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.

Feb 182013
 
The time to buy your essentials of all types is before the panic sets in.  Seems obvious, but most people fail to do so.

The time to buy your essentials of all types is before the panic sets in. Seems obvious, but most people fail to do so.

It is now just over two months since the Sandy Hook shooting caused an increase in the rate of buying firearms and ammunition due to people’s concerns about new restrictive legislation, and their hope that the legislation wouldn’t apply retrospectively to existing firearms, magazines, and ammunition.

We’re not primarily a firearms focused website, and our main perspective on this matter is to examine this real life example of our economy’s fragility and inability to quickly respond to changes in the supply/demand equation.  What happens with firearms could just as easily happen to fuel or medical supplies or food items – or anything else at all.

It is true that gun store shelves are no longer totally bare, but if you look at the price tags on the rifles and pistols now available for sale, you’ll notice steep increases in price.  Ammunition is also returning to the shelves, but in limited quantities and again at much higher prices.  Here’s a recent article from, of all places, USA Today that confirms these issues continue to be a problem.

We also can quote an interesting report that was published on a private member only website, explaining some of the constraints that firearms manufacturers are facing.

Smith & Wesson : Is running at full capacity making 300+ guns/day-mainly M&P pistols. They are unable to produce any more guns to help with the shortages.

RUGER :  Plans to increase from 75% to 100% in the next 90 days.

FNH :  Moving from 50% production to 75% by Feb 1st and 100% by March 1.

Remington :  Maxed out.

Armalite :  Maxed out.

DPMS :  Can’t get enough parts to produce any more product.

COLT :  Production runs increasing weekly but restricted by shortages of bolt carriers.

LWRC :  Making only black guns, running at full capacity…can’t get enough gun quality steel to make barrels.

Springfield Armory :  Only company who says it can ‘meet demand’ but meeting this demand sees them running 30-45 days behind.

AMMO :  Every caliber is now allocated! We are looking at a nationwide shortage of all calibers over the next 9 months. All plants are producing as much ammo as possible with 1 BILLION rounds produced weekly. Most is military followed by law enforcement, and civilians are third in line.

MAGPUL is behind 1 MILLION mags, do not expect any large quantities of Magpul anytime soon.

RELOADERS :  ALL Remington, Winchester, CCI & Federal primers are going to ammo FIRST. There are no extras for reloading purposes… it could be 6-9 months before things get caught up.

Distributors have nothing on the shelves.  What comes in daily goes out, nothing in reserve.

Confirming the comments about ammunition above – indeed, revealing the situation to be much worse, this next quote just appeared on the website for Stockpile Defense, a supplier of bulk ammunition to the Front Sight firearms training school in Nevada.  They say their best case scenario is to get only 20% of the ammo they have ordered this year.  One wonders what their worst case scenario might be!

Due to extreme shortages in the ammunition market at this time supplies have run VERY LOW. We continue to get as much ammunition as possible regardless of price. Prices have also increased as much as 50% on some items. At this time we can not guarantee an adequate supply for all students. 9mm and .223 are the hardest to come by.

We are asking students to plan ahead and bring what ammunition you can for the class. We apologize for this inconvenience and please be assured that we are doing EVERYTHING in our power to keep everyone shooting. These are extremely volatile times and conditions are changing on a daily basis. Please check the website often for updates.

Again, we apologize for this inconvenience in these matters and we appreciate your understanding.

Please bring as much ammunition you can with you. We will supplement the rest. We are trying to supply between 500-1000 students per week and at this junction we just are not able to acquire enough ammo to supply all of your needs. We are very sorry for this.

We have 50 million rounds of ammunition on order for the 2013 year. We will not see all of this delivered. If we see 10 million that is my projected best case scenario.

The Growth in Gun/Ammo Demand Isn’t as Huge as You Might Think

It is worth repeating that these extreme shortages of both guns and ammunition are not because of an extreme increase in demand.

There have been only modest increases in firearms sales.  The FBI reports the following number of calls in to their ‘NICS’ service – every time a person buys a firearm from a dealer, the dealer has to call NICS for an instant background check.  Not all calls to NICS are for firearm sales, and some calls represent a sale of multiple firearms, but as a rule of thumb measure, the volume of NICS calls tracks the volume of new gun sales in the country.

The FBI show the following results :

Month Most Recent     Previous Year     Increase in number     Increase in percent
December     2,783,765 1,862,327 921,438 49.5%
January 2,495,440 1,377,301 1,118,139 81.2%

In particular, note that the total number of checks in January decreased compared to December.  Whether this is due to lessening of demand, or just inability to supply, we don’t know.

So these modest increases have totally destroyed the industry’s ability to supply.

Modern Manufacturing is No Longer Flexible

We wrote before on how modern manufacturing is subject to multiple dependencies – for example, a car manufacturer can’t make more cars if he can’t get more of all the sub-assemblies that go into making the car from their suppliers.  For example, the car manufacturer probably buys in its engine management computer systems from other manufacturers.  And these other manufacturers probably buy in the circuit boards, the chips, and so on that go into the units.  And the circuit board manufacturers in turn buy in the components that they then make into the prepared circuit boards, and so on and so on.

The highest profile example of this trend is Boeing.  It used to design and build airplanes from almost the base raw materials.  Originally it would make its own engines, too; but after being broken up due to anti-competitive issues, it split off its engine manufacturing (and its airline operations too) and concentrated on the airplane building.

But now, with its new 787 airplane, it has outsourced not just much of the design, but most of the building too, reducing its role to that of coordinator and final assembler of the airplane from the subassemblies other companies have made.

The good sense of that strategy is very much in question currently.  Not only was the 787 many years late in its development process, but the entire fleet have now been grounded due to safety concerns.  The plane’s electrical system – designed by one company, with batteries from another, integrated by a third company, and with control systems from a fourth company, are showing an alarming tendency to burst into flames, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist or even an airplane engineer to understand that this is not a good thing.

Somewhere along the way, it seems that Boeing lost control of the overall management and safety architecture of its new plane development, and rather than becoming the ‘Dreamliner’ that it fancifully named its new plane, it is instead more of a nightmare for Boeing, the airlines who have bought them, and the public who may have to anxiously fly in them.

We are seeing the multiple dependencies problem play out with guns and ammo too.  A shortage of bolt carriers is limiting Colt’s production; a shortage of gun quality steel is impacting on LWRC and a shortage of all parts in general is impacting DPMS.  As for ammunition, we know there is now a shortage of primers, and who knows what else as well.

Automation Prevents Flexibility

The other key issue is that all the automation that goes into modern-day manufacturing – while a very good thing from the perspective of low-cost high-efficiency manufacturing – means that increases in production rates may require buying more machinery for the factory.

It was an easy step, decades ago, for a factory to simply hire more workers, particularly for relatively unskilled jobs that didn’t require a huge investment or delay in a training process, and of course, when demand cycles reduced, to let those people go again.  There was little up-front cost, little leadtime/delay, and no ongoing liability.

But a company can’t buy a multi-million dollar machine, and probably also need to build a new bay in their factory to house it, at short notice.  Even if it somehow could, how long would it take to build the new factory extension, and to receive the new equipment it had ordered?  And, after having done this, it would then be saddled with the machinery in the event that there was a future downturn in demand.

It also used to be that manufacturers would have reserve capacity in their factories – the ability to add a second or third shift, for example.  But more and more, manufacturers are preferring to soak up their ‘surge capacity’ rather than buying in more capacity, and so they don’t have as much reserve capacity now.

And, even if they did, remember the issue we opened with.  They might be able to double their output, but what if their sub-assembly supplier can’t also double their output to match?

Manufacturers Deliberately Operate Very Close to Capacity

It makes no financial sense for a company to invest in two very expensive machines that each run one shift a day.  Instead most companies these days would prefer to operate one expensive machine for two shifts a day, and, if demand grows further, to add a third shift too.

This makes financial sense, but what then happens if demand increases but the manufacturers are already running at close to full capacity?

The other part of this picture is what happens when all manufacturers are running at close to maximum capacity and then one of the manufacturers is knocked off-line – unscheduled maintenance, even scheduled maintenance, or whatever.  We see this happen regularly these days in the oil/gas industry, where the closing of two or three refineries simultaneously around the country (for different reasons, but coincidentally at the same time) massively drives up the price of gas at the pump.  Indeed, as we write this, we are staring at huge increases in gas prices at the pump, at the same time that crude oil supplies are abundant.

This points to an interesting related point.  Manufacturers benefit from artificial shortages.  When there is a shortage of product, the manufacturers no longer have to compete with each other, but instead they can all push their prices up and enjoy the bonus windfall profits that come their way.

We see this also in the aviation industry.  As more and more airlines disappear (little more than ten years ago there were more than ten major airlines in the US, with last week’s announcement of the AA/US merger, we are now down to only three) and with the remaining airlines deliberately limiting their flights, we not only get to suffer more flights in the middle seat, but we have to pay more for the tickets, too.

Another example – the recent increases in vegetable prices, with some vegetables increasing in price more than 50% almost overnight, due to weather issues in some areas reducing supplies.  Now you could fairly say that it is very hard to match the supply and demand with a perishable product, but the fact remains that – with the entire world as potential suppliers of foodstuffs, we have seen prices for basic vegetables such as even broccoli shoot up from under $1.50/lb to around $3.00/lb.

Empty Warehouses

Another change is the lack of finished goods inventory.  In the past, it was common for companies at every step of the supply/distribution chain to hold reserves of product, so any sudden surges in demand could be satisfied from the warehouses full of finished products.  And by the time demand had persisted to the point that the manufacturers needed to increase their production rates, their sub-assembly suppliers also had reserve capacity to help them respond to increased production and offtake rates.

As we can vividly see from the above information, such capabilities are no longer commonplace.  So here we are, arguably the world’s most advanced nation and the world’s largest economy, and unable to supply even 20% of the ordinary normal demand for ammunition for the entire year ahead.

Bear in mind also that a lot of the firearms and ammunition sold in the US is imported.  Why can’t factories elsewhere in the world also supply enough for our needs?  Has a slight uptick in demand in the US overloaded the entire world’s manufacturing capacity?  As unthinkable as it may seem, the answer compellingly seems to be ‘yes, it has’.

Summary

The bottom line is obvious.  You need to at all times keep a reasonable inventory of all products you need and consume/purchase on a regular basis.  With a simple stock rotation system, this costs you nothing, and because it enables you to buy when products are at low prices to grow your inventory, and to use from inventory when prices are high at the store, you can actually ‘earn a return’ on your investment in your own supplies of food and other items.

The example of continuing shortages of firearms and ammunition shows that it only takes a small shift in demand to overwhelm the entire supply chain, meaning that most product becomes totally unavailable, and what little still passes through the distribution channels skyrockets up in price.

The time to stock up on essentials is now, when they are plentiful, not in the future after panic buying has already set in.

Nov 242012
 

This NY Times photo shows a prepper family and their supplies. But there’s as much missing as is included in what they proudly show us here.

Here’s an interesting article with a great picture to start with – as you can see, it shows a family of eight with their stockpile of prepping supplies.

Pretty impressive, yes?  Everything from solar panels to salt, and quite literally, from soup to nuts.  The man who heads the family is a ‘professional prepper’ so you’d expect him to have a good inventory of things.

But – and it is a huge but…..  what can you not see in the picture?  What is missing?  While there’s plenty of food, and a strange assortment of other ‘self help’ items for the future, there are also many important things not present in the picture at all.

For example, they’ve a bucket of laundry detergent, but no bars of soap.  Talking about soap, where is the toilet paper?  Towels?  Spare clothing?

How about a book or two to read?  Paper to write on, and pens to write with?  Some board games and packs of cards?

They’ve got a dismayingly small-sized generator, but what about lights – or, more to the point, spare light bulbs?  It also seems their total gas supply is four 5-gallon gas cans – probably enough gas to power their generator for a day, but no more than that.  And while they have a propane burner of dubious value, we don’t see any propane.  They have some solar panels, but how about batteries to store the charge from the panels?  Radios and other electrical and electronic goods?

We’re not seeking to criticize this family, and almost certainly they have lots more resources that are not included in this photo, and it could even be debated if the newspaper didn’t deliberately choose to omit a lot of the resources the family has so as to make them look slightly ridiculous for what they apparently do and don’t have.

But the picture does illustrate an essential point.  There’s a lot more to prepping than stocking up on long life food and barrels of water.

Sure, without food and water, you’re not going to live for long.  But is it your intention to live a miserable life of extreme hardship, or is it your intention to be able to live adequately – not luxuriously, but not in great discomfort, either?

Particularly in a Level 1 or 2 situation (click link for definition) your ability to survive and thrive, and your ability to maintain your morale and will to succeed will be as much measured by the amount of toilet paper you have as by the amount of dried food.  To keep everyone in your group feeling positive and confident of your ability to get through the situation and emerge successfully out the other end, you want to keep as many of life’s semi-essentials available as possible.

The good news is that a year’s supply of light bulbs or toilet paper costs very little.  The same for a small library of books, and some pen and paper for people to keep their own personal journals.  Many of these ‘optional extras’ cost very little, and the reason that preppers often overlook them is not due to lack of money, but rather due to lack of forethought.

There’s another category of essential items that also doesn’t appear in this photo, but which you need to consider.  Tools and other things necessary for maintaining the things in your retreat, and a generous inventory of spare parts to replace the things that will almost certainly fail during a Level 1/2 situation.

A tool kit (we recommend as many hand powered tools as possible rather than air or electric tools, for obvious reasons) is not expensive, and some of the more essential spare part items for the various things around your retreat are not necessarily expensive either.  That way, when something fails, you actually feel good and experience a small triumph when you produce the necessary spare part and the tools to replace it with, rather than feeling abject and despondent as, little by little, item by item, your conveniences and comforts fail, making life increasingly less pleasant.

What Do You Need?

It is very hard to come up with a definitive list of all the non-food and non-essential items that would help to make a Level 1/2 situation more endurable, because everyone has a different lifestyle and a different concept of what may or may not necessarily be essential.

But there’s a way for you to start to build your own list.  What we suggest you do is get a tiny pocket notebook (we use one which measures only 2 1/2″ x 4″ with about 50 pages in it) and carry it with you, everywhere you go.  Any time you use any thing, write it down in the notebook, along with whatever you can think of that is related to the thing you are using.

For example, you turn on a light, and that makes you think :  Spare switch, lightbulb, fuse.  It might also make you think :  electrical wire, screwdrivers, side cutters, pliers, electrical tape, multi-meter, soldering iron, and who knows what else.

For example, you go to the bathroom, and that makes you think :  Toilet paper, water, sewage.  It might also make you think :  ‘toilet spare parts kit’, soap, towels, plumbing snake, cleaning fluids, bucket, and who knows what else.

You turn on television, and that makes you think :  Television, electricity, spare parts for tv.  It might also make you think :  satellite receiver, old-fashioned external antenna, radio, shortwave radio, walkie-talkies, and who knows what else.

You turn the temperature up when it gets cold, and that makes you think :  Thermostat, furnace parts, filters, humidifiers.  It might also make you think energy sources, alternative heating strategies, insulation, warm clothes, CO and CO2 detectors, and who knows what else.

You go to the kitchen to heat up a can of beans and that makes you think :  Can openers, pots and pans, cutlery and crockery.  It might also make you think :  knives, knife sharpeners, kitchen gadgets in general (preferably hand-operated) and who knows what else.

As you live your normal life, continue entering the details of things you use and do into your notebook as often as you can, for everything you do, and as you can see from the examples above, try to think not just about exactly the thing you are doing, but the immediate and reasonably related other items that the thing you are doing/using relies upon as well.

Finding Subtle Obscured Dependencies

Note from the examples above that you try to think through the layers of dependencies and consequential issues with each thing you do or use.  If you find yourself thinking about the need for laundry detergent, you should try to think through the entire washing clothes process, which of course includes drying them after washing has been complete.  How will you do that when you can’t just turn on the drier unit next to your washing machine?  If the answer is ‘hang them on a washing line’ you next thing ‘hang them with what?’ and realize you not only need a clothes line but also clothes pegs.  Next, for ‘bonus’ points, think also about the life of the clothes and other things you’re washing.  If you have children, what will happen when they grow out of their present clothes.  What will happen when you’ve worn holes in your shoes, socks and clothes – and think not just about replacing, but also having repair kits to extend the life of your garments too.

Most of all, be alert for some of the things that we take so much for granted because they almost never fail; but when they do fail, they can have major impacts on our lives.  This starts with the structural integrity of your dwelling itself and external threats that might be posed – do you have trees around the property that could – either now or in five years time – fall and crash through your house?  What is the state of its roof?  Might it start leaking?  Do you have large picture windows, and if so, what would you do if a pane of glass was smashed in the large picture window?

So, how long should you do keep recording everything you use and rely on for?  We’d suggest two years.  That seems like a very long time.  Of course, the number of new items you’ll uncover in the second year will be much less than in the first year, but the longer you do it, the more robust and resilient your preparations will become and the more likely you’ll be to uncover/encounter some of the unusual but important problems you might have.

The first few weeks will be a rush of a huge number of new entries into your notebook, and then things will start to slow down, but each new season will bring about new seasonal related issues and requirements.

As time and money allows, you should of course work slowly but steadily towards addressing each of the items on your list and coming up with a suitable preparation.

How Much Do You Need?

How high is up?  How long is a piece of string?  And how large an inventory of food and non-food supplies do you need?  Three questions, all with no exact answers.

Ideally, you want to retain some balance in your stockpiling of items.  There is no point in having a decade’s worth of light bulbs if you only have three months of food, is there.  On the other hand, once you have laid in a three-month supply of food, and the means to ensure a reasonable ongoing supply of water, then you might want to pause in your food stockpiling efforts and add in some of the other non-food items that can keep your overall quality of life at an acceptable level, before continuing to add more food.

By all means stock up more than you need of some items, because you might be able to use the extra supplies of the item to trade with other people.  But if all the preppers for miles around have stockpiled extra quantities of salt and hard liquor, then you’re going to find the supply and demand equation for those items will have depressed their value greatly.  Try and think of things which other people are less likely to stock up on.  Ideally such things should last forever rather than have a short-lived expiry date, be of high utility value and low-cost for you to buy up front, and be able to be stored in a small amount of space.

Packs of playing cards and books of card game rules might be an example of a ‘quality of life’ thing – they are inexpensive to buy, last forever in storage, and with the probable demise of high-tech electronic entertainment options, might become very popular in the future again.  Even better still, while a pack of cards can last a long time, sooner or later the cards will get damaged and lost, and so you stand to sell more packs of cards from time to time to the same people who bought them from you in the first place.

On the other hand, toilet paper, while low value and long-lived, and definitely a consumable item, is perhaps not so great as a trade item to stockpile, because it does take up a lot of space.

Use your imagination, and your own life experiences as recorded in your notebook, to come up with not only what you need, but also what might be great to keep spares of as trade items, and try to more or less balance your food/water and non-food/water prepping so that you have adequate amounts of everything.

Summary

Sometimes we feel there is too much focus on food and water, and too little focus on ‘everything else’ when it comes to preparing for a future adverse scenario.

Of course, without adequate shelter, water and food, life itself is at risk.  But once you’re ensured the ability to sustain life, you then want to start to focus on improving the quality of your life, by prudently adding non-essential but greatly appreciated extra things.

Keeping a notebook and listing everything you do and creatively working through that to everything that the things you do/use are in turn dependent upon can help you come up with the list of non-food items you would benefit from having.

Sep 012012
 

Don’t be secretive about your support of prudent prepping. But don’t shout it out at everyone all the time, either.

It is easy for us preppers to feel isolated; indeed, a key part of choosing an ideal retreat location is to seek out a measure of isolation and remoteness.

Even though the concept of prepping is becoming more widely understood, the unfortunate fact is that by far the majority of the people around us have no interest in prepping, and view it as a cross between something slightly strange and something threatening, almost as something akin to plotting to overthrow the government.

This surely doesn’t make it any easier for us to be open about what we believe and do.  One survey recently suggested that there are now more than 3 million preppers in the country.  That’s good, but it leaves more than 300 million people who are not preppers, and that’s not so good.

And then there is the doctrine of ‘op-sec’ – something many preppers misunderstand and misapply – that seems to require us to be secretive about all aspects of our prepping.

All of this creates a perfect Catch-22 and self-fulfilling prophecy.  By being furtive and secretive about our prepping, we not only imply that there is something to be ashamed or embarrassed about, but we allow the naysayers to ridicule us and shape overall public awareness and perception into a form that generally disapproves and rejects the concept of prepping.

Becoming Positive Opinion Leaders

Perhaps if we were all more open and positive about what we do, we would help to bring prepping into the mainstream of society’s awareness, and make it more generally accepted as a good and sensible thing.  After all, everyone prepares for disasters to some degree and extent; the only difference is that we prepare more thoroughly than do most other people.  It isn’t a difference as stark as that between, say, communism and democracy, it is more like the difference between Libertarians and Republicans – both groups share many views in common to start with.

You almost surely have friends who spend lots of money on their hobbies and interests.  Maybe you know someone with a motor home.  That could be a $100,000+ investment up front, plus plenty more in ongoing costs, maintenance, and so on.  Maybe you know a keen golfer, and when you start to look at the money he (or she) spends on golf clubs, clothing, professional lessons, memberships, green fees, travel to far away courses and golfing events, they can be spending tens of thousands of dollars every year, and spending hundreds of hours of time in the process.

And so on, through all sorts of other interests.  In all such cases, the people who have these interests are not shy about sharing their interests with anyone and everyone.  Indeed, some of them become colossal bores and want to speak about nothing else, even to people who don’t share their same interests.

Now we’re not suggesting you should become a colossal bore, but we are suggesting that you shouldn’t avoid talking about your interest – your prepping activities and values.

If you have a retreat, there’s no need to call it your wilderness mountain man survival cabin to help you survive Armageddon.  Instead you can talk about your second home/holiday home/retreat, as a lifestyle enhancing investment for now, and as a hedge against any future issues too.  That is a positive way of explaining your interest.  After all, the money your friend spends each year on his hobby is probably money gone forever, but the money you spend on developing a retreat is an appreciating and lasting investment.  With the notable exception of the last few years, any real estate investment can reasonably be expected, over the longer term, to appreciate in value and bring a profitable return to its owner.

When things happen in the news, and you and your co-workers discuss them around the coffee maker or photocopier at the office, you can gently add your own prepping perspective.  For example, as we write this, Hurricane Isaac’s impacts on the New Orleans area are just starting to subside.  Typical office chit-chat about events such as this is ‘how horrible it was for the people affected’, but it is a passive sort of concern with an underlying smugness (unstated) of ‘thank goodness it would never happen to us, here’ (assuming of course you don’t live in the next parish over from Orleans or Jefferson!).

There’s an opportunity for you there to say something like ‘I wonder what people in this area would do if we had some sort of disaster strike here, too’.  Depending on where you are, you might be able to cite a local vulnerability – maybe your area has a low risk of earthquake, or flood, or is coastal and so vulnerable to tsunamis, or has a nuclear reactor not far away, or a volcano that conceivably might surprise everyone and erupt, or who knows what else.

Your point isn’t so much the specificity of any particular threat, but rather the question of what would the people in your area do if such a thing impacted on them.  If you can get people thinking about that, you’re halfway to having a positive discussion about prepping in general.  Don’t be aggressive at forcing a conversation your way, and ensure you suppress any type of smugness you might feel about your own resilience to disasters of all kinds.  But simply raise the issue, and focus on the people who look thoughtful, rather than the ones who shrug it off as not a problem that would never happen, and who cares, because if it did, the government would come along to save the day and help everyone.

Such brief and casual conversations, repeated occasionally but not too frequently, will help you to decide who in the group of people you interact with are open-minded to the concept of prepping, and who are uninterested or close-minded.  In a gentle and slow manner, you can befriend the more open-minded people, and start to share a bit more about your concerns and what you do to counter those concerns and respond to the risks you perceive.

Don’t be a Single Minded Bore

We spoke before about people who are very one-dimensional.  All they seem to be interested in, and all they talk about, is whatever their particular fixation may be.  Maybe they are a dedicated equestrian.  You know that no matter how any conversation starts, it will inevitably twist and turn and end up with them telling you about their new saddle, or their riding experience the last weekend, and so on and so on.

You not only find yourself avoiding that person, but you also find yourself slightly put off the concept of horses in general.  If liking horses makes a person so myopically focused only on horses, then you sort of choose to avoid any contact with horses and horse enthusiasts, for fear of being ‘infected’ yourself and becoming, in turn, a colossal bore too.  (Our apologies to horse lovers – and we like horses ourselves – we’re just using this as an example, not as a real issue!)

It is the same with you and prepping.  You need to show yourself as an ordinary and interesting person with a broad range of interests, and you want to only very sparingly and occasionally allow prepping to enter into your conversations.  Don’t become the slightly strange/weird person in the office, and don’t encourage people to see prepping as being something that makes people become slightly strange and weird.

One thing you can do, and one time when you should lead conversations to the concept of prepping, is to be sure to distinguish your view of ‘normal’ prepping from occasional stories in the media about extremists and the way that extremists are somehow often bundled together with preppers.  You’re not an extremist, you don’t have a swastika tattoo on your chest (well, we hope you don’t!), and you don’t have a week’s worth of food conveniently stashed away in the inner parts of your mountain-man beard (again, we surely hope you don’t).  You are a normal person, ‘one of the guys’, and your interest in prepping is a similarly normal thing and an integrated part of your normal balanced life.

How to Advocate and Explain Prepping

There is a temptation to make prepping seem like a very special sort of thing, and a thing which, alas, very few people comprehend.  But this risks alienating people before they’ve even started to consider what prepping is and if/how they could integrate it into their own lifestyles.

In discussing prepping, you always need to make it seem like an easy concept that people can integrate into their regular lifestyles.  The easier it is to do something, the more likely it is people will choose to do it.

For example, if becoming a cigarette smoker and addict was an enormously complex process that involved expensive special equipment, and consumed a lot of time, and could only be done in special places, and required you to fill out paperwork, pass a test, and get a license, few people would decide to do so.  But instead, as many people know from personal experience, at a young and impressionable age, someone you respect or like offers you a ‘quick puff’ of a cigarette, and then generously shares their own cigarettes with you, and over time what is a special ‘one-off’ occasional event becomes integrated more and more into your life.  You feel the need to reciprocate your friend’s generosity, and you buy a pack of cigarettes yourself, so as to be able to share them with your friend the next time a situation arises where you will have a cigarette, and then all of a sudden, you find yourself somewhere without your enabling friend, but in a situation where, if he (she) were present, you’d probably have a smoke, and, with the packet of cigarettes nearby, you have one by yourself, and before you know it, you’re a pack a day smoker.

Now, don’t get us wrong.  We’re not saying that prepping is addictive or a bad habit or anything!  We’re simply showing how a person’s lifestyle evolves in small steps.  Most of the things that these days are core parts of your life and lifestyle started off small and only over time evolved to become important.  Maybe you have strong political views and are active in that scene.  You weren’t born that way, were you.  You slowly grew into that interest and activity.

It is the same with prepping.  Don’t immediately start urging everyone you meet to spend millions of dollars in building an underground survival bunker in their back yards (indeed, we hope you’ll never suggest that!).  Instead, take their present levels of preparations and make suggestions for slight enhancements of those.  Of course they already keep spare food in their pantry, spare lightbulbs somewhere, a flashlight and batteries, and other sorts of entry-level preparations.  They have insurance on their house and car, medical insurance on themselves and their other family members.  When they go out somewhere, if the weather is uncertain, they bring a jacket or umbrella to prepare for the possibility of bad weather.

Help them to see how they are already a prepper.  All they need to do now is think about preparing some more.  The thing is that the more people start to prepare, the more they realize that they have a lifestyle worth protecting and preserving, and the more committed they become to extending their preparations to counter more difficult situations.

The chances are that your state, county or city government has some type of disaster preparedness advice on their website, urging everyone in the community to keep various supplies and resources.  Use that as a talking point.  The next time there’s a power outage in the area, discuss what you and they would do if a power outage affected you too.

You need to first encourage new potential preppers to consider how they could and would respond to mild problems before you drop them in the deep end of severe national crisis type challenges.  Help them become better able to withstand a Level 1 challenge before you start to talk about levels 2 and 3.

Before you know it, maybe they’ll be going to Costco with you and buying a bulk pack of AA batteries and a dozen spare lightbulbs.  That’s a bit like a person’s first puff on their first cigarette.  Next time they might buy a pail of 25 year shelf stable dehydrated food.  And so on and so on.

Maybe you’ll invite them to spend a weekend at your retreat and maybe they’ll be interested in becoming part of your retreat community, and gradually over time, they’ll become as enthusiastic and active as you are at preparing for the uncertainties of the future.

More Preppers = Less Risk

Here’s the key thing.  If we had to sum up the biggest vulnerability that we confront today, it is the fact that 99+% of the population is unprepared for disaster of any/all kinds.  Our problem is not so much the potential for disaster to occur, but rather the dysfunctional way that our society would respond when a disaster did occur.

If everyone in our community was well prepared, then the outcome of a disaster would be mild and moderate.  We’d have no social breakdown, we’d not have people starving in the streets in a matter of days, and looters would be kept at bay by a determined lawful majority of people.

Even if half the people were well prepared, it would probably be possible for the half who were well prepared to assist the half who were not, and to avoid a meltdown of the city.

So the more people we can encourage to join us in preparing for adverse events in the future, the safer we make ourselves.  If our neighbors are no longer people who potentially will be threatening us and attacking us to get our food and supplies from us, but rather, if they’ll be part of our ‘neighborhood watch’ and sharing their various supplies with us and our various supplies, our situation and our security is enormously boosted.

In a Level 1 situation, the more people in your neighborhood who are at least moderately prepared to withstand a short-term disruption to the normal services in our society, the fewer problems you will have, and the less likely it is you’ll have to escalate your response to a bug-out point and making it into a Level 2 situation.

And, in a Level 2 or 3 situation, the more people who will join with you in a community retreat, the better off you’ll all be.  You will have been able to share in the up-front costs of developing the retreat in the first place, enabling you to get more resource overall for less money per person, and you’ll then have more people to share with you in the ongoing business of living in the retreat and creating a self-sufficient lifestyle into the future.

The best thing you can do to prepare for a safe future for you and your loved ones is to help the people around you to similarly prepare for their safe futures, too.  You make the other people in your world become assets and supporters, rather than liabilities and detractors.  So, not only for their benefit, but for your own benefit too, you need to become a careful and positive advocate of the prepping concept.

Two Final Thoughts

First, if you are in the greater Puget Sound area, we are always pleased to address any type of group of people, giving a presentation on prepping in any form and at any level you’d like.  We can bring high quality a/v materials with us, and provide an interesting, thought-provoking and positive presentation.

We’ll do this for free, because just as you benefit from surrounding yourself with fellow preppers, so do we, too.

If you’re not within an easy drive of Puget Sound, we’ll still come present to any sort of group as long as you agree to cover our direct costs associated with doing so.  If you’re looking for an interesting ‘twist’ to your next convention or conference or whatever, here’s a way you can introduce prepping to a group of non-preppers and also make your overall program seem more interesting and distinctive.  We are experienced public speakers and can positively enhance any meeting activity.

Secondly, the need to build a prepping community does definitely extend beyond having your neighbors buy a generator and lay in some canned goods for the next windstorm that blows down the power lines, or the next snowfall that closes off the roads.  You need to have, build, or join a community for Level 2 and 3 situations, too.  If you can create your own community, we’d love you to come and be our neighbors in our selected part of ID/MT.  Or, better still, please consider becoming part of our Code Green community.

Aug 232012
 

The waves of refugees after TEOTWAWKI will be both heart-rending and dangerous.

Shortly after some type of disaster that disrupts the normal flow of food and energy into your nearby towns, people will be forced to leave their residences and fan out into the countryside, foraging for food (and subsequently shelter too).  That is obvious – if there is no food in the town/city, people can either stay where they are and die of thirst or starvation, or they can pro-actively start looking for food.

People will initially look for food on one of two different levels.  The first level is ‘looking for food nearby and returning back to one’s normal home to eat it and continue living’.  The second level is ‘abandoning one’s former residence and moving, as a refugee, towards wherever the possibility of ongoing survival may be greatest’.  A third and fourth type of food seeking will develop later into a crisis.

It is helpful to understand the differing types of contacts you’ll have, because each poses different challenges, problems, threats, and even opportunities, calling for different responses on your part.

And while we consider our four different waves to be more or less chronologically sequential, there will be some overlaps, with some people representing some waves either earlier than most others, or later than most others.

The First Wave

The first wave will start shortly after the social disruption occurs, initially as a trickle, and then successively greater and greater as more and more people run out of food and come to realize that the government won’t magically solve the problem that occurred.

It will only take a week or two before the first type of food-seeking necessarily ends, due to people running out of gas for their vehicles, and being reduced instead to only traveling and foraging as far as they can walk or bicycle (although, on flat terrain, fitter people could fairly easily cycle up to 50 miles out and then 50 miles back home again).

We predict that people in this ‘first wave’ won’t be very threatening, because they will be more in a hurry to cover as much ground as possible to find as much easy food as possible, rather than becoming fixated on specific potential targets.  Plus, the ‘kill or be killed’ reality of tough survival won’t yet have fully penetrated, and the region will have patches of remaining lawfulness alongside areas of growing anarchy.

Furthermore, these people are primarily seeking food only, not shelter.  They’ve not yet accepted that their city residences have become unviable and need to be abandoned.

Your tactic to resist problems from the first wave of food/shelter seekers will be to maintain a low profile, so most of such people pass you by, and to positively respond to people who do come visiting, encouraging them to go find easier targets/food sources elsewhere.

Of course, the further you are from the nearby towns and cities, the fewer the number of people who might stumble upon you.  But you’ll never be 100% guaranteed to be safely far from such itinerant scavengers.  Fortunately the danger they pose to your retreat at this early stage is low, so while your location choice will ideally not be right next to a freeway exit, a mere 10 miles from the city center, you don’t need to keep yourself hundreds of miles away from any and all population concentrations.

The Second Wave

As the first wave ends and is replaced by the second wave, people’s attitudes will be hardening, because their ability to travel far and wide is massively reduced.  They have probably used up most of their emergency food stores, and now, limited primarily by their ability to walk, any source of food becomes one they must take full advantage of.  They can no longer afford the luxury of leaving empty-handed, and their lack of mobility now reduces the number of places they can travel to in search of food.  They have to make the best of every possible opportunity.

The grim reality of the ‘eat or be eaten’ concept will also be one which the survivors can no longer ignore.

If these people come across your retreat, they are likely to be a stronger and more determined adversary than people in the first wave (and people in the second wave could well be the same people who visited more peaceably in the first wave, too).

Fortunately, most of these people in the second wave will still be nomadic and itinerant.  They’ll be traveling in the hope of finding a Shangri-La somewhere that is full of food, energy, and welcoming people keen to help them, and probably won’t yet be in the ‘looking for anywhere to settle’ mode that will come later.  They might hope for overnight shelter, but they’re not yet looking for a place to settle – or, if they are, they’re probably not yet realistic enough to appreciate the value of your retreat.

People will start abandoning their homes anytime after only a very few days of the crisis commencing and once they start to accept that no magic solutions are forthcoming.  This won’t only be due to the lack of food and lack of any future food supply, but may also be due to lack of water, lack of plumbing, and lack of energy in general.  A high-rise apartment with no water, no working elevators, and no lights or heating/cooling will quickly become uninhabitable, food or not.

The second wave will probably diminish after three or so weeks, because by that point, people will have either left the city, or died, or created some sort of semi-stable ongoing basis of existence in the city.

Your strategy during this exodus stage is to be located somewhere reasonably far from the main routes people are likely to travel along.  It is as important that you are off the likely refugee routes, whether you are 1 mile or 100 miles from the major population centers, because people will potentially be traveling long distances in their search for somewhere better to live.

People may fan out slightly from the main routes as they search for food en route, but they will generally follow the major arterial routes.

Major routes will tend to be well maintained highways, and generally we expect people will move to the coasts and south, rather than inland and to the north.  People will, either by reason or instinct, seek out warm climates and water/ocean.  The warm climate reduces their dependency on shelter and energy, and the ocean has the appeal of ‘free fish’ and also some type of instinctive deep-seated lure.

The Third Wave

The third wave will be refugees, the same as the second wave, but this time it will be people looking for somewhere to settle.

These will be people who are becoming more realistic in their expectations, and now rather than mindlessly going anywhere in the hope of finding (nonexistent) salvation, they are now looking for somewhere they can settle and survive for the medium or longer term.

Your appeal to these people is not just the food you have stored, but also your retreat as a whole, the under-way food cultivation, the energy creating resources you have, and everything else you have done to prepare yourselves for this future.

Some of these people will be seeking short-term easy solutions.  They’ll want to rob you of your food, your shelter, and everything else you have.  They have no concern for sustainability, they want to live for the moment, and when they’ve exhausted everything you have, they’ll move on to somewhere else.

Others of these people will be more realistic, but they’ll still want to displace you from your property and take it over.

There will also be a very few people who will be fair and honest and decent, and who will offer to work their way for and with you.  They’ll offer their labor and their skills, in return for your shelter and assistance – probably as a ‘package deal’ for themselves and their other family members.

It would be good if you had a way of responding positively to such people, because they may prove to be valuable additions to your small community.

The Fourth Wave

The fourth wave is very different from the other three.  It is longer lasting and more potentially impactful on your retreat and community.

Due to the importance of this fourth wave, we have devoted a separate article to it – The Fourth and Deadliest Wave of Refugees.  Please click the link to continue reading.

Aug 032012
 

You need to have a policy on accepting refugees. You’ll have way too many people seeking to join your community – how will you choose who to accept and reject?

Let’s say that TSHTF and we find ourselves deep into not just the brown stuff but an extended Level 2, possibly a Level 3 situation.  Fortunately, you have the supplies and the skills necessary to ensure the probable survival of you and the other members of your group.

So far, so good.

But what about the other people, everyone and everywhere else in the country?  They have neither the supplies nor the skills, and they are facing a high probability of failing to survive the upcoming winter (always assuming they don’t starve prior to then).

Okay, so you know that your small group of, let’s say, 20 people can’t possibly turn around and support the entire 300+ million people in the US.  Neither can you support the maybe 5 – 10 million people in your state, the 500,000 people in your county, or the 100,000 people in the nearest city, or the 2,000 people in the nearby small town.  Those are easy issues to agree upon.

Enough of the easy.  Let’s move on now to the hard – to the challenges you are most likely to confront and need to resolve.  Note that the scenarios below assume that your ‘community’ shares a number of communal resources – perhaps these would include living in the same retreat structure, sharing food communally rather than having individual stores of food, and sharing water and energy as well.  In such cases, what one person does obviously impacts on other members of the one community.

If your ‘community’ is more like a tiny village, with a cluster of separate dwellings for separate families, and each family being responsible for its own food, water, and energy, but the community as a whole coordinating defense and food production type matters, then clearly each family has much more flexibility as to how it manages its own situation.

Adding One More Community Member

What happens if say your spouse’s brother (or, for that matter, your own brother) turns up and asks to be admitted to your community?

Your spouse pleads with you to let him join you, and for sure, what you have for 20 people will also be fine for 21.  Your spouse even says ‘I’ll share my food with my brother’, although no-one seriously expects that is exactly how the food would be re-divided.  What do you do?  Welcome the guy in, or risk a major failure in your marriage and turn the guy away?

We’ll guess that most people will take the path of least resistance, and let their brother-in-law come join the community.  Going from 20 to 21 is no big deal, and certainly one more able-bodied participant can help with chores and security and general community dynamics.

When One Becomes Many

Next, we need to consider the implications of this.  If you’ve agreed that your spouse can allow your brother to join the community, does that mean that all 20 community members are equally allowed to invite one additional person in to the community?  It would be very hard to understand what type of community dynamic would allow some people the right to bring in additional community members, but not allow others the same right.

It goes without saying that while your community can almost certainly grow from 20 to 21, and would probably actually benefit from the extra person’s presence and participation, what about if the community grows from 20 to 40?  Is that feasible or not?  Your food will only last half as long.  You need twice as much water.  You have twice as much sewage to dispose of.  Your living spaces are now twice as crowded.  And so on.

Furthermore, what happens the next day when your spouse’s other brother turns up.  You’ve let one brother in, how can you refuse the other brother too?

Or what if your spouse’s brother (or of course, your own brother or anyone else’s brother) is married and has a wife?  And a child too?  Where do you draw the line?

Less Desirable Additions

What if, instead of the person being an able-bodied male who can work and positively contribute to the community, the person is instead an aged parent who can’t add any value to the community and who in fact needs support and care?  We could be totally off-base here, but we suspect you’d have an even greater battle with your spouse if you refused to allow their aged mother to come live with you than you would if you turned away their brother!

You should also consider people at the other end of life’s journey.  What about a young child – someone who again would be a net drain on the community’s resource for some years to come, and someone who needs to be cared for and schooled.

Or how about a regular adult but with disabilities, or special medical needs?

Choosing Between Too Many Applicants

What say five people present themselves and ask to join your community.  One is a weedy nerdy IT guy, the second is a beefy brawny farm manager, the third is a dentist, the fourth is an elderly infirm person, but who turns up in a truck fully loaded with enough food supplies to feed a dozen people for a year or more, and towing a 500 gallon tank of diesel, while the fifth is a beautiful blonde woman in her mid 20s, who formerly worked as a public relations representative.

Do you have some sort of skills inventory or rating system to evaluate and prioritize who you would and would not accept?  How about choosing between the empty-handed farm manager, who comes with no physical goods but lots of skill and knowledge and physical strength on the one hand, and the elderly infirm person who can’t contribute skills or physical work, but who has 500 gallons of diesel and twelve man years of food with him?

And what about the dentist?  Let’s say you have a community of 20 people, and the dentist says ‘I’ll provide dental care for all of you for free, but in return, I expect you to feed and shelter and support me’.  There are no other dentists in your group, and none that you know of within 100 miles of where you live.

Is the cost to the community of supporting the dentist sufficiently balanced by the benefit of having at least some basic level of dentistry resource?  If you had a community of 200 the answer would probably be yes, but what about for only 20?  Where do you draw the line?

What about a choice between the nerdy IT guy and the beautiful blonde?  Let’s say that your community currently has more men than women in it, and many of them (and possibly yourself too) are already drooling over the sight of the blonde.  If you had to choose only one of these two people, who would you choose?

The nerdy IT guy is intelligent and clever and offers to maintain your computer network, to write programs, and to help any way he can; and let’s give in to stereotypes and say, for the purpose of this scenario, that the blonde is rather vapid and not very down to earth or sensible.  Her idea of cooking involves being taken out for a meal by a man, or perhaps popping something in the microwave, her idea of gardening is to water the pot plant on her balcony, her idea of prepping is to have plenty of spare shoes in the closet, and she doesn’t really have any other skills of value to the community.

Another Variation

What say your community group refused to allow your spouse’s brother to join the community, and so he sets up a shack immediately next to your community building, and your spouse unofficially shares food and other supplies with him.  You confront your spouse, and s/he says defiantly ‘I am not taking your share of anything, I’m merely sharing my share with my brother, you can’t tell me how I use my things’.

What your spouse says is half-true, but also half untrue, because your spouse is actually now taking larger meals so as to be able to then split them, and the other supplies that your spouse has given to his/her brother are now supplies that have been lost to the community, and while they might seem to be spare today, in a day, week, month or year, they might be essentially needed but no longer available.

What do you do?  Forbid your spouse to share ‘their’ food and ‘their’ other supplies?

Even More Extreme

So your spouse’s brother, and all of his family members too, have set up camp right next to your community retreat.  They are a constant nuisance and interference to the entire community, and, while you can’t prove it, you are fairly certain they are stealing food out of your vegetable gardens, and in other ways stealing your community’s supplies and resources, and by their presence, affecting the overall community morale.

You confront your brother-in-law and he refuses to back down.  He says to you ‘What are you going to do – kill me for doing what I have to do to survive?  You’ll never miss a few carrots and potatoes, and it makes the difference between me and my family living or dying.  Do you want us to die on your doorstep?’

So what do you do?  This isn’t just a stranger talking to you, it is your spouse’s brother and his family.  Or maybe your own brother/sister/whoever.

They make it clear to you that they’re not going to stop stealing your food unless you kill them.  Do you?

Other Scenarios

There are plenty of other scenarios that also impact upon the size of your community and the circumstances associated with how you might select additional or replacement members.  What say, for example, that you have 20 people who belong to your community, but only 15 have turned up at your shared retreat location.

How long do you hold their spaces, their share of everything, before you decide they’re not coming, and you then open up the spaces to other desirable community members?

Or what say part of your community is a family of four, but only three of the family successfully make it to the retreat.  Does the fourth space belong to the family, to assign/sell/trade any way they wish, or does it pass back and become community property?

What happens if a community member leaves (or dies) – does the share in the community pass on to his/her family, can he sell it as he wishes, or does it revert back and become a shared community item for the community as a whole to do with as it chooses?

The Need to Prepare Community Rules in Advance

What all these previous examples have done is try to illustrate some of the type of ‘what if’ situations your community will likely encounter.  You will probably have more people approaching your community on a non-violent basis, pleading with you to be allowed to join your community, than you will have violent attacks from marauders seeking to separate you from your supplies by force.

Each of these different people will come to you with a different set of pluses and minuses, and for a while you’ll feel like a kid in a candy store with so many different people, all potentially great additions to your community, seeking to join.  Whereas, just a week or two prior, when life was normal, people would sneer at you and spurn your suggestion they consider joining your community, but now, all of a sudden, so many people want to be your best friend forever.

You have two problems that you need to address in preparing some rules in advance.  The first problem is simply one of creating a framework to help you judge and evaluate, on a case by case basis, who you should and should not consider adding to your community after TSHTF.

The second problem is more subtle.  The larger your community starts off as being, the more divergent will be the people in it and their own views about how each scenario should be handled.  The rules you prepare are a way of codifying for the entire community what you’ll all collectively do and how you’ll respond.  It is essential that you get the rules 100% established and fully agreed to prior to any event.  If you have a code of procedures, then you can dispassionately evaluate each person’s request to join the community as and when they appear, without having to get involved in any individual personalities and issues between your existing community members.  Community members know what to expect and plan for in advance, and can anticipate how cases will be handled based on the rules as they have been promulgated.

If you don’t have the rules already established, then you get trapped in an expanding spiral of exceptions (albeit exceptions to no existing rules to start with) on the basis of ‘If Joe was allowed to invite in Peter, then I’m entitled to invite in someone too’ and ‘If your friend Bill and his family were allowed to come join, then my friend John and his family should be allowed to come too’, as well as ‘I can’t believe you’re not allowing me to have my dear old dad come join us, especially after I agreed you could bring your kid sister in’, and so on and so on, without limit, until the entire community collapses into some sort of internal civil war.

The solution to this is in two parts – the first is that all decisions need to follow pre-established guidelines so as to distance the individual people and personalities from the process and make it less personal.  The decision then becomes one of simply following the policy, rather than what you agree/disagree between yourselves each time.  It makes it fairer for all to have a consistent approach.

The second element is to make all decisions not clearly covered by the published rules as community consensus decisions, again to diffuse the personal nature of such decisions and to make them more as ‘body corporate’ type actions that, while possibly disappointing to some, aren’t taken as quite so strongly personal rejections/affronts.

Specific Guidelines for Evaluating Potential Extra Community Members

We’ll write a subsequent article with some specific considerations for you to keep in mind when deciding who you might allow to join your community after TSHTF.

Of course, prior to TSHTF, you also need to exercise a modicum of discretion as to who you allow to join your community, but while you are building your community during normal times, one of the greatest considerations will probably be to simply grow your community as much as possible due to the three benefits of strength in numbers, economy of scale, and diversification of risk.

Please see also our article suggesting how to accept new members into your community.

Jul 162012
 

This diagram shows a segment of the interconnections that make up the internet.

We rely on the internet for so much these days.  Some aspects of the internet will almost surely cease to be functional in a major societal breakdown that creates a Level 2/3 event – for example, it is very unlikely that Amazon will continue to offer free two-day delivery to its Prime members of anything they might wish to order.

But what about the most basic aspects of the internet – web browsing and email.  And maybe some extra features too, such as Skype or other voice/video/chat type services?  Will they still be available?  Will there still be Google?

Will the internet stay unharmed, will it degrade ‘gracefully’, or will it disappear entirely.

There are three key components to the internet, and it is helpful to quickly consider the impact of a Level 2/3 event on each of these three components, to better understand what will happen to the internet.

These three components are simply the computers that are connected together, the physical wiring between the computers, and the hubs or nodes that piece it all together.

The Theoretical Good News

The good news about the internet is that – in theory – it is a ‘fault tolerant’ method of connecting multiple computers together.  If one switch or one physical route fails, the internet can intelligently and automatically switch traffic over different paths.  It is a bit like being at the north end of the Los Angeles area, and wanting to get down to the south end.  Sure, you could drive I-5, or I-405, but you also have at least half a dozen other major routes, a dozen minor routes, and if you start going over surface streets, thousands of even slower lesser routes to take.  A multi-lane blockage on one freeway merely causes traffic to redirect and switch to alternate paths through the city.

You might not realize this, but when you type a website address into your browser at present, the connection between your computer and the website’s computer probably passes through a dozen different hubs and nodes as it snakes its way through the internet cloud.  If you’re interested, you can see this by opening a DOS/Command window and typing in the command TRACERT and then the name of a website.  You’ll then get a series of lines of information showing the path of your connection through the internet to the website you wish to visit.

So, in theory, the internet could continue to exist even with the loss of a significant number of key data lines and switching hubs/nodes.

Interestingly, even some of the websites that you might visit don’t actually end up being served from a single physical computer somewhere,  Larger websites are remotely distributed and mirrored and cached, so even the loss of some actual physical computers might not have a great deal of significance to most overall functionality.

The Real World Bad News

In theory, the internet is very fault tolerant.  But there are two vulnerabilities shared by most or all of the internet.

The first vulnerability is to EMP effects.  An EMP attack could destroy the electronics in much/most/all of the internet’s computers and switches.

However, and happily, this vulnerability applies only to the specific circumstance of an EMP attack.  Unfortunately, the second vulnerability applies to all types of Level 2/3 scenarios.

The internet consumes an enormous amount of power.  This article says that in 2006, US data centers alone consumed 61 billion kWhr of electricity; which represents one sixth of the entire power consumed by the UK.  Although computers continue to provide more computer power for less energy consumption, we will guess that the internet power usage must have increased in the six years since that time.

Keep in mind also that the power estimated in the preceding paragraph relates only to data centers.  It doesn’t include all the other components of the internet spread all around the country (and world).

The article also says that Google consumes 3.9 million kWhr of electricity, itself, every month.  It isn’t clear if that is also a 2006 figure or a more recent one, but if we simply accept it as it is, we can still see a very clear future reality.

If Google wished to remain operational after a Level 2/3 scenario, it would obviously continue to require this amount of electricity every month.  It seems reasonable to assume that electricity will be in short supply, and that it will go up in cost significantly.

At the same time, the way Google makes money to pay for these costs – through the advertising on its search results – will drop off drastically, because e-commerce will be massively curtailed.

So Google will see its income drop to a very small fraction of normal levels, while its energy costs – assuming the electricity can even be bought to start with – will go up maybe ten-fold, maybe more.

It is true that Google is getting some windpower for some of its server farms, but the law of supply and demand means that electricity, no matter where and how it is generated, will become extremely valuable.  Google’s profitability today in large part is based on being able to process its ‘raw materials’ – ie electricity – into something much more valuable (ie advertising revenue).  When advertising revenue drops, and when electricity goes up in price, Google would become better advised to sell the electricity locally to other electricity consumers.

Even though Google, today, is very profitable, if it were to lose three-quarters of its advertising revenue and at the same time, have its energy costs increase ten-fold, it would run out of money very quickly indeed.  It could not survive as a going concern.

It isn’t just Google that would have to close down.  A similar calculation applies to most other internet businesses.

And what about the infrastructure companies that provide the data services to all the internet connected companies?  Their energy costs will increase too (assuming they too can even manage to get any electricity) and the underlying concept of the (almost) free internet will be destroyed.

We could apply a similar analysis to every other part of the internet, but you probably get the picture already.  The shortage of, and/or massively increased cost of, electricity will destroy the economic model that the internet currently relies upon.

We predict that the internet will quickly degrade in a Level 2/3 situation, because the people who have to pay for the electricity won’t be able to afford it.

Summary

The electricity cost/availability challenge is the ultimate problem that will upset the internet.  It will apply with equal force to your local internet access provider as it will to national internet services like Google.

Even if you and a friend both keep your computers running and connected to your internet modems, the internet connection between the two computers and the ‘behind the scenes’ services necessary for that connection will no longer be maintained.

So, in case the answer isn’t obvious – the internet will quickly fade away as a Level 2/3 event unfolds.  You can not rely upon anything that requires the internet to be operational as part of your response to such events.

Jul 092012
 

There’s a bewildering variety of choice of rifles out there. Which one(s) is/are best for preppers?

One of the more polarizing aspects of prepping is that of firearms and their use, not just for hunting game but potentially for self-defense as well.

Some avid preppers prefer to have no involvement with firearms at all, and concentrate more on eco-sensitive sustainable living.  Others seem to devote most of their attentions to weapons and little to anything else.  We suspect, and gently suggest, that the best approach lies somewhere in the middle between these two extremes.

Like it or not, one of the preconditions for a Level 2/3 scenario is the failure of the rule of law, and if there is no-one else we can rely on to protect ourselves, our retreats, our stores and our families, we must be willing and able to do so ourselves.  While there are plenty of pejorative terms that are used to describe the gun-enthusiasts, there’s also a term that can accurately be used to describe the people who prefer to have no contact with firearms at all – they can also be known as, alas, victims.

In the lawlessness that will accompany a collapse of society, you must be prepared to protect and defend yourself, your loved ones, and your property, or else you’ll surely lose everything, having it taken from you by force.

We wrote before on why preppers usually own multiple firearms, and a reader subsequently wrote in to list the firearms he owned himself and why.

The reader referred to, more in passing than as a main part of his interesting commentary, owning some guns mainly due to the relative ease of finding ammunition for them as much as for any other reason.  This is a key point which we felt deserved its own article, so – some months later – here it is.

Choose Your Gun Calibers Based on Ammo Supply

In an extended period of social disruption, it probably goes without saying that people will run out of ammunition.  At the start of any period of social disruption, or just an increase in social anxiety and tension, you can expect to see ammo very quickly sell out in retail stores.

Indeed, even now, ammunition is in somewhat short supply – there have been ammunition shortages for much of the last four years; sometimes extreme in nature and sometimes patchy – both due to greater levels of buying domestically and also due to all the ammo being consumed in our various foreign wars which have been making it hard for the manufacturers to keep up with demand.  At present, ammo is getting in shorter supply again as people buy up prior to the November 2012 election – not due to any concerns about there being battles in the streets, but more due to concerns that if the present President is re-elected, he may act to restrict ammo sales.

Need we spell out that ammunition is definitely something you should stockpile?  It lasts a very long time (if stored in a cool dry environment, you’re probably looking at 50 years or more), and doesn’t take a lot of space.

Ammunition will skyrocket in value as soon as social disorder strikes.  It will become a valuable currency, although be careful who you sell bullets to, for fear of them being subsequently used against you!

The chances are that sooner or later, no matter how much ammo you start off with, you’ll end up running low yourself; or alternatively, you might come across some good value way of acquiring more ammo.  Other than to trade and resell on at a profit, ammo in a caliber that you don’t have any firearms chambered for is not very useful.  So for that reason, it makes sense to have firearms chambered for the most popular types of ammo.  That way, if you should come across a chance to pick up some more ammo on favorable terms, you can respond to the opportunity.

Similarly, if you run out of ammo, then if your guns use a common sort of ammo, you’re more likely to be able to buy some more than if they use a really strange uncommon type of ammo.

So, whether you want to have guns in common calibers to be able to use extra ammo if you have a chance to acquire some, or whether you want to have guns in common calibers to be able to get extra ammo if you need some, either which way, it makes sense to have a mix of different calibers among your firearms.

Here’s what we recommend.  And note that while we are talking about multiple rifles/pistols, we are not suggesting that you – as an individual – necessarily need to build up a huge arsenal yourself.  Instead, we use the term ‘you’ to refer, in the plural, to yourself and the other members of your group/community.

Rimfire

You should stock up on tens of thousands of rounds of .22 LR ammo, and have a range of rifles and pistols to shoot it.  The stuff is extremely cheap, as are the guns that use it, and .22 LR ammo takes up close to no space at all.  You can have ten times as many .22 rounds in the same space as you would ‘normal’ pistol/rifle ammo.

You’ll use your rimfire guns and ammo for training, possibly for ‘warning shot’ type self-defense, and for controlling small varmints.  You’ll not use these underpowered guns and ammo for ‘real’ self-defense however.

Revolvers

There is only one caliber of type of revolver to have – ones chambered for .357 Magnum ammo.  These will work perfectly well with both .357 MAG and .38 SPL ammo, which between them are far and away the most common/popular revolver ammo choice.

The .357 chambered revolver gives you ‘two for one’ because it works with both types of ammo.  We’re not suggesting you should stock .357 ammo in preference to .38 (most of the time we shoot .38 ourselves – it is cheaper and easier – less recoil – to shoot); we’re just saying to make sure you have revolvers that can accept either type of ammo.

Sure, a .44 Magnum or larger handgun comes with a higher dose of testosterone, but the ammo is scarce and expensive to start with, and will only get worse in a situation where ammo is hard to find at the best of times, and the gun isn’t very comfortable to shoot.  Furthermore, the .44 round isn’t really all that more lethal than a .357, and you can probably fire a .357 more accurately, definitely more comfortably, and more quickly than you can a .44 – in other words, you’ll get better results with the .357 than the .44.

And while there are also many other calibers – both bigger and smaller than .38/.357, none of them are worth considering due to their relative rarities and lack of special benefits.

Semi-auto Pistols

Here you have more choices to consider than with revolvers.  There are three main calibers in terms of popularity, which we’ll assess, more or less from most popular to least popular, as being 9mm, .45 ACP and .40 S&W.

Our suggestion – concentrate on the 9mm pistols and ammo for them, but also keep a small supply of .45 ACP and .40 S&W ammo, and pistols to use them too.  If you never need to use the .45 and .40 ammo, you can also use it as trade goods.

We don’t want to get into a debate about which is the ‘best’ caliber and cartridge.  You might believe that .40 or .45 cal pistols have more ‘stopping power’ and you might or might not be correct about that, although the most recent FBI studies are downplaying the importance of caliber entirely.  They have found that the most important factor in stopping power is not bullet caliber but the rapid placement of multiple accurate shots.  This is because all pistol calibers are ballistically ‘inadequate’, unlike most rifle rounds, they will stop an attacker only with a ‘lucky’ or a very well-placed shot.

We’re simply saying that in terms of a pistol caliber when prepping for a troubled future, 9mm is the best choice, not only because of its ubiquity but also because it is smaller and cheaper than the .40 and .45 calibers, and has less recoil, making it more easily controlled and handled by all shooters.

One more thing about these three calibers.  By all means, get reloaded 9mm or .45 ammo, but be careful with .40 reloads.  There is very little spare space inside the casing between the top of the powder and the base of the bullet, and if the bullet should be seated slightly too far, the pressures when the round is fired will be dangerously well in excess of what your pistol is rated to handle.

The other large size caliber of note is 10 mm, but it has never become very common or popular.  Ignore it.  There are many other uncommon calibers too – ignore them all.

Smaller sized calibers also exist, but most are too small/weak to be of practical use.  The one debatable exception is .380 ACP, and over the last five years or so there has been a huge increase in the number of pistols being made in this caliber, due to people wanting smaller sized concealable carry pistols.

You might want a smaller sized concealable carry pistol, in which case perhaps stock up with some .380 ammo as well as a pistol or two to use with it.  But this isn’t a caliber that is ever likely to be a major caliber that you’ll use in great quantities – if you ever have to use your .380 it will be only to fight your way to safety or to a larger caliber gun.

Rifles

You’ll probably need more rifle caliber ammo than any other type of ammo (except perhaps .22 plinking ammo).  This is because you’ll use your rifles for hunting and as your primary self-defense weapon.

The number of rounds of ammo you’ll use for hunting won’t ever be too huge because hopefully you’ll typically be felling game at a rate of one animal per each well-aimed shot.  But if you find yourself having to fight off repeated attacks from gangs of well-armed marauders, you could quickly go through hundreds or even thousands of rounds of rifle ammo in a single session – not because you’re being attacked by that many opponents, but because your shooting is now a mix of ‘suppressive’ fire (keeping the other guys away) as well as more careful aimed fire to actually score hits on the bad guys.

There are three major military calibers – .223, also known as 5.56, .308 also known as 7.62×51, and 7.62×39.  There actually is a slight difference between .223 and 5.56, and between .308 and 7.62×51, but for our purposes and with modern weapons, they can be considered more or less interchangeably.

The 7.62×39 is the caliber that is used by the AK-47 and many other ‘communist’ bloc weapons (we use the quotes because most of these countries are no longer communist).  It is hard to find US manufactured 7.62×39 ammo – all the stuff we’ve knowingly encountered ourselves has been imported, so our guess is that in a major breakdown of society, there’ll be little more 7.62×39 ammo coming in.

For this reason alone we consider it the least favored of the three calibers; but having said that, there’s a huge inventory of this caliber ammo ‘out there’ at present.  People buy it in quantities of thousands of rounds at a time, and many people have AK (and the earlier SKS) type rifles to use it with, so as a trading good, it would be sensible to have some ammo, and it would also make sense to have some rifles that can shoot it too.  It seems that AK rifles are more tolerant of wear, damage, and dirt than are rifles chambered for .223 or .308.

One other consideration with 7.62×39 ammo.  Sometimes this ammo uses corrosive rather than non-corrosive primers, and we’ve heard, anecdotally rather than in our direct personal experience, that sometimes some of the ammo that is labeled as non-corrosive actually is corrosive.  Just about all other modern ammo out there, these days, uses non-corrosive primers, and it is easy to get ‘spoiled’ and not be as diligent with cleaning as is essential when using corrosive ammo.  If you are using 7.62×39 ammo, you will need to check to see if it is corrosive or not, and be more obsessive at cleaning your rifles.

The .308 round is a great dual purpose hunting/self-defense round, and we recommend this become your prime hunting caliber, and that you get some ultra-reliable very accurate bolt-action hunting rifles that are chambered for .308 accordingly.  The Remington 700 seems to be a well regarded rifle and is not unreasonably expensive.

The .308 round is larger, heavier, and more expensive than the other two of these three calibers.  It is also generally more lethal, and possibly superior in self-defense situations.  So if you have a semi-auto magazine fed rifle or two in this caliber, that would be a good thing too.

However, the same issues that saw the US Army and most other armed forces switch from a large-caliber round to a smaller caliber round apply with equal impact to you in your own self-defense requirements.  Smaller lighter rounds are easier to carry and store (and less expensive to buy), and rifles chambered for this round are easier to shoot (lighter and less recoil).  In most cases, the .223/5.56 is more than adequate for self-defense, although it is a less suitable round for hunting game.

We recommend that the major part of your rifle ammo be .223/5.56 accordingly, and that you have a number of AR-15 type semi-auto rifles to use with this ammo.

Now for a fourth caliber.  Until 1957 the main rifle used by the US Army was the M1 Garand, and chambered for the .30-06 cartridge, a cartridge first released back in 1906 for the Springfield M1903 rifle, and in use pretty much continually ever since.

Of all the ‘other’ hunting rounds (ie other than the .308) the .30-06 is far and away the next most common, due to its former military role.  While the ammunition isn’t quite as common as the other three types, it is the next most common, and it would be wise to consider adding some type of bolt-action sporting/hunting rifle to your collection in this caliber, and keeping some .30-06 ammunition in your inventory as well.

There are dozens of other hunting round calibers, but none of them are very common, and the same is true for the rifles in these other calibers.  Sure, they are often excellent calibers/cartridges/rifles for hunting and self-defense, but you’ll find the calibers/cartridges/rifles you have in these ‘big four’ calibers are more than sufficient for all needs, with one possible exception – see the next section.

Heavy Rifle

There is one important caliber and rifle family that you might wish to consider if you feel you may need to protect yourself against para-military groups deploying lightly armored vehicles against you.  That is the .50 BMG caliber, and some sort of rifle in that caliber to shoot it.

A .50 BMG Barrett or other rifle is very expensive, and the ammunition is very expensive too – both will cost you about ten times the cost of an AR-15 clone and ammo to go with it.  But having even a single rifle in this caliber and a few hundred rounds of ammo would give you a long-range stand-off weapon of stunning power and accuracy that could be used to keep bad people a long way away from you, and to punch through many types of cover to reach the bad guys sheltered behind.

Barrett and the other specialty heavy-caliber rifle manufacturers also make rifles in other calibers too, but these calibers are very unusual and hard to come by.  The .50 BMG is the most common of the heavy caliber cartridges out there, due to it being a military caliber cartridge used in various full auto military weapons.

Shotgun

Everyone is familiar with the classic 12 gauge shotgun.  There are other gauges available – usually smaller caliber gauges such as 16 gauge and 20 gauge and .410, and there are also larger calibers too – 10 gauge and 8 gauge.

But we suggest you don’t get distracted, and stick to 12 gauge only.  The smaller gauges (with the bigger numbers) are of little practical use, and the larger gauges (with the smaller numbers!) while being undoubtedly more powerful don’t really add much practical extra benefit in most normal situations.  The 12 gauge is close to universal in application and ammunition for a 12 gauge is the very most common type of shotshells you’ll find.

You’ll want to get some 00 buck shells and maybe some solid slugs for self-defense purposes, and birdshot shells in several different sizes for hunting birds (the smaller the bird, the smaller the size of shot needed, with – confusingly – the bigger the number of the shot type, the smaller the size of the pellets).

Shotshells come in different lengths – longer shotshells have more space in them both for more shot and for more explosive charge.  The 2 3/4″ length shell is the most common, but you should get shotguns that are chambered to accept 3″ shells too, so as to have more universal compatibility.  If you really wanted to, it would be appropriate to get shotguns chambered to accept the rare 3.5″ shotshells – they will still work perfectly well with the shorter shotshells too, and gives you even greater compatibility with all types of loads you might come across.

Most of the time, your self-defense weapon of choice will be your 5.56mm/.223 AR-15 style rifle, so you don’t need a lot of buckshot ammo for your shotguns.  Get more birdshot for bird hunting than buckshot for self-defense.

Summary

Your most important firearm in any Level 2/3 situation will be your rifle(s) – this is the best weapon for hunting with, and also for self-defense.  Shotguns can be useful for shooting birds, and in very limited situations, for self-defense too.

Pistols are of little or no value when hunting either game or birds, and are of minimal value as a self-defense weapon also, but they do have the benefit of being conveniently portable, so you’ll probably always have one with you, using it merely as a way to enable you to safely fight your way back into your retreat or to your rifle.

In addition to the guns you know you’ll need and use, if money allows, it would be prudent to buy some spare guns in other calibers, just in case you should subsequently have a chance to buy ammunition in a caliber that you wouldn’t otherwise have any use for.

If you were to buy only one gun, we’d recommend it to be a semi-auto .308 caliber rifle.  But hopefully, just like you don’t only have one knife in your kitchen or one screwdriver in your toolbox, you’ll choose to get a broader mix of firearms to serve a broader mix of purposes.

Because ammunition keeps a very long time, we recommend you keep a plentiful supply.

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.