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 232012
 

The concrete block in the upper image is shown again in the lower image, totally destroyed after only two .308 rounds hit it. See below for linked article.

There are two distinctive things about your retreat that sets it aside from most normal houses.

Firstly, it is possible it may be uninhabited for months at a time when life is proceeding happily as normal.  It may also be in an out-of-the-way location.  A very tempting target for burglars.

Secondly, when things do all go to hell in a handbasket, and you are living there during a Level 2 or 3 situation, you’ll need to have a much more robust defense against attackers than just a lock and safety chain on your front door and catches on your windows.

Let’s discuss these issues.

No-one Home Security Requirements

There’s nothing a burglar or a vandal likes better than to find an empty house in an out-of-the-way location.

With no neighbors or passing cars to observe them, they can take their time breaking into the place and doing whatever they wish to do.  Indeed, the longer it obviously is since someone was last there, the more inviting the place becomes to burglars and others with evil intent – once inside, they might even decide to stay overnight or longer, feeling no pressure at all about the possible return at any moment of the owner.

Even if they can’t manage to gain entry to a locked retreat, they’ll probably smash a bunch of windows in their frustrated efforts to get in, thereby opening the interior up to the outside weather and to wildlife – creatures that might do as much damage as people.

Although you might say – and be correct to say – that in reality, there are very few structures that can’t be opened by a group of motivated determined skilled burglars with time on their hands, the chances are that uninvited visitors to your unattended retreat will be more likely to be just casual passers-by seeking easy targets of opportunity.  They won’t have safe-cracking type tools with them, and they’ll probably not have skilled locksmiths with them either.  If some work with a crowbar and axe won’t get them through the doors/windows (or exterior walls) they’ll probably give up and move on to the next tempting target instead.

Nonetheless, it would be excellent if there were a way to get a remotely monitorable alarm system at your retreat, so that if the alarm is triggered, you can then look at a real-time video feed and decide if it is a benign passing deer, or a not so benign would-be intruder.  If the latter, you can maybe call the local county sheriff and have them send someone out.

This also assumes you have not done anything to suggest your retreat is of unusual interest or has anything of value inside.  We’d suggest its exterior be nondescript and plain rather than flashy and fancy.

You need to appreciate that most normal home construction is designed to prevent honest people from mistakenly entering the wrong house, uninvited.  It won’t do any good at all to a burglar armed with an axe and a crowbar.  The fancy lock on your door can stay locked – the burglar will just remove the door from its jam!  And needless to say, any areas of glass are almost certainly liable to be destroyed by a few good blows from something heavy like an axe.

You can’t build your retreat using normal construction methods and make it truly burglar proof.  If you buy an existing dwelling, you almost have to consider tearing it down and rebuilding from scratch – or, alternatively, adding a new exterior protective layer all the way around.

Level 2/3 Scenario Defense

The other situation is WTSHTF and you need to bug out to your retreat.

Sooner or later, you will have an armed group of attackers keen to separate you from your food and other goodies.  They might ask you politely first, but if you refuse – as you certainly should – their next move will be not nearly so polite.

Figure on being found, sooner or later (see our article about the inevitability of your hidden retreat being found).  Now, what happens after you’ve refused the request/demand for you to hand over all your food (and everything else of value or use)?  It is hard to imagine these people will just walk away empty-handed.

They’ll either lay siege and try to starve you out, or in the more likely event they’re not so patient, they’ll actively try to force your surrender and/or attempt to force their way in.

Yup, there’s going to be some shooting, isn’t there.  And, for your part of the shooting, you have two requirements.  The first is to be able to be protected from incoming fire, and the second is to be able to shoot back from advantageous positions of relative safety.

Now, just as normal home construction makes it easy for bad guys to break in, you’ll probably be unsurprised to learn that normal home construction does not normally consider making a residence’s exterior walls bullet proof.

Let’s understand just how powerful rifle rounds actually are.

Penetrating Capabilities of Rifle Rounds

Although pistol and shotgun rounds can also be a problem, your real threat is from rifles.  Not so much from ‘special’ rifles and not even from special bullets either.  Just from regular standard hunting/sporting rifles, chambered in any of the very common calibers, including .30-06 and .308 and to a lesser extent, even the .223 round as well.

A regular 5.56/.223 round can penetrate through 12 sheets of pine (see this site).  Metal covered doors are so useless that even a tiny pocket pistol can shoot through them (see this report).  Rifle rounds can also go through 15″ of phone book pages (see here).  Here’s a web page that shows a 7.62/.308 round going through 8.5″ of tree trunk then on through sort of 6.5″ of phone book and still having energy after having traveled through that.  Another person reports shooting his 8mm Mauser through 16″ telephone poles.

Here is an interesting study on many different exterior wall surfaces by many different rifle rounds.  Most rifle rounds penetrated most materials, and those that didn’t would generally cause major damage to the exterior cladding to make it more susceptible to penetration if a second round landed in the same place.

Here are two excellent pages (one two) showing the results of shooting at CMU blocks (concrete masonry units) with a range of rifle and pistol rounds.  Read the descriptions and look at the linked pictures (the picture at the top of this article was formed from a ‘before’ and ‘after’ picture on those pages).  These are vivid indicators of how weak filled concrete blocks will be when confronted with rifle fire.

The bottom line is simply this – Rifle rounds will go through pretty much any amount of wood and/or plenty of concrete and still be dangerous to you inside.

Bullet Resistant vs Bullet Proof

So you need to upgrade your exterior walls to make them somewhere between bullet resistant and bullet proof.

What is the difference?  There is an important difference in these terms.  A bullet resistant barrier will not allow a single round to penetrate, and neither will it allow for ‘spalling’ (ie bits flying off the inside of the barrier) to occur.  But, if you fire several rounds all in the one spot (or within a reasonably close distance of each other) the barrier will successively weaken and after sufficient hits, it will give way in that area.  The concrete block shown at the top can be considered bullet resistant.

A bullet proof barrier on the other hand can calmly accept incoming fire all day in the one position and not weaken at all.  The backstop of the gun range you train at is bullet proof.

In practical terms (because bullet proofing is impressively expensive), you’ll probably settle for some type of bullet resistant exterior wall, and ideally one that can be repaired and restored back to 100% integrity at the end of an encounter.  Maybe some of the obvious ‘bullet magnet’ points will be given extra strengthening, but for the rest, you’ll hope that the bad guys give up after some hundreds/thousands of rounds, most of which randomly distribute themselves fairly evenly around your exterior walls.

Bullet magnet points would be anything that looks vulnerable/weak/openable, and anything that you’ll be shooting from.

Your choice of materials will be influenced to an extent by your budget and just exactly how thick you want your walls to be.  We will discuss building construction materials in other articles.

Something to consider is whether you want your retreat to have a sturdy impregnable fortress look to it, or if you’d prefer it to be a ‘stealth’ secure location.  Opinions differ as to which is the better strategy.

An obviously strong resilient fortress might discourage casual looters from mounting an attack.  On the other hand, it might also signal ‘Hey, we’re well prepared here, we probably have lots of goodies inside’.  And a fortress type structure might encourage a stealth/sneak attack rather than an open/overt attack (on this point, we suspect most attacks will be semi-stealthy anyway).

There is no way of knowing what your attackers might think or how they will behave.  In fact, we suggest it would be foolish to try to come up with the exact set of thoughts and actions an attacker would have – see our article on not being able to predict how people will behave WTSHTF.  Instead, you should plan and prepare for all types of behaviors, both sensible and stupid.

Windows

We suggest your retreat have as few windows as possible.  They are a security risk and also increase your need to heat your building in winter and cool it in summer due to probably having less insulating properties than the rest of your exterior walls.

You will want some, because they will do double duty as places for you to observe the outside and to shoot from.  These should be high up and small.

Being high up means that people from the outside, shooting in, will have to angle their shots upwards.  Any rounds that penetrate will tend to go up towards the ceiling and beyond rather than travel through the house, hitting anyone in its path.

Being high up also makes it harder for someone to come along and look in, break in, and climb in.

Being small will make it harder for people to climb in the window, and it will slow them down and make them vulnerable while they are climbing in.

It is also easier to protect a small window area and to provide back-up levels of resistance so that if (when) the glass is shot out, there is something else – maybe a hardened steel plate – to protect the building interior.

The Risk of Fire

The most dangerous thing that worries a sailor?  Fire.  That might sound ridiculous when you’re on a boat surrounded by water, but it is for sure the truth.  More boats have been lost as a result of fire that from any other cause (assuming moderately competent seamanship).

The same is true of your retreat.  It goes without saying that the friendly local fire brigade will almost certainly not be functioning as normal in a Level 2/3 scenario.  If you have a fire, you’ll have to control it yourself.

Now that will be stressful enough in the normal course of events, but what if the fire was deliberately caused by people who are attacking you and laying siege to your retreat?  If they’ve set fire to your building exterior, and maybe its roof, and possibly managed to get some Molotov cocktails in through windows as well, and now they’re waiting to pick you off as you rush out of the burning building, all of a sudden your retreat is not a safety structure for you, it has become a death trap instead.

Okay, some people might design a bolt hole/cellar they can retreat to, and others might have a secret tunnel/exit from their retreat.  But that’s not really the point, is it.  Maybe you escape, but you’ve left behind everything you owned and possessed – you’re no longer one of the well prepared survivors, you’re now one of the homeless horde of desperate predators.

You need to ensure the exterior of your dwelling is impervious to fire.  An accidental fire can be started from any one of way too many causes – even natural ‘Acts of God’ like lightning strikes.

A deliberate fire might be started from one of two main sources – either as a result of someone shooting incendiary or tracer type rounds into your structure, or as a result of someone using Molotov cocktail type weapons to initiate the fire.  Both your roof and your exterior walls are vulnerable, and if your windows can’t be kept securely shut, the rooms they open into are also vulnerable.

So – no wood on the exterior of your building, right?  Brick, metal, stone – all these are good.  Concrete is moderate.

If using metal (and you probably won’t be) note that it would conduct any intense heat on the outside to the inside, so if you had wooden framing up against a steel exterior wall, the wood framing would be at risk.

Generally however, the type of Molotov cocktail type fire starting device that would likely be used won’t burn for an extended time or intensely.  If it can get something else started burning, it has done its job; if it can’t, then the pint or quart of fire starter contained within it will burn quickly and then burn out.

To protect against this type of attack, you also must make sure there is nothing that could burn close to the exterior walls on the outside, either.

Summary

The chances are that at some point, you will have burglars try to break into your retreat, and at some point, you will have people shooting at you while you are in your retreat.

The design considerations to protect you against burglary also get you half-way towards protection against violent assault.

You need a structure that is burglar proof, bullet-proof (or, at the very least, repairably bullet resistant) and also fireproof.

This is more difficult than you might think.  Normal rifle bullets will penetrate more than 12″ of wood and still be lethal the other side, and three or four rounds landing on a typical 8″ x 8″ x 16″ concrete block (even if the hollow spaces have been filled with concrete) will demolish the block completely.

Difficult – yes.  Impossible – no.  And, also, essential for the security of your retreat.

May 232012
 

Even if your house is as visually obscured as this one (unlikely) other things will still give it away.

Some preppers base the security of their retreat on hiding it so that it won’t be found.

They glow with pride about how carefully they’ve chosen their retreat location, and its remoteness from main roads and likely off-road flows of people too.  They mutter about ‘OPSEC’ meaningfully, and talk about keeping an ultra-low profile, and won’t even tell you what state it is located in.

This is all good stuff and great to talk about, but it won’t keep you hidden.

We don’t mean to discourage any of these things, but we do mean to alert you to the fact that it is not possible to keep your retreat 100% hidden, all the time, from everyone.  Maybe careful measures will extend the time it takes for the first adversary to stumble across your retreat, but maybe also your location will be discovered by chance rather than by careful searching.

Sooner or later, you will be found.  And once one person finds you, he will tell someone else, and before you know where you are, everyone in the area will know about your retreat and come visiting.

We discuss the subject of Opsec further in our article ‘The Ugly Flip-sides of Opsec‘ and in that article we recommend you should plan on a controlled release of information about your retreat, on your terms, rather than suffer an uncontrolled exposure at some unknown but certain time in the future.  You should read that article too; for the balance of this article, we focus primarily on the uncontrollable ways in which your retreat will be found.

Some Location Giveaways

Here are some types of unavoidable give-aways that will draw attention to you and your retreat.  Your concern isn’t just the people who stumble across your location by chance, it is also the people who are drawn to it due to some sort of indicator that calls attention to it, even from some distance away.

For example, what will you do for heat?  As soon as you start burning anything, you’re giving off odors that in a de-industrialized rural area will travel a long way.  One more smell in the city means nothing.  But in the countryside, anything out-of-place that doesn’t blend into the natural smells – and particularly a burning smell, something we are instinctively taught to notice and fear, will be much more prominent and will be noticed from a reasonable distance.

You’re not only giving off smells, you might be giving off smoke too, providing a visible indicator pointing to your location and visible for many miles around.

Talking about smells we instinctively react to, what will you eat?  Even if you only cook ‘low odor’ foods (rice and beans, perhaps) those odors will travel a long distance, particularly if the person smelling them has his sense of smell sharpened by hunger.

Don’t worry, we’re not going to ask what you do about bodily waste, but let’s just say there’s a reasonable chance there may be some smells associated with that, too!

What about energy?  Will you have a wind turbine?  If so, won’t that be very obvious, especially when the blades are turning, indicating that it is still operating and being maintained?

Solar cells neatly lined in rows on your roof and kept clean of debris also indicate that rather than being an abandoned old shack, your retreat is a cared for location with added value sophisticated contents.

It is true that generators can run incredibly silently, but it is also true that the outdoors itself can be very silent on occasion, making even the slightest out-of-place sound, like a generator running, draw attention to itself.

Will you ever leave your house?  In the winter, you’ll be making footprints in the snow.   Will you grow any food in the summer – any type of cultivation or other landscaping will of course be obvious.  Will you ever go hunting – the sound of each rifle shot might be heard for miles.

Will you have 24 hour blackout curtains on all the windows – heck, why not just build your retreat with no windows at all, then!  If not, your retreat will be a beacon of light at night.

The Unavoidable Paper Trail that Leads to Your Retreat

Think about everything that has happened from the moment you bought the property.  Your purchase of the property has of course been recorded in the county records.  If there were any existing buildings on the property, those are probably already part of the county records.

Maybe you bought some unimproved land and built your own retreat structure.  Did you file building permits with the county?  Do you have utility connections (visible or not)?  Maybe even internet or telephone service?  Did you have any contractors do any work on your house?  Or building inspectors visit?  Did you get mail or courier deliveries at that address?  Do you have occasional deliveries of propane or firewood or diesel fuel?  Does a septic tank service company visit to pump out your tanks?

Even if you think you’ve done everything off the record, sooner or later, the county assessors will update their database and discover the improvements on your property.  Their staff know the areas they are responsible for very well, and if they find a new driveway that didn’t formerly exist, they’ll want to know where it goes.  If they happen to see a contractor’s truck going in or out of the driveway, they’ll doubly want to know what is going on.  Or maybe they’re just doing one of their two/five/ten year revaluations of all property in the county, and someone notices from an aerial photo the presence of buildings and clear indications of agricultural improvements on a block of land they had formerly categorized as unimproved forestry land.

Have a look at, for example, this impressive site that records all details of every property in the entire state of Montana.  Chances are there’s a similar database either for your state or at least the county within your state, whether it be publicly online or not.

Other Problems

What do you say if meeting locals in the nearby town in terms of where you live?  Someone, and probably several or even many people, know that you’re out there, even if not exactly where – you’ll be the guy who lives somewhere up back of (some other place).

What about your travels to and from your retreat?  Have other people seen vehicles they don’t recognize (ie, your vehicles) in out-of-the-way places and wondered who you are and what you are doing?  Have you left tire marks, or do you have a formal driveway or some other indicator of a house on the property?

And so on and so on.  Will anyone else for 50 miles around you know about your retreat?  Unavoidably, and of course.

There are countless ways your presence will be inadvertently revealed, and your life will be a misery if you try to hide it.

The preceding examples show some things you have done or will unavoidably do that draw attention to your retreat.  But that’s not all.  Your retreat could also be found accidentally.

Accidental Discovery Too

We know that in a Level 2/3 situation, there will be an exodus of people from the cities.  Remember that for every rural dweller at present, there are about five or six city dwellers.  In theory, this suggests that the countryside might become five or six times more crowded with people than before, so this by itself increases the chances of someone stumbling across your retreat unexpectedly.

In addition to that, think of everyone you know who confidently says they’ll hunt deer or other wild game for food in a Level 2/3 situation.  Deer will rapidly become an endangered species, that’s for sure!  The woods will be crawling with hunters all eagerly looking for game to shoot, so if your retreat is anywhere close to any sort of hunting, expect an influx of hunters in your area.  Ditto for fishing.  Ditto again for any food bearing plants in the vicinity.  Maybe even for people seeking to fell trees for building materials or to burn.

There’s another potential source of disclosure too.  Google Maps, Bing, and other mapping providers are increasing the frequency of aerial mapping surveys, and the quality/detail of the images they post online.  Many counties have aerial survey maps online too.

Your retreat might be miles from anywhere, but that won’t stop a plane from snapping a beautiful aerial shot of your retreat from the air as it flies over doing a photo-reconnaissance sweep.  Your dwelling will be online for everyone, everywhere in the world, to see next time they open up Google Maps.

Okay, so this presupposes that Google Maps or any of the other online mapping services is still available in a Level 2/3 scenario – a dubious scenario, for sure.  But if your information is/was online, it is probably also printed out somewhere, and a more resourceful looter will access good old-fashioned printed county records to identify tempting targets to go hit.  If you were a looter, wouldn’t you consider an obscured out-of-the-way retreat to be more tempting than one close to three or four neighbors?

It also means that from whenever your retreat first starts to appear on these documents and online records, there will be a small but growing level of awareness of your presence, prior to WTSHTF.

Summary

Figure on being found, sooner or later.  You can not rely on remaining hidden.  Once one person finds you, expect them to share that information with more and more people.

Unfortunately, the more unusual your location, and the more creative you’ve been at obscuring it, the more ‘interesting’ it will be for people to talk about it, and the more curious they will be about exactly who you are and what you have.

By all means do all you can to extend the time until you are found, and hopefully to minimize the frequency of times you are found, but sooner or later, you will have uninvited ‘guests’ arrive unexpectedly.  You need to have a plan for what to do once the veil of obscurity is lifted from your location.

May 222012
 

It is possible to think of so many different scenarios. Which one is correct? All of them!

As preppers, we have to prepare for two sets of possible future adverse circumstances.  The first is to prepare for some sort of event that interferes with LAWKI (life as we know it), and which diminishes our quality of life to a greater or not quite so great extent, for a short or long time period.

While we all responsibly prepare for the short-term minor events (what we term Level 1 events) the really big deal is preparing for the Level 2 or 3 events (we define Level 1/2/3 events here).

But even this is relatively easy, because we sort of know what things we’ll need, and if we start from an assumption that we’ll be on our own with no external support, no external sources of water, food or energy, we can plan from that worst case but clearly understood scenario.

One of the defining points of the transition from a Level 1 event to a Level 2 or 3 event is the need to leave our normal residence in a Level 2/3 event.  And the reason for needing to do this?  There are several reasons, but the most pressing one is usually the need to ensure our own personal safety.

In a higher density city type environment, we’ll be surrounded by unprepared people who, as the Level 2 event unfolds, will quickly run out of food and out of self-control.  We anticipate lawlessness will reign, and see our safety and survival as best achieved by leaving the lawless city behind us.

But even in our Level 2/3 retreat situation, we necessarily should continue to be concerned about the actions of non-prepared people, because this is the other major adverse circumstance we will have to endure and survive in a major event – the anticipated but unknown negative actions of our fellow citizens.

The Unknown Variables Posed By Non-Preppers

Please excuse us if you don’t share a similar viewpoint about the anticipated negative actions of non-preppers in a major breakdown of society.  May we explain?

Our perception is based on what we feel to be a gritty reality – people will do whatever they have to do in order to survive, if the circumstances are extreme enough.  Sure, we believe in the innate goodness of people, the same as you do, but we also believe that when people – and their families – are starving to death; if they see a chance to get life-sustaining food, they will do anything and everything they possibly can to take that food, no matter what is required.

This sort of motivation can make honest decent people into criminals.

We also acknowledge that while most people are basically good, unfortunately some people are basically bad.  You already know this, too.  You call those types of people murderers, sex offenders, arsonists, violent offenders of all sorts, gang members, and so on.  You probably support their incarceration, whole of life sentencing, ‘three strikes and you’re out’ laws, and maybe even the death penalty.  Even the most idealistic of people can’t close their eyes to the ongoing level of violence that goes on in our society today.

The underlying reasons or demographics are irrelevant – the ugly but unavoidable fact is that some people are just plain bad.  Almost 1% of our population is in jail on any given day, and you can decide how many more percent should be with them, and you can worry about the former inmates that are now free but not reformed.

We see that good people will be forced to do bad things due to the underlying basic imperative need to survive.  But we also see that bad people will do very bad things, just because they can and want to, for fun, and because the normal law and order imperatives will be massively weakened (as is repeatedly shown, all around the world, in gratuitous rioting and looting events).

Planning For Encounters With Malefactors

So, we wonder and worry about what to expect as we shelter inside our retreats.  More to the point, we don’t just wonder/worry about what we’ll do while safely inside our retreat.  We also worry/wonder about when we’re exposed outside – doing gardening, tending to livestock, traveling to the neighbor to trade our surplus foodstuffs for his, and so on.

Some people have developed elaborate theories about the types of encounters they’ll have.  Some people support their theories by referring to what has occurred in other societies during times of social disorder.  Other people have developed very different theories, possibly supported by very different factual underpinnings.

Who is right?  What can we expect?  And, as preppers, the essential question we ask ourselves is surely – How can we prepare for such events?

Plan and Prepare For Everything

Well, there is both good and bad in what we have to suggest.  There is no one single right answer.  All answers, all predictions and prognostications, are correct, to some degree.  And all are likely to occur, in some random sequence of events, to some people, some of the time.

We must plan for all possible scenarios.  We can not restrict our planning to what we consider to be the most sensible, the most likely types of encounters.  We know everyone is different with different preferences.  That is why there are dozens of different types of baked beans to choose from in the stores.  We know everyone has different opinions – that is why horse races can occur with a spread of betting over the widely different horses.  We know some people do incredibly stupid and unpredictable things.  But if we haven’t planned for that incredibly stupid or unpredictable thing, maybe we end up being the stupid person, and a victim of the unpredicted thing.

This is the key take-away point of this article.  Don’t just plan for one type of scenario when it comes to people and their actions.  Plan for them all, from the mildest to the wildest.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that when you’ve identified the most likely type of events, that these will be the only events you encounter.  Even if you can think exactly like some type of malefactor (we won’t ask how that is!) you can’t think like other types of malefactors.  But they are all out there, and we need to plan for the unexpected as well as the expected.

Scenarios for Encounters

Maybe some people will just lose the will to live and quietly die in back alleys.  Maybe other people will beg and plead for food, then go away, nonviolently, if refused.

Notching up a level, maybe some others will attempt to take food by force, but will give up when confronted by superior force, without any shots being fired.  Maybe some of these people, if able to take food without needing to kill to do so, would proceed to take food, but would turn away if required to kill first.

Notching up another level, maybe some people will indeed trade shots, but if they don’t quickly triumph, they will then give up and go away, looking for easier pickings/takings elsewhere.

And getting closer to extreme, maybe some people will fight to the death, having made it a point of honor to win the encounter, or die in the attempt, no matter what.

Different Tactics

Maybe some people will simply and noisily storm the front door in the mid-day sun.

Maybe others will sneakily plot and plan to surprise you when your door is open.  Maybe they’ll lie in wait for you in your fields.

Maybe some will kidnap one member of your party and try to bargain their safe return in exchange for food.  Maybe others will simply kill anyone they encounter (and, yes, maybe even eat them too!).  Note – if you don’t consider the possibility of cannibalism in your defensive strategies, you are not thinking far enough outside the box.  A yucky thought, for sure, but civilized rules will be in abeyance in an extreme scenario.

Maybe some will impatiently mount a battle, but if they don’t quickly triumph, and if they start taking casualties, go away defeated, never to return.

Maybe others, if unsuccessful in a first attack, will instead redouble their determination and come back, perhaps in greater force, and mount a more prepared planned and sustained assault.

Some people will approach from the obvious quarter.  Others will approach from unexpected places.

Varying Group Size

Maybe you’ll encounter some people on their own.  Maybe you’ll encounter small bands of 4 – 6.  Maybe you’ll encounter larger groups of 10 – 20.

Maybe you’ll think you’re defending yourself against a group of four attacking you from the front, when all of a sudden, ten more people appear from behind.

A Range of Skill Levels

Most people will have a gun – maybe a ‘good’ gun and maybe a ‘bad’ gun (you can decide what the terms ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mean in this context!).  Some will be good shots.  Some will be sniper level shots.  Others, as often as not, will be poor shots.

Some will have no knowledge of tactics or how to behave under fire.  Others will be veterans who have fought in one of our country’s many recent overseas wars, and will be skilled at such things (see our article about the rising problem of gangs and how some gangs deliberately have some members serve in the military so they have military level training and skills within their group).

Some opponents will quickly learn combat skills, and others will run away the first time a bullet zings angrily overhead.

All Sorts of Equipment and Weapons

The most common weapon you’ll encounter will be some type of rifle.  Some optimistic types might try to assault your retreat with only a pistol, and a few might bring a shotgun to the party.

But who is not to say that some people won’t have a fearsome .50 cal BMG rifle that will punch holes in just about anything it hits?  Maybe someone has developed his own explosive charges, and maybe someone else has developed a cannon or mortar?  And don’t forget the person with the Molotov cocktail, either.  Fire can be one of your most fearsome challenges.

Maybe someone from SCA has created an old-fashioned catapult, or a battering ram, or something else like that?

Maybe someone has liberated a tank or APC or other military vehicle/weapon from the local armory and can safely assault your retreat from behind the vehicle’s armor, and knock down your front door with their vehicle.

Frequency of Encounter and Group Coordination

Maybe you’ll go six months and not see anyone.  Maybe you’ll end up with a dozen encounters within as many days.

Maybe you’ll have outsmarted the entire world with your choice of ‘out of the way’ location.  Maybe one or two backwoodsman type hunters will stumble across your retreat while you’re complacently reveling in the success of your secret.

Or maybe other people will have thought the same way as you, and will be specifically going to JWR’s American Redoubt areas and looking for preppers and all their food and supplies, using the same factors to guess where you might be as you used to decide where to go.

Maybe roving gangs will meet and share stories and swap details of potential targets.  The gang you fought off last week might encourage another gang to return next week.

Maybe self-appointed ‘warlords’ will claim control of a district and everyone in it.  Maybe – really worrying – he’ll have some degree of pseudo-legal status or actual legal status, and is levying ‘taxes’ on all residents in the area.  With 100 of his troops acting as tax collectors.

The preceding sub-sections have been intended not to list all the possibilities, but to open your thinking to the range of possibilities that may occur.  Don’t stop thinking – this is not a complete list!  You should be able to come up with plenty more.

Summary

It is easy to anticipate the basic issues and challenges we’ll face in a major Level 2 or 3 event.  Take away all external support.  No more electricity or gas or internet.  No more 7-11 or supermarket.  No more Home Depot or Office Depot or any other type of depot.  That’s okay.  We can anticipate and plan and prepare for these things.

But the hardest thing to anticipate?  The actions of our non-prepped fellow citizens.  Think of as many scenarios and nightmares as you can, then drink a fifth of bourbon, and think of some more.  Any – or all – of these might come to pass (well, maybe not that one with the mutant alien zombies that you came up with half-way through your second fifth, right before you fell asleep!).

Because we can’t predict exactly which of these encounters we will face, we should plan and prepare for all of them.

We can harden our retreats to make them resistant to all but the most serious of attacks, we can design our lots to make them easy to defend and hard to attack, and – most of all – we can either join an existing community right from the get-go, or if not, we can group together with our neighbors to create a new form of law and order and mutual support and early warning system.

For More Information

If you’re specifically interested in researching potential future scenarios and how normal people might respond to them, we suggest you follow our category of articles on Communities.

Beyond that, we’ve a lot of information on all types of prepper related topics.  Please roam far and wide around our site.  Thanks for visiting.

May 192012
 

Food riots will become general riots and then general lawlessness and disorder in a Level 2/3 event. Maintaining your security is your biggest challenge if you with to survive such a scenario.

Many preppers are individualists, and their initial assumption – that society will collapse in some form or another – is extended perhaps too far.

Yes, they rightly assume they need to plan for a future with no help from normal external support services, and there’s an unspoken element of ‘It will be every man for himself’ WTSHTF.  This is probably even true, to at least some extent.

But this sensible focus on self-reliance blinds some people to the essential need to form or join a community of fellow preppers as part of a Level 2 or 3 response plan.

It is reasonable to prepare for a Level 1 event that requires nothing more than turning on the generator at home and waiting out the restoration of normal services while eating stockpiled food.  Apart from having some friends around for social purposes and to fight off the boredom that might otherwise ensue if television, radio, and internet services are affected, you don’t actually need a support community of other people to see you through the Level 1 event.

But when you are instead responding to a longer term more severe Level 2 or 3 event, you have a very different set of issues you need to prepare for.

Most People Underestimate the Size of Group they Need

Just as common as the people who give no thought at all to creating a community any larger than their immediately family are the people who create a small group – perhaps a group of three couples get together.  That would be six people, maybe a couple of children, maybe an older generation person or two as well, but in total, probably under 12 people, and only six of them able-bodied adults.

Don’t get us wrong.  A group of six adults banded together is very much better than a couple all by themselves.  But is it good enough to really tilt the odds in your favor in a full Level 2 situation?  We don’t think so.  Read other articles in our series on communities and defending your retreat for discussions on why this is.

In the balance of this article, we consider some of the implications of managing a larger sized community.

Size/Type of Retreat

A typical American family home has between three and five bedrooms, and maybe two or three bathrooms.  That works very well for a matchingly typical American family of perhaps two adults and two children, boosted by occasional short-term guests.

But say you establish a community of 25 people?  How will that work?  Sure, you can pack a lot of people into even an ordinary house for a short term, especially if you have a working sewage line that takes your sewage away, and efficient cooking facilities.

From a social point of view, there are good reasons to split your group into a reasonable number of small ‘single family apartments’ or even separate dwellings.  From a security point of view, you want to have one single external wall to defend, and to have this external wall as small and strong as possible.

There is another thing to consider as well.  If you’re considering building a custom dwelling for your group of 25 or so people, suitable to withstand a Level 2 event, what will you do if the actual event is or becomes a Level 3 event?

As you’ll see in our article about community sizes for Level 3 events, you need an appreciably larger group to survive a Level 3 event.  Shouldn’t you be building a structure that will be suitable for a Level 3 community rather than a Level 2 community?

With this in mind, we generally advocate you should construct something analogous to a block of condos if you are establishing a larger community.  This article tells you more about the benefits and reasons for this.

Even a ‘Simple’ Level 2 Retreat is Not Simple

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  But your biggest challenge in surviving a Level 2 situation is not food or water or shelter or energy.  It is security.  And the second biggest challenge is the unforeseen, the unpredictable, the unexpected, and the not-planned-for.

The only realistic way to enhance your security is to get more people into your immediate retreat community.  Having friendly neighbors half a mile down the road is no use to you.  They are out of sight.  Even if you had a way of signaling them for help – and assuming your attackers didn’t get you by surprise – by the time your neighbors decided to risk their lives coming to help you, and by the time they got to your retreat, it would be too late.

Out of Sight = Out of Mind

This brings up a couple of relevant points.

The first is to appreciate that in a Level 2 or 3 situation, any sort of gunshot wound is much more potentially lethal than it is today, with first class hospitals and paramedics close by.  Closely related is the fact that the loss of a person in a small community is much more damaging in a Level 2/3 situation than it is today – here, people can be ‘replenished’ with new neighbors moving in; and whether they are nice or not is really not all that vitally important.  Post WTSHTF, you become intensely reliant on the people in your extended immediate family unit.

The second is that not only is the downside to putting one’s life at risk much greater in this sort of scenario, but also it is tactically ill-advised to leave your own retreat exposed and unprotected.  If your neighbors tell you they are being attacked, unfortunately the wise thing to do is to go to alert/lockdown in your own retreat, not to go rushing off over semi-open ground to help them.

The only people you can count on to be for sure committed to helping you are the people who are equally at risk as you.  This topic is discussed further in the article about how community mutual defense pacts sometimes work, and sometimes don’t.

How to Anticipate the Unanticipated

We suggest the second biggest challenge you will confront is something you didn’t expect, and didn’t plan or prepare for.  Or maybe it is something that you thought to be safely unlikely to occur, or something you couldn’t afford to plan for.

The best defense in such a case is diversity and redundancy of resource.  The more people in your community, the more skill sets you have.  Maybe you have someone with experience and background suitable for whatever goes unexpectedly wrong.  Or maybe a freak accident sees you lose a key member of your community – in a small community, you might now be weakened by the loss of skills that no-one else has; in a larger community, there is more chance that someone else has a similar skillset already.

An Introduction to Retreat Design Considerations

Creating an appropriate retreat capable of housing multiple families for an extended period of time in a secure environment almost always requires a custom designed/built dwelling.  This is a separate subject, but two quick points to consider.

Normal houses are not built for security; they are built for comfort and for an open airy feel, and are constructed out of low-cost non-ballistic resistant materials.  Did you know a typical rifle round can travel through the exterior of a house, through every interior wall, and then out through the other exterior wall on the opposite side of the house, and if the bullet encountered anyone on its path through the house, or even someone on the outside on the far side, it could inflict a lethal injury on the person too?

Secondly, you don’t want your ‘castle’ to become your coffin.  If your retreat is made of wood – either the walls or roof – you’re at risk of being burned out.  It is very foreseeable that if people can’t get to you, they’ll decide ‘Well, if we can’t get his food, he can’t have it either’ and simply set fire to your building and watch the building, its contents and its inhabitants all burn to the ground.

Bottom line – constructing a suitable retreat for a sizeable community is a specialized task.  Code Green Prep is creating communities and specialized retreats for our community members.  We would be pleased to consider you as a possible member of a Code Green community, or to assist you create your own community.