One topic that hasn't been touched upon much around here is food and water. Both are essential for survival, but they might be difficult to find in Situation Z.
First, let's examine water. It's important to have a consistent resource for obtaining water, because we are supposed to drink at least 2 liters of water per day to stay healthy. That's the recommended amount for an average lifestyle, too - in Sit. Z you'll probably want a bit more because of your increased activity.
We have several obvious sources for water, but once the dead are walking around there are some problems that start to arise with those sources.
1. Faucets and Tap Water: There's no guarantee that municipal water supplies will be free of diseases and other contaminations. Normally, there are standards that water has to meet and there are people checking to make sure those standards are met. In addition, this water is supplied by utility companies that will collapse just like any other business. In the unlikely event that you still have running water well into Sit. Z., you should be careful that the water is safe.
2. Stored Water Supplies: This seems like a good bet for short term survival, but it leaves you lacking for the long term. There are specific steps you need to take to make sure water is stored safely and properly, otherwise your water can turn into a breeding ground for disease. Once this supply runs out, you need to start thinking about alternatives. With stored water, you also have the problem of being stuck in one place - you can't take a whole lot of water with you.
3. Rain Water Collection: This method will succeed or fail at mother nature's discretion. In addition, it requires a lot of time and space to be efficient. You likely won't have either, so counting on rain water collection should be avoided.
4. Natural Water Sources: Springs, lakes, streams, and so-on. These are the solution to the majority of your water problems. However, there is nothing in place to insure the safety of these sources even in normal times. You will need to be able to filter and purify your water in order to remain safe. Portable water filters are available and affordable, but need replaced periodically and might not be a long term solution. Fortunately, there are other ways to filter water. In order to conserve time and space, I'll leave the details on these methods up to other ATZ members to fill in.
Next, I would like to address food. While water gives us several options and is extremely abundant, food isn't so easy. Not everything that seems like a good idea actually is, so let's address some of the common suggestions and analyze the pro's and con's. In the end, you should rely on combination of all possible food sources - and hope that it's enough.
1. Hunting and Gathering. Many would-be survivalists have proclaimed their excellent hunting skills, and have read up on all the edible fruits and veggies that grow naturally in their area. The problem is, so have many other people. A single area can only sustain a certain population before its resources are used up. There might be two hundred deer in your area now, but after four hundred survivors have gone into the woods looking for them it's not going to be the case. The same situation applies to gathering. Many wild plants aren't edible, and those that are tend not to be filling and often don't grow in very dense clusters.
Fortunately, Sit. Z is unique among survival situations in that there will be far fewer people consuming these resources than you would otherwise have to deal with. In addition, relocating to a remote place will ensure even less competition for this food source. One thing that you should keep in mind: Hunting will be about survival, not diet and recommendation. Animals that you normally wouldn't hunt for food will be fair game now. This means dogs, cats, horses, and other domestic animals should be viewed as prey now. The same goes for gathering: It doesn't matter if pinecones are brittle and disgusting. The seeds in them are edible and nutritious, and that's what you're looking for.
2. Scavenging/Looting: This is another common idea for Sit. Z food gathering. Survivors plan to raid stores, homes, and warehouses for food supplies. While this will work for the first two years or so, after that even the canned goods will have questionable quality to them. It's also dangerous: These places may have other survivors who are using those food caches, and they will probably try to kill you to protect them. It's not something to completely count out, though. If a house is abandoned, there might just be something in there that's still good, at least for awhile anyways.
3. Farming/Livestock: This is probably the most reliable way to get food, but it's also the least versatile. It weighs you down in one spot, leaving you as an open target for looters and zombies alike. It also requires that you have some decent knowledge of how to raise whatever food you are raising, and leaves you somewhat at the mercy of nature. Low-key gardening might be a good supplement to your other food sources, however. You can grow many smaller food plants in containers that can be carried with you, assuming you have some type of transportation.
4. Pre-stored food: Many people think that stocking up on MRE's, canned food, and freeze-dried goods will hold them through. While it's possible to survive for several years this way, there are major drawbacks as well. Even the most well-preserved food has a shelf life. Stored food can't be taken with you if you have to bail out of your area. And worst of all, if outsiders catch on, you could become a big time target. Now, this isn't to say you shouldn't have some food stored up. Doing so will ensure that you have a food supply while you implement more permanent measures to keep your face stuffed!
So, all of these solutions have flaws, but it's also important to use every resource you can. Here is my suggestion for a long-term food providing plan.
Step 1, Have enough stored food on hand to last you at least until you can get safely out of town. 3 days minimum! If you already live in a remote area, then take advantage of the fact that you don't need to "bug out" and stock up for a longer period. A year's good.
Step 2, Find out where your neighbors are. While they are still around, they may be willing to trade if you need to. When they are gone, anything they leave behind is fair game.
Step 3, As you begin hunting and gathering in one area, make sure you are taking steps to have it repopulated quickly. Plant seeds of plants that do well in your area and bear edible parts. Try to pick herbivores for meat, this way these plants will have a better chance of growing up into something tasty. Don't over-hunt; you don't want to come back to this area later and find yourself being forced to take up vegetarianism. When you kill an animal, eat every fleshy part of it. Even the gross organs! This way you won't have to kill as many to survive.
Step 4, You may find yourself gathering more food than you need. If you limit this, it's a positive thing. If you don't, you may overdo it. Surplus food should be stored in a manner that will last awhile. Canning or jarring fruits and veggies would be a good idea. Meat can be jerked, smoked, and/or salted for short term storage. If you can, try to keep your 3-day bug-out stash stocked up. And if you can, make it 5 days. Or 7. However much you'd be able to take with you in a hurry, have it.
Step 5, Hopefully, you were able to store up some fresh food because eventually your area may not have enough food left to support you. This will take some time, if you're smart about food gathering. At this point, you will have to move on. Eventually you will come to a new area with new food, and at this point you should start the cycle of steps over again.
Using these techniques, you can adopt a nomadic lifestyle. As you use up the resources in one area, you move on to the next. Eventually you should be able to come full circle back to the place where you started, and hopefully your measures to get new plant life growing will have paid off. This new flora should have attracted new fauna by now, too. If not, well, keep moving. Eventually the place will bloom again.
I'd be interested in hearing comments on my plans, as well as hearing all of your plans for supplying yourselves with food and water.