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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lt. Dan writes :

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dan replied :

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

Lt. Dan puts it very vividly when he writes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dominoes Fall, Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dominos Fall Ever Faster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dominoes Fall, Part Two

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Happens Next?

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

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

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

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

Could it Really Get That Bad?

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mar 162013
 
Earthquake danger zones in WA, OR, ID, MT.

Earthquake danger zones in WA, OR, ID, MT.

On Monday we quoted officials in Los Angeles who bravely told the truth and agreed it would be more than three days before any type of relief could be deployed to people after a major earthquake.

Their take – people should have enough on hand to be self-sufficient for at least two weeks.

On Friday a second story comes out, this time from Seattle, and with Oregon and San Francisco data also linked.  In a more detailed article and analysis, the Seattle Times looked at the likely consequences of a major but not improbably large earthquake occurring in the WA/OR region.

This chart, using information drawn from a Washington State Seismic Safety Committee report, shows the current shortfall between target recovery times and expected recovery times.

The complete 34 page report is available here and on its page 12 is the earthquake danger zone image we use above and an explanation of what it shows.

An earlier document here is also helpful in understanding weaknesses, vulnerabilities and dependencies.

Not Three Days.  And Not Two Weeks.  More Like Many Months.

We don’t know who started the ‘you should prepare for a three-day outage/disruption’ myth, and perhaps the originator’s intentions were good – on the basis that a three-day supply of life’s essentials are better than no supply at all.

But these reports abundantly show that after three days, there will still be next to no infrastructure or emergency support at all if the disruptive event is substantial in nature.

Furthermore, why do the quoted officials now talk about two weeks as the time period people should prepare for?  Their own studies show that two weeks is also a massively inadequate time frame.  Look at the data in their own reports (click the links above).

You can live without water for three days, but the target to restore water services is a week, and the current reality of when water supplies would be restored is an entire year.  Neither the target nor the reality seem close to acceptable, and clearly we must have our own water supplies.

One month for electricity, oil, gas, phone and internet service restoration – that’s the target.  The actual time to restore these services is currently projected at three months.  Okay, maybe you can live without the internet for three months, but without electricity or gas, and no oil products either (ie no petrol or diesel)?

Oregon data is not so clearly presented, but can be seen on the website of their Office of Emergency Management.  Kent Yu, who chaired their Oregon’s resilience planning, is quoted as saying that the current advice to stock up on enough water and food to last three days is laughable.  But his proposed alternative is only slightly less inappropriate, when he says ‘You need to prepare for at least two weeks’.  Clearly the emphasis in his statement needs to be on the modifying phrase ‘at least’.

The Seattle Times article lightly touches on the inter-connected nature of disaster recovery when it points out that if there’s no petrol and diesel, relief crews can’t get to where they need to go, and heavy machinery can’t operate.  But one wonders just how many inter-connected challenges will only be discovered after a disaster, and one wonders whether the current projected recovery times are realistic or wildly optimistic.

For example, the article correctly explains that replacement high voltage transformers would have to be built overseas and shipped here.  But the article says that this can take six months to a year – a statement that implies 6 – 12 months is an unusually long period of time.  In reality, most other analyses and real world experience points to lead times closer to 3 years from ordering to installing a new high voltage transformer.  And, for sure, if there were a sudden surge in demand for replacement transformers, no matter what the current lead times may be, the lead times for an unexpected sudden increase in demand would stretch way out.

Official Projections for San Francisco, Too

It is also interesting to view the seventh and eighth slides in this presentation that show the shortfall between targeted ideal response/recovery times and actual expected response times in San Francisco.  In particular, note how hospitals, which ideally would be disaster resistant, are expected to be out of service for up to 36 months, and emergency utilities, which ideally should be restored within four hours, are expected to be out for 60 days.  Utilities for non-emergency services, which should be restored within 72 hours, are expected to stay out for 60 days.

Also notable is the desire to allow 95% of citizens to be able to shelter in place in their homes within 24 hours of an emergency, but the reality suggests it could take up to 36 months for 95% of citizens to return to their homes (and longer for the unlucky remaining 5%).

A more detailed analysis on the sixth page of this presentation shows in San Francisco that the authorities actually project that only 85% of residents will be back in their homes within 36 months, leaving now 15% still homeless three years after the event.

So, what about public shelters?  The aim is to have them operating within 24 hours, the current reality is it might take four months to get them online.

So, here’s the question to ask your non-prepped friends.  If it takes three years or more to be able to return home, and four months before you can live in a public shelter, and 60 days before there’s any power or water, what are you going to do until then?

Summary

The Washington State Seismic Safety Committee has, as its objective, a 50 year plan to improve the state’s ability to respond to a major (but not improbable) earthquake.  Who knows how long it will actually take, and at present, it has not received any funding or support even to move forward on its 50 year plan.

So, for apparently the next 50 years or more in WA, the official state studies confirm what you already know.  You’ll be on your own for too long, and if you’re not prepared, your very survival is gravely at risk.

Similar studies in Oregon and San Francisco have similar findings.

We don’t know where the myth of ‘prepare for a three-day outage’ comes from, and even the new claim of two weeks seems wildly optimistic too.  These studies all convincingly point to best case scenarios of weeks, months, and in some cases years of outages.

Share this article and our earlier article with your non-prepper friends to show them it isn’t just you who advocates self-sufficiency.  The very people your non-prepper friends hope to save them are saying that they can’t do this.  It is up to us.

Mar 112013
 
Simultaneous fire and flood after Japan's March 2011 earthquake.

Simultaneous fire and flood after Japan’s March 2011 earthquake.

Even though it is we who should be making fun of them (and of course we don’t – at least not to their faces), non-preppers like to poke fun at us, and to suggest that we’re in some way foolish, maybe paranoid, and definitely being unnecessarily worried about things we have no reason to worry about.

Unspoken in their thoughts is always the concept that if prepping were prudent, surely the government would either do it for us, or encourage us to do it ourselves.

The curious thing about this perception is that – if they only cared to look and listen – they’d see plenty of examples of government departments at city, county, state and federal levels all encouraging us to become semi-self-sufficient for varying amounts of time.

Here’s the most recent example.

Los Angeles held a memorial ceremony today to commemorate the second anniversary of the March 2011 earthquake in Japan, an event that killed 18,000 and destroyed 300,000 homes, to say nothing of the consequential tsunami which damaged three nuclear reactors and caused the second worst ever release of radiation as a result (only Chernobyl was worse), with fallout spreading even to the US (and causing a panic rush on Potassium Iodide supplies to the point where individual tablets started selling for more than entire bottles previously did).

Fire department officials attending the ceremony urged the public to prepare for future disasters, and said people needed to be able to cope for being at least ‘two weeks on your own’.

Fire Battalion Chief Larry Collins added

The message for a lot of us needs to be, ‘Be ready for anything’.  The message used to be 72 hours, but we’ve seen in disasters like [Hurricane] Katrina, even [Hurricane] Sandy recently, that, really, if it’s wiped out your infrastructure, and your electricity grid and your communications, it will be very likely be more than three days before you start getting food, water and other supplies coming in from outside.

So there you have it, right from the horse’s mouth, as it were (here’s a link to the article).  Be ready for anything, and be able to cope for at least two weeks on your own (what we’d term a Level 1 situation).  That’s with no water, no sewage system, no external food supplies, and no electricity.

Update :  An interesting article came out in Seattle just five days later, with more detailed information on likely disaster response/recovery leadtimes in WA, OR and SFO, and quoting more officials rejecting three-day preparations as being adequate.  We discuss this in more detail here.

Feb 182013
 
The time to buy your essentials of all types is before the panic sets in.  Seems obvious, but most people fail to do so.

The time to buy your essentials of all types is before the panic sets in. Seems obvious, but most people fail to do so.

It is now just over two months since the Sandy Hook shooting caused an increase in the rate of buying firearms and ammunition due to people’s concerns about new restrictive legislation, and their hope that the legislation wouldn’t apply retrospectively to existing firearms, magazines, and ammunition.

We’re not primarily a firearms focused website, and our main perspective on this matter is to examine this real life example of our economy’s fragility and inability to quickly respond to changes in the supply/demand equation.  What happens with firearms could just as easily happen to fuel or medical supplies or food items – or anything else at all.

It is true that gun store shelves are no longer totally bare, but if you look at the price tags on the rifles and pistols now available for sale, you’ll notice steep increases in price.  Ammunition is also returning to the shelves, but in limited quantities and again at much higher prices.  Here’s a recent article from, of all places, USA Today that confirms these issues continue to be a problem.

We also can quote an interesting report that was published on a private member only website, explaining some of the constraints that firearms manufacturers are facing.

Smith & Wesson : Is running at full capacity making 300+ guns/day-mainly M&P pistols. They are unable to produce any more guns to help with the shortages.

RUGER :  Plans to increase from 75% to 100% in the next 90 days.

FNH :  Moving from 50% production to 75% by Feb 1st and 100% by March 1.

Remington :  Maxed out.

Armalite :  Maxed out.

DPMS :  Can’t get enough parts to produce any more product.

COLT :  Production runs increasing weekly but restricted by shortages of bolt carriers.

LWRC :  Making only black guns, running at full capacity…can’t get enough gun quality steel to make barrels.

Springfield Armory :  Only company who says it can ‘meet demand’ but meeting this demand sees them running 30-45 days behind.

AMMO :  Every caliber is now allocated! We are looking at a nationwide shortage of all calibers over the next 9 months. All plants are producing as much ammo as possible with 1 BILLION rounds produced weekly. Most is military followed by law enforcement, and civilians are third in line.

MAGPUL is behind 1 MILLION mags, do not expect any large quantities of Magpul anytime soon.

RELOADERS :  ALL Remington, Winchester, CCI & Federal primers are going to ammo FIRST. There are no extras for reloading purposes… it could be 6-9 months before things get caught up.

Distributors have nothing on the shelves.  What comes in daily goes out, nothing in reserve.

Confirming the comments about ammunition above – indeed, revealing the situation to be much worse, this next quote just appeared on the website for Stockpile Defense, a supplier of bulk ammunition to the Front Sight firearms training school in Nevada.  They say their best case scenario is to get only 20% of the ammo they have ordered this year.  One wonders what their worst case scenario might be!

Due to extreme shortages in the ammunition market at this time supplies have run VERY LOW. We continue to get as much ammunition as possible regardless of price. Prices have also increased as much as 50% on some items. At this time we can not guarantee an adequate supply for all students. 9mm and .223 are the hardest to come by.

We are asking students to plan ahead and bring what ammunition you can for the class. We apologize for this inconvenience and please be assured that we are doing EVERYTHING in our power to keep everyone shooting. These are extremely volatile times and conditions are changing on a daily basis. Please check the website often for updates.

Again, we apologize for this inconvenience in these matters and we appreciate your understanding.

Please bring as much ammunition you can with you. We will supplement the rest. We are trying to supply between 500-1000 students per week and at this junction we just are not able to acquire enough ammo to supply all of your needs. We are very sorry for this.

We have 50 million rounds of ammunition on order for the 2013 year. We will not see all of this delivered. If we see 10 million that is my projected best case scenario.

The Growth in Gun/Ammo Demand Isn’t as Huge as You Might Think

It is worth repeating that these extreme shortages of both guns and ammunition are not because of an extreme increase in demand.

There have been only modest increases in firearms sales.  The FBI reports the following number of calls in to their ‘NICS’ service – every time a person buys a firearm from a dealer, the dealer has to call NICS for an instant background check.  Not all calls to NICS are for firearm sales, and some calls represent a sale of multiple firearms, but as a rule of thumb measure, the volume of NICS calls tracks the volume of new gun sales in the country.

The FBI show the following results :

Month Most Recent     Previous Year     Increase in number     Increase in percent
December     2,783,765 1,862,327 921,438 49.5%
January 2,495,440 1,377,301 1,118,139 81.2%

In particular, note that the total number of checks in January decreased compared to December.  Whether this is due to lessening of demand, or just inability to supply, we don’t know.

So these modest increases have totally destroyed the industry’s ability to supply.

Modern Manufacturing is No Longer Flexible

We wrote before on how modern manufacturing is subject to multiple dependencies – for example, a car manufacturer can’t make more cars if he can’t get more of all the sub-assemblies that go into making the car from their suppliers.  For example, the car manufacturer probably buys in its engine management computer systems from other manufacturers.  And these other manufacturers probably buy in the circuit boards, the chips, and so on that go into the units.  And the circuit board manufacturers in turn buy in the components that they then make into the prepared circuit boards, and so on and so on.

The highest profile example of this trend is Boeing.  It used to design and build airplanes from almost the base raw materials.  Originally it would make its own engines, too; but after being broken up due to anti-competitive issues, it split off its engine manufacturing (and its airline operations too) and concentrated on the airplane building.

But now, with its new 787 airplane, it has outsourced not just much of the design, but most of the building too, reducing its role to that of coordinator and final assembler of the airplane from the subassemblies other companies have made.

The good sense of that strategy is very much in question currently.  Not only was the 787 many years late in its development process, but the entire fleet have now been grounded due to safety concerns.  The plane’s electrical system – designed by one company, with batteries from another, integrated by a third company, and with control systems from a fourth company, are showing an alarming tendency to burst into flames, and you don’t need to be a rocket scientist or even an airplane engineer to understand that this is not a good thing.

Somewhere along the way, it seems that Boeing lost control of the overall management and safety architecture of its new plane development, and rather than becoming the ‘Dreamliner’ that it fancifully named its new plane, it is instead more of a nightmare for Boeing, the airlines who have bought them, and the public who may have to anxiously fly in them.

We are seeing the multiple dependencies problem play out with guns and ammo too.  A shortage of bolt carriers is limiting Colt’s production; a shortage of gun quality steel is impacting on LWRC and a shortage of all parts in general is impacting DPMS.  As for ammunition, we know there is now a shortage of primers, and who knows what else as well.

Automation Prevents Flexibility

The other key issue is that all the automation that goes into modern-day manufacturing – while a very good thing from the perspective of low-cost high-efficiency manufacturing – means that increases in production rates may require buying more machinery for the factory.

It was an easy step, decades ago, for a factory to simply hire more workers, particularly for relatively unskilled jobs that didn’t require a huge investment or delay in a training process, and of course, when demand cycles reduced, to let those people go again.  There was little up-front cost, little leadtime/delay, and no ongoing liability.

But a company can’t buy a multi-million dollar machine, and probably also need to build a new bay in their factory to house it, at short notice.  Even if it somehow could, how long would it take to build the new factory extension, and to receive the new equipment it had ordered?  And, after having done this, it would then be saddled with the machinery in the event that there was a future downturn in demand.

It also used to be that manufacturers would have reserve capacity in their factories – the ability to add a second or third shift, for example.  But more and more, manufacturers are preferring to soak up their ‘surge capacity’ rather than buying in more capacity, and so they don’t have as much reserve capacity now.

And, even if they did, remember the issue we opened with.  They might be able to double their output, but what if their sub-assembly supplier can’t also double their output to match?

Manufacturers Deliberately Operate Very Close to Capacity

It makes no financial sense for a company to invest in two very expensive machines that each run one shift a day.  Instead most companies these days would prefer to operate one expensive machine for two shifts a day, and, if demand grows further, to add a third shift too.

This makes financial sense, but what then happens if demand increases but the manufacturers are already running at close to full capacity?

The other part of this picture is what happens when all manufacturers are running at close to maximum capacity and then one of the manufacturers is knocked off-line – unscheduled maintenance, even scheduled maintenance, or whatever.  We see this happen regularly these days in the oil/gas industry, where the closing of two or three refineries simultaneously around the country (for different reasons, but coincidentally at the same time) massively drives up the price of gas at the pump.  Indeed, as we write this, we are staring at huge increases in gas prices at the pump, at the same time that crude oil supplies are abundant.

This points to an interesting related point.  Manufacturers benefit from artificial shortages.  When there is a shortage of product, the manufacturers no longer have to compete with each other, but instead they can all push their prices up and enjoy the bonus windfall profits that come their way.

We see this also in the aviation industry.  As more and more airlines disappear (little more than ten years ago there were more than ten major airlines in the US, with last week’s announcement of the AA/US merger, we are now down to only three) and with the remaining airlines deliberately limiting their flights, we not only get to suffer more flights in the middle seat, but we have to pay more for the tickets, too.

Another example – the recent increases in vegetable prices, with some vegetables increasing in price more than 50% almost overnight, due to weather issues in some areas reducing supplies.  Now you could fairly say that it is very hard to match the supply and demand with a perishable product, but the fact remains that – with the entire world as potential suppliers of foodstuffs, we have seen prices for basic vegetables such as even broccoli shoot up from under $1.50/lb to around $3.00/lb.

Empty Warehouses

Another change is the lack of finished goods inventory.  In the past, it was common for companies at every step of the supply/distribution chain to hold reserves of product, so any sudden surges in demand could be satisfied from the warehouses full of finished products.  And by the time demand had persisted to the point that the manufacturers needed to increase their production rates, their sub-assembly suppliers also had reserve capacity to help them respond to increased production and offtake rates.

As we can vividly see from the above information, such capabilities are no longer commonplace.  So here we are, arguably the world’s most advanced nation and the world’s largest economy, and unable to supply even 20% of the ordinary normal demand for ammunition for the entire year ahead.

Bear in mind also that a lot of the firearms and ammunition sold in the US is imported.  Why can’t factories elsewhere in the world also supply enough for our needs?  Has a slight uptick in demand in the US overloaded the entire world’s manufacturing capacity?  As unthinkable as it may seem, the answer compellingly seems to be ‘yes, it has’.

Summary

The bottom line is obvious.  You need to at all times keep a reasonable inventory of all products you need and consume/purchase on a regular basis.  With a simple stock rotation system, this costs you nothing, and because it enables you to buy when products are at low prices to grow your inventory, and to use from inventory when prices are high at the store, you can actually ‘earn a return’ on your investment in your own supplies of food and other items.

The example of continuing shortages of firearms and ammunition shows that it only takes a small shift in demand to overwhelm the entire supply chain, meaning that most product becomes totally unavailable, and what little still passes through the distribution channels skyrockets up in price.

The time to stock up on essentials is now, when they are plentiful, not in the future after panic buying has already set in.

Feb 102013
 
No-one wants to get stuck in the snow.  But surely we do want the right to choose, for ourselves, if we try to travel in bad weather or not.

No-one wants to get stuck in the snow. But surely we do want the right to choose, for ourselves, if we try to travel in bad weather or not.

One of the major dichotomies between preppers and non-preppers is what they expect of the government in a time of crisis.

Non-preppers typically assume ‘We don’t need to do anything ourselves to prepare for a crisis, because if one ever should occur, the government will be there to help us’.  Preppers are more likely to think ‘Sooner or later a severe crisis will occur; one which will overwhelm the government’s ability to care for everyone, and so we need to be able to independently care for ourselves’.

Which is the more correct opinion?  That’s essentially an unanswerable question, but we get hints about the possible answer from occasional regional emergencies and crises.  For example, Hurricane Sandy, three months ago, saw some people without power or water and even without shelter for days, weeks, and in a few extreme cases, without suitable solutions a month and more later.

Lessons from a Level 1 Event – Snowstorm Nemo

As this article is being written, the snowstorm Nemo is dumping snow across the northeast of the US, exactly as had been predicted for some days prior to its commencement.  And this relatively minor Level 1 event (ie short duration and/or of only limited/regional impact) gives us another glimpse of what might occur when something really big and bad occurs without warning.

As reported here, the governor of Massachusetts astonished both his state and the entire country when he announced on Friday afternoon, before the storm hit, that he was banning all traffic on all roads.  Not just banning rear wheel drive cars on freeways, not just requiring ‘traction devices’ on vehicles (ie chains), but outright banning all vehicles, no matter what their snow capabilities, and on all roads, no matter how snow-covered or snow free they may be.  Freeways, highways, surface streets, minor roads, the lot.

The serious of his ban was underscored with the penalties offenders are being threatened with.  Up to a $500 fine and/or up to a year in jail.

Although an extreme and rare measure, his actions were then matched by the governors of Connecticut and Rhode Island.

How would you – how do you – feel at having your state’s governor suddenly announce a total ban on vehicular travel, for no reason greater than a shortly to arrive snowstorm?  Is the greatest nation on the earth’s best response to bad weather to lock its citizens indoors for the duration, and to cower from the storm’s effects?

Is the first casualty of an adverse event to be civil liberty and freedom?  Even a half-decent constitutional lawyer would come up with grave concerns about the constitutionality of such a blanket ban on all forms of travel (other than by foot).

Was This a Rational Act?

But, ignoring those sorts of thoughts for now (if you can) – how exactly is forbidding us from driving anywhere actually helping us?  There’s also the underlying and offensive assumption that we can’t be trusted to act sensibly in bad weather ourselves and that therefore the government needs to decide for us, and issue a blanket ban on everyone’s travel, no matter how able they and their vehicle might be to travel in the snow or not.

There is also the question, not asked by the regular media – in areas where the snow removal crews have literally given up and gone home, what happens in an emergency?  What happens if there is a fire?  A medical emergency?  Or an outbreak of lawlessness?  How can fire, paramedics or police get to the location?

What if you work shifts and were at work when the travel ban was announced?  Or were about to drive to work?

Most of all, and turning now to the question this article is headed by, can we count on ‘the authorities’ – a dismayingly long list of organizations and individuals who claim the power to control and restrict our lives – to act rationally and appropriately when confronting an emergency?  Is it sufficient for us to sit back, do nothing, and rely on the government to save the day?

Or would it be prudent to prepare for extreme and adverse situations and to be able to care for ourselves?

These types of actions reveal another reason why preppers seek a retreat location in some states but not in others.  Where would you rather be – a state which bans you from travel, whether you could safely travel or not, or a state that says ‘You’re an adult, you’re responsible for your own actions, and we already have laws forbidding unsafe types of driving.  Do what works best for you.’?

There’s an uncomfortable feeling of deja vu associated with the governors’ edict banning all road traffic.  It is both different – but also similar – to the decision after Hurricane Katrina to impound the firearms of lawful citizens.

Are the Police Mindless Automatons When it Comes to Enforcing Unjust/Unconstitutional Laws?

We’ve often had people discuss various future scenarios with us and tell us ‘Sure, the authorities may issue unconstitutional bans on all sort of things, but our police or military would never enforce them’.

Unfortunately, that is – and demonstrably – not the way the system works.  Apart from extremely egregious edicts – for example, if the MA governor had said ‘Shoot anyone, at sight, without warning, if they are driving on the road after 4pm’, it is not the role of front line police officers to question the validity of the orders they are given.  They are not attorneys and certainly not scholars of constitutional law and civil liberties.  It is their job to do what they are told to do on the basis of what seems to be, on the face of it, appropriate following of their chain of command and the assumption that their superiors know more than they do about the validity of the orders they are being given.

Typically the police take the pragmatic view that it is their job to simplistically enforce the laws as they are written, and it is the job of the courts to decide if the laws are fair, right, and proper.  Remember, although the police may arrest you and detain you, they are actually not determining your guilt or sentencing you to punishment.  They are simply stopping you doing what appears to probably illegal or harmful activity and delivering you to a court for the court’s decision as to if your actions were acceptable and – if illegal – what the consequences should be.

In that case, the police are as likely to give ‘the benefit of the doubt’ to the court as they are to you.  If they are not sure if a law is being broken or not, but if things feel wrong to them, they will probably assume the law might be being broken and proceed accordingly.

The police will of course adapt their enforcement actions based on court decisions, and sometimes their internal legal department will issue advice and guidance as to how new laws should be applied.  But whereas most normal laws and regulations occur with plenty of advance notice, allowing everyone to consider and prepare their positions for how it will be implemented and enforced, emergency regulations happen with little or no notice and no time for a careful and rational discussion about the underlying validity of the edict or how it is to be applied.

Again, the best answer to the question ‘What would happen/what would they do’ is to look at past examples.

How many police officers in New Orleans refused to seize privately owned firearms?  We’re unaware of any massive resistance at all by the police to that draconian edict.

Has there been any push-back by police at any level, or perhaps by their unions, to the ‘no-one can travel’ orders?  If there has, it sure hasn’t made the papers.  Indeed, unlike the outrage that welled, but only long after the firearms confiscation, there’s been precious little outrage to the decision to ban all traffic.

There are other smaller examples too – small to us, but huge to the people affected by them.  How about the man arrested on charges of ‘hoarding’ petrol after Hurricane Sandy – he went to the gas station with three or four five gallon containers, buying gas on behalf of himself and neighbors.  He wasn’t hoarding, he was sensibly helping his neighbors and cutting down on congestion and problems.  But his cooperating and coordinating with his neighbors got him arrested as a hoarder, and none of the people got their petrol.

All of these examples point to one last lesson.  We already know that, as preppers, we’re a minority in society today.  We need to remember that the rest of society does not share much of the same mindset that we have, and in an extreme situation, may (will) not act the way we’d expect ‘rational’ people (ie people sharing our mindset) would act.  We say this not to disparage – after all, it is a precondition and underlying tenet of faith that supports the democratic process that not only does the majority rule, but generally, the majority also rules appropriately and correctly.

When to Bug Out

There’s one more thing for people to consider as well.  This event shows that the authorities will happily suspend our civil rights before something possibly bad happens, because it is ‘best for us’ if they do so.

For those of us who consider bugging out, but who like to delay that decision as late as possible, perhaps it is necessary to rethink that strategy.  If the authorities impose travel bans or 24 hr curfews or call it whatever you like in the future, you’re clearly unable to bug out.  It would be terrible to be just about to leave when a travel prohibition takes effect.

It may be something else – maybe there will be a law passed compelling people to share their food.  Sounds unthinkable?  Not really.  Seizing lawfully owned firearms was unthinkable, banning all travel for any purpose in any type of vehicle also seems unthinkable.  You need – as a prepper – to consider the unthinkable, and to see the world not just from your logical and fair-minded perspective, but from other perspectives too.

As regrettable as it may seem, the possibility of massive changes to our rights and freedoms may make it advisable to bug out even earlier than you otherwise might choose to do.

Lessons for Preppers

Preppers generally predict and plan for a future with a collapse of government and a lack of any government response after a major impactful event.  But there’s another type of future too – where the government goes into overdrive, and rather than doing nothing, might start doing the wrong thing.  Perhaps that is an even worse future, and certainly one which also needs to be considered.

As we repeatedly see in minor Level 1 type events, when TSHTF, even in a small way, the authorities can not be consistently relied upon to always act rationally and appropriately.

Furthermore, incorrect and inappropriate decisions by the authorities are likely to be implemented and applied without any second guessing by the agencies in charge of enforcing the decisions – possibly police and other law enforcement, but maybe other agencies ranging from health to environmental to energy.

Preppers need to anticipate not only a future negative event, but they also need to anticipate dysfunctional responses by the authorities – responses that may harm and restrict the ability of preppers to benefit from their preparations and to survive quietly and unhindered by the authorities.

A plan to respond to a future emergency, while prepared fastidiously to be compliant with all ‘normal’ laws that are in place in normal times, might fail due to emergency restrictions and regulations imposed in the panic of a crisis.

For these reasons, we suggest that bugging out early, and moving to a retreat location where the authorities are less likely to inappropriately respond to problems, is an essential consideration.

Jan 042013
 
The food we eat is increasingly produced further and further away from where we live.

The food we eat is increasingly produced further and further away from where we live.

One of the greatest problems that encourages us to become preppers is that the overwhelming majority of people no longer provide/create/grow their own food.

These days, over 80% of all Americans live in urban/suburban areas, meaning only one in five people are in the countryside, and not all of these rural dwellers are involved in food production.  Barely 100 years ago, the situation was almost exactly the opposite – for every one person in a city, there were four in the countryside, most of whom were involved in agricultural production.

So, in a worst case scenario back then, only one in five or one in six people were reliant on the other four or five people for their food.  But now, maybe ten people are totally reliant on each rural/farm worker for all their food.

If anything occurs to stop the flow of food from the one person who grows/provides it to the ten or however many who rely upon that food to survive, we clearly have huge problems.

In addition, we have problems because the one person who makes the food for the ten others is reliant on all sorts of machinery and productivity aids to enable him to grow so much food so efficiently.  If something happens to the productivity aids, he’ll be struggling to provide food just for himself and his family, and won’t have any left over for the other ten people who are relying on his ability to grow food productivity for them.

Our article on Urban Drift discusses some of these phenomena in more detail.  And here’s an interesting chart that shows that growing urbanization is not just a US trend – it is a worldwide trend.

Our Rural Infrastructure is Being Neglected and Abused

Our point in this article is to show how no-one seems to care about the decline in our rural infrastructure.  That’s actually understandable, in a way.  Back when almost everyone lived very close to the land, it was the central part of the entire country’s consciousness.  But today, some people who live in cities have never seen a farm or a farm animal, and don’t know anyone in the circle of family and friends who lives/works on a farm either.  Our rural foundations are no longer a core part of our awareness.

The reality of rural neglect is reflected in these comments by former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack – now US Secretary of Agriculture.  He says that rural America is becoming ‘less relevant’.

He is simultaneously right and wrong.  Sadly, safeguarding, securing, and boosting our rural economy getting less attention than it needs, even though our reliance on rural America increases steadily in line with our greater and greater concentration of agricultural production in the hands of so few.  Rural America is still relevant to us, but we don’t seem to accept that so willingly now.

And so we have city-dweller idealists writing up new legislation and new restrictions on farming operations, based not on a real world understanding of farming requirements, but on a ‘don’t confuse me with the facts’ idealized way of how food production should operate.  Some of these burdens are ecologically based (such as the famous threat that plowing fields shouldn’t create dust), and others are financial attacks, such as the provision to tax farm estates valued at over $1 million at a 55% rate.  This article exposes the threat to farm viability from the new death tax.

A death tax is perhaps appropriate, because it exposes society’s clear death wish – ie, to destroy our local sources of food production, making family farms less viable (and/or increasing their costs and thereby our food costs too) and either concentrating still more farming potential in corporate megafarms (companies don’t ‘die’ so aren’t threatened by death taxes) or forcing us to turn to increasingly distant food sources in other countries.

So we are changing from eating the food we grow ourselves, to eating the food our neighbors grew, to eating the food that farmers grew less than a day’s horse and cart journey away, to eating the food less than a day’s truck journey away, to eating the food less than a day’s plane journey away, to eating food grown by farmers in some other country, thousands or even tens of thousands of miles away from us.

In the past, when four or five farmers were growing food for each city dweller, if anything failed or went wrong, it was no big problem.  The food was largely being grown locally, and by hand.  Indeed, what could go wrong?

But now we are relying on farming operations totally out of our control, thousands of miles away.  If fuel supplies become restricted, how will that food travel thousands of miles in only the very few days it has before it perishes?  It probably can’t and won’t.

Implications for Preppers

The implication for us as preppers is starkly obvious.  In any type of disruptive event, we’ll lose our access to the food supplies we currently rely upon.  Three implications :

  • First, we need to be more aware – and supportive – of rural issues and infrastructure within the US.
  • Second, we need to have a sufficient supply of food on hand to allow us to survive a loss of third-party food supplies.
  • Third, we need to have a way to transition to growing all our own food before our stored food is exhausted.

The second issue is fairly obvious, but the need to be able to grow all our food is one with major implications – particularly if you live in a central city apartment.  Your balcony won’t be big enough to grow enough food.  You need a rural retreat with sufficient arable land to allow you to grow the food you need.

Ideally, that retreat should already be in operation as a farm.  That way, there are fewer unknowns and already existing routines and processes and procedures, and less to go wrong if you need to move there in a hurry.

Jan 042013
 
This online gun supply resource shows a steady stream of zeroed out inventories.

This online gun supply resource shows a steady stream of zeroed out inventories.

On December 14, 2012 – some three weeks ago – a crazed gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

It is hard to say which happened most quickly immediately thereafter – calls for the banning of just about all firearms, or people rushing to buy guns and ammunition due to fears they might be banned.

The media (which is predominantly anti-gun) has been full of stories, almost every day since then, about soaring gun sales, and within a very few days of the start of the rush on guns, of soaring gun prices and disappearing inventory.

It is true there has been an uptick in gun sales.  And it is also true that most gun stores have sold almost every gun and spare magazine they have, as well as every round of ammunition.  It is also true that there are unknown leadtimes and backlogs for more guns, accessories and ammunition to get through the system and become available.

It is also true that prices of guns and ammunition have skyrocketed – more than doubled, sometimes more than tripled.

So what has this to do with prepping?  To answer that, we first need to correct the media misinformation so we truly understand the current situation.

Gun Sales Have NOT Skyrocketed

So, let’s pierce the illusion of an apparent ultra-humungous sudden surge in gun sales.  Fortunately, we can track what has happened to gun sales through the FBI NICS reporting data – this is the count of calls in to their instant check hotline.  All new guns have to be sold through gun dealers and the gun dealer has to get a NICS approval before completing the sale.

The NICS count isn’t exactly the same as the total number of guns sold in a month, because sometimes one call to NICS is for a purchase covering multiple firearms being sold to the same person at once.  On the other hand, sometimes one transaction requires two or more calls to NICS.  And some calls to NICS are for other reasons (some states do NICS checks as part of issuing concealed weapons permits).

But these various factors are more or less steady, so that one can more or less say with confidence ‘If the NICS calls are up, so too are gun sales’.  In general it seems that the monthly count of NICS calls is somewhat higher than the actual count of new guns sold.

You can see the FBI’s NICs stats here.  As you can see, the monthly NICS calls have been steadily increasing, and the yearly totals have been going up for the last ten years in a row.  More than twice as many NICS calls were made, and probably therefore, more than twice as many new guns were sold in 2012 as were sold in 2002.  Increasing gun sales is nothing new, it has been going on even prior to Obama winning his first term.

Now look at the numbers for December 2012.  2.78 million, up 39% on November 2012.

But – a 39% increase?  Excuse us for being underwhelmed, but that is all?  That’s sure not what you’d think from all the newspaper reports of mass panic and huge increases in guns being sold.  To read the media stories, you’d think that gun sales had increased ten fold or twenty fold.  But no – they didn’t even manage to double.

Furthermore, it is common for December sales to be up on November sales, anyway (hello, Christmas!).  Last year, December sales were 21% up on November’s sales for no specific reason at all, the year before they were up 17% and the year before they were up 15%.  So between 15 – 20% of the 39% increase was something everyone sort of expected might occur anyway – the actual extra and unexpected increase is maybe only 25%.

So what is this telling us – a mere 25% increase in gun sales, over and above what was more or less expected anyway, is enough to totally destroy the gun sales marketplace?  It seems that just about every new gun in the country has been sold, and gun prices have doubled and even tripled, with waiting lists and lead times now of an unknown duration but possibly months?  All because of this small increase in sales?

We can’t track sales of gun accessories or ammunition the same way, but we do know (because we, ahem, ordered some ourselves and have yet to get any sort of confirmation about when they’ll ship) that magazines have disappeared completely, and so too has ammunition.

That’s also an amazing thing – how many millions – probably billions – of bullets do you think were out there in retailers’ stores, in wholesale warehouses, and in factories?  They’ve all gone.  How many bullets a day are being made?  How many more are imported?  They all disappear faster than they come out of the machines.  Can’t the entire world’s extra ammunition manufacturing capacity keep up with US domestic demand at present?

This is the message for preppers, and it doesn’t apply only to guns.  These days, there is no ‘surge capacity’ in our supply chain.  The slightest blip in demand – or the slightest interruption in supply – and you suddenly find yourself stuck with the twin evils of shortages and panic buying, with the inevitable result that prices soar sky-high, encouraging more panic, more hoarding, and a total breakdown of the marketplace.

The Same Happens with Other Products/Situations Too

We see this every time a storm threatens gas supplies.  A region might have gas on hand good for 7 – 10 days of regular demand, perhaps, but as soon as a disruption is threatened, everyone rushes to fill their vehicles and any additional storage containers they have, emptying out the supply chain in a day or two.

Or – do you remember the Japanese nuclear power reactor radiation leaks after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011?  Due to concerns about the radiation plume traveling across the Pacific and to the US, people rushed to buy Potassium Iodide tablets.  But you couldn’t find a Potassium Iodide tablet, anywhere in the US, remaining available for sale.  And the last few that did sell were going for ten (or more) times their earlier price, just a few weeks previously.

Lessons for Preppers

The message to us is simple.  These days, even mild disruptions to any supply chain can totally destroy the normal ‘rules’ of that product’s availability and pricing.  This is due to ‘just in time’ ordering and shipping/delivery, and a carefully projected future demand that is synchronized to production.

If that calculation gets out of alignment with the market, then drastic shortages will quickly result.  And it may take a long time for extra production to come on-stream to provide more product to meet the elevated demand.

These days, most things are produced in a complicated process with multiple dependencies.  For example, a new pistol isn’t built by only one company, with the company ordering in slabs of solid steel as their raw material and shipping out finished pistols after doing all the processes in-house.

Instead, a typical firearm manufacturer may do little more than assemble firearms from the finished parts which are ordered from a dozen different suppliers.  One company might specialize in barrels.  Another might do frames.  Another might provide some types of springs, and a fourth company might provide other springs.  A fifth company might provide screws, a sixth might provide some small castings, and a seventh might provide grips.  An eighth company might make the magazines, and a ninth company will print all the instruction manuals and materials, while a tenth company will make boxes/cases for the finished firearms.  An 11th company will provide oils and lubricants, and a 12th company will provide who knows what else.

And – wait, that’s not all.  Each of these providers of subassemblies and components are in turn dependent on their suppliers for sub-sub assemblies and other raw materials.  And so on, all the way back to the mining company that digs the iron ore out of the ground and the oil company that pumps the oil that ends up as plastic, and the forestry company that grows the trees that becomes paper.

You only need any one of these 12 or more suppliers to have a supply constraint with any of their, in turn, who knows how many more suppliers, and the ability to create a complete finished firearm fails.

You only need one of these many different suppliers to be working at maximum capacity to mean that the rate of final production of completed firearms is limited to the speed of the slowest of the suppliers.

We are talking through this particular example of firearms because it is timely and easily understood, and because we’re seeing the proof of it right now, in empty gun stores, and in used firearms now doubling and trebling in prices.

But the concepts are as true for just about any other manufactured good as they are for firearms.  The same constraints and restrictions and dependencies apply, and all the companies involved in just about any/all types of manufacturing are all working on the same concept of minimizing their inventories (both of raw materials and finished goods) and running their production lines at close to capacity (so as to get best return from their machinery investments).

Here’s another example – these days, we have super-computers that can design planes or cars or just about anything else for us.  They ‘model’ and simulate all sorts of different aspects of a design, and CAD/CAM processes have replaced huge big offices full of draftsmen.  Instead of needing to build a model, test it, then analyze the results, you can input some variables into the computer program and have it do it all theoretically instead.  The earlier process could take weeks or months for each test cycle, the computerized system can take a day or two.

And when a new product is ready for production, new robotic assembly lines can efficiently and quickly reprogram and retool for the new final product and make them with much less human labor or issues.

This is all true.  So can anyone tell me why designing a new car today takes as long as it ever has, and designing a new model airplane takes many years longer than it used to?

What We Need to Do as Preppers

Now I’m not feeling personally panicked at present.  Indeed, I’m thinking I might sell a few firearms and some boxes of ammunition right now!  But there are a lot of people who are feeling panicked.  Fortunately for us all, owning an extra firearm or two, and an extra case or two of ammunition, is not essential to our survival today.

But who’s to know what the next item that suddenly surges in popularity might not be?  The only thing we can be sure of is that if we don’t maintain a sufficient inventory of everything we need and might conceivably need, enough to tide us over whatever variation of Level 1, 2 or 3 situations (definition here) we wish to plan for, then we might find ourselves in a situation where the item we need is unavailable and can’t be purchased at any price from any source.

We sort of know that in a Level 3 situation, all the existing supplies of ‘stuff’ will get used up in some uncertain period of time.  But we are suggesting that the speed at which inventory of anything will disappear is very much faster than anyone might expect.

Remember that with the gun shortage at present, this is not because there have been any reductions in new gun manufacturing and importing.  Quite the opposite.  You can surely guess that every gun manufacturer in the world is working overtime at present to make and ship as many guns as possible to the US.  But even with the same or probably a higher rate of ongoing production, a modest blip in demand has destroyed the marketplace.

As preppers, we can’t rely on outside help, or on outside supplies and sources.  We have to plan for a future where what we have is what we have, and we can’t expect any resupply beyond that.

Dec 252012
 
It is said that if you slowly increase the water temperature, a frog won't notice and will eventually and passively die in the pot.

It is said that if you slowly increase the water temperature, a frog won’t notice and will eventually and passively die in the pot.

Much of what we think about and prepare for involves a sudden massive disaster that occurs with little or no warning.  We consider the effects of a sudden EMP or power grid failure that almost literally switches our lives and lifestyles from normal to nothing as quickly as flicking a light switch.

These are all valid concerns and preparations, of course.  But we sometimes overlook the slower sorts of disasters that might also overwhelm society as we know it, and end up, not immediately, but gradually over time, with a Level 2 or 3 scenario just as seriously as a sudden unexpected disaster.

The real danger of the slower unfolding disasters is that by the time we even realize they are enveloping us, we might find our options have become constrained and reduced.  This is akin to the story of how to kill a frog – you place it in warm water, then very slowly increase the temperature, and the frog won’t even realize it is being cooked, and by the time the water has reached boiling point, the frog has succumbed.

To look at it from another perspective, activists seeking to change some thing have learned that the best way to make a major social change is not to attempt a sudden revolution in public thought, but rather to make a series of gradual changes.  There are many examples of this.  To offer up several – and without expressing any moral judgment, but merely observing the huge change in social values that have occurred, we point to :

(a)  Drunk driving.  Two or three decades ago it was normal and acceptable for people to drink as much as they wished and then to drive home, somehow.  People would boast about their crazy/dangerous driving the next day; and if they were pulled over, they’d usually be let off with little more than a warning.  As you surely know, today people are ashamed to admit to driving drunk; the fines and penalties (including imprisonment and alcoholism treatments) have gone up and up, and the permissible levels of blood/alcohol have gone down and down.

(b)  Gay marriage.  It is not all that long ago that people could be sent to prison in some western nations if they admitted being homosexual, and it was widely ridiculed and decried by most people in general.  Now the opposite applies – people can be sent to prison for ‘hate crimes’ if they express a dislike for gay people, and society is now inexorably tilting towards allowing not just gay relationships but also passing to such people all the rights and privileges of marriage and allowing gay people to be married.  One advocacy method used by gay rights advocates is to ‘name and shame’ people who oppose them – people are now embarrassed and ashamed to admit they dislike the thought of gay sex.

(c)  Guns.  A couple of generations ago, gun ranges were to be found in the basements of many schools.  Guns were common in schools and in society as a whole.  Nowadays, if a child even draws a picture of a gun in a schoolroom, they are liable to be expelled under a ‘zero tolerance’ policy towards guns in schools, and anyone bringing guns into a school is likely committing both a federal and state crime.

Okay, enough on that – point well taken, we hope.  In all these cases, the changes did not occur overnight, but have instead evolved, little by little, over years and even decades and common social custom now is pretty much the complete opposite of what it was a generation or so back.

It can be the same thing with negative situations – they start off subtly and slowly, and at first seem temporary, but as time passes, what was temporary becomes permanent, what was a problem becomes the new normal, and so it goes.  By the time we realize we’re in a severe situation, our options and ability to respond positively have diminished.

We’re not saying that an EOTW disaster would happen quite that slowly (although it might), but we are pointing out that things have a habit of ‘catching us unawares’ if we’re not closely monitoring whatever the process is that is evolving and thinking through its implications.

Furthermore, the reality is that no matter how keen a prepper we are, few of us really want to activate our prepping plans, possibly prematurely, and there’s also a subconscious inertia and resistance to change that will unduly delay our responding to events that need a timely response.  We need to be alert to changes and ready/willing/able to respond to them at the appropriate point – a point which of course should be before rather than after the time at which it becomes too late!

Some Slow Disasters

Let’s now think about some types of slowly evolving ‘disasters’ that might occur.  These tend to be more economic in nature than anything else – the first two examples are country-wide in nature, the third is regional, and the last two are more personal.

Electricity cost/shortages

We have seen electricity shortages come and go over the years, particularly in California in 2000 – 2001.  With the continued restrictions on building just about any type of new power station these days, it is far from inconceivable that electricity may not become in short supply again – a situation initially masked by it simply becoming more and more expensive, and then perhaps becoming rationed.

The ugly flip-side of ‘smart energy management’ is a move away from a universal expectation that electricity should always be available to us, 24/7, whenever we want it, and for whatever purpose we need it for.  As we know from our planning for ‘grid-down’ futures, electricity today truly is one of society’s greatest blessings, and whether we pay 5c or 50c per kWhr, it is a great value.

At what point would you decide that electricity had become too expensive and too short in supply, and in effect respond by going ‘off-grid’ and ‘growing your own’?

Petrol cost/shortages

Some parts of the country have seen gas prices brush and even break through $5/gallon on occasion in the past, sometimes for months at a time.  How long will it be before gas prices reach $5/gallon, all the time, everywhere?  And then $6?  And $7?  Even $10 and $15?

If that sounds unlikely, think of this.  Less than 25 years ago, gas was under $1/gallon.  It has gone up in price almost five-fold in 25 years.  For decades, petrol and other oil products were steadily reducing in price each year (in real terms after adjusting for inflation), and then they sort of flattened out, and now they are increasing at rates greater than inflation.  Here’s a useful graph showing prices from 1896 forwards in the UK, and here’s a spreadsheet of prices in the US from 1949.

Proponents of the ‘peak oil’ theory predict that gas prices will skyrocket in the next decade or less.  At the same time, it will become in shorter and shorter supply.  The latest move towards shale recovery has bought us some more time, and some more oil, but the ‘greenies’ are objecting and fighting this as furiously as they can.  A large – and growing – sector in our society doesn’t wish us to have access to cheap oil products.  They wish us to become oil-poor, as a way of – they believe – ‘saving the planet’.

At what point, at what price, will you say ‘enough already’ and give up on your present gas-based lifestyle?  And what will you have as an alternative?

Water cost/shortages

One of the biggest constraints on growth in much of the country is the availability of fresh pure water.  It is hard to know which is the bigger blessing in our modern lives – abundant affordable electricity, or abundant affordable water.  Happily, we presently have both, with the worst form of water shortages typically being nothing more severe than some restrictions on watering our lawns and washing our cars during some of the summer months.

But the cost of water is steadily increasing, while its availability is becoming more and more constrained.  This year (2012) we saw some of the worst droughts in decades affect crop production in much of the mid-west; all that means to us as consumers currently is little more than increased prices for meat, wheat and corn based products.  But with a decent steak now costing $15/lb or more – three times what it cost a decade or so back – how much further will we allow the costs of the basic essentials of our diet rise?

At what point do water (and sewage) costs and possible water restrictions cause you either to move to a new region, or to retreat from normal society and to set up an alternate lifestyle, independent of your increasingly problematic and expensive city water and sewer services?

Unemployment

Maybe you lose your job.  Maybe you don’t get another job.  Month after month, you see your savings dwindle, and also, month by month, as time passes you become less and less appealing to potential employers.  All employers prefer to hire someone who is already employed, and all employers feel uncomfortable and worried if they see a person who has been out of work for many months.

As each month passes, you have less and less remaining capital.  At what point do you switch gears and change objectives and either move to another city to find work there, or instead ‘bug out’ for economic reasons, and switch to building a self-sustainable life elsewhere?

Neighborhood Decay

This is an interesting one (it has happened to me).  What happens if the area you live in – the area you own a home in – starts to suffer from evolving urban demographics and becomes increasingly down-market?  Property prices and relative values compared to other parts in your region start to drop, and keep on dropping.  The nice middle class people who used to be your neighbors are leaving, and are being replaced by people you’re less comfortable living alongside.  Crime rates start to increase, and so on and so on.

At what point do you bail out yourself?  Do you simply move across town, or to a different city entirely, or is that the point where you move to your retreat?  Each month of delay sees your property value diminish, slowly but steadily.

Faster Evolving Disasters Can Catch You Unawares Too

Although we’re talking primarily about how a slow change in something can catch you unawares, by becoming something unexpectedly different without you realizing it, similar affects can come from faster developing problems too.

For example, a forest fire heading your way.  At what point do you respond to the potential of being trapped?  Sure, you could rely on waiting for the authorities to officially notify you and command you to evacuate, but you might then find yourself with too little time to do a well planned well prepared bug-out.

The Longer You Wait, the Fewer Your Choices

It is most obvious from the last two examples that the longer you wait to respond to a negative event, the less well able you are able to do so.  As you burn through your cash, it becomes harder and harder for you to consider options that don’t immediately start to bring in a cash flow again.

We’re not saying that you should panic the first time things turn sour on you in any part of life and living.  But we are saying to be careful about slow creeping problems that take away your independence and freedom, little by little.

The biggest problem people face is knowing when to say ‘enough, already’ and to activate some sort of formal response to a problem that has been gradually worsening.  Which brings us to :

The Need to Create Lines in the Sand

If you’ve ever been taught a good self-defense class, you’ve been taught about the need to create clear ‘lines in the sand’ – events that clearly signal that the person who you are concerned about has evil intent, and events which cause you to confidently respond appropriately.

For example, you don’t like the look of the people walking towards you, so you cross the road.  If they cross the road to intersect with your path, that’s a clear ‘line in the sand’ that has been crossed.  You then might choose to turn the corner or cross the road back again – if they cross the road again too, then you know, for sure, this is not random circumstance.  You might then call out – ‘Stop, Back Off, Go Away’.  If they continue towards you, you then present your pistol and say ‘Stop or I shoot!  Back Off!  Go Away!’

If the person still moves towards you, you then know ‘Okay, so he crossed the road to follow me when I did, then he crossed the road back to keep following me when I did, he ignored my warning, and now, with my gun pointed at him, he is still ignoring me’ and that gives you the confidence to know that your next action – an extreme one, but now an essential one, is justified and appropriate.

It is the same with anything else in your life.  You need to set lines in the sand so that when they are crossed, you are aware of the event and ready with an appropriate response.

For example, you might decide ‘If gas prices reach $x, I will get an ultra-fuel efficient car’ and you might further decide ‘if gas prices reach $(x+y) then I will move from my current suburban lifestyle in which I need a car to an alternate lifestyle where the essential things are either within walking distance or conveniently served by public transport, or reachable by bicycle’.

For example, you might decide ‘When electricity prices reach a point that solar cells can be paid off within x years, I will invest in a solar cell array on my roof’.  You might also decide ‘When electricity prices reach a price of $0.xx/kWhr, I will re-insulate the house, and when they reach a price of $0.yy/kWhr, I will replace the windows with new energy-efficient windows and insulating blinds’.

You might decide ‘If my house price drops by x% relative to the broader region I live in, and if it is due to the changing demographic nature of my sub-region, I’ll sell up and move on’.

You might decide ‘When food prices reach x% of my weekly budget, I’m going to start growing my own vegetables and start raising some animals, and if I have to move to where I can do that, that’ll be part of the deal’.

There are other things, too.  You might decide ‘When the taxes in this state exceed the taxes in (another state you’d like to live in) then I’m going to make the move’.  You might decide ‘If this state restricts firearms and my right to self-defense, then I’ll move to a state with a more enlightened social policy on such things’.

Summary

Don’t risk becoming a boiled frog.

Create ‘lines in the sand’ that will sound alarms in your life when events cross over them, so that you realize ‘Hey, this is very different to what it used to be and what I want it to be’ and to allow you the freedom and flexibility to respond to changes in your life and lifestyle and life standards before it becomes too late to do so.

In particular, monitor the changes in your local environment and compare/contrast them to the changes in possible bug-out locations.  Maybe things truly are better somewhere else in the US, and maybe you should act positively to respond to the chance of a life-style improvement in such a better location.