I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Suzanne, professional Survival Mom and Operations Manager at Grey Tactical Outfitters in Destin, FL.
JH: Suzanne, thank you for joining me today.
S: Hi, John. You are welcome. I enjoy Lisa’s blog and visit the site often. My husband and sons are always interested in Instant Survival Tips! It is a pleasure and honor to be here.
JH: Likewise. The work your family is doing here at Grey Tactical Outfitters is rather uncommon. How long have you been in business?
S: We opened the doors on our Retail Store 18 months ago and put the Training Programs in place a few months later. We’ve been part of the military community here in Northwest Florida for many years – it is exciting to see so many Troops frequenting our store! The product feedback we receive from our customers who serve (in the Armed Forces) is invaluable to us.
JH: Did your involvement in the military and Special Ops communities spark your interest in survival and tactical equipment?
S: Yes, though “sparking our interest” is not how I would put it. It rapidly became an emergency management lifestyle. Two decades ago – wow, has it been that long? – two decades ago we were stationed in Guam, with an infant son. While there, we weathered two typhoons as well as one earthquake that shook us for an entire minute! Besides being scary, these events presented me with real problems (my husband was deployed – a lot!) For example, once we went without running water for more than a month. We collected rainwater from the roof in clean garbage cans for the baby’s bath, and grew accustomed to using bleach to ensure that our drinking water was pure. Oh yeah, I contracted giardia while pregnant with our second. Being pregnant, it took a few months to obtain approval for a prescription to treat the giardia. I was miserable and sick but things ended well with a 9 ½ pound baby boy. For a while, in Guam, we only had power for only about one hour per day. We had to preposition laundry and other chores that required power. If the lights came on in the middle of the night, we jumped up and scrambled to vacuum, do dishes, cook, etc…! Shortly thereafter we became the only family to acquire a generator, so we ended making lots of friends out of our neighbors, which was lots of fun.
JH: Your family certainly has an uncommon history. I suppose your sons have grown up with a natural awareness of these often-overlooked survival concerns?
S: Oh yes, the boys are all part of the business, and they all have their own “go-bags.” They once lived without electricity for three days when we were in Okinawa. I had them help to secure all of our outdoor stuff during a hurricane there. It was in Okinawa and Guam that I learned the value of food storage. I bought canned and dry goods when they were available, as there were no guarantees the shelves would be restocked. You never knew when the ports would close and disrupt the supply chain. Those experiences made hurricane season here in Florida feel like home! Speaking of Florida – the gardening here is fabulous. I love to garden and could talk about it for days! Maybe we can speak again on the topic some other time? I will tell you this: we love to have citrus trees around the house. Half of our fruit-bearing trees are planted in the ground, with the other half in planters in case we have to evacuate. I love to grow potatoes in pots as well. The pots prevent the potatoes from contaminating the soil for next year’s garden. So much to think of regarding gardening… I really love it.
JH: Many of those experiences seem difficult to anticipate. In hindsight, what would you do differently to be more prepared?
S: Looking back, I wish I had identified more of the things we weren’t good at and sought out more information or even formal training. In fact, over the years my husband has scheduled a number of courses for us. I took a course on dealing with terrorism. All of us, the boys included, took courses on dynamic driving in unstable environments. It is true – those early experiences taught us the value of training.
JH: Now I understand why you run a preparedness business! Your store is full of top-notch gear – I am working my Birthday and Christmas lists! What advice would you give to someone who wants their family to learn about survival and preparedness?
S: Consider some of the things that could happen and document them in a list. For example, hurricanes, earthquakes, power outages, shortages… each presents threats to a family and their needs. Consider canned and dry goods. My boys like rice, so we always have large bags of it packed away. I am gluten-free and like products from Augason Farms. We practice all the fundamentals: canning, gardening, as well as the storage and rotation of medical supplies and other consumables. It is a lifestyle that we built incrementally, over time, and I recommend others do the same.
JH: Yes, I agree, and like how you recommend these things “incrementally.” May I ask what you include in your Every Day Carry (EDC)?
S: Sure. I have one small “go-bag” in my car, in a briefcase (with larger bags packed elsewhere.) It includes a string backpack with sweats and tennis shoes in case of a breakdown. Of course a medical kit, a small amount of food and water, two different flashlights, water purification, fire starter, matches, an emergency blanket, a knife… I believe in carrying a firearm, as well. Even our dog is practicing carrying his go-bag now. We have a canine bag and pack it with water, dog food, and pet medicine for him. It is helping to keep him fit! Truthfully our family sees much of this as fun rather than work.
JH: Given that people are becoming increasingly interested in survival and preparedness, how will your business evolve over the next few years?
S: Our plan is to grow by constantly researching the best new products. Our close ties with the Special Ops world keeps us in tune with the latest and greatest gear and we pass the knowledge on to customers. We want to be force-multipliers for customers through training and education, so I do not hire salespeople in my store. Our employees are experienced in survival and preparedness (note: most are current and former military who are here to serve as trainers.)
JH: I know that I value their input when I am here… so much to learn! Suzanne, thank you again for taking the time to talk to me. As a gear-junkie I could discuss survival equipment every day. If anyone has questions about the work you are doing here at Grey, how can they contact you?
S: You are welcome, John. Our “GTO Store” can be found at GreyTacticalOutfitters.com. I enjoyed our conversation – it really brought back memories!
JH: I enjoyed it as well. With hurricane season approaching, I am happy to have friends like you! I look forward to talking to you again soon.
Visit John’s website The Survival Template.
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