First off, let me explain my reasons for writing this and tell you a bit about my experiences. That way you will know what I say is truth. I served for 15 years in the British Army, serving during the 1990’s in Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Kosovo and saw firsthand what happens to human nature and society when everything goes to hell. As for my reasons, I’m somewhat tired of people painting a rosy picture of what they expect might happen in the event of a major terrorist attack, civil emergenies or severe natural disasters.
Don’t get me wrong. They have been planning for SHTF with impeccable plans for food, shelter, and similar but seem to think everyone will still remain fairly well behaved and keep observing rules of “polite society”. So in a way, this is a thesis of human nature. Will it offend? I hope not. Will it shock? I hope so, if what I write makes one person revise a plan and as a result, saves a life or the lives of a family. Then it will have been well worth the time taken to type this.
Now, in the event of ANY situation where the Emergency Broadcasting System goes into action for real, the accepted policy of both law enforcement and military is a policy of containment not suppression. In other words, if a specific area has something bad happen, the National Guard and police will cordon off the area with road blocks and road closures, thereby putting a crimp in any plans some may have of “bugging out” unless they have alternative routes laid out that avoid major bridges and roads leading out of the affected area. Also on this topic, don’t be too surprised to see police and military helicopters used to patrol areas of ground too rough to drive over to watch for people heading out of the affected area on foot. These helicopters carry FLIR (Forward Looking Infra-Red) imaging systems and can pick out body heat or see, even in total darkness.
Most major road arteries will be closed and patrolled by law enforcement and National Guard elements will hvae orders to stop, search and detain or turn back anyone they find. So, plan your routes well, have at least 3 routes out, and make sure you go for a drive and check them out on a regular basis.
TIP: Plan for both urgent and planned evacuations. The first allows you minutes, possibly just seconds, to get out, while the other affords more time for packing and taking care of more details. Read more about these 2 types of evacuations here.
Planning for SHTF by hunkering down
Now for those of us who plan to stay where we live, nearly all local emergency services will be busy keeping the local government safe and sound or working the site of the disaster. Inevitably, the somewhat distasteful topic comes up of keeping what you own and keeping your loved ones safe from looters and pillagers. If you don’t think this will happen, guess what? Go see what happened during the Los Angeles riots or after Katrina in New Orleans. If you don’t know what I’m on about, allow me to explain. In Los Angeles, gangs and others looted everything of value they could lay hands on from stores and houses, and in New Orleans, a regular Army airborne unit was brought in to patrol the streets and deter looting.
The issue this raises is this: If a person or family who are preppers tells a neighbor, “Oh, we are ready for whatever comes up,” you can bet that person will go and tell maybe a dozen others, and when SHTF, that person will immediately have a moment of perfect memory recall, and with those others, come and pay you a visit. They or may not be armed and will most likely not be interested in the statement, “It’s for me and my family to use.”
So how does your average prepper family survive not only what disaster comes up but surviving the locals too? Well, first off, not talking about it to anyone who is not 100% trusted comes to mind. This might seem insulting, BUT it has a precedent. During World War II, posters were put up saying, “Careless talk costs lives” and “Loose lips sink ships.” You might not have a ship, but the life it might cost could be yours, your spouse or your child. Just something to think on.
What threats might you suppose could be out there other than the lonesome guy four doors down who suddenly craves foodstuffs he assumes you might have or that mug of coffee he hasn’t had in a week? Well, how about your not-so-friendly garden variety drug dependent thug, for one. It might be a prescription or illegal drug dependency, but either way it doesn’t matter once his or her supply is gone and withdrawal sets in. He or she will become desperate and will go to any lengths and will dare anything to try and obtain whatever it was they normally take. Also, note that due to the wonderful practice of allowing people who suffer from psychological issues to live at home with mostly the only point of contact when they wish it, any major SHTF scenario will suddenly have a number of very scared, paranoid and desperate people out there, so please factor that into your thinking, too.
NOTE: These drug-dependent folks might be your friendly neighbor or grocery cashier, who just happens to also be on medication for a significant emotional or mental disorder. In many, many cases, you can’t tell the difference by their appearance or your casual interactions with them.
On the other extreme, you have the threat posed by gangs who already have access to firearms and other weapons and have the attitude and propensity for using violence at a second’s notice. They have a well organized social structure based on violence. You can fully expect them to wheel out their whole arsenal of weapons and crappy attitudes without local law enforcement to keep them in check, and in some cases, gangs have more firepower than local police. They will have no hesitation looting any abandoned building they find or robbing anyone they see. Equally, they will have no problem entering a home even if occupied and taking by force anything they want from the occupants. As distasteful as it sounds, I’m afraid that will include crimes against female members in your household who run the risk of been taken away by said gang members for their “entertainment”, being molested or raped. Extreme sounding I know, but it has happened in the past in other places. As a result of this, the dug-in prepper has absolutely nothing to lose when facing this threat. The gloves are off and all nicety should be packed away along with any thought of reasoning with animals like this. Work as a team and shoot to kill.
Protect your ‘castle’ with force
When planning for SHTF, you’ll need some way to defend yourself, your loved ones, and your home. What is suggested as the “ideal” caliber or system for defending yourself or your family? That’s the $10,000 question. You could write several books on the subject and still argue the issue. Personally, I say a firearm style and caliber — anything you are either familiar or comfortable with — should be your go-to defensive weapons. Given my time in the Army, I prefer the calibers and weapons I used during my time in uniform. These choices, however, should reflect how you want to use them. An AR15 is an excellent rifle, for example, but inside a house, a shotgun is a better choice.
Another point to consider for house preppers is once you are in your “fort”, how would someone get in from the outside? You can bet the first place they might look is if you have a garage or shed out in the back yard. It might sound old fashioned, but an old container full of gasoline thrown through a window will drive you out of that house as sure as if a bomb had been dropped on it. Chances are, if you have a storage area, you also have a can of gasoline you have on hand for the lawnmower.
On the topic of personal choice, it’s an excellent idea to consider former service rifles as far back as World War I. Yes, they might be nearly 100 years old and not be black or have polymer or have all the whistles, bells, and gadgets of a brand new tricked out AR15, BUT not that many of us have $1,000 or more to spend on a new rifle or handgun. You need to remember that these weapons were picked for war. Yes, they might be old, but even back when they were used by an Army, they were lethal. They haven’t changed over the years.
A good example of this is the WW II Russian rifles made by Mosin Nagant. They sell for around $100, have a 5-shot magazine, and fire a 7.62mm bullet that hits just as hard as a 30.06 and will travel out to 1,000 metres or even drop a bear without too many problems. One supplier I have used is Century Arms International. They offer a variety of former military rifles and are fairly reasonably priced. I found this out first hand as I simply could not afford $975 for a basic AR15, and for half that amount I was able to get a rifle that fired a 7.62 NATO round and just never quits on me.
While on the subject of former military rifles, it is a good idea, if your rifle has a bayonet lug, to invest the time and trouble finding the bayonet for the rifle. This would give you a useful tool for everyday chopping, cutting, etc. but also a very effective weapon both psychologically and physically if a bad guy got too close. Trust me. If he sees that his target has a fixed bayonet on the end of their rifle, he is going to think twice about showing himself as the thought of getting impaled on a bayonet sends a shiver down even a seasoned combat veteran’s spine.
How to be invisible to looters and thugs
This brings me to the part I saved for last as it brings back some very unpleasant memories of seeing it firsthand and the after effects. If everything goes south and SHTF how would a pillager or looter choose or find targets?
- They will listen for sounds of hand tools or engines been used.
- They’ll smell things like wood smoke or cooking.
- At night, they’ll look for lights because this usually means life.
- They’ll have a scanner to listen for insecure radio traffic from things like walkie-talkies.
- They will use optical devices day and night to look for movement, especially near water sources or woods.
Once a group like this finds you, expect to be scouted. This might take the form of an observation post or a probe if the group is big enough. They would look for things like:
- How many people are in the home or community?
- How many weapons do they have and what type?
- How many defenders are there?
- Who seems to be in charge
- Does the target have any patrols or regular movements that can be expected?
- Do they have any defensive emplacements or dogs?
When it is deemed time, an attack will first target any leader or owners of any heavier weapons. If they can get close enough, any defensive structures will get a petrol bomb, grenade or CS gas canister thrown into it. (Yeah you can buy CS gas grenades online for general sale.) Any lone defenders will be isolated and eliminated. However, if things are not going well, any first group will draw off and wait and watch how the defenders respond. A large number of injured take up much more resources and will lower morale. If numbers are in their favor, the attacker will encircle the position and try and eliminate a few defenders any chance they get.
A good counter plan, if you have a defensive position set up, is to make sure you have a trench or something similar with a grenade sump and make sure every person in your group has a gas mask on them at all times. Also, make sure any building has fire fighting equipment for flammable liquids. If worst comes to the worst and a fighting retreat is needed to avoid losing everything you own except what you have on you, pre-pack a backpack of equipment with something like this:
- Personal first aid kit
- Spare magazines, ammo, and cleaning kit
- Personal survival equipment
- Full change of clothes
- Food and water
This gives you the basics to survive if you were to be driven out of your shelter or structure. The list is by no means comprehensive but gives you a general idea.
TIP: For a full list of suggested survival supplies click here for a free printable.
I can’t stress this enough, but in the event of any major SHTF event, an awful lot of people won’t make it simply because they are unable to think outside the comfort zone of the “rules of civilized society”. A large percentage of people will suddenly find themselves without the protection of society and will no longer be at the top of the food chain. There will be people out there who will prey upon them without remorse for what they feel they need to survive. I hope to hell I’m wrong, but I’ve seen and heard this happening before and it isn’t pretty.
Guest post by D.T. Originally posted on November 1, 2011 and updated on July 28, 2015.
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