Book review: Getting Out Alive

I’ve been off the radar for awhile. It’s been a busy time with school work and general “stuff” around our micro-homestead. Hopefully, things will level off a bit and you’ll be reading more of us soon.

This weekend, I was thrilled to find Scott B. Williams’ Getting Out Alive: 13 Deadly Scenarios and How Others Survived in my mailbox. I have been waiting for it since I read his previous book this summer. I teach Disaster Psychology for our local Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) training weekends. In these trainings, we cover the importance not only of nuts-and-bolts preparedness, but of the mental aspect of emergencies as well. Scott B. Williams’ books are on my recommended reading list for trainees.

Scott B. Williams’ latest work Getting Out Alive, is an excellent contribution to the field of emergency preparedness literature.  Coming as it does, on the heels of his successful book Bug Out: The Complete Plan for Escaping a Catastrophic Disaster Before It’s Too Late, you might expect Getting Out Alive to be targeted at the survivalist crowd – but it’s not. It’s a literal survival and preparedness book for people who don’t like thinking about emergencies and who certainly don’t like books about preparedness. And, in this, it excels.

I’ve often joked that civilization is a veneer. A veneer is a thin layer of wood bonded to a an inferior or less attractive substrate to improve its appearance. Very little furniture nowadays is, at its core, what it appears to be on its surface. Civilization is like that. It is a thin layer of civility held in place by the glue of modern conveniences and the ephemeral presence of authority. Take away our lights, our water, our sensory stimulation (television, radio, cell phones) and we don’t know what to do with ourselves. Take away the deterrent of law enforcement or government and people revert to their more primal natures with alarming speed. The reverse is also true. Most people have become so far removed from their more primal selves that when they find themselves in situations like those in Williams’ latest book, they don’t know what to do with themselves either.

Getting Out Alive is a collection of potentially deadly scenarios that deftly demonstrate exactly how easy it is to find yourself between a rock and a hard spot with no hope of escape or rescue. Each one of Williams’ 13 deadly tales could begin with the words, “It all started innocently enough.” Each scenario presents plausible circumstances that any of us could find ourselves in without warning and presents potential options for escape and survival. Each scenario is accompanied by real life tales of other victims who endured similar survival situations – some of them made it out, many didn’t. Each scenario is also accompanied by snippets of wisdom related to the particular scenario circumstances (like forest fires, or being snowbound). Most valuable, however, are the Ten Tips for Survival that appear at the end of each scenario. If you read nothing else, be sure to read the Ten Tips at the end of each chapter. If you read nothing else out of this book, you’ll regret it, but at least you’ll be slightly better armed for an encounter with unforeseen circumstances.

The greatest strength of Getting Out Alive is that it demonstrates that any one of us can find ourselves in a bad place without any warning  –  yet it also explains exactly how simple it is to be prepared. This is a great book for your friends who think that emergency preparedness is for paranoid survivalists. It drives the point home that anyone can be a victim in a disaster or an emergency and that it’s everyone’s responsibility to take steps to be prepared. Getting Out Alive is not a step by step guide to being prepared, it’s something more important – a book designed to change the way people think about emergencies.

I know that I get concerned that people I know and love just don’t think anything can happen to them.  And I know that not one of these people will tuck away an extra can of soup or roll of toilet paper or bother to pack a bug-out bag until they really buy into the idea that they are not immune to emergencies.  I can only hope that the light bulb goes on above their heads and they take measures to keep themselves safe.

If you’ve been worried that people you care about just aren’t ready for an emergency, Getting Out Alive would be a great gift that might just change the way they think.

As always, thanks for reading.



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