I confess. I like to read apocalypse fiction. Sometimes it’s for the humor of it: Doesn’t everyone understand the impossibility of an earthquake so massive that Las Vegas becomes a beach town? Other disaster stories make me think: What if I were in that situation? How would I respond?
That’s the mindset Sam Sheridan had when he started his quest to test himself in real-world extreme survival situations. The result is a memoir, The Disaster Diaries: One Man’s Quest to Learn Everything Necessary to Survive the Apocalypse.
Sheridan has worked as an EMT, a wilderness firefighter, a sailor, a cowboy, and on a construction crew at the South Pole. That’s not to mention being an amateur boxer, mixed martial art fighter, and a Harvard grad. In spite of all this experience and training, he was concerned that he was afraid he would be unable to protect his son in the event of a disaster.
In the diaries, Sheridan took on every disaster scenario you can think of, plus some you probably hadn’t thought of. I’m familiar with urban disaster preparedness, even wrote a book on the subject once. But the extreme wilderness of the arctic hadn’t crossed my mind. Sheridan didn’t stop at the conditions, he also went extreme on types of preparation: extreme wilderness medicine, self-defense (beyond knowing how to use a weapon), and defensive driving (you know, like the bad guys use in the movies to avoid capture).
Each chapter begins with a short fictional tale, which highlights the skills that Sheridan will test. After riveting telling of his survival experience, what he learned, and why, Sheridan finishes the short story at the end of the chapter.
Remember that Sheridan already had several years of experience in what many of us would consider atypical situations. He was an EMT, but decided he needed more serious training. He was a trained fighter, but added to his skills by learning about different and unique weapons. Will he need all of this training? Who knows.
Two chapters caught my interest. First, the tale of Nunavik Arctic Survival Training Center in northern Canada. I’ve always been of the opinion that if somehow Central Texas suffer extreme cold after a polar shift or Yellowstone volcano, all I had to do was stoke the fire a little more and add another layer of clothing. After reading this chapter, I learned how hard it can be to stay warm and safe.
The second was the chapter dealing with mental health. Very rarely is this considered when making plans for any kind of disaster. Whether it’s Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or depression caused by the loss incurred, there will be mental health problems after a disaster. Not enough attention is paid to this problem. Sheridan didn’t attend any extreme camp for this issue. He did interview psychologists who work with trauma patients, most notably Dr. Ghislaine Boulanger, who began her work with Vietnam veterans.
Whether you decide to read this book for the entertainment value, and there is plenty, or to learn more about preparing for the inevitable disaster, I recommend reading it. You will not look at disaster scenarios the same.
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