-Huge natural disaster
-Loss of electricity for extended amounts of time
-Terrorist EMP device knocking out the power grid and all electronics over a huge area
-NBC (Nuclear, biological, chemical) threat via a dirty bomb, virus, or actual nuclear device
-Although highly unlikely, nuclear power plant suffers from a violent meltdown; radiation threat
WHAT YOU NEED
I think in any of those situations, there's a couple things you need. This is not an exhaustive list, the list really could go on, but these are six things I think are critical in any survival situation.
It's the essential necessity of life. You can only survive an average of 3 days without it, give or take a day or two depending on your body, conditions, and exertion. Water also needs to be pure because if it has bacterias or cultures in it then you will become sick, which just make things worse. It also has to be free of radiation, which is a problem we're seeing in Japan, and it can't be tainted with chemicals and cannot be filled with salt like the ocean. Just think about how specific that water needs to be for safe human consumption. It's not a bad idea to stock up on bottled water or other form of stored, properly sealed water. It's not a bad idea to invest on water purification tablets either, I have enough to last for 60 days of purifying my own water. That's more than enough for myself, or just enough to support a sizable group of survivors. Another thing that can be done is to get water from the cleanest natural source possible and purify it by filtering it and boiling it to kill off anything in the water that could harm you.
Examples: During hurricane Katrina, the water was completely polluted because of all the oil, fuel, dead bodies, chemicals, and sewage contaminating it. Many survivors said it actually burned them to stand in it or get wet in due to all the diesel fuel and other toxins in the water. Also, in Japan, it's been realized that radioactive iodine has contaminated the water, and has even reached unsafe levels of consumption for toddlers and babies. Ingesting radiation is never a good thing. This goes to show that you may not be able to trust the natural water sources around you because they may not be secure, so stocking up on a sizable water supply is wise.
You can go much longer without food than you can without water, but you need both. Food will give you energy, provide strength, and in many instances of survival has proven to be a source of motivation and happiness. It's always a good idea to stock up on canned food items and other sealed, preserved foodstuffs. Just like with water, you cannot always trust in the local food sources to support you. Investing in military-grade MREs is also not a bad idea, they are high-calorie meal systems that are perfect for this kind of situation. MREs and other sealed foods are perfect, and it doesn't hurt to have a good amount of preserved food in case you need to help out your neighbors and others. I remember as a child during the '94 quake, In N Out sent out their mobile teams everywhere and began making free In N Out for anyone and everyone. They just wanted to supply the areas with food and they didn't care about the costs. We cannot always count on peoples' goodwill and charity in the event everything goes to hell. On the contrast, I remember going to the grocery store and a store worker, standing there with an apron and assault rifle, was standing out front. Looting was a serious thing to be worried about. Either way, don't take food for granted, stock up on your own.
After all this is the blog of an American Rifleman. And this is America. And we are humans. I won't go crazy with this topic, but there have been many instances in American history where self defense was paramount, just look at the founding of our country.
Survival is a fight against the elements, against not having usual amount of supplies, not having solid resources, and can even be a fight against your fellow man. Why be only concerned about things such as food and water, while not being concerned about mankind?
Examples: During Katrina, "rape and loot" gangs banded together and roamed the parts of the city they could get to. Neighborhoods and areas were cut off from police and law and order for weeks at a time. They had nobody to count on besides themselves. Nobody was out there looking out for their safety, they had to take care of themselves. Neighborhoods banded together and formed militias of good law-abiding citizens, who stood watch day and night protecting their neighborhood and helping distribute and ration supplies till help arrived. And yes, they were armed with their own guns. There are a number of people that wouldn't be alive today if it were not for their use of guns to preserve their life and the lives of others.
You don't need to have a crazy arsenal of dozens of guns or a whole basement full of ammunition, that's not the point. You just need a trusty gun and a box or two of ammunition and that'll get you through the day. In a situation like this, I wouldn't anticipate getting into any firefights or battles, firearms would serve a self defense purpose. Most of the time, when somebody has to draw their gun to defend themselves, they never have to fire a shot. Just the presentation of the gun is enough to ward off a rapist, attacker, or killer. Pulling the trigger is the absolute last and worst-case scenario, but being able and capable of doing so is paramount to survival anywhere.
I kind of view this like getting drunk at a party full of strangers. It is highly unwise to get drunk at a party with a lot of strangers on many different levels. You are basically putting your safety and well-being in the hands of whoever happens to be around you. So you can either hope the people around you are good people, or you can just not get drunk to ensure you are in control of your own situation and no one else is. You don't know who is out there in the world and what their intentions are, life is too important to leave it up to whoever is around you. Take an active role in your own protection and preservation, especially in a disaster situation.
Besides protection against human intruders, you should also keep the animal threat in mind depending on the disaster and your location. Some areas have high concentrations of animals that could harm you. Even with that aside, you could still use your gun to hunt and get your own dinner if the food supplies run out. Firearms serve many purposes in a survival situation, they are truly an instrument of survival in every respect of the word.
4) Survival Attitude
There have been many times and instances when hikers or travelers have been stranded and had to rely on their own perseverance and skill to survive. Sometimes rescuers have found stranded people still alive in conditions where there was no reason they should have survived. Some people have been put in hard survival situations, where they had no supplies, no hope, and no chance of survival, but they still survived. And rescuers have also found people that had plenty of supplies and a great chance of survival but they still died. What's the difference? What's the point? It's the survival attitude. When you're in a survival situation, failure doesn't mean a bad grade on a test or getting grounded, it means dying. Death. You need to believe, with every fiber in your being, that failure is not an option you are willing to entertain. Survivors are fighters, they take a proactive and resolute approach in securing their safety. Pessimists and downers almost never make it out. If there's no survival mindset then there is survival nowhere.
Be hopeful, be diligent, and work hard at taking a proactive approach to getting rescued or surviving the disaster. It also helps to have a sense of humor and play. Survival is not all business. Keeping a cool, calm, and relaxed demeanor is vital. Don't be afraid to make jokes, have fun, or even play a game or have fun if you can spare the energy. Most likely you'll have a lot of time on your hands, so you should fill it up with something progressive, fun, entertaining, or mentally engaging. Don't just lay around all day and mope around, get involved in doing something that will keep you busy and keep your mind well away from worry. Help who you can too. We can get great joy from helping people and serving others, so do that as much as you can afford. In an absolute desperate situation, this may not be possible, but for most survival situations you can get involved in helping others without risking your supplies or safety.
There have been some survival instances in which people were stranded by themselves for extended periods of time. Friends are not totally essential but they help a great deal. As humans, we are social animals. We rely on other human interaction not just for entertainment but for companionship and even development. It's very important to keep that human interaction alive and strong during a survival situation. If you're caught in a survival situation by yourself, you need to keep up this social behavior somehow. If you've ever seen the movie "Castaway" with Tom Hanks, you know that he made a human surrogate from a volley ball with a face on it. He talked to his "friend" Wilson. Obviously Wilson didn't talk back, he was just a ball with a face painted on it. But the key thing here is the human emotional needs of social interaction and attachment were being fulfilled. Talking to yourself, outlining the survival plan, debating a topic of interest, doing basic math in the dirt/sand, or remembering and discussing your favorite books or public figures also helps. If I were to make my own "Wilson" ball, start talking to myself, and doing all those things right now I would probably be labeled as crazy or insane because I probably would be. These kinds of measures are only necessary when human interaction is not possible for extended periods of time. You'd be surprised what a couple simple things could do to improve and maintain your mental health in a survival situation.
Having a secure shelter is also critical. You need a place that you can survive out of for extended periods of time. Sometimes, like in the '94 quake, houses were so damaged (like ours) that living inside them was no longer a safe option. Pitching a tent or sleeping in a car was the safe plan of action. The overall theme behind this is you want a shelter that can keep you from the elements so you don't freeze, get sunburned, etc. It's a place where you can operate out of and it needs to be secure. There are many different types of hasty shelters and things like that, but in all honesty the sky is the limit. If you're in one area for an extended amount of time, then make sure you make plans of where the latrine is. Keep it away from where you eat, your food, your water, and keep it away from your shelter in general. The best thing to do is either bury or burn human waste, but whatever you do make sure you keep it far enough away from where you live and where/what you eat and drink.
Now, depending on the situation, you may have to be on the move. In the worst types of situations, you make have to be on the move or stationary all while trying to lay low under the radar and live undetected. Covering your tracks, cleaning up after yourself, and leaving things the way you found it are crucial. This is when we encounter the difference between open survival and closed survival. In open survival, you want to be rescued. You purposely find bright-colored objects and mark your position or arrange lettering to let people know from the sky that you are alive. You may burn a huge fire to put up smoke, or make noise, or do whatever you can think of to draw attention to yourself. In closed survival, it may be critical to hang low and go unnoticed. The only thing that comes to mind is something like "Red Dawn" in which an invading Army takes over territory on our own soil, and a resistance army of fighters needed to hang low and undetected to continue fighting the enemy. This type of survival may not be as common but is still something to think about.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO CONSIDER
Here's a list of things to think about:
-Where am I going to sleep?
-What am I going to eat?
-Where can I find water around here?
-Am I under a human threat?
-Am I under an animal threat?
-With what I have on hand, how long could this last me?
-Does anyone need help in my area?
-Do I have anything to mark my area to let people know I'm here?
-Who knows I'm out here?
-Do I want to make my position obvious or is there a threat that prevents me from doing so?
-In other words, is this "open" or "closed" survival?
-What are my biggest problems/concerns?
-What am I going to do to solve them?
-What is the overall plan of action?
The list could go on about other things just as important, but these are the most basic ones I can think of.
Something that should be noted is what I call the pack-rat/mobility concept. This all depends on what type of situation it is. In a Katrina-type situation, people took a stand in their homes and operated and survived out of their homes. In a situation like that, it would be wise to stock up on supplies and consolidate it in your home. You know you aren't leaving that same location for a long while, so consolidation and acquisition of resources is paramount. The main disadvantages to this is that everyone knows you are living there, so if anyone wants to steal your stuff they know where to go for supplies.
Some situations are not always like that though, you may have to be on the move. A situation like this would be like a nuclear plant nearby has suffered great problems, and you have to constantly be on the move as far away from it as possible. Or the even less plausible but still possible situation of a "Red Dawn"-like invasion. In this case, every ounce of weight on your person should be thoroughly scrutinized and thought over. You should only pack what you absolutely need because the more weight you carry the more energy you exert to carry it, and the more tired you will get. It will also hamper your mobility if you're weighed down very heavily, especially if you have to cover rough terrain to stay "off the beaten path." In this case I'd only take once firearm and it'd be a gun that shoots a common caliber that I could acquire anywhere easily. It'd have to be light so I could easily carry it without it dragging me down. I'd also carry basic provisions and a good amount of water, but I'd mainly carry purification tablets to deal with the problem in a long-term way. Rather than fill up my pack with lots of food, I'd carry a little more ammunition to hunt with, but just enough for basic hunting and defense, I'd have to scrounge more ammo later. It's good to have a whole basement full of guns, ammo, water, food, and supplies, but none of that is going to be worth anything if you have to evacuate and get out of there, you will only be able to take whatever you can carry, so whatever you decide to carry needs to be absolutely valuable and vital to the mission of survival.