Jul 132013
 
Perhaps a broken window that lets in wildlife and weather, six months of unattended decay, and your retreat might end up being like this when you arrive.

Perhaps a broken window that lets in wildlife and weather, six months of unattended decay, and your retreat might end up being like this when you arrive.

So you finally find yourself confronted with the need to bug out to your retreat.  The good news is at least you have a bug out location, and you’ve practiced and prepared for the eventuality of having to bug out, unlike most of your neighbors and friends.

You load up your vehicle with everything you need to safely and successfully travel to your retreat, feeling confident and relaxed about having prepared prudently, and set forth.  Because you’ve planned and even practiced this before, you’ve nothing to worry about, right?

Wrong!

In this two-part article series we first look at the problems inevitably associated with bugging out, and then in the second part, consider how to address and solve these problems.

Part One – The Four Problems

It is true that you’re in a better position and have a better prospective future than your un-prepared friends, but your future is far from guaranteed.  Until you get to your retreat, you are as vulnerable as anyone/everyone else – perhaps even more so as you are limited to only what you have in your vehicle – something that offers very little security or resource.  You are now confronting a terrible number of unknowns and variables and risks where anything from random bad luck to more serious things may interfere with your journey to your retreat, your future plans and your future life.

Let’s look at four sets of risks that may interfere with your optimistic expectations.

1.  Getting There Safely

This is probably a risk you’ve thought about already, but just because you’ve thought about it, that doesn’t mean you can protect against it.

Clearly you need to bug out as early as possible, before the rule of law has totally collapsed, before the roads get jam-packed full of other evacuees from your city, and before modern-day ‘highwaymen’ start preying on travelers.

Maybe you are successful at doing this, and manage to beat the rush out of your city, but what happens if you have to travel through other cities on the way to your retreat?  It is one thing to beat everyone out of your city by (say) four hours, but if you need to pass through another city that is four hours driving from the start of your travels, you’ll have no headstart at all on the outflows of desperate people from the second city.  Maybe you beat the rush by a day, but have a two-day drive to your retreat – you’ll be no better off than anyone else on the second day of your travels.

How far is it from where you live to your retreat?  Each mile that you must travel is 1760 yards of potential for a puncture, a radiator hose bursting, or any other sort of unexpected problem with your vehicle.  Each mile that you travel is 5280 feet of risk from any type of unexpected ‘third party’ event – not just evil people doing evil things to you, but ‘innocent’ acts of bad luck such as a traffic accident, perhaps.

Maybe you don’t get involved in an accident yourself, but maybe a semi some miles ahead of you on the freeway has jackknifed and is blocking the freeway, with traffic backed up for miles, and with hours of delay.  Meanwhile you’re burning through your precious gas to keep the car warm (or cool) and you’re at risk of anything and everything in a stationary vehicle.

Talking about weather, do you have any seasonal issues to be concerned about?  Have forest fires ever closed the roads in the summer?  What about snow in the winter?  Remember that you don’t just need the highways to be ploughed and drivable, you need the last few miles of dirt road to your retreat to be passable too.  How will you handle that, if it is an issue?

If you’re in a vehicle visibly loaded with supplies (or, even worse and more conspicuously, towing a trailer), and if word has got out about whatever disaster it is you’re fleeing, you’ve become a tempting tasty target for evil-doers all the way along your route, haven’t you.  Our feeling is that you need to be in an ‘ordinary’ vehicle with no visible amount of extra supplies in it.

It isn’t just evil-doers you need to worry about.  It is do-gooders too.  Maybe the state’s governor has declared martial law and requires all people and vehicles to be off the road during hours of darkness.  So instead of driving all day and all night to your retreat, you suddenly find yourself needing to pull over and anxiously/uncomfortably wait until the morning before you can continue your travels.

Sure, we know that you drive many thousands of miles a year normally, and never have any sorts of problems at all.  But this isn’t normal.  This is anything but normal, and with Murphy’s Law waiting to trap you every possible way, the ‘simple’ act of getting to your retreat will be fraught with risk.

2.  Will Your Retreat be Secure

Okay, we’ll say that you managed the drive to your retreat safely and successfully.  Congratulations.  🙂  And now you’re driving up the driveway, and round the corner, there’s your retreat, ready and waiting to welcome you.

You hope.

What say someone else has decided to make your retreat into their retreat?  What say you arrive to find it already occupied by people who could care less that you say it belongs to you.  They’ve got the retreat, and they’ve got guns and are willing to use them if you don’t leave and abandon your claims to ‘their’ retreat.

Or maybe you find your retreat looted, burned out, vandalized, abandoned, and unlivable.  All your precious preps have disappeared.

Now, please don’t tell us proudly about your ‘op-sec’ and how no-one knows about your retreat.  That’s sadly not true, no matter what you might think and hope.  We discuss the impossibility and the ill-advisedness of trying to keep your retreat secret in our two articles, ‘Is It Realistic to Expect Your Retreat Will Not Be Found‘ and ‘The Ugly Flip-sides of Opsec‘.

Here’s an alarming thought.  Maybe you hire a local person to protect your retreat, and to visit it once or twice a week to make sure it is safe and secure.  But how do you know that he won’t then turn around and make your retreat into his retreat when things go bad?

3.  Will Your Retreat be Functional

Let’s hope for the best, and assume you not only safely made it to your retreat, but that the retreat is still standing, secure, and unoccupied.  Great.  But your problems are not yet over.

You unlock the main door and go in to the house.  You are immediately overwhelmed with the smell of rat urine and feces.  You go to your store rooms and find that you’ve a happy thriving colony of rats, enjoying your supplies, with little or nothing left for you to now survive on.

Or maybe you discover that a pipe burst in the last freeze, and you’ve got water damage throughout the house.

Or maybe some tiles blew off the roof and you’ve had rain and other things coming in through the roof.

Maybe all those things work fine, but you go to flush the toilet and you discover it is blocked.  You don’t know it, but some time over the last year, a tree’s roots broke through the pipe to your septic tank, blocking the flow of water and, ahem, other stuff, and you’re going to have to somehow troubleshoot your problem and fix it.

Maybe you discover that your fuel tanks have rusted through and all your fuel has seeped away, leaving you with empty tanks and polluted ground.

Maybe everything works well, but after a week or two, you discover that there’s a design problem with your heating system, and it keeps giving problems and eventually becomes totally broken.  Or perhaps bad wiring burns out/shorts out your battery system.  Maybe ‘infant mortality’ (the propensity for electronic devices to sometimes fail early in their life) strikes and destroys your charging system or some other essential element of your retreat.

Maybe it is a more low tech problem.  Your well proves not to be capable of sustained supply of water – sure, it tested fine for a 15 minute test, but now you’re using it, day in and day out, it runs dry.  Or the reality of the power your solar cells can provide proves to be massively less than the theoretical amount they should have delivered.  You can probably think of many more vulnerabilities.

There are countless things that can go wrong with a property, both while it is occupied and also while it is unoccupied.  Unless you’ve been using the retreat on a regular and sustained basis, you have no way of knowing if the reality of its practical ability to support you will be the same as its theoretical promises.  You’ve no way of knowing if the equipment and services you’ve built into it will prove to be reliable low-maintenance and sufficient for your needs – indeed, you don’t even know for sure what your actual needs may be.

4.  No Ongoing Farming Activity or Experience

Okay, now let’s assume that none of these preceding three potential problem areas are giving you any grief.  Lucky you!  So let’s now look at the fourth potential issue.

Depending on when you arrive at your retreat, sooner or later you’re going to need to switch from eating from stored food supplies to growing your own future food needs.  And when you do this, if you are doing it for the first time, you’ve a huge new Pandora’s Box of unknown uncertain issues to confront and resolve.

Sure, you’ve got books galore on how to grow your own food, but have you actually ever done it, for real, before?  More to the point, have you done it for several seasons in a row at your actual retreat location?  The answer to this question is almost certainly no.

So now – for the first time – you find yourself grappling with who knows how many problems and issues.  Insects and other infestations and wildlife might attack/destroy/kill/eat all your harvest.  The soil might be lacking in some sort of nutrient – or it might have too much of another type of chemical in it – do you know how to understand and correct that?

You might do a great job of planting and caring for the crops, but when it comes to harvesting, you might discover that you lack the manpower to harvest the food before it spoils.  Sure, you grew a perfect crop, but you only managed to harvest a quarter of it.

You might discover that one part of your property has the wrong type of soil and another part has too much water (or too little water).  Another part might have too little sun.  And protecting your crops from wildlife and diseases will be a full-time job.  All the deer you were so enchanted to see when you first bought the property – what do you think they eat?  Yes, your food!

Farming is something that requires more than book learning.  It requires skill and experience – both in general terms and also in the specific issues and challenges posed by your particular property.  It is more than likely that your first few years of cropping will be full of challenges and disappointments.

If you are raising animals, that too is far from a guaranteed ‘can’t lose’ scenario.  Where do the animals come from to start with?  Who will care for their health?  Where will their feed come from?  Who will slaughter/butcher them?  Where will the meat be stored?

None of these issues are impossible to resolve, but they all assume a great supply of experience and know-how.

Read About Solutions in Part Two

If you’ve read this far, you now understand that bugging out is not as easy as it sounds, and, perhaps more importantly, moving into an empty unused retreat and relying on it instantly becoming the resource you hope it to be is something fraught with many uncertainties and possible problems.

The good news is that these problems are not impossible to solve.  Please now click on to the second part of this article – ‘The Three Solutions to the Four Problems of Bugging Out‘.

Jul 132013
 
It is vastly preferable not to have to start farming your land from scratch after a disaster.  Better to have the farm already operating as a going concern.

It is vastly preferable not to have to start farming your land from scratch after a disaster. Better to have the farm already operating as a going concern.

This is the second part of a two-part article about issues to do with viably bugging out and transitioning to ongoing life in your retreat.  If you arrived here direct from a search engine or other website link, you might choose to first read the first part which sets out the four main problems associated with bugging out, and then return back here to read about the three solutions we propose.

Solving the Four Problems of Bugging Out

In the first part of this article, we explained the four main categories of problems with the typical concept of maintaining a bug-out retreat and moving there in a crisis :

  • It may be difficult to get to when you actually need to bug-out
  • The retreat or may not be available and in good condition when you get there
  • The retreat may quickly prove to have problems and limitations once you start to live there
  • The reality of starting to provide your own food may turn out to be much more difficult than you’d hoped for

There are solutions to all these problems, please now read on.

Solution 1 – Bugging Out Very Early

In its ultimate form this solution might seem extreme, and it might be massively life changing, but it is also the ideal answer.  Move to your retreat now and live there permanently.  That way, when – if – TSHTF, you are already in place, with a known quantity as your retreat, with all systems tested and functioning.  The only major impact will be you switch from enjoying the convenience of electricity from the national grid and local utility company, and you can no longer order in supplies of liquid/gaseous fuels as and when you need it.  Oh, and the local country store can no longer be counted on to have much of anything for sale, either.

But at least you are already in place, already set up, and your lifestyle changes are minor rather than major.

You might perceive it impossible to turn your back on your high paying jobs, your city lifestyle, and everything else.  That might be true (in which case, keep reading, for our second best solution), but maybe you should also revisit some of your assumptions about what you need and must have.

For example, you can live much more inexpensively in the country than in the city, and things which you formerly perceived as essential and necessary ($100+ meals several times a week when eating out, tickets to expensive shows, expensive business clothing, etc) can be replaced with much less expensive but still pleasant alternates (alternating between having friends for dinner and going to their place for a meal, or treating yourself to a meal at the local diner where dinner for two costs $20, enjoying the less sophisticated but more sincere amateur and high school productions, plays, musicals, and wearing comfortable unassuming clothing rather than name brand fashions).

Instead of needing to pay for both your residence in the city and your retreat, you now only need to pay for your retreat, which probably costs less than your in-city residence.  And maybe instead of an impressive 4,000+ sq ft mansion, you realize that for your family of four, you can live perfectly comfortably and conveniently in a still spacious 2,000 sq ft residence.  You no longer need to choose a property as much to impress and as a visible statement of your ‘success’ and affluence, instead, you can now choose a property for functionality, convenience, and appropriateness.  Instead of making payments on (eg) a million dollar home on a one-eighth of an acre lot, you’ll own, outright, (eg) a half million dollar home on a five acre lot.  Oh, you’ll also be saving money on property taxes and insurance, too.

Instead of buying or leasing a new premium brand vehicle every year or two, you buy an ‘old junker’ (that in truth is neither old nor junk) and keep it for ten years.  It has fewer electronics, but is much more reliable because of that, and both easier and cheaper to repair when it does give trouble.  A more modest older car can save you the better part of $1,000 a month right from the get go.

And instead of working a 50 hour week, plus another ten hours on commuting, you now have 60 hours free to farm your property or work in a local business/store in the nearby town.  Maybe you can even take advantage of tele-commuting and still do some of your previous work, but remotely from your retreat rather than in person in the office.

Instead of spending hundreds of dollars a month on a health club, and tens of hours doing artificial exercise in a gym, you instead spend time working in the fields, simultaneously getting exercise and instead of spending money, earning money and growing food.

When you actually start to pick apart the elements of your modern lifestyle and convert them to an alternate lifestyle, you might be astonished at how it proves possible to turn your back on many of the seductive traps of modern-day consumerism and end up with a truly relaxing, healthy, enjoyable lifestyle in the country.

We’d also suggest you consider not just the concept of moving to a solitary retreat where you live on your own.  Moving to become part of a prepping-focused self-sufficient community means you’re part of a group of like-minded people, with similar values and objectives.  You’ll quickly fit in with such people, and be able to benefit from the synergy that comes from being part of a larger community.  Our Code Green Community represents one such approach to this, but there are of course others too.

We discuss this concept from a slightly different perspective in an earlier article we published, ‘Bugging Out Very Early – a Lifestyle Choice‘.  It is for sure a massive change in lifestyle, but one we urge you to consider.

Solution 2 – A Fulltime Retreat/Farm Manager

The second solution is an interesting one to consider.  You should contract with someone to farm your retreat property, and to maintain its grounds and the security of your dwelling.  Maybe they even live on the property themselves (in a separate building).  This would be a farm manager type person.

If your retreat is going to be adequate to support you and your family and anyone else who would join you, then it should also be adequate, in normal times, to be farmed on a commercial basis such that the income from its farming activities is at least enough to pay the farm manager’s salary, and maybe even leaving you with some extra cash generated too to cover the costs of owning your retreat.  Maybe the income generated by actively working your retreat property will allow you to afford a larger, more productive and therefore more viable and life-sustaining property right from the get-go.

This means that if/when you need to evacuate to your retreat, you arrive at a self-supporting farm that is already in operation as a going concern, and even complete with skilled staff on-site.  Sure, you’ll need to adjust its operation – it will no longer be able to benefit from mechanized agriculture, but it is better to downsize an ongoing farm than to need to start one from scratch.

You and your farm manager will already know the most productive patches of land, what grows best and where, and how to succeed in spite of animals, disease, and other natural challenges.

This is of course also a feature of our Code Green Community – you can have your lands farmed in absence, and your dwelling reasonably secured and policed, but it is also something you could realistically arrange for your own ‘stand alone’ retreat property too.

The only thing to be slightly aware of is the possible danger that your farm manager comes to view your farm as his farm, and when you arrive to settle there, he may feel unwilling to relinquish control of it.  You’ll need to pick your manager carefully and be sure to positively assert and demonstrate your ownership/management/leadership at all times prior to arriving so as to ensure such problems don’t arise.

Solution 3 – Moving to an ‘Added Value’ Retreat Community

Maybe neither of these first two approaches are feasible.  There are some people, in some situations, where that is unavoidably the case.  That is unfortunate, but it is no reason to despair.

Instead, you can consider ‘added value’ retreat communities, where you’d be joining a community of like-minded people, with some of the community already living in place, thereby providing security for your retreat facility, and making it easier for you to join a going concern rather than starting everything, on your own, from scratch once you evacuate to your retreat.  Maybe you don’t even wish to live an agrarian lifestyle, working on a farm in the fields.  Maybe you wish to provide some type of services or do something else within a community – anything from being a storekeeper to a restaurant owner to a doctor or other professional service provider.  While we all focus first and foremost on the most essential things – shelter, water, and food – the reality is that an optimized life in a Level 2 or 3 situation will require a lot more than ‘just’ growing food and eating it.

Our Code Green Community would be one such solution, others may also exist, or you might create your own with a group of friends.

Not Solved – The Physical Act of Bugging Out

The preceding three solutions have been focused on ensuring you have a viable sustainable living situation after having transitioned/bugged out.

But if you are choosing to remain in place until a time when you need to bug out in response to an emergency situation, you still need to focus very clearly on the most certain and secure way to travel to your retreat in a crisis.

You need to be able to go to your retreat well in advance of problems growing to a point of social collapse, and/or you need to be able to quickly get to your retreat securely when problems become unmistakably and unavoidably present.  The latter solution seems to revolve around non-traditional means of transportation – either the extra flexibility of motorcycles or the freedom from infrastructure that an airplane provides.

We discuss these issues more in our section on bugging out.

Summary

By obvious definition and implication, when a crisis occurs, WTSHTF, it is then too late to discover weaknesses, shortcomings, problems, and overlooked forgotten essentials that are present in our retreat.  We need to have all these matters addressed and resolved well prior to any situation that tests their efficacy in ultimate measure.

In the first part of this article, we looked at some of the types of problems you might expect to encounter when activating your bug-out plan and hunkering down to survive a crisis.  In this second part, we suggest some solutions to minimize the possibility of such problems arising and interfering with your ability to safely and securely survive.

We’d wish you good luck, but luck should have nothing to do with your chance of succeeding in an adverse future.  You need to be well planned and well prepared.

Jun 242013
 
This map shows the maximum posted daytime speed limits on rural interstates.  TX is fastest at 85, the grey states are all 75.

This map shows the maximum posted daytime speed limits on rural interstates. TX is fastest at 85, the grey states are all 75.

What would life be like without cars and other forms of motorized transportation?  That’s a question we’ll almost surely find the answer to in a future Level 2/3 situation, but until such time, having convenient transportation is an essential part of our lifestyle.

Actually, convenient transportation will become even more vital in a Level 2/3 situation in the future, in a scenario where you might be more reliant on horse or other animal power rather than gas/diesel power.  These new constraints will completely redefine what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable transportation issues/constraints, and some of the present day issues (eg congestion) will probably disappear entirely.  We’ll also see the gradual decay and diminishing of our amazing current national roading system, bridges will fail, and so on.

But the future issues and challenges are a matter for other articles.  In this article, we mainly look at many of the issues associated with present transportation.  These issues impact on the desirability of potential locations as retreats, because hopefully for the indefinite future, life will continue as normal, and our experiences will be shaped by present day issues rather than by the challenges of TEOTWAWKI.

There’s another reason for looking at such issues as well.  How a state legislates for traffic matters gives you an oblique perspective of how intrusive and controlling the state wishes to be in the lives of its citizens.  The more traffic laws, and the higher the penalties, the more likely there are to be too many laws on too many other things too, and draconian penalties for all sorts of other minor offenses too.

Here are a number of criteria to consider when choosing retreat locations.  Our map graphic at the start of this article touches on one consideration – the freeway speed limits each state allows.  You can see a larger size map here, and this page has a more detailed table of data for each state.

If you are like us, you’ll probably equate being able to drive faster with a better state in general to live in.  🙂

Driving Safety

Of course, the justification for lower speed limits is usually safety.  Dubious data suggests correlations between traffic speeds and traffic safety.  We’re not going to argue the point about how fast is too fast, but we will definitely agree that there are very large differences between states in terms of vehicle accident rates.

The most relevant measure of the safety (or danger, if you prefer) of driving in each state is to look at the deaths per 100 million miles traveled.  This is more relevant than the deaths per 100,000 of population, because some states have people driving much greater distances than others.  Here’s a table that shows this data both ways.  The safest state was MA, while the most dangerous state was MT, with nearly three times the rate of fatalities (1.79 per 100 million vehicle miles in MT, 0.62 in MA).

One word about the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  We’ve used their data for many of the elements we look at in this article, but we also understand them to be funded by a group with a massive vested interest in the matter – insurance companies.  What is the vested interest that insurance companies have about road safety?  That’s a good question, and there are two possible answers.

The first answer is that by making the roads safer, insurance companies can lower their premiums and also make more profit from lower premiums, because they don’t need to pay out on accidents as often.  That’s obviously the positive view.  But there’s a second answer, too – by encouraging states to penalize more and more types of driving, the insurance companies create opportunities to raise insurance premiums based on a driver’s ‘safety record’.  Some cynics feel that this may be the stronger motivation.  We make no statement, but we do point out that there are both these issues driving the apparently laudable promotion of safety issues by the IIHS.

What about the role of alcohol in fatal accidents?  Less is known about this than you might think, because not all drivers involved in fatal accidents have their blood alcohol tested.  Furthermore, the total numbers of cases by state are surprisingly low, so statistically, the answers are not always very significant.  You can see a table here, however, and most of the states score very similarly to each other.

These days all states have a limit of 0.08g of alcohol/100ml of blood, but penalties vary.  This table shows how severely different states treat DUI/DWI.

Driving Costs

The cost of driving varies appreciably from state to state.  The main variations in cost are insurance, gas prices, and registration costs.

This table lists typical insurance costs by vehicle, ranging from the most expensive states (LA, MI and GA – $2699, $2520 and $2155) to the least expensive states (NC, IA, ME – $1085, $1028, $934).

This table shows the cost for a vehicle title and annual registration by state, although it seems to us that some states have additional fees imposed by city and county authorities in addition to the state fees shown in the table.

Fuel taxes hit you every time you go to the pump.  This table has 2010 data by state, including not just a simple statement of how much is taken in state and local gas taxes out of every gallon, but some additional data too.  Page 8 probably has the best table, highlighting the huge range in tax levels, from a high of 58.1c/gallon in IL to a low of 8.0c in AK (or 14.0c in the lower 48 states, in WY).

Depending on where your retreat would be located, and where you might regularly drive, you might find yourself up for turnpike fees too.  Here’s a list of toll roads in the US and here’s some more data on the fees they charge.

Seat Belts, Helmets, and Phones

A difficult compromise that all states, counties and cities have to wrestle with is where to draw the line between allowing their citizens the freedom to make wrong/foolish decisions on the one hand, and insisting on proper/best behavior on the other hand.

We make no value judgments about these issues, but you might find the different ways that different states respond to some of these bellwether issues to be illuminating.

The first of the big three issues is requiring people to wear seat belts.  Although all states except NH now require front seat passengers to wear seat belts, there are different approaches to enforcing the law, and a wide variation in terms of special child restraint laws.

This map distinguishes between states that have seat belt laws as a primary enforcement item, and those with it as a lesser secondary enforcement item.  This map shows the age below which children have to be in an appropriate restraint system, and this table has detailed information on state seat belt and child restraint laws.

A related topic is requiring riders on motorbikes and bicycles to wear safety helmets.  Only 19 states require all motorbikers to have helmets, and 28 more require helmets of some riders (eg younger riders).  As for bicycles, 21 states have bicycle helmet laws, although none apply to all riders, state-wide (but there may be county or city laws applying to all riders).

This map shows motorbike helmet laws by state, and this map shows bicycle helmet laws by state.  Here is a table with information on the applicability of such laws.

The third of the ‘big three’ things is the use of cell phones while driving.  Hand-held cell phone use while driving is banned in 11 states, and text messaging is banned in 41 states.  This map shows state laws on hand-held cell phone use, and this map shows state laws on texting while driving.  Here is a table of information about these two issues.

Traffic Enforcement Issues

Depending on your perspective, states that are less aggressive at traffic enforcement either show a wanton disregard for the importance of human life, or perhaps, alternatively, are less intrusive and obsessive at controlling every last detail of our lives.

In particular, we have a strong dislike of states that aggressively use photo-radar and red-light cameras.  Again, opinions differ, but there are credible concerns widely expressed that suggest such devices primarily exist to make money for the local authorities (and for the companies that operate them under contract).  Too often we’ve read about cases where traffic lights have their timings changed (ie shorter orange light times) when red-light cameras are installed, and speed cameras are as likely to be located where normal average speeds are high as they are in areas where accident rates are significant.

This table on the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s website lists state and local policies on the use of such devices.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has an interesting summary table of state policies and penalties for speeding and ‘reckless driving’ (a concept which is very subjective) and more detailed information on each state from this menu.

We really don’t like states which potentially can jail first time speeding offenders.  Of course, that almost never happens, and if you’re speeding truly fast, then even in a non-jailable state, you can find yourself locked up, because the officer who stops you will simply upgrade your ticket to reckless/dangerous driving or some other more serious charge.

Traffic Congestion

No-one likes getting stuck in traffic, but it seems to be an unavoidable part of living in any moderate to large-sized city.  For many reasons, all ultimately being, of course, based on money, few if any roads are built to a traffic handling capacity such that they can conveniently handle not only average volumes of traffic but also peak surge volumes.

However, your retreat is unlikely to be anywhere near a big city, so we’ll ignore those issues (but here’s a good starting point if this is relevant to you).

Instead, let’s look at more rural parts of the country, and traffic flows there.  Here’s a map showing freight traffic movements across the country (we think it dates back to 2010 or earlier).  It provides an interesting perspective on where commercial traffic flows across the country.

Looking ahead, here’s a second map that shows only the extra amounts of freight traffic expected to be added in addition to the freight traffic already shown in the first map, above.  That gives you a good impression of where future traffic will be appearing.

Both these two maps were taken from this report.

Here’s a more forward-looking map, showing projected truck traffic in 2035.

In addition to simple traffic, how about congestion?  This map shows the predicted level of congestion on freeways and other major roads in 2020, and this map adds more secondary routes to its 2020 congestion display.  Both are taken from this report.

Other Transportation Issues

There are many other considerations that you might want to also evaluate.  For example, here’s a map that ranks states by the quality of their bridges and what percent are deficient and in need of priority repair/replacement.  PA is the worst state, FL the best.

This map is part of a fascinating website that gives you detailed information about all the road bridges in your area.  That’s a relevant issue to understand, because it gives you a clue to what may happen in the future WTSHTF and road maintenance stops – how long before the essential bridges in your area start collapsing?

A related, but more difficult to get hard data on, issue is that to do with road maintenance needs in general.  For example, do you have roads along hill-sides that are subject to landslides falling onto the road, or slips/floods washing the road away?  Do you have roads lined by large trees that could fall over and block the road?

Another issue to consider is snow removal in winter.  If you’re in an area with appreciable winter-time snow, what happens to the major and minor roads in your area?  Will you get snowed in, and if so, would it be for a few days or might it be for many months?  As for WTSHTF, there’ll of course be no snow removal in that type of scenario.  What will you do in that situation?

A related part of these questions is to consider what the potential seasonal problems could be if/when you need to bug-out to your retreat.  How much of the year might the roads be impassable?  Are there any major risks on the routes you would have to take that may interfere with your bug-out plans?

Summary

The quality of our roading system, its reliability, and the associated costs of traveling by private vehicle are essential aspects of our present normal life.  At the present, they are factors to consider in choosing a retreat location.

In the future, if a Level 2/3 situation does eventuate, some issues will become irrelevant, but other ones will become vitally important.  You need to consider both present and future issues when weighing transportation considerations as part of your retreat selection process.

Jun 052013
 
Prepping is open to all, no matter race, color or creed.

Prepping is open to all, no matter race, color or creed.

We received an interesting email from a reader – let’s call him Bill.  He writes :

My family and I are well aware of what is coming down the pike in terms of serious unrest due to a collapsed society.  However we are barely making it financially due to low paying jobs and we have no savings.

We would like to know how can we begin to prepare and most importantly how can we use what little resources to pool with other preppers or like-minded individual so that our family can at least have a chance to survive.

Also because we live in Billings MT, how can we navigate this area to get to people who won’t hold Our RACE (African-American) against us.

Please help us with this if you can.  Thanks, Bill.

Bill raises two very good points (thanks, Bill!).  Let’s look at Bill’s last point, first.

Preppers and Discrimination

Preppers are color blind.  We, perhaps more than any other group in the country, look at a man and first see who he is, what he can do, how he could contribute to our community, what talents and skills he has, and only after considering all these things, notice if he is white, yellow, brown, black or, for that matter, purple with blue stripes (okay, so we’d probably notice that up front!).

Preppers are least likely to be racist in either sense of the word.  They don’t automatically react negatively to any particular race, but also, neither do they automatically believe that any race deserves entitlements or special allowances or anything else.  We treat everyone the same – they are as good as they are.  They’re not any better, but they’re not any worse, either.

It is unfortunate that there is this vague fuzzy linkage that some people perceive between ‘prepping’ and being a ‘survivalist’ which then leads to being a ‘wild mountain man’ which ends up implying either that we are the Unabomber or an Aryan supremacist.

This is unfortunate nonsense.  We are of course nothing more than ordinary folks, added to which is having a responsible concern about our future and a desire to safeguard it.

So, when it comes to discrimination, we know all about it, because we are ourselves discriminated against.  We are sneered at, we are ridiculed, we are insulted, and we are typecast as something we’re not and never have been.

If anything, a typical prepper is probably less concerned about a person’s origins than is common for most other groups in society.  All that matters to us is that you’re not expecting special treatment, and that you’ll pull your own weight as an equal honest productive decent member of society.

This isn’t just me being idealistic.  It is a common thread running through most leading prepper sites and advocates.  I have to believe it is reflected among preppers in general, because it is rational and sensible, and surely preppers, more than anyone else, are the most rational and sensible of people!

So, Bill, hurry to find us and join us.  We understand the challenges you have when people are quick to judge you by applying inappropriate labels just because it is convenient for them to do so; rather than to challenge their prejudices.  But also beware – if you join with us, you might find yourself now doubly pre-judged, being now guilty of being both black and a prepper!  The only good thing is that such stupid people will struggle to also consider you a white supremacist.  🙂

Now for the specific question Bill raises, about how to prepare on a very low-income/budget.

Prepping on a Low Income

This is a huge topic that needs lengthy article series devoted to it (and we’ll doubtless publish some in the future).

But, as some quick commentary in timely reply to Bill’s question, the good news is he isn’t locked in to a high paying job where he currently is.  Maybe it is relatively easy for him to move west some, and to seek alternate employment in one of the small towns in NW Montana.  If he can do that, then he’s much of the way to where he needs to be, both literally and figuratively.

There’s a curious reality in Bill’s position (and that of the many other people in a similar situation).  By not earning a lot of money, he is actually freer to make lifestyle changes than would be the case if he had a job paying, say, $7,000 a month, but with a mortgage, car payments, and other commitments soaking up nearly all of the $7,000.  He has less to lose by changing jobs, and more to gain.

Moving to a safer more viable location is a huge plus, allowing Bill and his family to then consider a future strategy that involves surviving in place rather than needing to create a separate retreat.  That’s a huge plus.  As part of a surviving in place strategy, it is essential to integrate into your local community on as many levels and via as many paths as possible – we’ve several very relevant articles in our section on community related issues, in particular the article on becoming part of the solution rather than part of the problem when your community confronts the stresses arising from WTSHTF.

The next thing for Bill to consider is building up a stockpile of essentials to get him and his family through difficult times.

The first essential thing to possess, in a case where you don’t have a lot of cash, is (are) skill(s).  Indeed, if we had to choose between having a bank full of cash or an in-demand skill, we’d take the skill every time.  As we’ve written about at length, cash will quickly become valueless WTSHTF, whereas if you have an appropriate skill, it will become much more valuable.  That’s not to say that cash, now, isn’t a nice thing to have, but longer term, skills are more valuable.  They don’t run out, and they are more easily transported and converted into other things.

Ideally, you should learn a trade that you can simultaneously hopefully work at now, and also which will continue to be needed in the future.  There are very many such trades, and you’ll know if the work you do is a job that is likely to continue to be needed in the future or not.

A computer programmer?  Probably not.  An investment banker?  Also probably not.  And – gulp – an internet writer?  Hmmm…..  But if you are a basic service provider of some sort, with a skill/trade, and if the things you do/work on are things that will continue to be relevant in the future WTSHTF, then you’re well on your way to successfully surviving.

Note that the skill/trade you develop needs to be one that not only will be relevant in a lower-tech, grid-down, fuel and energy scarce economy, but also needs to be one which can be performed using low-tech tools and equipment.  Furthermore, if it is a type of service or activity which requires consumables, you’ll need to stockpile up on those consumables now, with the assumption being any and all supplies you’ll need to continue your work in a Level 2/3 situation will become essentially unavailable.

So the most valuable asset to accumulate is a productive skill.  That will be most beneficial in the medium and longer terms.  But, short-term, there will definitely be challenges as the local economy goes through an upheaval, so you do need to build up an inventory of essential things to live on/with/from, too.  It is very likely that there’ll be a period of some days, weeks, possibly even months as things adjust to the new reality where very little work and income will be available to anyone, no matter how essential their skills and services.  An economist would say this is due to the market becoming very inefficient, we’ll simply say ‘trust us on this’.  🙂

One way to stockpile food and other supplies on a very limited budget is to build a ‘food coop’ with other local families and work it so you buy a bulk and cheaper supply of food items than you’d normally buy yourself, splitting each purchase up between the members of your coop.  Instead of buying food, one meal sized portion at a time, from the local supermarket, you buy food ten or twenty meal sized portions at a time, and buy from Costco or the local wholesale grocery supply store.  Spread that between several different families, and then you’ll discover some magic.  The money you were previously spending to buy one meal is now stretching to buy you two.

Now for the important part.  Put the extra food that you got with your money into your preparedness store, meaning you paid what you’d normally pay for one unit of food, you received the one unit you need, and you also got some extra bonus which you’re now using to grow your food supply.  If you continue that way, you’ll find your store of extra food is slowly growing, and at no cost.

As you start to grow a food supply, the next thing to do is to now start shifting the money you’re saving by buying food in bulk and instead of using it to accumulate food, use the savings to start accumulating other essential items you need.

As for water, the key constraint with water is not the cost of the water, but means to store it.  What we do ourselves is to keep all the empty glass and some of the empty plastic containers we use, thoroughly clean them out, then fill them to the absolute top with boiled water and store them in a cool dark place.

We fill them with boiled water, all the way to the top, so as to keep as little oxygen mixed in with the water as possible, thereby discouraging the growth of whatever nasty things there are that might otherwise start to grow in the water.  We have these stored in date order, and every few years, we’ll empty and refill them again in sequence, on a rolling basis, so we always have a mix of ‘new’ and ‘old’ water.

We also have water purification equipment so that we can ‘make’ our own clean water from whatever other sources come to hand.

We’re not saying any of this is easy, and for sure, we all wish we could win the lottery and be able to prep free of financial constraints.

Don’t expect to instantly create a ten-year supply of everything.  But start off building up a 24 hour reserve, then grow it as best you can, and if you consistently keep doing this, before you know it, you’ll find yourself massively better prepared than you are today.

It is amazing also how some life-style changes can make major differences in the amount of disposable cash remaining out of each paycheck.  We know some people with fairly high incomes who are poor, living from paycheck to paycheck, because they waste so much of their money.  And we know some people with low incomes but who have surplus discretionary cash as a result of living carefully.

Don’t eat out so much.  Cook food from basics, rather than heat up prepared foods.  Eat more vegetables and fruit and less steak.  We’re not saying you should give up smoking and drinking if those are (two of) your vices, but maybe smoke/drink a little less, and choose a slightly cheaper brand.  Downgrade your cable tv package.  Don’t go to movies as often.  Plan your travels in your car so instead of making two separate trips, you do everything in one trip.

Pay down high interest debt, and don’t fall into the careless trap of running up late and overdraft fees.

Stop buying Starbucks coffees, and instead make yourself a coffee at home to take with you.  Even make a box lunch rather than buy take-out each lunchtime.  And so on.

The most important suggestion we have is to remember the old saying about how a successful journey is made not in a single leap, but by a consistent ongoing series of small steps, all in hopefully the correct direction.

It is amazing the difference that small tweaks change.  We estimate that by planning our driving, we save probably $30/week in gas for our vehicle alone, and if you use a rule of thumb that other costs for a vehicle are about the same as the gas cost, that means we’re saving $60 – plus, by better managing our travels, we have more free time and waste less of it stuck in traffic.  More money, and more time to spend it – oooops.  Nope, that’s not right.  More money, and more time to develop new skills.  🙂

Don’t go looking for easy answers.  They don’t exist.  But don’t despair.  Simply dedicate yourself to a slow steady series of steps moving you closer and closer to your goal.

Summary

Although it is true that many very wealthy people do invest heavily into prepping for their future, being a prepper is not something exclusively reserved to members of the unofficial ‘rich white boy’ club alone.

Preppers span the entire spectrum of age, race, income, occupation, education, and every other demographic you can consider.

Prepping is an inclusionary concept – we who currently prep always welcome more people to join us and become preppers too, because the better prepped our neighbors are, the more likely they are to positively ‘add value’ and help us mutually survive in a future adverse scenario, and the less likely they are to become a problem.

So, Bill, please take heart and in good cheer move your own prepping forward as best you can.

May 222013
 
Many major western cities are dangerously unstable and the slightest spark can set off rioting; it is only our present massive police resources that keeps these tendencies in check.

Many major western cities are dangerously unstable and the slightest spark can set off rioting; it is only our present massive police resources that keeps these tendencies in check.

We have written several times about how major population groupings (ie cities) will collapse ‘shortly’ after the essential elements of life cease to smoothly flow in to them as needed.  When there’s no water, no sewage, no food, no gas and no electricity, things will unavoidably get very nasty.

In an earlier post we suggested that cities will decay into violent anarchistic morasses within a week or two.  In that article we were deliberately trying to look at a ‘best case scenario’ (don’t laugh – the collapse of cities taking a week or two is, alas, a best case scenario!).  Our projection was based on the ‘best case’ hope that people would remain passive for a few days and it would only be when people realized no help was coming and they were starting to starve that things would turn truly nasty.

One of our readers, ‘Lt. Dan’, wrote in to share his perspective of what might go down, and alas, it is not nearly as sunny and optimistic as our earlier best case hope.  His point is that violence will break out immediately.  There will not be days of ambiguity before things start to fail.

He says that in known ‘hot spots’ in larger cities, the violence will start at once, and as soon as the violent offenders realize that the police response is inadequate (or totally missing) it will skyrocket in scope and extent.

This is a key issue for us, because it impacts on our decision about when to ‘Get Out Of Dodge’ (GOOD) and hightail it to our remote retreat.  How much time do we have to decide what to do between when a massive problem occurs and when the city becomes lawless?

Lt. Dan writes :

As a retired LEO with over 30 yrs dealing with “society” I have a number of thoughts on this topic. I grew up on a working farm not close to any major metro center but in adulthood joined a sizable metro PD.  So I have perspective from various angles.

The speed and spread of lawlessness with be much faster than most will think.  Even now in “quiet” times LE staffing is usually based on the lowest number of officers to reasonably handle a “normal” day.  Any event(s) beyond “normal” immediately overwhelm on-duty forces.  Planned events like anarchists protesting the latest capitalist conference allow time to plan for enough ON-DUTY personnel (plus resources from other agencies) to be available when violence breaks out.

In most major metro areas there are areas the police routinely avoid because they’re too hazardous.  The violent elements in these areas are constantly looking to explode their violence at a moment’s notice when the opportunity happens.  And when it happens it will spread like a ruptured gasoline storage tank afire.  LE forces will be quickly overwhelmed and retreat to a safe place/bunker for self-preservation.

Most LEO’s have families and a desire for self-preservation.  If the collapse involves monetary problems (like no paychecks) the officers will not be reporting to duty, they’ll be protecting their own.  When this happens the initial violent outbreaks will mushroom like a nuclear reaction.  If the officers are being paid yet, they’ll set up a “containment perimeter” IF they have enough manpower…. which is highly unlikely in a regional or national SHTF scenario.

On other really scary thought I never see mentioned is…. what happens to the tens of thousands of violent criminals in prisons??

In a farming community where religion/moral values are generally much higher than urban dwellers, the problems of violence will be much reduced.  Plus everyone usually knows each other so its harder to want to take advantage of them.  One tip for urbanites…..farmers are not working their butts off to feed the city slickers (who’ve been ridiculing them for years as hicks, etc) and they certainly will not welcome the urbanites showing up during a crisis.

We asked Dan about his comments and background, and he told us a bit more about how he has formed the views he has – and, let’s face it, thirty years in a major metro police department and retiring as a lieutenant gives him a lot of credibility, particularly on police related operational issues and on matters to do with how people will (mis)behave when given half a chance to do so.

Now that he can ‘tell it like it is’ we asked him in particular about something that opinions widely vary on – will the police bravely ‘man the battlements’ and fight to the last man in a failing and doomed effort to save civilization, or will they adopt – as he suggests above – a ‘my family first, everyone else second’ approach when they see the inevitability of a city’s collapse.

Dan replied :

When I first started on the PD in the 70’s I was stuck in the Comm room and on boring nights I’d actually read the Civil Defense binders (HUGE things) full of detail, much theoretical.  For example, upon receiving alert of a nuke attack we were supposed to call a long list of elected officials and city unit directors etc.  We all knew it’d be a total waste of time to call these clueless government people because all they’d do is panic and babble on the phone asking US what to do!

We (cops) talked openly in the Comm Room about what we’d do and we decided we’d immediately leave our posts and spend our remaining time with family.  The point being alerting totally clueless and incompetent “leaders” would do nothing except add to the panic and confusion over which we (cops) would have ZERO control over.

It is important to understand how much we can learn from past ‘lessons’ with breakdowns in cities (in the case of the US, the L.A. riots being a prime example) and how much we have to adjust for a future breakdown of society.

We suggest that the big difference is that in past events, the problem has been successfully contained to a restricted region, and the police have had, in effect, virtually unlimited reinforcements and resupply, and there has never been any question of what the ultimate outcome would be – of course law and order would triumph.

But in a future society-destroying event, none of this applies.  The police will have no resupply or reinforcement, and problems will break out in multiple locations.

We agree with Lt. Dan that very quickly, the police will see the unwinnable nature of the contest and will switch from attempting to defend a disintegrating society from itself, and will focus instead on attempting to ensure the safe survival of themselves and their immediate family and friends.

Summary

Lt. Dan puts it very vividly when he writes

[Violence] will spread like a ruptured gasoline storage tank afire

This means that if you have a GOOD plan and a retreat to go to, you need to be ready to activate this sooner than you might have otherwise hoped for.  As soon as you hear the first word of lawlessness, rioting, looting, and general disorder breaking out, you should accept that this will spread like wildfire across the entire city, and leave as quickly as you can.

Oh – one more unsettling thought.  How will you learn that violence has broken out in another part of the city if the internet is down, and radio and television stations are also down?  Even if some broadcasters remain in service, they’ll probably have limited sources of information and it might take a while for them to become appraised of events and to then broadcast them.

It is also reasonable to guess that broadcasters will be asked ‘not to spread panic’ and so initial reports of violence breaking out might be downplayed or omitted entirely.

Choosing when to bug-out is a difficult but essential issue.  You need to be willing to leave before it becomes too late, and with inertia and resistance to change and desperate hope all encouraging you to delay your decision, you need to fight these tendencies.  Better to leave ‘too soon’ and return back again some time later, safely; than to leave it too late and suffer the consequences.

We talk about the issues to do with making your bug-out decision here.

Apr 302013
 
Your neighbors should be a positive value-add part of your retreat survival plans.

Your neighbors should be a positive value-add part of your retreat survival plans.

Conventional wisdom suggests that preppers want to locate a retreat far away from anyone else.  We understand the rationale behind this, but we don’t fully agree.

Sure, we’re the first to say you should keep your distance from larger cities.  That’s absolutely so, and we have written about this before.  But we see individual neighbors – and also the inhabitants of small towns – as being very different to the refugees streaming out of larger cities.  Let’s look at why that is.

The concern that motivates people to keep as far away from anyone and everyone and to go through obsessive and probably ultimately unsuccessful ‘opsec’ charades is of course the understandable fear that WTSHTF anyone and everyone who is less well prepped than you, may decide to come after you and seize your preparations, take over your lands, and dispossess you of all you own.

Now that is definitely a risk with marauding refugees from larger cities.  These people are itinerants.  They have nothing other than the clothes on their back and whatever else they can carry and travel with, and so they have nothing to lose and everything to gain by attacking you opportunistically.  If the attack seems likely to fail, they can simply retreat and run away.  No harm done (to them) and the next day, they will try for better luck with another targeted residence, somewhere else (or possibly even return to surprise you a second time).

They can do this with relative impunity, as often as they wish.  Why?  Because if you give chase after them, they will simply keep running away until you give up and return back to your home.  They know, and soon enough you’ll realize too, that after a day or two or three of giving chase, you are going to give up.

Your retreat community needs you, and if you’ve traveled two days away, you’ll have to take another two or three days to return – you’ve been away for four or five days, and each extra day you continue traveling outbound takes you two days away in total, while exhausting you, your supplies, and increasing your vulnerability to unknown and unexpected events in areas you are less familiar with.

Issues With Neighbors

But what about a fellow property owner, next to, or several lots over from you?  They’ve made a commitment to their land, and to their home.  If they get into a dispute with you and it isn’t amicably resolved, you know exactly where to find them, and if you’re so minded, you can do exactly that, at a time and situation of your choosing so as to ensure the best possible outcome for you (and the worst possible outcome for them).

If you get into a conflict, neither of you will want to abandon everything you’ve worked to create and protect and preserve.  You’ll both fight to the finish, or negotiate a truce or surrender, and all but the most pig-headed of people will realize the best approach is to avoid the conflict in the first place.  You both have too much to lose.

There’s another perspective that applies differently to your neighbors than to itinerants as well.  The itinerant has no chance of surviving on his own.  He either has to somehow – by hook or by crook – get the supplies and shelter he needs, or perish in the process.

But your neighbors with the small holdings adjacent to your own – they are some way to self-sufficiency already (and maybe already there).  Both of you can prosper better, together.  By occasionally working together cooperatively you will get a much better outcome to everything than by competing against each other or by simply ignoring each other, or – worst of all, one of you fighting the other and either forcing him off his land and away or instead losing and being forced off your land and sent away.  The clear reality is that you probably (hopefully!) have nothing to compete about or for, and if you can see potential sources of tension, you shouldn’t locate your retreat at that place to start with.

Possible sources of tension might revolve around water rights or access rights.  If you or they need access of the other’s property, that might be a problem, and of course, if there’s a shared water resource (perhaps a river/stream that flows first through one of your properties and then through the other) then that could be an issue too, and these are things you’d need to clearly understand and resolve before buying the property.  You’d also want to make sure that your potential new neighbors don’t believe they have any non-recorded but customary and traditional rights on your property – perhaps they might assert traditional grazing rights for their cattle, or perhaps there are some unclear disputed boundary lines, or who knows what else.

When choosing your retreat property, you should not just rely on title searches and property deeds, you should speak to all your potential new neighbors to understand how they perceive the property you might be buying and its interaction with their property and rights.

Back now to the future, and to put things another way, hopefully your rural neighbors are already committed to the concept of surviving by honest hard work, and hopefully they’ll see that their work can be easier and more successful with an occasional positive interaction with their neighbors.

There’s probably an example that relates to this in your normal life.  Have you ever noticed how you make close friends with many of the people you work with, but when you or they change jobs, the friendship quickly evaporates?  It was the common ties created by doing the same job, working for the same company, sharing the same experiences, frustrations, and successes, that built a bond between you, and when those ties were broken, there was little remaining except a quickly fading chance to reminisce about former shared experiences.

A similar thing applies, positively, to your relationship with your neighbors.  You might have nothing in common with them socially, politically, or in any other respect.  But you have a huge common tie binding you together – you are both working to survive in what has become a tough and unforgiving world, and will be sharing many of the same challenges due to your proximity to each other.  Most of all, your respective chance of surviving is increased if your neighbor does well (due to the hope that they might share their success if needed).

These outside forces are of course very less apparent in normal times, and so provide much less motivation for people to interact with their neighbors currently.  But WTSHTF, different rules will apply.

If and when this should happen, you and your neighbors need to realize you are stronger together than apart.

Issues With Nearby Towns

This is a slightly trickier situation, and with different possible win and lose outcomes for you and the people residing in the town, not all of which are clearly either win-win or lose-lose.

The situation here depends very much on the size and type of town that you are close to.  If it is a small town where the residents live in houses with yards and have the potential to grow vegetable gardens and maybe keep some chickens and a pig or two, and/or where some of the other townsfolk are essential service providers for the country living people in the area – people such as yourself and your neighbors – then hopefully the small town is viable as a self-sustaining entity in a Level 2 or 3 situation.  We discuss this in some detail in our article ‘Will your nearby town thrive, survive or fail WTSHTF?‘.

It is important you understand which of these categories (thrive, survive or fail) the town is likely to find itself in.  Clearly you want to be close to a town that will add value to your existence by thriving, and equally clearly, you do not want to be close to one that may threaten it by failing.

If the nearby town is likely to be a net value-add rather than a threat, you have another potential win-win situation, the same as with your neighbors.  For the service providers (doctors, dentists, tradesmen, etc) you are a source of business and food for them, while they in turn are a source of services and capabilities you don’t have within your own retreat and its members.  And in addition to being a customer and a seller of food, you might also have services and skills of your own which they need, and maybe you might also provide employment to some townsfolk too.

The key thing is that your town has to be one which is capable of being self-sustaining.  If that is the case, then they see their future the same way your neighbor sees his future – they see that their future is best assured by working together rather than working apart, or by attempting to take things from you.

If the town is not capable of being self-sustaining, then you have problems.  What is to stop the town from using its resources against you?  In whatever form of county government that may remain, there’s a greater voice and support for a town of 100 than a retreat with 5 on it, and the townsfolk might act to annex you to their town and then make you subject to bylaws and regulations designed to seize your assets and share them with the townsfolk.

These types of semi-legal threats are even more worrying than the illegal threats of an armed gang of townsfolk simply attacking you and taking your supplies from you, because you could find yourself confronting not only a small group of villainous townsfolk, but the local law enforcement agencies, augmented by county and state forces too.

We spoke before about the issue of itinerant roaming opportunists.  They can be a problem, but they are itinerant and so are not likely to be a permanent issue (although you may get regular visits, but from different groups/gangs of itinerants).  A nearby town of needy people – that’s a much more serious thing, because it is a more permanent problem.  If the townsfolk have to choose between abandoning their homes and their town and becoming itinerants themselves, or of simply taking everything you have, which do you think they will choose?

That’s not a problem with an easy solution, because they are living close to you.  If they have no other easier nearby targets, they’re not likely to just ignore you.  They will do something and you will find yourself forced to either accede or respond any way necessary to protect your property and your livelihood.

On the other hand, while a bad town, collectively, poses a problem, if the problems are with just some individuals rather than the town as a whole, it can be a benefit to you and a constraint on the individuals and their actions.

Assuming it is a moderately small town, any action that one or two of the town’s residents might engage you in stands to have consequences to them.  Just like with a troublesome neighbor, you know where to find them, and they are vulnerable to whatever type of reprisals you might choose to take.  Perhaps the town even has some basic type of law enforcement, making such errant folks answerable not just to you and whatever ‘natural justice’ the situation allows for, but also to local law enforcement and their type of justice, too.

Mutual Security Issues Apply to Neighbors and Towns, Too

There’s one more thing to consider as well – another reason why you should band together with both your neighbors and your local town.

If a gang of outlaws moves into your area, then today they might attack you, but then tomorrow they might attack your neighbor, and the next day, the next neighbor and so on.  This is also true of small towns – if a gang starts terrorizing the outlying ranchers, how long before they start terrorizing the town dwellers, too?  This isn’t just a hypothetical situation – it is happening with Mexican gangs in parts of Eastern WA already, and that’s in a situation supposedly where the rule of law is intact and supreme.

If the town ends the menace of a gang, you benefit too, and if you end the menace of a gang, the town and your neighbors all benefit also.  So it makes selfish good sense to cooperate – and anything which appeals to a person’s selfishness is much more likely to win their cooperation than something which requires more abstract concepts of honor and justice!

You Might Need to Explain These Issues

What we’ve written might seem intuitive to you, but it might not necessarily be intuitive to your neighbors and to the nearby town.  Don’t assume that they all are thinking the same way you are, and joining the mental dots together in the same pattern.  We’d suggest you discreetly talk about such things with your neighbors, and with people who would be advantaged by cooperating with you in the town as well.

But don’t go at this like a bull in heat.  Be oblique and cautious, because you don’t want to get a reputation as being strange, unusual, and eccentric.

We’d suggest you slowly get to know your neighbors as if by chance, and only after you’ve had some casual conversations with them about the weather, sport, life in general, or whatever else, that you then start to talk about some ‘what if’ scenarios.  If it is clear that they have no concept about such things, or perhaps they are very individualistic and private and not wanting to interact/cooperate with others, then don’t press the point for now – you can always revisit the topic in the future.  But if they do show sympathy and understanding, simply indicate that in any uncertain future you’d prefer to work cooperatively with them for mutual benefit.

You can certainly easily enough explain your shared situation when it comes to shared problems and needs and external threats.  As for the potential of disputes between the two of you, you can say ‘Heck, there’s no way I’d want to start an argument with you because you know where to find me, and I guess (give a polite laugh here to remove the sting of the statement) I guess you don’t really want to start an argument with me either because I know where to find you too!’

As for townsfolk, we’ve written elsewhere about how to integrate into your local community.  You should do this, and as you get to know local merchants and service providers, there will come times when you’ll be relaxing over a meal or drink, and you can ‘think out loud’ about hypothetical future scenarios and how the town and its surrounding population would be well advised to club together if things went bad.  See who agrees with you, and who rejects the idea as fanciful, impossible, irrelevant or inappropriate, and selectively build ties with those who agree with you.

Summary

Your future survival depends not just on yourself and the other members of your prepper community retreat.  Like it or not, it also depends on the other people around you, living on neighboring blocks of land, and in the nearby town (or towns).

Your objective is to create not just a neutral ‘live and let live’ arrangement with your neighbors and adjacent town-folk, but rather to set the scene for the quick establishment of a mutual cooperation and support setup if TSHTF.  This will greatly enhance your standard of living, your resilience, and your ability to withstand disastrous events of all kinds.

Apr 302013
 
Small country towns have been dying out in recent decades.  A Level 2/3 situation will see their resurgence.

Small country towns have been dying out in recent decades. A Level 2/3 situation will see their resurgence.

One of the key things in developing your retreat is to create or become part of a community.  You can’t viably ‘go it alone’ in a Level 3 situation (although it is possible to do so in a Level 1 or 2 situation).

Depending on the scope of your plans, there are several ways to become part of a community.  Most people immediately assume they will have a multi-acre block of land to themselves, and as for becoming part of a community, they will simply befriend their adjoining land-owners immediately around them, and – hey, presto!  Instant community.

That’s fine, and if it works for you, so much the better.  But a rural community of adjacent farmers/ranchers is not the only type of community that will be created, or which currently exists and may survive, and further more, while working together with your rural neighbors is both essential and positive, the chances are that even when you pool all your various resources and abilities together, there are still large gaps in needed skill sets, abilities, equipment, and so on.

Even in the most extreme of Level 3 situations, there will be a need for small service towns/villages.  These will be (and currently are) places where the nearby farmers can go to buy sell and trade, to get services, to benefit from pooled resources such as education, healthcare, maybe law enforcement that require at least a small amount of ‘economy of scale’ to be feasible, and also as a place to socialize and to meet as a community to discuss/resolve regional issues.

This is very different in concept from most towns and cities these days.  Modern and larger urban creations exist purely for themselves and are sustained internally (or externally via concepts that would not apply after TEOTWAWKI), rather than to service the surrounding country dwellers.

In contrast, a rural town is more outward looking and exists as a service point for its immediately adjacent rural community.  It has an essentially similar economic base today as it has always done ever since the founding of our country, and as it has done for centuries prior to then in the UK and Europe.  It is typically small, with perhaps a one room schoolhouse, a one cell jail, a general store, a doctor, a dentist, a couple of specialty stores and service providers, maybe a lodging house, church, bar and restaurant, and is almost always located strategically on a route to somewhere (and more likely, is not on a spur to a larger town/city, but is on a road that connects larger population concentrations on either side of it).

The Evolution of Rural Towns

These days many rural towns have grown in size to become larger than has historically been the case (or have simply died out entirely).  This is because the ease of modern-day transportation has meant that instead of the local community needing small towns every ten miles, it is now sufficient to have larger towns every twenty or thirty miles.  The traveling time and cost and inconvenience to go 20 – 30 miles today is less than it was to go a mere ten miles in an earlier time.

But please note the distance constraint will become an issue again in a Level 2/3 situation, when road maintenance will be neglected and fuel for vehicles will be either scarce or prohibitively expensive or possibly both.  Instead of thinking ‘I can drive 70 miles on the freeway to a town in an hour, and pay only $6 in gas to do so’ people will think ‘it will take me almost two hours to travel by horse and cart ten miles, and more than a day to travel 70 miles’, and so closer towns will become essential once more.

The key thing about any town is that if it is to survive in Level 2 and 3 situations, it will be because it exists to provide services to the people living rurally in the immediate area.

Many small rural towns these days exist for reasons other than primarily being a service provider to nearby rural residents.  Don’t confuse these types of towns with real locally focused towns, because these other ‘artificial’ towns are less likely to survive.

For example, if a town is currently a tourist retreat, it will not survive (there won’t be many tourists in such a dystopian future).  If it is based around some type of local industry that relies upon the normal social and economic functioning of the normal world, it again will not survive (what happens when the industrial employer can no longer source its raw materials or sell its finished goods, and so can not pay its employees?).  This is as true if it is a traditional industry (perhaps a saw mill) or a ‘new’ industry (maybe a server farm for an internet company).

If it is a retirement town with a large community of senior citizens living off their retirement checks, and augmented healthcare services to meet their needs, it again will not survive (what happens when those retirement checks stop coming in?).

Another factor when considering the viability of a small town is to evaluate its dependence on external sources of water, food and energy.  Clearly, the more it needs to bring these three essential commodities in from ‘somewhere else’, the more its future viability is vulnerable to the disruption of the supplies of these things.

A viable town has its own water supply nearby, and sources its food from nearby farms.  Energy is more of a concern, with it being rare to find a small town that has its own city energy source.  And even if it did, the chances are that the energy generation relies upon bringing in supplies of coal, natural gas, or oil fuel.  Only if the town has a dam and hydro power is it reasonably energy-independent.

Why are we raising these issues?  Four reasons.

Four Reasons Why a Nearby Town is Important to You

First, if it is your plan to create a rural retreat, you still need to have an eye to being within reach of a nearby small township.  You can’t possibly hope to have every skill set, every experience, every knowledge base, every type of equipment, and so on, yourself, on your retreat.  You will need to be able to turn to specialist providers of supplemental skills from time to time.

You’ll also want a place where you can buy things you need and don’t have, sell things you have produced, and/or trade and exchange and barter the one for the other.

Some type of town within a reasonable distance (think non-motorized transport when evaluating distances) is therefore a huge benefit and boost to your own survivability.

Secondly, not all current towns are the same.  Some will fail just as surely and completely as the big cities, while others will survive and may even thrive.  For example, the small town with the struggling hardware store and grocery shop will find that people no longer drive an extra 40 miles to go to Wal-Mart, Costco, or Home Depot, but instead necessarily return to doing business at the closer alternate.

You need to evaluate the towns that are close to potential retreat locations and assess if they are likely to survive and to add value to your retreat lifestyle, or if they are more likely to fail and instead become a source of problems for you at your retreat.

Thirdly, many people make an automatic assumption that a retreat needs to be in a deserted rural area, ‘safely’ far away from other people.  That’s not necessarily the case at all.  If life on a farm isn’t your idea of a good time, maybe you have a set of skills and personal lifestyle preferences that would fit better into a small town environment.  Maybe instead of being a land-owner needing a blacksmith, you can become the blacksmith.  Maybe you can establish the trading mart where the local people (both town-folk and farmers) do their buying, selling and bartering.  Maybe you can become the local saloon owner.  The local schoolmaster or schoolmistress.  And so on.

Fourthly, and this is the big one, maybe there is an opportunity for you to start your own new town.  If there have been towns close down over the last 100 years, but if there is still a reasonable rural population, who now rely on good transportation options to travel further distances, maybe you could consider establishing a new fledgling township and activate it if/when a Level 2/3 event occurs.

This would require some considerable capital investment on a very speculative basis, and so is not suitable for many people to consider.  But creating a substantial rural retreat is not an inexpensive concept either, and so maybe it might be a more appealing concept for you to prepare a skeleton of a new township.  You’d probably still have some ‘town gardens’ in it for immediate food growing, but rather than creating a rural retreat with the purpose of keeping people away for safety, maybe your strategy instead is to create the kernel of a settlement that could grow into a service town, and instead of keeping people away, you’d want to welcome people into it for safety.

Summary

Whatever your relationship will be with a town, being either a part of or close to a ‘good’ town that will survive is a key part of your retreat location evaluation and decision.

Apr 292013
 
Our 'advanced' society comprises an underlying and obscured labyrinthine linked series of dependencies.  Like falling dominoes, one single failure could bring everything down.

Our ‘advanced’ society comprises an underlying and obscured labyrinthine linked series of dependencies. Like falling dominoes, one single failure could bring everything down.

Much of this article might be thought of as ‘preaching to the converted’.  The chances are you’re already accepting on the basic tenets of the need to prepare for an uncertain future.

So why are we writing it?  Not only to reinforce in your own mind the wisdom of what you do and why, but to help you when discussing prepping with your non-prepper friends and colleagues.  Feel free to share this article with them; maybe it might open the eyes of one or two people who read it.  We hope so.

The Domino Theory is a concept with many applications.  First formulated by President Eisenhower in 1954, the theory originally held that communism would attack and take over countries, one by one by one, with each country’s fall to communism being accelerated by the fall of its neighbor.

This process was said to run in a sequence from China to Korea to Vietnam to Laos to Cambodia and on to Thailand, then Malaysia, Indonesia, Burma and India.  Clearly that didn’t actually happen (thankfully!) and for a while the theory was discredited.

But the theory can be used in many different applications, not just political, although it continues to be regularly used to argue politics.  For example, the theory has recently been used by people on both sides of current Middle East issues, arguing either that the spread of Muslim extremism is following a domino pattern while others are claiming that Middle East democracies (ummm – exactly which would those be?) may also take root and grow in a domino fashion.

Of course, you understand the analogy, right?  Set up a row of dominoes, spaced slightly apart, then knock the first over and watch the rest of them following in a wave, each set off by its neighbor.  Indeed, treat yourself to a light break for a few minutes and watch this video clip of dominoes falling in a chain (during the course of which two new domino world records were established).  It is strangely compelling, and there are many similar clips on Youtube.

So what does this have to do with prepping (other than possibly being a suitable activity to enjoy on long winter evenings at your retreat, while surviving internet or television)?

We preppers see the world we live in as becoming more and more like a chain of dominoes.  And whereas in a domino falling game, the rules say you start with only one domino being pushed over and then watch to see if all of the others fall, sequentially, we see the world as having several lines of dominoes all leading in to a central target, and with any of the dominoes on any of the lines being able to fall over and to start the chain reaction down the rest of their line to the central target.

That central target, by the way, is us and our current lifestyle, which we preppers understand as being full of dependencies and vulnerabilities, any one of which might tip over and start a domino type chain of events that end up destroying the lives of ourselves and everyone around us.

These chains of events occur in two ways.  The first are chains of events that result in a massive disruption in society, and the second are the chains of events that sees the disrupted society become a destroyed society – an anarchistic situation where the rule of law has disappeared and the government is no longer there to help us.

How could this happen?  Well, it just takes a single seed event to start a chain reaction, sort of like the child’s rhyme ‘For want of a nail, a shoe was lost; for want of a shoe, a horse was lost’ and which concludes with an entire kingdom being lost.

Two More Ways of Looking at the Domino Theory as it Applies to Preppers

Non-aware people – a phrase used by preppers to describe people who believe there are no risks or dangers inherent in our lives, and who believe the future continuity of a supportive society is assured – tell us that our concerns are needless, and say that there’s no possible way that some of the things we see as risks could ever become problems.

Let’s look at two more perspectives on this – one theoretical and one very real.

For the theoretical example, and in more modern terms than the rhyme about the horse’s lost shoe, people sometimes ask the question ‘If a butterfly flaps its wings in (your choice of a remote far away minor country), might it result in a (hurricane/tornado/whatever) in (your choice of major western city)?’.

In case you wondered, scientists have considered this question at length, and have come up with formulas to express the situation, which it seems is best summed up, in non-scientific terms, by saying ‘it depends’.  🙂

The underlying point in the question is ‘can a really small and safe seeming event end up as the catalyst that creates a huge disaster.  Non-preppers tell us to relax and not worry.  But we are like people who see a tiny leak appear in a huge damn, and worry if the leak will widen, if the crack will spread, and if, as a result, the damn will eventually crumble, with the tiny leak becoming a raging torrent.

This brings us to the real-life example.  You should go read an analysis of an airline disaster as published by whatever country’s air transportation safety board was responsible for investigating the event.  We’ve read plenty of them.

Almost without fail, all airplane disasters start off with a single small event which, in and of itself, is not fatal.  It may not even be serious.  But it is the initial precipitating event that starts the line of dominoes toppling.

For example – the pilot in command leaves the cockpit of the plane, with the two more junior pilots now piloting the plane.  Domino one.  One of the pilots is unhappy with his love life and hadn’t slept well the previous night.  Domino two.  Unusual weather causes an airspeed sensor pitot tube to ice over, and to stop sending accurate information to the flight management computer.  Domino three.  The flight management computer can’t understand its conflicting results and goes into error mode.  Domino four.  The two pilots misunderstand the error mode and do the wrong thing.  Domino five.  They call the senior pilot back to the cockpit but he just passively stands behind the two junior pilots rather than taking command.  Domino six.  One of the two pilots makes a wrong command with his joystick controller and doesn’t tell the other two pilots what he has done.  Domino seven.  The two pilots send conflicting commands to the airplane computer and don’t realize they are doing it.  Domino eight.  The dominos keep falling for five minutes, at which point the plane crashes into the sea killing everyone aboard.

Does that all sound unrealistic and impossible?  Not so.  We’ve just described the crash an Air France A330 in the South Atlantic in 2009.  The initial events were all easy to recover from, but due to a combination of mistakes and bad luck and who knows what else, 228 people died.

Back to prepping again.  Our point is that things that should never ever occur – like three highly trained pilots misunderstanding one of the simplest things in flying a plane – that when you have a plane in a stall, you push the plane’s nose down rather than pull it up – sometimes can and do occur.  Some of us are trained pilots, and to us it is unthinkable that AF447 crashed, with three skilled commercial pilots having five minutes to recover the plane from the first alarm to the final crash.  But, unthinkable or not, the plane did crash, and not because of a big huge vulnerability, but due to a semi-random chain of events that resulted in unexpected tragedy.

It can happen with planes – not only can, but does.  It can happen with anything and everything else as well – that is, after all, the quintessential concept of ‘accident’, isn’t it.  Just like if you toss a coin enough times, you’ll eventually end up with an unbroken sequence of it always landing heads, so too can ‘accidents’ happen in every other part of our life and our society.  Most accidents are small and ‘self-healing’ but there is always the possibility of a really big disaster.

Let’s see just one example of how a sequence of events results in society disintegrating in front of us.

The Dominoes Fall, Part One

Let’s start with a minor event, because the point of our article is that cataclysmic events can start from the smallest and most trivial of initiating circumstances.  It is the obscured way that the innocuous flapping of the butterfly’s wings grows to become a thunderstorm that is the problem.

In this case, let’s start with a person answering their cell phone while driving along on the highway.  Whether legal or not, we all do this, on a regular basis.  This is the first domino.

The person’s eyes glaze over as they talk, then realize they are drifting out of their lane and across the center line.  Another domino – and again, something we’ve often seen on the roads.  Startled, they over-correct and their car swerves in front of a truck.  There’s the next domino now falling, and we’re still talking commonplace events.

The truck fishtails as the driver attempts to avoid the car.  Another domino.

The truck rolls over, down a bank, and comes to rest when it hits a power pylon.  And another domino.

Now the dominoes turn a corner, and the traffic events change to a very different series of events.  The dominoes continue to fall.

The power pylon is knocked over, breaking the wires it was supporting.  Domino falls.

The power line was only a medium capacity line (we’re not going to cheat and make it easy!).  The utility that was using the power from the line switches its feed to an alternate path through the grid.  The next domino wavers – will it fall or not.

Ooops – over it goes.  Much of our grid operates at close to capacity already, and much of it is aging and in less than prime condition.  The loss of one circuit has overloaded the alternate circuit, and suddenly a transformer blows.

Due to poor design and random bad luck (this time we’re giving ourselves some help) the loss of power meant that the control circuitry for the distribution system also fails.  The backup generator failed to start.  A couple more dominoes fall.

The failed control circuitry means that the regional grid doesn’t properly reconfigure itself.  A couple more transformers overload and fail, and high tension distribution lines melt and fall.  There’s a few more dominoes.

The regional grid was formerly a net contributor of power to the national grid, but now is a net recipient of power, overloading other parts of the national grid.  In spectacular showers of sparks and noisy explosions, more transformers fail.  The grid consumes itself, just like a domino pyramid collapsing.

In less than five minutes from the car swerving in front of the truck, the nation’s entire electricity grid has gone dark.  Some local power utilities are still generating local power for their local consumers, but the vast majority of the nation, which relies on the grid to transport power from where it is generated to where it is consumed, are now without power.

So, big deal you might think.  Change over a few blown fuses, string a few replacement wires between pylons, and we’re back to normal in a day or two?  Sorry, no.

Those failed transformers can’t be repaired.  They need to be replaced, and we no longer make them in the US.  It will take more than two years before replacements start arriving from China, and maybe ten years before all of them are back online.

But whether it is ten years, two years, ten months, or even ‘only’ two months before power is restored, we have many more problems that will start occurring in the next ten minutes and the next ten hours and the next ten days.

The Dominos Fall Ever Faster

The dominoes are still falling.  They turn another corner then split into multiple parallel streams, and keep going.  The implications of a near total power loss for our modern society – which is totally reliant on electricity for almost everything – are catastrophic.

One domino stream has to do with the loss of power in the food storage industry.  Refrigeration and freezer units fail, meaning the nation’s inventory of food in cool stores starts to spoil.  Within a few days, much of it is no longer edible.  And as for ordering up replacement food – how can that be done, and where will it come from?  Because –

No power means no communications.  No cell phones, no internet, no landline phones.  Even if the emergency services had power themselves, they would be largely cut off from each other and unable to communicate and coordinate disaster recovery actions.

Think about the loss of communications.  We don’t just mean that your teenage children can’t now spend all day compulsively texting each other or posting on Facebook.  ATMs stop working, as do banks with electronic only records of accounts.

Another stream has to do with the loss of power in FEMA and the regional emergency coordination centers.  Sure, they’ve backup generators, but how much fuel do they have for them?  As for more fuel, well, no power means the pumps at gas stations don’t work, and no power means the refineries don’t work either.

Another stream has to do with life’s modern essentials.  How about water?  No power means no pumps – not for water in to your residence, nor for sewage out of it, either.

Before you know it, everything in your world has stopped working, because everything in your world either directly or indirectly needs electricity.

But wait, that’s the good news.  Now for the really bad news.

The Dominoes Fall, Part Two

So we’ve seen how a driver answering their cell phone ended up with most of the United States without power.  What happens next?

For the first  few minutes, nothing much happens.  And we truly mean nothing much happens.  Failed traffic lights will put our cities into instant gridlock.

But very soon, some clever person realizes ‘no power means no burglar alarms, and gridlock means police can’t get here quickly’ and he breaks into a store.  The dominoes quickly start falling down that path as copycats note the growing crime wave of looters acting with seeming impunity.  Not only are there no burglar alarms, there are no regular phones or cell phones either, and even if there were, without power to their computers and radios, there is no way that the police dispatchers could coordinate sending police to multiple crime scenes.  Before too long, the police cruisers will be without petrol anyway.  Meanwhile, gun control laws in the largest and most crime ridden cities mean that store owners and individuals are helpless to resist the crime wave that engulfs them.

So what happens next along that domino line?  Soon the looting becomes general rioting, and then, either by accident or deliberately, a building catches fire.

Even if the local fire department could be advised of this and attend the fire, what are they going to do?  There’s no water pressure in the fire hydrants, remember.

Okay, so they have a few pumper trucks that can maybe suck water out of the hydrants (not sure about this, but possibly), but what happens when they run out of diesel?

Soon you have the city ablaze, both from accidental fires spreading unchecked and from copycat arsonists.

At this point, the police have not just been unable to respond, they’ve chosen not to respond (just like in the LA riots).  There are too many rioters out there, and too few police, who have to cluster together in larger numbers due to not being able to keep communications up and speedily travel from one hot spot to the next.

So the city is decaying into lawlessness, one domino at a time.

The dominoes turn another corner.  Stores quickly run out of food.  The looters realize that you can’t eat big screen televisions, and shift their focus to food.

It isn’t just the stores that run out of food.  People start to quickly run out of food, too.  They’re already struggling to survive with no water, and now are realizing that if/when they manage to get sufficient safe drinking water, they’re merely replacing one pressing problem with another one, the lack of food.

Not only are they running low on food.  The 25% or whatever of the adult population who smokes are running out of cigarettes.  The percent of people on addictive drugs are running low on their supplies.  You know that these groups of citizens will be becoming anxious and irritable, to put it mildly.

Meantime, there’s another line of dominoes toppling.  You can flip a coin and decide if it is midsummer or midwinter, but either way, the lack of energy to heat or cool dwellings means that people in poor health are suffering, and those who can get to hospitals are finding little solace or assistance there.  There’s a growing healthcare crisis, not yet affecting normal healthy people, but starting to become an issue.  People injured in the rioting are finding it harder to get medical care, and the general restlessness of the ‘normal’ and law-abiding citizenry is growing.  Their initial passive complacent ‘the government will save us’ attitude is being replaced with annoyed outrage – ‘why isn’t the government saving me?’.

The ‘government’ can’t save its citizens, because government employees are suffering the same problems themselves, and are also having to choose between protecting themselves and their family by abandoning their government related duties, or leaving their families unprotected in an increasingly hostile environment and risking their lives attempting to control an uncontrollable wave of civil disorder.

The ones who do honorably report for duty find themselves undermanned with insufficient colleagues to do anything, and find themselves confronted with no support from other government sources and resources, and quickly decide the situation is hopeless and if everyone else is abandoning their jobs, they should do the same.

Anarchy takes over from order.  But even as anarchy seems to be ruling supreme, a new guiding principle becomes more and more apparent – the growing need to ensure one’s personal immediate survival.  The need for shelter, water and food.

Apartment dwellers are moving out of their apartments – who wants to live on the 10th or 20th floor of a building with no elevators operating and no water?  Others are being forced out by fires.  Still others are abandoning their homes due to safety concerns or the need to find food.  Where do all these people go and what do they do?

How long will it be before begging in the streets for help, shelter, water and food becomes demanding in the streets?  How long before people start taking not just goods from stores, but life’s essentials from other people, and by force?

Time for a new line of dominoes to start falling over.  The infrastructure repair workers – people who had been trying to restore power in whatever limited amount possible – start abandoning their jobs.  They too have no water or food, and their families are being threatened just as much as anyone else’s.

And another line of dominoes now starts falling over too.  What a few people had first started doing has become now a city-wide exodus – people are abandoning their city, fleeing to the suburbs and then on beyond, looking for refuge and safety from the civil disorder, and looking for shelter, water and food.

What Happens Next?

Sorry, all the dominoes have now fallen over.  Society has been destroyed.  The people tasked with protecting and defending society have fled their posts, and (this is the real kicker) the people tasked with restoring society’s services have also fled their posts, too.  The city dwellers are fleeing their cities – but where will they go?  Who will support them and how?  Lots of questions, none of which come with good answers.

For more on this topic, please refer to Why Cities Will Unavoidably Become Lawless within a Week or Two of a Level 2/3 Event, which talks some more about how cities will fail when their support structures fail.

And for more on where people can go to when evacuating a city, we have several articles, including perhaps this one – Rural America’s Decline Means Urban America’s Increased Vulnerability.

And as to what will happen next, here’s a good article – The Four Waves of Food and Shelter Seekers.

Could it Really Get That Bad?

Many people acknowledge that society could suffer a massive failure, but refuse to accept that the net result would be lawlessness and much worse.  They prefer to think that respect for the concept of the rule of law and the treasuring of human life above all else would remain, and that people would behave honorably and well.

Perhaps some people might indeed set shining examples of unselfish good behavior.  But the thing that can’t be avoided is – what happens when people are starving, and they have to choose between allowing their spouses, children, and other dependents to die of hunger while acting honestly and nobly, or doing whatever it takes – anything it takes – to get food any way possible?

No matter how basically decent and honest most people are most of the time, when it becomes life or death, many people will choose life, no matter how it is to be achieved.  Cities will inevitably become a ‘kill or be killed’ environment.

A breakdown in society and destruction of the rule of law doesn’t require everyone to ‘go bad’.  The tipping point requires only a very few people to act that way – this has been proven time and time again with the great ‘revolutions’ in history – revolutions that now seemed inevitable and which are misperceived as having been conducted with the active support of the overwhelming majority of citizens, but which in reality were brought about by only an active few.

You may or may not be certain how you and your friends would behave, but you can be absolutely certain that enough other people will act lawlessly and violently to make ordinary normal life impossible.

Summary

Who would have thought that the US could be brought to its knees by a careless driver swerving on the freeway?

We’re not saying the scenario we walked you through is guaranteed to occur.  We agree that it ‘shouldn’t’ occur, and we agree that it is very unlikely.  But, planes that ‘shouldn’t’ crash still do, and sometimes with 100% fatal results.

We’re also not saying this is the only way that our society could be brought to its knees.  Actually, we’re saying something much worse than that – we are saying that this sequence of events is only one of countless hundreds of ways in which the multiple dependencies on which our current world around us is based could collapse and all fall down, leaving nothing behind.

Most of all, we’re suggesting that – contrary to the misperceptions of many – our society is becoming increasingly more and more vulnerable rather than more and more resilient.  Energy – and electricity in particular – is one of the core essentials that our society is built upon, and if the supply of energy were to be disrupted, society could quickly and spectacularly fail before such time as energy supplies could be restored.

We’re saying that – if you’re not already – you should become a prepper, and start to prepare for a life where you can not rely on the government saving the day in an emergency.  The only people you can for sure rely upon are yourself, your immediate family, and your closest friends.  The only food, water and energy will be that you’ve stored for yourselves or can create with your own resources and efforts.

Please see our introductory series of articles about prepping for more information about who preppers are, what their concerns are, and what they are doing about their concerns.

Mar 032013
 
The remoteness of your retreat and the adverse nature of your situation can create massive mental stress.

The remoteness of your retreat and the adverse nature of your situation can create massive mental stress.

Did you know the biggest problem that happily married people have?  It is not being forced to spend time apart.  Quite the opposite.  The biggest problem is spending ‘too much’ time together!

This sure sounds counter-intuitive, and maybe it depends on how you define ‘happily married’ and ‘too much time together’.  But consistently, surveys suggest that problems arise in many marriages when the couple spends an unusually greater amount of time together than normal.  This might be in the form of one partner retiring, or being out of work, and we can understand the stress associated with such events, and how the stress could flow through to the relationship in general.

But it can also apply to spending too much ‘happy making’ time together, too.  One of the more dangerous activities for a couple to share is going on vacation.  That’s definitely counter-intuitive, but whether counter-intuitive or not, it is also definitely real (and something that travel agents don’t tell you when encouraging you to go on romantic vacations together!).

So – think about this.  If a two-week dream vacation can cause a couple to almost come to physical blows, and if the unplanned extra time together when one person is out of work is also problematic, what do you think would happen after TSHTF and you suddenly find yourself living extremely closely together, for all of every day?

Plus, if you have no other social distractions such as the internet, television, or even the telephone, you’ll truly be tripping over each other.

Not Just Your Spouse

Now let’s make it even worse.  All of a sudden, you’ve had to rush to your retreat, where you’re joined by – oh no.  Your draconian mother in law has turned up, and your opinionated brother-in-law is there too – actually, you have nothing wrong with opinions, it is just that your brother-in-law always has opposite ones to your own.  And your daughter-in-law with her screaming baby.

You dread holiday events such as Thanksgiving and Christmas and being under the same roof as some of your extended family even for a day or two, and now you’re suddenly finding yourselves thrown together for who knows – months?  Maybe even years, if someone doesn’t kill someone else first!

Rather than being a festive cheerful event that you can all go through the comfortable established ritual motions more or less in unison, and with the aid of lashings of alcohol; instead it is an unexpected unhappy event, and you’ve run out of drink.  Oh – and you all have to share the one overworked smelly toilet together, too.  🙂

This reality is more likely to be the one you end up confronting, than an idealized ‘we’ll all be happy and united in the harmony of all working together to survive’ concept that some people half-visualize without thinking things through.

You’re going to need to set up some ground-rules for how to ‘keep the peace’ in your retreat.  The most important of these ground-rules and arrangements will be giving everyone some personal space – both literally, in terms of setting up private personal areas for each person as much as is possible; a place where they can be quiet and undisturbed and retreat to; and also figuratively, in terms of code of conduct and behavior; not rudely interfering (perhaps not even politely interfering) with people as they do their own personal activities.

A Related Problem – Cabin Fever

A related challenge will be what is often termed ‘cabin fever’ – an emotional disturbance that can affect people living closely together in a small and isolated space.  If a group of you are in a remote retreat, you’re half-way to cabin fever already; now toss in a couple of decent snowfalls so that you can’t really go outside much, and you’re definitely in cabin fever territory.

Here’s an interesting article from a couple who spent nine months together in the Antarctic.  The article points out that cabin fever is prone to develop and can lead to lethal outcomes.

The couple’s observation that external stresses flow through to international and relationship stresses is self-evidently true, and would be a huge factor in a post-TEOTWAWKI lifestyle.

We don’t have sure-fire solutions.  But here’s an interesting article that has ten suggestions to avoid/overcome cabin fever, and while it wasn’t written for preppers, much of its suggestions flow through to us, too.

One scenario which also has similarities is prison and we should endeavor to learn from that (but hopefully not at first hand!).  Considering lessons from prison life, there would be several things to take on board, in particular the concept of exercising and of educating yourself.

Assuming you are not busy all day working in the fields (which would be a massive help in minimizing cabin fever issues anyway), take time to learn a new skill and/or practice/enjoy a skill you already possess (preferably a quiet activity – learning to play the drums or trumpet might help you feel better but would almost certainly impact on other people in your retreat!).

Boredom Can Be Deadly Too

It isn’t just cabin fever which can lead to problems (and potentially lethal fights between your retreat members).  People can literally die of boredom.

The flip-side of this coin is equally relevant and important – ‘losing the will to survive’.  You’ll be in a high stress environment, and you need all your community members to stay as positive as possible and to continue fighting against the challenges and adversity you find yourself now confronting.  People who become passive and cease to pull their weight will create a nasty self-fulfilling cycle of failure that will not only drag them down but impact negatively on everyone around them too.

You may have already seen these types of behaviors in people, yourself.  You know – the person who lived for their job, and when they retire, suddenly find they have nothing at all to do.  Within a year or two, they’re dead; not due to any chronic ill-health that had plagued them for years, but perhaps because they just lost the will to live.

Many of the same strategies for fighting cabin fever apply to boredom too.  Here is an article that offers up six solutions to boredom, and this article has ten different approaches – admittedly not all of which would apply to a retreat situation, but with some imagination, they could be adapted.  For example, instead of going to a sporting event, arrange a sporting event between the people in your group.

Summary

Most people focus on the physical aspects of surviving in adverse circumstances – ensuring they have shelter, water, food, and energy.  Those are all essential things, but managing the mental and emotional situation you will find yourself in is every bit as important as the physical/tangible parts of your prepping.

Consider the deadly trio of mental woes – cabin fever, boredom, and stressed relationships, and manage your emotional environment as carefully as you do your physical environment, manage your emotional health as well as you do your physical health.