Many preppers are individualists, and their initial assumption – that society will collapse in some form or another – is extended perhaps too far.
Yes, they rightly assume they need to plan for a future with no help from normal external support services, and there’s an unspoken element of ‘It will be every man for himself’ WTSHTF. This is probably even true, to at least some extent.
But this sensible focus on self-reliance blinds some people to the essential need to form or join a community of fellow preppers as part of a Level 2 or 3 response plan.
It is reasonable to prepare for a Level 1 event that requires nothing more than turning on the generator at home and waiting out the restoration of normal services while eating stockpiled food. Apart from having some friends around for social purposes and to fight off the boredom that might otherwise ensue if television, radio, and internet services are affected, you don’t actually need a support community of other people to see you through the Level 1 event.
But when you are instead responding to a longer term more severe Level 2 or 3 event, you have a very different set of issues you need to prepare for.
Most People Underestimate the Size of Group they Need
Just as common as the people who give no thought at all to creating a community any larger than their immediately family are the people who create a small group – perhaps a group of three couples get together. That would be six people, maybe a couple of children, maybe an older generation person or two as well, but in total, probably under 12 people, and only six of them able-bodied adults.
Don’t get us wrong. A group of six adults banded together is very much better than a couple all by themselves. But is it good enough to really tilt the odds in your favor in a full Level 2 situation? We don’t think so. Read other articles in our series on communities and defending your retreat for discussions on why this is.
In the balance of this article, we consider some of the implications of managing a larger sized community.
Size/Type of Retreat
A typical American family home has between three and five bedrooms, and maybe two or three bathrooms. That works very well for a matchingly typical American family of perhaps two adults and two children, boosted by occasional short-term guests.
But say you establish a community of 25 people? How will that work? Sure, you can pack a lot of people into even an ordinary house for a short term, especially if you have a working sewage line that takes your sewage away, and efficient cooking facilities.
From a social point of view, there are good reasons to split your group into a reasonable number of small ‘single family apartments’ or even separate dwellings. From a security point of view, you want to have one single external wall to defend, and to have this external wall as small and strong as possible.
There is another thing to consider as well. If you’re considering building a custom dwelling for your group of 25 or so people, suitable to withstand a Level 2 event, what will you do if the actual event is or becomes a Level 3 event?
As you’ll see in our article about community sizes for Level 3 events, you need an appreciably larger group to survive a Level 3 event. Shouldn’t you be building a structure that will be suitable for a Level 3 community rather than a Level 2 community?
With this in mind, we generally advocate you should construct something analogous to a block of condos if you are establishing a larger community. This article tells you more about the benefits and reasons for this.
Even a ‘Simple’ Level 2 Retreat is Not Simple
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news. But your biggest challenge in surviving a Level 2 situation is not food or water or shelter or energy. It is security. And the second biggest challenge is the unforeseen, the unpredictable, the unexpected, and the not-planned-for.
The only realistic way to enhance your security is to get more people into your immediate retreat community. Having friendly neighbors half a mile down the road is no use to you. They are out of sight. Even if you had a way of signaling them for help – and assuming your attackers didn’t get you by surprise – by the time your neighbors decided to risk their lives coming to help you, and by the time they got to your retreat, it would be too late.
Out of Sight = Out of Mind
This brings up a couple of relevant points.
The first is to appreciate that in a Level 2 or 3 situation, any sort of gunshot wound is much more potentially lethal than it is today, with first class hospitals and paramedics close by. Closely related is the fact that the loss of a person in a small community is much more damaging in a Level 2/3 situation than it is today – here, people can be ‘replenished’ with new neighbors moving in; and whether they are nice or not is really not all that vitally important. Post WTSHTF, you become intensely reliant on the people in your extended immediate family unit.
The second is that not only is the downside to putting one’s life at risk much greater in this sort of scenario, but also it is tactically ill-advised to leave your own retreat exposed and unprotected. If your neighbors tell you they are being attacked, unfortunately the wise thing to do is to go to alert/lockdown in your own retreat, not to go rushing off over semi-open ground to help them.
The only people you can count on to be for sure committed to helping you are the people who are equally at risk as you. This topic is discussed further in the article about how community mutual defense pacts sometimes work, and sometimes don’t.
How to Anticipate the Unanticipated
We suggest the second biggest challenge you will confront is something you didn’t expect, and didn’t plan or prepare for. Or maybe it is something that you thought to be safely unlikely to occur, or something you couldn’t afford to plan for.
The best defense in such a case is diversity and redundancy of resource. The more people in your community, the more skill sets you have. Maybe you have someone with experience and background suitable for whatever goes unexpectedly wrong. Or maybe a freak accident sees you lose a key member of your community – in a small community, you might now be weakened by the loss of skills that no-one else has; in a larger community, there is more chance that someone else has a similar skillset already.
An Introduction to Retreat Design Considerations
Creating an appropriate retreat capable of housing multiple families for an extended period of time in a secure environment almost always requires a custom designed/built dwelling. This is a separate subject, but two quick points to consider.
Normal houses are not built for security; they are built for comfort and for an open airy feel, and are constructed out of low-cost non-ballistic resistant materials. Did you know a typical rifle round can travel through the exterior of a house, through every interior wall, and then out through the other exterior wall on the opposite side of the house, and if the bullet encountered anyone on its path through the house, or even someone on the outside on the far side, it could inflict a lethal injury on the person too?
Secondly, you don’t want your ‘castle’ to become your coffin. If your retreat is made of wood – either the walls or roof – you’re at risk of being burned out. It is very foreseeable that if people can’t get to you, they’ll decide ‘Well, if we can’t get his food, he can’t have it either’ and simply set fire to your building and watch the building, its contents and its inhabitants all burn to the ground.
Bottom line – constructing a suitable retreat for a sizeable community is a specialized task. Code Green Prep is creating communities and specialized retreats for our community members. We would be pleased to consider you as a possible member of a Code Green community, or to assist you create your own community.