Top critical review
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Not focused enough
on March 5, 2010
These books seem to be either for beginners or for more advanced people, and deal more with "everyday" disasters (where you have to survive between a few days and a few weeks) or with long-term disasters where you have to survive for the long-term (like collapse of government). This book is a disappointing mishmash of each of these. So while it has a lot of useful information, I think beginners won't find this book very useful because it's not focused on beginner issues, and it will be very hard to prioritize. Advanced people won't want to wade through the basic information to get the parts that are more advanced. People preparing for short-term disasters don't need information on long-term survival, like building trench latrines, and people preparing for long-term disasters don't need information on storing short-term supplies of food and water, etc.
One example - the section on shelter. It addresses 3 options - a tent (I didn't need a book for that idea), a geodesic dome (I don't know what it is and am pretty sure I won't build one, but this book wouldn't help me anyway, since it doesn't actually tell you how to make one, though it did inform me that they use them at Burning Man...) and how to live on the streets in a city or in abandoned buildings (I got this book so I wouldn't have to live on the streets!). It completely omits other shelter solutions, like using things available in nature or that might be salvageable or in your emergency supplies. The Lighting, Power and Heating section has good information on hand crank lanterns and solar, but somehow doesn't discuss fire making at all, and also spends a page on how to make a wind turbine, which obviously isn't for the beginner or short-term emergency. The sections on food and water, on the other hand are good and have good basics but don't deal with long-term food and water needs.
The section on earthquakes has some good practical advice about how to prepare for an earthquake (slightly more sophisticated than bolt stuff to the walls, but still common sense stuff) and how to handle the immediate aftermath, but there is not much specific information on what supplies you might need that are different than the generic disaster kit or how your preparation should be different (for example, where should you keep your disaster kit, since an earthquake is particularly likely to render your house unsafe). So the section is good, but not comprehensive (though obviously not every specific disaster section could be comprehensive). I imagine the sections on other specific disasters is similar.
Because there's such a mishmash, you have to be fairly knowledgeable to plow through all the information to decide what is practical and what isn't. To put together a "proper" emergency preparedness kit according to this book would probably cost $10,000 or $15,000 and would require that you have a spare 2 car garage to store it all. There are some good ideas here, but this book alone won't prepare you for a disaster and can't be used to prepare a basic, solid emergency kit unless you already have quite a bit of knowledge and really need more of a reminder and some suggestions.