Shortly after some type of disaster that disrupts the normal flow of food and energy into your nearby towns, people will be forced to leave their residences and fan out into the countryside, foraging for food (and subsequently shelter too). That is obvious – if there is no food in the town/city, people can either stay where they are and die of thirst or starvation, or they can pro-actively start looking for food.
People will initially look for food on one of two different levels. The first level is ‘looking for food nearby and returning back to one’s normal home to eat it and continue living’. The second level is ‘abandoning one’s former residence and moving, as a refugee, towards wherever the possibility of ongoing survival may be greatest’. A third and fourth type of food seeking will develop later into a crisis.
It is helpful to understand the differing types of contacts you’ll have, because each poses different challenges, problems, threats, and even opportunities, calling for different responses on your part.
And while we consider our four different waves to be more or less chronologically sequential, there will be some overlaps, with some people representing some waves either earlier than most others, or later than most others.
The First Wave
The first wave will start shortly after the social disruption occurs, initially as a trickle, and then successively greater and greater as more and more people run out of food and come to realize that the government won’t magically solve the problem that occurred.
It will only take a week or two before the first type of food-seeking necessarily ends, due to people running out of gas for their vehicles, and being reduced instead to only traveling and foraging as far as they can walk or bicycle (although, on flat terrain, fitter people could fairly easily cycle up to 50 miles out and then 50 miles back home again).
We predict that people in this ‘first wave’ won’t be very threatening, because they will be more in a hurry to cover as much ground as possible to find as much easy food as possible, rather than becoming fixated on specific potential targets. Plus, the ‘kill or be killed’ reality of tough survival won’t yet have fully penetrated, and the region will have patches of remaining lawfulness alongside areas of growing anarchy.
Furthermore, these people are primarily seeking food only, not shelter. They’ve not yet accepted that their city residences have become unviable and need to be abandoned.
Your tactic to resist problems from the first wave of food/shelter seekers will be to maintain a low profile, so most of such people pass you by, and to positively respond to people who do come visiting, encouraging them to go find easier targets/food sources elsewhere.
Of course, the further you are from the nearby towns and cities, the fewer the number of people who might stumble upon you. But you’ll never be 100% guaranteed to be safely far from such itinerant scavengers. Fortunately the danger they pose to your retreat at this early stage is low, so while your location choice will ideally not be right next to a freeway exit, a mere 10 miles from the city center, you don’t need to keep yourself hundreds of miles away from any and all population concentrations.
The Second Wave
As the first wave ends and is replaced by the second wave, people’s attitudes will be hardening, because their ability to travel far and wide is massively reduced. They have probably used up most of their emergency food stores, and now, limited primarily by their ability to walk, any source of food becomes one they must take full advantage of. They can no longer afford the luxury of leaving empty-handed, and their lack of mobility now reduces the number of places they can travel to in search of food. They have to make the best of every possible opportunity.
The grim reality of the ‘eat or be eaten’ concept will also be one which the survivors can no longer ignore.
If these people come across your retreat, they are likely to be a stronger and more determined adversary than people in the first wave (and people in the second wave could well be the same people who visited more peaceably in the first wave, too).
Fortunately, most of these people in the second wave will still be nomadic and itinerant. They’ll be traveling in the hope of finding a Shangri-La somewhere that is full of food, energy, and welcoming people keen to help them, and probably won’t yet be in the ‘looking for anywhere to settle’ mode that will come later. They might hope for overnight shelter, but they’re not yet looking for a place to settle – or, if they are, they’re probably not yet realistic enough to appreciate the value of your retreat.
People will start abandoning their homes anytime after only a very few days of the crisis commencing and once they start to accept that no magic solutions are forthcoming. This won’t only be due to the lack of food and lack of any future food supply, but may also be due to lack of water, lack of plumbing, and lack of energy in general. A high-rise apartment with no water, no working elevators, and no lights or heating/cooling will quickly become uninhabitable, food or not.
The second wave will probably diminish after three or so weeks, because by that point, people will have either left the city, or died, or created some sort of semi-stable ongoing basis of existence in the city.
Your strategy during this exodus stage is to be located somewhere reasonably far from the main routes people are likely to travel along. It is as important that you are off the likely refugee routes, whether you are 1 mile or 100 miles from the major population centers, because people will potentially be traveling long distances in their search for somewhere better to live.
People may fan out slightly from the main routes as they search for food en route, but they will generally follow the major arterial routes.
Major routes will tend to be well maintained highways, and generally we expect people will move to the coasts and south, rather than inland and to the north. People will, either by reason or instinct, seek out warm climates and water/ocean. The warm climate reduces their dependency on shelter and energy, and the ocean has the appeal of ‘free fish’ and also some type of instinctive deep-seated lure.
The Third Wave
The third wave will be refugees, the same as the second wave, but this time it will be people looking for somewhere to settle.
These will be people who are becoming more realistic in their expectations, and now rather than mindlessly going anywhere in the hope of finding (nonexistent) salvation, they are now looking for somewhere they can settle and survive for the medium or longer term.
Your appeal to these people is not just the food you have stored, but also your retreat as a whole, the under-way food cultivation, the energy creating resources you have, and everything else you have done to prepare yourselves for this future.
Some of these people will be seeking short-term easy solutions. They’ll want to rob you of your food, your shelter, and everything else you have. They have no concern for sustainability, they want to live for the moment, and when they’ve exhausted everything you have, they’ll move on to somewhere else.
Others of these people will be more realistic, but they’ll still want to displace you from your property and take it over.
There will also be a very few people who will be fair and honest and decent, and who will offer to work their way for and with you. They’ll offer their labor and their skills, in return for your shelter and assistance – probably as a ‘package deal’ for themselves and their other family members.
It would be good if you had a way of responding positively to such people, because they may prove to be valuable additions to your small community.
The Fourth Wave
The fourth wave is very different from the other three. It is longer lasting and more potentially impactful on your retreat and community.
Due to the importance of this fourth wave, we have devoted a separate article to it – The Fourth and Deadliest Wave of Refugees. Please click the link to continue reading.