After the apocalypse

Downtown Grand Junction

Even in the midst of the beautiful now, it’s inevitable that thoughts turn, sometimes, to the possible tomorrow. What will the world be like? How will people live together? Are the zombies going to get us?

Of infinite possibilities for the future, one such possibility always is an apocalypse. Through some quirk of the human brain, we can’t help pondering some future disaster and how we could live afterward.

The arts are filled with apocalyptic scenarios — novels in which a super virus wipes out 95 percent of the population or in which the moon cracks, causing Earth’s tides to cease and its volcanos to erupt. Movies in which the apes have taken over. TV shows displaying all manner of disasters.

“The 100” premiered Wednesday on CW, a show whose premise begins 97 years after global nuclear war, when people fled to space stations and are considering venturing back to Earth.

March 30 will bring the season four finale of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” which presents a post-apocalyptic hellscape in which zombies outnumber humans by a lot.

There’s catharsis in apocalyptic themes, in watching these shows and reading these books remembering that no matter how bad things are now, they could always get worse. And, inevitably, as a viewer or reader, the question: What would I do in this situation?

Second only, perhaps, to “What would I do if I won the lottery?” is the thought exercise of how to survive, post-apocalypse. There are all kinds of apocalypses and a million different ways to deal with them, so it’s an interesting question: What are the first three (or so) things you’d do after emerging from the rubble — literal or figurative — of the apocalypse?


— Andrew Martsolf, Mesa County emergency manager

If you are only focusing on the first three things you would do, you’re not going to make it!

My first order of business would be to size up the situation and determine whether to hunker down or bug out. This would involve grabbing my Ham radio and reaching out to my Ham radio buddies to get a broader perspective of the apocalypse. This is an important survival advantage because cellphones, land lines and the Internet will no longer work. My apocalyptic size-up would also include inventorying my disaster supplies and developing immediate and long-range survival plans.

Regardless of my initial actions (hunker down or bug out), my long-range survival plan involves bringing together a synergistic colony of trusted people who have skills and something to contribute to survival. This colony would include people like my dad, Howdy Martsolf, who can fix and build just about anything. We would focus on establishing a renewable food supply that would include planting heirloom seeds, rearing poultry, aquaponic fish, and perhaps meat and dairy goats. We would produce commodities that we could use for both survival and for barter with other survival colonies because cash will be useless. I would use the harvest from my beehives to barter with. Additionally, I would ferment honey into mead which could also be used to barter.

A survival colony with these capabilities would have to be adequately protected. This factor would not be overlooked!



— Alan Staehle, retired Ouray County emergency manager

Assuming everyone in your group is OK, then:

1. Attempt to size up what has happened; 2. Decide if it will be better to stay in place or to move and if so, where; 3. Decide what is needed to accomplish No. 2 and get busy putting it together.



— Stan Hilkey, Mesa County sheriff

GATHER ... water, food, survival supplies, protection, transportation, fuel, beer, etc.  

NEST ... find defensible space, preferably wherever my father, Ron Hilkey, is.  (Any intelligent being would WANT to be with Ron Hilkey after an apocalypse.)

PLAN ... develop short- and midterm survival plans including banding with allies; develop long-range goals of organizing framework of recovery/rebuild with other like-minded individuals.

FISH ... dependent on trout surviving the apocalypse, there are a few places that I would definitely trespass on to fly fish.  



­— Lt. John Hutchins, Rio Blanco County Sheriff’s Department emergency manager

1. Check to see what my new superpowers are.

2. Measure how fast I can run and how high I can jump.

3. Look for a new red cape to wear.



— Marty Chazen, Grand Junction city councilman and mayor pro tem

What this did is this kicked off a conversation with my wife, Jeanne. We had been in Northridge (Calif.) 20 years ago when the Northridge quake hit.

The moment it stopped, my first thought was shoes, I had to get shoes on my feet. I remember during the earthquake all I could hear was glass breaking. So, I took the covers, threw them on the floor trying to make a path to the closet and got some shoes on my feet.

My second thought was fire. I roused Jeanne, got her out of bed, got her a pair of shoes and immediately we went out and turned off the gas to the house. The power was already off but I shut off the power at the box.

My third thought was damage and we kind of did a once through of the house the best we could. It looked like it was safe for us to move around in there.

My fourth thought was water. We had two 30-gallon barrels of water that we kept in an outbuilding along with a trash can — it was a new trash can — full of canned food, cat food, we had some medicine in there, we had toilet paper in there, all that kind of stuff. You can survive a long time without food, but you can’t go without water.

Our next thought was neighbors. At that time it was still dark, but people were starting to come out of their houses and the first question was, are you OK? It was interesting how quickly neighbors grouped up and started going house to house, especially the older houses that weren’t bolted to the foundation.

So, those were the first things that went though our minds after a disaster: shoes, fire, damage, water and neighbors.



— Jody Acres, American Red Cross disaster program manager for the Western Colorado territory

1. I would grab the 72-hour kit I already had prepared.

2. I would execute the communications plan that I had set up to find the rest of my family.

3. I’d report to the Red Cross to see what they wanted me to do first.



— Dr. Russ Walker, professor of environmental science and head of the department of physical and environmental sciences at Colorado Mesa University

In the initial stage of the event, the big question would be whether to go or stay — is it possible to escape to an unaffected area? This could be a difficult question to answer. One would need to know whether or not an unaffected area even existed, then would need to have enough gas to get there and a route unimpeded by massive traffic jams. Good luck with that. (This is when horses may come in handy!)

If it’s not possible to leave the affected area, you’re left with four basic concerns: water, food, shelter and security. If the public water supply wasn’t up and running, you’d have to get water from the canals (assuming it’s summer!) and boil it. The grocery stores would already have been looted, so we would have to eat our pets. (Thankfully, my family has lots of guinea pigs and a fat dog!)

If it is winter, shelter would be very important, although in most apocalypse scenarios I think our houses would still be standing. Then there’s the question of security — if you can’t defend your food, water, and shelter, you’re going to lose it.

Which brings me back to the original thing I mentioned: the need to go somewhere else. We have plenty of wild areas that could still be a source of water and food, as long as you can get there.



— Eric Myers, executive director of the American Red Cross Western Colorado chapter

No one, not even the American Red Cross, can give you advice that guarantees your survival in an “End of Days” scenario. Or even the collapse of civilization, for that matter.

But what I can tell you is that what you do beforehand will matter a great deal, and to that end, simply following our normal advice for wide area catastrophic disasters will improve your odds.

Human beings always come together, usually in small tight-knit groups following a disaster. Emergency management is all about trying to organize the efforts of smaller groups of people as they respond in a coordinated way.

So, before the comet hits, or the dead come back to life, or the invading space monsters land, identify your community and become part of it. Work together to plan for what you would do in a disaster. Share resources, knowledge and skills. Practice working together. Build trust and cooperation. No one individual stands a chance in a really worst-case situation. Communities of people do have a chance, and generally do quite well.

Who are your trusted others? What is your group plan for disaster survival? How would you survive a widespread power outage, or a long-term disruption of critical services? Start there. In my neighborhood, we have practiced this behavior during blizzards, and knowing that we can count on each other makes it a great place to live.

Having a disaster plan is fairly simply, but in a disaster, simple things can become very difficult. Plan for how you will communicate, access information, and how you would shelter in place, or evacuate, if needed.

What if you needed to open a shelter in a local school or faith community building? Does anyone know how to do that? Do you have the things you would need to do that? Do you know who can be counted on to help?

You need information to make good decisions. Before, during and after a disaster.

What are your trusted sources of information, and how will you access that information in a disaster? How will you locate loved ones and reunite with them? I can tell you, if I don’t know where my wife and kids are in an emergency, I’m not much good to myself or anyone else. So, knowing how to find them is a major part of my plan.

So, the mega disaster is upon me, what are the first three things I would do?

1. Activate my plan to locate my loved ones and trusted others. Gather as much reliable information about what happened and what is happening as I can.

2. Work as a group, coming together to stay safe and care for one another.  Rescue anyone I can, and share resources as much as possible. If something happens to me, my family will need that group even more.

3. Strive to stay positive. Being a good person matters, perhaps even more in a major disaster. Those moral compass points are for the dark days, too. It may help me remain positive by remembering that the American Red Cross began in some of the darkest days of this nation’s history, and has been there to serve the people of Colorado for the last 100 years.



— Jay Seaton, publisher of The Daily Sentinel

1. My 12-year-old has been talking about an apocalypse by taco (the “Tacolypse”), which doesn’t sound all bad. So, maybe I would just embrace it.

2. Assuming no Tacolypse, I would take a mental inventory of all of my Second Amendment friends who I know have an enormous arsenal in their homes, then make my way to Rick Wagner’s house.

3. But first, I would put the finishing touches on that time machine I’ve been working on so I can avoid that embarrassing face-plant I took in fourth grade kickball right in front of Christa Jahnke. Oh, and I’d also prevent the apocalypse. 



Members of the Teen Book Club, a group that meets at 4 p.m. every Wednesday at the Mesa County Libraries central location, know their way around an apocalypse because that’s a very popular theme in young adult literature. Their first steps, post-apocalypse, include:

■ Find a weapon, find food and find shelter.

— Sarah Mahon, 15, Grand Junction High School sophomore

■ It depends on how you’re emerging (from the post-apocalyptic wreckage). I’m going to assume I have clothes on, but maybe I’ll need to find clothing for the setting. Then, I’ll need to search around, see if there are other people around and just kind of eavesdrop so I can know what’s going on, what people are talking about, where I could go. I think then I would need to find a weapon.

I think when you’re reading books like “The Hunger Games” you kind of put yourself in that situation and imagine what it would be like to live there.

— Brooke MacMillan, 16, Palisade High School junior

■ First is food. You definitely need a good source of food, maybe start a farm. If you know the apocalypse is coming, you could get some animals, some seeds, things like that.

Next is shelter. You need a place where you can lay your head in peace.

And definitely you need a good book because TV won’t work. Maybe you could take shelter at the library.

— Everett Weighall, 13, The Opportunity Center seventh-grader


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