Author and self-defense expert Richard Duarte compiled his years of professional experience and skills he perfected while surviving a natural disaster into a book entitled, Surviving Doomsday: A Guide for Surviving an Urban Disaster. In the book Duarte discusses the obstacles faced by urban preppers, as well as general survival skills for residents of suburban and rural areas.
Duarte is a Miami attorney and firearms expert. He became more focused on living a self-reliant lifestyle after living through a natural disaster. While his methods and tips offer very sound advice for all concerned with enhancing their survival and preparedness skills, they are of particular interest to urban preppers.
There are a multitude of differences between urban and rural preppers, but one thing both groups have in common are concerns about civil unrest. Urban preppers often voice worries about looting and lawlessness on the city streets after either a man-made or natural disaster. Rural preppers are typically surrounded by far fewer neighbors, and those they do have are typically possessed of a self-reliant mindset as well. However, rural preppers have concerns about the marauding hordes which would leave the cities and converge upon the countryside during a civil unrest scenario.
Living through Hurricane Andrew in 1992 prompted you to become more aware and concerned about urban disaster survival. Did you feel helpless and/or worried in the aftermath of the natural disaster?
Richard: During Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm, I felt completely helpless and alone. Our house was literally torn apart all around us-there was nothing I could do about it and there was no one to call for help. In the aftermath, I couldn’t believe what had just happened and how completely unprepared I had been. That morning my family and I left the rubble of what had once been our home with nothing more than the clothes on our backs.
We were all grateful to be alive, but at that moment, I knew I could never again allow myself to be caught off guard. For a period of time after Andrew, my family and I lived in constant fear of the annual hurricane season, which runs from June 1st to the end of November. Since 1992 I have been researching and studying what works and what doesn’t. After many years of trial and error, I developed easy, practical steps that anyone can take to be prepared. Contrary to popular belief, what motivates most of us to be prepared is not fear, but the desire to not live in fear. Being prepared has actually brought peace of mind back into my life.
How does your background as an attorney and a firearms enthusiast impact your survival and preparedness habits?
Richard: Because of my legal training, and to some extent my personality, I tend to be analytical and logical in my approach to just about every issue or problem I encounter. My survival preparation and planning focuses around what makes sense, and what is reasonable and logical for the circumstances. I sincerely believe that every successful survival plan must contain a strong security and self-defense component; for some of us this includes owning firearms and knowing how to use them safely and effectively. I always recommend proper training to anyone considering owning a firearm.
I realize that law enforcement professionals do a very good job of protecting the public, but sometimes lawful citizens are confronted by violent criminals wishing to do them harm and waiting for the police to arrive may not always be an option. It is every citizen’s right to defend themselves and their loved ones, and that is a right that should never be compromised in any way.
How did developing a preparedness mindset evolve and how did your wife, children, and grandchildren respond to the change?
Richard: As a society, we have become overly reliant on a very fragile and often aging and unreliable public infrastructure. Everything we depend on-from the water we drink to the food we eat to the electricity that powers our homes and business-it’s all, in some way or another, tied to the electrical grid. As responsible members of society, it’s up to us to recognize these vulnerabilities and to prepare accordingly. Doing nothing should never be an option. However, not everybody sees it quite the same way and too many people tend to ignore potential threats until they are personally affected. I am very lucky that my wife and children are all very supportive and appreciative of my efforts. But, I know many people who don’t see the need to make any preparations. Sadly, they are among the majority of the population that still mistakenly believe that the authorities will quickly organize and come to their rescue immediately after any disaster or public emergency.
You currently offer consults and lectures on surviving urban disasters. Creating a sustainable lifestyle is far easier in a rural or even suburban environment. What are the major concerns and stumbling blocks in regard to food production and energy systems faced primarily by city residents?
Richard: In any disaster or public emergency, urban dwellers will have a much tougher time securing what I call the core survival elements-food, water, first aid, sanitation, hygiene, shelter, and security. Because of this, many urban dwellers will face the perfect storm in just about any crisis. The majority of the US population now lives in cities, and all the goods and services they consume are brought in from very far away. In other words, people living in urban areas are totally dependent on daily deliveries of food and other consumer products from distant farms, suppliers, and distributors. If the supply chain is somehow compromised, it would be very difficult for city dwellers to survive for any length of time unless they had sufficient stores of emergency food and water, and had the ability to maintain a reasonable level of security. All this would require careful and diligent long-term planning.
How important should firearms knowledge be to the urban prepper?
Richard: Having a proper training is extremely important and should never be neglected. Owning a firearm is a huge responsibility and all lawful gun owners have a non-delegable obligation to get the proper training and to always use, handle, and store their firearms in a safe and responsible manner.
What advice and tips can you give to residents in cities where strict gun laws may prohibit concealed carry or even possessing specific weapons inside the home?
Richard: First of all, always obey the law in your jurisdiction. If you disagree with the existing laws, consider exercising your right as a voter and a taxpayer and make sure that your elected officials know how you feel. If they are unresponsive to you, let your vote and pocketbook do your talking. These are, of course, long-term efforts with uncertain outcomes, especially in the present political climate. In the meantime, however, you should consider other alternatives, including non-lethal forms of self-defense. Often the best fight is the one that never happens. As such, most of your efforts should always be focused on prevention.
Secure and safeguard your home, always be alert to possible threats, and constantly scan and be aware of your surroundings, even in familiar surroundings. When it comes to personal safety, complacency is your worst enemy. Develop good security habits and stay on alert, even in everyday life. I devote an entire chapter to self-defense and situational awareness in my book, that’s how important it is.
Water storage for urban preppers can also be a major hurdle. What advice can you offer about storing and disinfecting drinking water in a city environment?
Richard: After any urban disaster, water and security will usually be the greatest threats that people encounter in the resulting aftermath. Most people can’t survive for more than three days without water. After security, water should always be the absolute top priority. Any successful survival plan must effectively provide access to clean potable water. I strongly recommend storing a minimum three week supply of water for the short term. No less than two gallons per person, per day. I also encourage people to have an alternative “Plan B” water supply for the longer term and redundant methods for filtering and disinfecting the water. In the city this can be quite a challenge and there are no easy answers. The best way to meet this challenge is to start thinking and planning now, before something happens. Identify possible sources of water in your immediate area and remember, most water disinfection methods will not remove pollution or other chemical contaminates frequently found in urban water sources. Your first line of defense is, and should always be, your short-term water supply. Never neglect this.
Are you concerned about the frailties of the US power grid? Which do you think is the biggest threat to a grid-down scenario, solar flares, cyber hacking, or an EMP attack?
Richard: All the things you mention are of great concern, although judging by how disinterested and disengaged our government seems to be, you would think that everything is just fine. The US power grid is definitely fragile, and now we have confirmation that foreign governments (China among many others), are constantly trying to hack into the computer networks that control the grid. Remember, we have to be on guard and defend against every possible attack; the attackers only have to get it right once. While there are many things that can be done to harden, update, and secure the electrical grid, it’s all very expensive. As of today, there is very little consensus as to what should be done and even less political will to do anything at all, especially since it requires spending money, albeit for something that is actually worth it. An extended grid-down situation would devastate our country, our economy, and our very way of life.
Civil unrest is a concerning concept, even in a rural environment. I would imagine that such a scenario in an urban area could be even more dangerous. Did you experience any signs of mounting civil unrest and looting after Hurricane Andrew? How big of a worry is a society gone wild for those who attend your lectures?
Richard: After any major disaster, social order can quickly break down. We have seen it time and time again. In a large city, widespread panic and the resulting lawlessness can lead to violence and acts of random aggression. Planning ahead will afford you options that would otherwise be unavailable. Specifically, a well-prepared individual or family can quietly shelter in place while avoiding the chaos, or leave quickly to a safer, predetermined location. Before Hurricane Andrew struck, many people had the opportunity to leave the projected strike zone. Most chose to stay, only to regret it later on. Right after the storm had passed, before any first responders arrived, many south Florida neighborhoods were filled with looters taking anything they could carry away; it was very sad. Amid all the destruction and misery, the criminal element was alive and well, taking full advantage of the loss and suffering of others. I am often asked if this is an issue that concerns me and my answer is always the same-absolutely. I can’t say it enough… any successful survival plan must include a strong security and self-defense component; the word “must” can’t be overemphasized.
Your book, Surviving Doomsday – A Guide for Surviving an Urban Disaster was featured in the Florida Bar Journal Literary Lawyers section. What type of reception did you get from your professional peers when they realized that you are among the three million preppers now actively engaged in preparedness activities? Who should read the book and what makes it different from other urban survival books on the market?
Richard: Most of my friends, and professional peers have been very supportive. Many thought it really “cool” that I had written the book and asked when I was going to be on “that prepper show.” Overall, I have received all sorts of feedback, but the majority has been positive. I don’t consider myself a “prepper” personally-I don’t like labels. I am merely a person who recognizes that we live in a very dangerous and unpredictable world, and that there are reasonable, practical, common sense steps that we can all take to protect ourselves and our loved ones. I think everybody would benefit from reading my book, no matter where they live.
Anything can happen to any of us at any time, often without warning. Being prepared and having a plan just makes sense, no matter who you are. If it were up to me, I would make disaster preparedness a mandatory subject for children to learn about in school. The same way we have fire drills and vaccinations, I would take the time to teach school-aged children how to best protect themselves against the natural and manmade hazards that are so common in our daily lives. But since schools don’t even want to teach kids how to write in cursive anymore, I have very little hope.
In reality, it’s up to us to educate and protect ourselves and our families; to do anything less is irresponsible. I wrote this book for the average, everyday person. You don’t need to be a survival expert to have a plan or to be prepared; anyone can do it. My book is meant to be a roadmap of sorts to help guide the way.