Jul 052012
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Problem of Mutual Support in the Countryside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Town/Village Alternative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose Your Community Wisely

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

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

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

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

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

Jul 042012
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase One – A False Calm

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

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

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

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

Phase Two – A Growing Panic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase Three – Abandoning the Cities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase Four – Nowhere is Safe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase Five – A New Form of Social Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase Six – A Return to Normalcy

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

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

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

The prevailing attitude will become one of confidence and assuredness.

What We Need to Do as Preppers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jul 042012
 

It is important to maintain an appealing variety of food in a Level 2/3 situation. You don’t need deluxe buffets, but you do need regular variety.

As a youngster, I used to live in city with a chocolate factory.  We all envied the workers enormously, because they were allowed to eat all the chocolate they wanted.  No limit.  They couldn’t take any home, but they could eat as much as they could cram in each day during their shift.  Truly, a child’s dream come true.

But the chocolate factory managers were smarter than we children gave them credit.  After a possible brief period of gluttony, without exception, the workers lost interest in the chocolate that surrounded them.  They were suffering from selective ‘appetite fatigue’.

Appetite fatigue is one of those things that few people ever have cause to think about.  We eat something today, something different tomorrow, and different again the next day.  Even for something that is a favorite, like ice cream, we can go to Baskin Robbins and choose from 31 different flavors (actually, count them next time you’re in a BR store – chances are it has way more than 31).

But if you’re hunkered down in a difficult situation with merely whatever food you’ve stored on hand, your menu choices might be more limited.  Rice and beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner, every day.  Try that sometime – well, actually, better you don’t.  Trust us on this – after only a very few days, you’ll find yourself preferring to starve rather than face another plate of rice and beans.

Appetite Fatigue Can Kill

We are guilty of trivializing appetite fatigue by talking about eating ‘too much’ chocolate (apparently there is such a thing as too much chocolate – who’d a thought?).  Appetite fatigue was first understood when people were discovered who had starved to death, while still having food around them.  The appetite fatigue they experienced was so overwhelming that the people ended up starving rather than continuing to eat food which no longer had any appeal.

Appetite fatigue is a problem for combat troops in the field, who in the past would be eating the same rations, day in and day out, for extended periods.  The decline in appetite and eating as a result caused health problems for the soldiers and diminished their combat effectiveness, which is why a supply of reasonably decent and varied food is now an important part of the support system of modern soldiers.

More recently, appetite fatigue has been a problem for astronauts as well.  It isn’t just extravagant indulgence that sees astronauts enjoying more than the science-fiction postulated concept of unvarying concentrated food paste for every meal.

There’s a subtler element to appetite fatigue as well.  Even if people continue eating, albeit unenthusiastically, their morale will drop if the food is unvaryingly bland and boring.  One of the greatest essential factors in your ongoing survival and success will be your ability to maintain a positive mental attitude, a ‘we will win/succeed/triumph’ approach to your life, and an upbeat way of handling life’s various ups and downs.  Good varied food helps this enormously, bland boring food hinders it equally enormously.

Appetite fatigue is generally thought to set in after about 30 days of routine eating, but some people report suffering from it after much shorter periods.

You need to very carefully guard against appetite fatigue, by varying your daily food as much as you can.  Don’t take the easy way out and simply follow the cooking instructions on the side of the pail of dehydrated food you’re eating from.  Use those to understand the general approach to cooking the food, but after you’ve understood that, use the entire range of other foodstuffs and cooking procedures you have available to you in terms of how you cook the food.

Here are some suggestions.

Style of Cooking

Most things can be cooked either by boiling or with a drier heat – in the oven or in a pan, and maybe also by frying, and while barbecuing is basically a variation on a dry heat cooking process, no-one can deny that the smoky flavor it imparts to food almost qualifies it as a different form of cooking entirely.

Talking about barbecuing, in an emergency, mildly burning the food can help to add a different flavor to the food, too (but don’t get too carried away with this – burning food adds carcinogens, although that is probably going to be the least of your worries in a survival situation!).  In addition to fast barbecuing, there is also slow smoking as a totally different cooking process too.

So be as creative as you can in how you cook your food.

Food Combinations

Mix different foods together to create different types of meals – with different appearance, different flavors, different mouth feel.

One strategy can be, if you have (for example) four different food items, work out all the different combinations of two of the items and try moving through them so each day you have a different meal.  In the case of four items, A, B, C & D your choices would be AB AC AD BC BD CD – six different ways to combine four items.

Also consider adding some non-traditional items together.  While many of us are probably fairly traditional ‘meat, potato and veg’ type eaters, one of the strategies that award-winning top rated chefs use to create ‘interesting’ dishes is to combine food types and flavors that aren’t traditionally combined.  Raisins or sultanas or fruit with meat, for example.

Be a bit careful with your experimenting, and better to do some experimenting with your long-term bulk stored food items prior to a Level 2/3 situation, so you know in advance some of the things that work and the ones which, alas, are failures.  Start building up your own cookbook of recipes that can turn ordinary food into imaginative different eating experiences.

Spices for Food

One way to vary your food is to use a different spice palette with the food one day compared to another.

We use the term ‘palette’ advisedly.  Spices can be a bit like paints.  If you randomly mix paint together, you always end up with a muddy brown, right?  It takes skillful selection of colors to create interesting new colors that are different to each other, rather than all generically brown.

It is the same with spices.  You want to selectively mix spices together to create specific flavor combinations, rather than end up with a generic mix of all flavors.  Maybe one day you make your rice spicy with a pepper sauce.  The next day you add a curry blend.  The next day might see some Italian type herbs.  The next day might see some cumin, then maybe paprika, then maybe lavender, then the next day perhaps a salty beef stock, and the following day a vegetable mix.  That’s eight different flavor sensations, all very different to each other.

Of course, the underlying product is still unchanging rice, but by selected use of spices you have changed its flavor profoundly from one day to the next.  There are still remaining elements that contribute to appetite fatigue such as mouth feel and visual appearance, but you can work on those too.  Fluffy rice on day, sticky the next, fried the day after, for example.

Spices are an essential ingredient for any cook who feels the need (as we all should and must) to extend our bland generic foodstuffs and to make them more interesting to eat.  They will help us fight off appetite fatigue.

Spices as a Trade Good

Spices can be a great trading item.  They take up very little space, they last a long time, and they can be very high value.

Another positive feature of them is that you can profitably buy herbs and spices in bulk at massively lower costs than you pay to get a small container of them at the supermarket.  It is common to see products being sold in 5lb or larger bulk quantities at prices per pound the same or even less than the price you pay per ounce for small jars of the product in your local supermarket.

So quite apart from any increase in value that they’ll gain in a Level 2/3 situation, there is an underlying profit opportunity as between what people perceive a given measure of a spice as being worth and what you can buy it for.

Needless to say, if you’re buying spices in bulk, you’ll need to be careful how you store them so as to get longest life from them and to preserve their distinctive smells and tastes.

We suggest you also stock up on salt – a seasoning so essential and commonplace that many people take it for granted.  The great thing about salt is that it lasts forever, with no special storage requirements (well, best to keep it in as dry a place as possible, but that is all).

Sugar is another product that pretty much lasts forever and which could make a suitable trading good, and one thing is for sure – most people have a great appetite for sugared foods.  If you had to choose between sugar and salt, we’d advocate salt, because a month or year supply of salt is much less than what a person might hope to have in sugar – in other words, you can sell less salt for more money than you can sugar.

Sauces

We mentioned, above, one of the ‘secrets’ of good cooks – combining food items that you’d not normally consider combining so as to create new taste experiences.

Another ‘secret’ (we put quotes around this word because it isn’t really a secret at all, it is just something many people overlook) is the preparation of sauces to go with prepared food.

A sauce can transform something as bland as chicken breast (which, as you surely know, scores about zero on the flavor intensity scale if just boiled by itself) or pasta (another thing with close to zero built-in flavor) and make it into an explosion of intense flavor.  If your main entree item choices are limited, consider creating a variety of different sauces to accompany them.  So you can have your chicken breast (or whatever else) first varied by how you cook it, secondly varied by some spicing and seasoning, third varied by what other food items accompany it, and fourth varied by different sauces.

Soups

Talking about liquids, there’s another way to provide food – both vegetables and meat – and that’s in the form of soups.

Soups are not only a nice change of eating experience, but they are also a great way to use leftovers and discarded food items.  Soups (and stews) can use ‘seconds’, present as a way to get more nutrition from bones, and also provide a strong base to add flavors too.  A generic vegetable soup with some sort of stock base can then be flavored several different ways to make it seem like quite a different soup, and can have different types of garnishes to further change its appearance.

Maybe you can take your generic vegetable/bean/pea soup, and one day then add a bunch of fresh carrots to it and serve it as carrot soup, then the next day, repeat with broccoli and have broccoli soup, and so on.

Food Presentation and Appearance

Food that looks good is usually as easy to prepare as food that doesn’t.  If you can vary the presentation of your food and make it look nice and dress it up on the plate, the eyes tell the brain that the food will be nice and enjoyable.

There is a reason that restaurants garnish their food with little bits of stuff that you mightn’t even eat.  Truly, eye appeal is almost as important as taste/flavor.  You should do the same.  Little bits of presentation pizzazz add greatly to the overall morale and ‘feel good’ factor in your group, too.

Candy and Dessert Too

Talking about morale, which – as we mentioned above – is almost as important as nutrition, comfort and snack and ‘treat’ foods are an enormous morale booster.  Boiled candies have a very long life (and are easy to make), and can add a dash of color on the side of a meal, as well as providing a small treat.

Desserts and cakes are also positive experiences, and while you don’t need every meal to include a lavish selection of sumptuous and sinful dessert confections, it is great to occasionally include these trivially small but greatly appreciated indulgences and treats.

Occasional Special Meals Help Carry People Over

Even if you are doing all the things we mention above, you are still going through an unvarying ritual of meals that are similar in overall eating experience.  Just the routine of sitting down at the table, at a similar time, and eating a similar sized meal on a similar sized plate with similar knives and forks becomes boring.

So we suggest you vary the style and presentation of the food.  One variation can be on a formal scheduled basis – for example, families used to have a traditional ‘Sunday roast’ where once a week there’d be a more special meal and family event.  We suggest you do this, with perhaps a two or three course meal instead of a single course, and maybe use different plates and cutlery if possible too – why not even dress up for the meal.

This sort of event not only helps measure the passing of time, but also reminds you of your overall ‘civilized’ nature and the ongoing success of how you are managing in your Level 2/3 situation.

We also suggest, on a more random basis, so as to add to the casualness of it, that you occasionally have different formats for eating.  Maybe ‘build your own burgers’ (or tacos or whatever) which you then eat with your hands.  Or have a ‘hot pot’ type meal where people gather around a boiling pot of broth and stick thinly sliced pieces of meats and vegetables in to quickly cook and eat them that way.

However you do it, you want to vary every possible aspect of the eating experience so as to fight off appetite fatigue and to maintain a positive morale in your group.

Summary

When planning meals during any sort of extended situation, you need to consciously make an effort to vary the type of food you are eating by varying how you cook it, how you flavor it, what you combine it with, and how you present it.  Varied meals help to maintain the group’s positive morale and also combats potential appetite fatigue.

In your preparing, you want to first make sure you have several different ways to cook food.  Second, you want to vary the type of food you store as much as possible, so as to have flexibility in your meal choices.  Third you want to present the food in different formats and ways, so as not just to be altering the food experiences but also the eating experience too.

One key consideration is to have a generous inventory of herbs, spices and other seasonings and garnishes, both for your own use and as a potential trading good.

Jul 022012
 

There are many reasons to plan a multi-unit condo rather than to build a single family retreat.

In considering a retreat structure – a place to live securely, comfortably and sustainably, a place to store and protect yourselves and your resources, we encourage you to think beyond the obvious.

The obvious is to build a single family dwelling, perhaps slightly altered in design and construction to make it more resilient, but, nonetheless, a single family dwelling all the same.

You doubtless already realize and accept that your dwelling structure will be one of your greatest costs in setting up your retreat, along with the cost of the land it lies upon.  In such a case, surely one of the key things for you to consider in your planning is how to optimize your dwelling structure, and how to get the best possible structure constructed in the most effective and affordable manner.

Here’s an area where two (or three or more) can live almost as cheaply as one.

Our suggestion is simple.  Don’t build a single family dwelling.  Build – at the very least – a duplex, for two families.  Much better still, build a four-plex – two units up and two units down – and for even greater effectiveness, build a squat condo block, maybe two or three levels high, and with four units, each with two common walls, and with shared floor/ceilings as well.

The Cost Benefits of Multi-unit Construction

Why is a condo block (or any other form of multi-unit construction) almost always more cost effective than an equivalent series of single family dwellings?

First, because your construction costs will reduce, when expressed in terms of costs per square foot.  This is because you’ll be sharing some common parts of the structure – each of those common walls are doing the work of two walls, otherwise, for example.  You’ll only need one large roof rather than twelve.  And so on.

You’ll also be sharing exterior elements – the landscaping, driveway, provision of utilities, all these sorts of things will be little increased in cost if done for multiple units as they would be if done for a single residence.

And when contractors need to bring special equipment on site, in a situation where typically their setup up and clean up costs are almost as great as their actual ‘doing the job’ costs, and part of their ‘doing the job’ costs involves in learning what to do, before doing it typically only once rather than repeatedly, there’ll only be one set of these various setup costs but now split over multiple units.  The contractors will also work more efficiently by repeating their tasks over multiple units, and your costs will drop in line with these benefits.

So you’ll end up getting a lot more structure at a lot lower cost per square foot.

The second benefit will be in the ongoing occupancy of the units.  They’ll be massively more energy efficient, and in a Level 2/3 scenario, energy becomes one of the most precious resources of all.  The costs to heat (or cool) will skyrocket up compared to what they are today, so anything to make your dwelling more energy efficient is a huge plus.

A well capable of supporting a dozen residences can sometimes be only slightly more expensive than a well for one residence – a typical well has most of its costs in the digging and provisioning of it – beyond that, its capacity is seldom used anywhere close to maximum.

What goes in must come out – which is our polite way of pointing out that a larger septic system can be constructed at a lower overall cost than could a series of separate individual systems.

The units will also have less maintenance because there are fewer exterior walls exposed to the elements, and less roof too for that matter.

So your ongoing ownership costs will be lower (per unit) than they would be for private residences, too.

Benefits In a Level 2/3 Situation

Looking to a time when a scenario actually unfolds, you’ll get much better value and results from being able to share common resources such as a generator and other services and tools than you would if you had to create these resources uniquely for yourself.

A larger generator is more efficient in terms of translating gallons of diesel into kWhrs of electricity.  And with diesel at a huge premium in a Level 2+ scenario, anything to extend the value out of each precious gallon is definitely a plus.  If you’re considering wind power, you get value benefits from larger units, and reliability benefits from being able to now have two or three units erected rather than just one.  (Note that solar cells are, however, a notable exception – the costs for solar cell arrays increase close to exactly in proportion to the increased sizes of the arrays, with only relatively small economy of scale benefits).

There’s another huge benefit.  If you build a twelve unit condo complex, and get eleven other families to move in with you, then you have instantly created a community of maybe 50 people, possibly more, maybe less.

This is great when you need extra manpower to help with a special task, and it is also great for social reasons and for defense, too.  You immediately have people to turn to for help, people to sell your surplus production to, and people to buy things from that you can’t also produce yourself.  You even have people to share a meal with – there’s another thought – take turns at cooking, because a person can cook for four almost as readily as for two, and it takes almost the same energy to cook a roast and boil vegetables for four as for two.  Talking about sharing meals, you also have people to relax and socialize with.

There are many other areas and examples of how sharing duties can work enormously to everyone’s benefit, making all involved more productive and more content.  The extra people benefit will end up being more valuable to you than the lower construction costs and ongoing operating costs of your dwelling.

Zoning and Building Codes

A possible (probable) constraint could be the applicable building and zoning codes for where you choose to set up your retreat.  But if it is possible, an eight or twelve unit condo complex would be hugely better than a single family dwelling, and the potential benefits more than justify going through some hoops to get the appropriate permissions.

Although zoning may seem to discourage multi-unit condos where you’re looking at setting up, sometimes it is possible to talk your way through these challenges, especially if you have multiple parcels of land – it might be possible to persuade the county to recognize that you have six parcels of land,  each of which allow two residential units, and so you’re simply asking to build all twelve units in one single block, which would create less disruption and allow more of the land to remain in productive agricultural use.

Usually the restriction on multiple dwellings on rural land has an underlying practical desire to leave the land as farmland rather than to have it become semi-urban sprawl.  You don’t represent a semi-urban sprawl, you represent the intended use – people wishing to farm and care for the land they’ll be living on, so you just have to work out the best way to ‘sell’ this to the local authorities (and we use the word ‘sell’ advisedly, sometimes an offer to pay for some ‘offsets’ will help get your permits – offsets are other things that the county would like to do elsewhere, or enhancements to nearby areas, or something like that to increase the overall standard of the area).

Alternatively, maybe you can buy land adjacent to an incorporated city, and get your land annexed into the city, with an agreed upon zoning code from the city to allow for the construction of the units you desire.

Zoning can be a challenge, for sure, but it is not an insuperable problem, particularly if you have friendly local officials –  and you’d be crazy to consider a location where the local officials were not friendly.

Remember our advice to do everything in full compliance with all city, county, state and federal laws, so as not to create any legal vulnerabilities that could subsequently be used against you by people who ‘have not’ and who are keen to take from those who ‘have’.

Summary

A multi-family dwelling will cost less per square foot to build, will cost less to own and maintain, and in an actual Level 2/3 scenario, will provide you with an instant and essential support community of friends and fellow preppers.

If it is not practical for you to consider creating your own multi-family mini-community, consider joining someone else’s.  We’d of course encourage you to become a part of a Code Green Community, but there are various other options out there for you as well.

Jun 212012
 

The popular 1960s tv comedy Green Acres told of a city slicker couple’s challenges adapting to the countryside. Don’t let it put you off considering a similar strategy.

Most preppers seek to cling to their current lifestyles as long as possible.  This is as true of the surgeon with his $500,000+ income as it is an office or blue-collar worker with a $50,000- income.

So people prepare for an alternate life and alternate world that would greet them if/when they ever needed to respond to a Level 2/3 scenario and evacuate to their carefully prepared retreat, while maintaining their current vulnerable lifestyle.  Their preparations embody a mix of anxious concern and desire to retain as much of life’s current experiences and perceived benefits as possible, for as long as possible.

Don’t get us wrong.  This is understandable.  We all have many ties that bind us to our current lives and communities.  There are our jobs, of course.  Maybe we have children (or, for that matter, aged parents) who also cause us to want to stay in an area.  There is our established network of friend and contacts, our current reasonably optimized lifestyle and residence, and, of course, there is inertia, resistance to change, and fear of the unknown.

There is also the fact that most of us currently live in medium/large sized cities, which for all their vulnerabilities and challenges also provide great convenience in terms of a wider range of shopping opportunities, entertainment, health-care, education, and just about everything compared to what we’d experience in the typically much smaller communities we’d move to if bugging out to our retreat location.

We repeat.  These are all valid points, and for many people, it makes sense to continue to lead their present life as best they can, while also prudently preparing for a possible future breakdown in current lifestyles.

In these cases, you of course also need to consider how you’ll get to your retreat WTSHTF and what the ‘trigger events’ are that would cause you to start such a process.  There’s no point in having a retreat waiting for you if you can’t get to it; and if an EMP disables your vehicle, or if an earthquake or other natural disaster closes the roads, or if a mass exodus of fellow citizens clogs the roads to the point of impossibility, the issue of how to get to the retreat suddenly changes from already potentially challenging to a massive problem (but not one without solutions).

We have an entire section of this site with helpful articles about ‘bugging out’ and evacuating to a retreat.

There is also the consideration that if you did suddenly need to withdraw to your retreat, you’d be arriving ‘cold’.  Sure, you might have a supply of long-life seeds to make a start on gardening whenever the next growing season begins, and sure, you probably have plenty of dried and other food stored to tide you over until you get closer to self-sufficiency, but the fact remains that you’re suddenly jumping into the deep end of the pool, with perhaps untested skills, untested resources, and untested just about everything.

This is a bit of a worry.  If you’ve not had some seasons of crop planting, you really don’t know what to expect in terms of water and fertilizer, soil quality, bugs and diseases, yields, and so on.  You don’t know which crops will grow best and which don’t really work as well as expected.  You’re not sure if your projections and assumptions are valid or not.

You’re also appearing ‘out of nowhere’ and hoping to be accepted into whatever local community exists in the area at a time when all such communities will become very inward looking and resistant to welcoming in more outsiders – unless, of course, such outsiders bring with them definite skills or resources that will clearly benefit the community.

There are strategies and approaches to managing these considerations.  None of these issues are ‘fatal’ or without solutions.

For example, some people have caretakers already residing at their retreat location, with the caretaker or caretakers managing the farming of the land and other aspects of the retreat, so that you’d arrive to find successful ongoing sustaining operations underway, and an established history and knowledge of what grows and how to grow it best.  If a location is well-chosen and being well farmed, these caretakers will pay their own way and maybe even generate a bit of profit too.  There’s no downside and a lot of upside to that type of situation.

If you choose the lower cost option of joining a Code Green Community, you’d also be moving to an area that was already underway with farming operations, and you’d simply help ramp up those activities (and possibly also compensate with more manpower due to the use of machinery becoming more constrained).  This addresses many of the problems of moving to an area ‘cold’, with no contacts, no community, and no experience and knowledge of what to expect.

Even if you do simply arrive ‘cold’ to your own retreat, that’s not the worst outcome, particularly if you are well stocked with supplies and have been careful in how you’ve projected your future sustainability activities so as to protect yourself from any nasty surprises.

But there’s another alternative too – the one we hint at in our title above and discuss below.  Bear with us as we set the scene, then reveal the solution.

A Growing Economic Vulnerability

Many people have never really stopped to question the assumptions that have defined, driven, and constrained their lives to date.

Certainly, our modern society is a self-sustaining and self-reinforcing concept, with huge vested interests urging us to conform and consume.  Imagine what would happen if people stopped buying new cars as regularly as they currently do.  Imagine what would happen if people stopped eating out as often as they do.  If they stopped buying designer clothing and up-market brand accessories.  If they downsized their home.  If they stopped wasting so much food that is thrown out uneaten.  And so on.  If they abandoned the siren-call of fashion and wore generic clothing for multiple seasons, repairing as necessary, rather than changing wardrobes every year.

Our lives have become trapped in a spiral of diminishing returns.  We have to work harder to pay for the time-saving indulgences we both enjoy and also need due to working so hard.  The economy as a whole relies on people continuing to spend, spend, spend way more than they actually need to.  If we – and everyone else – stopped spending so much, the economy would collapse like a popped balloon, and rather than all being better off, we’d find our jobs disappearing and we’d end up being worse off.

We don’t wish to sound ‘counter-culture’, and indeed, we engage in many of these activities ourselves.  But when we talk about the vulnerabilities of cities and modern society, there’s this underlying economic vulnerability too – our economy, in the US more so than just about anywhere else, is built on this assumption of ongoing conspicuous/unnecessary consumption.  We have more retail stores per head of population than any other country in the world, we eat out more than any other country, we have more, newer and larger cars than any other country, larger houses, and so on.

Some of this is benign and good and is a happy result of our nation’s extraordinary economic success and strength over the last 100+ years.  But some of it is the result of careful marketing and social manipulation, subtly encouraging us to view things as ‘must have’ items when in reality they are very optional, and then creating huge economic drivers (like the auto industry) which rely on people continuing to embrace the unnecessary levels of expenditure and consumption.

Few people have stopped to question the assumptions that are automatically made about their lifestyles.  Whether it is social pressures (‘keeping up with the neighbors’) or personal indulgence or whatever else, we happily follow in step with the rest of society, spending more and working more to pay for the extra and unnecessary expenditures we make.

But all of this points to a growing economic vulnerability – our nation’s overall economic activity these days seems to be in largest part either the government deliberately spending money it doesn’t have or else our own spending money we don’t really need to spend.  Things of real value are being neglected, while things of abstract value are being worshipped (Is/was Facebook really worth $100 billion – a website that actually contributes nothing to our essential lives?).

We’ve built a house of cards, and there is a growing risk it could all come crashing down.

Confronting the Uncertainties in Our Current Lives

As we prep for the unknown future, we are thinking primarily in the terms of disasters that are national – or at least, extensively distributed over a number of states – in scope.  A complete loss of the power grid.  An EMP.  An influenza pandemic and the breakdown in society that could follow.  An asteroid strike.  Or whatever else.

But there is another type of possible disaster, too.  A personal level disaster that impacts only on us.  The loss of our job, and possibly the inability to get a replacement job.  This could happen for any number of reasons, most outside our control.

All of a sudden, we’d find ourselves with the lifestyle that assumes ongoing oversized paychecks every month, but without the paychecks.

Sure, we’d cut back, but we still would be obliged to make the payments on any debt we have (car loans, credit card balances, etc).  We’d still have the monthly costs of our primary dwelling.  And if we’re no longer working, once the unemployment benefits ran out, we’d have no income source at all until such time as we could land another job.

Can you see where this is going?

Bugging Out Very Early

We’re merely inviting and encouraging you to think about the implications of making a major lifestyle change, on your own terms and timetable, not after it is too late, but when you still have options and can fully optimize what you’re doing.

What say you sold off your current house (if you own one) and moved to your retreat.  What say you quit your current job, or at the very least, downgrade it to a limited amount of part-time tele-commute type work from your retreat.  What say you cut down or eliminate entirely much of the unnecessary extravagances in your life.  Take a zero off your clothing and shoe budgets, for example.  Take a zero off your eating out and entertainment budgets too.  Swap expensive nights out at restaurants, shows and clubs for inexpensive nights in with good friends and family – the pleasure you’ll derive will be the same, but the cost will be much less.  Keep cars for 150,000 miles or more.  Borrow books and videos from the local library.  Cook food from raw ingredients, rather than buy it pre-processed and pre-cooked.

And what say you become a Code Green community pathfinder now.  Or perhaps take up or create some sort of small country business type activity in the nearby town or village your retreat is close to.  Or become a farmer and start working your land; maybe growing crops, maybe raising animals (or both).

Your outgoings would massively collapse down, so you wouldn’t need to earn nearly as much to keep ahead of your bills.  You could choose to adopt a more leisurely, relaxed type of lifestyle where quality of life becomes more real and possible.

What we’re suggesting you evaluate is creating a sustainable quality lifestyle now – a lifestyle that would change only somewhat if TEOTWAWKI should occur.  You’d not only be fully prepped with very little at risk or vulnerable, but you might discover a peace and contentment that has been lost sight of in many people’s lives and lifestyles.

There’s nothing revolutionary about this suggestion or this lifestyle.  You don’t need to become a hippy, grow a beard, and wear a peace symbol round your neck.  You simply switch from being a city-dweller living a city lifestyle, to becoming a country resident living a country lifestyle.

People have been living semi-self-contained and semi-self-sufficient lifestyles for hundreds of years.  It has formerly been the norm that a farmer grows enough food for his own family and some surplus to trade with at the town market for the other things he can’t grow or make himself.  It is only in the last 150 years or so, since industrialization and mass production, that people have shifted from directly making the essentials for their life and sustenance, and now working in ‘derivative’ jobs removed from the actual farm land or factory floor.  It is still possible to lead a good life with a ‘real’ rather than ‘artificial’ job, creating real goods or providing real services, rather than being some sort of abstract ‘knowledge’ type worker.  Oh, we’re not knocking knowledge workers per se (guess what we are!) but merely pointing out that much of our society these days is involved in jobs that don’t actually ensure the strength, security and success of the society.

A Huge Change – But Don’t Dismiss it Outright

We’re not expecting you to stop at this point and say ‘Oh my gosh.  You are so right!’ and immediately chuck in your job, and move tomorrow to the countryside.  That would be foolish.

But we are asking/suggesting you don’t do the opposite – you don’t instead sneer and say ‘That’s the stupidest thing I’ve read today’ and click away from the site, never to return.

Instead, think about the concept.  Let it settle and develop.  Occasionally think about how you could change or restructure your life, and then, on a planned basis and on your own terms, you can make the changes in your life to enable this shift of life style.

This could be the best type of prepping at all – changing your life now, on your terms, so that whatever happens in the future, you’ll not be as massively affected by it as you would be with no changes.

This is the ultimate in prepping.  It will take time to master.  🙂

Jun 042012
 

If we encounter a major collapse of society, we can expect the dollar to disappear.

We’ve discussed before the certainty that in Level 3 situations, current forms of money will become irrelevant and close to worthless.

We’ve also indicated that gold will become less valuable in an extended period of massive social and economic disruption – this being quite the opposite of what many preppers anticipate.  Everything we write below applies equally to Level 3 situations, but our comments start from looking at responses, in this article, to a less long-term Level 2 event.

In Level 2 situations, there will be a strange duality surrounding regular money – ie, cold hard cash.  As for any electronic forms of money, you have to assume they will be completely not accepted, due to the electronic banking and credit systems having failed.  That also means ATM machines will not be working, so there’ll be essentially no way to get more cash.

So, no credit cards, no debit cards, and almost certainly, no-one will accept checks, either.  The only negotiable currency will be good old-fashioned greenbacks – which will accelerate the failure of the monetary system, because very few of us have much cash these days.  Indeed, very few banks have much cash either, so even if banks were working, they wouldn’t be able to give cash to more than a few of the people holding deposits with them.

This actually makes for a very interesting economic problem.  Not only will supplies of real goods become very short and in great demand, but supplies of cash money will also be very limited, making money itself also in great demand.  How will that be resolved?

There’s one possible answer, which we’ll come to later in the article.  But let’s first look at things from the perspective of the shortage of goods, ignoring a matching shortage of money.  Then we’ll consider the monetary shortage separately.

Dollar Denominated Prices of Essential Items Will Soar

No matter whether in short supply or available in limitless qualities, money will be of little value during the Level 2 situation (due primarily to the shortage of things to buy with money).  But in the expectation that money will become valuable again when Life As We Know It (LAWKI) returns, people who feel confident about surviving to the return of normalcy, and who have spare things to trade, will most likely trade the things of value they have for money that, although presently valueless, promises to return to some level of value at the end of the situation.

This will probably mean that things become very much more expensive in terms of current currency values, for two reasons.

Firstly, the simple and unavoidable dynamic of supply and demand.  Our economy will massively transition from one in which there are too many things available for people to buy, but with the people having too little money to buy all the things they want, to instead a situation where there are too few items for sale at any price.

Today, you know that you can go to the nearest gas station, and no matter how far you max out your credit cards, there’s no way you can buy every drop of gasoline they have in their underground tanks.  And, even if you did (maybe you have an Amex Black/Centurion card), it wouldn’t really matter, because there might be another gas station on the other side of the road, and the station you just emptied would be resupplied with another 20,000 gallons later in the day.  But in a Level 2 situation, with – at the very least – the oil refineries no longer operating, gasoline suddenly becomes very rare and therefore very valuable.  Instead of all the money you have being insufficient to empty out a gas station’s tanks, now all the money you have might be insufficient to simply fill your car’s gas tank, once.

The second reason why things will become more expensive is due to the uncertainty of the dollar returning to its normal value.  A Level 2 situation has already shattered everyone’s confidence and faith in the certain ongoing constancy of LAWKI, and who’s not to say what might happen to the current currency when life returns to something resembling the former normalcy.  Dollar bills have changed from universally unquestionably accepted guarantees of money, a certain representation of value, to instead, becoming something a bit more uncertain – they are now like betting slips at the race course prior to the race.  Maybe your slip will be valuable, but maybe it will become worthless.

Money Will No Longer Have Intrinsic Value

Today, money has great intrinsic value, because we can readily convert it to whatever we wish.  A dream vacation, a new car or house, anything at all, whether extravagant or essential, can quickly become ours if we have sufficient money.

But, now looking into a Level 2+ scenario, a person for example, selling you the gas at some greatly inflated price – let’s just say, for want of a better number – $250 a gallon – doesn’t really need $250.  What he most needs might be some food, or some more electricity to power his gas station, or something else tangible.  In an economy where there is a shortage of tangible needed items, the items that are available go up in price – as you’ve just observed with the example of buying suddenly extremely expensive gas.  You’d probably find the gas station owner would swap you a gallon of gas for a 5lb bag of rice or beans, and probably he’d prefer to take the rice or beans, because if he ‘only’ gets money, he then has the hassle of trying to find someone who will sell him food, and who knows if/when/where food will be available or what its price will be.

Indeed, if he has 10,000 gallons of gas in an underground tank and no food on the table for dinner, he might swap many gallons of gas for just one pound of rice or beans.  But if he has plenty of food and little remaining gas, then he’ll be asking for many sacks of rice for a single gallon of gas.

Not only will money have no applicability to what he has and what he needs, the ‘exchange rate’ between, in this case, food and gas could vary enormously depending on the circumstances of the two people doing the transaction.

Nonetheless, whether it be a day when food is more valuable than gas, or vice versa, there is almost certainly one thing that will always be of least value.  Abstract money.  Cash.

A Short Term Opportunity for Itinerant Traders

So here’s the interesting thing.  In preparing for this type of situation, if you have a spare $250, you can either keep it in cash, and guess/hope that it will buy you a gallon of gas when you most need it, or you can buy about 50 gallons of gas, containers to store it in, and some PRI-G to extend its storage life today – which for sure is much more gas than the $250 would buy you in a Level 2/3 situation.  Besides which, wouldn’t you prefer to have the certainty of the gas, rather than to drive all around town, burning up 2 gallons of gas (at a replacement cost of $250/gallon) to end up being able to buy only 5 gallons somewhere.

Alternatively, if local fire codes or your lease doesn’t allow you to have 50 gallons of gas in your garage, why not spend the $250 on long life shelf stable food staples.  Our guess is you’ll be able to swap $250 worth of food (that you buy today) for much more gasoline (in a Level 2+ scenario) than you could buy with $250 cash.

Best of all, split your funds and invest in a mix of both gas and rice.  That way, when you find the man with lots of gas and little food, you can do a deal whereby you get a lot of gas for a little food in return, and when you find the man with lots of food but little gas, you can do another deal, again to your benefit.

This means that you are becoming a trader.  If there is an easy way for you to move around an area, balancing out individual surpluses and deficits, you could create an excellent new job for yourself.

That’s not to say that such jobs would be free of competition, or sustainable longer term.  The country general store will probably evolve to become a trading post, much as such stores were 100+ years ago.  And sooner or later, some replacement form of currency will act as a more efficient intermediary than you traveling around with all your trading goods.  But, short-term, you might find it a valuable way to earn a living.

Whether you attempt to do this full-time or not, there is one thing that is clear.  As we concluded in our earlier article about the different role of money in a crisis situation, cash will become of little value, because you can’t eat or drink cash, you can’t use it to keep warm, or in any other way, directly obtain comfort, safety, and sustenance from it.  When prepping for the future, you should convert as much of your cash as you can to things either that you’ll need or which you can use as trade goods to swap with other people who will need what you have, but who might have something else in return that you need.

The Implications of a Shortage of Actual Physical Money

As we mentioned above, there will be a shortage of actual cash in a Level 2/3 scenario.  Few of us have more than a few hundreds dollars in cash lying around our homes.  We don’t need more than that because we do most of our transactions electronically these days, with credit or debit cards, or sometimes still with checks.  And if we do need more cash, we can quickly get some, 24/7, from a nearby ATM.

So even if US currency were to be continued to be accepted, there just wouldn’t be enough of the stuff available to be used.

Rather than this resulting in a revaluation of the dollar and what you can expect to buy for a dollar, we think it will instead result in an accelerated rejection of the dollar and a replacement by local currencies, based on some type of underlying local asset of value.

A Return, Not to a Gold Standard, but to a More Sensible Standard

As we touch on at the end of our article about the irrelevancy of gold as a future monetary instrument, in the past (as in dating back to 1704, and sporadically prior to that time too) there were good reasons for using gold as an international monetary standard on which countries could base their own currency and then trade from their currency to another country’s currency.

But those valid reasons diminished during the 20th century, while at the same time, the weakness and flaw of gold as a monetary base remained as strong as ever.  This is the fact that gold is not an object that inherently has any value, other than the artificial value we give to it.  What is it that makes gold worth about $1500 an ounce, but copper worth only about $1.50?  What is the valuable property that gold has one thousand times more of copper?

There is no underlying logical reason for gold’s high value.  Historically the reason that gold (and, slightly lesserly, silver) was used as a means of storing value was because gold didn’t rust or in any way diminish in quantity. Its long life and chemical inertia made it well suited as a semi-permanent means of representing abstract value.

But in the very difficult times after a major collapse of society, people will not be interested in abstract anything.  They will be necessarily interested only in things of real value – things that can keep them fed, watered, and sheltered.  Gold does none of these things.

We anticipate that any new currency will be based on being redeemable for an equivalent amount of food or of energy, and being as how food is merely a derivative abstracted form of energy, and being as how energy is one of the most basic ‘building blocks’ of everything else in the world, we think the unit of value will be energy based, perhaps with a fixed conversion to food, perhaps not.

The most common measurements of energy are (in alphabetical order)

  • British Thermal Unit
  • Calorie
  • Erg
  • Foot-Pound Force
  • Foot-Poundal
  • Horsepower Hour
  • Joule
  • Kilowatt hour
  • Therm

The internationally preferred unit these days is the Joule, and more likely, the Megajoule.  But all the different units have fixed conversion rates between them (sort of like the fixed conversions between feet, inches, yards, chains, miles, meters, kilometers, etc) and so it doesn’t really matter which unit is the underlying basis which a future currency is measured by (and redeemable for).

Summary

Prepare for a level 2 or 3 situation not by hoarding gold or cash, but by stockpiling food and energy.  If you keep balanced amounts of each, you may be able to profit by trading either to people who need one type of item and who have a surplus of the other.

Anticipate a future currency to evolve (in a Level 3 situation) that will be based on being redeemed for a specified amount of energy.  Energy will become the new defining commodity on which the value of all other things will be measured.  Unlike gold, energy has intrinsic value, making it well suited as a financial base.

Jun 042012
 

Gold looks very pretty, and today has a very high value. But will it be of any value at all WTSHTF?

Most preppers already have some sort of acceptance that US currency may become less universally accepted subsequent to a Level 2 or 3 event occurring.  We’ve discussed some aspects of the problems with US currency in a post WTSHTF world before.

Interestingly, one of the reasons that US currency won’t be widely used is simply because most people don’t have much real cash these days.  Sure, we might have large deposits in our banks, we might own stocks, shares, bonds, etc, and we might be able to borrow still more money from our credit cards or home equity, but most financial transactions we do these days are electronic, using debit or credit cards (or sometimes still checks) and we don’t need to actually pass over ‘real’ money for all these transactions.

And, if we did need some real money, we can conveniently get it, 24/7, from an ATM.  So most of us have only a few hundred dollars in actual cash under the bed (or wherever else you keep it).

With electronic banking unavoidably becoming unavailable in a Level 2/3 scenario, we’d all find ourselves limited only to the cash we had with us at the time the event occurred.  Some of us might be fortunate, and find ourselves with lots of cash, but with little in the form of essential supplies to live off.  We’d be cash rich, but asset poor – the cash we own would in no way reflect the new value of the things we owned or could trade.  Others of us might have little or no cash, but several years supply of essential food and other supplies.  Who then is the wealthier person – the person with cash and nothing else, or the person with a basement full of essential supplies and no cash?

So not only is there a lack of cash for commercial dealings, but also the cash that is available in a community doesn’t reflect the true wealth of the community in a Level 2/3 situation, and there would also be no clear conversion between cash and how much essential supplies would cost.

Even if an equivalent set of values was established, what happens if another person joins the community, carrying with him a suitcase full of $100 bills, but without any food or other essential items?  He would have enough money to buy all the food in the community, but who would want to swap their food they need to live on for pieces of paper with green printing on them?

This act would be a bit like, at present, a foreign country printing up counterfeit US currency and spending it.  So communities would necessarily have to in some way distinguish their community’s supply of cash from that of other communities, so that a person from another community couldn’t come in and destroy the financial base of their community.

Gold Also of No Value

Although most preppers agree that US currency will become close to useless, these same people often advocate gold as a way to store value, and as a likely future currency.  We disagree – read on for why we think gold will be of no more use than US cash.

If you want to get a real headache, read (at least) two textbooks on economics – one advocating the benefits of the gold standard and one arguing against it.  Maybe also try to find an open-minded textbook that fairly sets out the pluses and minuses of both perspectives.

If you choose to do this, you’ll hopefully form the opinion that there were and are some good features of the gold standard, but also some major limitations and problems with it.  Did the (do the) good features outweigh the bad, or vice versa?  That’s where the controversy comes in – most economists can agree on the essential mix of good and bad points, they just can’t decide which outweighs the other.

We understand and sympathize with why many people who dislike the government’s growth, largely funded by printing its own money and running deficits, and allowing inflation to eat away – to invisibly tax – the net worth of the citizens, why these people would wish a return to the gold standard, because this would limit the ability of a government to continue this type of financial growth and economic control.

But we don’t believe the underlying ‘magic’ of gold still applies as being the fundamental building block of any economy; indeed, gold has never been universally accepted as the basis on which economies can be created and compared – it has always shared that role with silver.

Much of this is irrelevant theory, however, for a Level 2/3 scenario in the future.  Some preppers say you should keep a supply of gold coins and/or some other form of gold, because it will be universally accepted as a new pseudo-currency after life as we know it (LAWKI) ends.

We disagree, for exactly the same reasons we don’t think current US currency will survive and continue to be universally accepted.  Gold and silver and all other abstract expressions of wealth all suffer from the same problems as paper money – you can’t eat them; you can’t live off them.  At present, it is true that the amount of gold/silver/whatever a person has closely correlates to what they could buy with it, because there are no shortages of anything.  But after LAWKI ends, and there become shortages of everything essential to life, the ability of gold and other precious metals to be converted into things of true value – life’s essentials – completely disappears, because there is no underlying value or use to the gold itself, except as a pretty metal for ornaments and jewelry.

As we’ve asked before, who is the wealthier person after LAWKI ends?  The man with 100 pounds of dried food, or the man with 100 pounds of gold (in today’s terms, the food might be worth $1000, and the gold would be worth almost $2.5 million).

The correct answer has to be that the man with the food is wealthier (assuming food to be in short supply, which is a very safe assumption to make).  If you were starving, and you met both men on the road, and one offered you a pound of food and the other a pound of gold, which would you take?  Which would you agree to work for a day in return for receiving the item?  The food, right?

Also, exactly as the case with money, if civilization ends tomorrow, there won’t be enough gold available to provide an effective means of doing business (unless we were to make each gold coin worth a ridiculously huge amount of money).  And what would happen when a stranger rides in to town with a bag full of gold coins, enough to buy all the spare food in town?

Or what say one of the local residents suddenly strikes it rich, and finds some gold in the stream at the bottom of his property.  Suddenly there is more total gold in the community, but it isn’t represented by a matching growth in items of value to be purchased by the gold.

The only people who would take gold in exchange for items of true value would be people who were taking a gamble and betting that in some point in the foreseeable future, life would return back to close to normal, and gold would become an innately valuable metal again, just as it is now.  They’d be willing to take your gold from you, while giving you very little in return, and would trade off the low value/cost of the gold now with the hope that at some future time, life will return to normal and they can cash in their gold at ‘normal’ rates.

How to Stockpile True Value for a Future Situation

The true currency of value will be an expression of life’s essentials – maybe a ration of food or water or energy, or some sort of composite value expressing elements of all three, and exchangeable for these essentials on a known basis.

So, in preparing for an adverse situation, you’ll find yourself much better off if you invest not in what today’s society accepts as abstract expressions of wealth (whether it be cash, electronic deposits, or precious metals) but rather in items that will have direct tangible value in the future.  The most essential three items for survival will be food, water, and shelter, but with water being a relatively low value item, and with shelter being a very subjective item, we think the key products for measuring and storing value will be food and energy.

In other words, store food and store energy.  You could also store ‘meta-expressions’ of food and energy – in other words, objects that can assist in growing food and creating/capturing/storing energy.  A gallon of gas or a pound of wheat would both be very valuable, but so too would a solar cell array or a wheat mill or some farming implements.

This will become the future replacement of the gold standard – an energy based standard.  This is a much more sustainable monetary base, because unlike gold, energy is a thing of real value.

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 222012
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Unknown Variables Posed By Non-Preppers

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning For Encounters With Malefactors

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

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

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

Plan and Prepare For Everything

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

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

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

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

Scenarios for Encounters

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

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

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

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

Different Tactics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Varying Group Size

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

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

A Range of Skill Levels

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

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

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

All Sorts of Equipment and Weapons

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

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

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

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

Frequency of Encounter and Group Coordination

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

For More Information

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

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