Friday, June 15, 2012

Loose lips sink ships

I received a comment on my last blog post for the Self-Reliant Homestead which I thought was worthwhile opening up for input.

This reader writes:

Thank you for linking us to so many resources and fellow preppers willing to share their ideas! You and others that blog about survival offer a great and selfless service to humanity!

This thought led me somewhat off-topic... and I'd like to pick your brain a bit. I know you and Don have accepted that to be of utmost service you cannot be 100% private regarding your location, etc. But what do you suggest that we silent preppers do to discourage our well intentioned prepper friends from sharing the details of our prepared lifestyle/secluded homestead locale/etc.?

Admittedly, I am op-sec "paranoid" and tend to be a wee bit private. I think back to the privacy you afforded the guy that sold you the hay. No one had to tell you that it's not cool to blab about the guy's setup. I have been horrified to find that a fellow prepping friend has divulged details of our family's preps along with the ultra-secluded location of our homestead to mere acquaintances they deemed to be of similar mindset - this has happened a few times. And I've found out after meeting the acquaintance at a later time. Something like 'Oh, yeah. So-and-so told me about you. You live up such-and-such. They say you've got a nice setup, like guns, are right minding, been putting away food for what's coming.'

Any suggestions? Gentle hasn't worked so far. I feel the person's heart is in the right place but they are the prep type living in perpetual fear of TEOTWAWKI, so desperate of building community without regard to the liability of putting everything out there.

***And yes, I realize it's my OWN doing for sharing and planning with someone I obviously hadn't completely vetted.
:( *** ?????

The concept of OpSec is a thorny one as well as an important one. Unfortunately it's also something my husband and I have blown by being so public out our interest in preparedness. Our only answer to that is we feel it's a God-given calling to share our concerns with others and urge them to prepare as well.

But this reader isn't public, he's private. So everyone, let him know your thoughts and advice -- it will benefit all of us!


  1. Be direct with the person. Tell him/her that you don't want to have to worry about them blabbing about you (though you are somewhat a celebrity -at least to us preppers) I personally don't worry too much about who knows that I'm a prepper. Most of the folks up North are too. But by being direct and not angry about your corrective action, you will probably know if you had the effect you were hoping for.

    1. My wife and I were VERY direct, but also very polite and - we thought - tactful. It did no good. We finally had to be blunt. One good thing came of it, though: We learned who our TRUE friends are! --Fred in AZ

  2. Dear compromised reader, I feel your pain. Out of concern for a couple who attends our church and had become our friends I once shared my thoughts about prepping and what I thought was coming. I had a great opportunity because we were on a long trip from Illinois to Joplin to clean up after the tornado. They asked very good questions, seemed skeptical but interested, then after a long talk the wife in the back seat blurted out that another couple from church had inherited a large sum of money and opted to receive it in gold because they were preppers too and had shared this info with my friends. Then she told me that there was enough of it that they had a Brinks truck come and take it from the house to their safe deposit box. I was horrified. If she would tell this what would stop her from telling about my beans-bullets-bandaids-&-silver talk I had just spent hours telling them about? I also feel bad because my wife and I are conflicted about whether or not we should tell the other couple that they have been compromised. They are also friends of ours and obviously like-minded people. With global financial tensions coming to a head in the next week or two and the very real possibility of bank holidays being implemented, I wouldn't be surprised if my wise prepper friends have removed their treasure from the bank, (not knowing they are compromised) and storing it at home now. If I know who else knows?
    Anyway... after a long silence in the car the wife in the back seat said, "I don't know why I told you that... I probably shouldn't have" I immediately replied, "No, you shouldn't have. And I hope you won't tell anyone else what I have talked to you about" About two weeks later we were at a euchre game at their house and ANOTHER church member who is in the praise band at church with the husband laughed at me scoffingly and said, "SOOO, did you find yer hidee-hole in Ideeho yet?"
    I know it is easier said than done but if I were you I would tell that prepper friend that they committed a serious breach of your security and that they are in NO WAY authorized to talk to ANYone else about your situation or even mention your name in the same conversation as prepping. OPSEC seems like it should be easy but I'm finding out it is quite a conundrum to balance OPSEC with concern for loved ones. I will pray for you to have boldness and love when you approach them if you will pray for me to do the right thing for my compromised friends.
    -Don the Baptist-

    1. A lesson well learned, John. We all want to share our feelings about these things, hopefully to help others we care about. But we need to wait and keep quiet until we're absolutely certain we can trust someone to keep a secret. And even then, only tell them the basics. Don't get too explicit. I've learned in my 67 years that there are very, VERY few people you can totally trust! --Fred in AZ

  3. Well, I always brush off others comments with a "I wish". Most of my preps are obvious. Garden, beef cows, chickens, fruit and nut trees, berry bushes. So canning and freezing are expected. I don't shoot at home. Don't have a gun rack in my truck or an obvious cabinet in my home. And after busting one overally talkative friend at the car rental place my friends don't discuss me and my preps in public. (said friend was going on about a possible gun grab from the government at the counter of a car rental agency while surrounded by a dozen unknown people. I looked up into the clearly visible camera and said " I think that the private ownership of guns should be outlawed. Gun owners and other hoarders like you should be jailed." His jaw dropped and he didn't say anything until we got in the van.

  4. You need to have a firm talk with them and discuss the real danger of every man and their dog knowing about prepping and your concerns about Opsec.

    Tell them something like I'm happy to find preppers in my community but I would like it to be on my terms. If you meet like minded people and discuss friends who prep please do not reveal any of my identifying details.

    By the sounds of it original poster you might have a local community of preppers with good resources if anything happens. Have you considered starting a community prepper group? That way you have knowledge of other preppers and you can all agree to rules around Opsec.

  5. One of the most important aspects in prepping for any major disaster, either natural or man made is sorting out who you can and cannot depend on and trust. Sifting trustworthiness out of the silo of human nature is a daunting task. Not something to be done hastily or on the spur of the moment. NO person or family is an island fortress. It is imperative you surround yourself with a tight group with one person in charge who is sound and intelligent enough to make crucial decisions. Any breakdown in OPSEC will force you to cache supplies off site, for when stomachs rumble they will use natures first law of unintended consequence and hit the known places where they can hit the vein of gold without much effort. I am trying to find like minds myself and it is not a smooth road. You will discard more than you keep. Avoid disclosing location and inventory and approach the topic in a roundabout way. Vet the individual through others with reputation and actions observed. Loners are often that for a reason. Family gives a sense of loyalty and continuity.Calloused hands show determination and hard work. You may have to abandon your retreat in favor of making a group work. Established groups are also another choice. It is all up to what you feel is in your families best interest. I know this post is muddled and confusing,but so is your task at hand....

  6. We had a similar situation. A relative came home and informed us that he had heard down at the "coffee shop" that another relative "was ready for anything"; he had guns, food, etc.--and of course, in this little town, everyone knows where everyone lives. I informed this other relative about what was being said, and he tracked it back, confronted the blabber, who now doesn't really "hang with" the one blabbed to. Lesson learned by all.

    Our personal strategy is to not tell ANYBODY "everything". Even the ones we can talk prepping with (in-laws included)do not know the full extent of our storage and preps. When you are trying to build a community, that is all you can do. Try to keep the "circle" small.

  7. As a Christian I don't know that one can have complete OpSec. How do you attempt to help others learn and be prepared if you are always worried about keeping everything a secret. If I hadn't taken the time over the past two years to keep talking to me sister she would still be totally in the dark. She has a long ways to go, but has at least started putting extra food up. What she does will be that one less thing I have to do for her. Does she think I'm crazy. Of course, my whole family does. Do they talk about me to others, YUP! But,we know that we can only do what we can do. The rest is up to God.

  8. I guess helping others is a trade off in OPSEC to a degree. I have written, blogged and talked to people all over about prepping and lost some of our OPSEC, but it was worth it in many ways. These people will share the good prepping they are doing, bounce ideas off me and in general are better off and further ahead than they would have been. I am lucky to be so far off the beaten ath that I don't have to worry about the casual person coming here, but it's always something I am aware off. We cache off site now, and I feel better about it. Nothing here but a regular little homestead! Let them talk (not).

  9. If they are blabbing, they are NOT a friend. You have to think about your family first! You would be doing him a major favor by pointing out to him the error of his big mouth. JB

  10. My wife and I understand someone's reasons for privacy, the Internet being no exception. 4 or 5 years ago we were getting e-mails from friends and relatives with dozens and dozens of other peoples' e-mail addresses on them. SPAM was getting really bad, as well as viruses and such constantly popping up. Our nephew, who knows a lot more about computers than we ever will, told us we should only send e-mails via "Bcc:" or "Blind carbon copy," rather than using "To:" because then your e-mail address isn't there for all the world to see. (Somewhere down the line someone will see all those "legit" e-mail addresses who will then inundate you with SPAM!)

    This sounded good to us, so we sent the info to all 35 or 40 people on our address list. Only a handful replied and agreed it sounded like a good idea. The rest just ignored us! We sent another e-mail, carefully explaining why we wanted them to please use Bcc, but still to no avail. I finally informed all those who didn't want to go along with us (evidently they like showing the world that they know a lot of people) that if they didn't start using Bcc and STOP exposing our e-mail to so many people we didn't know, that we would be forced to change our e-mail address and not give it to them. Still no response, and they all kept sending us the same silly jokes and tired old stories with everybody but Adam's e-mail address on the messages. So we changed our e-mail address and only gave it those we knew we could trust.

    We now only send e-mails to about 8 people, and that's fine with us. We no longer get the same tired, silly jokes from 10 different people, and those we still send e-mails to like to COMMUNICATE and let us know what's going on in their neck of the woods!
    --Fred & Deb in AZ

    1. Good for you and smart idea. I never thought much about that "Reply to all" choice and use the BCC feature because I was asked to by someone I love. That was enough for me. But many people seem to get offended when you make these types of requests. Personally, if someone can't respect a request such as this, then they really aren't people I want to include in my life anyway.

  11. If you are secluded enough when the grid goes down, not many people will be able to find you anyway. The ones that do will have made a big effort, which will hopefully show a strength of character and those people will not be a threat. Some preppers are preparing just for themselves, but in general it seems that they are the kind of people also preparing to help others. The big question is, when the time comes that you utilize all of your preparedness, how will you determine who is worthy of help and who is a threat or a freeloader? These times seem to be a great test of character, might as well start learning now about how to be a good judge of character, who to trust and who not to trust, and how to say no.

  12. The military struggles with this too.
    At one point they were finding flash drives in the Afghani a Iraqi bazzars with classified info. They also found that the terrorists were linking in to Predator video feed (live) because it was unsecured.
    Sometimes we release info based on who is "cleared" for access (ie family) when we should also consider their need to know. I think a lot of civilians think that a person with a TS (Top Secret) clearance knows all the secrets but there is compartmentalization that is based on need to know. The fact that you are willing to have a conversation on a topic with someone only indicates trust level (clearance), what exactly you divulge should be based on need to know. That said, there are family members that SHOULD be on the inside but can't be because they don't have any concept. In that case you may have to do the hard thing and cut them out of some compartmentalized info. This is a hard one ... good luck... its an ongoing battle even for those who do it for a living.

    - a Vet

  13. i think the loose lips need to know that doggone it, all your preps went bad...busted jars and spoiled food are just gonna give up on it. yeah i know it is lying/fibbing...but i guarantee you, if they have looose lips the word will get around and folks will just shake their head and say too bad. in the meantime, i think i would be finding a few secret places and not say a word to anybody ever again.

  14. We have a dear friend like that and reveal VERY LITTLE to him because we don't want him to be our breach in security!! So sad, we love him as a dear brother in Christ, but he can not be trusted to keep his mouth shut. We discovered this before we had told him much about what we were doing, but we sure learned a lot about what a few others were doing.

  15. I hope you find some comfort in knowing that the more people who prepare, the less we have to fear. Also, one reason there are so many people beginning to do what they can to prepare is that others like yourself are sharing their wisdom.

  16. I have:
    1) a garage with stacked 30 gallon water drums(20)
    2) an entire bedroom and its closet with 5 gallon buckets, cases of canned goods on shelfs and stacked--the whole works with shelfing 8' X 8' X 2', and 2- 8' X 4'X 2'.(3 shelfing total)
    3) a 8' X 8' pantry of shelfing with cleaners, canned goods, and 6 BOBs
    My point?? Hard to hide!!!

    1. Anon,

      If you can lock the door you can tell people that you're decorating and it's a mess.
      But this only works if they don't know you are a prepper. If they've heard rumours they'll assume it's full of preps.

    2. It's really okay where I live..the neighbors here don't visit...and if ever, they do not come inside...strangest place I've ever lived.
      Is is a Ky thing?? I'm born and raised Tennessee gal...I was raised like this...knock at door..
      1)turn off tv/radio...well, not now; we don't have tv.
      2) beverage definitely provided
      3) if meal time, they WILL eat!!!

  17. OPSEC is indeed a difficult issue and for every instance of a breach in security you are aware of there are ten more you are not aware of.
    If TSHTF big time the people who heard about you and laughed it off and never mentioned it again *will* remember and will come calling either begging or with pilfering in mind.

    If someone is hungry they will remember the 10 year old story that you were a prepper, it won't matter if no-one has mentioned it since or even if your house burnt down in the meanwhile, they're desperate and your house is still better odds than going to a random destination.

    I struggle with this, there are friends who I think are preppers or whos eyes might be easily opened but I'm scared of the OPSEC implications.

  18. In so many situations, the part of your body most likely to get you into trouble is your mouth-learn to control it, and watch who you start running it in front of. I have friends I trust and family I don't..the secret is learning who you can trust and who you can't. That ain't easy at all..

  19. I saw a bumper sticker on the back of a pick-up truck a few years ago that read "Three people can keep a secret if two of them are dead." That's about right.Might as well hide in plain sight.

  20. A non-prepper friend came to my house with her 13 yr old son. I had a 25lb. bag of sugar sitting on the table waiting to be packaged and stored. They were both incredulous and amused at such a large amount of sugar.

    I told them it was a year's worth of sugar (though actually, being a home canner, I have MUCH more already put by). Still, they made jokes, poked the bag as though they couldn't believe it existed, and kept talking about it all day. They asked if I was one of those people who also bought the mega packs of toilet paper. It was a subject of great humor to them. Needless to say, I told these particular friends no more.

    But others, I frequently tell that it's a good idea to have enough in the pantry to get through a good snowstorm, a power outage, the car being out of commission for a spell. I never go into the depth or detail with anyone but the closest prepper friends and family.

    What they don't know, they can't blab. Some know I have a gun. They don't need to know how many nor what kind. Some know I keep a garden. They don't need to know I dehydrate, freeze and can a years worth for 10 people every year from it. And I'd bite my own tongue rather than tell even the closest friend that I have gold. Even my adult kids don't know that one. Opsec can be friendly and helpful. It just needs to be circumspect.

  21. I keep thinking about the gentleman who you bought the hay from and wondering just how safe his set up really is. A lot of property records are going online now and anybody can look it up, see the number of buildings, size, and value of your holdings.

    I worry about this in my future too. I dream of a house with a basement which is unusual in my area. People and businesses regularly look into property records. Anybody could look it up and find out.

    In a bad situation, your OSPEC is going to be blown pretty fast. You'll be the family that doesn't look like skeletons. You'll be the one with fuel to cook still. You won't even be able to even bake since ppl a mile away will smell it. Tortillas and biscuits for you! How does one hide that you're the only one in the neighborhood with a working vehicle still? Post-disaster OSPEC is so much harder.

  22. If you're worried about OPSEC, then the simple answer is to assume that anything you tell anyone will be repeated. It's close enough to universally true.

    For a more nuanced view, I'd suggest "don't trust people whose trustworthiness you haven't had a chance to evaluate".