Scientia potentia est

If you’re not fluent in Ancient Roman, today we’d say “Knowledge is power”.

As a survivalist preparing for the post-apocalypse, it behooves us to learn as many useful skills as possible. Despite my general billing as a “Jack of All Trades (Master of None)”, no one individual can specialize in everything, which is where the survival “group” comes in. Beyond that, or in the absence thereof, reference material becomes a vital resource. Having the right bit of information can mean the difference between muddling through and failing catastrophically.

Knowledge vs. Information vs. Data

Let’s begin with a few definitions. I started to define these myself, then turned to the vast resources of the internet, where I found this article entitled Data, Information, Knowledge, and Wisdom. Go ahead, take a moment to digest that.

Done? Great! I found it very interesting… Occupational hazard, I guess. Let me summarize for those of you who just come here for the thin survival content and naked girls with guns (hello, search engines!):

– Data is raw, unstructured facts with no context, meaning, or intent.
– Information is structured data.
– Knowledge is the application of information, which allows us to take action or make decisions.
– Wisdom is the ability to extrapolate events based on knowledge and experience.

The Internet
Clearly one of the best sources of both data and information is this wonderful internet. There is a myriad of readily accessible “stuff” on any topic, available for the taking, much of which was not available to the public just a decade prior.

Take, for example, Google Maps. Simply by typing in the address, you have immediate access to high quality satellite photography, and in many cases street level photographs. It wasn’t too long ago that you needed to work for a three letter agency to have access to satellite imagery, yet I used it to evaluate properties for purchase. Sites like Terraserver allow you to order poster sized, laminated copies of these images – instant map table for defending your BOL!

Unfortunately, the internet of the post-apocalyptic world will likely be pretty bleak, so we must consider alternatives. The timeless fallback of stains applied to dead trees seems the easiest solution.

The Survival Library
My survival library contains books on a wide array of topics, including
– gardens and orchards
– raising, butchering, and preserving livestock
– cooking and storing food
– navigation and wilderness skills
– construction and vehicle maintenance
– first aid, emergency medicine, and firefighting
– shooting, reloading and tactics.

I’ve got staple texts such as Carla Emery’s Encyclopedia of Country Living. I’ve got military field manuals and books on guerrilla warfare and counter-insurgency. I’ve got survival fiction. I’ve got atlases and maps. I’ve got political treatises and manifestos, and the foundational documents for this great nation. I keep subscriptions to appropriate magazines, and store the back issues after I’ve read them. I’ve tried to cover a broad spectrum of things that interest me, not just today, but also for the future I want to experience.

Now obviously, having a book on emergency medicine does not qualify me to perform abdominal surgery, nor does having a book on firefighting qualify me to rush into the nearest raging inferno. Reading a book on snipercraft does not mean I can make a 1200 yard cold bore shot on an 8″ target. A book on square foot gardening does not guarantee I will feed my entire neighborhood on just 64 square feet of soil. Ability comes with training, experience, practice, success and failure. Further, the time to read has passed once an appendix has burst or the goat is kidding.

These books provide information, and the benefit of someone else’s experience. There is a lot of value in that. I try to read everything cover to cover. Frequently, I end up taking a book off the shelf and just browsing for 10 or 20 minutes, or however much time I have instead.

Here are some recent additions to the library:

Data in Real Time
Lately I feel that I’ve been missing a lot of activity around me, specifically that of public safety and emergency crews. I used to run a scanner almost around the clock, and always had a very good feel for what was going on in my town and county. I could usually anticipate when I would be called upon as an emergency responder, based on chatter on the radio. Eventually I gave that device to someone just entering the emergency services.

I’ve now decided to replace it, with a Uniden Bearcat BCD396XT. This is a small portable scanner, capable of storing many more frequencies than the base station I had just a few years ago, and capable of monitoring most of the traffic in the area (damn OpenSky system!). I selected it over another base station because I think the ability to have the information on the move could be vital in an emergency. I can easily attach it to an external antenna to use as an extended range base station.

Another option is to stream scanner feeds from the internet. Radio Reference hosts many live scanner feeds, for many areas. Downsides are that you can only listen to one feed at a time, and you are limited to what the person hosting that feed is monitoring. But, it provides another option, like listening to police activity near my home when I’m at the office in the next county over.

Having the correct information to influence your decisions and action is a good thing. Having a well stocked survival library is a big step in that direction for when the lights go out.

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