not one of those stuck there “for their own good.” 

Those kept inside the big cities will probably want a lot more government-provided security, but it will likely be limited at best and heavy-handed at worst.

Meanwhile, small towns and rural areas will likely remain relatively unmolested by government.

Terry did note that if you have 400 head of cattle and everyone for fifty miles around has nothing to eat, you’re going to need quite a security operation to protect those animals.  (Anyone else watching Yellowstone on cable TV lately?)

Perparedness and building a network of trusted friends doesn’t happen overnight, nor by itself. Begin working on your own readiness in small steps and soon you’ll be well ahead of most folks.


Where can I find people with skills?

“I don’t have a farm, or a medical degree. I can’t shoot well – or worse yet, I don’t have a gun. Or a lot of good friends. What can I do?  Where can I find these high-quality people with which to partner?”

Terry Riccolo advised that you can increase your survivability and meet some good people at the same time by learning life-skills. While learning, you will meet others similarly situated.

Embracing gun ownership is an obvious one, but skills with those guns as well, including how to shoot to the Rifleman’s standard with your rifle and how to handle your defensive handgun effectively. The “man card” doesn’t imbue men with skills in using a gun, and neither does Hollywood.

Get your concealed carry license if you don’t already have one.  License or not, consider taking a defensive shooting class to boost your skill sets and confidence (and meet people!).  And if you choose a class well, you’ll have a great time too.

Other skills, like basic hand-to-hand fighting skills can save your bacon too.  Not super-ninja stuff, but simple things like how to throw a strike – and how to block one. 

It might surprise you that most men don’t know how to throw a proper punch. Many hit like a proverbial schoolgirl. Learn how (and where) to strike most effectively. And yes, you can strike and block even if you’re old-timer or in a wheelchair.

Add in other abilities with knives (how to use them without cutting yourself, first and foremost) and first aid.  How to defend against a simple knife attack might come in handy too. 

Outdoor skills help, like how to build a shelter, start a fire and navigate (with a compass, not Google Maps!) is a useful start.

While you and your family are learning these new life-skills, dial up your social niceties and work on making new friends while enjoying lunch.  Those relationships you make may prove priceless.

Where do you find more friends like these?  Again, start at your local shooting club, grassroots gun rights organizations like Guns Save Life or events like Appleseed shoots or other “life skills” classes.

Meanwhile, you can work on building relationships among those in your existing circle of friends, to the point where you can present yourself and your family (and skills, knowledge, attitudes and abilities you bring to the table) as an asset in an emergency, and not a liability.

Of course, part of the agreement is that you will help your friends in an emergency. Even if it’s not exactly convenient for you,

Your church may also have some good people to build relationships with as well. Unfortunately you can get all manner of philosophical perspectives as well as varying levels of reliability from members of any given church’s congregation. 

On the other hand, Riccolo noted that you can spend all your weekends blissfully golfing, and that’s okay too.

Terry noted, however, that golfing has no survival value.

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