Apr 282013
 
A computer reconstruction of the 19th century Fort Laramie, WY.  Do the 'wild west' forts validate or invalidate the concept of defending your retreat?

A computer reconstruction of the 19th century Fort Laramie, WY. Do the ‘wild west’ forts validate or invalidate the concept of defending your retreat?

An awkward issue that preppers have to confront when planning for a possible problematic future is what to expect from other people.

Will people peacefully unite and work together effectively to create win-win examples of mutual survival?  Or will some group of society (maybe only a small minority) take advantage of a possible collapse of law-enforcement and in an anarchistic manner run amok in an orgy of looting, pillaging and plundering?

Opinions differ greatly as to what might occur.  But the simple fact that there are credible concerns about a general decay into lawlessness is enough to require prudent preppers to plan for this.  Whichever outcome might happen, a prudent prepper must necessarily consider not only the best case scenarios but also the worst case scenarios, and for sure, roving gangs of violent people who simply take anything they want by force is an unpleasant situation and some type of preparation for this must be considered and provided for.

A central part of the planning and preparing process revolves around one very big question :  Is it practical to make your retreat fully secure against determined attackers?  Is it even possible to do so?  When (or if) you find yourself confronted by an armed gang of looters, what should you do?  Shelter in your retreat?  Run away, leaving everything behind?  Fight to protect yourselves and your possessions?

There are many different opinions on how to respond to such an event, and you should form your own decision after having carefully considered all perspectives, all opinions, and – most of all – all facts.

It is certainly true that it is difficult to build a totally safe and secure retreat, especially while trying to keep the cost of construction to an affordable level.  Modern munitions have enormous power and can destroy very heavily fortified structures.  Besides which, if the first explosive device fails to blow a hole in your outside wall, an attacker may simply repeat a second and third time, progressively weakening your external fortifications until they eventually fail.

So, if any structure can potentially be defeated by a well armed and determined attacker, is there any point in spending potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars to strengthen it, in a case where such strength will always sooner or later be insufficient?  This is clearly a very important question and concept, and one which demands consideration.

A letter was posted on the Survivalblog website recently that raised some of these often discussed issues.  It is short, so to save you clicking to the link, this is what it said

A comment on the dual ring village concept. If it is advanced as a defense tactic, I would urge remembering that the walled-town versus siegecraft dynamic is thousands of years old, and the survival of walled towns and cities is only possible if they are:

  1. Provisioned to last longer than the besieging force, which is of course free to forage and be resupplied
  2. Fireproof
  3. Relieved by a friendly force from outside.

They are also utterly obsolete since the development of artillery bombardment, still more so since the airplane and missile. Sad but true.

IMHO, safety today must rely on:

  1. Invisibility or insignificance to possible enemy
  2. Effective surveillance of a wide perimeter
  3. Mobile defense force to engage potential enemy at a distance

War is not only Hell, but quite expensive!

We don’t disagree with the writer’s first three points, although in truth there is a great deal more than just three factors that apply to considering the dynamics of siege situations and their likely outcomes.  While the walled-town vs siege dynamic is thousands of years old, it is only in the last 500 – 1000 years that the relative safety of the walled-town has diminished compared to the ability of attackers to broach the fortifications.  Furthermore, it is less than 200 years ago when fortified positions were still being used to good effect, here in the US, to protect against Indians and outlaws – a reasonable analog of the situation that might be expected WTSHTF.

Indeed, the decline of forts in the US came not due to their failure to protect the people within them, but due to the peace and stability and stronger law enforcement that made such forts no longer essential.

If we were to look at history for lessons – and this is always a valid thing to do – we’d suggest that history has actually validated rather than invalidated the concept of fortified dwellings.

But let’s put the writer’s introductory comments to one side, because that’s not the main problem we have.  Keep reading on past his first three points and the conclusion he draws from them.

Now comes the trap.  We’re sure this writer didn’t deliberately adopt this well-known technique of demagoguery, but see what is happening here, and be aware when it is used to try to persuade you of other things in other situations.

The process is simple.  First you get the person you are trying to persuade to agree with you on some points which may range from ‘obviously’ true to probably true.  In the process you establish yourself as a credible expert in the person’s mind and get them in the habit of agreeing with you.  Salesmen are taught the same thing – you ask the prospect a series of questions to which the answer is ‘Yes’ then you ask him the big question – ‘Will you buy my used car’ and before the prospect has thought fully about it, he has reflexively answered yes again.

So, after the series of obviously true statements and agreements, second, comes the ‘sucker punch’.  You use the agreements on the initial points as a launching platform to adduce the apparently incontrovertible validity of some other points which superficially seem to be related to the points you’ve agreed upon, but which in truth may be completely unrelated and not directly linked.

Now, as we said, we’re sure the writer of this letter was well-meaning rather than trying to trick us, but – in our opinion – the net result is that he offers up three uncontroversial facts about a complex topic, and then slides from that to three opinions which are far from universally accepted.

Let’s focus in on his three claims.

1.  Safety relies on being invisible or insignificant to a possible enemy

Well, for sure, if you are invisible, your problems are reduced.  But – ummm, which aisle of the local store sells invisibility cloaks?  If you don’t have an invisibility cloak – and also the ‘absorbs all smells’ cloak and the ‘blocks all noise’ cloak, and if they are not large enough to cover your entire retreat, cultivated lands, wells, driveways, fencing, etc, then you’re not going to be invisible.

So saying that safety relies on being invisible is impractical and unrealistic.  You may as well say ‘safety relies on being invulnerable’ – and that’s about as likely as becoming invisible.

We do agree that it is prudent to observe ‘opsec’ and to minimize one’s profile to the world around one.  But we believe it is wildly improbable that you’ll remain undetected, longer term, and when you are detected, you need to have plans in place for how to now resolve problems.

The other half of the writer’s first point is to be insignificant.  But is this what you want, and is it possible, and even if it were, does it guarantee you a successful outcome when being confronted by a group of bad guys?  We think not.

Firstly, insignificant opponents are easy opponents.  Who would a theoretical enemy rather engage – a strong substantial well prepared force, or an insignificant small group of unarmed survivors?

Secondly, who wants to prep to be ‘insignificant’ in a future without rule of law?  Doesn’t the very fact that we have prepared and have supplies of food, shelter, energy, and everything else automatically shift us from the ‘insignificant’ to the ‘tempting’ category?  Is he saying ‘become starving and homeless and you’ll be okay’?

We should also think about the opposite to what he is saying – when he says that insignificant groups of people are safe, is he suggesting that marauders are drawn to making kamikaze type attacks on much stronger groups of well prepared communities?  That sure sounds counter-intuitive!

We’d suggest that in a future adverse situation, roving marauders will be opportunists, and will go after the ‘low hanging fruit’ – they’ll pick fights with people they know they can dominate, while leaving stronger adversaries well alone.

There’s one more thing as well.  This being insignificant thing – were you ever bullied at school (or, perhaps, were you a bully)?  Whichever you were, who were the people bullies would most pick on?  The highly visible popular students, or the less visible loners?  The lettered sports team jocks, or the puny weaklings?

How well did being insignificant work against bullies at school?  So tell me how being insignificant would work against bullies in a future dystopian world where bullies are running amok, free of any negative consequences?

There is never safety in weakness.  Only in strength.  So, this first claim seems to be in part impractical/impossible, and in other part, completely the opposite of what is more likely to occur.

2.  Safety relies on effective surveillance of a wide perimeter

There are a lot of assumptions wrapped up into this statement.  First of all, it seems to contradict his first point – an insignificant group lacks the resources to keep effective watch on a wide perimeter.  We’re not sure how wide a perimeter he is thinking of, but let’s say he is suggesting a one-quarter mile radius from your central retreat dwelling.  That makes for an 8300 foot perimeter – more than a mile and a half of perimeter.

For another measure, let’s say you have a ten-acre roughly square-shaped block of land, and you establish your perimeter on the boundary of your ten-acre block.  That perimeter would be probably about 3000 ft (a mile is 5280 ft), but that’s not a ‘wide’ perimeter.  It means you will see your opponents more or less at the same time they see the first signs of your property and the give-away indicators of fencing, cultivation, crops, animals, or whatever else.

It may not be practical to have a forward perimeter beyond your property – if you have neighbors, do they want you running patrols and maintaining forward observation posts on their land?  But if it is possible, and you have a perimeter another 150 ft out from your boundary, then you now have a 4,000 ft perimeter to patrol.

How many people will be required to patrol somewhere between 3000 and 8300 ft of perimeter?  That depends of course on the terrain and what type of vegetation you have.  Best case scenario might be eight people (say one in each corner of the 3000 ft ‘box’ and one in the middle of each side); worst case scenario could be 28 people (one every 100 yards with an 8300 ft perimeter).  You might be able to get away with fewer people during the day, and you’d probably need more people at night.

Now, even with ‘only’ eight people on duty, and let’s say that each person works eight hours a day, seven days a week, that still means you need a total team of 24 sentries to guard your perimeter, plus some additional staff for supervisors, central headquarter coordinating, and so on.  And that’s your best case scenario.  With the larger perimeter, you could end up needing 100 people for your total sentry/observation team.

So with somewhere between 25 and 100 able-bodied members of your community who are full-time tasked with doing nothing other than effectively surveilling a wide perimeter, one has to ask – how practical is that?

But let’s wave our magic wand over this part of his statement (you know, the one we used for our invisibility cloak too) and now ponder the next thought – what happens when an enemy force is detected approaching our invisible and insignificant community?  The writer answers that question in his third and last point.

3.  A Mobile Defense Force is Required to Engage Potential Enemies at a Distance

This is another very complicated concept that is not adequately conveyed in a short statement.  While it may be good military doctrine in the normal world to engage in such actions, in a Level 3 situation in particular, very different rules apply.  In a normal (or historical) military conflict, both forces are willing to accept casualties as part of furthering their cause, because they are assured of a vast to the point of almost limitless resupply of soldiers and munitions from ‘back home’ and because the commanders who make such decisions are not the fathers, brothers, and close personal friends of the soldiers they are willingly sacrificing.

But in a Level 3 situation, you only have the people with you in your community, and no replacements.  Plus, they are not strangers.  They are your friends and family.  What father will happily send his son out on a risky mission that might simultaneously see him lose his son and also see his community lose one of their precious able-bodied members?  Keep in mind also, with a collapse in health care resources, even small battlefield wounds will become life threatening.

There’s a terrible imbalance in this, too.  Although your community will have a small and irreplaceable resource of manpower – and a similarly small and irreplaceable resource of weaponry and munitions – it will be confronting a seemingly limitless number of roving gangs of aggressors.  Sure, you might successfully fight one gang off this week, but what about next week, the week after, and so on?

As we point out in our article about gangs being your biggest security threat, there were 1.4 million gang members in the US in 2010.  Now, of course, not all 1.4 million of those people are going to singlemindedly attack you, if for no other reason than geographical distances and the sure fact that many of them will lose their lives doing other things, elsewhere.  But how many more gang members will they recruit, and how many new gangs of all types will spring up when the rule of law evaporates?

So our first point is that in a future Level 3 situation, you are going to want to do all you can to protect your people and to avoid risking their lives and wellbeing.  You’ll not want to gratuitously start any firefights that you couldn’t otherwise avoid.

There’s more to critique in the writer’s third suggestion/statement, too.  If you are going to engage potential enemies, as he recommends, you need to surprise and ambush them.  So you’re going to have to have prepared ambush locations and defensive positions all around your retreat and wherever else you might choose to initiate contacts.

This strategy also links in to his earlier comment about a wide perimeter.  If your sentry perimeter is your property line or just beyond, or only one-quarter mile from your retreat, it will be impossible to ‘engage at a distance’ when you might not detect enemies until they are almost upon you.

Remember also you need to allow time from when your sentries have sounded an alarm to when your reaction force can group together and travel to the point of encounter.  This is indeed another reason for wanting to set your perimeter out as far as you can.

But if you extend your perimeter out to, say, 1 mile, you’ll have all sorts of issues with patrolling on other people’s land, and your manpower requirements will increase enormously.  You could quickly end up needing 500 people for sentry duty, and much more sophisticated communications systems to control and coordinate them all.  So that’s not going to work very well either, is it.

There’s also the simultaneous moral and tactical issue about what do you do when encountering – to use the writer’s term – a potential enemy?  If you do as he advocates and engage them at a distance, does that mean you’re opening fire on people who may have been quite peaceful and having no intention of attacking you?  Does that mean you’re killing people who didn’t even know you were there (remember, you’re also supposed to be insignificant and invisible)?

Or, if you’re giving them warnings, haven’t you just revealed your presence, and ceased to be both insignificant and invisible?  And, having given them a warning, you’ve now lost the initiative – they can decide, after making a show of retreating away, whether they’ll stay away, or if they’ll circle around and attack you unawares from another side.  (Oh, right, yes – your effective surveillance of a wide perimeter is keeping you safe.  Maybe.)

We could go on – for example, we could wonder how mobile the mobile force the writer advocates would actually be in a Level 3 situation.

Are we talking horses, or vehicles – if the latter, just how much gas do you have to burn on roving mobile patrols, and how complete an inventory of spares for the vehicles you’re using all day every day?  What type of roading will be required?  And how invisible/insignificant are you being with motorized patrols?

Alternatively, if you’re going to use horses, they aren’t a free source of mobility.  Horses require feeding, stabling, training, medical care, and so on.  You’ve just added yet another layer of complexity and cost and overhead to your retreat community.  Not only do you now have some hundreds of people full-time on sentry duty, but you now need a mobile force of, shall we say, 50 cavalrymen, and they in turn require how many extra people to care for their 50+ horses?

Remember the concept of a ‘horse acre’ – each horse requires almost an acre of farmland to be supported.  So the first 50 acres of your retreat are required for the cavalry horses, and the first 500 adults in your retreat are all either sentries or soldiers, and if we say you need another 1000 people to do productive work to cover their own needs plus those of the 500 strong security group, and if we say that these 1500 adults have on average at least one other family member, your retreat community has now grown to 3000 people.

Is that still small and insignificant?

Actually, we are probably being conservative about the proportion of ‘support people’ and civilians that are required to underpin your security force.  It is rare to find a country with more than 5% of their population in the armed services.  Even in the gravest parts of Britain’s struggle in both World Wars One and Two, with the entire country locked in a life and death struggle and every part of the economy devoted to supporting it troops, and with the civilian population suffering rationing of everything – food, clothing, energy, you name it – the largest force that Britain could field was only about 10% of their entire population, and that was for only a brief part of the war.

With possibly less automation in your post-WTSHTF community, and with the need to have a sustainable allocation of resources to defense compared to simple food production and survival, it is unlikely you could have much more than 5% of your total retreat population tasked with defense duties, and/or no more than 10% of your adult militarily fit (generally considered to be 17 – 49) population.

So there’s a rule of thumb – multiply your defense team numbers by 10 to get the total number of 17 – 49 year olds in your group, and by 20 to get a minimum total group size of all ages.  Or, working backwards, divide the count of adult able people in your group by ten and that’s about how many you can afford to spare for defense duties.

Some Alternative Thoughts

Okay, so the three ideas proposed by the letter writer don’t really make much sense, do they.  But we do probably all agree that being besieged by an opposing force is not a good situation, either.

So what is the solution?

This brings us to another trick of demagoguery.  Are the initial three statements, the statements we agreed with, actually applicable to our situation?  As we hinted at before, we suggest not.  We’re not talking about medieval wars between states, when brightly colored knights on horses jousted in a chivalrous manner with each other, and armies mounted sieges against lovely crenelated castles surrounded by moats, located obligingly on open fields.

We are talking about a roving group of marauders, probably numbering from a low of perhaps 10 up to a high of probably less than 50.  For sure, if they encounter us, they would be keen to take whatever they wished from us, but if they can’t do that, will they devote the next many months or years of their lives to mounting a siege?  Or will they give up and move on, because for sure, some miles further on will be some other small community who perhaps truly is insignificant and easier to plunder?

If fortified settlements worked well in the wild west against similar types of bandit groups, wouldn’t they work well again in a future Level 3 situation?

Our point is this – a strong well fortified central retreat is more likely to discourage rather than to encourage attackers to press on with an attack.  Sure, they might start off by attempting to overwhelm your group, but if they fail at the easy stuff, are they then going to risk losing more of their people and sweating the hard stuff?  We suggest not.

While it is true that modern artillery and air delivered munitions are beyond what we could realistically build defenses against, how likely is it that a roving group of marauders will be towing field artillery pieces, or have an airforce at their command?  Even if they did have some military grade munitions, do you think they would have many of such things, or maybe just one or two that they were reluctant to squander?

So what level of protection do you need to build into your retreat?

Realistic Construction Standards for Your Retreat

We suggest you design a retreat that can withstand being shot at by heavier caliber rifles, and which is fireproof.

It is certainly conceivable that attackers would have rifles, and it is certainly conceivable that their rifles would be in full size calibers such as 7.62×51 (ie .308) rather than in lighter calibers such as 5.56 (ie .223) or 762.×39 (ie Soviet type AK-47 calibre).

So your retreat should be built to be able to withstand multiple hits in a single location from .308 and similar calibers, and be constructed of a material that you can readily repair at the end of any such attack.

It also has to be strong enough to resist physical assault – in other words, if attackers get to your retreat’s exterior walls, you don’t want them to be able to break windows and climb in, or to knock down doors with a battering ram.  You want to physically block them by your exterior wall while you pour defensive fire down on them from protected positions on the top of the wall.

Talking about fire, it is certainly conceivable that attackers could somehow get incendiary devices to the walls and roof of your retreat.  The strongest walls are useless to you if you have a shake roof which the bad guys set on fire.

If you have wood on your walls or roof, then you’re vulnerable to this type of attack.  But if you have stone, adobe, metal, or concrete, you are safe from the threat of fire, too.

There’s a lot more to this topic – a lot more on both sides of the discussion – and we’ll come back to it again in future articles.  But for now, can we suggest that it is possible to envisage a viable future that doesn’t involve 500 sentries and soldiers, invisibility cloaks, and contradictory and morally unsound strategies.

Summary

The question of how to optimize one’s ability to survive against attacking marauders is a key and critical issue that you need to consider.  We’re not saying that every day will see you battling afresh against new groups of attackers – such events may be very rare indeed.  But, rare as they may be, they are not unforeseeable and may occur.

The problem becomes of how much resource to invest into anticipatory defenses.  A text-book perfect solution would require an impossible amount of manpower and resource.  You will need to compromise, accordingly.  But we don’t think there is safety in weakness; surely there is only safety in strength.

We’re reminded of the story about how to survive a bear attack if you’re unarmed.  You don’t need to be able to outrun the bear.  You just need to be able to outrun the people you’re with.

In our case, to survive an attack by marauders doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be either invisible or invulnerable.  It just means you’ve got to be less tempting a target than other people in the surrounding area.

Don’t get us wrong.  The best case scenario of all would be for your neighbors to be similarly hard targets, so that word gets out that your entire region is best avoided.  But first make your own retreat community strong; and only after that, work to help your neighbors on a basis of mutual support, too.

We’ve spent much of this article critiquing the letter we quoted.  But hopefully through the critiques, you can see implied positive strategies and approaches, and we’ll write more on how best to protect your retreat in further articles.

Mar 242013
 
These Cobra FRS/GMRS units are typical middle-of-the-road units.

These Cobra FRS/GMRS units are typical middle-of-the-road units.

In a future ‘grid down’ situation, your normal cell phones will almost certainly not be working.  These days we’ve grown so accustomed to being always in touch with everyone, no matter where we are or where they are, that we’ll almost certainly want to recreate some form of ubiquitous communications, at least with other members of our retreat community and possibly with friendly nearby neighbors, too.

There is a wide range of different types of radios that can give you this ability, ranging from little more than $10 each and up from there to $1,000+ each.  Many of these radio transceivers (ie a radio that both transmits and receives) require some sort of official FCC license to operate.  Some types of license simply involve paying a fee to the FCC, other types of license require you to pass a skills/knowledge test about radio theory and practice.  Other types of radio require no license at all.

The good news is that the types of radio that require no license at all (there are four main types – CB, MURS, FRS and GMRS) are generally the least expensive, most readily available, and probably all that you need for most of your survival requirements.  Sure, the fancy and expensive Ham and commercial radios might be more appealing, more powerful, and more functional, but unless you’re going to go through the necessary licensing steps to qualify for operating these types of radios (anyone can buy and own these radios without having to show or prove their licensing authority to operate them, but as soon as you press the transmit key, you’re committing a moderately serious offense if you aren’t already appropriately licensed) you’re best to leave them alone.

See the next section for why we strongly recommend you follow all FCC restrictions, requirements and regulations.

Don’t Break the FCC Licensing Laws

We always urge you to conform to all laws, even in a period ‘without rule of law’, because you don’t want to create any type of vulnerability, either before, during or after any type of Level 1/2/3 situation.  You might think ‘WTSHTF no-one is going to care if my radio is licensed or not’ but you’d only be partly right.

First of all, what happens prior to when things all go wrong?  How can you practice and rehearse for such situations with your radios without breaking the law if you don’t have the appropriate licenses?  You’ll definitely want to get familiar with your radios, and the coverage areas they provide you, and which channels are most free of interference; that will require extensive use of your radios long before any type of problem scenario.

Secondly, there will be patches of semi/pseudo law and order, even in the depths of a Level 2 or 3 situation.  If you’ve ever talked to a policeman, you know they boast ‘We can always arrest you for something’.  Maybe that’s true, but don’t make it any easier than unavoidable for them to find a reason to arrest you.

If you and the interim authorities get offside of each other (and we do foresee unavoidable tensions between the unprepared majority and the well prepared minority, with the former seeking any excuse or authority at all to confiscate food and supplies from the latter), you desperately don’t want to give them any sort of reason to confiscate any of your prepped supplies, and/or to ‘fine’ you or lock you up.

Thirdly, at the end of any such situation and with the return of normalcy, anyone you may have upset during the lawless period can now attack you – hopefully not physically, but definitely legally, using any of the laws that you may have broken during the crisis situation.

Can you rely on the grey suited faceless government bureaucrats – perhaps the same people who were going hungry while you were restricting your own limited supplies for your family – saying ‘Oh, don’t worry about it, they were tough times for us all, the important thing is you survived, never mind how many laws you broke in doing so’?

The Four Types of Unlicensed Radio Services Anyone Can Use

As we mentioned above, there are four main types of radio service which you can use without needing a license.  All of these are covered by Part 95 of the FCC’s regulations.

We recommend you concentrate on the FRS and GMRS type of radios, so let’s explain the differences between the four radio services and why FRS/GMRS is probably the best choice for most people.

CB Radio

You probably remember CB radios (CB stands for ‘Citizens Band’) from the 1970s – they became very popular after movies like ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ and many people had them in their cars.  But after only a brief period of general popularity, they faded back into obscurity and while they are still out there, and while they are still used by many truckers, these days most ‘normal’ people never have any contact with CB radios.

CB radios can have as good or even better range than FRS/GMRS radios when outdoors but not so good indoors (and are still basically limited by line-of-sight considerations), but they require very large antennas for good range (about 9′ as a good compromise length – a quarter wavelength).  This is practical at a ‘base station’ – ie in your retreat, it is possible in a vehicle, but is very much less practical in a portable radio – a ‘walkie talkie’.

Furthermore, over the last decade or more, radio manufacturers have lost interest in CB radio (there are fewer companies making them, fewer models available, and very little in the way of new models or feature), and there are not many high-end models available as portable sets.  That’s not to say you don’t still have a reasonable selection, as you can see from Amazon’s several pages of listings.

If you only wanted communications between vehicles and base stations, maybe CB radio is still a possibility, but why would you want to limit yourself to only base and vehicle services?  Whatever you use has to be useful in all three types of applications – base, mobile, and portable.

For the sake of completeness, we’ll tell you some more about CB radio.  It was established back in the 1940s, and originally was a licensed service.  In 1983 they became unlicensed (largely because during their surge of popularity in the 1970s, many people didn’t bother licensing them and it seems the FCC gave in to the inevitable), so now anyone can operate a CB radio without needing an FCC license.  The radios can be used for both business and personal communications.

There are 40 AM channels in a range from 26.965 MHz to 27.405 MHz (channel 9 – 27.065 MHz is an emergency calling channel, and channel 19 – 27.185 MHz, is a general ‘hailing’ channel to contact other people).  The channels from 36 – 40 are often used in a SSB form which gives the signal more range and power (all channels could be used in SSB mode but by convention only the upper five channels are used that way).

CB radios can have external antennas, and are limited to 4W in power, or 12W in SSB mode.  In years gone by, it was common to see a lot of illegally modified CB radios – typically either with too much transmitting power (some would go as high as 1,000 Watts) or tweaked for non-standard frequency operation.  Even now, with only a bit of searching, you could probably find ‘linear amplifiers’ for power boosting and radios capable of transmitting on non-official frequencies.  But if that appeals, maybe you should re-read the preceding section on keeping everything legal!

Here’s an FCC summary explanation of CB service.  For full details of any of the four types of service, you should click the link to their full Part 95 regulations.

MURS

The Multi-Use Radio Service, or MURS for short, is the newest of the four services.  It was established by the FCC in 2002.  There are five VHF FM frequencies (in a range from 151.820 MHz to 154.600 MHz) and they can be used for business or personal use, but can not be patched into the normal telephone system.

MURS radios are limited in power to 2W, and can have external antennas.  Repeaters are not allowed.

MURS is an okay alternative to FRS/GMRS, although with 2W maximum power, they may have more difficulty reaching their theoretical maximum (ie line of sight) range).  Unfortunately, there are very few MURS radios out there, and they tend to be more expensive than the FRS/GMRS radios, so we prefer to focus on FRS/GMRS to the exclusion of MURS.

Here’s the Amazon page of MURS radios.  Currently it seems there’s nothing less than $80 per radio, whereas the FRS radios can be had for as little as $10 each.

Here’s an FCC summary explanation of MURS service.

FRS

The FRS (Family Radio Service) was instituted in 1996.  The rules associated with it are designed to allow for only very limited range communications, which can be for either business or personal purposes.  The radios can not have external antennas, and are limited to a maximum power of 0.5W.

There are 14 FM different frequencies, the first seven of which are shared with GMRS radios.  They range from 462.5625 MHz to 467.7125 MHz.

Manufacturers have started offering FRS radios at amazingly low prices – it is not uncommon to see a pair of them being sold for $50 or less.  As you can see, Amazon has a lot of different FRS radios, with some as inexpensive as $20 a pair.

You will also see that the radios are being advertised as having range capabilities up to 36 miles.  Do not believe this nonsense claim.  Well, to be more specific, if you were up the top of a ship’s mast on the unobstructed ocean, or if you were on the top of a mountain, and looking over to a person that you could see (through a telescope) free of obstructions on the top of another ship mast or mountain, then maybe – just possibly maybe – you could get a signal to punch through.

But for the real world, with obstructions between you and the people you’re wanting to communicate with, you’ll probably get something less than a mile, and often very much less.

One more thing about these offensively incorrect statements about range capabilities.  Don’t think that a radio with a claimed range of 36 miles is better than one with a claimed range of 24 miles, or any other range.  Typically there are the same identical radio electronics inside the different models of FRS radio; the main difference is the packaging, the marketing hype, and the price.

So the good news about FRS is that the radios are very inexpensive.  The bad news is the radios are good for only very short-range communication.  But even the lack of range is a mixture of good and bad news.  You don’t want strangers, five miles away, to be able to listen in on your communications or even to know you’re out there at all.  If low powered FRS radios give you the range you need around your retreat property, but don’t reach much further, then that is a good rather than bad thing.

Also, with low transmitting power comes longer battery life.  There’s a lot to like about FRS radios, and you need to realize that sometimes short-range is a good rather than a bad thing.

Here’s an FCC summary explanation of FRS service.

GMRS

Yes, we’ve deliberately left what we view to probably be the best radio service until last.  The General Mobile Radio Service has the same 1940s origins as CB radio, and, the same as CB radio, has evolved over the years.  Although CB’s evolution has brought us to an easily understood point today, the same is not quite as true for GMRS, which is in a period of regulatory transition at present.

The Evolving History of GMRS

The distinctive thing about GMRS is that it uses similar, and in some cases, identical frequencies to the FRS radios, but usually at greater power and with fewer restrictions.  This meant that it didn’t take too long after the release of FRS frequencies in 1996 for manufacturers to start selling dual-purpose radios – higher power for GMRS and lower power if you switched the radio to its lower power setting for FRS.

But whereas FRS has always been a license-free service, back in 1996 GMRS required a license – either a business or a family license – to be used.  So the manufacturers were being slightly naughty selling radios that combined FRS and GMRS capabilities, and selling them at retail rather than through specialty radio stores, and with only the smallest of small print somewhere telling the purchaser that to use all the frequencies, and on high power, it was necessary to now go fill out a form and pay a license fee every five years to the FCC.  The five-year license fee ($85) is often very much more than the person spent to buy two or more of the walkie-talkie radios.

You’ll be unsurprised to learn that lots of people bought the more powerful combo radios, and almost none of them bothered to get FCC licenses.  At first, the pre-existing GMRS licensees were appalled at their quiet uncongested ‘sensible’ channels suddenly getting shared with unregulated users, often young children just having fun in the back yard, and the FCC tried to enforce its licensing laws.

But it became plain to the FCC that, just like with CB radio licensing in the 1970s, this was an unwinnable fight, and what could it do, anyway?  Even the nastiest FCC official didn’t really think it fair to send a family – mom, dad, and the kids too – to federal prison for two years because they’d bought a pair of radios at Office Depot or Costco or Target or wherever, didn’t read all the pages of fine print, and were just simply having fun with them.  And the cost of trying to go after probably hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of law breakers was just impossible for even the federal government to consider.

So they unofficially gave up on enforcing the requirement for licenses, and in 2010 published a proposal to officially remove the licensing requirement for GMRS radios (and also to change power limits and some other things too).  Strangely, the proposal has languished somewhere in the FCC and is still pending, unresolved, nearly three years later, as we write this in March 2013.

So at present the theory says you need to buy an $85 five-year license to use GMRS radios, but the FCC no longer seems to be enforcing this.

The Present Situation with GMRS Radios

GMRS radios are allowed to transmit up to 50W of power, although we’re unaware of any handheld GMRS devices that do this (they’d eat through batteries tremendously quickly, and might be dangerous in terms of too-strong RF emissions too close to you).  Some of the base stations and mobile units do use this much power, though, and that really helps you punch your signal a bit further out, and through obstructions on the way.

GMRS radios can have external antennas, and can be used by either the licensee’s family or the employees of a licensed business.  We expect this will probably become ‘can be used for personal or business use’ once the requirement for licensing is removed.  You can’t connect a GMRS radio into your phone system.

We’ll talk more about range another time, but suffice it to say that while more transmitter power doesn’t always guarantee more range, if all other things are equal, more power can often help provide additional range out to the end of ‘line-of-sight’.  For a portable handheld transceiver and a short stubby antenna, with probably 1W or 2W of power, you’ll get similar or slightly better range than with an FRS unit.

Unique among these four radio types is permission to operate repeaters for GMRS radios.  This can massively extend the range of a GMRS based system, allowing it to reach out potentially 50 or more miles, depending on the topography of the area in which you live.

There are 23 FM frequencies assigned to the GMRS series.  Sixteen of these are in the form of eight frequency pairs for repeater operation, and the other seven frequencies are shared with FRS service.  Frequencies range from 462.5500 MHz to 467.7250 MHz.

There are many GMRS radios to choose from, ranging from ‘consumer’ grade units that are usually dual purpose FRS/GMRS units up to ‘prosumer’, professional and commercial grade units.  The consumer type dual purpose units cost little more than FRS-only radios, the high-end units can cost plenty more than $100 each.

There are two major points of differentiation between consumer and professional/prosumer/commercial units.  The first is the more expensive radios have better receiver circuits and can take external antennas – these capabilities will have more impact on your radio’s effective range than its power output.  The second is that the more expensive radios will be capable of operating in both ‘normal’ mode (what is termed ‘simplex’) and also in split mode, with different frequencies for sending and receiving, a mode which allows the radio to work with a repeater.

You can see Amazon’s extensive range of GMRS radios from the link.

As with the FRS radios, ignore the ludicrous claims of enormous ranges.  Remember also – don’t think that, whatever the range truly is, that because one radio costs $40 and claims a 30 mile range that it ‘must’ be better than a radio costing $30 and claiming a 20 mile range – they probably have identical circuitry inside.  More professional GMRS radios are typically sold by industrial and Ham radio manufacturers and are described as being in the 70cm band or UHF or will show the frequencies they can operate as ranging from somewhere below the start of the GMRS band to somewhere above the end of the GMRS band – sometimes as broad as 400 – 520 MHz.

Not all of these radios though are certified for use with GMRS service.  The FCC might have certified them for Ham radio service (Part 97 of their regulations) and for private land mobile radio services (Part 90) but perhaps the manufacturer didn’t request Part 95 certification too.  That may pose a slight ethical dilemma for you.

Become a Licensed Ham Radio Operator

If you want to be able to lawfully use more powerful and sophisticated radios (although, alas, they’ll be more expensive, too), if you’d like the flexibility of additional frequency bands (that fewer other people will be likely to be accessing or using too), and to have additional capabilities and longer ranges, then you probably should become a Ham radio operator.

The good news is that – these days – there’s no need to learn Morse code.  For a basic ‘Technician’ Ham license you need to learn about some aspects of radio theory, law and operation, and then sit a test with 35 multi-choice questions for which you must get 26 correct.

You can see a list of about 400 multi-choice questions from which the 35 questions will be semi-randomly chosen in advance, making it easy to prepare for the test, and easy to pass it.  There are two higher levels of Ham license you can also obtain, after passing two more exams.

We have a separate article that tells you all you need to know about how to become a licensed Ham radio operator.

Encryption, Scrambling, and Codes

The FCC forbids the use of encryption or scrambling (two words that essentially mean the same thing) or talking in code on these public access frequencies.  But it does allow people to use codes such as the popular ’10 Code’, and as you’ll see if you do some research on the 10 codes, there are an enormous number of different codes, and some numbers mean different things in different areas for different user groups.  Yes, 10-4 pretty much universally means ‘Okay, understood, agreed’ but beyond that, things get more arcane and individualized.

There are some walkie-talkies with built-in encryption capabilities.  You can legally buy these, but you can’t legally enable the encryption feature.  That might sound stupid, but – hey – you can legally buy a sports car that will do 200 mph even if you’re not allowed to drive it at that speed anywhere.

If you want to draw attention to yourself, then start using encryption.  That’s a sure way to end up with an unwelcome visit from an FCC Radio Inspector (there are legions of self-appointed ‘spies’ – Hams who monitor radio communications eagerly looking for violators they can report to the FCC for enforcement action).  But if you want a low level of security you could use your own set of 10 codes, and you could also use some obfuscations – for example, maybe you could flip any bearings you give and say a number 180 degrees different, and maybe you could change numbers in some way too.  ‘I see ten people six miles south of us’ might mean ‘I see five people three miles north of us’.

Summary

Some type of wireless communication service and strategy will be close to essential for life after TEOTWAWKI.

Ham radio gear is probably the best choice for the truly dedicated prepper, but if you have less time, less budget, and less technical skill, then GMRS radios are probably the second best choice.

Please see our detailed two-part Buyer’s Guide to Walkie Talkies for information on how to choose the most appropriate units for your needs and budget.

Mar 202013
 
A classic US military TA-312A/PT Field Phone.

A classic US military TA-312A/PT Field Phone.

As we’ve discussed in our article ‘Will there be telephone service after TSHTF?‘, it is probable that any event such as to activate your prepping survival plans will see a loss of both wired and wireless phone service.  We also predict the same failure for internet service, for similar reasons.

This will make your retreat electronically cut off from the outside world.  Oh – with the likely shortage or total disappearance of diesel and petrol supplies, you’ll become more physically removed from the nearest township too.

There will remain methods of communication, which we’ll discuss in subsequent articles in this series (particularly ham radio, and we’ve already advocated you should get a ham radio operator license) and of course other methods of transportation (or of fueling your current vehicles) too.  But this article approaches one of the alternatives you have for communications in, on and around your retreat property.  Using Wired Phones.

The Pluses and Minuses of Using Wired Phones

Apart from smoke signals, semaphore, and other ‘low bit rate’ forms of signaling, most of your communications around your retreat property would be either by wireless telephony of some sort (CB or other walkie-talkie, ham radios, Wi-Fi devices or cell phones) or by wired phones.

As we never tire of saying, you need to plan for a low-tech ultra-reliable type of communications that you can be certain will survive any initiating events that plunge you into a Level 2/3 situation, and which will continue to operate during the period of that situation.  As lovely as wireless devices are, they are less resilient.

There is another downside to wireless communications.  They are more readily detected and monitored by unfriendly people.  What is the point of being obsessive about ‘Op-Sec’ in a dozen different ways if you are chattering away on walkie-talkies regularly every day, providing a huge big electronic ‘homing beacon’ for unfriendly people to zero in on.  With scanning radios nowadays being inexpensive, readily available, and easy to use (for example, the $100 Bearcat handheld scanner listed on the many pages of scanners at Amazon, here) you have to assume that any radio transmissions you are emitting will eventually be picked up by people who may not have your best interests at heart.

Wireless devices also need batteries.  Sooner or later, you are going to run out of batteries, and/or your rechargeable batteries will wear out.

In comparison, wired phones are much more secure and harder for unwanted third parties to eavesdrop and listen in on.  They are generally lower tech and probably are more likely to be repairable if they develop a problem.  They might also require power, but they are probably much more forgiving about the type of power and the exact voltage they’ll operate with than is the case with a wireless device.

But a wired phone is not something you can have with you, all the time, everywhere you are located.  You need to have wiring run to each place a phone is placed.  And the wires are somewhat vulnerable to accidental or deliberate damage, although it is true your radio signals could also be deliberately jammed (all an enemy would have to do is to transmit on the same frequency as you any time you started a transmission, which might cause your transmission to be displaced by his).

Overall, if you are asking yourself the question ‘Should I prepare for wired or wireless communications at my retreat?’ you are probably not asking the correct question.  Ideally, you should have both.  Where possible, you’d use wired communications, but also have the ‘safety blanket’ of a wireless device with you for emergency communications.

Note that emergency communications might occur from you to other members of your retreat community, or equally likely, in the other direction from them to you.  Emergency communications don’t only involve ‘Help, we are being attacked’ type scenarios.  There are plenty of other emergencies and high priority reasons for calling someone else, and many of those scenarios won’t see either you or the person needing to contact you being at a wired phone.

So in the balance of this article, we look at issues to do with a simple type of wired phone – the field phone.  We’ll also be publishing articles on other communication options subsequently.

What is a Field Phone?

There is no formal definition for what a field phone is or is not, other than a vague expectation that it is a rugged device and probably of military origin.

When we talk about field phones, we are referring to very simple basic analog phones, although note that the latest military field phones are sophisticated digital devices.  There is nothing wrong with these at all, but they require more support and high-tech infrastructure than very low tech analog devices and from a prepping perspective, we are best advised to keep it as simple as possible.

The simplest phones of all require no power of any sort – no mains power, and no battery power either, because they are sound powered.  Slightly more sophisticated field phones are battery-powered, either from batteries inside each phone set or by batteries at a central switching location.

Field phones are connected to each other and to switching points via ordinary wire (rather than coax cable).  Some phones use two wires, others use four wires.  Two wire phones are typically a ‘simplex’ type of operation where only one person can be speaking at a time (like using walkie-talkies); four wire phones permit ‘duplex’ operation with both people speaking simultaneously.

Field phones are generally not equipped with dial pads and generally are not connected to any type of automatic switching exchange.  They certainly could be equipped with such capabilities, and be connected through an automatic exchange too, but as the sophistication of the phones and the required ‘central office’ support equipment increases, we feel we are no longer talking about ‘field phones’ which, by definition, should be thought of as very simple devices with limited capabilities.

There is no reason why you couldn’t create your own automated private exchange if you wish to do this – there are plenty of ‘off the shelf’ systems that you can buy for varying amounts of money, and with varying features, and you might validly wish to add a small private exchange to your retreat as well.

But the more sophisticated you make your communications, the greater the vulnerability they present.  They become more maintenance intensive, they become more energy intensive (requiring good quality electricity) and they become more EMP-vulnerable (phone lines will act as antennas to funnel and magnify EMP energy into the phones and other devices they are connected to, making phones and phone switching equipment very vulnerable to EMP effects).

There is also no reason why some field phones could not be connected – either directly or through your own branch exchange/switch, to the public phone network as well.  But you’re running into the danger of ‘over-engineering’ your situation and your solution.  Field phones are designed to be simple in form and simple in function.

At the other extreme to the latest multi-feature digital phone, you end up with a sound-powered phone.  Sure, it does nothing other than transmit voice to another person, but there’s almost nothing that can go wrong with it, and the few things that might go wrong can generally be repaired without any specialty high-tech tools, equipment, or parts.

Some things are common for all field phones – especially issues to do with how you wire them.  We consider these issues in this article; in another article we talk about the different types of field phones you can choose between.

Wire for Field Phones

Unlike wire for data or radio frequency circuits, field phone wire doesn’t need to be shielded, and doesn’t require any other special properties.  It just needs to be insulated and suitably strong for however you’ll be laying it.

Field phones can operate on pretty much any type of electrical wire at all.  The larger the gauge of the wire, the less the resistance and the longer the distance you can have between phone sets, especially with sound-powered rather than battery-powered phones.

The ‘entry level’ least expensive and arguably most common type of wire for military field phones is the WD-1/TT or WD-1A/TT single pair multi-strand wire.  It is lightweight and inexpensive, and you can sometimes find it for sale on quarter mile or longer reels.  There are also plenty of other types of mil-spec wire (with better conductivity, but greater weight and higher cost) and there’s no real need for the wire to be mil-spec anyway.

Four Wire vs Two Wire

If money allows, whenever you run one wire, run two or three, because you’ve no idea what you might not want to have in the future, and it is very much easier to run multiple wires at the same time than it is to redo the whole exercise and run more wires later.

In the case of  phone wiring, this means that even if you’re only planning on using a single wire pair type phone system, you should still make a point of running two pairs or four pairs of wire everywhere.  Who only knows what you might not end up using the additional pairs of wires for – you might upgrade your system to a four wire phone system, you might use the wires to run some power, or for remote metering, or who only knows what else.  Or maybe one of the wires breaks and you can then switch over to another spare wire.

Of course, it is one thing to be running multiple pairs of wire over short 100 ft distances within your retreat.  The extra cost is minimal.  But if you’re running a one mile line from one end of your property to the other, or a five mile connection to your neighbor’s retreat, then the cost of doubling up on your materials becomes more appreciable and you might have to compromise between what would be ideal and what is feasible.

Comparative Efficiencies of Different Wire Types

The length of wire you can run is limited primarily by the resistance of the wire.  Resistance is determined by the type of material, the thickness of the wire, and the length of the wire.

In general, copper is the best conductor of electricity (ie it has the lowest resistance), with aluminum as second best, then iron, then steel.  If copper has one unit of resistance, then aluminum has about 1.6, iron has about 6, and steel has about 8.5 units.

To put that another way, for every 8.5 ft of copper wire, you can only have one ft of equivalent thickness steel wire; or for every 1.6 ft of copper wire, you can have one ft of aluminum, and so on.

Another way of looking at it is that to have the same resistance, you must have a steel wire nine times thicker than a copper wire, because the larger the thickness or diameter of the wire, the better the conductivity.  On the other hand, the thicker the wire, the heavier it is, which poses problems if stringing it up between poles, and adds to its cost, no matter how you are running the wire.

Several different sources list comparable effective distances for TA-312 phones depending on the type of wire they are being connected together with.  The same concepts apply to other phones too, of course, such that if a phone’s range with one type of wire is twice as long (or twice as short) then it would be similarly twice as long/short for the other wire options presented as well.

Here’s the table for TA-312 phones (source – alas, the company that lists the phones no longer makes/sells them – I checked in March 2013).  As you can see, the practical working distance lengthens dramatically as the wire thickness increases.

WD-1/TT –  35 Km (22 miles)

Lead Covered Cable (19 Gauge) –  48 Km (30 miles)

Open Wire Line (W-2 #14 AWG copper, 0.064″ diameter) –   370 Km (230 miles)

Open Wire Line (W-74 #12 AWG copper. 0.081″ diameter) –  837 Km (520 miles)

How to Run Your Field Phone Wire Outside

Wiring for inside your retreat is a relatively trivial issue.  You’ll probably have it in the walls and ceiling and terminating in wall jacks, just like for regular phone and data wiring.  But how you run your wire outside is a more complex consideration.

The first consideration is security.  If you don’t want your wire to be obviously exposed, then you’ll almost certainly have to bury the wire to obscure and protect it.  An exposed wire poses several security threats.  First, it could be damaged/broken.  Second, it could be followed, perhaps helping an unfriendly visitor to locate any remote observation posts you might have.  Third, it could be tapped into, allowing unknown parties to listen in on your conversations.  And fourthly, a person might connect a high voltage device in series or parallel with the line, probably destroying whatever devices were connected at either end.

So, for security purposes. a buried line is better than an above-ground line.

Buried lines can be both more vulnerable and less vulnerable to accidental damage.  There is a risk of someone digging through the line, or perhaps as part of plowing a field also damaging the line.  Gophers and moles can be a problem, too.  Over time, tree roots may damage lines.  If a buried line is damaged, it can be more difficult to locate and repair the damage that with an above-ground line, unless you have a sophisticated test device that will tell you the approximate distance to where the line damage is located.

If you are running below-ground wire, you don’t need it in conduit, although that would enhance its protection appreciably, and so if budget allows, we would recommend you to do so, and particularly if you anticipate potential mole/gopher type challenges.  We suggest that one way to protect below ground wire – and to conveniently locate it again if you need to – is to run it alongside fence lines.  Usually any plowing or other working of the ground doesn’t go hard up to the fence line, so your wire is more likely to be undisturbed.

On the other hand, above ground lines are far from bullet-proof, either.  Indeed, there’s a vulnerability in that expression – there’s a danger of idiots capriciously or maliciously shooting at your lines just for the fun of it.  Depending on how you are keeping the lines above ground, if they are strung from tree to tree, you have obvious problems in the wind.

The only good thing about above ground wires is that it is easy to trouble shoot them and to repair them if (when) they break.  Generally we recommend below ground wiring.

If you have below ground wiring, we’d suggest that, where appropriate and possible, you either have inspection and access traps to allow you to easily access the wire or simply run the wire up above the ground on a post then back down below ground again.

If you run the wire in direct lines between traps or posts, that will help you follow its path if you need to dig it up to repair it in the future.

The traps or posts also provide access points where you can connect phones.

Fencing Wire for Field Phones

If you have a wire fence, why not use the fencing wire to carry a phone signal, too?  That is certainly an option.

Typical fencing wire is made out of zinc coated steel, and is 12 – 12½ gauge in diameter.  A 500 ft length of 12 gauge copper wire has a resistance of 0.77 Ω, a similar length of steel wire has a resistance of about 6.6 Ω (source).

Or, to express it another way, the resistance you’d encounter with 100 ft of WD-1/TT wire would be about the same as you’d encounter with 140 ft of fencing wire.

Using fencing wire for your field phones also has the advantage that you can tap into the circuit any time you are close to the fence line.  It is semi-secure, being ‘hidden in plain sight’.

If you were going to do this, then assuming you have a more than two wire fence, we’d recommend connecting the top wire and the third wire together for one part of the phone two wire pair, and the second and fourth wires together for the second phone wire.  Every so often, you should run wires connecting the electrically twinned/joined together fence wires.  This makes the double wiring more fault tolerant.

Doubling the wires this way not only halves the resistance (so then 280 ft of doubled fence wire would be the same as 100 ft of WD-1 wire), but also gives you some redundancy – one of the two wires can break and the other one still remains in place.  And by using only the top wires, the bottom wire (in a typical five wire fence) is left untouched, with this being the one most likely to be contacted by grass and other vegetation that might otherwise cause some of the current to ‘leak’ out.

If you only had three usable strands of wire, we’d recommend that about half the time, the third wire be linked to one of the two wires and the other half the time, it be linked to the other of the two ‘main’ wires.  That way it gives you a reasonably balanced/averaged resistance on both sides of the two wire line.

We would recommend using the middle wire as the one which alternates between sharing the signal with the wire above it and the wire below it.  That way, if you wanted to connect a field phone up to the fence wires, you always know to use the top and bottom wires and to ignore the middle wire.  It doesn’t matter if it is sharing the top or bottom wire, wherever you are.

Clearly, if you came to a gate, you’d then need to have ‘normal’ wire running down from the fence posts, under the entrance/gateway, then up the other side again.  And anywhere you had joins in the wire, you’d want to make sure the two lengths of wire had plenty of contact between them to create a good electrical connection.  In general, it would be preferable to run your fencing with as few joins as possible.

Wiring Topography and Strategy

There are several considerations and different ways to run your wiring.  In its simplest form, you have a simple single pair line running all around the place, and you can connect phones on and off this single pair line anywhere you want to, any time you want to.  Simple sound powered phones will get quieter and quieter for each extra phone currently connected (in parallel) across the wires, so that is a limitation, and there is a similar (but not so severe) type of limitation for battery-powered phones too, but for a quick and easy initial wiring layout, this works just fine.

If you have multiple phones on the one circuit, then anyone can pick up their phone and hear what other people are saying, and there has to be some sort of signaling protocol so a person calling another person can make the call request in a manner that doesn’t cause everyone to simultaneously rush to pick up their phone, only to find that the call wasn’t for them.

There is a variation on the single length of circuit concept, which is to make it into a loop.  This makes the circuit fault tolerant – you can have a break in the loop occur somewhere and the circuit will still work because the current simply flows the ‘other’ way between the devices.

This also makes a nice way of managing your circuit – you can have a test point on each of the two wires that is a break in each wire.  Normally you have the breaks joined together, but you can open up the test point and check for continuity/resistance in the circuit.  You’d get a very different value if a break in the line had occurred than if the line was still okay in both directions – although note that this value will vary depending on how many phones are also connected in parallel across the line and where they are located.  Best to do the test with as few phones across the line as possible.

A more sophisticated system has a star type of shape.  A central point – somewhere in your retreat building, probably, has multiple lines feeding out to different locations, with phones being connected on these multiple lines.  When someone calls on the remote phone, it rings at a switchboard in your retreat, and when someone answers, they can then either talk to the caller or connect them to one of the other phones if the caller wished to be switched to another person on another circuit.

The benefit of this type of system is that you can have multiple conversations simultaneously, and happening separate to each other, rather than having everyone simultaneously using the one circuit and struggling to get a word in edgewise.

In reality, you’re probably not going to have – or need – an extensive phone network.  You might have one phone in the barn, a ‘traveling’ phone that people can take with them when they are working in the fields, maybe another phone as a ‘gate phone’ that visitors can use to call to you at the retreat from your property boundary/gate and ask for permission to enter, and maybe another phone in an observation post.

Summary

Good and convenient communications simultaneously become more essential and more difficult in a future ‘grid down’ situation.  They are more essential because you need to live your life more efficiently, and good communications is an essential part of coordinating your life and your activities with those of the other people in your community.  Good communications are also an essential part of your retreat’s security program.

But the ‘grid down’ nature of a future Level 2 or 3 situation means you have to provide your own solution to your communication needs.  We recommend you adopt both wired and wireless communication services, and in this article we have given you some of the information you need to install a wired field phone type system.

Feb 192013
 
High capability remote controlled drones can be purchased for civilian use and costing as little as $1000 or less.  But be careful how you integrate such capabilities into your retreat's defensive strategies.

High capability remote-controlled drones can be purchased for civilian use and costing as little as $1000 or less. But be careful how you integrate such capabilities into your retreat’s defensive strategies.

I was reading an article on the comprehensive Survivalblog website – an impressive site that should be on your ‘must visit’ list.  It has a huge compilation of content, albeit some of it user-contributed and occasionally overlapping and repetitive in nature.

This particular article was about using radio controlled planes/helicopters (ie what are commonly now being termed ‘drones’) for reconnaissance and security purposes at one’s retreat.

The author of the article was talking about how these sorts of devices (possibly augmented by fixed wireless remote cameras too) provide excellent security and surveillance, and can even send live audio and video feeds direct to his cell phone and tablet, wherever he was.  It all sounded wonderful and appealing, and I could understand the author’s enthusiasm for the concepts he was proposing.

But.

This is the part which gave me pause, and served as the inspiration for the article you are now reading :

The other clear benefit to employing drones to keep watch, is that even if the device is spotted, and even engaged and disabled, it’s much better than risking losing a member of your team, or family. Machines are expendable, and replaceable, while people clearly are not.

A much better scenario would be to be sitting snuggly in a central command area equipped with CCTV monitors, powered perhaps by a genset, or re-chargeable solar/battery banks. Or even streaming into your laptop, I-phone or I-pad, regardless of your location relevant to the drones area of observation.

This is all great stuff, and as a high-tech gadget lover myself, music to my ears.  But there are three huge assumptions inherent in his recommendations.

The first assumption is not one to be discussed here – and that is the assumption that glorified ‘toys’ can provide an effective and secure observation/security/surveillance system, saving you from needing to have ‘boots on the ground’ out there, in observation posts and walking patrols.  That’s an assumption I’m very uncomfortable with; and so much so that it should be the subject of a separate post all on its own.

Suffice it to say that any type of security system is best with multiple layers of sensors and sensing, and that there’s still nothing out there that can entirely replace the good old Mark 1 Human Eyeball and Ear.  And whereas people and ‘human sensors’ are moderately all-weather capable and can be deployed for some hours at a time, most drones costing less than five or six figures are very limited in their weather handling, their range and their endurance.

The other two assumptions are what we wish to discuss in this article.

His second assumption – when he says that machines are expendable and replaceable, yes, that is definitely true today.  You can order spare parts or complete new machines online or over the phone today and expect them delivered a day or two later.  And probably you’d keep at least one spare for such a mission critical capability on-site, too.

The third assumption – when he talks about streaming video into a laptop, iPhone or iPad, regardless of location, that too is largely true today, as long as you are within a Wi-Fi or wireless data coverage area.  Of course, many of our retreat locations suffer from poor cell phone signals at the best of times, and very few also have good fast data service, but that is a known variable that can be factored in to one’s planning.

But – and here’s the huge, enormous, overpowering but.  What happens in a Level 2 or 3 situation (defined here)?  Even a Level 1 situation will pose problems.

What happens when the grid goes down, and society suffers a short, medium, or long-term collapse?  How do these assumptions withstand this type of adverse scenario, which is, after all, the scenario we are planning for?

You can’t then go online and order things, because the internet will be down.  Within a few days, landline phone service will become increasingly fractured too – where will the phone companies get electricity from to power their exchanges, their repeaters, and everything else needed to drive the wired phone system?  Sure, you probably understand that if you have traditional ‘POTS’ (Plain Old Telephone Service) at your home/retreat, you don’t need power for a wired phone to work – but that is because the phone company is powering the system at its end.  What happens when they lose power?

How will you then order a replacement drone?  You can’t, can you.  All of a sudden, that ‘expendable and replaceable’ item has become precious and irreplaceable.

Okay, we’re absolutely not saying you should carelessly hazard the lives of your community members instead (although a cynic might point out that replacement community members might be more readily available than replacement high-tech drones!).  We’re simply saying that basing your retreat’s defense strategy on the assumption that your main asset for observation and local intelligence gathering is conveniently available in limitless quantities and can be freely sacrificed is not a good idea.

The second of the two paragraphs we quoted above has another enormous assumption built-in to it.  While it is true that you could create your own LAN within your retreat, and you could of course use Wi-Fi routers to provide a wireless network that your portable computer devices could connect to, the range and coverage of this network will be limited and much less than the author’s expectations of being available ‘regardless of your location’.

Using omni-directional wireless hubs, you can expect a range of little more than 100 ft in the ‘best’ indoor situations, reducing substantially for every wall, floor or ceiling the signal needs to travel through.  An outside Wi-Fi antenna can radiate its signal 300 ft or maybe slightly more.

These ranges can be massively extended by using special directional antennas on both the Wi-Fi hub and the Wi-Fi device that is connecting to the hub, but an iPhone or iPad has no way of adding an external antenna to boost its range, and while a directional antenna will give you more range in its favored direction, the rest of the 360° of coverage area will have correspondingly less coverage.

Furthermore, when your device gets out of Wi-Fi coverage and switches to use the wireless phone company’s data signal instead (3G, 4G, LTE, whatever) that embodies a huge assumption – that the wireless company is still providing service, and that there is an internet connection between the device that receives the drone’s transmissions and the wireless company’s servers.  That’s just not going to happen – it only takes one link in the complex chain of dependencies between your drone’s receiver and your phone to go down for the connection as a whole to totally fail.

Don’t get us wrong.  As we said before, we love technology, and our own retreat is full of high-tech features and capabilities too.  But we’ve planned for a future where there are no external resources, and we fully expect our high-tech capabilities to degrade over time, so we have fall-back alternate approaches ready to deploy as this happens.

You must not rely upon being able to get resupply of anything.  Not food, not fuel, and definitely nothing high-tech.  You must not rely upon the continued existence of any external communications of any sort with the outside world – not data, not phone, not even snail-mail.

This is part of the differentiation between a Level 2 and a Level 3 event.  In a Level 2 event, you can plan to use your stocks and stores of ‘modern day’ conveniences (as long as they don’t require external support from sources and services outside your retreat) in the semi-confident expectation/hope that by the time you have used them all up, life will be back to normal.

But the Level 3 event – a longer term one than a Level 2 event, with a slower recovery back to ‘normal’ life – assumes that you are exhausting your accumulated inventories of everything and are having to shift to a type of sustainable life-style that you can support indefinitely, due to an extended time without the benefits of our modern world being restored.

Summary

Our point is simply this.  Examine very carefully the assumptions on which you are basing your planning and preparing.  Have you – like the writer of this article – accidentally slipped in some assumptions that the world we experience and enjoy at present will still be there to support you in an uncertain future?

If so, adapt your plan to reflect a situation where this external support resource is not available.

Jan 072013
 
Fun for all the family with your own M/T-114 armored personnel carrier - this one costs $74,000.

Fun for all the family with your own M/T-114 armored personnel carrier – this one costs $74,000.

If you found yourself suddenly gifted with several million dollars, and assuming you had some left over after spending money on all the usual things, maybe you might choose to treat yourself to a really neat vehicle to stick in your retreat’s garage.

The issue of successfully defending your retreat against armed attackers post-WTSHTF is one of considerable debate.  Some people choose to ignore the issue entirely, and claim they have no need for serious preparations and defenses, either because their retreat is well hidden, or because they are in a region with plenty of like-minded folks, or because they don’t believe that people would actually come after them and attempt to steal from them by force (and – we fear – do much worse than that too).

We’re not going to re-debate those points.  We’ve discussed them before, and might again in the future, and suffice it to say for now that we feel it an essential component of the prepping mindset to consider not just best case but also worst case scenarios, and to prepare (within reason) for both.  What sort of prepper allows themselves to be caught out by something that they say weakly in excuse about ‘Oh, gosh, we didn’t think that was likely to happen’?  Isn’t prepping all about preparing for less likely things which, if they do happen, will seriously destroy our lives and our lifestyles?

This article is simply looking at some unusual types of defensive vehicles.  And, yes, clearly these ‘defensive’ vehicles could be used just as well by someone else as an offensive vehicle – to bring the battle directly to your front door.

That thought of course begs the difficult question – what would you do if a bad guy turned up on your doorstep in a tank?

Unfortunately, that’s a far from impossible scenario (depending on how close your retreat is to a base with armored vehicles on it at present).  When the rule of law crumbles, there will be many thousands of tanks and other armored vehicles on bases around the country that will be liable to being ‘repurposed’ by people with evil intent.  We can only hope they run out of fuel (or ammo and/or spare parts) for their armored vehicles before they reach your retreat.

But what about the lawful availability of armored vehicles, today?  Did you know there’s a reasonably extensive market that trades in older armored military vehicles.  Of course, the main guns have usually been ‘de-milled’ and made inoperable and close to impossible to repair back to working order, but as a secure platform that would resist small arms fire up to and probably including the .50 BMG round, they are very interesting.

Some of the older vehicles also have fully analog type engines that are probably about as sure to survive an EMP attack as anything out there.

Of course, a heavy armored vehicle is going to give very bad gas mileage, and so you don’t want to use it as a daily driver.  Tracked vehicles can also be very maintenance intensive.  But as the ultimate all-weather and all-terrain vehicle that you can use hopefully in almost any type of weather and ground condition, and with a secure protected compartment that you can either escape within or fight from, an armored vehicle gives you a new level of tactical options that hopefully the bad guys ranged against you can’t match.

Remember that not all tracked vehicles are armored, and of course, general purpose ‘military’ trucks and other vehicles are probably not armored either.  And not everything with impressive looking tracks or really big wheels will manage to proceed in deep soft snow or bottomless mud.

There are a number of different national sources of military vehicles.  Ebay Motors has a section for military vehicles.  Here’s another website that features online classified ads (and interesting magazines too).

Let’s not forget our own government – they sell off just about everything imaginable, including through this site.

Perhaps the best site for armored vehicles is this one.

In addition, who knows what you mightn’t find locally as well.  Ask around, do some Googling, and the chances are, if you want to indulge yourself in such a vehicle, there’ll be exactly what you’re looking for, somewhere in the country, and priced from the low tens of thousands up to the middling hundreds of thousands, depending of course on all the usual things such as market appeal, practicality, and condition.

Jul 142012
 

The darker the color, the greater the density of gang members in the state. Source – FBI 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment.

You know about gangs from the movies, television, and sometimes from the newspapers, right?

You probably understand them to be disaffected lawless groups of underclass urban youth, often from ethnic minorities, and while a problem for sure in the inner cities, not something you’re likely to encounter, either hopefully in your normal daily lives, or – and more to the point – if you ever need to bug out to the safety of your rural retreat.

Many people also assume that because street gangs are lawless and disruptive, and because they deal in and use drugs, and because they seem to be made up of high school dropouts rather than honor roll students, they are anarchistic in nature, uncoordinated, and poorly managed.  Their tendency to kill each other is viewed as further proof of their irrelevancy outside of the narrow geographic areas they can be found in, and outside of the drugs trade they seem to be such a part of.

Unfortunately, while some of the preceding two paragraphs is indeed correct, the most important parts are totally wrong.  Gangs are not a geographically confined phenomenon affecting only their fellow members of the criminal classes.  They have already infiltrated all parts of the US – rural and urban – and are engaged in all types of criminal activity, from ‘white collar’ crimes such as identity theft and mortgage fraud to more traditional activities such as drugs, prostitution and general violent crime.

Gangs members are also more numerous than you might think and steadily increasing in number.  In 2010 it was estimated there were at least 1.4 million gang members in the US (up from a 2008/2009 estimate of 1 million).  In four states (CA ID UT and NM) the gang members outnumber the police by more than six to one, in another seven states there are 4 – 6 gang members for every law enforcement official (NV WA MT ND NE IA MS).

As these numbers hint at, gangs are moving out of the cities and into the rural states and regions.  States with more than four gang members per 1,000 of population in general are CA, NV, ID, NM, IL (all with 6+ per thousand) and AK, WA, UT, WY, CO, NE, KS, OK, MN, IA, MS, TN, NJ and ME (all with 4 – 6 gang members per thousand).  This is illustrated on the map at the top of this article.

Some Scary Facts About Gangs

While some neighborhood gangs remain informal and amorphous casual groupings of people with little interest in anything outside their own territory, most gangs are very different.  These days gangs can be multi-national organizations comprising sometimes tens of thousands of members, and involved in international trade just like many large corporations, albeit of illegal rather than regular goods.  They have hierarchies of leadership, they form alliances with each other, and generally act – in some respects – rationally and in a coordinated manner.

Rather than being made up of aimless drifters and high school dropouts, some gangs even provide scholarships for selected members to go to college to learn regular business skills which can subsequently be applied to benefit the gang.  Other gang members are recruited out of the military, while some gang members remain active in the reserves, so the gangs have the benefit of the finest weapons and training that Uncle Sam can provide.

Gangs also have the latest in military grade weapons, both legal and illegal, and not only do they have higher powered weapons and munitions, they also have the training in how to use them effectively and a complete lack of moral restraint or care of consequences for when it comes to choosing to use them.  They’re not just ‘gang bangers’ with ‘Saturday Night Special’ cheap revolvers stuck down the fronts of their trousers.  Some of them are highly trained and battle hardened weapons experts who have fought in our various foreign wars, and who now are training their fellow gang members in the same combat skills, and with the same equipment – weapons, night optics, protective clothing, and field medical care – as they became proficient with in the armed services.

Gang members also actively seek to join police departments and other government organizations – and often succeed in doing so.  Because of this, some gangs have as good or better intelligence about what the police are doing than what the police have about the gang members – it is difficult with some ethnic groupings to get police informers into gangs, and with our strange obsession about treating illegal aliens as a special privileged class of criminal these days, the determination, particularly at national levels, to give illegal aliens a ‘free ride’ and to look the other way whenever accidentally encountering one has also helped gangs preserve their own ‘opsec’.  Needless to say, significant numbers of gang members are illegal aliens – oh yes, and they’re also actively involved in bringing more illegal aliens into the country as well.

Those gangs that haven’t infiltrated members into local law enforcement might still be able to pretend to be law officers.  Gangs regularly target police vehicles to steal weapons, bullet proof vests, and police ID.

While gangs are happily involved in most traditional forms of crime, they haven’t restricted themselves to only crimes of violence.  They have opportunistically spread into just about every form of illegal endeavor.  Gangs even make use of mortgage banking and identity fraud the same as the best of white-collar criminals.

And while gang members like to flash recognition signs at each other, and to wear particular colors and styles of clothing, that’s not the only way they communicate.  They also use high-tech methods of communication for command and control purposes, including encrypted voice communications, computer to computer links, and throw-away cell phones.

Gangs also use public internet communities as a means of recruiting new gang members, with specific individuals tasked with formal recruiting duties.  Gangs aren’t growing in size as a result of randomness – they are actively – and successfully – recruiting new members, much more successfully than your local church or community group.

Gangs Are Now in Rural Areas as Well as Cities

Gangs have already spread across the country.  They’re not exclusively an inner city/big city problem.  They’re increasingly setting up in rural communities.  The crime you’re seeking to escape from, by moving to a small township somewhere, may have already moved there ahead of you.

Unfortunately, the spread of migrant agricultural workers from Mexico and other Central/South American countries into agri-business states has also had them bring their gangs with them.  And our willingness to welcome refugees has also seen us welcome refugee gangsters as well as refugees, whether they be from Somalia or Russia or anyplace else.

There’s a related consideration to keep in mind as well.  You may not recognize gang members when you see them.  Sure, some gang members are obvious, but not all gang members fit the classic profiles.  In addition to youthful hispanics and blacks, middle-aged white men are gang members too, and as you surely know, we as preppers are often painted with too broad a brush, confusing us with ‘white supremacists’ and ‘neo-nazis’ and ‘fundamentalists’.

While we of course don’t like this blurring of the lines between ordinary law-abiding folk such as ourselves who simply wish to prudently prepare for possible future breakdowns in society, and extremists who wish to contribute to the breakdown in society, there is an uncomfortable element in this confusion.  Sometimes it can be difficult for us to distinguish between fellow law-abiding and prepping ‘good folks’ and other people who while also prepping for an adverse future are most definitely not good folks.

This may be part of the reason why Idaho is shown as having so many gang members.  We’re not sure if all the so-called gang members in ID are truly gang members, or if perhaps they are merely ‘counter-cultural’ types that in the last few years the Department of Justice has been distressingly eager to categorize as either domestic terrorists or gang members.

But, whatever and whoever these folks are, it is always prudent to keep in mind that the person next to you in the store who is also buying up bulk supplies of long life food, cases of ammo, or whatever else, may not necessarily share all the same values as yourself, and may not for sure be the sort of person you’d want to invite into your retreat, either in good times or bad.

Who is Winning the War Against Gangs?

Is there even a ‘war against gangs’, and if there is, do we have any reason to believe it is any less a colossal failure than our war against drugs?

While some elements of local gangs are indeed made up of the dregs of society doing their best to eliminate themselves from the gene pool, there’s precious little evidence that even against such dysfunctional adversaries our law enforcement bodies are winning the upper hand.  No matter how many task forces and initiatives and community groups are formed, and no matter how much money is thrown at the issue, these least threatening types of gangs still seem to be thriving.

The upper elements of regional, national and international gangs are calculating, intelligent and very formidable opponents, and they are definitely growing in numbers and distribution.  As evidence of that is the ongoing growth and spread of their gangs.

The FBI/National Gang Intelligence Center issued a National Gang Threat Assessment document in 2009 (you can read it here) in which they estimated there were about one million gang members in the US.  A new National Gang Threat Assessment document was published in 2011 (you can read it here) in which the estimate had grown to 1.4 million.

The FBI say, to partially explain and excuse this apparent 40% leap in gang membership in a mere two years, that the reason for the growth in their estimate is in part due to better intelligence in 2011.  But that’s not reassuring at any level – if the FBI couldn’t estimate gang numbers to within 40% of the real count in 2009, what else were they overlooking then, and what else are they still overlooking now?  They didn’t say, in their 2009 report ‘this number might be off by 40%’; how are we to know that the 1.4 million count now is any more accurate?

There is a lot of information about gangs on the internet of course, and while the two FBI reports are more authoritative than many other sources, they have to be read in context with the FBI’s own constraints and framing agenda.  Does it suit the FBI, in cases where a judgment call could be made, to be alarmist or to be calming in how they interpret the incomplete and raw data they receive?

If you want to know more, we suggest you should do a fairly open-minded and broad review of the published literature, and most of all, make sure you accept it free of the constraints of normal civilized behavior.  Many of these gangs live a life and interact with normal people in a way that truly is (or could be) your worst nightmare, and unfortunately, it is in the rural communities these days where they are often most dominant.

At least in the inner cities, a confrontation between gang members and police can see tens if not hundreds of police rush to the location in only a few minutes, backed up by SWAT teams, helicopters, and all sorts of other formidable resources.  But what about in a lightly populated county, where there might only be half a dozen sheriff’s deputies on duty at a given time, and half of them are 50+ miles away from the other half?  This is distressingly a common circumstance in some areas these days – where one or two policemen realize that reinforcements are at least 30 minutes away and potentially an hour or more away, and even if the reinforcements all turn up magically in just a few minutes, they’ll still be outnumbered ten to one by the gang members they are confronting.

We know, from discussions with law enforcement officers and third parties, about counties where the police are massively outnumbered by gang members and where the gangs have pretty much taken over the county.  Normal residents have either moved out or been forced to adjust their lives to accept the impact and presence of the gangs around them.  The police will still happily give us, as ordinary law-abiding folks who support our local police and accept the rule of law, a ticket for doing 33 mph in a 30 mph zone, but if you’re a gang member, they’ll develop sudden selective blindness.

The police are used to ordinary criminals mouthing off when they are arrested, making all sorts of wild threats about what they will do when they get free, variously to the police officers and their families.  They also know that 99.9% of the time, these threats are empty and without any meaning.  But if the police overstep the bounds of the uneasy informal truces with their local gangs, they know that the threats are very real.

This creates for an uneasy sort of truce between the police and the gangs, with the gangs in the ascendancy.

Who is winning the war against gangs?  Isn’t it obvious?  The war is over, ended before it even started.  The gangs have won.

Implications for Preppers

We headed this article with the claim that gangs are possibly your biggest security threat.  Hopefully the article has opened your eyes to how and why this can be so.

In particular, consider the following points :

  • Gangs are everywhere, including quite possibly in the towns and countryside close to your retreat.  In other words, they’re already dangerously close to you.
  • Gangs have many members, and are affiliated with potentially tens of thousands of fellow gang members in other branches of the gang.  In other words, they outnumber you, maybe by ten to one, maybe by one hundred to one.
  • Gangs have well-developed military competencies, and the weapons to match.  In other words, expect to be confronted by battle hardened combatants armed with heavy caliber automatic weapons.
  • Gangs have no moral restraints acting on them.  They break the law with relative impunity now, and in a crisis seeing a collapse of society and its normal values, they’ll be even freer in their actions then.  In other words, what’s yours risks becoming theirs.

What can you do?  There are some small glimmers of hope.  While the gangs are not constrained by normal moral or legal considerations, they do have a moderately rational leadership.  Their future success doesn’t depend exclusively on plundering your retreat – they can turn away from you and concentrate on other easier opportunities if it suits them to do so.  They’ve shown they can co-exist alongside local law enforcement, provided that the local law doesn’t become too bothersome.  If you can create a ‘win-win’ that will result in that outcome, so much the better.  (We have some thoughts on such scenarios, and you’ll understand our hesitation in publishing them for all to see.)

On the other hand, they’ll not be fazed by the thought of a ‘lose-lose’ situation.  Particularly in a Level 2/3 event, they’ll have no shortage of people wishing to join their gang, and if they have to sacrifice 50 or 100 new recruits as part of an operation to eliminate you and your retreat, they’ll probably happily do so.

The likely impact of gangs on you and your retreat underscores, yet again, the essential need for you to be part of a medium or larger sized community, whether it be a Code Green community, one you create yourselves, or any other similar sort of arrangement.  If it is just you against 50 gang members, you know how that story will end.  But if it is 50 (or 100) of you against 50 gang members, you have a better range of endings to work towards.

Jul 052012
 

Unlike modern towns, those in the ‘wild west’ were designed to be defendable and convenient for their residents.

We consistently urge you to become part of a community of fellow preppers for mutual support in all respects (or to form one if you can’t find a suitable community already out there).

Being part of a community gives you access to extra manpower when you need help with construction projects.  It represents people to buy/sell/trade with.  It offers you access to a wider range of supplies, skills and expertise.  Equally importantly, but intangibly, it gives you companionship and fellowship and moral support, helping you to remain positive and determined to succeed, even in grave adversity.

A community can also potentially provide support in another very important sense – the shared defense of your various properties, something that is of course essential for survival.

But when many preppers think of this concept (and some of us don’t at all, preferring instead a quixotic vision of a lonely battle against the entire world, all by themselves, unassisted), their vision of how a mutual defense agreement would work is sadly not practical.  They think of becoming part of a community with neighbors who will join with them in defending each other and in creating a larger outpost of safety for all the community members.

Now for the problem with this apparently sensible concept.  First, the good news – this is a realistic and viable arrangement in a town or village.

But – the bad news.  It is close to useless to have some sort of support arrangement with people who live on surrounding farms.  If your main dwelling is out of sight of the other homesteads of the other families nearby, there is both no visible sign of support/deterrence to attackers, and there is also no compelling visual urgency and obligation on the part of your neighbors when/if you are attacked.

The Problem of Mutual Support in the Countryside

The attackers see a remote dwelling, all by itself, with no other dwellings anywhere around.  A tasty, tempting, vulnerable target – their ‘best case scenario’ type of encounter.  They don’t care what sort of mutual defense agreements you might have, because if there isn’t anyone with you at the time they attack, to join you in your defense, then what difference does it make?

There’s no augmented and credible indication of you being a ‘hard’ target rather than a soft target.  There’s no upfront deterrence.  You’re still highly likely to be attacked.

Now let’s think about what happens if you are attacked.  Presumably you sound some sort of alarm – a siren or something – that is an agreed upon call for assistance.  Now try to think very carefully about what will happen next.

How many of your neighbors will instead rush inside their own dwellings and shutter their windows and hunker down defensively?  That’s sure an easier choice for them than to go out in the open, and seek out the people attacking you.  Remember, the warning you have sounded is not currently placing them personally at risk – how many wives will say to their husbands ‘Please don’t go, because if you get injured, there are no advanced medical facilities to treat you, and if you die, who will work our farm with me, who will support me and our children?’

If your house was just over the street from them, they would both feel more directly threatened and also more directly obliged.  But being some distance away, and out of sight, there is the temptation to say ‘Oh, sorry, didn’t hear the alarm.  I had my iPod headphones on and didn’t hear the siren at all’ (or ‘I was napping’ or ‘I was working on some noisy machinery’ or any other excuse they choose).

Or maybe they will ‘make haste slowly’ and very slowly travel to your dwelling, in the hope that by the time they get there, it will all be over and the bad guys safely gone.  ‘Oh, sorry, I came as quickly as I could’.  ‘Sorry, I was in the shower, and so I had to rinse the soap off, get dried, blow-dry my hair, have a fresh shave, etc before I could come’.

Let’s however be positive and assume that your neighbors do respond.  Even if they hurry, how long will it take for them to stop what they are doing, to prepare for battle and to get appropriate clothing, supplies and weapons, then more time to stealthily approach your property, and then still more time for them to meet up with other neighbors until there was a sufficient force to mount an attack from the rear on your attackers?

It doesn’t matter so much how fast the first person will arrive – he would be foolish to do anything until joined by others.  The key time measure is how long it takes the slower people to bolster the numbers to the point they jointly feel able to enter the battle.

Don’t forget to allow for the probability that your neighbors don’t have any motorized transport – or, even if they did, they’d not use it, preferring a slow stealthy sneaky surprise attack from the rear.

That points out another key issue.  Any sort of support from your neighbors would have to involve multiple neighbors all helping in a coordinated manner.  You couldn’t expect one only neighbor to come, and from an outdoors exposed position try to help you (from inside your dwelling) fight off multiple attackers.  That would be close to suicide for him.  If the attackers suddenly came under fire from someone in the open, of course they’d shift their focus from you in your dwelling (because you are in a defensive not attacking posture, and aren’t going anywhere) to the sudden new threat from the rear or side.

So there you are, on your 20+ acre lot, with neighbors also on 20+ acre lots.  How many neighbors will agree to come and help you, how many will even hear your alarm, and how long will it take?

Oh – and how long might it take your attackers, who will have ambushed you on their terms, to overwhelm you and overrun your dwelling?  You will probably be dead, your supplies all looted, and the bad guys already gone, before any support reaches you.

A Town/Village Alternative

Now think through a similar scenario, but this time in a township where a cluster of a dozen or more homes are all located close to each other.  There are signs posted on the routes in to the township advising that martial law is in effect, telling looters they’ll be shot on sight, and requiring strangers to check in with the local ‘sheriff’ if they wish to visit the town.

Any stranger approaching sees not just one isolated homestead, alone by itself, but a cluster of houses all close to each other.  They  see signs indicating an active community defense plan is in place, and they realize they can’t just single out one of the houses to attack – if they do anything to any of the houses,  the other residents from the other houses will also respond.

Most of the time, they’ll pass the town completely by, preferring to find easier pickings elsewhere – like, for example, a single homestead all by itself with no nearby neighbors (sound familiar?).

Put yourself in the shoes of your neighbors again.  This time when you sound your alarm, there’s no way they can’t hear it, and they just have to look out the window to see what is going down, and indeed, they might even be able to participate in the battle by simply shooting from their window, too.

And because they can see the bad guys, maybe no more than 50 yards away from their own front door, they feel equally threatened, because they know if the bad guys have the cojones to ride into town and openly attack one of its residences, they’ll not stop at only one.

This is not a situation where selfish self-interest would motivate your neighbors to ignore your call for help, with the distance giving them excuses for doing so.  It is not a situation where even if they did help, it would probably be too little and too late.  Instead your neighbors will be motivated to fight as desperately as you are, because they are almost at as much risk as you, and they can effectively join the fight in a minute or less, from defensive safe positions.  They’re not doing this out of any altruism – they’re doing it as much for their own good as they are to help you.

So – in the township you are less likely to be attacked in the first place, and if you are attacked, you are more likely to get almost instant and effective support from your fellow townsfolk.

Now tell us again where you plan to build your retreat?

We’re not saying you should set up a retreat in the form of a house in a small town on a typical quarter acre lot.  Sure, you can still have your 20+ acres, and indeed, sure, you should have a decent sized parcel of land.  But set your main dwelling in a cluster with other folks, even if that means you’ve got a bit of a journey to get from your front door to your land.  After all, with 20+ acres, most of it will be some distance from your front door anyway, so it’s not necessarily a big deal to have almost all of it a distance away.

And by all means have a ‘kitchen garden’ or a greenhouse on your in-town lot, too.  This will be a great convenience, particularly in the winter months.

Choose Your Community Wisely

The key part of this concept of course revolves around finding a community group where you’ll be united in a common goal of self-defense and survival.

There’s no guarantee that moving into an existing community will also instantly surround you with like-minded souls.  Indeed, some of the smaller rural towns seem to have a curious mix of people, including some ‘counter-culturalists’ and old hippies, maybe some ‘migrant workers’ (aka illegal immigrants), and some yuppies from the city who have lifestyle properties in the countryside, maybe some low-density alternate-lifestyle organic farmers, and who knows who else.

Not all of the people in these categories are people you’d immediately want to rely on watching your back in a difficult situation.  Worst of all, some of these people may even prove to be ‘part of the problem’ rather than helping you in the solution when a Level 2/3 situation occurs.

Furthermore, the layout and design of most rural towns is not necessarily optimized to create a defensive enclave.  Many people seek privacy from their neighbors and attempt to avoid sight-lines, whereas for defensive purposes, it is better to be closer together and to have nothing between properties that attackers could use as cover.  And the houses are not built to withstand rifle fire – either from attackers or from fellow townsfolk who are shooting at attackers in situations where your house is unavoidably in the background.

We’re not saying it is impossible to find a suitable township, and even a so-so township may be better that nothing.  But it does point to the benefits of joining, or at least getting close to, a custom community such as with ourselves (or developing your own) so that you know you’re together with people who share a similar approach to surviving and succeeding in a Level 2/3 situation.

Jul 042012
 

We must plan and prepare for an uncomfortable period of extended lawlessness as part of a Level 2/3 Event.

Conventional wisdom paints an apocalyptic but not very detailed picture of social breakdown in a Level 2 or 3 situation (note – it might be helpful to refresh your understanding of what we define as Level 1, 2 and 3 events).

In the past, we’ve suggested there wouldn’t be an instant collapse of social order and there wouldn’t be an instant mass exodus out of the cities.  That’s not to say the collapse won’t happen (we’re sadly certain that it will), it just is unlikely to happen immediately and instantly.

It is helpful to understand the evolving stages of social order, disorder, and then – hopefully – order once more that will transpire during such situations.  If we understand this process, we can adapt our own responses to the changing world around us – and we can also draw some encouragement from the likely eventual resolution.

Here’s how we see things as unfolding.  We make these predictions based on broad reading of social literature, studies of past social collapses, consensus discussions on the topic, and our own best guesses.  No-one really knows for sure what will happen, but we think this is a reasonably likely overall evolution.  Some parts of the six phases might be more or less prominent, but just as how a wheel has to fully rotate 360 degrees to complete a full circle, each part of it needs to occur as part of the process to the next part and to the final phase six resolution.

The time each part of the process will take is of course conjecture on our part, particularly Phases Three and Four.  So consider this in broad outline and adapt it as you wish to make it part of your own planning.

Phase One – A False Calm

The first part of a Level 2/3 event may last anywhere from a day to two weeks.  This will be the period during which people slowly come to accept and comprehend that life as they formerly knew it has massively changed, and that there won’t be a magical ‘rescue’ by some government service.

During this time, the rule of law will probably continue more or less unchanged.  Indeed, the first steps that the civic leaders will probably undertake in response to the situation will be to declare states of emergency, call out the national guard, set curfews, limit the amount of food one can buy, and so on.

Not only will such steps be taken in an attempt to preserve the status quo, but the people tasked with implementing such orders (police, national guard, etc) will be compliant and act as directed, as will most of the civilian population.

The predominant underlying motivation in phase one will be ‘let’s all keep it together, and we will manage to survive in an orderly and civilized manner’, combined with a paralysis of belief and action in response to a situation beyond most people’s comprehension, and of course, the hope/expectation that someone, somewhere, will come to everyone’s rescue and save the day.  It will take some days before supplies start to run out and the local/regional support structures start to undeniably crumble and fail.

Phase Two – A Growing Panic

Unfortunately, people can only remain so calm for so long when they’re starving.  When people run out of food, and when the local supermarkets and distribution centers also run out of food (actually, this will occur first – panic buying will see the supermarkets empty out in a day or two), and when no more food comes in to replace the consumed food, people find themselves with two stark choices – lie down and passively die, or do whatever it takes to search out and take food for themselves and their families.

Maybe some form of community sharing will be instituted, but some people will refuse to share their own resources, while other people will realize they can get more by taking than they’d get by passively accepting their ‘fair’ share.  The community sharing concept will not prove a success as a result – and even if it were to be a success, how long can it continue?  A week?  Two?  With no new deliveries of food, the available supplies will quickly be exhausted.  You can’t share nothing.

This challenge will apply just as much to the law enforcement personnel as it will to the civilian population, and eventually, law enforcement personnel will abandon their duties and join in the growing free-for-all that is developing.

Isolated outbreaks will grow and multiply, and before too long, the ‘rule of law’ will have vanished and people will be doing whatever they need to do, either to protect the food and shelter they do have, or to seek out and take food and shelter from those who have it.

The cities will become bloodbaths with no remaining organized law enforcement.

The predominant feeling in Phase Two will be a combination of panic and anger.  ‘How could this happen to me?’ and ‘This is not fair!’ will be how much of the population perceives things, and there will come a tipping point where the former Phase One idealistic hope of ‘Everyone else is being calm and peaceful, therefore I should behave that way too’ will transition to ‘Everyone else is looting and pillaging, therefore I need to as well to get my fair share’ – a feeling made all the more essential by the clear evidence that if you don’t fend for yourself, no-one else is going to do it for you.

This phase – the breakdown of law and order, while most people remain focused on their urban/suburban residences and lifestyles – will last a short while, with Phase Three starting almost immediately and then growing more and more dominant until the cities become hollowed out.

Phase Three – Abandoning the Cities

It will quickly become apparent to people that there are no remaining sources of food in the cities, and for most people, both no way to grow their own food and also no safety in their current residences.

Again, people will have two stark choices.  Lie down and die, or roam further afield in search for food and safety.

This will inevitably drive people out of the cities.  Think of all the images you’ve seen of streams of refugees from war-ravaged areas, traveling sometimes many hundreds of miles, leaving their old world behind and heading towards a very uncertain alternate life.  That’s what will happen, except there probably won’t be any UN sponsored refugee camps or friendly countries to host people.

A lot depends on whether the situation is a regional, national, or continent-spanning event, of course.  But even if some countries remain unharmed and unaffected by whatever event it was, the numbers don’t work well in our favor.  Most refugee situations involve no more than a few million refugees, and there are wealthy nations with huge resources available to assist the refugees – most notably, the US itself.  If something occurs to destroy the resources of the US, and if there are suddenly 300 million of us all needing food urgently, how can any other nation adequately respond?

It is one thing for a nation of 300 million to assist 3 million refugees.  But how can a nation of 3 million (or 30 million) now turn around and help the US with its 300 million people, all simultaneously now needy and starving?  The sheer logistics of moving the food and distributing it are impossible to start with, and every other part of a coordinated rescue mission for the entire US also suffers from the sheer enormity of the project.

The refugees may be preyed upon by gangs of opportunists, and may also themselves be roving marauders.  They’ve got to eat, after all, so they’ll have no choice but to find food wherever it is to be found, and to take it whenever they can.

The predominant feeling at this point is ‘Every man for himself’ and ‘I’ve nowhere to go and nothing to do except fight for survival at any and all costs’.

We see this phase as lasting several weeks to several months.

Phase Four – Nowhere is Safe

As people move out of the cities, they’ll variously stop and settle in places or convert to an extended nomadic lifestyle.  What else can they do except just plain die?  An appreciable percentage of the population will indeed die – either from exposure/lack of shelter, from disease, from hunger, or from violent encounters.

It is impossible to see how this can not occur – in the circumstance that a Level 2/3 event occurs on a national basis, it will interfere with the ongoing highly mechanized process of agriculture, and even the labor dependent parts will be disrupted by farm hands joining in the social disorder too.  The country won’t be able to make enough food to feed itself.

Whatever way you run the numbers, anywhere from perhaps a half the population to three-quarters or more of the population won’t survive through the end of the first winter – even if food were plentiful, energy will be scarce, and people will die of exposure as well as of starvation.  And that’s before we start to think about the disease that will ravage through survivor camps, killing off massive numbers of people too.

People who try to establish themselves in some form of sustainable environment for the future will find themselves being challenged by people who don’t want to invest in a future which – to them – is unsure and unlikely; these latter people will be living for the moment and will take what they can, and squander resources recklessly while living ‘high risk’ lifestyles.

A farmer who keeps a herd of dairy cattle will see his cattle taken from him and slaughtered – people would rather have the meat now than a supply of milk for years to come.  A farmer with a supply of seed potatoes for next year’s planting will see them taken by people who want to eat food now and who can’t wait many months for the seed potatoes to be planted and to bring in a full new crop.

A person who has stored sufficient food to feed himself and his family, frugally, for a year, will see a mob take that food from him, eat some of it, waste some of it, and take the rest away with them.

A person who attempts to resist (and fails) may find himself tortured or killed (or first one then the other).  A person who attempts to barricade themselves in their secure retreat may find an attacking mob will simply choose to burn his entire retreat to the ground – with him still in it, of course.

The mob mentality would rather see the person and the mob lose everything rather than the person keep anything for himself.  Win-win will be an abandoned concept.  Win-lose will be the order of the day, and lose-lose will also be an unfortunate approach that is widely adopted too.

Some people might keep a social conscience and attempt to lead a good and lawful life.  Those people will also be known by another name – ‘victims’.  It will be kill or be killed; and those who are not willing to aggressively defend themselves, their loved ones and their possessions will find themselves losing everything.

The predominant feeling at this point will be a ruthless pursuit of the need to survive short-term, never mind the longer term, and never mind the cost or casualties of what one does to survive.  There will be no law and no formal consequences to any actions.

The duration of Phase Four depends a bit on the seasons and the location – a harsh winter will impose calm (and/or an icy death) on people, as well as restricting movement, whereas an extended summer will allow for nomadic roving groups of lawless looters.  We of course can’t guess when during the year a level 2/3 situation may suddenly erupt, but we will say that Phase Four will run through until the winter, at which point – especially in places with harsher winters – it will diminish in scope, and by the next spring, conditions may be ready for Phase Five.

Phase Five – A New Form of Social Order

Out of even the direst chaos, some new structure inevitably evolves.  We see two areas of evolution that will slowly start to coalesce out of the Phase Four anarchy.

On the apparently minus side, the bad guys will start to form into organized groups.  There already are groups of bad guys in place – biker and street gangs – and they will grow enormously in size and power.  Other groups will form on an ad hoc and semi-random basis.

We say this is an apparently minus development.  The good part of this is that any type of organized group starts to get a structure, some controls, some vision, and some concept of a future.  Most of the ‘lawless’ groups on the planet, both now and in the past, have actually been bound by very strict internal codes of conduct and behavior – their lawlessness, as has been perceived by ordinary society, is more a form of culture clash between the culture and values of the group and the society in which they live, and a harsher set of consequences for people who broke their own internal rules of conduct than society imposes on people in general.

This is as true in nature as it is in human society.  The most effective parasites do not kill off their hosts; indeed some parasites create classic win-win systems with their hosts so that both benefit from the association.  We see this with organized crime too, with the classic win-win being the payment of protection money to a local gang.

We won’t debate the interesting point about the differences between paying protection money to a gang or paying taxes to fund the local police department; but if you look at it dispassionately, you’ll see that in both cases, the people making the payments do so in the hope of getting a positive consequence (protection) and in the matching hope of avoiding a negative consequence (a beating or a term of imprisonment).

So we see formal gangs setting up regional territories.  If you pay them protection money, they’ll otherwise leave you alone, and will endeavor to keep other would-be predatory groups away from you.  If you want to travel along ‘their’ road, you’ll have to pay a ‘toll’ to do so.  And so on.

We will also see groups of citizens getting together to re-constitute some sort of citizen based law enforcement, first in some sort of mutual defense agreement, and subsequently by sharing in the costs of full-time law enforcement officers, aided by citizen deputies as needed.

Some areas will be controlled by citizen groups, and others by gangsters.  The citizen groups will have no interest in attacking gangsters out of their area, while the gangsters will occasionally be tempted by the thought of expanding, with ‘border clashes’ occurring from time to time as the two groups test each other’s resolve.  An uneasy truce will lie over much of the country.

Within the alternating framework of either citizen or gangster controlled areas there will still be crime on a more individual rather than organized level.  We predict that penalties for crime will increase – a return to the earlier settler days with summary hanging being the punishment for cattle-rustling, for example.

There may also be marauding gangs who opportunistically tour through areas, whether gang or citizen controlled.  Life will be dangerous, but survivable.

Crime detection/solving will be massively less effective than previously, due to the loss of the high-tech aids the police have come to rely upon.  More crime might be unsolved, but the flipside of that will be that criminals who are caught will be subject to more severe penalties.

Any people incarcerated will have to ‘work their passage’ – society will not have spare resource to feed, shelter, and entertain criminals.  Whether as a punishment or just as a necessity, criminals will find themselves involved in hard labor and harsh conditions during their imprisonment.

The liberal ‘touchy-feely’ crowd who likes to fill prisons with better food and televisions and recreational equipment than many people have outside the prison walls will either have died off (been killed) or will have had their eyes opened and their value systems changed to the point where, like reformed smokers now being aggressively anti-smoking, they may be the first to demand more and more hangings for lesser and lesser offenses.

The key social and support elements will become family based as the smallest support unit, and then faith/congregation (or, in secular areas, block associations) based.  Formal civic government will be bare-bones and will be focused primarily on getting essential life-support services to everyone, rather than funding minority empowerment projects that benefit only narrow groups of special interests.

People will be too busy concentrating on surviving to care about topics such as gay rights (either pro or con) or women’s issues or black history.  Environmental concerns and constraints will vanish – as we see in the world today, only wealthy people enjoying comfortable safe lifestyles can afford such concerns.

The prevailing attitude in this phase will be a grim determination to survive, and a return to a social code of acceptable behavior.

The duration of Phase Five is hard to guess at.  A decade?  A generation?  It really depends on how society as a whole feels it has learned lessons from the circumstances of the Level 2/3 event, and how it might redefine itself for the future, and also on how fast or slow ‘civilization’ in terms of services and products return to something equating to normal.

Phase Five slowly starts to blend into Phase Six, and one of the tools for this will be the growth of trading and contacts between individual settlements.

Phase Six – A Return to Normalcy

As the things that took man from the stone age to the wood age to the iron age to the industrial age to the information age return, so too will society start to adapt and become more refined and nuanced.

As trading starts to spread from one settlement to the next – made possible by the restoration of safety to traveling between settlements – this will help encourage further economies and efficiencies of scale, and economies will start to become less micro-economies and more regional in nature, with improvements in overall living standards for all in the region.

People will start to have the luxury of spare time, and spare money, and will stop living lives constrained by their immediate neighborhood and this year’s crop.  Instead, they’ll again start to think of other things and the longer term.  As Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs explains, as each level of essential survival is achieved, a new set of objectives and challenges replace them, evolving to higher order issues such as esteem and, at the top, self-actualization.

The prevailing attitude will become one of confidence and assuredness.

What We Need to Do as Preppers

At the very beginning of the six phase cycle, we need to take advantage of the ‘grace period’ that is ours during Phase One. and use this to give us a head start towards getting to our retreats and preparing for the difficulties that will follow.

Ideally, of course, we want to bug out before the civilian authorities start to impose restrictive emergency/martial law controls on people and their movements.

We need to be alert to the onset of a Level 2/3 event, and as soon as we view one as underway, we need to immediately bug out.  During the Phase One ‘False Calm’ we won’t draw so much attention to ourselves driving somewhere in a vehicle, and we’ll encounter fewer threats and problems on the way.

But as soon as the situation clicks over to Phase Two and Three, life becomes much more difficult if we are still in transit on the way to our retreat location.

Hopefully we’ll miss most of Phases Two and Three, because we’ll be well away from the larger cities.  Hopefully, also, we’ll be prepared to confront Phase 4 in a way that will enhance our chances of surviving through it.

More to the point, our understanding of this process is such that – hopefully – we are already laying the seeds of establishing a Phase Five for the region our retreat is located; we want to very quickly make not just our personal retreat but the area it is part of become a haven of citizen-supported mutual cooperation and safety, with sufficient resolve and strength to fight off both uncoordinated attacks and also to stake your claim to your area as being citizen-controlled rather than a gang-controlled area.

Succeeding in creating a positive Phase Five community will help you move forward into Phase Six.

May 132012
 

Initially it will be ‘other people’ and ‘bad people’ rioting and looting. But within a week or two, it will be your neighbors, too.

We came across an interesting article on a survivalist blog.  The writer said he believed that too many people are being too negative in terms of their projections about what will happen after TEOTWAWKI.

This writer spoke about his belief in the basic goodness of the American people, and offered up various high-minded platitudes to this effect.  As well as platitudes, he also described in some detail a scenario that he believed would apply.

Basically, it was the ‘neighborhood watch on steroids’ concept, where the residents in a neighborhood all banded together to defend themselves against roving gangs of looters and rioters.

A mean-minded person would point out that his reference to roving gangs of goblins already acknowledged that cities would become lawless to a greater or lesser extent.  But let’s not score points through rhetoric, and let’s concentrate instead on the viability of smaller neighborhood communities managing to keep law and order within their own cul-de-sac or apartment complex or gated community or whatever.

He added the comment ‘around where I live, there are more rifles than people’; that may or may not be true about where you live, but it doesn’t really matter and obscures an appreciation of the issues that do matter.

Let’s simply agree with this optimistic view of the future – that you and your neighbors have lots of weapons, are decent honest people, and you all effectively band together harmoniously and create your own micro-community and safe zone, keeping the goblins away.

Bravo.

But….

What happens next?

By this we simply mean, what happens when food starts to run low in your little micro-community? We see three breakdown events occurring in the days after the creation of your neighborhood cooperative.

First Breakdown

The first level of breakdown will be when your tiny self-defense cooperative is first formed.  What’s the betting that part of the deal will be the organizers saying ‘We need to join together and pool our resources for our shared common good’.  Now that all sounds fine and dandy when they’re saying ‘We all need to take turns watching out for raiders and repelling them’ but the chances they are also saying ‘And let’s pool all our food and other survival resources’.

So right from day one, you’ll be under pressure from your fellow law-abiding neighbors to share away everything you have to help them.  In return for this, they are offering additional security – ostensibly from others outside your neighborhood, but the unwritten unstated ugliness is you’re also getting security from them, too.

However, let’s say this is not a problem.  Maybe you are all equally prepared, so redistribution of all your supplies has little effect.

Second Breakdown

But now for stage two.  Some people in your community have strangely used up their share of the pooled community supplies much faster than others.  Are they secretly hoarding food?  Eating twice as much as anyone else?  Or just being wasteful?  Whatever the cause, your community and you now have your second social crisis.  Do you reward these people’s bad behavior and give them more food – especially because, at this point, everyone’s supplies are now diminishing.

With any measure of remaining civilization, this is almost certainly what will happen, because not only will some people be lobbying for more food, half the other people will also be looking ahead to the point where they too will be needing support from anyone who still has surplus food.  So they’ll support the concept of daily redistributions of food based on need, because they see themselves becoming net beneficiaries of the policy, too.  A bit like taxing a few wealthy people to feed the many poor people, right?

Besides which, while you might have had to shoot at and maybe even hit looters attempting to attack your community, they have all been strangers at a distance, and there’s been a life or death, them or us, element to the encounter.  But are you to let one of your neighbors starve in front of you?  And will they just passively starve while you continue to eat, or will they fight you to get your food?

The outcome of this second breakdown is almost certain – you give up still more of your own prepared supplies in exchange for a little bit more peace and safety within your community.

Third Breakdown

Now for stage three, and this is the point where we feel we must surely ‘win’ the argument (we use quotes, because we wish we were wrong, but we fear we are right).

You’re now at the point where everyone in your community group has exhausted their food supplies.  What do you do now?

Your choices are starkly simple.  You stay where you are, and slowly starve to death, or alternatively, you do whatever it takes to get additional food for your friends, your families, and yourselves.

This is the point where all community members, of all communities, have no choice but to become ‘lawless looters’ – except that it won’t just be empty stores you’ll be smashing into to steal food from.  The stores will already have been emptied, days or weeks ago.  The only places where you can get food now are places where people still have food and are protecting their food from people like – yes, from people like you.

What do you do when your polite request for a gift of food is rebuffed?  What do you do after you’ve offered to pay them with money, with valuables, with anything at all they care to ask for, and they’ve still refused to sell/exchange even a single food item?

Most people will manage to become morally outraged at this, and so will then see what happens next not as their own transition to a lawless looter, but instead, they’ll see themselves as morally empowered to fairly redistribute the remaining food and to stop selfish people from illegally hoarding more food than they could ever truly need.

These people will not see themselves as killing the current lawful owners of whatever food remains.  They’ll see themselves saving the lives of many others when they secure the food and redistribute it.

Indeed, what passes for the remaining lawful authorities will probably pass urgent laws making it illegal to keep more than a day or two of food in one’s house, requiring ‘hoarders’ to give up their food, and authorizing any necessary level of force to take it from these demon selfish ‘hoarders’.  (Do we need to add that the people passing such laws are very unlikely to be preppers?)

The Life or Death Question That Has Only One Answer

We agree with the person who wrote the positive heartwarming article.  Many communities will band together to create isolated pockets of safety where the rule of law prevails.  Maybe even entire towns and cities will do so.

But what happens when the food runs out?  Let’s assume there’s less than a week of food for the community.  Maybe on half rations, that will keep people reasonably healthy and comfortable for two weeks.  But if there’s no clear sign of food resupply coming any time soon, at some point people will be forced to choose between taking food by force from wherever they can find it, or passively dying of starvation in their dwellings.

A starving person has no choice – they have to do whatever it takes to find food.

How Fast Will the Collapse Occur

Probably the total collapse of society doesn’t occur instantly.  Depending on the nature of the Level 2/3 event, it may take some days or even weeks for a clear understanding of the changed world to be broadly accepted.

Maybe the authorities will succeed in maintaining order to start with.  But police and national guardsmen have to eat, too, and so do their families.  This sets in place another no-win situation.  Either the security forces are given food while the rest of the population starves, or else the security forces starve alongside the population as a whole.

In the former case, the alienation between the communities and the security forces will grow to the point where ordinary people will no longer feel inhibited at revolting against uniformed officers with guns and badges.  In the latter case, the security forces won’t hesitate too long to join in the lawlessness themselves, because if they don’t, they’ll die.

Things might slowly decay over the course of a week or two – maybe even three or four, but if populations can’t eat lawfully, they’ll do whatever it takes to get food, any way they can.

And because of the very nature of cities and our country today, there is no way that urban concentrations can become self-supporting.  Some cities have a million or more people, and little or no food growing resources within 100 miles.

Do you know how much food a typical person needs to eat every day?  Let’s say, on low rations, they need half a pound of solids (plus lots of water).  That is 500,000 lbs of solids every day – 250 tons of food a day to support a million people.  Where will 250 tons of food a day come from?

People can’t start planting gardens today and harvesting enough food to live tomorrow.  Apartment dwellers can’t do it at all.  People with yards would need seed, fertilizer, and patience – what say the Level 2/3 event comes just after the end of a growing season, with perhaps 200 non-growing days now to wait through before seed can be sown and crops started?

Without the promise of adequate resupplies of food, there is no avoiding this outcome.  Level 3 events, by definition, imply no resupply for over a year, Level 2 events for somewhere between some weeks and a year or so.

The collapse will come, at a rate determined by the remaining supply of food and the certainty of future resupply.  The cities will become totally lawless and anarchistic, and the former city dwellers will necessarily stream out from the cities in their essential quest for food.

These people will stop only when they find food or die.

What You Must Do

Prepping for a Level 2 or 3 event must start from the decision that you will abandon your urban residence and flee to a safer retreat, far from urban concentrations of people.

Stockpiling food in an urban location will only result in it being taken from you and you finding yourself no better equipped to survive than the unprepared people all around you.

You must develop a plan to leave the city and to live in a place where you have stockpiled food and where you can transition to a self-contained and sustainable lifestyle.  City living does not, will not, and can not allow for this.

Are We Being Too Optimistic?

You might think this article is negative – perhaps even too negative.  So please now consider reading an article based on comments from a veteran police officer, but if you don’t have the time to read the entire article, its title will give you a clue as to what it says :  Cities Will Collapse Even Sooner Than We Fear.