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How to Survive the End of the World in Northeast Ohio 

When The Shit Hits The Fan, We Turn To The Preppers

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Whether it was a frantic search for candles and flashlights following the initial outages or desperate attempts to keep warm during the night, problems lurked around every corner. Senior citizens, physically handicapped residents and people living alone found themselves in particularly dire situations, highlighting the importance of community during times of duress, and how powerful cooperative efforts suddenly become when alternatives dwindle.

Knight's point becomes clearer: "It's common sense." Get your act together and think ahead. Then you, too, can relax as the storm rolls into town, knowing that you and your family and neighbors are safe.

In the run-up to Sandy's Lake Erie impact and in the weeks that followed, Knight and his fellow preppers also demonstrated the American values within the prepper lifestyle: cooperation and community. That's in marked contrast to the closed-off bunker-building and paranoia they're so often tagged with.

The group's latest project involved compiling the bare necessities -- materials that can be easily collected and stashed somewhere safe. And that's not an insular plan solely for members of the group, Knight said; he and his compatriots have an outreach plan.

"The idea is to help the community," Knight says, referring to post-Sandy volunteer efforts. The preparation bags being assembled include food, clothing and the essentials for a family of four to live off of for one week. He noted that individuals would do well to remember their own personal effects, like prescription medicine or contact lenses.

"No two people are the same," he says. "You can't create a plan for (everyone)." And the idea of personalized planning is something well worth considering, Knight said. The impact of Superstorm Sandy along Northeast Ohio provided a very real template for area residents to filter through their own preparations, responses and approaches.

* * *

Down the road in Akron, Thom Conroy has written hundreds of articles on prepping. Like others in Northeast Ohio, his approach to preparing for uncertainty is grounded in common sense and education. And the latter, at least, is relatively accessible in our neck of the woods.

"You can't throw a rock without hitting a college here," he says. Indeed, common sense - and the gray stuff between your ears - is going to prove far more helpful than a skyscraper of Spaghetti-Os tucked away in your basement, though one is more delicious than the other.

"It occurred to me that people put too much of an emphasis on what you need to buy," says Conroy. "You can't go wrong if you have a skill set and if you're based and balanced in how you view what could happen and how you'll react to it."

The American Prepper Network's resources beginners' FAQs are riddled with supply lists that include anything from 50-pound bags of grains and rice to industrial-strength tent and camping equipment.

"It's just too commercial," he says. "And there's not enough value and emphasis placed on the homesteading skills. I carry my supplies in my head."

Access to resources, again, would be the umbrella under which all other survival instincts originate. And first and foremost, that relates to the health and safety of you, your family and your community.

Cynthia Koelker is an Akron-based physician who runs armageddonmedicine.net. With 25 years and running of family practice on her resume, she recently struck out on a path of education, offering medical lessons for times of emergency.

Knight's group teamed up with Koelker earlier this year to run through a condensed take on the doctor's suturing and casting class. Typically a three-day affair, Koelker hit the highlights with the locals and emphasized some of the finer points of minor surgical work on the run.

Her classes meet the prepper community's desire to learn how to be your own doctor when there's no other choice. Not a prepper herself, she initially pondered who would be interested in learning such skills.

Crisis response workers, local missionaries, EMTs looking to expand their tool belt -- they've all made their way to her classes, which are held sporadically in and around the area. (Look for one coming up in March.) But overwhelmingly, her students aren't specialists from any particular background.

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