Matthew Stein: How Prepared Are You?

During the height of the 'Goldilocks economy' of the mid-1990s, Mat Stein wrote When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance, Sustainability, and Surviving the Long Emergency, a master compendium of do-it-yourself preparation skills.

Fast-forward to today's Great Recession, drought-stricken, $100+ oil, post-Katrina, post-Fukushima world -- many are realizing the prudence of taking basic precautionary steps to reduce their vulnerability to whatever the future may bring. Whether you're concerned about the fallout from a breakdown of today's weakened global economy, or simply want to be better able to deal with the aftermath of a natural disaster if you live in an earthquake/hurricane/flood/wildfire/tornado-prone part of the world, the personal resiliency measures Mat recommends make sense for almost everyone to consider.

In this interview, Mat begins with his universal advice for developing basic preparedness -- a 72-hour kit covering the basics needs for living, an emergency plan for your family, lining up local and out-of-town contacts, etc. -- and discusses specifics on what gear to procure and steps to take in unexpected emergencies. For more protracted periods without access to central services, many more situations are covered in his books and at his website.

It's important to note that Mat isn't a doomer bent on fanning fears of a zombie apocalypse (though those concerned about social collapse will find much utility in his work). Like Chris, he believes that our current fossil fuel-driven, hyper-consumptive, and over-leveraged way of life is not sustainable. So before the unsustainable, by definition, stops - it's best to invest now in developing the skills and habits that will serve us in this new future;  one sure to place a higher premium on self-reliance.

On the Rule of Threes

The Rule of Threes give you an indication of, in a crisis time, where your energies really should lie.

The Rule of Threes basically says:

  • If you've got 3 seconds without blood flow, meaning a heart attack or critical injury, then without blood flow to the brain in 3 seconds you pass out.
  • If you have 3 minutes without oxygen flow -- either you aren't breathing or you don't have access to oxygen -- you're out.
  • If you have 3 hours without proper shelter or clothing in extreme weather - extreme heat or extreme cold, you get hypothermic or hyperthermic -- you start to die or lose your ability to think and function.
  • If you have 3 days without water and you have to be physically active and it is fairly hot outside, then people start to die. Water is extremely critical.
  • Most people in America could live at least 3 weeks -- and many of us far longer than that -- without food. You may not be happy. You may not feel good. You might not have a lot of energy. You could do it. 

On the scale of things, that gives you an immediate priority list of what things you must address and deal with. Obviously the life-threatening things have to be dealt with first. 

On the Approach to Developing Resilience

There are three big buckets of preparedness. There is stuff you have. There is stuff you know. There are the skills and things you can do. This is also including your mindset. 

The most important is the skill set, including the mindset. You take that with you wherever you go.

A lot of people have plenty of money. By all means, gather stuff. Gather supplies. Store food. Have some beans, Band-Aids and bullets -- the three B's. Beans means your food and supplies. Band-Aids means medical skills and medical knowledge, medical supplies. Bullets means the ability to protect yourself. Again, that is not really my bag, but it's a necessary evil.

Get the stuff. Even if you are not really great at using some of these things, you can trade. You can barter and you can share. You can team up with people. The lone wolf in a collapse situation will probably not do very well, unless he is super-MacGyver. Someone who is meaner, tougher and better organized will come along and take all his cool stuff away from him. It is really in groups that people will do better. Think medieval times, castles, villages and groups. There was safety in numbers. People have skills and talents. It really takes a village to pull through. 

Think about your strengths. Naturally if you can develop all three areas, great. If not, if you are stronger in one, focus on that. If you do not have money, focus on your skill set. If you are likeable and get along well, if you have great skills and talents, then you will probably manage pretty well. Maybe you are older and you are not very strong you cannot do much. If you have good financial reserves, then you can stock up on things. You will be able to team up with a whole bunch of people. They will be thankful and grateful for you, if and when that day comes when that stuff is needed.


Click the play button below to listen to Chris' interview with Mat Stein (59m:45s):

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I am going to have to disagree, but unfortunatly I cannot. 
Thank you both.

I have written how I hope that things look after the crisis in my short story The Breeding.

I was talking to Professor Muelenberg at the ICCF17 and he said that the military have the fibre to make an elevator, and he will be making presentations to people that have the where-with-all to make it happen.

Thank you very much for this interview.
Matthew Stein's veiws and attitude in regards to the interactive ecological nature of our crises resonate  strongly with me.  I do understand that the financial/debt crises and related topics are real and very serious, but to me those issues need to be better put into the context of our environmental and social crises to provide a more complete picture of our current predicament. I noted how Mr. Stein raised several "taboo" topics as his primary concerns and I agree with him how these environmental issues are linked to the cuases of what is killing the oceans and threatening our food sources for example.

 Personally I think that our environmental crises, or 3rd E is given very little attention here and I'm amazed how we have all become so disconnected from seeing and factoring in the extent of harm we are causing to the planets ecosystems that support us. I also thought it very interesting that he puts his rational understanding of what is happening into a spiritual perspective as well. Perhaps I'm looking for it, but it I'm hearing the same kind of thing from many others that see the severity and intractability of our environmental crises. But someone like Darryl Robert Schoon who primarily talks about the debt crises also puts these issues into a spiritual perspective as well.

The Canadian Ecologist Paul Chefurka is an example of someone who sums up our predicament as an interactive ecological crises and he has similiar things to say about how he has come to terms with the "mess" we are in.




Nice interview overall, however I must caution against using silver as a water purifying system. First of all, if you use it too much, you will propapby get argyria, which is a sort of silver poisoning. Second, it will not kill all the pathogenic microorganisms in polluted water, and this I say as a microbiologist (I am a PhD working closely with bacterial pathogens). The FDA, as well as many countries outside the US, has banned the usage of silver in over-the-counter products. If you are going to employ chemical water purification, PLEASE use chlorine or iodine and do not go anywhere near silver.

While listening to the interview (Thanks to Chris and Mat and the CM team) I decided to skim through Mat's website.  I was curious about his suggested items for the 72 hr. kit.  I chuckled a little when after scrolling through the images and under the batteries for steri pens, I found the suggestion for sanitary napkins (menstrual pads for the obvious and…) for "severe bleeding wounds".  Seems this idea is everywhere.  I agree.

It was nice to see Mat mention climate change and ocean acidification - two huge threats that are routinely ignored at PP.  All in all, a solid interview.  I do agree with Z, though.  I'd steer clear of the silver.  There are other options that make more sense.     

Tape is handy if you get a blister, but the best thing is to avoid them to begin with.  Keep a high level of fitness, use synthetic low friction socks, wear good fitting comfortable shoes or sneakers, and keep your nails trimmed.  Running clothes appropriate for the season are always in my car, plus food and water, in case I get stranded somewhere.

I really appreciate the details and approach Mat takes, but was deeply disturbed with the idea that we had to abandon all out cities in a dire crisis. Perhaps when you ar dealing with a "concrete jungle" type city environment, I could see that, but we live in a Texas city suburb that has streams lakes, farms nearby and Texans are a relatively well armed conservative lot. Have food, water and solar options already in place in this location.
Could someone elaborate on Mat's meaning of "city" or might that be part of his book dealing with when"shelter in place" is not a practical option?

Just hate the idea of having to develop an alternate rural option, but survival and prosperity is key.



Hi All,
I hope someone can find this series useful…


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The thoughts expressed in your comments and those of Paul Chefurka parallel my own. In my opinion, it will take a huge paradigm shift in the way we do business in the world if we are to avoid catastrophic collapse and die-off. My guess is we will have to be knocked around quite severely in order to make this shift, and my hope is that it will occur on the less painful side of the range of possibilities.

As to the use of silver, it can certainly be over used and misused, and caution should be exercised. The risk of Argyria (turning blue) from properly made colloidal silver is quite small. Before development Argyria, the "blue man" shown on Fox news made and drank a quart a day for sixteen years, as well as rubbed it all over his skin to self-medicate a skin condition that did was not responding to pharmaceuticals. For most of those 16 years, he was probably making his silver solution using the old bad advice of adding salt to the water to speed up the process, which makes a lot of silver chlorides that are not as effective as true colloidal silver for fighting bacterial infections, are slightly toxic, and far more prone to developing Argyria than ionic or colloidal silver is. In the days of antibiotic resistant super bugs, where hospitals are increasingly relying on various nano-silver solutions to fight antibiotic resistance, I for one feel more comfortable keeping both a stock of patented 10 PPM commercial nano-silver solution on hand as well as having the ability to make my own high quality ionic silver solutions if and when I either run into an antibiotic resistant infection or find that due to circumstances beyond my control I have lost access to common pharmaceuticals. Naturally I would prefer to rely upon boiling water, running it through my back country microbial water filter, or zapping it with my UV SteriPen, but I may not always have those options…

In relatively short term emergencies and crises, no need to leave the cities. In a full-on collapse, where for whatever reason the infrastructure has failed and will stay down for a long period of time, meaning the cavalry is not coming over the hill to feed all the folks in the city, the reality is there simply will be no way to keep to folks in the city fed and that if you don't get out to an area where more food is grown than consumed, then you simply won't make it out alive. Where do ten million people go to the bathroom when there are no sewage and water pumps pumping?
Hopefully there will be plenty of warnings before things get this bad where the cities become death traps. However, there are many scenarios in which this level of societal collapse could occur overnight, or certainly within a few days, such as in the event of a severe pandemic, EMP attack, or severe solar storm, like the Great Geomagnetic Storm of 1921 or the Carrington Event of 1859.
For a sobering article, check out 400 Chernobyls posted on Truthout.

Rwrek, there was a discussion thread on this a while back, but the gist of it was that–histoically–cities up to one million residents are sustainable with just horse-drawn power (ancient Rome, places like that.) In a peak oil scenario, the conclusion was that it would be wise to avoid highly populated areas since the food and water are brought in from the outside. That that takes energy, and if energy gets scarce these places could slowly become uninhabitable. In a sudden crisis, they could become literal death traps.I moved from the unsustainable megalopolis of the greater NYC area to near the caipitol of South Carolina. The city of Columbia, SC, has 100,000 souls and is surrounded by farmland. Much more sustainable.
If your "city" is not a megacity, you should be fine.

True, if you live in a small city surrounded by farmland, once local resilience tools are developed, such as trade and barter, things should work out as fairly well. However, if infrastructure collapse happens suddenly during the winter months, with just an average of three days stock on hand in any North American city at a given moment, you will somehow have to make it to the next spring crop of fresh vegetables pretty much on your own, or with the help of your friends and family…
When I spoke of cities, I was thinking of large US cities with widespread urban sprawl that has overtaken surrounding farmlands for many miles in all directions.

True, if you are in a suburban area, with large gardens and a good climate for growing things, along with abundant farmland nearby, then that sounds like a good place to be. Giant metro zones with far more population than could be fed from farms within a couple hundred miles–not so good place to be when the SHTF!– 

Thank you for the presentation! I very much enjoyed hearing you and Chris discussing this topic, as it's one that I find particularly interesting.

I wanted to bring up some points that I beleive at least add a level of mental exercise to the entire concept of "bugging out", and compare and contrast the urban and rural experiences. I'd like to say from the start, I much prefer the country, but preppers in general dismiss the cities as death-traps, and I think this is an unfair and facile assumption. I have a few points that I generally use to get people thinking about "bugging out" in a more 'critical' sense.

  1. Rural Landscapes don't want refugees

People in the country are generally established, familiar and to some varying degree, xenophobic. They don't like tourists, out of town fishermen, dirty hippies, condescending yuppies or loud teenagers. I know this is a generalization, but people who live in the quiet countryside do because it's quiet, and sparsely populated. 
In an emergency, when resources are tight, communities have a tendency to be welcoming and hospitable, but only to a point. They will have their own problems, and probably will not want yours - especially if the fleeing comes in droves, the way it has in places like Sudan.

  1. Rural Landscapes in times of poverty reduce citizens to serfs

Historically, those who dwell in the country are not wealthy land ownering agrarians with egalitarian values. Throughout most of Western History, farmers in the country farmed for what equated to feudal lords, and lived in poverty and without any opportunites for advancement in society, knowledge gaining and social mobility. This is something that should be strongly considered - especially for a protracted emergency that spans years, and perhaps generations. The social strata of the countryside is very monochromatic. You are either a land owner, or a laborer. A few who are especially talented might gain access to the artisan class.

  1. Cities Still have institutes that facilitate skill and knowledge building

Regardless of what the emergency, not every city will be destroyed, and all cities have some form of educaitonal centers which could serve as a 'reflective equilibrium' to brace urban communties from a loss of affluence. This is the case in Argentina, where even though times were tough, there were still scholastic opportunities and ways of improving your position by hard work. In addition, urban areas still have infrastructure.
Even if it's badly damaged, it will be significantly easier to get amenities on line after an emergency by tapping into the diverse occupational and educational specialities that are, again, very generally, broader in scope in urban areas.

  1. Bugging out is a horrendous risk

Again, from a historical perspective, even colonial America was plagued by highwaymen, road agents, rogue governments collecting taxes and the everyday burden of living off a poor diet while traveling through adverse conditions. You hold very little in the way of security, iniatitve and knowledge of your environment when you're traveling overland. Especially if you're with your family, or others who cannot protect themselves, you may find that there is simply not enough forage, or that you're an easy target for those who would lay an ambush for 'easy' targets. 

We're not talking about apex predators - we're talking about sneaking folks here who have no desire for a test of skill. Opportunists present themselves in criseses, and you put yourself in an extremely vulnerable position by traveling during an emergency.

I'm interested in hearing the thoughts you all may have on this, and when I have more time I'll try and find some of the historic support I used to form these opinions if necessary.



To me the best circumstance in which to find yourselves in a collapse situation is in your home that has been prepared.  Everyone needs to figure out whether that is possible, but if you can shelter in place, you have a big advantage over most others, country or city.  But, in the country there are fewer variables to worry about.  You know your neighbors and can ID strangers.  Generally country folk have more room to store food, water and equipment and are more likely than their city cousins to have arms and tools on hand.  They are more likely to have well water and septic systems that keep them "off grid" for those needs.  They have space for a garden and are likely to already have one or more as well as fruit and nut trees, livestock and awareness of who the farmers are and how to perform services for them or barter for food.   IOW, they already have a network that is an intact community.
OTOH town folks can also prep in place and can more easily work with neighbors to form groups to work on the various common needs.  The same can probably said for city neighborhoods that are already cohesive and where people know each other.  But then, you run into the problem of public utilities.  If they go down everyone has to have a viable alternative.  However, to the extent they can grow food, they become more sustainable.  I once lived in an urban neighborhood that had originally been settled by Italian immigrants.  They all had backyard gardens that could grow a surprising amount of food.  Plus, they understood how to create good soil to the extent that it was still wonderful soil generations later when I and my somewhat impoverished roommates lived there. We grew a lot of food that sustained us during some lean times.  So, if you live on an old city lot, check out your backyard soil.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

At any rate, those are considerations I think are important.  If you conclude you cannot prepare in place, you better have a place you can bug out to that is well prepared and have a plan to get there with loved ones.  Otherwise, you are ripe for the picking.


Mat -
While I can appreciate your efforts in the other areas being discussed, your assessment of 400 Chernobyls is not sobering, it is an abysmal, technical failure.  Anyone who cites Arnie Gunderson as an "expert" in nuclear power is foolish.  Gunderson would have you believe that spent fuel pools are more of a danger than reactor cores undergoing loss of coolant and active meltdown?  Complete loss of focus - in the submarine world we call it "losing the bubble".  In addition to inflating his resume, Gunderson has made quite the name for himself by presenting the worst case scenario as imminent.  In short, he blew his Fukushima Daiichi assessment right out his backside.  It really is quite annoying to those of us with real resumes and experience in the nuclear power industry.
I'll stick with your other material…

I live in a city now where basically everyone knows everyone else. It is a little over 5000 people, a country/farming setting, and well armed as the wild life is near. Pick your own type farms, cider mill nearby, and horse stables for the City folks who come to ride the countryside. A few minutes away is a Great Lakes and terrific fishing. Nearby also are the mega cities, where everything from A to Z can be purchased. Frankly the best of all worlds.

Our city has its own wells for use by the citizens, natural gas and propane for the country folks who in some instances live across the street in a township and the pipelines haven't crossed. Most all have wood burning stoves.

Farm animals for meat cost less than store bought, and often come cheaper to those who spend a weekend day helping his farmer friend clean the manure out of the barn. I purchase my meat at cost to a farmer who raises them as we slaughter them twice a year. 

The benefit of having relationships in a small community is that your home, your property is secured when you are gone away with just the mention of your intent. We all know who the strangers are, who don't fit. So, the value to this is inescapable.

 These are the types of communities that have never lost the sense of true community, and I believe will fair best in times of crisis. I can honestly say I know few in my community that doesn't have a freezer full of meat and staples for months into the future plus are armed well enough to protect their homes and that of their neighbors. Many feeder roads lead to other communities less than 10 miles away with similar populations, and trains still run through town so that invaluable part of our past history has been maintained.

I have lived the Big City and small city life, and small is my preference, hands down. I can always go to the Big City, and can't wait to get home either when my business is done. Maddening experience now as there is more people at the Mall than in my entire town.


Go Tigers





Love the show! 

Just found this movie like scenario through one of my subs on Youtube.


It is awesome. Hope you guys enjoy as much as I do.  Going to submit to peakprosp to see if they want these guys on.