Preparedness is Key

May 20, 2017

With everything going on in the news this week, we might as well come right out and discuss what we’re all thinking about anyway: the apocalypse.

Whatever apocalyptic scenarios haunt you in the middle of the night—climate change, asteroid impact, nuclear war, alien invasion, zombie epidemic, the collapse of American democracy—we can all agree on the main goal here: preserving some shred of human civilization. Mortal terror, in other words, is a nonpartisan issue.

The key is to be ready for anything. No worries: I’ve been doing research. I’m a fan of disaster movies, so I know how things are likely to go. Evidently, the particular causes of planetary destruction don’t matter. According to the movies, the protocols remain the same.

So I’ve gathered some survival advice. You’re welcome.

Listen to the crazy scientists. They were right all along. Pay particular attention to the ones with spectacular doomsday computer graphics. Of course, there’s a fine line between plausible doomsday science and just crazy, so one must be discerning. If you are a scientist, and you are part of the right-all-along team, keep in mind this does not guarantee your personal survival. Someone scientific will have to be sacrificed. It may be you if you are young, non-white (an especially treacherous condition, apparently), stationed somewhere remote, eccentric enough to bond with aliens, or unable to produce witty dialogue.

Stay away from architectural icons. Long before the “fun” begins, endeavor to distance yourself as far as possible from the Eiffel Tower, London Bridge, Sydney Opera House, and especially, definitely, the Statue of Liberty. In fact, stay out of New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, or any other large, iconic city. These cites will go first, their architectural wonders shattered, fire-blasted, twisted, deluged, or gallumped over like a giant chopped off at the knees. As Jeff Goldblum quips in Independence Day: Resurgence, “They like to get the landmarks.” He’s referring to aliens, but he may as well be talking about all destructive forces, ever.

Do not be happily married. If you are, you will meet your demise in tender, sentimental fashion, but you will not survive. On the contrary, if you are experiencing estrangement in your marriage, you may be in luck. It’s a rougher ride than counseling, but a worldwide disaster may be just the thing to bring you and your former beloved back together. On the other hand, you might be one of the millions of troubled couples who get crushed anonymously by the asteroid, drowned in the tsunami wave, or pulverized by alien weapon plasma blasts.

Do not be the stepdad. If you are a second husband or boyfriend after a divorce or separation, attempting to be a father-figure to your new woman’s children, well, prepare to meet your maker. You will get crushed by vengefully nasty falling debris, or you will slide pathetically into a fresh, abysmal crack in the earth. A similar fate awaits if you are greedy enough to regard the disaster as some kind of bizarre opportunity to make a buck.

Practice driving things you do not normally drive. Cars will not help you in a disaster. People in cars get crushed like ants or blown about like fallen leaves. Instead, practice driving a semi-truck, RV, school bus, motorbike, and speedboat. You should also learn to pilot a jet, a prop plane, a helicopter, and an alien spacecraft. In all cases, practice driving/flying very fast while dodging large objects hurtling toward you on the surface and/or falling from the sky.

If you are a kid, pluck up your pluck. You will need to be brave, cute, and eager to take on responsibilities beyond your years. Be warned: you are very likely to lose at least one parent (unless your parents are estranged, see above). Latch on to whatever adult can drive the helicopter/alien spacecraft/school bus. Actually, latch on to the nearest highly paid actor. They seem to have the best survival chances.

If you are a teen, get ready for romance. If you are attractive, naturally plucky, and carry emotional wounds that make you appealingly vulnerable, you could avoid the humiliations of dating altogether and find romance in the rubble. When disaster strikes, get close to that crush you’ve had your eye on and start showing your mad survival skillz.

Have some mad survival skillz. Whatever your age, sex, size, or political leanings, you will need to know first aid (especially splints and tourniquets), basic electronics (radio repair, bomb defusing), and how to hang by your fingernails from ledges. (Ledge-hanging will likely not work, however, if you are a secondary member of a science team.) Also, you should be able to hold your breath for long periods while performing impossible tasks underwater, usually with a tight time limit. It helps to be able to go several days without needing to eat or use the bathroom, all while looking both fearful and fetching. Also, practice running very very fast.

Avoid panicked crowds. Skirt the edges, dodge into buildings, sneak into the bunker, stow away on the ark. As you separate from the crowd, watch out for large cracks opening up in the road or sidewalk. Look up: there may be falling debris. Save grannies and babies as you go. This earns you survival karma.

Find shelter in unlikely places. Good options: large public libraries, RV parks, tiny utility closets in traffic tunnels, top floors of office buildings. (Then again, those are sometimes sheered off.)

Learn squiggly math. Use Greek symbols and squiggle on unexpected surfaces, such as walls, ceilings, forearms, etc. This could well make you the hero. Anyway, it can’t hurt.

Put not your trust in sophisticated, technology-based defense systems or other elaborate schemes. They never work in a crisis, although they do often provide fantastically entertaining explosions. If you’re going to survive, it will be through last-second improvisation, luck, and pluck.

Learn to use a shortwave radio, whatever that is. Otherwise you will miss all the inspirational speeches, almost certainly delivered by the U.S. President (not the current one), about the nobility of humanity, our fondness for our planet, and how people of all nations are uniting (behind the leadership of Americans, naturally) to survive, etc. As you tune in, try to imagine all the non-Americans huddled around their radios in traditional garb, listening intently to the same broadcast (in English) and nodding in heartfelt gratitude for American heroism.

Stay away from the President of the U.S. The president may survive long enough to make a lame inspirational speech, or may not. It’s really not worth taking the chance.

Know your lines. When the whole thing is over and the sun rises on a new day (plan on a clear blue sky), your line is: “We will rebuild.”

 

Sources (in order of preference):
The Day After Tomorrow (2004)
Independence Day (1996)
San Andreas (2015)
Deep Impact (1998)
World War Z (2013)
Independence Day: Resurgence (2016)
2012 (2009)

I have published books on motherhood, Christian spirituality, and language in worship. I write regularly about all sorts of topics for The Twelve, and I teach literature and writing at Calvin College, where I have served on the faculty since 1996.

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