Useful Skills in a Post-Disaster World

Generally speaking, when we talk about survival skills, the first thing we talk about is bushcraft skills, the skills that are necessary to survive in the wilderness. If the conversation expands outwards from there, we will usually move to talking about homesteading skills, as those are useful in a long-term survival situation, where we need to feed ourselves and our families. But there’s a third category of skills that should be considered, the ones necessary for society to continue and to rebuild our lives.

The worst disaster most of us think of today is an EMP attack. Should such a thing ever happen, society, as we know it today, would come to a total and complete standstill. The lack of electricity would shut down the infrastructure, the supply chain and pretty much everything else we need. Our very survival would be dependent on what we have in our homes and what we can procure locally.

Some preppers stockpile trade goods, for use in bartering in such circumstances. For those who want to come out on top in those circumstances, that’s probably a good idea. Many farmers who lived in occupied Europe ended up rather well off after the war, when they sold off the silver and jewelry they had accepted in trade for black-market foodstuffs.

Personally, I’m not as interested in taking advantage of my fellow man, as I am in rebuilding society. It will be rebuilt after such a disaster and those who rebuild it will have a lot to say about what form it takes. People with the necessary skills to help others will have a major influence in that time, simply because everyone will need the sills that they have.

So, what sorts of skills am I referring to? Mostly the basic skills that we would have found in a community in the 1800s, albeit a modernized version, with a little bit of technology thrown in.

Medical Skills

There probably won’t be much for lab techs and ultrasound techs to do, without all their expensive equipment, but there will be an incredible need for medical services. Doctors, nurses, EMTs, military medics and anyone else with the ability to treat injuries or illness will be in high demand.

There is always a surge in sickness and injury in the wake of a disaster. We can expect a major epidemic of some sort to pass through society, perhaps even more than one. Those who can treat patients hands-on, will be in high demand, while those who are dependent on modern medical technology won’t be of much use.


One of the medical professions which will be in high demand will be midwives. Throughout much of human history, it was the midwives, not doctors, who delivered babies. They are accustomed to using natural methods, without medicine or surgery. While this can’t take care of every pregnancy, it can take care of most. Midwives will find themselves busy, back in their traditional role.


With the big pharmaceutical houses shut down, the only medicines which will exist will be what pharmacies have in stock and what can be made locally. More primitive medicines, like chloroform, will likely become the norm once again. Fortunately, many of those can be produced with minimal equipment.

Natural Medicine

We will also see a resurgence of natural medicine. Pretty much all of our modern medicines are copies of things found in nature. That’s because pharmaceutical companies can’t patent what nature provides. So they come up with something similar, which has the same effect. But we can always go back to those original substances, still found in nature.

Pastoral Services

Many people will have trouble adjusting to the reality of a post-disaster world; some more so than others. For those who have a greater difficulty in adjusting, it may be necessary for them to receive counseling of some sort. Currently, 50 percent of the counseling in the United States is conducted by pastors, who will be available to meet the same need after the disaster.

While there are other counselors around, there are several differences between pastoral counseling and professional counseling. The first is that pastoral counseling being faith-based. As such, pastors will still feel the need to be counseling after a disaster, whereas other counselors might be more concerned about taking care of themselves. Additionally, most pastors don’t charge an hourly rate for their services. With the monetary system down in a post-disaster world, they may be the only counseling available.

On top of the counseling function of pastors, they also perform baptisms, weddings and funerals, all of which will still be going on in a post-disaster world. Funerals especially, might be on the rise, as people succumb to illness or injury.

Practical Engineering

Engineers are the ones who design pretty much everything we use, as well as figuring out how to build it, how to install it and how to maintain it. If much of our technology is destroyed in an apocalyptic event, it will be engineers who figure out how to put things back together again.

I use the term “practical engineering” here, because not all engineering is hands-on. The types of engineers we will need in that time will be ones who know how to get their hands dirty and do things for themselves. Not all engineers fit into that category. Those who are accustomed to just doing drawings and having someone else build it probably won’t be all that helpful in that time.


Car manufacturing plants will be one of the first things to shut down. Manufacturing a car is an incredibly complex undertaking, with parts coming from a huge variety of sources, many of them overseas. So the only cars that we will have available to use, will be those which are on the road when the disaster strikes.

Many say that cars will stop running in the event of an EMP. Should that happen, it will probably be mechanics, not engineers, who get old cars back on the road and find ways of bypassing the electronics on newer cars to make them usable.

General Repair Skills

Like cars, many other things will stop working; and we won’t be able to go to the store to buy another. Rather, we will need to repair and reuse things. While there are few people who currently operate general fix-it shops, we will probably see that increase in a post-disaster world.

Electronics & Electronics Repair

While an EMP will wipe out most of our electronics, it won’t wipe out things sitting in warehouses, as most of those warehouses will be metal buildings. That treasure trove of electronics might be our saving, if the right things can be found and put to use. This will be a combined effort, involving engineers, technicians and some other technical specialties.


In the 1800s, the village blacksmith was the go-to man for a wide variety of things. For anything from a fireplace grate to shoeing horses, people went to the blacksmith. Few of these craftsmen still exist today, but those who do, have an amazing set of skills. If it is metal, they can make it.

There’s no way of knowing exactly what we’ll need in a post-disaster world; but you can be sure that whatever it is, blacksmiths will be invaluable to the community. Between a greater reliance on animal power and a need to rebuild equipment, we will most likely see blacksmithing reborn in such a time.


Blacksmithing was largely replaced by modern machining. But in the early days, machinists used equipment which was either animal powered or hydro-powered. Like the blacksmith, the machinist can make almost anything. So we will surely need that skill as part of the process of rebuilding. I wouldn’t be surprised if there weren’t machinists today, who turned to blacksmithing in a post-disaster world, combining their skills with an older skill set.

Butchering, Tanning & Harness Making

I put these three together, because we will probably find the same people doing all three, although in past times, they were three distinctly different trades. Today, other than the butcher in the grocery store, about the only people who understand these skills are hunters. But in addition to butchering meat, hunters also know how to clean and skin the meat, something that the modern butcher doesn’t know how to do.

Tanning hides has become a lost art as well, due to industrialization of these tasks, although it seems to be making a resurgence amongst the survival community. Without that industry and the slaughterhouses which turn live animals into usable meat products, tanning will need to be accomplished on a local level. Leather will be needed even more than it is today, as we find ourselves turning back to animal power for farming and transportation.

This brings us to the third part of this, harness making. Few today even know how to harness up a team, let alone make the harness. But once again, we find that the same people who take to hunting, are the same ones who are likely to learn and practice these skills.