Aug 232012
 

When your local community decides how to respond to TSHTF, make sure you are viewed as part of the solution, not part of the problem.

In our article about the most dangerous ‘fourth wave’ of threats against your retreat and its members after a societal collapse, we talk about the risk and problems you’ll encounter from regional ‘power groupings’ and gangs; some of which may be true lawless gangs, others of which may be groups of people cloaking themselves in the mantle of semi/pseudo legitimate authority.

Yes, you can resist such power groups, but we make the point that such resistance is likely to be more harmful to you than to them.  Wherever possible, you want to co-exist with such groups rather than to be in conflict with them.

There are some ways in which you can make yourself, your retreat, and your resources, an asset to some types of more realistic lawless gangs.  For sure, there will be some situations where you have no choice but to ‘fight fire with fire’ and resist with all means available to you when roving gangs of looters and marauders seek to take over your retreat.  But this is your last resort and least desirable strategy.

There is nothing much you can do about lawless gangs prior to WTSHTF.  But the other category of fourth wave risk/threat is one which you can take advance precautionary measures to minimize.  We are talking about the effects of semi-legitimate seeming groups who assert control over an area, using some thin legal basis for their actions – a legal basis doubtless enhanced by including the local judge and sheriff as part of their group.

Let’s come back to the scenario we posed in the earlier article where the local judge, mayor and sheriff turn up on your doorstep, themselves all ‘needy’ and demanding, under the authority of ‘law’ which they’ve granted to themselves, that you surrender your supplies of food and share your shelter with other locals.

Complying with their demands would destroy the viability of your retreat.  You’d lose the inventory of food that you had amassed, and all that would happen is the many other people would have their food needs met for a short time, then all of you would starve together.  Hardly a win-win outcome.  But not complying to their demands would see them return with a posse of equally hungry and heavily armed locals, using the authority of the law to evict you from your retreat, and possibly imprisoning you too (and that is assuming that a rougher form of ‘frontier justice’ hasn’t already taken hold of the region).  The local SWAT team would descend upon you with their automatic weapons, their armored vehicles, tear gas, and who knows what else.

What would you do?  Give in up front, or have your food taken from you by force and your retreat destroyed as part of the process?  The question is partly rhetorical, but also completely serious, because it is a situation you quite likely may face.

Fortunately, is a question that may have some possible answers – there may be a third option, beyond the two we’ve just mentioned.

The Third Option

What you want to do is when the three leaders appear on your doorstep, to be able to say ‘Good morning, John, Bill, Paul.  Great to see the three of you today.  You’re all looking good, which is surprising after the late night the four of us had yesterday.  That moonshine really does pack a kick, doesn’t it!  How are things going, and can we do anything more together to keep the town ticking over?’

In other words, you don’t want to passively hideaway and only encounter ‘the other side’ when it has become too late and they have already committed to a course of action, without any inputs from you as to what it may be.  You want to be part of the community and thought leadership, right from the get-go, so you can influence and shape what happens.  You don’t want to be seen as an impersonal ‘one of them’; you want to be thought of as ‘one of us’.  You want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

How to do this?  Rather than isolate yourself from your local community (something many preppers instinctively feel to be best ‘Opsec’), you want to integrate yourself into it.  You – or some member(s) of your group – need to be volunteer deputy sheriffs, volunteer firemen, volunteer paramedics.  Is there a local Civil Defense group?  Join it.  Become a leader of it.

Indeed, why limit yourself to being volunteers?  If some of your group have chosen to move permanently to your retreat, they can become fulltime members of local organizations and businesses.  Even become the barman at the local watering hole – sometimes people like that occupy a more key role in ‘thought leadership’ than do elected officials!  Teetotalers might find a similar opportunity at the local library.  If your community doesn’t have a local library, why not coordinate the creation of one.

You should belong to the local Chamber of Commerce or Rotary Club or Lions or whatever else.  Women can join local women’s groups.  Is there a sports team to belong to – or at least support?  Maybe coach little league baseball.  For the less physically active, how about a bridge club?  A local historical society or something else?

Join a church or other social group, and as broadly as possible, generally be a respected member of the community.  Maybe you don’t have a lot of money to throw around, but you can contribute your time and provide positive inputs into these essential parts of your community as well as simply money.

If resources allow, consider establishing a business in the community.  It may employ other members of the community, and provide helpful services to the community as a whole.  It needn’t be extraordinarily profitable, but if you have members of your group with time on their hands, this could be a good way of getting established in the community and even making a small return on the time you invest.

You need to be part of the community.  Get involved in local politics – indeed, if some of your fellow retreat members get involved in the Democratic side and some in the Republican side, you’ve covered your bets both ways.  Don’t think of this as being tricky or underhand – every large company in the country gives to both sides in election campaigns.  In reality it is our country’s approach to paying protection money, but in a different way and by a different name.  Consider running for elected office – although this risks polarizing your support, with some people now liking you and others disliking you.  However, in addition to such positions, maybe there are other public service roles you can take on – become an appointed member of the local arts commission (if there is one!) or some other committee or grouping.

You also want to consider deliberately ensuring you have some surplus resources, so that when pressed to do so, you can contribute some support without harming your own viability.  To contribute nothing would be a modern-day response similar to that which sparked the French Revolution when Marie Antoinette’s response to the starving people who complained of having no bread to eat was ‘Let them eat cake’.

A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

When you are integrated into the community, you’ll be plugged in to how the community responds to a societal collapse.  You’ll be able to be present at the meetings where people gather and discuss what they can do to ensure their safety and survival.

People are less likely to say ‘Let’s go take all Bill’s supplies’ if you (ie Bill) is present at the meeting.  Instead, you could stand up and volunteer ‘Look, I’m in as difficult a situation as everyone else, but I can probably spare some food; it won’t be much, but I’ll share all that I can’.

If you can be present when policy is being formulated and plans are being made, you’ll be better able to slightly shift and deflect the meeting’s focus from going after you and your resources, to instead seeing you as ‘part of them’ and also being in need of assistance.

It is always very much easier to influence policy in its earliest stages of being formulated.  But after policies have been established, they take on a rigidity and life of their own, and it becomes very much harder to then get them changed or cancelled.

If you’re hiding out in your retreat, you’re not able to help shape the policy positively.  But if you’re in town, attending the public meeting, and if the other people in the meeting vaguely know of you and understand you to be ‘one of us’ then you’re going to have a much greater chance of controlling the outcome.

If nothing else, you can switch the tables on the group – instead of having them deliver a fait accompli to you and have them tell you to go protest it to no-longer-existing appellate courts and distant authorities, you can at the meeting point out that the meeting’s authority to resolve whatever it is considering is questionable and uncertain, and it needs to get the approval of these higher authorities before it implements its actions.

Plan to Incorporate the Local Community Into Your Future Survival Activities

A danger is that if you offer the local community a conciliatory olive branch and give them some spare food and supplies, you are almost certainly not buying an undisturbed future, free from their ongoing requests (and demands) for more and more support.

Rather, you can be creating a dependency cycle.  You give them food and supplies which they passively accept and consume, then they come back to you for more.  During the extra time your food and supplies has given them, they’ve done nothing about creating any self-sufficiency, they’ve merely done what they’ve done all their lives to date – eaten the food that comes to them without giving any thought about where it came from, or how it was grown, or what they could do to create their own food in the future.

Adopting this strategy of appeasement will be no more successful to you than it was to Britain’s appeasing of Hitler prior to the eventual collapse of that policy that saw a much stronger Germany then embark on World War 2.  Appeasing will not buy you much time and will definitely not ensure your future survival and safety.

Instead of simply giving food and supplies with nothing in return, you should offer to exchange their labor for your support on a fair basis that is win-win.  Have a plan for how you can grow your farm production if you suddenly get a large growth of manpower.

If you say ‘Sure, I can help out; I’ll create jobs for the local people and pay you all in the food and energy we create together’ then you are a positive part of the solution, and you’ve shifted responsibility for caring for these people from yourself to themselves.  They no longer simply passively take from you under a banner of entitlement.  Instead, they work with and for you, and earn support directly proportional to their efforts.

People can no longer say ‘You should give us more (and more and more)’.  Instead, they can see, from their work each day, how much food and other resources they are creating, and their only remaining negotiation should be one about what percentage of the food and other resources they create is theirs to keep, and what percentage is yours.  As long as the net result to you is that your net personal productivity is at least as great if you are supervising other people compared to if you are doing the work yourself, you don’t really care too much if the split of food produced is 50/50 or even 90/10.

You have placed the responsibility for providing for themselves onto the people who are now working for and with you.

This is like the concept of ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime’.  Help the people in your community to fend for themselves and to become self-sufficient; either completely independently or integrated and coordinated with your own activities.

You will benefit from this too.  You’ve in effect helped these other people to become fellow survivors.  And the larger group of you is now united with a common shared goal of self-sufficient surviving.  You can also now spread your risk – by having two potato fields on opposite sides of town, maybe one might have a good yield and the other a poor yield, but you’re no longer now in an ‘all or nothing’ situation with only one potato field.  You can also diversify into more crops and activities.  This is definitely a win-win for you and everyone else.

Use the Collapse of Current Laws Positively

As we details in our article on urban drift, our society is now dominated by city dwellers.  Many of these city dwellers are affluent and influential, and they have very little comprehension of the ‘real world’ outside of the cities and what it takes to produce the food that conveniently appears – as if by magic – in their neighborhood supermarket.

For puzzling reasons that we really can’t guess at, these people have caused a growing number of laws to be passed, laws that restrict and interfere with the normal prudent use of our land and its resources.  Although the history of mankind and its evolution and advancement to date has been built on the concept of productively using the planet’s natural resources for our gain and benefit, these city-dwellers seek to turn that around.  Spotted owls and other obscure species that may or may not even be present are now considered more important than our own welfare.

We’re not allowed to drill for oil in places that people never visit, for fear of destroying the claimed natural beauty of such places.  Rational people would point out that who cares what a place may look like if no-one ever visits, and they might also point out that when carefully managed, oil drilling does not measurably harm the environment anyway, but these city dwellers are more emotional than rational.  They’d rather pay dollars more per gallon of imported gas than allow us to drill for our own.

They complain about power plants that burn fossil fuels and demand we shift to ‘renewable’ energy sources, but then they also demand that hydro-electric power stations – the ultimate in renewable energy sources, and which have been in place for 50+ years – now be destroyed because they interfere with fish migration patterns.

Okay, enough of such griping!  Our point is simply this.  Your ability to create a viable sustainable existence in the harsh reality of a Level 3 situation is constrained and compromised by laws passed by people who never had to suffer the impacts of the laws they passed, in a world that was much kinder and gentler.

In a Level 3 situation, maybe you can turn the sudden flexibility in lawmaking to your advantage.  Perhaps you could get a new law passed authorizing you to dam a nearby river, something that was formerly banned by various state environmental laws and regulations.  All of a sudden, you – and others around you – have sudden access to plentiful water, and maybe even the ability to build a small hydro-electric power plant as well.

Maybe you can get the city, county or state government to assert ownership over government lands and forests.  All of a sudden, there could be an instant timber industry, and a huge source of fuel for the community.

Maybe the zoning restrictions on your land can be lifted.

Do some dreaming based on the area you’re in, and the current opportunities and constraints, so that if a crisis occurs, you can lead public opinion with solutions that are more long-term and beneficial to all, rather than becoming a focus of a short-term temporary fix that simply involves taking everything you have.

Predicting the Future Social Evolution and Issues – Lessons from the Movies and History in General

People who don’t learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.  You don’t have the luxury to make mistakes, so you need to do all the learning you possibly can.

While it is true there has never been an event in history analogous to the sudden collapse of an advanced civilization, there have certainly been plenty of examples of new social systems wrestling with ideologies, corruption, the external elements, and so on and so forth.  Indeed, our own country has some relevant and moderately recent past to draw upon – the period from about 1850 through about 1900, primarily west of the Mississippi – what we look upon as our ‘Wild West’ era.

This was a period redolent with struggles between good and evil, between lawlessness and attempts to impose law and order, rapidly changing social values and culture clashes, fast wealth alongside poverty, hard times, and so on – many of the same things that we can expect to encounter in a future Level 3 situation.

It is common to turn to old books to learn how to grow food using ‘low tech’ methods; we should also turn to old books (ie history books) to learn about ‘low tech’ methods of social structure and order, and how to manage and govern pockets of civilization that are surrounded by modern-day ‘wild Indians’ and definitely modern-day gangsters and gunmen.

The actual reality of what the wild west was truly like is open to much debate – perhaps because if you could imagine it, then it probably happened somewhere at some time, so maybe everyone’s perceptions are right to some extent or another.  Whether accurate historically or not, the movie depictions of the wild west can have some interesting worked examples of potential social scenarios that might evolve in our own Level 3 situation, a situation not very different to the wild west of 150 years ago.

Think of some of the western movies you’ve seen with power struggles between wealthy ranchers, poor townsfolk, an under-manned local sheriff, an exploitive gang that allays itself variously with the shadier of the wealthy ranchers, out of county politicians who are either honorable but powerless, or dishonest and influential, and so on and so on.  There’s a lot to learn from and anticipate.

Remember also stories about how the villains end up running the town, electing themselves as mayor and sheriff.  Or about how the sheriff himself becomes corrupt.

If you have time, it also would be helpful to read some accurate history of the social evolution of the wild west, and in particular, how small towns formed to protect themselves against external threats from marauding bandits.

A Major Social Change

One of the great things about US society, and something very different to many other societies around the world, is that – currently – people can make money and become as wealthy as they like, while attracting little negative response from the people around them.  This is because, at present, we understand that the success and wealth of one person in no way detracts from the ability of other people to also succeed and become wealthy too.  If anything, the success and wealth of one person or company helps the people around them – they spend money in their local community, they create jobs, and so on.

But things will be very different in a Level 2/3 situation.  People who are poor will definitely resent people who are wealthy, and there will be a large push to force wealthy people to share their wealth on a much greater basis than that which is created by today’s graduated taxation systems.  This is because the people who are poor will be very poor, and will also be very aware of their massively reduced standard of living, having of course formerly been living in a much more comfortable situation.

They won’t feel they have the luxury to wait indefinitely until someone else’s wealth might trickle down and impact on their lives; they will want a restoration of their previous lifestyle as urgently quickly as possible.  Whether fair or not, whether rational or not, they will resent your success and your better lifestyle.

In other words, be discreet about your own standard of living.  Be like the people in some countries who have beaten up old doors and entry ways into their apartments, but luxurious inner interiors, carefully concealed, that can not be seen by chance from open doors or windows.

Summary

Like it or not, we all live in the society that surrounds us.  We can’t avoid it, and with each passing year and more constraints on personal privacy and more data collection, our ability to obscure our lives and insulate ourselves from the watchful society around us becomes more and more limited.

This is the reality.  We mightn’t like it, but we must accept it and plan our present and future lives within it.  Rather than either withdrawing from society or fighting against it (in the figurative rather than literal sense!) we need to become a part of it – both now and definitely in the future after TSHTF.

If we integrate ourselves positively into our local communities we can help shape and influence how the communities react and respond to the collapse of society and its support mechanisms.  We can guide them positively towards becoming self-sufficient, and we can minimize the risk of them using either pseudo-legal authority or just plain blunt brute force to take our supplies and resources from us.

We should make ourselves part of the solution, not part of the problem.  Everyone will benefit when we do that.

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.

May 262012
 

Water is life, particularly after a Level 2/3 event.

Finding the ideal retreat location is a bit like finding the ideal spouse.  Almost impossible.

There are many different factors to consider in evaluating different retreat locations, including for most of us the key issue of affordability (although when it comes to Level 3 scenarios, it could be argued that a bad retreat location is only slightly better than no retreat location at all).

How to juggle the many different factors for a ‘perfect’ retreat (or, better to say, a ‘least imperfect’ one) involves trying to balance out the different issues, and accordingly different priorities to each issue.  For example, it may be helpful to be close to a railroad track (our guess is that in a Level 3 scenario, trains will start long distance freight and passenger service long before regular road vehicles).  But would you rather be close to a rail line or a river – both may offer transportation options, and a river has another possibly vital plus point too.

Which brings us to the content of this article.  The essential importance of a water supply at your retreat location.

Many Different Uses of Water

Now you probably already know that you need water, right?  You know, that thing about dehydration being fatal after three days with no water, and the rule of thumb about allowing a gallon of water a day for essential minimal uses.  But that’s not the end of the story.  It is barely the beginning of the story.

For a Level 3 scenario, you don’t just need a gallon of water a day – you might potentially need 1,000 gallons a day (to water crops and feed animals) or even more (to run a micro-hydro power station), as well as the modest quantity for yourself.

Let’s think about all the ways that water can help you :

Drinking water – Must be free of contamination, only needed in low quantities

Other Household water – For cooking/washing/flushing type purposes – of successively lower quality

Agricultural water – Some bio-contamination fine, but free of chemicals and poisons, needed in potentially large quantities

Power – Hydro-electric power requires freely flowing water running down a grade, watermills can work on lower flows and lesser drops; needs huge quantities of water

Food – Lakes, rivers and streams could be sources of fish, a more ambitious project is to consider aquaculture

Transportation – Some rivers and lakes are navigable, and water transport is energy-efficient (particularly sail powered)

Security – A water obstacle won’t necessarily make it impossible for attackers to reach you, but it will slow them down and make them more vulnerable while crossing it

Fire-fighting – If you should have a fire, you’ll need a plentiful supply of water to fight it

Money – Maybe you can sell water to others

Community – See our last point, below.  Becoming the community water source helps the community coalesce.

So water is a vital resource, and easy access to large amounts of it – large amounts that don’t require major energy costs to retrieve – is a very important part of choosing your retreat location.

You need to think beyond the simple ‘can I get my gallon of water a day’ concept and consider issues that might require tens of thousands of gallons of water a day, such as the ‘bonus’ of being able to use a water source for hydro-electric power generation.

A further bonus is the potential for catching fish and providing food.  With so many people talking about ‘I’ll go out and hunt deer’, we wonder just how scarce wild game may become; but if you have access to a reasonably private lake or river, maybe your fish supply will not be so threatened.  Maybe.

Many Different Sources of Water

So where can you get water from?  Many different places is the happy answer.

Rainwater – an unreliable seasonal source, better in some areas than others, possibly sufficient for basic household needs.  Almost always of very high quality.  Requires potentially extensive (and therefore expensive) storage capacity so as to keep it available for use in dry months.

Free-flowing springs – These are wonderful but rare.  If you can come up with a spring/well where the water comes out of the ground ‘all by itself’ you are extremely blessed.  Need to check the water quality, and confirm the reliability of the spring flow year-round, and from one year to the next to the next.  Assuming reliable and adequate flow rates, no need for storage.

Wells – These can be prodigious sources of water, but require energy to lift the water up from the level it is found in the well.  We discuss this in our article The Energy Cost of Pumping Water from a Well.  More likely to be reasonably pure, but need occasional testing.  Assuming reliable and adequate flow rates, no need for storage.

Rivers and streams – Possibly of varying reliability.  May freeze over in the winter and dry up in the summer.  Will probably require energy expenditure to transfer water from river/stream to retreat.  Of uncertain purity, and need ongoing testing to keep on top of changes in the water quality.  Assuming the water is available year round, no need for storage.

Restrictions on Water Use

The more arid the state, the greater the legislative focus on the ‘ownership’ of water.  And also the ‘greener’ the state (ie the more eco-focused) again the greater the focus on leaving water flows undisturbed.  The welfare of fish is considered more important than the welfare of the state’s citizens.

Restrictions may exist at a state-wide level or at a county level – possibly even at a city level.  Bearing in mind our strong suggestion that everything you do be fully compliant with all current laws, you need to be aware of possible restrictions on your use of water that flows through or near to your property.

City Water Supply

We hopefully don’t need to tell you this, but if you are at a location which provides city water, you should not base your retreat planning on the assumption that the city water supply will continue uninterrupted WTSHTF.

While there is a temptation to using the very inexpensive city water prior to a Level 2/3 event, we recommend you use your own water supply right from when you set up your retreat.  This will give you a chance to identify any problems and issues, and will give you the opportunity to resolve them while you still have all the wonderful resources of modern civilization at hand.

If you just sink a well then leave it, untouched, for years, while happily using the city water instead, you have no way of knowing if something has happened to the pump or maybe the water table has lowered and the well is no longer able to supply you with water.  It is probably better to use your well and pump on a regular basis than to leave it unused and have parts dry out or rust up or whatever else.

Selling Water – Building a Community

You should get a feeling for how other people in your general area get their water.  And think it through to ‘could they continue to get water from this source WTSHTF’.  If everyone has wells, the question becomes ‘Do they have storage tanks, and do they have some way of powering their pump’.

If you live a long way from your nearest neighbor, and if there are some hundred feet of altitude separating you from your neighbors too (especially if you are lower) then maybe you would not be a convenient source of water, especially if there was a good river running by closer to them.  But if water is in short supply, and if you have an abundant source of it, then maybe you can make money by selling water to your neighbors.

We’d suggest you not be greedy in such a case.  You obviously need to cover your energy costs, and the time/hassle factor.  Beyond that, though, being able to help your local community provides a common tie to unite you all – the need to protect your water source from outsiders.  That’s an obvious benefit to you, as is anything that helps a community work together and to establish their self-sufficiency.

How should you be paid for the water you sell?  That’s an entirely different topic, and it depends on the likelihood of the dollar staying as the currency of the country when life returns back to something close to normal.  It also depends on what you most need and what the people buying the water from you have the most of.

If you are using diesel to drive a generator to power the water pump, maybe you say ‘500 gallons of water for one gallon of diesel’.  That sounds very fair, but with your underlying ‘cost’ of diesel to pump the water being more like one gallon of diesel for 7,000 gallons of water, you’ve not only covered the cost of the water, but more than 7 of the 8 pints of diesel you received in exchange can be used for powering other things for other purposes, too.

If you become the community water supply, you could also become the community trading post for other things too – you could even allow (encourage) your neighbors to set up stalls selling and trading the foodstuffs and other items they have for sale in exchange for things they need.  It makes you a community leader, and helps encourage the community to in turn protect and assist you.

May 082012
 

Justice is a fickle friend, and laws for safe sane times may not apply with equal sense in an extreme situation

(This is an enormous – and essential – topic, we’ll come back to it repeatedly in future articles.)

None of us really know what to expect after TEOTWAWKI.  It is prudent to imagine a range of ‘worst case’ scenarios and to prepare for them to varying degrees.

The whole concept of TEOTWAWKI involves vague perceptions of lawlessness, of the break-down of government and law and order; with post-apocalyptic images of roving bands of marauders looting and pillaging, and armed shoot-outs between preppers in their fortified retreats and attackers trying to invade their dwellings and steal their food.

Much of this may indeed occur, and we are right to be prepared for such breakdowns in our social fabric.  But even though government may be paralyzed and ineffective, the rule of law will remain in place unless formally repealed.  Murder remains murder.  Stealing remains stealing.  And that is just the start – it is not only such ‘prime directives’ as these that will continue to apply.  Alas, all the gazillion and one other rules and regulations that currently attempt to keep our orderly lives well maintained will also remain in force, even though they clearly would be dysfunctional and would interfere with all our desperate attempts at survival.

Think about it this way – at the present time, just because there is no policeman within ten miles or twenty minutes doesn’t mean all the applicable laws don’t apply to what you’re doing and where you are.  Just because you’ve not been audited on your taxes before doesn’t mean you don’t still have to fully and accurately disclose all your income.

And just because you ‘got away with’ something at the actual moment you did it, that doesn’t mean it won’t come back to haunt you a day, week, month, year, or possibly decade or longer in the future.

This will be true during any type of crisis, too.  For example, if you need to get a building permit before commencing construction of a barn, and if you need to get a building inspector to then sign off on the building before it can be occupied; if you don’t do these things during a crisis, you may find your barn will be condemned and pulled down once the authorities resume their reign over us.

If you set up a local radio station for your community, you would be liable for FCC fines and possibly even imprisonment when they get back to enforcing such things.

Shoot a deer or a duck out of season and without a permit, or with a type of firearm not permitted for such purposes, and you’ve still committed a crime which in some states could see you subsequently get locked up.  There’s no exception to these laws for ‘except if starving or after the end of the world as we know it’.

And if you should discharge any firearms inside city limits, that could prove a problem, too.  If the discharging of a firearm resulted in the death or injury of another person, sooner or later, you’ll find yourself staring at an investigation that threatens you with a potential murder charge.

Understand one more thing.  Such investigations will likely be brought by the people who were and are resentful of your preparedness, and your ability to more comfortably survive through the tough times than they did.  They won’t say so in as many words, but they’ll be out to get their own back at you.  They’ll be starting to judge you from the standard that you should have shared everything you had with all the people who didn’t bother to prepare; they’ll consider you as little better than baby killers (indeed, it is a certainty that babies (and people of all other ages) will die during a major extended emergency, and they’ll be the first to say ‘So why didn’t you sacrifice all your food, all your fuel, all your shelter, and everything else you so selfishly hoarded, so these children of these poor illegal immigrants could survive’.

These people will truly believe that you should have risked your own future as a valid sacrifice towards the future of others who formerly sneered and laughed at you for your prepping.  They’ll say ‘Who are you to play God and to decide who gets to live and who doesn’t?’ – by which they mean, you have usurped their rights to control your life and the lives of everyone else their petty bureaucratic powers allow them to interfere in.

When they have legal authority over you in some form again, they’ll seek to punish you – ostensibly for violating a city ordinance like parking too long on a city street or who knows what else, but in reality for simply having been better prepared and not suffering as much as they did.

How to Protect Against Such Outcomes and Problems

There are two very important things you should do :  Select an area where the people start off with values as close to yours as possible; and actively make yourself part of the ‘solution’, not part of the ‘problem’.

You’d not want to go into full survivalist mode in downtown Los Angeles or Chicago or Washington DC or New York or Boston (or lots of other similar places too).  You’ll be breaking all sorts of laws with every breath you take, and when order is restored, the politicians, the policemen, and the potential members of any juries will all look askance at you and be prejudged towards punishing you for your good sense and prudence.

You may have heard police officers and other government officials boast that they can always find some law that everyone they ever meet has broken or is currently breaking.  ‘We can always find a reason to stop you and write you out a ticket’ sort of thing.

On the other hand, in smaller towns in rural midwestern and northwestern states, you’ll find many people still believe in individual initiative and personal responsibility, and would be less likely to think ill of you as a prepper.  Indeed, they’re probably semi-preppers themselves (maybe even full-on preppers), and in a small rural community, more likely to be able to ride out any breakdowns in society than would be the case in the large cities.

This is a much better place to site yourself to start with.  And when you do, don’t be a stranger to the community.  Integrate yourself into it.  Join some social groups, a local church, and so on.  Participate in local events.  Help in community fundraising.  See about becoming a part-time city police or country sheriff’s deputy.  Run for a seat on the local council.

Get yourself known and liked, and if you can influence local policy, so much the better.

You don’t want a group of uniformed strangers turning up on your doorstep to confiscate all your firearms or arrest you for some ridiculous charge; you want your friends to tell you they are running interference for you, or at the worst, to ask you to give them one or two guns just for show.

If things go really bad and you subsequently find yourself facing a judge and jury, you want them to be people as much like you as possible, and sympathetic to you personally and your values in general.  While the jury members will probably be selected only from people who don’t personally know and like you, you’ll want them to be friends of friends, and/or to know and respect people you can subsequently call as character witnesses in any trial.

Be a Prudent Prepper, Not an Extreme Survivalist

This is another area where proper prudent prepping is massively at variance with the ugly image of ‘extremist survivalists’.  Extremist survivalists try to create an alternate reality outside of the world they are unavoidably a part of.  This is never going to be possible, and we see the spectacular results of such failures at places like Waco in Texas.

Prudent preppers try to fit into society and co-exist amicably with ‘normal people’.  They realize there is no practical alternative.  Domestic enemies of our government have no rights and no recourse and no escape.  There’s no way you can run and no way you can hide from the awesome capabilities of our armed forces.

Occasional small bands of roaming marauders armed with pistols, rifles and shotguns – those you can probably fight off.  But hundreds or thousands of National Guardsmen and US Armed Forces?

And your ‘bullet proof’ retreat, guaranteed to protect you against .308 rounds?  Worst case scenario – the US Air Force has bunker buster bombs that will penetrate down through over 200 ft of earth or more than 100 ft of reinforced concrete.  How’s your retreat looking now?

Never mind the Air Force’s bunker busting bombs.  Just a single tank from the nearest National Guard post, and/or just regular troops with an M-72 LAW or an M-136/AT-4 can destroy just about any fortified retreat, and instead of firing semi-auto rounds, they’ll be using crew served heavier caliber weapons.

It truly is much better to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Summary

They say that after the end of the world, the one species that will for sure remain, survive and flourish are cockroaches.  Maybe so, maybe not.

Never mind the cockroaches.  Government bureaucracy will be the absolute last thing to disappear – and, regrettably, the first thing to return.

Your prepping needs to be based on the ability to conform to as many of the present and potential future ’emergency’ laws as may be possible and to avoid escalated conflict with the authorities, whatever and whoever they may be, during and after an emergency.