Nov 282014
 
Think carefully before revealing your preparations, even to apparently like minded fellow preppers.

Think carefully before revealing your preparations, even to apparently like-minded fellow preppers.

Conventional wisdom maintains that preppers need to group together so as to have better odds of surviving in a future challenging situation.  We don’t disagree, indeed, quite the opposite – we strongly urge you to do exactly that.

At the same time, we also anticipate that should the rule of law and society in general, break down at a future time, then some of the quickly starving and deservedly panicked vast majority of the country are going to have no choice but to come after us and our stocks of food and demand we share with them.  Indeed, a demand that we share our food is probably close to a best case scenario!  Roving gangs of marauding looters who selfishly take all they can carry with them, and senselessly destroy anything they leave behind, is a far grimmer but also realistic future to consider.

Let’s think about the group of people who will pose the greatest threat to us in such a future situation.  They will be people with firearms, some skills, and who know to quickly evacuate the major cities and head out into the countryside.  These people will have the ability to survive at least to the point where they can then start to look at somehow creating a new living environment for the future.  These people – and while we don’t like it, we have to understand the motivation and accept the reality of it – will not hesitate to demand and require us to share what we have with them.  They might even demand we share our shelter as well as our food – they might say ‘there’s plenty of room in your retreat for us to join you’, and that’s assuming they’re as kind as to allow us the option to stay in what was formerly our retreat and share it with them!

Now think some more about the profile of this type of person.  While hopefully the truly lawless members of roving gangs who will gleefully and wantonly rape, pillage and plunder their way through the countryside are not people we come into daily contact with, this other type of person might well be people we already know.

If you think about it, we are describing ‘wanna be’ preppers, aren’t we.  People with a few spare cans of beans, an extra container of gas for their vehicle, some outdoor clothes, a firearm or two, and several boxes of ammunition.

We were guiltily reminded of that, ourselves, when a neighbor was proudly showing us his basement wine cellar.  To get to his wine cellar, we walked through a walled in semi-finished extension of his sub-grade basement, and at the end of it, we went through a door and into the wine cellar.  All the way through this extension, he had built shelving and it was reasonably full of stored food and assorted other things.  A great suburban prepper set-up, enough to get him through a week or two or three of problems – a Level 1, trending towards a Level 2 situation, in other words.

Good for him.

Two thoughts flashed through our mind.  The first was one of delight – ‘Aha!  A fellow prepper.  Wait till we impress him with what we have in our house, next door!’.  Sure, he had us beat when it came to wine collections, but we figured we were far ahead of the game with stored food and other supplies.

The second was a wry naughty thought ‘We’ll know where to go if we run out of supplies ourselves or if they’re not at home WTSHTF’ and accompanied by a subtle scan of what he had, looking also for any evidence of self-defence capabilities.

But then, the mirror image of the second thought hit us, and we realized ‘We have more stuff than him, and if we now show that all to him, he’ll know where to go when he runs out’.

We also realized that if we tell him about what we have, then the next time he proudly shows someone his wine cellar and they say ‘Wow, John, we never knew you had so much food stored down here’ then what will he say?  In a sense of false modesty, he might say ‘Well, if you think that’s a lot, you should see what Dave has next door’.

Not only will he know about our stored supplies, but so too, over time, will any number of other people, unknown to us.

So we held our silence and said nothing.  If things go bad in the future, we can group together with him – or not – on our terms, and in a controllable manner.

The same is even more true if you have a rural retreat.  You probably can’t and don’t want to obscure the fact you have a nice countryside second home, but have it planned so that if (when) you invite friends to come stay with you for a weekend, it looks like a generic regular country home, not a hardened retreat stocked full of supplies of every possible type.

Don’t boast about your ‘off-grid’ capabilities.  Play down how effective your solar cells are, and make them seem like a grid-tied system – ‘Yes, they help a bit, but they’re older generation and don’t make much power, and only do anything in the brightest sunlight anyway, plus the crazy way it is wired up, if the utility’s power goes down, ours goes down too’.  Have your storage rooms locked off and not obviously taking up lots of space.  Talk about how cold it gets in winter because it is poorly insulated.  And so on.

Another thing not to show would be any firearms you have, or perhaps, at least don’t show more than a normal number of firearms and a limited supply of ammunition.  If someone does decide to pay you a ‘surprise visit’ subsequently, it is better they think you are reasonably defenseless, unaware, and easy to surprise and overpower.  That way, they’ll be less stealthy and more overt when they appear on your doorstep.  But if they think you’re fully equipped with firearms and have the skills to use them effectively, they’ll seek to surprise you, or pick you off, one by one, in the fields.

Your plan should be to identify like-minded people who you might wish to invite to join you in the future, and to identify people who have some degree of preparedness.  But think carefully before revealing too much about your own situation any sooner than you must.  In a future chaotic collapse of everything, you just don’t know who your friends will be, and you want to be able to select such people on your terms, not on their terms.

Unless you have people who are equally invested in the success of your retreat, you don’t know what to expect from others.  People with greater capabilities than you might decide they want to grow their supplies by picking off smaller less strong retreats and their inhabitants, and for sure, people with less resource than you will be desperate to beg/borrow/steal whatever they can from wherever they can.

You can only plan on the support of people who are mutually invested in a shared success in the future where what is good for you is good for them and vice versa.  This might be adjacent retreat owners – by grouping together you create a stronger community and a shared regional defense force.  It might be selected friends and family who would have nothing if they weren’t a part of your group – but you always need to be careful, when inviting such people to join with you, that they don’t in turn bring along their friends, who in turn bring their friends, and so on, such that you’re not only overwhelmed with additional guests, but it becomes ‘their’ retreat by simple weight of numbers, rather than yours.

In the case of my neighbor, he’s sadly an unrealistic liberal.  Doesn’t like firearms, and if there’s a problem, he’ll probably not only volunteer to share his food, but will then of course insist that we volunteer to share our food too.  Would he fight to save himself, his family, and his provisions?  Almost certainly not – I can just hear him and his wife proclaiming ‘Nothing is worth sacrificing a human life for’ without realizing that by allowing their provisions to be taken from them, they have just sacrificed their own lives for no good purpose.

So now I know where to go if I run out of wine.  But he doesn’t know where to go when he runs out of food.  That’s the way I like it.

One other quick example.  The people several houses over are very like-minded folks, although they have little stored up as preps.  But WTSHTF, they’ll be the family I turn to for mutual support, not the neighbor with the wine.  The other family has what it takes to survive and win – they’re tough-minded realists who would be prepared to fight to protect themselves and those they are allied with.  But they don’t know we plan to invite them to come join forces with us if we’re somehow stranded in the town rather than able to get to our retreat.  We’ll tell them that if and when it becomes necessary and appropriate, and not before.

Until that time though, we’ve done a few things together – we’ve taken them to a local gun range and helped them with their skills, and we’ve discussed, over a few beers, what would happen if things went wrong.  So we’re laying the groundwork, but not revealing anything that would limit our options.

You should do the same.

Oct 242014
 
The eleven different sub-nations within the US.  Click image for a larger image.

The eleven different sub-nations within the US. Click image for a larger image.

One of the fictions foisted on us in the name of greater federal government is that the US is a collection of 50 similar states, and that national/federal laws of a ‘one size fits all’ are both appropriate and necessary.

The reality is very different.  Indeed, there are massive social discontinuities within single states, let alone across all 48 lower states, plus Alaska and Hawaii (which still seems to half regret having joined the rest of us).

I travel some around the western part of our great nation, and it always strikes me that not only are there huge differences between, for example, CA and its neighbors, OR, NV and AZ, but also with each state.  In California we have the Mexican dominated south, the formerly hippy and now high-tech Bay area, but also, if you go inland, there are some conservative counties with gun friendly policies, including some where the county sheriff is happy to issue concealed carry permits to anyone who asks.

In WA, the state is fractured by the Cascades – a very liberal western group of counties, and a much more conservative eastern group of counties, who feel terribly disenfranchised.  Political matters are decided in the left-wing metroplex stretching from Bellingham down to Olympia, leaving the greater part of the state – geographically but not economically or demographically – out in the cold (quite literally so in the winters!).

These disruptions within our nation and within individual states come as no surprise to us.  We see it every presidential election, for example, and we consider it painstakingly if we are choosing where to locate a retreat.  It is reflected in the repeated and unlikely to ever succeed moves to split states into two, or to blend parts of two states and make them into three or more new states.  Most recently, in late 2014, a petition for a ballot measure in California to split the state into six separate states narrowly failed to gain enough signatures.

A recent article in the Tufts University Alumni magazine suggests that the US as a whole can be segmented into 11 different clustered subgroups, with each subgroup sharing generally similar values and views.  The article includes a fascinating map showing, county-by-county, where the groupings are.  We could point out that even some counties are far from uniform in nature, but for the purposes of a general vague mapping of these different value groupings, that is probably as close as one can get – leastways, without a multi-million dollar federal grant to research it further!

The most interesting point, for me, was that the increased mobility of our population was actually making these groupings more extreme, rather than mixing everyone up more.  Because it is easier to relocate these days than it was in the past, people are choosing to relocate to areas with like-minded folk, and when you think about it, that’s one of the core concepts in choosing a retreat location.

The area of greatest interest to us is essentially an extension of the region sometimes referred to as the American Redoubt, and in this article, termed ‘The Far West’.  Of course, the article did not adjust its regions for considerations of how best to survive TEOTWAWKI, so for us, their Far West region is a starting point to then refine and narrow down.

The author’s point is not so much to show and map these different regions, but to consider the implications of their existence.  He says that as long as there is such a pronounced lack of homogeneity in our country, it is difficult for consensus driven federal government to effectively address the often opposite wishes of different parts of the country.

Think for example about abortion.  That’s something most people have an opinion on, and it is pretty much an either/or issue – you’re either for or against ‘a woman’s right to choose’/’the rights of an unborn child’.  There’s not really a compromise that could be created that works for everyone in the nation.

The same for gun control, and for all manner of other moral and value related issues.

Unfortunately, the author uses his findings as a base for a long discourse on violence and, by implication, how it should be controlled, but for our purposes, simply look at the map, read the descriptions of the eleven different regions, and then follow the national trend – relocate to the region that feels most like ‘home’ to you.

Chances are, when you do, you’ll find us already there!

Aug 262014
 
You need good lines of sight all around your retreat property.

You need good lines of sight all around your retreat property.

So you’re about to buy yourself a rural retreat?  Congratulations.  We hope you’ll never need it, but how wonderful it is to know it is there and available if things should go severely wrong.

In among all the other things you need to consider when choosing a retreat is its lot size.  There are a number of different factors affecting how large a lot you need, including the soil type, what sorts of crops you plan to cultivate, the animals you might also raise, and, oh yes, some defensive considerations too.

Some of these considerations vary enormously (ie, the number of people each acre of farmed land can support), but the defensive factors are fairly constant.  So let’s make this an easy read for you, and an easy write for us, and talk about them.

We’ve written at length, in past articles, about the need to design your retreat to be sturdy and able to withstand rifle fire, that’s not actually the risk that keeps us awake at night worrying the most about.  Ideally you want everywhere you’re likely to be on your retreat to be safe and not at risk of enemy attack.  Most notably, you not only want to be safe inside the strong walls of your retreat, but also while outside, exposed, and vulnerable, working in your fields, too.

The Biggest Risk of Violent Takeover/Takeout You’ll Face

We see the greatest risk as being picked off, one or two at a time, while we’re working in the fields.  It is conceivable that we might be some distance from our retreat, and we could be bent over, planting or picking some crop, when all of a sudden, a sniper’s bullet slams into our back, even before the sound of the shot reached us.  Talk about literally no warning – it doesn’t get any more sudden than that.

By the time the people around us heard the shot and started to react, a second round might already be meeting the second target.  And then, all of a sudden, nothing.  Well, nothing except a thoroughly panicked remainder of the people we were out in the fields with, all exposed in the middle of the crop, and one or two dead or nearly-dead bodies.

Even if everyone always carried weapons with them – and even if they were rifles rather than short-range pistols which would be useless at these sorts of ranges – by the time anyone had responded, grabbed their rifle (try doing some type of ongoing manual labor with a rifle slung over your shoulders – chances are everyone in the group will have their rifles set to one side rather than slung over their shoulders), chambered a round, and hunched over their sights, where would they look and what would they see?  Possibly nothing at all.  The sniper would retreat, as stealthily as he arrived, his job well done for the day.

Rinse and repeat.  Have the same event occur again a day or two later, and you’re not only now down four people (and any sniper worthy of the name will be carefully choosing the most valuable of the people in the field each time), but you’ve got a panicked group of fellow community members demanding ‘protection’.  Except that – what sort of protection can you give against a faceless guerilla enemy – someone who picks and chooses the time and location of their attacks?  Furthermore, you’re now four people down, and you have to choose what to do with your able-bodied group members – are they to be tasked for defensive patrolling duties or working your crops.  You don’t have enough people to do both!

No smart adversary will attack your retreat in a full frontal assault.  That would be a crazy thing to do.  Instead, they’ll act as we just described, picking you off, one or two at a time, taking as long as is necessary to do so.  Your retreat is no longer your refuge.  It has become the bulls-eye on the attacker’s target map, and all they have to do is observe and bide their time, taking advantage of the opportunities and situations they prepare for and select, rather than being taken advantage of by you and your tactical preparations.

Don’t think that defensive patrols will do you a great deal of good, either.  How many men would you have on each patrol?  One?  Two?  Five?  Ten?  Whatever the number, you’d need to be willing to accept casualties in any contact with the adversary, and unless your people are uniquely skilled and able to use some aspect of tactical advantage, all your enemy needs to do is observe your front and rear doors and wait/watch for patrols to sally forth from your retreat.

This scenario is similar to how the Allies ringed the German U-boat bases with anti-submarine planes and ships (and how we and our adversaries monitor each other’s subs these days too).  While a U-boat might be very hard to find and detect in the middle of the North Atlantic, they all had to leave and return to their bases through obvious unavoidable routes.  Why hunt for a U-boat in thousands of square miles of ocean when you know to within a few hundred feet where they’ll be departing from.

If you do deploy a patrol, they are at the disadvantage.  The enemy will be in a prepared position while your team will now be exposed on open ground.  The enemy will have set an ambush, and your team will find themselves in it.  Depending on the size of the enemy team, and on the respective skill levels, you just know you’re going to lose some team members (and, more likely, all of them) when the ambush slams shut around them.

One more sobering thought.  Call us cynical if you like, but we suspect an attacking force will be both more willing to risk/accept casualties among its members than you are, and will also find it easier to recruit replacement manpower.  The leader of the attackers probably has no close personal relationship with his men, whereas you’re with your friends and family.  The attackers can promise new recruits a chance at plundering stores and supplies and ensuring their own comfortable survival, and if recruits don’t join, they are probably facing extreme hardship or starvation as an alternative.

From their point of view, if things go well for them, they get something they didn’t have before, and if things go badly, they suffer the same fate they are likely to suffer anyway.  But from your point of view, the best that can happen is that you keep what you currently have (at least until the next such encounter) and the worst that can happen doesn’t bear thinking about.

Or, to put it another way, for the attackers, heads they win and tails they don’t lose.  For you, heads you don’t win and tails you do lose.

So, what does this all have to do with the size of your retreat lot?

The most effective tool you have to defend against attack is open space.  If you have a quarter-mile of open space in all directions around you, wherever you are on your lot, then it will be difficult for a sniper to sneak up on you, while being easy for you to keep a watch on the open space all about.  If the sniper does open fire from a quarter-mile away, you’re facing better odds that he might miss on the all important first shot, and much better odds that the subsequent shots will also be off-target.

Compare that to working in, say, a forest, where the bad guys might be lurking behind the tree immediately ahead of you.  At that range, they couldn’t miss and could quickly take over your entire group before you had a chance to respond.

You need to consider two things when deciding how much land you need for your retreat lot.

Topographic Challenges

The first issue is specific to the land you’re looking at.  What is the topography of the land?  Is it all flat, or are their rises and falls, a hill or valley or something else?

If there are natural sight barriers, you need to decide how to respond to them.  Some might be alterable (such as moving a barn, cutting down some trees), and others you’re stuck with (the hill rising up and cresting, not far from your retreat).  Depending on the types of sight barriers you have, you can determine how close adversaries can come to your property boundaries – and, indeed, some types of sight barriers will allow them to get into your property and potentially close to you, while probably remaining entirely undetected.

Don’t go all fanciful here and start fantasizing about patrols and observation posts and electronic monitoring.  The chances are you don’t have sufficient manpower to create an efficient effective system of patrols and OPs, and if you don’t have sufficient manpower to create a secure network of patrolling and OPs, you have to sort of wonder what value there is in a partial network.  Won’t the bad guys be clever enough to plan their movements and actions to exploit your weaknesses?

As for the electronic stuff, this is typically overrated, and provides a less comprehensive set of information than can be gathered by ‘boots on the ground’, and of course, only works until it stops working, at which point it is useless.

Our first point therefore is that some lots are just not well laid out for defending, and while everything else about them might be appealing, if you feel that you’ll need to be able to defend not just your retreat building itself, but the land around it – the land on which your crops are farmed and your animals raised – then you should walk away from the deal and not buy the lot.

What is the point of buying an ‘insurance policy’ to protect you against worst case scenarios, if your policy (your retreat and lot) only works with moderately bad rather than truly worst case scenarios?  That’s an exercise in futility and wishful thinking, and as a prepper, you’re not keen on either of these indulgences!

Lines of Sight – How Much is Enough?

Okay, so you’ve found a lot with no obvious topographic challenges, and unobstructed lines of sight out a long way in every direction.

Let’s now try to pin a value on the phrase ‘a long way’.  How far do you need to be able to see, in order to maintain a safe and secure environment all around you?

Some people might say ‘100 yards’.  Others might say ‘1000 yards’.  And so on, through pretty much any imaginable range of distances.  There’s probably no right answer, but there are some obviously wrong answers.

Let’s look at the minimum safe range first.

Is 100 yards a good safe distance?  We say no, for two reasons.  The first reason is obvious – a bullet round can travel those 100 yards in almost exactly 0.1 seconds, and even a person with limited skills can place a carefully aimed shot onto a slow-moving man-sized target at that range.  You are a sitting duck at 100 yards.

But wait – there’s more.  A bad guy can probably sprint over that 100 yards in 10 seconds.  Even if he has nothing more than a machete, he can be on top of you in ten seconds.  Consider also that he’ll wait until you’re not looking in his direction before he starts his run, and add 0.75 seconds reaction time and maybe another second of ‘what is that?’ and ‘oh no, what should I do!’ time, and by the time you’ve identified him as a threat, reached your rifle, and got it ready to fire, he is probably now at arm’s length, with his machete slashing viciously down toward you.

A 200 yard range is very much nicer.  You’ve become a smaller target, and the bullet aimed at you takes over twice as long to reach you; more important than the extra tenth of a second or so in travel time however is that it is now more like three times as affected by wind, temperature, humidity, manufacturing imperfections, and so on.  A skilled adversary can still have a high chance of first shot bulls-eyes, but regular shooters will not do so well.  The bad guy with the machete will take closer to 25 seconds to reach you, and will be out of breath when he gets there.

We’re not saying you’re completely safe if you maintain a 200 yard security zone around yourself.  But we are saying you’re very much safer than if you had ‘only’ a 100 yard security zone.

So, if 200 yards is good, 300 yards is obviously better, right?  Yes, no disagreement with that.  But at what distance does the cost of buying more land outweigh the increase in security?  Most of us will be forced to accept a smaller buffer zone than we’d ideally like, and perhaps the main point in this case is for you to be aware of how unsafe a small buffer zone truly is, and to maintain some type of sustainably increased defensive posture whenever you’re outdoors.

In the real world, you’ll be compromising between lot size/cost and security right from the get-go, and few of us can afford to add a 200 yard buffer around our lot, let alone a 300 or 400 yard buffer.  To demonstrate the amount of land required, here are two tables.  Both assume an impractically ‘efficient’ use of land – we are making these calculations on the basis of perfect circles, with the inner circle being your protected area and the outer circle being the total area with the added buffer zone space.  But you can never buy circular lots, so the actual real world lot sizes would be bigger than we have calculated here.

For example, where we show, below, the five acre lot with a 200 yard buffer zone as requiring a total of 54 acres if in perfect circles, if the five acre lot was rectangular, and the buffer zone also rectangular but with rounded corners, the total lot would grow to 57 acres, and when we allow for the impossibility of rounded corners, the total lot size then grows to 64 acres.

So keep in mind these are best case numbers shown primarily to simply illustrate the implications of adding a buffer zone to a base lot size, and showing how quickly any sort of buffer zone causes the total land area to balloon in size to ridiculous numbers.

If you had a one acre area in the middle of your lot, and wanted to keep a buffer zone around it, the absolute minimum lot size would be

Buffer zone in yards   Minimum total lot size in acres   Minimum perimeter in yards
100 yards   13 acres 875
150 yards   24 acres 1190
200 yards   37 acres 1505
250 yards   55 acres 1820 (1 mile)
300 yards   75 acres 2135 (1.2 miles)
350 yards    99 acres 2445 (1.4 miles)
400 yards   126 acres 2760 (1.6 miles)

 

If you have a core area of 5 acres, the numbers become

Buffer zone in yards   Minimum total lot size in acres   Minimum perimeter in yards
100 yards    23 acres 1180
150 yards    37 acres 1495
200 yards    54 acres 1810 (1 mile)
250 yards    74 acres 2120 (1.2 miles)
300 yards    98 acres 2435 (1.4 miles)
350 yards  125 acres 2750 (1.55 miles)
400 yards  155 acres 3065 (1.7 miles)

 

Clearly, it quickly becomes wildly impractical to establish the type of clear zone that you’d ideally like.

On the other hand, there’s one possible interpretation of these figures that would be wrong.  You can see that with a 1 acre core lot, you need a minimum of 37 acres in total to establish a 200 yard zone around your one acre.  If you grow your lot to 5 acres, your total lot size grows by a great deal more than five acres.  It goes from 37 acres up to 54 acres.

But – here’s the thing you should not misunderstand.  The bigger your core lot, the more efficient the ratio between protected space and total space becomes.  In the example just looked at, you had ratios of 1:37 and 5:54, with 5:54 being the same as 1:11.  This is a much better overall efficiency, even though adding the extra four acres required you to add 17 extra acres in total.

If you had ten acres of core land, then your 200 yard safety zone would require 68 acres in total, and your ratio now becomes 10:68 or 1:7.  Still extremely wasteful, but 1:7 is massively better than 1:37!

This improving efficiency for larger lot sizes hints at two strategies to improve your land utilization.

Two Strategies to Manage Your Clear Zone Risk and Requirement

Our two tables showing the amount of space you need as a safety/buffer/clear zone around your land embody a subtle assumption that perhaps can be reviewed and revised.

We are assuming that if you don’t own the land, it will be uncontrolled and uncontrollable, and will be exploited by adversaries to mount surprise attacks on you from positions of concealment and/or cover.

That is a possibility, yes.  But there’s another possibility, too.  If the land contiguous with your land is owned by friendly like-minded folk, and if they have cleared their land for cultivation too, plus have at least some awareness of risk issues and keep some degree of access restrictions to their land, then you probably don’t need as much buffer zone on the property line between you and them.

If you and your neighbor had five acre blocks adjacent to each other, then (depending on lot sizes and shapes), you would each require about 57 acres in total to have a 200 yard safety zone, but with your lots next to each other, the two of you together need only 73 acres instead of 114 acres.  You each now have a 37 acre lot instead of a 57 acre lot, and that’s a much better value.

On the other hand, call us paranoid, if you like, but we would always want some controlled space around our main retreat structure, no matter who is currently living next to us.  Neighbors can sell up or in other ways change.

This concern – that today’s ‘good’ neighbors might become tomorrow’s bad neighbors, points to the second strategy.  Why not rent out some of your land to other people.  That way you have more control over the people around you.

You could either do this by extending your core protected land and maintaining a buffer zone around both the land you farm directly and the land you rent out, or by renting out some of the buffer zone land to tenant farmers.

If you had five acres of your own core land, and if you then added another five acres to it, and also rented out the first 50 yards of your 200 yard buffer zone, then that would mean of the total 68 acre holding, there would be ten acres with 200 yards of buffer zone, and up to another 9.6 acres around it that still had a 150 yard buffer zone.  In round figures, you could use 20 of the 68 acres, with 10 offering prime security and another 10 almost as good security.  You’re now getting a reasonably efficient land utilization (20:68 or 1:3.5) and you’ve also added some adjacent friendly tenant farmers, giving your own retreat community a boost by having some like-minded folks around you.

Lines of Sight vs Crops – a Problem and a Solution

We’ve been making much about the benefit of having lines of sight stretching out a relatively safe distance so that adversaries can’t creep up on you, unawares.  The importance of this is obvious.

But, how practical is it to have unobscured lines of sight when you’re growing crops?  As an extreme example, think of a field of corn or wheat, and to a lesser extent, think of many other crops which of course have an above ground presence.  These types of crops will reduce or completely negate your line of sight visibility.

The solution is that you need to have an observation post that can look down onto the crops from a sufficient height so as to see if people are passing through them.  The higher this is, the better the visibility and ability to see down into the fields from above.

Depending on the layout of your land, the most convenient place for this would be to build it into your retreat.  You already have a (hopefully) multi-level retreat structure, why not simply add an observation post at the top of the retreat.

If that isn’t possible, another approach might be to have a tower structure somewhere that has a wind turbine generator or at least a windmill mounted on the top, giving you two benefits from the structure.

Summary

Your biggest vulnerability, in a future Level 3 type situation where you are living at your retreat and need to grow your own crops and manage your own livestock so as to maintain a viable lifestyle for some years, will be when you are out in the fields and focused on your farming duties.

Maintaining any type of effective security of your retreat would require more manpower than you could afford to spare, and even then, would remain vulnerable to a skilled and determined adversary.  A better strategy is to create a buffer zone between the land you work and the uncontrolled land adjacent to you.  This buffer zone reduces the lethality of any surprise assault and gives you time to shelter, regroup and defend.

Because a sufficient sized buffer zone requires an enormous amount of additional land, we suggest you either rent out some of your buffer zone or settle next to other like-minded folk, giving you relatively safe and more secure boundaries on at least some sides of your retreat lot.

Aug 182014
 
One quarter of the entire country believes this Ferguson looter is behaving appropriately.

One quarter of the entire country believes this Ferguson looter is behaving appropriately.

One of the biggest unknowns that we as preppers face is what will happen if/when some sort of event occurs that disrupts our modern society and its smooth functioning.

To put it in more specific terms, what will happen if something means the supermarkets run out of food, water no longer comes out of the taps, the toilets no longer flush, and our power is out?  How will people respond – positively and constructively?  Or negatively and destructively?

We are concerned about what will happen not so much five minutes after these events, but more like five days after these events (possibly sooner).

In particular, what will happen when people start to realize that these outages will be longer term rather than temporary, and most of all, when people face the fact that the government won’t be coming to help them?

The massive calming concept of overarching authority has gone, and that points to the big question – what will people do when law and order breaks down?

There are two main schools of thought here.

1.  Some people believe that everyone will band together and positively work through the problems.  This would be similar to the ‘Blitz spirit’ demonstrated by determined Londoners during the German air raids in World War 2.  Or not tremendously different from many poor countries today.

People who believe this is the more probable outcome point to the rational reasons for acting this way, and point to mankind’s underlying noble spirit and caring nature.  They expect the people who have spare resources to share those resources with the people who need them, and the people who need the scarce resources to be polite and respectful, and appreciative of the assistance they are given.

We desperately hope this scenario proves to be the correct one.  Now let’s look at scenario 2.

2.  Some people believe that chaos and anarchy will rule, with gratuitous senseless violence taking over, and indeed, senseless mobs destroying some of the scarce remaining resource rather than caring for it and using it carefully.

People who believe this point to the occasional outbreaks of lawlessness and looting that sometimes bedevil parts of western society, and rather than claiming man is an evolved creature with higher moral principles, they suggest that mankind is inherently base, selfish, and if not actively evil, certainly not actively good, either.

Can we say one thing about these two outcomes.  The first type of outcome envisages a scenario where there is still enough resource for everyone to manage to survive.  Maybe no-one will live well or very comfortably, but there will still be enough basic food, water and shelter for everyone.

That’s a big weakness of the first scenario.  If there is a major failure in our society, and if the supermarkets don’t get their daily or even twice daily shipments of ‘just in time’ food deliveries, there simply won’t be enough food, and it is going to run out very quickly, rather than gradually and slowly.  The supermarkets will be empty within a couple of days.  People’s pantries will empty out a couple of days later.

Where, other than supermarkets, will an urban population of some millions get food?  Even if people had garden space, they don’t have gardens, and neither do they have seeds.  By the time any sort of basic gardening was underway, the enormous bulk of most urban populations would have starved to death.

The other big weakness of the first scenario is that in almost all cases where people do act nobly, the ‘rule of law’ has remained intact and in-place.  That was true during the London Blitz, for example.  It is largely true of normal life in poor countries – there is a social and legal structure regulating people’s activities.  Even if the local effectiveness of such things might be briefly shattered, everyone perceives it to be a short-term, temporary, and very local phenomenon.

No-one thinks that the rule of law has been fractured and broken for a long-term, and no-one thinks that other external support resources aren’t about to come in and provide alternate and additional support.  But what happens after some truly major national disaster?  What happens if a solar storm destroys our electricity grid and there’s no likelihood of its restoration for several years?  What happens when it is unavoidably obvious that there is no ‘deus ex machina’ coming to magically save the day?

We suspect in such cases, people’s restraint will be abandoned, and it will indeed become a ‘dog eat dog’ struggle for survival, with no remaining rules or constraints on how people behave.

The Rasmussen Survey

There’s another reason to fear that scenario two is the more likely.  It is easy to perceive the people who loot and riot, and those who support them, as ‘outliers’ and as tiny minorities, albeit with a disproportionate impact on our society.  If only a very small number of people ‘go rogue’ in an adverse scenario, maybe the rest of society can ‘keep it together’ and voluntarily continue to observe laws and act in a civilized manner.

But – we suggest – the perception/hope that the anarchistic element in our society is small and insignificant is sadly wrong.  It may be massively larger than we think.  A national survey by Rasmussen and just now released has now shown that 25% of the population believes the mob violence and looting in Ferguson is appropriate and justified, and another 23% are not sure.  Barely half the country view it negatively!

As for the shooting that started things, the survey finds that 23% of the country has already decided that the police officer should be tried and found guilty of murder (indeed, these people probably don’t even feel the need for the trial).  Another 51% are undecided – we guess they want the trial, but aren’t quite so insistent on the guilty verdict automatically following.  Only 26% are giving the officer the benefit of the doubt and assuming he was acting in self-defense.

Note this is a national survey, and adjusted to be representative of the country as a whole.  It is not just a survey of ‘poor black folks’ in Ferguson.  It is a survey of all of us, everywhere.

These numbers seem to clearly illustrate that WTSHTF it won’t only be a troublesome but tiny minority of people who cause problems for the vast majority of decent citizens.  It will be a quarter the population, probably more, and possibly half the population who are quick to adopt an ‘every man for himself’ approach – as well as a ‘what’s yours is now mine’ approach.

This points to an interesting additional point, one we’ve seen for ourselves in some other countries.  When a certain percentage of the population starts acting in a particular fashion, the remaining people feel compelled to join in, otherwise, they are the foolish few who are being taken advantage of by the vast majority.  The social norm has shifted.  In this case, which would you choose to be?  A taker of other people’s property, or the victim who the others are taking from?

We’re not saying that you too will be caught on a security camera, triumphantly carrying a blender or a television or something else equally useless out of the local store WTSHTF, but we are saying that most of your neighbors – probably including the least likely of them – may act in such an irrational fashion.  And, yes, when we’re all struggling to eat, and there’s no electricity, we do expect the local gangs to still be stealing DVD players and televisions!

The Bottom Line

We suggest this Rasmussen survey points to a much larger slice of the population being poised to ‘go rogue’ at the slightest provocation, and with no qualms or concerns about their behavior when they do so.

Even if we say that only some of the 25% of the US population who support the Ferguson riots would actually go out looting themselves when things first go haywire, isn’t that enough to destroy things totally?  And at that point, the balance of the 25% will surely join in, and then more and more of the 23% of ‘not sure’ people will decide they may as well help themselves too.

Then, what will happen to the remaining 52%?  How many of them are sheep – are lambs moving blindly to the slaughter?  Only a very very few are the people who will fight back to protect themselves and their families.  Quite likely, there won’t be enough of those people – of people like us – to influence the outcome.

Our best hope is to ‘Get out of Dodge’ – to bug out to our rural retreat – at the first sign of the cities degenerating into chaos, mayhem, and murder.  It seems inevitable that if our society is disrupted, the people in our society will respond negatively and in the least appropriate manner, endangering not only their own survivability but that of everyone around them too.

So, the bottom line?  We suggest that the Ferguson riots, and the Rasmussen survey, both point to there being a much larger segment of society who is poised to ‘go rogue’ at the slightest provocation, and we suggest we need to plan for a future where society turns on itself in a destructive manner.

Most of all, we suggest that the large urban population concentrations will fall into violent anarchy.  Think rioting, fires, looting, raping, senseless destruction and violence of all kinds, and also think of no police or other law enforcement presence to constrain and control these evil forces.  We suggest this will all happen more quickly than you might think, when a disruptive event occurs.

Think of bugging out early, in other words!

Aug 162014
 
These young gentlemen probably missed the Sunday School lesson about two wrongs not making a right.

These young gentlemen probably missed the Sunday School lesson about two wrongs not making a right.

We wrote an article, ‘Five Prepper Lessons from the St Louis Rioting and Looting‘ on Tuesday of this week, after the first two nights of unrest following the police killing of a youth in Ferguson, a suburb of St Louis.

The first night of looting was relatively uncontained, while the second night saw a massive police presence that largely kept order throughout the area.

We thought/hoped that would be the end of the uncontrolled senseless violence part of the response and reaction to the police shooting.

Based on that first night of rioting and looting, we formulated five (or perhaps six) lessons.  They are :

1.  Don’t judge and anticipate other people’s actions based on your own views and values.  Other people will act unexpectedly and irrationally, in ways that can potentially be enormously harmful to yourself, your family, and your possessions.

2.  In an adverse scenario with normal social order disrupted, other people will feel justified in taking everything from you, including definitely your dignity and quite possibly your life, even though there is no possible logic to this.  Do not expect a breakdown in society to bring out the best in everyone.  It will bring out the worst in sufficient numbers of people as to pose major problems.

3.  If you actively protect your property and yourselves, you’re likely to deter all but the most determined or desperate of looters during the early stages of any civil breakdown.  Later on, when looters are no longer motivated only by greed, but instead by fear and the need for survival, the situation will become more extreme.

4.  We never know when rioting might suddenly break out.  The trigger events and the degree of response can be unexpected and disproportionate.  But don’t underestimate the rioters.  They include organized gangs of roving opportunists who are coordinating and communicating among themselves to plan their actions.

5.  Rioting can spread through a region, and reach into unrelated communities, because the rioters aren’t only on foot.  They have cars, too.  When a metro area becomes infected by rioting somewhere, the entire metro area becomes at risk.

And, lastly, at the risk of stating the obvious, a bonus sixth point.  When things go seriously wrong, you can not count on the police being there to protect you or your belongings.  It truly will be every man for himself, and every small neighborhood watch group or strip mall business owners association for themselves.

Now that we have had four more nights of experiences, do these lessons need to be revised?

For sure, since that time, the rhetoric has escalated several notches, and what appears on the face of it to have been a totally justified police shooting is being painted as anything but.  Let’s first look at what is currently known about the initial encounter.

Tragic Accident?  Justified Shooting?  ‘Suicide by Cop’?  Or a ‘Racist Execution’?

As best we understand the circumstances, a single police officer stopped two youths who were walking down the middle of the highway and interfering with traffic.

The youths matched the description of two people who had just robbed a nearby convenience store, and one of the two youths may have had a box of (stolen) cigars in his hand.  The officer decided to arrest them and take them back to the station.  At least one of them resisted arrest, a struggle ensued with the youth trying to take the officer’s gun from him.  Fearing quite appropriately for his life, the officer shot the youth.

Much has been made of the fact that the youth was shot apparently six times.  But if you know anything about self-defense, you know that when you are struggling for the control of your weapon, when you’re outnumbered, and when the other person is coming on to you, you don’t just fire once, then stop and see what happens before carefully considering a second shot.  You also know that pistol bullets are woefully inadequate and some people have continued in a fight after being hit a dozen times.

So, you fire as quickly as you can until ‘the threat has ceased’.  Those six rounds were probably fired in little more than a second.  This wasn’t a cold-blooded execution, it was a panicked act of self-defense against a gratuitous attack, by an officer who credibly was in fear of his life.

It is important to also appreciate that the assailant was 6’4″ and 300 lbs.  Based on published photos, the officer appears to have been of average height and something under 200 lbs.  It seems he had already suffered appreciable injuries from his struggle with Brown.  He had no choice but to resort to his firearm in this scenario – but these facts are not interfering with the public outcry blaming the police officer.

Furthermore, the autopsy shows that four of the rounds hit the assailant in the arm.  They would not have stopped him.  The officer needed to continue firing.

None of this needed to happen, if the youth had simply cooperated with the police officer.  The event was as much ‘suicide by cop’ as anything else.  The youth brought the consequences completely on himself.  Even the stupidest of gangbangers knows that if you resist arrest and attack an outnumbered police officer, and particularly if you try to take his gun from him, then you’re almost guaranteeing a lethal response on the part of the police officer.  End of story.

However, our point is not about what to do when you are stopped and subsequently arrested by the police, because there’s no need to write that story.  It is dead simple – you cooperate.  By all means stand up for your rights, but don’t inflame a situation that is always tense for every police officer.

Even if the police are in the wrong, you cooperate during the interaction with the patrol officers and then you have a chance subsequently, through the legal system, to right any wrongs that occurred.  If you don’t cooperate, you will definitely have some valid additional charges added to your charge sheet by the police, and your own reciprocal complaints will be tainted by your inappropriate actions, making you a less sympathetic victim.

Oh yes, and if you really misbehave, you have a good chance of being tasered, or possibly even shot.

Back to our five lessons.

We’d like to amplify two of the points we made before.

People Become Venal and Self Serving in a Stressed Situation

Our first lesson was to be aware that people around you may act unexpectedly and irrationally, and not in ways that mirror our own views and values.

When we stated that on Tuesday, our focus was on opportunist mobs who would gratuitously attack and destroy your property.  But there’s another part to that risk which has become increasingly apparent as the week has continued.

Not only have the mobs continued their reprehensible looting, whenever they think it to be safe and they can get away with it, but their actions are being justified by other groups in society, and the initial event that started everything, rather than being a somewhat sad example of a stupid lawbreaking youth suffering the inevitable consequences of his actions in fighting with the police officer, the story is now being painted as a racist cop gratuitously ‘executing’ a harmless young lad.  The local community is up in arms (almost literally) about this, they are defending the undefendable, and they are being encouraged and joined by all the usual professional agitators and disruptors.

What does that mean for us preppers?  We’ve written before about how, in a level two or three situation, we need to fear not only gangs of lawless looters who might attack us and our retreats and try to take everything we have.  We also need to fear the ‘law abiding’ people around us.  They will also gang up, but perhaps not violently, but instead in a civilized way, and rather than attempting to attack us ‘just because’, they will send duly appointed officials to deprive us of everything we have, the same way a gang would, but under the color of law.  Court officers, bailiffs, and any/all police and other law enforcement and emergency agencies may create, validate, and then enforce mandatory sharing of ‘vital resources’.

We write about the very real danger of this in a three-part series – Preppers Beware :  Our Hoarding Can be Deemed Illegal.

Fortunately, it is possible to fight off the occasional ‘one off’ lawless band of looters who attack your retreat.  But we’re not so sure how possible it will be to attack the FEMA/HSD/etc officials who come to effectively do the same thing.

If people can delude themselves into believing that the police officer was in the wrong in this recent event, how hard will it be, when they are starving, to delude themselves that you are in the wrong by seeking to protect yourself and your fellow retreat members, and demand you share your supplies with them.

Preppers often wonder what to expect when TSHTF.  We can never know for certain, but we can look at analogous events and try to see possible parallels.  The St Louis riots, and the way large portions of the population have rationalized things, ignoring the reality and instead bending the facts to fit their self-serving viewpoints (or ignoring the facts entirely) does not encourage us to support the idea of mankind’s inner nobility and higher values asserting themselves in a high stress situation.

In Extreme Situations, the Police Will Not Come to Your Aid

The sixth ‘bonus’ lesson we offered was that you can’t rely on the police (to come to your aid, that is).

Now, possibly, it could be said, in an attempt to excuse the lack of police presence on Sunday – the first night of rioting – that the police were unprepared and didn’t know what to do.

But how about later in the week, such as on Friday?  What excuse applies then when you read about situations such as this, where store owners dialed 911 but couldn’t get any police resource of any sort to come to their aid, and where other store owners saw squad cars driving by looters who were actively in the progress of looting?

The lack of response wasn’t due to the police being overworked and with too many different emergencies all calling on them simultaneously.  It seems the police made a political decision to do nothing and instead let the riot ‘burn out’ on its own, without adding new ‘provocations’ and inciting the rioters still further.

Don’t be surprised by this.  A passive non-response, limited merely to efforts to contain the worst of the lawlessness, seems to be the standard approach adopted by police departments in most parts of the western world when rioting rages around them.  Maybe it is even the right response.

We can simultaneously understand that position, while also being outraged by it.  A passive non-response for all but the most egregious acts of violence may indeed allow for a de-escalation of tensions and a return to ‘normalcy’ (whatever that actually is).

But how do you think the individual store-owners feel about this, finding themselves being sacrificed for the hopefully greater good of the region as a whole?  Did they agree to that?  Are they not entitled to protection and for the impartial enforcement of the laws?  And what message does that send to the rioters and looters?  Doesn’t it affirm the validity of their actions, and encourage more lawlessness in the future?

Is this the new standard of law enforcement :  ‘We’ll enforce the laws, but only as long as doing so doesn’t anger the criminals’?

And what does this mean?  Do we give in to acts of domestic terrorism?  Yes, you’ve not heard the riots described that way, have you, which is in itself a telling omission.  If it were right wingers complaining about blacks, don’t you think they’d have been smeared with every racist epithet known to our left-wing press.  But because it is predominantly blacks rioting against whites, we have to ‘cut them some slack’.

If you or I threw a brick through a shop window, and a policeman saw us, we’d be in the slammer faster than we could spit.  But if 100 or more of these lawless rioters do the same thing, the police hold back.

Now ask yourself what will happen if a more lawless situation engulfs not just a couple of suburbs of St Louis, but instead, an entire county, state or region of the US, and if there is no obvious source of immediate help.  Do you think the police will come to your aid if your home and business are attacked, or will they hold back?  Especially if they know they do not have a nearly inexhaustible supply of reinforcements available at the other end of their radios.

So, we see three clear lessons from the extended St Louis situation.

  • It only takes a small spark to start a large conflagration, to cause lawlessness to break out across the board.
  • People will act in selfish self-serving manners without any rational constraint, and will readily justify to themselves everything they do, no matter how extreme it may be.
  • The police will capitulate.  They may concentrate on writing parking tickets in any remaining safe districts, while entirely abandoning lawless regions and leaving the people in them to save themselves.  Or, if things turn really grave, they may well take off their uniforms and join in the looting.

Summary

If you are a prepper, you have decided to plan and prepare for possible adverse future scenarios, in a manner so as to ensure your own continued survival.

We all have different views about what these possible adverse scenarios may be, and how best to plan and prepare for them.  We can’t know for sure how any specific circumstance may unfold.  So the best thing to do is to learn from past events, and the more recent the past event, the more valuable.

We’ve set out the lessons we’ve drawn from the St Louis situation, here and in our earlier article.  You might agree with us, or maybe not.  But don’t ignore this entirely.  Carefully consider what has happened, and what it means for possible future scenarios, then make sure that you modify your own preparations accordingly.

As for us, we’re going to double down on getting to know our neighbors, and very gently encouraging them to a point where if things become dire around us, they are more likely to stand beside us to enhance our shared best interests and mutual survival.  On the other hand, the tree-hugging aging hippies on one side?  Well, that’s a story for another day…..

Aug 122014
 
Locations of riot events in St Louis.  The original police shooting is on the left, in the middle, in green.

Locations of most of the riot events in St Louis. The original police shooting is on the left, in the middle, in green.

A white police officer in Ferguson, MO (a suburb of St Louis) shot a black youth on Saturday 9 August.  On Sunday, during the day, there were some protests by members of the local community and a vigil.

What happened next was unfortunate, but also educational to us as preppers, and it behooves us to learn the lessons inherent in the events that followed.

(Note :  The riots initially filled Sunday night, Monday night was fairly quiet, and we wrote this piece on Tuesday, thinking the matter was essentially done.  Not so.  There have been continued relevant developments during the week, so after reading this article, please then click to read our follow up piece, written on Saturday, ‘More and Updated Lessons from the St Louis Rioting‘.)

There’s, alas, nothing particularly unique about police shooting black youths (or for that matter, shooting people of any race or age) and neither is there anything surprising about the transformation of youths who were deservedly shot as a result of their own inappropriate actions, now suddenly being beatified and described as saintlike creatures who were victimized and totally innocent of any and all charges.  Normally, people on both sides of the equation go through the ritualistic utterances that these events require, and then life goes back to normal, sadly with nothing changed.

But the unpredictable and unforeseeable lottery of life threw out a joker this time.  Sunday evening and night saw rioting and looting break out in the broader area around Ferguson, with the lawless perpetrators quite unashamedly and aggressively justifying their actions.  As is invariably the case there was no logic to the wanton gratuitous destruction – for example, in this article there is a video clip of a couple of rioters attempting to smash a bus shelter.  A bus shelter?  The destruction of public transport facilities disadvantages the very social sector of society that is rioting, not the vague aspects of society they feel they are protesting about and against.

But who ever said that logic or sense needs to apply to such actions?  Although, and please understand this, the rioters and looters actually think what they are doing is both sensible and appropriate!  This article quotes one person as saying

This is exactly what is supposed to be happening when an injustice is happening in your community.  You have kids getting killed for nothing.  I don’t think it’s over honestly, I just think they got a taste of what fighting back means.

There’s so much to disagree with in those three sentences.  How does a police action against someone justify someone else, somewhere else, looting another person’s store?

And that’s actually the first lesson for us as preppers.  We can not judge people and predict their actions based on our own standards of common-sense, rationality, fairness and justice.  Here’s something to live by (the closing line of this excellent article on a very different subject) :

What you find utterly unthinkable may prove quite thinkable, even reasonable, to your enemies.

One of the problems of the west in general, the US more specifically, and the people around us in particular is that they expect the people, groups, and nations they deal with to act predictably, sensibly, and in a manner and adhering to values similar to themselves.  We’ve two words to offer anyone who thinks they should predict how other people will act and behave based on their own values :  suicide bomber.

It is unthinkable to us that we’d become suicide bombers, and hopefully it is also unthinkable to us that we’d go off and riot/loot/etc based on something we knew little about and which neither directly involved ourselves or the people/businesses we were then gratuitously attacking.

But, right here in the US, just a couple of nights ago, hundreds – possibly thousands – of our fellow citizens gleefully set about doing exactly these things, and feel totally justified in what they were doing.

So, please consider this.  If these people feel entitled and empowered to loot stores with this ‘justification’, how do you think they’ll feel in any sort of broader breakdown of society?  Do you think they’ll hesitate, for a country moment, to loot not just stores, but then to turn their attentions to ordinary people in their ordinary residences, and continue their gratuitous looting without pause?

Even worse, when the food runs out, what will they do then?  Won’t they feel doubly empowered and justified to take by destructive force any food they can find from anyone?  Indeed, isn’t it likely they’ll come up with some more pseudo-justification as to why what they are doing is perfectly moral and correct?

One last part of this second point.  Don’t you think that as social order progressively breaks down, the initial core of looters and rioters will quickly be joined by more and more people?

That’s the second lesson.  Lots of people will quickly start acting irrationally and harmfully.

As seems to typically be the case, when the rioting and looting broke out, the lawless groups went after the easy pickings.  Sure, we got to see examples of armed local business owners protecting their businesses, but there’s another aspect of this that is worth considering as well.

This report is very interesting.  It tells how 10 – 15 cars with nearly 30 people pulled in to a strip mall, and the people then set about smashing into a shoe store and looting it.  Right next to the shoe store was a Radio Shack, and you just know that the electronics in a Radio Shack would be ultra-tempting to the looters.

But there was a single security guard at the Radio Shack, and his presence was enough to deter the 30 looters.  Like all bullies, they are essentially cowards.  When someone stands up to them, they usually slip away rather than confront a determined opponent.

We suggest that the one security guard was very fortunate in this case, and wouldn’t count on one person consistently being able to turn away 30.  But probably you don’t need to have 30 people on your side to defend against 30 attackers, because only one or two of the attackers will be seriously motivated.  The rest of the people will be ‘going with the flow’ and believing that they can do so with impunity as part of a larger group.  As soon as their safety is directly threatened, their enthusiasm will fade.

Update :  This article, several days later, about the ongoing rioting, includes the delightful line

Early in the evening gunshots were heard near the gas station sending crowds of protesters screaming and running away.

We think that proves our point!  It seems no-one was shot, and we’re guessing that some people defending their business simply brandished their weapons and fired a few rounds in the air.

We are not sure that this would be all you need to do in a truly dire situation with all of society crumbling around you, but in this lesser scenario, it was obviously more than sufficient.

So our derivative point and third lesson is that you should group together with your neighbors, at work and at home, to have at least a small group of people to back you up and create a more credible defense when confronted by rioters.

Our next point and the fourth lesson is that this rioting was entirely unexpected.  It came out of nowhere and erupted like wildfire in a seemingly unpredictable manner.

But although it was unexpected and unpredictable to the victims, that is not to say that it wasn’t also planned by the rioters.  For example, think about the implications of the 10 – 15 carloads of rioters that drove to the shoe store and Radio Shack.  There was nothing spontaneous about that.  Those 30 people got together and carefully coordinated making a special journey to those two stores.  See our earlier article about flash mobs and social media for more discussion on this growing phenomenon.

So don’t underestimate your adversaries.  Although on the surface, rioting looks spontaneous and haphazard, underneath there is a mix of the truly spontaneous but also darker forces eagerly seeking a ‘free ride’ and exploiting and aggravating the situation as best they can.

Our last point and fifth lesson is that the geographic locations of the rioting and looting is not necessarily directly related to the location of the trigger event.  Rioters and looters can travel to targets of opportunity, as long as they feel that the umbrella protection of the rioting/looting will protect them.

The two maps in this article are interesting.  They show the spread of riot related events, some far out of the local community.  Just because you might think you live in a ‘good’ or ‘safe’ area, in terms of the demographic makeup of your community and local crime levels, does not mean that it will remain good or safe when rioting breaks out in the region.

Summary

1.  Don’t judge and anticipate other people’s actions based on your own views and values.  Other people will act unexpectedly and irrationally, in ways that can potentially be enormously harmful to yourself, your family, and your possessions.

2.  In an adverse scenario with normal social order disrupted, other people will feel justified in taking everything from you, including definitely your dignity and quite possibly your life, even though there is no possible logic to this.  Do not expect a breakdown in society to bring out the best in everyone.  It will bring out the worst in sufficient numbers of people as to pose major problems.

3.  If you actively protect your property and yourselves, you’re likely to deter all but the most determined or desperate of looters during the early stages of any civil breakdown.  Later on, when looters are no longer motivated only by greed, but instead by fear and the need for survival, the situation will become more extreme.

4.  We never know when rioting might suddenly break out.  The trigger events and the degree of response can be unexpected and disproportionate.  But don’t underestimate the rioters.  They include organized gangs of roving opportunists who are coordinating and communicating among themselves to plan their actions.

5.  Rioting can spread through a region, and reach into unrelated communities, because the rioters aren’t only on foot.  They have cars, too.  When a metro area becomes infected by rioting somewhere, the entire metro area becomes at risk.

And, lastly, at the risk of stating the obvious, a bonus sixth point.  When things go seriously wrong, you can not count on the police being there to protect you or your belongings.  It truly will be every man for himself, and every small neighborhood watch group or strip mall business owners association for themselves.

Update Now Published

Further to this article, written on Tuesday (the rioting started on Sunday night) we have added a second article on Saturday.  Please now go read More and Updated Lessons from the St Louis Rioting.

Jul 062014
 
The darker colored the state, the greater the feeling of overall wellbeing in the state.  Just one of almost 30 different factors measured in Gallup's latest 'State of the State' survey.

The darker colored the state, the greater the feeling of overall wellbeing in the state. Just one of almost 30 different factors measured in Gallup’s latest ‘State of the State’ survey.

The latest set of results from Gallup’s annual survey of the states are  now available on their website.  Almost 30 different factors are reported on, ranging from political persuasion to religious belief, from employment to medical insurance, from general wellbeing to optimism about your city’s future.

As is common with all such surveys that only look at data on a state level rather than on a county or zip code level, the information is very averaged and obscures potentially significant variations within a single state, so this data should always be treated warily.

Furthermore, while it will rank states from top to bottom on any of the different elements it is measuring, note that in some cases, there’s not a huge amount of difference between the score of the ‘best’ and the ‘worst’ states, making the relevance of some measures somewhat questionable and dubious.

So, as always, it is sensible to look at this sort of data to get an understanding of the prevailing situation in a state you might move to, but you need to supplement it with more localized research too.

In addition to the information in this annual survey, Gallup has also released an interesting survey of how people feel about living in their home state.

It isn’t clear exactly how this translates into a meaningful measure for preppers looking to relocate, but we do note that MT comes top, and RI at the bottom.  There is also a huge gap between the 77% who rate MT as one of the best states to live in, and the only 18% who feel that way about RI, so this is an example of a meaningful spread of values.

We’d definitely prefer to be in a state where most of our fellow residents were happy to be there – that suggests a more representative and connected state government.

Jun 172014
 
Another tool in your retreat site selection process.

Another tool in your retreat site selection process.

Most of us have a preconceived view that some states are ‘better’ than others and more suitable for people wishing to experience a prepared lifestyle.  The American Redoubt region in particular seems to be considered by many as an ideal region, but that contains a handful of states and many counties and regions.

Here’s a rather simplistic webpage that allows you to answer seven questions with yes/no/not applicable as answers, and to select a possible state you are considering living within.  From that limited data, it then reports the five towns which have their population believed to most closely match your own opinions.

The information comes from, ironically enough, a company that specializes in helping Democratic causes and campaigns.

Needless to say, there’s a great deal more to consider than the seven yes/no/don’t care questions asked by this program, but it is interesting to see where the resulting clusters of people ‘most like you’ end up being located within your preferred states.

For example, we’d have expected our answers to suggest moving to northern Idaho but the townships returned were all in southern Idaho.  In Montana, there was a preference for eastern Montana whereas we’d otherwise look to north/western Montana.

There’s of course another use for this web page/mapping.  Put in the opposite answers and see the places in your preferred state you might wish to avoid!

May 102014
 
Will the police protect private property WTSHTF, or will they take it?

Will the police protect private property WTSHTF, or will they take it?

This is the third part of a three-part article series on how everything we’ve saved and stored could be – lawfully – taken from us in an emergency.

If you arrived on this page from a search engine or website link, you might wish to first read the first part of the article, which talks about how our society has evolved to the point where the majority already feel no shame in taking property from people who have it and appropriating it for themselves, and then move on to the second part, pointing out some current legal support for the capricious taking of our personal property, before continuing on with this third part.

As preppers, one of our concerns must be what happens WTSHTF, and 95% or more of the people around us are starving and dying, while we’re ‘sitting pretty’ in our retreat, surrounded by shelter, energy, food, and many of the creature comforts we’ve become used to.

Some preppers anticipate that the unprepped majority of the people in the country will attempt to take their provisions by force.  Others worry that the unprepped majority will attempt to take everything they’ve carefully accumulated and stored through some sort of abusive but semi-legal process.

In many respects, the abusive but semi-legal process is the more threatening.  That’s not to deny the danger of an armed gang of marauders, roaming the region, looting and plundering any which way they choose.  But at least that is something that one can lawfully defend oneself against, and as long as one observes proper protocols, one doesn’t run the risk of breaking any laws in the process.

But what does one do when the local sheriff turns up at your door with a court order compelling you to surrender all your ‘illegally hoarded’ supplies?  You surely can’t shoot the sheriff!

We’ve written before about some of the semi-legal ploys that may be used to try and talk you out of your provisions, and of course, when the judge, jury, and sheriff are starving themselves, your chance of getting a fair hearing is not very great.  Please see our articles ‘The Present Legal Support for Seizing our Food and Other Supplies‘ and ‘Preppers Beware :  Our “Hoarding” Can be Deemed Illegal‘ for more on these issues.

We’ve never suggested that these two articles represent the totality of legal risks we must consider.  And, even if they did, how quickly could a starving local town council, county board of commissioners, or even state/federal legislature pass new laws giving the authorities more ‘perfectly legal’ rights to take more things from people who had prudently prepared?  A day?  A week?

However, it is appropriate to understand the current range of legal ‘threats’ that exist, so today we’re revealing another one.  This is something that – like so many laws – started off with the best of good intentions and then somehow evolved and extended itself to a point now where few people could fairly defend it at all.

You might remember back when laws were being passed that would seize the proceeds of crimes from criminals.  In addition to whatever other punishments a convicted criminal might have imposed on him, he’d also be deprived of his ‘ill gotten gains’.  This made sense, sort of.  What was the point of jailing a drug dealer for a year or so if he got to keep the several million dollars he’d made in profits?  Many people would consider a several million dollar payment more than compensated for a year or two in prison!

This process is called criminal forfeiture.

Civil Forfeiture

We have nothing against criminal forfeiture.  But, we described that process merely as background to what we now are bringing to your attention.  Please read on for the really worrying part of this article.

Something happened, the criminal forfeiture concept evolved and extended way beyond their initial concept and justification.  Nowadays we have laws that allow ‘the authorities’ to take anything – real property, personal property, cash, anything at all – from people when the police or prosecutors suspect the person of wrongdoing.  This is called civil forfeiture.

Whereas in a criminal case, the authorities have to convict someone by going through the due process of the legal system, using a high standard of proof – ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’; in these new scenarios, it seems there is no need for any due process at all, and not even much need for proof.  All that is required is for the police/prosecutor to say ‘we think you’ve done something bad’ and based on that thought, they can then proceed to deprive the person of pretty much whatever they choose.

That sounds impossible to believe, right?  It sounds beyond un-American?  It sounds like only something you’d see in the most corrupt of African republics.

Well, don’t just trust us (and don’t trust anyone else, either).  Do your own research – you could search for civil forfeiture laws on Google, or for civil forfeiture abuse if you preferred (the links take you to the Google searches).  Read any of the articles returned in the search results to get the confirmation of what we’re saying.

Or you could simply read this news item, published yesterday, about a recent case and its implications.

You’ll see in the article that even though some states have legislated against civil forfeiture, there is a loophole whereby federal agencies can still use this concept, and they can (and will) conscript state, county and city authorities to assist them by ‘splitting the winnings’ with the local authorities.

Whatever happened until ‘innocent until proven guilty’?  One could also suggest such actions fly in the face of the Fourth Amendment of our Bill of Rights (unlawful seizures), the Seventh Amendment (a right to jury trials for all matters in controversy exceeding $20) and the Eighth Amendment (prohibiting excessive fines and unusual punishments).

This is appalling law and public policy.  But when you have a situation where bad laws directly benefit the law makers and the law enforcers, then – as the article above points out – it can be very hard to overturn them.

Back to the implications of this to us as preppers.  Do we need to spell it out?  We risk having an officer of some authority confront us, and while struggling to hide the smirk as he says it, tell us that he suspects us of some wrong-doing (and for sure, with so many regulations and requirements these days, we are all guilty of breaking some law or regulation, knowingly or unknowingly) and because of that suspicion, he is taking all our stored food and fuel.  He doesn’t even need a court order.

Police officers we know claim that everyone is always guilty of something, and, if they choose to or need to, they can validly arrest anyone at any time.  They generally consider this a good thing, but should we agree with them?

What Can We Do?

So, if the authorities (meaning way too many people from way too many different government groups) can pretty much take anything they want from us at any time, with little or no due process in the middle, what should we do?

We don’t have a whole heap of suggestions in answer to this problem.  But we can point out that it would be wise to distribute your provisions and supplies over several different locations, so that if you do end up being forced to give up ‘everything you have’, this means that you only have to give up everything you have at your main retreat location, and can then switch to your backup resources.

See also our articles about the essential importance of becoming part of the community so that you can anticipate, influence and moderate such negative actions rather than be blind-sided by them.