Ask TheSurvivalMom: What skills should a prepper learn?

image by moonstarsilverwolf

Yesterday, this email popped up in my in-box.

I started reading your site along with a few others, and find myself agreeing with much that you and your fellow preppers write about.
I was wondering if you could point out a few good web sites that offer basic skills that will be needed in the next few years.  Anything from basic survival skill craft, all the way up to pioneer skills such as basic farming to setting up a foundry for blacksmithing.  Basically, if I saw it on “Little House on the Prarie,” then it’s probably something ‘d be interested in, as would, perhaps, many of your readers.

I do have some resource suggestions for this reader, Paul D., but some additional comments as well.  Here is my answer.

The first step I would take is a good First Aid class.  Some towns and community colleges offer emergency response courses, and those would be good, too.  It won’t take the place of having a doctor or hospital nearby, but if you were unable to get to one quickly, the training might save a life.
After that, learn how to grow your own produce if you haven’t done so already.  It takes time to learn what your particular patch of land will grow and to develop the soil.  For beginners, I recommend the Square-Foot Gardening method.  It’s very easy, doesn’t take much space, and you can add, add, and add more of these square foot gardens as your space allows and your gardening skills improve.  This will provide you and your family with nutritious produce, and most likely, you’ll end up with enough left over to sell, give away, and/or preserve by canning and dehydrating.
Think about back-ups, and that will give you additional ideas.  For example, if your electricity or gas goes out and you have no heat in your home, what could you do?  What are some back-up systems you could learn about and build right now to prepare for that eventuality?  Same with cooking food and having a source of purified water.
Consider how to cover the basics first:  health, food, water, shelter.  What is nice about most of these is that they’re also ways to earn money now and in the future.  If you know how to repair appliances, for example, you could barter that skill in exchange for things you might not have. 
Taking a wilderness and/or urban survival course would be another good step.  They will likely open your eyes to even more areas in which you need training.
For now, I’m not so sure that blacksmithing would take a priority, unless it’s just something you would like to learn.  The time and money it would take to build a forge and acquire all the tools and materials might be better spent on an EMT course.
Here are a couple of links that might be helpful:
Finally, get your hands on any or all of the Foxfire book series.  They are a gold mine for just this type of information.

There may be links in the post above that are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission, which does not affect the price you pay for the product. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

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I'm the original Survival Mom, and have been helping moms worry less and enjoy their homes and families more for 5 years. Come join me on my journey to becoming more prepared to handle everyday emergencies and worst case scenarios.

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  1. Lori says

    What great ideas! I definitely think everyone can benefit from these! Thanks for posting them! As always great job! :)

  2. LizLong says

    I started looking into EMT training, but it's A LOT of training and more than I have time for with everything else. However, the four hour First Aid Class from Red Cross is A LOT less than I feel comfortable having. Red Cross has a class called "Emergency First Responder" that they don't generally seem to offer to the public. Businesses, fire stations, and police are more likely to get it. However, if you have a group of six, you should be able to get them to come out and give you a class – it's worth checking into. It's about 40 hrs of training. Along with my CPR and AED (the paddles they use to shock a heart), I feel a lot more comfortable. Now if I could just get some wilderness first aid….

    I have seen this CERT group mentioned several times lately. It seems like they're rally good in some areas, to nonexistent in others. How good they are seems to depend on how motivated the local population is to make them good, which makes sense.

    Now I need to go get some Foxfire books, Lisa. :-) And look into learning how to pick a lock….

    • Barbara says

      Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts) Advanced first aid is good for the non-medical person. Deals with more than just bandaids and calling 911. Even if EMT training is a LOT, do a little at a time. Almost any of this info is available on-line. Review what you can there first, then see if there's an "accelerated" face to face class. (Hands on, and face to face is almost always the best way to learn.) (Can you imagine going to a surgeon who's never actually touched an appendix?)
      Mom, my husband has been a locksmith all his life. There's more to it than you'd think. Aside from every car being different, most ordinary door locks are hard even for pro's to "pick". They usually end up just drilling them out. I'm not trying to dissuade you from learning a useful thing, just inform you that it's not a "simple" craft.
      the Foxfire series is free online somewhere. I've seen it and read part. If I was as literate in computers as I am in food preserving I'd be able to send a link. As it is I'll have to send you home-bottled grilled chicken. lol

  3. rightwingmom says

    Totally agree with taking a First Aid course and learning CPR. Thanks for the link, Liz.

    I've been working on homeopathic and herbal remedies. I'm NOT a pro at it yet, but I'm learning. If society has a shortage of basic meds. this knowledge will come in handy.

  4. Nana says

    I would add sewing and just plain cooking as skills that so many people today have lost. Also raising chickens and keeping bees are skills/hobbies that can usually be practiced even in limited areas.

  5. Rich says

    "Helping You Live The Life You Want, If Times Get Tough, Or Even If They Don't"
    I have lived by this for MANY years. Jack from TSP does a good job of articulating it.
    Anyway the point that I would like to make as far as skills go from a medical standpoint is that EMT training is great and “sexy” and all of that and it does come in handy at times. end part 1 – Rich

  6. Rich says

    part 2 For entry level though and to be able to earn money as you go or to have something that you could ‘fallback on” in this wonderful economy, it is hard to beat CNA training. Certified Nursing Assistants typically have around 120 hours of classroom and clinical training before you take the board test and get a license from the state Board of Nursing. Every hospital and/or nursing home is always short of good staff to care for patients. Pay rates can start as low as $8.00 an hour to as high as $15 -17 an hour depending on experience.

  7. Rich says

    part 3 In my almost 40 years of nursing practice in everything from EMS, OR, OB to ICU/NICU, along with teaching nursing and medical students and CNAs & EMTs – the people who start out as a CNA and then go on to EMT consistently do better than the ones who do EMT first and then CNA. Another issue to ponder; there are 24 hours in the day. EMT focuses on the “golden hour” which is the first hour after an injury in a day to day situation; CNA teaches you how to care for a person for the 23.5 + hours that it takes someone to recover after the injury. Which is going to be used more?
    YMMV but that is my 2 cents worth [not adjusted for inflation]

    • LizLong says

      It is helpful to know that all that – thanks. I started looking into EMT training, but there is no way I can manage it at this point in my life. I plan on doing Emergency First Responder Training because I can handle 40 hrs. Maybe I'll be able to do the CNA training in the next year or so – 120 hours is probably doable, unless I need to take my youngest out of daycare next year for financial reasons. But it's nice to know more about training options. Thanks!

      • Rich says

        Check with the local nursing homes and hospitals, some of them have started having day care on site [shows how despert they are…. :} IF you are a good hard worker they sometimes make it easy for you on that part. The down side to any healthcare jobs is that you are exposed to a bunch of sick people [sick in body and mind too sometimes] The best thing though is that you are getting paid to improve your skills, which makes you more marketable and better able to care for your own family and friends.


  8. RV says

    Check the meetup website for your local area-most have a prepper sub-group that offers a variety of classes. They offer things like wilderness training, concealed weapon permit classes, CPR, etc. Last month I attended a suturing class!

    Here’s an example of the courses in Fort Myers, Florida:

  9. says

    Being a licensed CNA, I can say with great authority that if you are looking for medical training, you do NOT want to spend your time and money on a CNA class. While this job is a necessary and worthy job to have in this day and age, when it comes to taking care of people in an environment lacking medical facilities, this is not the information you want/need to have, unless you think learning how to change sheets with someone in the bed (really, you should be able to figure this one out on your own) or the ‘correct’ way to place a bedpan under someone, bathe someone who can’t bathe themselves (if you’re a parent, you already should have that skill) or wash your hands properly. Honestly, unless you’re looking for a career in the medical field and want a fairly cheap, quick way to get employed, this isn’t necessary for ‘prepper’ stuff.

    A first aid class (which you’re required to take to become a CNA), proper hygiene/infection control classes/info are your best bet. If you want to learn how to take care of people who are INJURED, then you should definitely take EMT classes or something along those lines. Remember, if you just need this information for your prepper knowledge-base, you don’t have to become certified. You only need certification if you are looking to use this information/skill as a career.

    Check your local volunteer rescue squads and fire stations to see if they offer free (or cheap) classes in these areas.

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