June 13, 2024

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I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a Jon Hollerman “fan-boy.” I was first introduced to him via podcasts. I soon invested in his bug out bug out bag DVD, and books. While I hope to one day make use of his consulting services, that is a while off. Until then, I will continue to follow him and especially learn from his best of the best book “Survival Theory: A Preparedness Guide.”

In this article, I take a hard look at Survival Theory chapter by chapter. While I’ve read this book cover to cover a half-dozen times, I still gain a bit more on each reading. I’ll summarize the contents of the chapter and give you an honest opinion of where this volume fits in a well-stocked survival library.

Survival Theory Introduction

Jonathan starts this volume with an honest appraisal of where we all stand if the worse comes to pass. In doing so, he introduces not just his opinions, but those of several experts within the industry (e.g., electrical company executives) and the US federal government.

Many of the warnings are stark and dire, especially considering the sources.

“On November 20, 2014, Admiral Rogers, who is the Commander of US Cyber Command, testified before the Congressional Intelligence Committee that America’s critical infrastructure (including the electric grid) is completely vulnerable to attack by multiple enemy nations and groups who currently have the knowledge and the ability to literally “flip the switch” on our electric grid at any time.”

— Survival Theory: A Preparedness Guide by Jonathan Hollerman

Once he has laid out a solid footing for our shaky future due to the surrounding threats, he questions your current status. As he recognizes, you’ve picked this book up for a reason.

“If you are reading this and you haven’t started preparing, it is most likely for one or more of the following three distinct reasons: 1-You aren’t convinced that the threat is real. 2-You’re overwhelmed and you don’t even know where to start. 3-You don’t want to be stigmatized by your friends and family as a “Survivalist.””

— Survival Theory: A Preparedness Guide by Jonathan Hollerman

With the foundation laid, he gets into specifics… In great detail.

Survival Theory Chapters 1-6, Threats Everywhere

“What are you preparing for” he asks in the first chapter. We all came to prepping and survival for a reason. Maybe you’re a child of the 80s and grew up with the threat of nuclear war. Or maybe you recently came to it via the pandemic. On this note, he was particularly prescient.

Also, particular to the current age, is his warning about financial collapse. Where he spends most of the text though, is in the failure of the electrical grid.

Jonathan spends the next three chapters detailing how EMPs, cyber attacks, and physical attack. I think we all know that our grid is fragile. Having it laid out in such a fashion is eye opening to even the most seasoned prepper.

From the 2007 Aurora Project, that demonstrated physical damage from a cyber attack, to the Metcalf attack. He presents a realistic view of the true fragility of the grid. We are only a few missteps away from total and long-lasting grid failure.

Each of the scenarios presented echoes what we all know. The grid is fragile at best, and worse yet, very little is being done to protect us. The exploitations are many, however; the voices preaching the hardening of the grid often go unheeded.

This is especially the case for solar flares and electromagnetic pulse events. Otherwise known as EMPs. He defines both events and their relation to each other. Further, he provides a history lesson that it’s not a matter of if. Just when we will get hit.

From the CME near miss of July 12, to potential Iranian sea-based missile launches. The threats are there for anyone who chooses to look. It doesn’t take much to find them.

Life After Grid Down

The final chapters of this section present a view of life after a grid-down event. He states that this type of event will transport us back to the 1800s. We simply no longer have the skills to survive such a sudden change. In particular, the US Government does not have the means to respond to a disaster of that scale. FEMA is designed, staffed, and supplied for only regional disasters.

In short, we will be on our own.

He then paints the picture of the personal impact. Most households go shopping every three days and have less than two weeks of food. Emergency services will quickly fail to respond, and essential services will be unavailable.

Here, he provides a view of personal experience as a SERE instructor. During this experience, he saw the effect of hunger on well-trained men and women. Starvation causes desperation and an all-encompassing focus on food. Further, he asks the extents a father would go to in order to feed a starving and withered child.

These two chapters are particularly hard to read as he confronts you with an honest assessment of the average person’s inability to cope with a disaster of this scale.

Survival Theory Chapters 7-8: Getting Off The ‘X’

He dedicates the next two chapters to the process of moving you and your family to a location of increased safety and survivability. Here, he looks at the options of going lone wolf, eternally roaming, the suburban bug-in, and finally bugging out.

He honestly does not have a lot of love for the lone wolf. This is the individual that plans to head to the hinterlands alone to survive on wits alone. Again, he brings a voice of experience to the conversation. As a SERE instructor, he spent a much of his time surviving in the woods and training others to survive the experience. Even with a small group, basic survival is near impossible as food and heat occupy almost all of your time and energy.

He then presents the challenges of roaming the countryside in an armored bug out vehicle. The first assumption is that roads will be passible. It is highly probable that they will not be. Even if they are, the challenge of gasoline may be insurmountable.

Even the bugging in, in his view, will be difficult to survive. Anything short of a remote community will ultimately lead to starving people at your door. You simply cannot protect yourselves from the numbers all days every day. Eventually, you will slip up or they will outnumber you.

Bugging Out

Next in the book is a recommendation of bugging out and the associated timeline. Any grid down scenario will require swift action to recognize the situation, get organized, and bug out. As the days progress, his plan includes moving from populated roads (highways) to back roads, and moving with increased security and awareness (e.g., no fires).

As a preparedness consultant, specializing in bug out properties, he has a lot to say here. But we will get into his ideal bug out location in a few chapters.

Survival Theory Chapter 9: Staffing Your Retreat

One of the biggest challenges of grid down life is how to manage the 24/7 activities of health, sanitation, food, and security. One person can’t do it all alone. You must have a group. This requires finding people you can trust your life with.

This is not without its challenges, and he presents a positive plan for meeting, recruiting, and bringing people into the fold.

Survival Theory Chapters 10-13: BOBs and Supplies

No survival book worth the paper it’s printed on can go without a section on bug out bags. Survival Theory has an interesting approach to the types of bags. Here, Jonathan presents the Get Home Bag, Lone Wolf Bag, Assault Pack, and the 3-Day bag. His description of the 3-day bag most closely matches the common bug out bag description.

These chapters detail the use and contents of each bag. He leaves it to the reader to determine the best bags for their situation. Most will have a get home bag, 3-day bag, and potentially an assault bag.

Next, he nicely layers the contents of the bags, spending appropriate time on the key contents, including tools for fire, water, a knife, flashlight, and medical components. Being a self-professed flashlight guy, his recommendations for power and batteries are well thought out and we can learn from them.

Likewise, he presents excellent coverage of medical supplies. This is especially in the case for separating trauma supplies from the standard first aid kit. Specifically, he states.

“What I carry in this compact trauma kit is: 1-Pair of nitrile gloves 1-Pair of Hyfin Vent chest seals 1-Israeli 4” battle dressing or a 4” flat fold H-battle dressing 1-Z-fold Celox impregnated gauze 1-Celox granule plunger 1-Combat application tourniquet (CAT) attached to the side of the pouch”

— Survival Theory: A Preparedness Guide by Jonathan Hollerman

Finally, he covers an encyclopedia of “other” supplies to consider for your bags.

Survival Theory Chapters 14-15: Guns and Gear

I especially appreciated his well thought out chapters on guns and gear. In short, a modern battle rifle, reliable pistol, and clothing/accessories all fall under the category of buy quality.

He spends quite a bit of time recognizing that there are many tools out there that will fit the need of your survival situation and he does not pretend that his recommendations are scripture. Read his recommendations and incorporate his opinions into your own systems.

Survival Theory Chapters 16-17: Food

Some of the most valuable chapters in the book are those on food. As stated, his experience as a SERE instructor has given him a unique insight into the effect of starvation on the human psyche.

Leveraging this experience, he has driven deep into the topics of short-term food, long-term staples, and purchasing freeze dried.

For the new prepper, the book introduces copy canning as a fundamental tool for increasing your short-term food stores. This is essentially buying more of what you already eat, as long as it can be stored for a year or more. By spending a little extra each shopping trip, you can quickly build up your short-term storage.

His long-term plan relies heavily, as it should, on staples including rice and beans. Where he starts to warn the reader is when purchasing long-term storage kits. Often these pre-packaged, and overly expensive, sets either fall far short of real calorie needs, or displace the calories into high-sugar foods. Neither will get you through a true crisis.

Within Survival Theory, he provides the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) calculator as an essential tool for identifying your true caloric needs.

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