Check It Out: In a dangerous world, read up to prepare




Jan Johnston is the Collection Development Coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at

When I woke up this past Monday and saw the smoky skies, I just wanted to go back to bed. Then when I headed outside and noticed a layer of ash on the car, I thought, yep, I should have gone back to bed. But then when I looked up and saw the sun — no longer the familiar yellow orb we’re used to seeing but instead a blazing orange ball — well, I didn’t feel like going back to bed … just freaked out. Had I suddenly become a character in a science fiction movie? No, I could hear the neighbor’s turkeys gobbling, and because I know that a turkey would never agree to be in a science fiction film — film noir, perhaps, but never sci-fi — I had to assume one of two things: A) there was a big fire somewhere close by, or B) the sun was going to explode — and going back to bed was probably the best option.

We know now that the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge was the reason for the ominous-looking sun. Thousands of acres were burning, sending smoke and ash our way — sure signs that a devastating fire was taking place. This fire, combined with the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey, and the potential for large-scale destruction posed by Hurricane Irma has put me on edge, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. Do we have to worry about hurricanes in this part of the world? No, but wildfires are a concern, obviously, and I’m sure I don’t have to list out other potential calamities.

What I do know is that I need a plan. My husband and I have talked about what to do in an emergency, but I know I’m not as prepared as I should be. This is important stuff, so there’s no time like the present to get ready for tomorrow. Not that I’m going to turn into a hard-core survivalist, but the world keeps doing things that keep me awake at night.

If, like me, your good intention to “be prepared” has slipped a little (or a lot), and now you aren’t sure where to start, don’t panic. There are books to help guide the way! The following list of titles offers a little bit of everything from the basics of emergency planning (water, food, first aid, shelter, safety) to more advanced preparedness (building a fire with damp wood, navigating by the stars). Then hold on to your flashlights. Two of the titles will help you to prepare for either unimaginable (yet possible) disasters — a solar storm that results in the loss of electrical power, or, imaginary catastrophes — surviving a Sharknado or fighting off a Mongolian death worm (really, truly, these will never happen).

No matter the emergency, real or otherwise, Semper paratus. Always ready.

• “Badass Prepper’s Handbook: Everything You Need to Know to Prepare Yourself for the Worst,” by James Henry — I know that the term “prepper” might conjure up images of backyard bomb shelters and living in the bush, but if we’re forced to survive off the grid, better to have some basic prepper skills than none at all.

• “Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag: Your 72-Hour Disaster Survival Kit,” by Creek Stewart — If an unexpected emergency/disaster happens, your only option may be “bugging out” of your home. In that case, a survival kit, or “bug out bag” will be essential. Bone up on bugging out with this informative title.

• “Disaster Preparedness for EMP Attacks and Solar Storms,” by Arthur T. Bradley — No one likes to think about TEOTWAWKI (the end of the world as we know it), but isn’t it better to have some sort of plan than to panic? If all electrical power was lost due to a solar storm or an EMP (electromagnetic pulse) attack, life would be … rough. To put it politely. Yeah, this might be where I go back to bed.

• “Emergency Preparedness: A Practical Guide for Preparing Your Family,” by Evan M. Gabrielsen — Many of the titles in this list present similar information when it comes to emergency preparation, but if “prepper” and “deadly skills” sound too extreme for you and your family, give this family-friendly book a try.

• “How to Survive a Sharknado and Other Unnatural Disasters: Fight Back When Monsters and Mother Nature Attack,” by Andrew Shaffer — If you believe in Sharknados (when man-eating sharks are dumped on a major city after a freak hurricane) or Arachnoquakes (when fire-breathing spiders emerge from the earth after a series of earthquakes), you’re probably watching the Syfy channel too much. But reading this quirky how-to guide for surviving ridiculous disasters — yes, ridiculous — might take your mind off the real ones.

• “100 Deadly Skills: Survival Edition: The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Surviving in the Wild and Being Prepared for Any Disaster,” by Clint Emerson — No question about it: Navy SEALS know how to survive. Get critical life-saving information from a retired member of the U.S. Navy’s special operations force. Military survival tactics written for a civilian audience? We’re in good hands.

• “Prepare for Anything Survival Manual,” by Tim MacWelch — The publisher offers three takeaways from this survival manual: GEAR UP, GET SKILLED, SURVIVE ANYTHING. The author is the founder and head instructor of the business Advanced Survival Training, and his book will provide you with a life-long survival skill set.

Jan Johnston is the collection development coordinator for the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. Email her at