Aug 032012

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

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

So far, so good.

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

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

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

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

Adding One More Community Member

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

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

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

When One Becomes Many

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

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

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

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

Less Desirable Additions

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

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

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

Choosing Between Too Many Applicants

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

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

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

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

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

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

Another Variation

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

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

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

Even More Extreme

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

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

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

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

Other Scenarios

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

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

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

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

The Need to Prepare Community Rules in Advance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specific Guidelines for Evaluating Potential Extra Community Members

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

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

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

Jul 162012

In the last four years, Mexican drug cartels have established a presence in over 1,000 US cities, in almost every one of our lower 48 states.

We wrote, a couple of days ago, about the threat posed to post-collapse retreats and communities by organized gangs.  There are over 1.4 million members of organized gangs in the US at present, a number which is growing at an alarming rate.

But our ‘own’ gangs are not the only threat we must anticipate.  Although it is difficult to know where ‘our’ gangs end and ‘foreign’ gangs start, this article reports on the spread of Mexican drug cartels into almost every part of the United States.  Over 1,000 US cities reported Mexican cartel presence in 2010.

The cartels are not only ‘doing business’ in the US, they are also setting up massive marijuana growing operations too – primarily in California, Oregon and Washington.

We spoke about an uneasy truce between gangs and law enforcement in our earlier article.  But the Mexican cartels don’t understand the concept of truces.  Some 50,000 people (that we know of – who knows how many more have never been reported) have been killed in the last six years by gang warfare in Mexico.  If they can’t bribe or bully them, the gangs don’t hesitate to shoot it out with police and other national law enforcement agencies, and if politicians or journalists start to make public complaints, they get assassinated.

Mexicans are dying in Mexico from this unofficial civil war at a greater rate than Americans were dying in Vietnam.  We lost about 55,000 soldiers in the most active ten years of the Vietnam war, compared to more than 50,000 Mexican deaths in six years.

Another comparison – in Iraq, the US lost about 4,400 personnel over about an eight year period.  Mexico has lost more than eleven times as many people, in only six years.

The US has not been without casualties either in this ostensibly Mexican war.  But most of our casualties are in the form of new addicts, their lives destroyed, and the social costs of these addicts – either in treatment programs and/or as the addicts steal to support their habits.  These days two-thirds of the cocaine and 70% of the methamphetamine comes into the US via the Mexican cartels.

These cartels won’t just go away in a Level 2/3 situation.  They’ll merely adapt and adopt to the changed circumstance, and alter the type of misery they trade in and the violence and ruin they leave in their wake.

Meanwhile, our federal government pretends that all illegal traffic between Mexico and the US is good, and is exclusively in the form of honest hardworking Mexicans desperate to build a better life for themselves in the US while conforming to all our country’s rules and social conventions – oh, apart from being illegal immigrants, not learning English, not paying taxes, not having car insurance, and so on.  And if a state should find itself with no choice but to try to enforce some of the immigration laws already on our statute books, the federal government refuses to cooperate and sues them in federal court.

Maybe the federal court rulings are correct when they say that controlling immigration is primarily a federal government responsibility, but has anyone joined the dots the rest of the way in this picture and asked what should be done when the federal government refuses to honor the responsibilities and obligations it has previously enacted and claimed for itself?

Never mind a ‘war’ on illegal immigration.  Our federal government can’t even use its self-proclaimed ‘war on drugs’ as a reason to crack down on the spread of illegal cartels throughout our heartland.

One wonders how much of a problem gangs would be if every illegal immigrant was booted out of the country, and no more allowed in.  It seems to us their membership would collapse from 1.4 million down to a massively lower number.

Opinion surveys show an overwhelming majority of Americans support tighter border and immigration controls.  But the Washington elites continue to do completely the opposite.  Is this the way democracy is supposed to work?

Bottom Line for Preppers

There is a temptation to think of the outcome of a Level 2/3 event as creating a disorderly and disorganized mob or rabble of people, aimlessly fleeing cities, while dysfunctionally and desperately seeking food any way possible.  Superficially, such concepts don’t imply great danger or risk to us.

While this projection may be true, it is not the complete picture.  The collapse of law and order will remove the constraints on organized gangs – large groups of people who are neither disorderly nor disorganized.  They will aggressively act to fill the ‘power’ gap caused by the collapse of normal government, social and policing structures, and will have both the means and motivation to ruthlessly dominate their chosen territories.

You better make sure you have a Spanish/English dictionary in your retreat.  The chances are that when the armed gang that attacks you arrives, they’ll be speaking Spanish.

Jul 112012

How many people do you need in your community in order to ensure its viability and safety? The answer will surprise you.

As we’ve several times detailed, to create a secure retreat, you need some sort of community defense program – either in the form of a suitable sized group sharing your retreat with you, or by forming a local ‘neighborhood watch’ program, albeit on steroids and armed for bear.

If we calculate the minimum size of security force we need, we can extrapolate from that to get an ideal of the minimum size that a group as a whole can be.  Clearly, there’s probably no upper limit that would be a problem for most of us, but – as we calculate in this article – there is indeed a lower limit that may be a challenge in some situations.

In planning your security needs, there are two main factors to keep in mind.  The first is you’ll need some type of 24/7 perimeter security on watch to give you warning of the appearance of any marauders, and the second is you’ll need a team of armed people to help you fight them off.

What Perimeter Do You Need to Patrol and Secure?

The first issue is to decide what your patrol zone will be and what your secure zone will be.  The two may not necessarily be identical.

Obviously, your retreat building itself will need to be patrolled and secured, and if you are part of a community, their retreat buildings will also need to be patrolled and secured.  This points to the benefit of a small cluster of retreat dwellings close together – it is easier to patrol all buildings and the common areas between them if they are close together.  (See also our article on Community Mutual Defense Pacts and the situations in which they will or won’t work for more discussion on this important topic.)

One of the key things about a perimeter is that everywhere inside it is reasonably secure – the perimeter encloses an area such that people can not cross the perimeter without being detected.  For this reason, perimeters usually have some sort of physical barrier so as to require people crossing it to make a conscious decision to do so (meaning that if you find an intruder inside your perimeter, you know they are not there by innocent mistake) and also to make it easier for you to detect them while they are crossing the barrier, meaning you can patrol your perimeter with fewer people.  The barrier hopefully also provides you and your fellow sentries with some security so you can’t be ambushed or picked off by distant snipers.

Establishing a secure perimeter can be a problem if you have a geographically distributed group of retreat dwellings.  You can patrol/secure each dwelling, but you can’t patrol the land between them, which also makes it dangerous for people from one dwelling to travel to another one, whether it be for social purposes or to provide reinforcement in time of attack.

Note that the area you patrol – your perimeter – need not be the same as the area you defend.  Maybe you have obscured listening/observation posts around your property, but when the sentries at such locations detect people coming towards them, they merely sound the alarm and then stealthily withdraw back to the main defended location.

Another situation could have you needing to patrol your fields to protect your livestock from rustling and possibly even to protect your crops from being stolen too.

Clearly, the more area you need to patrol, the more people you will need on patrol.  Which leads to our next point.

How Many People as Sentries

Even if you are only patrolling/protecting your own retreat, you can’t just share sentry duty with your spouse during the day, and lock the front door and bolt the windows when you both go to bed at night.  You need to be actively looking for threatening people, and you need to intercept them before they get dangerously close to your dwelling.

Note that ‘dangerously close’ is actually quite a long way away – a person can sprint almost 100 yards in ten seconds.  How much warning do you need to suddenly be ready to defend your house and loved ones from a surprise attack – almost surely plenty more than ten seconds.

You don’t want to be woken up late at night to the sound and other sensations of attackers already attempting to crash through your front door, and pouring burning liquids in through any openings in your retreat walls.  You need to have sufficient people on sentry duty, at least during the nights, and ideally all day every day, as to ensure you can never be attacked by surprise.

At the very least, you need three people to do lookout duty.  This would allow for duty cycles of four hours on, eight hours off, every day (56 hours on duty every week for each of three people).  Three people means one person always on duty.

But there’s a problem with that – and we’re assuming that the area you are patrolling is small enough and laid out so that a single person is all that is needed to adequately patrol it.  If you have only one sentry, what happens if that one person is taken out in a sneaky surprise attack?  You then have nothing and no-one between you and your attackers.

So perhaps you need two people on duty all the time, in the hope that one of the two will survive long enough to sound an alarm – and also doubling the chances of the sentries spotting the bad guys before the bad guys launch their attack.

So this means you need six people at a minimum to keep two people on duty all the time.  And that is assuming a well laid out retreat and patrol path that allows for one two-man team to effectively patrol the entire perimeter.

You might think that in a survival situation, people won’t mind working longer shifts.  Union and state/federal labor laws probably won’t apply in such a scenario!

That is true, but the reality is that you can’t keep people fresh and alert for more than four hours on sentry duty at a time; indeed, two-hour or three-hour shifts would be vastly better than four-hour shifts.

You also need to allow people a chance to be well rested (ie at least one break of at least 8 hours) and to give them a measure of time to just ‘live their lives’ as well.  Maybe you could work a schedule with three three-hour shifts, a nine-hour break and two three-hour breaks, but that would be about the absolute maximum for ongoing ordinary operations, and all you’ve done is get one extra hour per sentry per day.

In reality, you’ll need to have more than six people on your sentry duty roster.  You need someone to coordinate the schedules, you need to allow time for sickness and other special events, and so on.

For sure, the six or more sentry personnel can also be contributing to your retreat in other ways when not sleeping or standing sentry duty, but this number – six – represents one measure of the minimum size group of people you need for a secure retreat in a Level 2 situation.

This number probably surprises you.  Just to stand sentry duty to detect the possible approach of bad guys will require six people, each working 56 hours a week minimum.

The good news is that one of the two sentries on duty at any time need not be an adult with skill at arms.  One person could be a child – with probably better eyesight and hearing than an adult, a child could be a good sentry, although they need to be old enough to have sufficient concentration span to remain alert for their shift.

How Many People as Defenders

It is fairly easy to do as we just did, to work the numbers and to decide you need at least six people available to rotate shifts as sentries.  But what happens when a group of marauders approach and attack you?

Clearly at that point, everyone who can aim and shoot a rifle will be doing exactly that.  There’s no such thing as having too many defenders.  But there is definitely a problem about having too few.

As an awfully absolute bare minimum, you want at least two people able to be your primary fire team engaging the attackers.  You then want to still have some sentries, scanning around the rest of your perimeter, looking for additional attackers suddenly appearing from the sides or rear.

You also need a support person bringing additional ammunition supplies and anything else that may be needed to the active shooters.  This person might also do double duty as a corpsman/medic, in the event that you suffer casualties among your own people.

You need at least one person in a ‘ready reserve’.  Best case scenario, they do nothing.  Neutral case scenario, they are called upon to successfully defend against an attack from a new zone (but this will be one person on your side, and probably two or more attackers – a ready reserve of one is very few, especially when you can’t afford to take people away from your primary fire team either).  Worst case scenario, they have to replace an incapacitated member of the primary fire team.

So, add that up, and you need 2 on the primary fire team, one support person, at least one lookout, and hopefully plenty more than one person in your ready reserve – five people altogether as a terrible minimum, better six or seven (or eight or nine…).

Yes, five people is adequate to successfully defend against one attacker.  You might think that you only need two people to successfully defend, from your somewhat fortified position, and while that is sort of true, you need to be alert and able to respond to additional threats that suddenly appear at the same time.  So you need five people to be reasonably sure of winning against one attacker (in part because you can never be sure there is only one person).

The good news is that you don’t need five more people for each additional attacker.  But it would be nice to have at least as many people shooting back as there are people shooting at you, and you do need the support resources too.

You’ll probably be faced with many more than one person attacking you.  How many should you anticipate?

How Many People as Attackers

How many people do you think might attack you?  That’s a tremendously unknown but important number.  It depends a bit on the makeup of the group of people attacking you.  Are they an ad-hoc group of people joined together in the common cause of stealing food, or are they members of a traditional gang?

Ad-hoc groups are probably going to be at least five in number – any less than that and they’d not feel secure at attacking a defended position and would either leave you alone or join up with other individuals or groups.

On the other hand, smaller groups of 2 or 3 or 4 might adopt a stealthy approach and subterfuge – appearing initially as harmless helpless refugees or whatever, getting close to or even inside your retreat, and only then surprising you and overwhelming you in your unprepared state.  Anyone who approaches your retreat is a potential threat.

We guess ad hoc groups of attackers would tend to be around 8 – 20 people in number.  More than 20 gets complicated to manage/control, and becomes vulnerable to ‘splinter groups’ forming and breaking away, while less than 8 and the group will still be keen to recruit more participants.

Furthermore, if ad-hoc groups get much larger, they’ll start to delegate duties, and it is reasonable to expect that any initial foraging teams will probably be only eight or so people – this is more than enough to overwhelm unprotected or lightly protected retreats.

So for these type of newly formed ad-hoc groups, we guess you’ll be encountering at least five and probably more people attacking you.  But, the more secure and impressive your own retreat, the greater the size of the attacking group, because smaller groups will simply pass you by while looking for easier pickings and larger groups will apply more of their force to the assault.  Maybe the first team sees your retreat and security, then goes back to the main group and suggests that the initial approach/attack be with a larger attacking force.

As for more traditional street gang type groups, that’s a much bigger worry.

Organized Gangs

Way back in 2005, a Department of Justice report estimated there were 21,500 gangs in the US, and 731,000 active gang members.  There’s an interesting piece of information in this data – it seems the average gang size, in 2005, was 34 people.

A second set of statistics in 2007 claims 30,000 gangs and 800,000 gang members.  This works out to a lower count of 27 per gang.

Another set of statistics, in 2009, claims 900,000 gang members plus another 147,000 gang members in prisons, but doesn’t provide a count of the number of gangs.

A 2011 FBI report estimated 1.4 million people in gangs.  We can only guess what the count of gangs and gang members may be now.

None of these numbers are exact, but two things are apparent.  First, gang membership is increasing at a dismaying rate.  Second, it seems likely to expect that most gangs will have between 25 – 40 members.

If we look at this number of 25 – 40 people per gang, it seems reasonable to assume that if it is a gang type group of people attacking you, there could be as many as half their members in an attack force, and certainly eight or more people.

Perhaps the initial attack might be about eight people, and then after you fight them off, the survivors go back and bring the rest of the gang back for round two of the battle – maybe the second time around you find yourself up against 30 attackers.

We feel the gang threat may be the gravest threat you face – see our separate article that analyses gang issues in more detail.

Realistic Sized Security Force

There are many other factors that go into determining the size of security force you need.  But for this overview, let’s simply say that you need at least ten people who can effectively fight to defend your retreat, and if you can scale this up further, so much the better.

Of course, in an emergency, most adults will be pressed into service to defend the retreat, so we’re simply saying your group needs to include at least ten able-bodied arms-bearing adults at a minimum and preferably more like twenty, so as to be able to defend itself against occasional attacks.

If your retreat is unusually large, you may need even more people, just so you don’t have any exposed undefended external walls.

Not Just Able Bodied Adults

The chances are your community will not just be exclusively able-bodied adults (and we’re also assuming that all adults, both male and female, will be able to and will agree to bear arms in support of the community).  You’ll for sure have some children too, and maybe also elderly people less able to contribute significantly to the defense of the community.

If you have 15 able-bodied adults at a minimum, what does that mean for the overall total community size?  Will there be another 10 children and elderly?  Or another 20?  You can of course influence the answer to this question by selecting who you choose to bring in to your community, but the chances are that at the very least, 15 able-bodied adults will mean a total community size of 25.

Let’s run the numbers some more about what the minimum size community could effectively be.  You’ll be surprised.

What is the Minimum Sized Community

So, to successfully patrol your retreat, you need at least six people working as sentries full-time (ie 56 hrs/week each).  If your retreat or patrolled perimeter is larger than what can be adequately monitored by one single two-man team, you might need 12 people (for two teams) or 18 (for three teams) or some other multiple of six.

If your retreat has six adults as sentries, people who are full-time diverted from ‘productive’ duties such as caring for livestock, growing crops, and so on, clearly it needs to have perhaps another six adults who can do productive duties to provide the food and ongoing shelter and energy needs for the group of 12 as a whole.  These other six people could double as part-time members of the defense force in the event that an attack eventuates.

Remember also that a community will typically have some people who are less productive – retirees and children.  Indeed, younger children are not only less productive themselves, but will also drain productive adult resources by needing to be cared for and educated.

So we start with six adults, minimum, just for sentry duties.  Then another six adults to produce food for the group, now totaling 12.  Maybe these 12 people are joined by 8 less productive children or adults, who need another four adults to care for them directly or to indirectly add to the community’s overall food and energy production.  And now the four extra adults bring additional less productive companions with them too, and so on, over and over.

It is easy to see how the practical minimum size of a single retreat/contiguous community can rapidly swell to way more than 25 people in total, and ideally more like 30 or even 40.  Which probably means you split into two or more dwellings (but see our article advocating a multi-unit condo block rather than free standing dwellings), and may need at least one more set of six sentries, plus the support people now needed for them, and on it goes.

Before you know where you are, you’re looking at 50+ people, and wishing you had more.

Implications for Preppers

We’ve several times pointed out the need to join or create a community so as to establish a viable sized group – not only for defense, but for other purposes too.  However, this is the first time we’ve put a number alongside the claim.  Depending on the physical layout of your retreat(s) and the make-up of your group (as between fully productive adults and less productive seniors and children) you need somewhere between 25 and 50 people as a minimum viable sized group.

Chances are you’ll be as surprised at this as we were, the first time we did the calculation.  But check our logic, and if you can see some other way of working the numbers, let us know.

We started out, probably like you, planning our own retreat for just our immediate family members.  Then we decided to invite in a few selected and trusted very close friends, because we sensed that there was safety, security, and strength in numbers.  But now that we’ve seen how many people we really need to be more certain of securely surviving a Level 2/3 scenario, we’ve evolved our thinking and are now offering the Code Green Community concept, inviting you to consider joining with us as part of a larger more viable group.

Consider joining us by all means.  Alternatively, of course you can do your own thing – either close to us or anywhere else in the country.  But whatever you do, make sure you do it as part of an integrated group; don’t plan on only yourself, your spouse, and immediate family members going it alone.  Whether it is a security problem or something quite different, it is just too risky to attempt to survive in a very small group.

Jul 112012

London’s 2011 riots yet again demonstrated the ugly streak of evil that lurks close below the surface of modern society.

(Note – it might be helpful to refresh your understanding of what we define as Level 1, 2 and 3 events.)

The main challenge you will have in a Level 2 situation is security.  While you probably will have food and energy supplies for a year or two (or three….), most ‘normal’ unprepared people have no energy stockpiles and little food.  Within a week, most people will be increasingly forced to ‘forage’ for their food – and we use this word ‘forage’ as a euphemism for more than simple ‘stealing’, because stealing is a familiar and non-violent sounding term.

Interestingly, we see the greatest problems being in the early days of any Level 2/3 scenario.  There is probably an evolutionary process that society will shake down through – we discuss this in our article on the security/lawlessness cycle here.

In that article we lightly touch on the concept that people will be forced to choose between starvation and forcibly taking such food and shelter as they can, by any means necessary.  Let’s look into this in some more detail both in terms of the types of risks and threats you’ll face, and how you need to prepare for them.

Level 2 Risks :  (a)  Lawless Gangs

We have regularly seen, both in the US and elsewhere in the world, the propensity of some groups of society to degenerate into violent lawlessness any time society hiccups and normal law enforcement activities pause.

These people violently riot and loot (and attack and murder) for the sheer devilry and ‘fun’ of it, and because they are laboring under some bizarre view of reality that makes them feel entitled to behave that way, and also for the opportunistic chance to enrich themselves by carrying away color televisions and other home electronics from stores they are looting.

How much more aggressive will they be in a Level 2 situation?  It seems realistic to accept that normal law enforcement will be massively reduced in a Level 2 situation.  Even if all the police and other law enforcement personnel still report for duty, the same as normal, they’ll be overwhelmed by the number of problems suddenly dropping in their lap.

As we saw in, for example, the Los Angeles riots in 1992, normal law enforcement numbers can be completely inadequate for any outbreaks of mass violence, and in a Level 2 situation, not only will there be even greater disorder, there will not be regional and national reserves of manpower to call upon, because every other region will also be struggling to keep ahead of their own problems.  The inability of local law enforcement to deal with rioting is the flipside of the coin to do with the police relying on the general consent and acquiescence of the communities they police – when this starts to fail, so too does the policing, whether it be as we say in Los Angeles in 1992, or more recently in London in 2011, or anywhere else.

Add to that the fact that such roving gangs of people won’t only be looting for fun and for personal enrichment, and they won’t just be seeking things such as computers, iPhones, and suchlike.  They’ll be as threatened with starvation as anyone else, and they’ll be looting for food and survival, too – just more vigorously and violently then everyone else.

Level 2 Risks :  (b)  Organized Gangs

A much greater threat is the presence of organized gangs – bikers, drug distribution networks, street gangs, and such like.  While there aren’t as many of these people as there will be, initially, of lawless gangs, they are organized, disciplined, and totally amoral.

They are also determined.  Whereas lawless groups of people – ad hoc gangs – are opportunistic and will attack easy targets and avoid hard targets, organized gangs will be willing to attack all types of targets – weak targets because they can, and hard targets because they pose potential threats to the organized gang that will otherwise seek to become the new power structure in a region.

Even worse, many of these gangs are vaguely prepping for the future, too.  They’re poised, waiting to attack society as soon as it becomes feasible to do so.

Level 2 Risks :  (c)  Starving People

We don’t need guns if/when a person politely comes up and knocks on our door and asks if we can spare any food.  If we are unable to help out, they thank us for our time and leave again.

But do you really think that is what will happen?

Let’s say 50% of the population only has food for three days or less, another 25% for about ten days, another 20% for about twenty days.  And let’s say it becomes obvious to everyone that the Level 2 situation will take not days or weeks, but many months to be resolved.

In three days, half the population will be looking at empty pantries.  What will they do?

Within another week, 75% of the population will have no food, and there will be a growing realization by everyone, whether they still have food or not, that there is no hope of any arriving any time soon.  What will all these people do?

Over the next ten days, they’ll be joined by just about everyone else.  In less than three weeks – probably much less – more than 95% of the population will be starving.

Will these people politely knock on your door, and then just shuffle off and die quietly on the street if you refuse to share your own limited supply of food with them?  It is possible that a pacifist single person might do this, but what about a man (or woman) with a spouse and children to feed?  Will they just passively let their entire family die of starvation, while watching you and a very few others continue to eat almost normally?

Here’s the logic they face :

You can threaten to shoot me with your gun, but if I don’t take your food from you, I’ll definitely die of starvation, so it makes sense for me to risk being shot while doing anything and everything necessary to take your food from you.  If I have to choose between you dying, or me and my family dying, you will be the one I prefer to see die.

You need to understand this.  If you refuse to feed your best friend in a post Level 2/3 situation, then he, just as much as any stranger, has no choice but to use whatever means necessary to take your food from you, because it is essential tp the survival of himself and his family.

You also need to remember how people are so brilliantly good at justifying any actions to themselves.  The same people who laughed at you for stockpiling food will now be demanding it from you as their ‘right’ – ‘You have no right not to share your food with us, you can’t just leave us to die, you selfish so-and-so’.  That’s only one small step removed from ‘You are trying to kill us by withholding food from us’ and ‘You’ve more food than you could possibly need yourself, there should be a law against such selfishness’.

After they’ve demonized you in their own mind, and played up their own deserving victim status, they’ll feel totally justified to shoot you in your doorway, and then to clamber over your dead body and to loot your house of all its supplies.

We are deliberately writing this in vivid shock terms, but you need to understand and accept this.  If it sounds impossible to you, ask yourself – and answer the question – what will starving people do instead when they see you with plenty of food while they have none?

Some people might find it unlikely that their friendly next door neighbors will turn around and use any and all means up to and including lethal force to take food from them.  We agree this is unlikely, but we realistically fear that it is much more likely that your neighbors (and, of course, strangers too) will do this than it is that they’ll just peacefully and calmly resign themselves to die of starvation and lie waiting for death to occur in their own homes.


No matter where you have your retreat located, sooner or later it will be found by groups of starving marauders and/or opportunistic gangs (see our article on ‘Is it Realistic to Expect Your Retreat Will Not be Found‘).  The only three things you don’t know is how long it will be until you are first confronted by starving/looting marauders, how often such confrontations will occur into the future, and how many people you’ll encounter on each occasion.

The one thing you can be sure of is that these people mean to take your food and other supplies and resources from you, and if they have to do it by force, they won’t even pause to think twice.  Indeed, their resentment at you being well prepared is such they’ll feel you ‘deserve to die’ – this is about as warped as illogic can get, but do you want to bet your life that this is not how people will end up thinking?

You will have become the evil ‘1%’ that has recently been demonized by the ‘Occupy Wall St’ protesters.  We’ve seen, over the last year, people trying to wrap themselves in the righteous mantle of being part of a supposed 99% of the country, using this supposed ‘moral majority’ empowerment to advocate violence and sanctions against the remaining 1% of the country – even though the supposed 99% group are – quite obviously to those of us who truly are mainstream – anything but representative members of the majority.  They’re as much a 1% minority group as are the people they claim that their ‘majority status’ empowers them to act against.

We make these points not so much to criticize the Occupy Wall St people (although we definitely don’t support them) but rather to point out how people readily make completely ridiculous claims about themselves so as to give themselves a self-claimed mantle of legitimacy that then empowers them to do whatever lawless and wrong acts they wish.

The same people who are keen to live off government handouts today, and who believe that rich people should be taxed and then taxed some more so that they (the ‘99%’) don’t need to do any work themselves, will of course now resent you for doing the very thing they will have laughed at you about before the Level 2 event – preparing prudently and storing food.

They won’t now consider it to have been prudent preparation and storing of your food.  They will claim it to be immorally selfish hoarding of food that should belong to the community (and, in particular, to them).  Your refusal to give all your food to them means that you are denying them the right to live.  So, of course, they’ll feel totally morally empowered to at the very least take all your food from you, and if they have to shoot you in the process, so be it.


You need to plan your retreat not just from a perspective of weather and suitability for agricultural purposes and everything else.  You also need to plan to make it defendable against people keen to rob you by force, even by lethal force if necessary.

The most important adage is ‘safety in numbers’.  You need to become part of a community to share the burden of defending your properties, and to have the strength in numbers necessary to prevail against attacks by evildoers.

Jul 052012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Problem of Mutual Support in the Countryside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Town/Village Alternative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Choose Your Community Wisely

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

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

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

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

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

Jul 042012

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase One – A False Calm

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

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

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

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

Phase Two – A Growing Panic

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase Three – Abandoning the Cities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase Four – Nowhere is Safe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase Five – A New Form of Social Order

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phase Six – A Return to Normalcy

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

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

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

The prevailing attitude will become one of confidence and assuredness.

What We Need to Do as Preppers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jul 042012

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

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

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

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

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

Appetite Fatigue Can Kill

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some suggestions.

Style of Cooking

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

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

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

Food Combinations

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

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

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

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

Spices for Food

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

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

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

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

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

Spices as a Trade Good

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Food Presentation and Appearance

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

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

Candy and Dessert Too

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

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

Occasional Special Meals Help Carry People Over

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Jul 022012

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cost Benefits of Multi-unit Construction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benefits In a Level 2/3 Situation

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

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

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

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

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

Zoning and Building Codes

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Jun 212012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Growing Economic Vulnerability

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confronting the Uncertainties in Our Current Lives

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

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

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

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

Can you see where this is going?

Bugging Out Very Early

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Huge Change – But Don’t Dismiss it Outright

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

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

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

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

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