Be Prepared

Why do we study self-defence? To be prepared for a situation that may never happen: a personal attack. Let’s take a look at other problems we normally prepare for, and situations we often ignore.

Don’t Panic

Take the advice of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. When reading over these negative scenarios and thinking about your own vulnerabilites, you may feel overwhelmed. You may also feel that the problems are too big which makes you feel unable to start addressing them. Stay calm, make lists.

All disasters are unlikely. You won’t need these preparations tomorrow. However, don’t put them off forever, because someday you may need them.

Be a Boy Scout

The title of the article is the Scout motto: “Be prepared.”, and if you consider yourself to be a responsible adult, you should be ready to play the role of hero in a disaster, not assuming that others will take care of you. A little know-how and some affordable supplies can make all the difference.

First Aid

The easiest thing to prepare is a first aid kit. Special training will improve your bandaging technique, but do you have a sterile bandage in the first place?

A small first aid kit should contain:
* Two pairs of disposable gloves
* Sterile dressings to stop bleeding
* Cleansing agent/soap and antibiotic towelettes to disinfect
* Antibiotic ointment to prevent infection
* Burn ointment
* Adhesive bandages in a variety of sizes
* Eye wash solution to flush the eyes or as general decontaminant
* Scissors
* Over-the-counter medicines such as Aspirin or other pain reliever, laxative, anti-diarrhea medication
* Prescription medications you take every day such as insulin, heart medicine, or asthma inhaler
* Prescribed medical supplies such as glucose monitoring equipment or blood pressure monitors

This list is courtesy of, which has a simple interface to get you prepared for a 3-day emergency situation.

Prepackaged kits are available in most pharmacies. If you don’t assemble your own, you must open your store-bought kit to familiarize yourself with the contents.

Taking a first aid course is the next step, and will give you the knowledge to solve many life-threatening problems for which your kit will be useless. CPR is a skill that demands practice, and does save lives.

Economic Catastrophe

Loss of a job, hospitalization of yourself or a dependent, theft or fraud, and many other conditions may drain your finances quickly, or make some of your money unavailable for a length of time.

Having savings in different institutions and in different forms (bank accounts, investments, cash, valuable goods for trade) will be a rescue when bad things happen.

And living without debt as a lifestyle can only enhance your freedom and self-reliance.

Figuring out your normal expenses, and what you would cut in the case of a crisis is important. Don’t keep paying for cable television if you worry about keeping the electricity on.


People mainly imagine this scenario when they are asked about preparedness or survival. Although there are core principles for any disaster, remember that your plans should not be generic but based on your geographic location, your family situation, and your home.

Imagine the likelihood and severity of each of the following in your region:
* Earthquake
* Tsunami or other sea-level rise
* Tornado
* Hurricane, flash-flood
* Blizzard

What would you need if one of these disasters struck? Well, if you have to stay in your home for an extended time, you’d better have food… the pizza delivery guy also won’t be going outside. What if you lose electricity or the water supply is disrupted because of the event? I have a few gallons of water and non-perishable food set aside for this. But the extent of your preparations will depend on your assessment.

What if you need to evacuate your home? At the very least, you should have practical shoes for walking and getting around rubble, hiking boots are even better. Again, look at for more. Your municipality also probably has disaster plans and city evacuation routes. Vancouver’s is here:

Blue Screen of Death

Believe it or not, your computer will not live forever, and you’re probably not replacing it every year. When will the components fail, and what will happen to your data and productivity when it does? A hard drive is the most common point of failure, and can also be the most catastrophic. If your main hard drive dies, you will not only be unable to start your computer, but all the information on it will be unretrievable.

Your main hard drive should have a backup, preferably a daily backup to a drive attached to your computer, and a second backup that is either off-site or in the “cloud” or across a network. I use Dropbox ( for cloud backup and an external hard drive for incremental backups.

If any other component fails, you should be able to have a technician repair that part, and get all your data back and get back to work.

Read and Assess

Your plans will be as good as your knowledge and sober assessment. Read about disaster preparedness and talk with your family or roommates about it.

I like the guys at In The Rabbit Hole, an urban survival podcast. They are concerned with the big catastrophes as well as the likely personal problems of modern living. Although wilderness skills can be translated for urban needs, certain strategies such as “bugging in” or staying in your home for extended periods. Also a little caveat: they are American, so they sometimes talk about their guns.

If I had one book recommendation, it would be the SAS Survival Handbook by John “Lofty” Wiseman. Although mostly wilderness survival, it covers so many of the things you need to know and has tons of diagrams.

I’ve also downloaded many resources that I haven’t read thoroughly, but may come in handy. is 13 Gigabytes (OMG) of high quality technical development info for Third World, and covers a wide range of topics you’ll need if you need to restart civilization from scratch. Basic skills of agriculture and irrigation lead to best construction techniques for housing, disease prevention and treatment, electrical and even economics. Download it, put it on a USB stick and keep it with your emergency kit.

Personal Defence

If you haven’t yet taken a course in self-defence, practical combat, or antagonistics, join us for the next Introduction to Bartitsu on 26 May, 2012. Saving your life from an assault may be the most important preparation.


Devon Boorman is the Co-Founder and Director of Academie Duello Centre for Swordplay, which has been active in Vancouver, Canada since 2004. Devon’s expertise centres on the Italian swordplay tradition including the arts of the Renaissance Italian rapier, sidesword, and longsword, as well as knife and unarmed techniques.
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