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The gun: your best survival insurance! In the social breakdown that follows a natural calamity, you will be responsible for protecting your family and property.

It was only a couple of years ago that the west coast of the United States suffered major damage from what seemed to be an endless succession of winter storms. The ferocity of the rains and violent tides was such that one could have easily come to believe that Mother Nature had, for some reason, decided to rid herself of prime beachfront real estate. The meteorologists said that this unfriendly period of weather was caused by something way out in the Pacific known as El Nino. I know very little about the El Nino phenomenon. I only mention it and the severe weather that it generated because it leads into a TV news story that will illustrate one of the most important (yet rarely discussed) reasons why law-abiding citizens must continue to resist any and all attempts to compromise their right to keep and bear arms.

The news story that I am referring to took place in one of the fashionable semirural communities near California's Bay Area. The residents of the region had suffered from the ravages of several winter storms, one right after the other. The community in question here rapidly became waterlogged and, as a result of that, had to endure massive mud slides and a considerable amount of flooding. The degree of destruction was such that most of the houses in the area were either damaged or completely destroyed by the rushing water and moving mud. Most importantly, however, the mud had made it extremely difficult for emergency services to get in or out of the area. The residents of this community found it impossible to summon help and those who chose to remain in their homes during the crisis period were very much on their own.

The news crew from one San Francisco TV station managed to get into the area. They found, for the most part, what they had expected to find: a lot of mud, water, and wrecked houses. They also found something that they didn't anticipate, a homeowner sitting on the wreckage of his partially destroyed home with a revolver prominently displayed on his hip. The TV people, of course, decided to interview this rather formidable-looking resident and one of their first questions concerned the piece of ordnance strapped to his hip.

The homeowner explained that shortly after the last storm had passed, looters from the nearby metropolitan area had entered his battered community to scavenge through the abandoned homes. He went on to point out that there was no way for him to summon assistance under the circumstances and the police had already admitted that there was very little that they could do to protect any of the homes in the area. The mud and water made it next to impossible for law enforcement to effectively patrol the community, and with both the phone and electric services being completely out, the option of calling upon the police for help was gone! The determined homeowner stated that he had already lost much of his life to the storms and was not about to let the criminal element walk off with what little he had left. It was obvious, even to the TV people, that this man was totally on his own. Only he and his revolver stood between the sinister elements of the big city and his now vulnerable and tattered world.

Perhaps the most surprising element in this story about the isolated homeowner was the way in which the TV station presented this newsworthy event. The television station in question here was and still is vehemently anti-gun. But the night that this story was aired, this station's normally contemptuous attitude towards firearms and the Second Amendment was noticeably absent. As the story was presented, the newscaster appeared to be strangely sympathetic to the homeowner's plight and came surprisingly close to even endorsing this armed citizen's attitude. I can only venture a guess as to why this TV station deviated from its usual anti-gun position on this one occasion. The elements in this news story were about as basic as you can get. The homeowner was so obviously vulnerable and innocent that even the thick-skinned anti-gunners in the media found it difficult to fault his decision to stand guard over the "sanctity" of his home. The looters, on the other hand, were so clearly wrong that the liberally oriented elitists at the TV station could not avoid viewing them as nearly an absolute evil so corrupt in stopping them.

Facing the criminal element with little or no hope of assistance from law enforcement is the theme of this article. The rea-life plight of the Bay Area homeowner shows how a natural disaster can easily force you into the position of having to provide your own defense. The possibility of becoming isolated because of some natural calamity is something that I will deal with in greater detail a little later in this thesis, but before that, it is important to point out that many of this country's citizens already face a type of isolation that previews something of the natural disaster scenario that I will soon get into.

I am referring to a type of isolation known as "response time." In any typical emergency situation we all will have to deal with it. Response time is the amount of time that it takes for the police or other emergency services to arrive on the scene after they have been summoned. In some areas of the country, this time interval may be only 3 to 5 minutes in duration. In other areas, response times of a half hour, an hour or several hours have become the norm. For some poor souls in our major metropolitan areas, response time begins by having their emergency phone call placed on hold. Then, after finally having their call answered by a human being, their emergency is placed on a priority waiting list with only the most severe emergencies receiving immediate attention. This waiting list system has resulted in help arriving long after the emergency has ended and in some cases not arriving at all.

Now, imagine if you will, a situation where there is no possible way for you to contact the police or perhaps a situation where there are no police for you to contact. A chilling thought indeed, but the prospect that many thousands of Americans will someday have to jointly contend with such absolute isolation is more--much more--than a mere possibility. The correct word to use from this point on is not the word "possible" but rather the word "probable." The probability that looms on the horizon like some dark and foreboding storm is summed up in still another word. This word expresses perhaps the greatest destructive force that nature can unleash against man. A potential for nearly unlimited devastation is also embodied in the word. This word is "earthquake."

Now, at this point I'm sure many of yu believe that it is only the people who live in the western portion of our country who need ever fear the destruction and resulting isolation of a major earthquake. Well, think again. If you happen to live east of the Mississippi, then you face a probable future earthquake that could easily make any potential California quake seem pale by comparison.

A new government study says that the next major earthquake will most likely occur somewhere in the eastern half of our country rather than on the West Coast. It also says that many thousands will die and the property damage would be at least $50 billion. Perhaps the most frightening thing about this prediction is the fact that, unlike California, the rest of the country is almost totally unprepared for an earthquake of any kind.

Most people believe that the largest earthquake ever to jolt the United States was the San Francisco quake of 1906. This belief is wrong. The largest earthquake to ever occur in the U.S. was the New Madrid, Missouri, earthquake of 1811. This quake was so big that it was felt in 21 states; it even caused church bells to ring in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1811, the region of the country surrounding New Madrid, Missouri, was rural and so sparsely populated that little damage was done. But should the same quake occur today, the loss of life and property damage would be almost beyond imagination.

Another major eastern earthquake occured in Charleston, South Carolina, in 1886. The magnitude of this earthly tantrum was recorded over 200 miles away from the quake's epicenter. The power of this earthquake can be more fully appreciated when one considers the fact that its effects were also felt over an area of three million square miles.

Since the New Madrid and Charleston earthquakes of the last century, the eastern portion of the United States has been relatively quiet, at least as far as major quakes are concerned. This prolonged period of inactivity is more likely a cause for concern rather than for peace of mind. As most Californians now know, the earth's crust is an active thing with pressure and stress constantly building up at critical points. They also have lerned to see earthquakes for what they really are--nature's way of relieving this pressure and stress. The experts agree that we are still a long way from being able to predict exactly when an earthquake will occur. But, if you happen to live in an area that has a history of earthquakes and the amount of time that has elapsed since the last significant quake has been unusually long for your particular area, then you may very well be due, or overdue, for one. If the government study mentioned earlier is correct, Californians may wake up one morning to the ironic news that their fellow citizens in the East have suffered the fate that those living on the West Coast have long since resigned themselves to.

In researching this article, information on earthquakes and their history was easy to find. But information on how to prepare for such disasters and--most importantly--what to realistically expect afterwards, was far more limited. I'm not exactly sure why, but for some reason the subject of self-defense during the period of isolation that would certainly follow a catastrophic quake seems to be off limits. Since California is supposedly the most earthquake-conscious state, I contacted the state's agency charged with the responsibility of disseminating earthquake preparedness information to the public. This agency is the Office of Emergency Services, P.O. Box 9577, Sacramento, CA 95823.

Over the phone I chatted with a pleasant-sounding lady who genuninely seemed eager to answer all of my questions. Our conversation covered many aspects of earthquake preparedness, but two particularly important points stood out. First, she larly important points stood out. First, she confirmed a statement that I had heard on the news several months earilier. The statement that I am referring to was made by an official from California's Office of Emergency Services (O.E.S.). He said that when a truly big earthquake (meaning an earthquake as large or larger than the 1906 San Francisco quake) hits one of the major metropolitan areas of California, the residents of the area can expect to be "on their own," without any services for at least three days. In other words, should you need the police, you will be out of luck for a "minimum" of 72 hours! The second point of special interest came near the end of my conversation with the pleasant lady from California's O.E.S. I asked her what official advice or recommendations her office provides concerning the subject of self-defense for citizens after a natural disaster. She answered by saying, "What do you mean? I don't understand your question." I reowrded my question and tried again. "If, after a major earthquake, there were no police around to control the criminal element, what does the O.E.S. suggest that law-abiding citizens do?" The lady at this state agency responded by saying that she didn't know. In fact, as far as she knew the question hadn't even come up.

Not long ago I also received a packet of materials from California's O.E.S. that contained information that will help you prepare for and survive an earthquake. This packet should still be available to anyone who writes in for it. The information in the packet is certainly useful, but it is very limited and really tells you very little about what life would be like after a major earthquake. One of the items in the packet is a list of things to have on hand just in case. It suggests items like a portable radio, flashlight, a week's supply of food and water, some tools and a first-aid kit. Sounds more like a good list of things to take along on the next family picnic rather than a cache of essential emergency supplies and equipment.

Nowhere in the O.E.S. materials are you going to find any discussion at all about the very real possibility that you may have to defend yourself, you family and your property against an unencumbered criminal element. In fact, the word "looter" is never mentioned. Many of the other unpleasant and deadly things that would certainly be among the aftereffects of a major quake are also omitted from the O.E.S. packet. I'll discuss some of these things a little later on in this article. But before I put away the materials from California's Office of Emergency Services, I will relate to you what is perhaps the most ominous and revealing paragraph to be found in the packet. The following is from the O.E.S. pamphlet titled Earthquakes California Style: "The State Office of Emergency Services, along with California's cities and counties, have written procedures which identify possible responses to a moderate-sized earthquake. However, despite this preparation, there are insufficient resources (manpower, equipment and supplies) to help the many victims of a major earthquake. Following the quake, each victim must provide for himself and his loved ones until adequate assistance arrives."

But what about the traditional American virtue of helping one's neighbor in a crisis? Isn't it true that when a major disaster strikes, the people of the typical American community will band together in mutual support so as to insure that all will survive? Alas, I'm afraid that this belief is more of a nostalgic memory rather than a realistic appraisal of the contemporary Americna urban psyche. Many Americans are now old enough to have seen and experienced the fundamental changes that have taken place in our society. When I say old enough, I do not necessarily mean only our senior citizens. If you are in your 30s, you should also be able to attest to how things have changed.

In many communities, it wasn't that long ago when you could safely indulge yourself with a pleasant evening walk. But today, in many of these same communities, you dare not set foot out of your house after dark. Again, only a couple of decades ago, if a woman was to scream "rape," every able-bodied man in the area would have rushed to the scene in chivalrous fervor to answer her call for help. Today, particularly in our major metropolitan areas, such calls for help are more often ignored than answered. Today's typical American city dweller has, out of necessity, become both physically and psychologically isolated. Getting involved or even caring about the well being of your neighbor has become too risky for many. Any really true sense of community in our big cities seems to have been displaced by a sense of fear and suspicion. Self-preservation is now the preoccupation of many Americans. How can you care about the guy next door when the unrelenting pressures and dangers of our modern urban society demand that you expend most of y our energies and resources looking out for Number One?

What is the cause of all this fear? Why have so many of our fellow citizens become ambivalent to the needs of their neighbors? The cause of much of this fear is a criminal element that has become so vicious, so depraved and immoral that one would think our streets are prowled by insatiable carnivores at night.

A considerable amount of attention has been focused on the dramatic increase in violent crimine that has taken place in America during the 1970s and early '80s. Sosiologists, criminologists and academics of all kinds have expended enormous amounts of money and energy trying to figure out just why America's urban areas have so rapidly become such dangerous places to live. I'm not going to get into any of this research, because at this point it really doesn't matter; and besides, much of it has to do with the shifting of blame frome one sphere of influence to another.

There are, however, a couple of things that you must understand about today's violent criminal if you are to have any chance of surviving a confrontation with him. first, the degree of savagery on our streets has increased along with the amount of crime. Today, innocent people are being maimed and killed for no apparent reason. In the '50s, teenage street gangs were, for the most part, content with stealing things like hubcaps and beating on each other with chains and clubs. Now, many of these so-called "juvenile delinquents" have become saidstic monsters, prowling our streets both day and night. It has become a common even for them to kill someone just for the hell of it. This type of pointless murder was a comparatively rare thing only a couple of decades ago. Secondly, and undoubtedly the most important factor of all, is drugs! In fact, law enforcement has often said that if we could somehow eliminate drugs, we would also be eliminating 70 percent or more of our violent crime problem.

The true portrait of America's contemporary urban street criminal looks something like the following: He is predatory in nature and without conscience. He is very likely a user (or seller) of narcotics. He is often sadistic, angry and frustrated. Your life means little to him and, in fact, he may even find pleasure in your death. Now imagine, if you will, facing such an individual or individuals after a major earthquake when there is no chance that the police will be able to arrive on the scene to help you out. Not a very pleasant thought, is it?

Perhaps the clearest example of the dramatic change that has taken place in America comes from New York City. In 1965, New Yorkers experienced their now famous blackout. On November 9, 1965, the power went off and stayed off over much of the East Coast. Over 30 million people were affected and, of course, New York was paralyzed. During this event, people conducted themselves in a highly civil manner. Without being asked, some citizens of the Big Apple took flashlights into the streets to direct traffic. People trapped in office buildings had parties and in general the mood was festive. Crime during this blackout was very low and fear did not dominate the experience. Actually, many New Yorkers found themselves with a little extra time on their hands and so reverted to a rather basic form of entertainment while waiting for the lights to come back on. Th eresult was a mini baby boom on the East Coast nine months after the blackout.

Then, on July 13, 1977, history repeated itself. New York City was hit with another blackout. Only this time many of New York's citizens behaved in a manner that bore little resemblance to the exemplary conduct of a dozen years earlier. In many parts of the city, roving bands of thugs (particularly teenagers) broke into stores and looted them. Fires were set and entire blocks burned to the ground. Some of these contemptible creatures even took time out from their looting and pillaging to snipe at police officers and firemen from rooftops thereby making containment of the situation very difficult. Today, when the blackout of 1977 is discussed, you will find that many of the people who went through it do not call it a blackout but instead refer to the experience as "the night the animals came out."

There are other recent examples that show just how far the degeneration of America's sense of social responsibility has gone. But none of them portray it as clearly as New York's blackouts. It used to be that a crisis often brought out the most noble side of an American community, but it now appears that the evil elements in society have left decent citizens no choice but to place the preservation of self ahead of any greater civic obligation.

If you are going to survive the aftermath of a major earthquake, or other natural disaster, you will need to prepare yourself with the most realistic picture of what things will be like as you possibly can. In researching this article, I examined and digested a great deal of information from sources both public and private on the subject. Although many of them provided useful suggestions on how to prepare for a quake, none of them painted a picture of what life would really be like after the earth stopped moving. I'm not entirely sure why this is, but I suspect that it may have something to do with property values and a general reluctance to admit just how helpless our emergency services would be in such a crisis.

What I propose to do now is to run through a very brief "worst case" scenario of a major earthquake in the mammoth Los Angeles area. My point is to highlight some of the things that "will" happen, but that are rarely discussed. The reason for choosing L.A. is simply because I am intermately familiar with the place.

It is mid-September and Southern California is enduring still another one of its heat waves. The temperatures range from 95-plus degrees in downtown L.A. to 110-plus degrees in the surrounding valleys. The time is 4:45 in the late afternoon and the freeways are already packed. Many children are still not home from school yet and most families are still separated.

The long-awaited monster finally arrives. Its size cannot be precisely measured because its magnitude exceeds the 8.6 top reading on the Richter scale. The huge quake lasts for more than two minutes, but then it is immediately followed by a 7-point-plus quake that persists for an additional minute.

Tens of thousands of people die on the freeways alone. Virtually no bridges or overpasses survive the intense shaking. Cars and trucks are tossed about and into each other with thousands of fires and explosions breaking out (don't forget that each car has a gas tank with considerable explosive potential). Nearly every major street and most minor streets are either blocked by wreckage or have been disrupted by huge fissures that open up during the quakes. With the freeways being completely gone, there is literally no way for emergency aid to rapidly enter the area from the rest of the state. L.A. and its surrounding communities are now isolated!

Fires begin to break out everywhere and some neighborhoods are consumed by firestorms. The fires are, at first, fed by gas from the now broken natural gas pipelines that run under the entire area. Raw sewage runs freely down streets from ruptured sewer systems creating a perfect environment for some of the most deadly communicable diseases known. In addition to the dead on the streets and freeways, the dead in fallen buildings and other structures cause the total death figure to exceed a quarter of a million.

Countless thousands of panicked dogs get loose to roam the streets. In the days and weeks following the quakes, many of these dogs revert to a more primitive and natural type of behavior by forming packs (one of nature's most efficient killing machines). Attacks on humans (especially children) by these packs become such a problem that when the National Guard finally does begin to restore order, they decide to adopt a "shoot-any-stray-dog-on-sight" policy.

Law enforcement finds that it is completely helpless after the quakes. Many officers on duty at the time choose to leave their positions in order to protect their own families. Most officers not on patrol at the time the quakes hit find it impossible to make their way to their stations in order to go on duty. Many other off-duty officers choose to remain home so as to protect their families from the criminal element.

Because the quakes occur in the late afternoon, nighttime comes quickly. As soon as the skies darken, the looters, street gangs, drug addicts and other assorted criminal types become active. They, along with everybody else, know that it will be quite some time before any order can be restored, so they take advantage of the situation. Sotres are looted, private homes ransacked and some psychos even kill innocent people simply because they can now get away with it.

Many people are driven beyond any reason by their desire to reestablish contact with family members. For days, thousands of people wander through the rubble in vain attempts to find their loved ones. These people become prime targets for the vicious sub-human animals prowling the streets. Every manner of obscenity and brutality is inflicted upon the innovent by the depraved during the aftermath.

There is no need to carry this "worst case" scenario any farther. I'm sure that you must now have some idea of what could happen in a city like Los Angeles or St. Louis or wherever. I'm also confident that your imagination can now supply many of the horrors that I did not mention. When all of the facts and potential dangers are considered, it becomes obvious that it will take more than a flashlight, radio and first-aid kit to survive, the aftermath of a truly major earthquake. It may very well require the willingness and the "means" to defend yourself and your family. Are you prepared?
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Author:Kavey, Fred
Publication:Guns & Ammo
Date:Apr 1, 1985
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