Spike Calls on a Navy SEAL for 'Surviving Disaster'
A shorter version of this story is available in syndication this week, but just because you're special, you get all the Cade Courtley you could want and more. And after the story, a little treat..
He says, "It's not, 'I'm a Navy SEAL, and I'm going to get dropped somewhere, and I'm going to get out.'
"I'll let Bear Grylls (of Discovery Channel's 'Man vs. Wild') do that, and he can drink his pee, and that's his show.
"But we're taking people who might accidentally get in a situation, that don't have 15 years of military experience and training. And we're going to show them, step by step, what they need to do to get out of it."
"Surviving Disaster" uses re-enactments to illustrate catastrophic scenarios that might strike ordinary citizens. Courtley then shares knowledge and demonstrates techniques to help people get through the events alive.
The series launches with an episode about a plane hijacking, and the rest are a mix of human-caused and natural disasters - and it's hard to say which are more terrifying.
"We just finished shooting an episode that we call 'Pandemic,'" says Courtley over lunch in
"In the first few minutes, we dealt with a chemical attack. 'What would happen if this happened to you on the subway?' It started with chemical, but the heart of this episode dealt with a biological attack.
"In the chemical attack, you're able to get away from it and scrub down, and hazmat teams were there. But what if Patient Zero had been injected with something and didn't even know it?"
The show tracks the pandemic over months, as the spread devastates the population and causes survivors to huddle in isolated groups to prevent further infection.
Says Courtley, "I was asked, 'Which one of these (scenarios) seems scariest to you?' It's definitely the pandemic. It's the enemy I can't see.
"You could be the most physically fit, in the best shape of your life, and you still have just as much chance of getting struck down."
Of course, anyone stuck in an emergency situation would like to have a Navy SEAL on hand, but in "Surviving Disaster," it's a mixed blessing.
"The joke is," Courtley says, "every time Cade shows up, these people are getting ready to have the worst day of their lives, because it's never one thing. It's compounding things in these episodes.
"The one that we shot in
"Then they get attacked by a bear. It's the worst-case scenario."
Even if there wasn't a bear involved, Courtley would be thrilled to hear that he saved a life.
"To get an email here and there," he says, "in a couple of months, from somebody who says, 'Hey, you know, I watched the show, and I did that and made it out,' or 'My family made it out,' just one of those emails would be enough for me.
"You don't want to create a hyper-vigilant attitude. You don't want people to walk around freaking out, with a thousand pounds of ammunition in the basement, to be smart, be prepared.
"You don't want to live scared, but to be prepared is good, too."
After interviewing Courtley, I visited him and the crew on location in Inglewood, Calif., while they were shooting an episode called "Earthquake" (where I took the pic of Courtley above). I was hoping to see the crew drop a power pole on an SUV, but had to head out before the stunt was staged. But, Spike was kind enough to send a few pix...