Thinking Like a Survivalist in the COVID-19 Era

Preppers, or survivalists, take this sort of preparedness to an extreme. The Internet is full of prepper websites that fuel the sort of paranoia they embody. The difference between me and full-blown survivalists is that the latter (at least the more vocal of them) maintain a fanatic individualism that can be directly at odds with community building. I believe that building a strong community is key to resilience—with the caveat of social distancing when it comes to pandemics.

Another difference is that some survivalists look forward to the sort of long emergency that a pandemic could cause. I don’t look forward to it, but I do want to be prepared. I want to be resilient. I want to know that my family could get by if we are forced to stay home for a month or longer—even if we experience an extended power outage while we are holed up.

Here are a few suggestions of preparations we can make to keep safe during disruptions of any kind—and especially a pandemic. This sort of resilience isn’t only about getting back to where we were before; it’s also about learning and adapting so that we will be better prepared next time—when the disturbance might be a flood or wildfire or earthquake, or another pandemic.


  • Keep six weeks’ worth of food on hand—at least staples with long shelf lives.
  • Join a CSA if you can’t grow some of your own food. Suggest to your CSA that produce be packaged in advance of pick-up to avoid handling by CSA members.
  • Maintain supplies of medicines that may run out during a pandemic.
  • Make sure you know where you can get safe drinking water. Unless you have a redundant water supply (like our spring), keep at least a few 5-gallon containers of water in your home for emergency use; use opaque containers or store in a dark place to prevent algae growth.
  • Do what you can to enable your home or apartment to keep you and your family safe during an extended power outage (passive survivability).
  • For apartment dwellers, make sure that the central ventilation system doesn’t circulate (potentially contaminated) air from other apartments; if necessary, install a window fan to blow outside air into your apartment, keeping it under positive pressure.
  • Establish and maintain reliable Internet connectivity.
  • Try to maintain redundant forms of communication, such as cellular communications, a landline, and Internet connectivity. In our home, we have both Internet and cellular connectivity—having given up our landline a few years ago.
  • Consider a battery backup system or generator to enable you to power your Internet connection, charge your cell phone, operate a few lights, and provide for other critical needs.
  • Companies should transition to laptop computers for their employees to enable those employees to efficiently work at home. This measure offers the added bonus of saving energy.
  • If there’s a local e-mail networking platform join it to keep up with local news and announcements.
  • Maintain community even during an age of social distancing. Create online or e-mail communities, and check in on your network of family and friends regularly. Social networking platforms like Instagram and Facebook can play an important role.
  • To help with social interaction in an age of social distancing, set up video-conferencing capability using platforms like ZoomGoogle HangoutsGoToMeetingSkype—and acquaint your network with your preferred platform.
  • Ride a bicycle instead of taking public transit. Advocate locally for better bicycle paths and bicycle lanes on our roadways.
  • Know where to access up-to-date, factual information. The New York Times is making all of their pandemic information available for free to non-subscribers, and you can sign up for their Coronavirus Briefing. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) maintains an excellent COVID-19 site.
  • And wash your hands with soap and water.


IDF Editors

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