Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Review: the Seven Core Areas of Preparedness

I am honored to be invited as a guest tomorrow afternoon on Cherilyn Eagar’s radio show (www.k-talk.com) in Salt Lake City discussing the subject of preparedness.

To welcome any new readers from the show who might visit this blog, I thought now would be a good time to review what I call the Seven Core Areas of Preparedness. This blog post is an encapsulation of my Backwoods Home Magazine article from Jan/Feb 2012.

The Seven Core Areas of Preparedness are:
  • Food
  • Water
  • Heat
  • Lighting
  • Sanitation
  • Medical
  • Protection

I need to stress this list is by no means comprehensive. However if you’re prepared in these seven areas, than you can focus on achieving other, more tailored preparations to suit your particular circumstances.

What is preparedness?
Preparedness refers to the stockpiling of goods, supplies, knowledge, reference literature, and other essentials in order to better weather natural disasters, terrorist attacks, economic uncertainty, and other difficulties. Preppers (as we’re called) know our efforts will not insulate us from hard times, but will help cushion the blows of regional or national emergencies which are out of our control.

By definition, "prepping" means preparing done in advance of hard times, not after. This little subtlety – that preparing is best done before rather than after a serious event – seems to escape a lot of people. A typical example is the panic that ensues whenever a hurricane approaches landfall – there is widespread chaos at grocery stores, Home Depot locations, and gas stations as people frantically try to get ready for something they should always be prepared for anyway.

The testimonies of people facing a disaster while prepared speaks strongly in favor of prepping. These people are calmer, more rational, less panicked, and can concentrate on helping others instead of requiring help themselves.

I think everyone can agree: it’s far better to be prepared than not. But preparedness comes in a lot of different flavors and intensities, depending on the personal level of concern by the individuals involved.

How you prepare depends on endless numbers of factors. Your location (urban vs. rural), type of home (house, apartment, mobile home, etc.), numbers and ages of family members, health, income… these issues will all affect what kind, and to what extent, you can prepare.

Many people feel it’s easier to be prepared in a rural location, and to some degree this is true. Livestock, gardens, space for stored supplies, and a lesser likelihood of roving gangs of looters are all benefits of living in the country. But living in the country is no guarantee that Preppers will escape any problems. And this does not excuse our urban cousins from preparing to handle emergencies as best they can.

This article will focus not so much on the nuts-and-bolts of what to store, but rather on some general things to consider. These considerations must then be tailored toward your particular circumstances.

Short-Term Preparedness
It's helpful to know what you're preparing for. Preparedness can roughly be divided into two categories: short-term and long-term.

Short-term preps generally are meant to address local and regional events. Here in rural north Idaho we prepare for wildfires, earthquakes, and blizzards. Other locations need to prepare for tornadoes or hurricanes as well. Urban short-term preparedness may consist of all of the previously-listed natural disasters, but might also include social unrest and acts of terrorism.

In the short-term, most urban situations can be handled by staying indoors rather than roaming the streets or attempting to bug out to a rural area. When riots or other social unrest erupts, your chances of escaping looters is fairly high if you stay inside and make sure your doors and windows are barricaded or at least patrolled from within.

For short-term preparedness, I recommend having at least three months of supplies in the Seven Core Areas. Why three months? Under even the most dire regional conditions, things will usually shake out by the end of three months. Outside help will become available, or conditions will otherwise change.

Keep in mind that if things are in chaos for a week or more, your unprepared neighbors may ask you for help. And you should help, if for no other reason than long memories after the crisis is past. It’s important not to forget charity and mercy during an emergency.

Long-Term Preparedness
What conditions would necessitate long-term preparedness? This would mean an interruption of our way of life on a national (or extended regional) scale. Along these lines, I have concerns about two possible scenarios.

The first is that our country will experience an economic collapse, in which case our best "savings account" is what is euphemistically called "tangibles." (In Prepper lingo this is known as beans, bullets and band-aids.) A collapse of our banking system and its fiat currency could result in massive unemployment and other financial hardships.

A second possible scenario that concerns many Preppers is the loss of our national power grid either through natural events such as massive solar flares, or terrorism (electromagnetic pulse weapon detonated in the upper atmosphere which will incapacitate the power grid). Our country is no longer capable of functioning without electricity. If you’ve read the book One Second After by William R. Forstchen, you’ll understand the need for additional supplies to handle a long-term interruption of services.

Under these conditions, having adequate supplies in the Seven Core Areas will help people survive in moderate comfort. By “adequate” I don’t mean you’re living in the lap of luxury. I mean you’re not starving, freezing, or sitting in the dark.

Rule of Three
We have some prepared neighbors who abide by what they call the Rule of Three. What this means is they have one main and two backup means of doing whatever needs to be done (in other words, a backup to their backup). Cooking, heating, lighting, communications… all are aspects that need backups of backups in case the primary method(s) are incapacitated.

These neighbors are off-grid, so having that Rule of Three for everyday necessities has allowed them to live comfortably under conditions many of us would find difficult. So in your preparations, think in terms of multiple backups in case your primary source fails.

Bugging Out vs. Bugging In
The decision whether to bug out or bug in (hunker down) depends on the nature of the emergency as well as your physical location. A few scenarios:

• Riots are hitting your urban area. Stay indoors, barricade doors and windows, and hunker down. Do NOT draw attention to yourself.

• A Category 5 hurricane is approaching your low-lying coastal property. Gather your grab-and-go kits and get out.

• An economic crash has plunged our nation into a severe Depression. Resources are scarce. There is no easy answer to this situation. Bugging in – staying in the city – will only work until your supplies are gone or your safety is compromised. At that point, bugging out may be your only option…IF you have someplace to bug out TO.

Hunkering down (bugging in) is a legitimate option for many people under a number of emergency circumstances. But that doesn’t mean you just lock your doors. Hunkering down means you create your bug-out retreat right there at home. That means having your Seven Core areas stocked and ready.

However bear in mind, no one can be self-sufficient in an urban apartment. The best you can hope for is to stay safe until the immediate crisis passes.

Bugging out from an urban location opens a whole new can of worms. Unless you have a fully-stocked self-sufficient rural retreat (and who does?), then you’ll probably be trespassing on the kindness of rural friends or relatives. How long will you be staying? How long can they support you? It’s almost impossible to say, since no one can predict the duration of a major emergency.

All I can suggest in this case is: (a) bring every supply you can possibly cram into your vehicle; (b) be the most gracious houseguest you can possibly be. Remember it’s not your home, so be prepared to work for your “rent.”

You’re Not Euell Gibbons
Remember Euell Gibbons? (“Ever eat a pine tree? Many parts are edible…”) Gibbons was known for his ability to literally live off the land.

Most of us aren’t Euell Gibbons. Most of us wouldn’t know an edible plant if it bit us on the butt. So whatever you do, don’t think you can “live off the land” if the bleep hits the fan just because you know what a blackberry bush looks like.

One time while lurking on a “green” forum, I posted a question: If you’re in an urban area and the bleep hit the fan, what would you do? Do you have any food stored away? I receive the usual we’ll-all-join-hands-and-sing-Kumbaya type of answers, but one reply made me blink in astonishment: this person didn’t see the need to store any food because he would simply forage for all his dietary needs from wild plants in vacant lots.

This kind of – sheesh, what would you call it? Ignorance? Naiveté? Stupidity? (yeah, that’s the word) – always astounds me. Assuming you could even identify edible plants, just how much filthy polluted plantain can you collect in order to keep yourself and your family alive? How will you cook it? And what happens when the vacant lot is stripped bare of everything except broken glass and tin cans? Would you even dare to step outside your apartment and risk meeting roving mobs while you search for wild purslane and dandelion shoots?

And please, don’t even get me started on the “mountain-man” hunting scenario. I don’t care if you’re the greatest recreational hunter in the world – you won’t be able to survive off your hunting, especially if you live in the city. Where will you hunt? How will you get there? Will the locals welcome you? (Remember, if people are hunting for survival, you’re no longer a visiting cash cow; you’re competition for a limited resource.) How will you get your meat back home? How will you preserve it?

There’s a reason humans moved from hunter/gatherer societies to an agricultural-based culture: food sources are more secure. To assume you can suddenly move back into a hunter/gatherer mode to survive – while living in a city, no less – is lunacy.

You’re Not Rambo Either
A popular whimsy among some male survivalists is the Rambo fantasy. They have vague thoughts of gunning down any and all threats to their survival. Let a starving mother with a crying toddler knock on the door and plead for a bowl of cereal, and Mr. Rambo will threaten to blow her away rather than treat her with compassion. (That said, my elderly aunt who lives in Louisiana told me how this was a common ploy for home invasion robberies after Hurricane Katrina hit.)

This kind of hyper-machismo is asking for trouble. I firmly believe part of being prepared is being suitably armed… but if you’ll pardon my French, don’t start talking from your balls. Be sensible in your defenses.

In my aunt’s case, after hearing about a number of these home invasions, she refused to answer the door at all. Other people answered the door while fully armed. All I’m saying is, don’t go looking for trouble. Just be prepared to handle it if it arises.

Practice Practice Practice
No matter how fully prepped you think you are, you won’t know for sure until an emergency arises. But the least you can do is make sure (a) you know where all your emergency supplies are located; (b) your equipment is in working order; and (c) you know how to use it. (You’d be surprised how many people panic-buy generators before a hurricane but don’t have the faintest notion how to hook them up.)

If the power goes out, the last thing you want to do is grope around in the dark trying to find your flashlight, only to find the batteries are dead because the kids were playing Spook. Know where your equipment is and make sure it’s in working order.

Once you feel you’ve thought through every contingency and you’re reasonably prepared, the best possible thing you can do is shut off the power for a week and prove it. There is no finer way to discover your weaknesses and vulnerable spots than to stage an “emergency.” That’s why professional emergency services stage drills.

Practice OpSec
This is advice we ourselves have not taken because of our rather public involvement in teaching Prepping and self-sufficiency, but I suggest you practice Operational Security (OpSec). In a word, shaddup. Keep your preps quiet and low-key. Don’t talk about it. Don’t brag. Don’t announce to the world what kinds of firearms you possess and how much food you have stored.

The reason is, there will always be somebody happy to liberate you of your supplies. Nuff said.

The Seven Core Areas of Preparedness

• Food. This is obvious. I don't mean you should stuff your freezer with TV dinners, either, because if the power goes out, they're gone. Consider purchasing staples you enjoy eating (rice, beans, oatmeal, etc.) and learn to store and prepare them. These have the added advantage of being dirt cheap. If you want to take the next step, learn to can. Properly canned food lasts years without refrigeration, and canning is a valuable skill as well. Alternately, buy lots of commercially canned food.

Along with storing food, you should have the means to prepare it. Your options will be more limited if you’re in an urban high-rise apartment (where you can’t install a wood cookstove, for example), in which case your food will have to be pre-cooked (such as MRE’s) or otherwise edible without cooking. Eating unheated soup or beans right out of a can might not be the most pleasant meal, but at least you won’t starve.

• Water. Without water to drink and wash, you'll be miserable (or dead). At all times, you should have a minimum of 20 gallons stored in your home. Look for options to secure larger quantities of water (roof runoff? storage tank?) as well as ways to sterilize surface water such as bleach, iodine or filtration.

If you’re preparing for a minimum of three months, then your storage space for water will be huge and will probably take up far more space than most people have available. That’s why you need the means to purify water. A nonelectric water filter (such as Berkey) might be part of your water storage efforts.

• Heat. We live in rural north Idaho not far from the Canadian border. Heat is a major concern for us. How can you heat your house if the power goes out? Everyone's circumstances are different – you probably can't install a woodstove in a Manhattan apartment – so think through the alternatives that will work for you.

Be careful about ventilation when considering your heat sources. Endless people have been asphyxiated due to carbon monoxide poisoning because they chose the wrong option to heat their living space. Some buildings have windows which will not open, and this must be considered when thinking through your heat sources.

• Lights. You don't want to be in the dark, do you? Everyone can afford an oil lamp or two. Don't bother with those pricey containers of scented lamp oil, either. A gallon of kerosene is less than $10 and works just fine.

While flashlights and batteries are nice (and necessary), you’ll go through your battery supplies very fast if you depend on them exclusively for lighting. Remember your Rule of Three: plan to have backups to your backups. You should have candles, oil lamps, perhaps battery-powered LED lamps, or other light sources.

If you’re “bugging in,” consider blackout curtains for your windows which will block light. Alternately, a roll of black plastic and duct tape will work (as well as being useful for other purposes). No sense advertising how prepared you are (OpSec!). But remember, sheeting your windows in plastic will trap carbon monoxide, so be careful.

• Sanitation. What happens if you can't flush your toilets? If you run out of diapers or feminine hygiene? If you don’t have toilet paper? Think about what kind of reusable alternatives you can substitute for pricey disposable items.

Find reusable versions of disposable sanitary items. Cheap washcloths from the dollar store can act as reusable toilet paper. Use cloth instead of disposable diapers. Try washable feminine napkins instead of disposable. Of course, these reusable versions require a means to wash them, so think through your options. For short-term preparedness, it might be better to stock up on disposables.

If you cannot flush your toilets and an outhouse isn’t possible, a five-gallon bucket lined with heavy-duty trash bags and a toilet seat may be your next best option. Wood shavings, sawdust, or ash can be sprinkled in the bucket after each use to help control odors.

• Medical. Can you doctor yourself for minor injuries? Do you have a good stock of your prescription medicines? It doesn't cost much to pull together a comprehensive first-aid kit. It might be harder to stockpile prescription medications, so this is something worth discussing with your doctor.

Now might be the time to take a refresher course for basic first aid. You might also stock up on medical items you might not otherwise consider – burn dressings, tape closures, compression bandages, and lots of over-the-counter pain killers.

• Safety. What happens when too many people suddenly want to be your best friend post-bleep? What should you do if you live in an urban area subject to rioting and unrest? Some people interpret “safety” to mean they should have an arsenal of guns. Others think they need a secret rural bug-out location. However you interpret it, identify prospective dangers for your circumstances and think of how to mitigate them.

Personally I believe every family member old enough to handle a firearm should be taught safety factors and target practice. Adult members should also have holsters (either concealed or otherwise) for ease of carry during “bleep” situations.

Safety should be more than just firearms. It also includes such things as situational and strategic awareness, home and property security, communications, and local relations (friends, neighbors, community).

This post can barely scratch the surface of the preparedness mindset. But as our nation faces an unprecedented number of major threats to our economy, our security, and our way of life, I believe everyone should have the basics of Prepping down cold.


  1. The only thing I would change on your list is change "heat" to "shelter". You can be outside with a fire which is heat but stuck in a rain storm wont help you keep warm if you get wet even with a fire right next to you.

  2. Can you provide a link? The one you have goes to an expired domain and looking at the k-talk site the person listed does not show up in the list of personalities.

    1. Hmmm -- the link worked yesterday but you're right, now it shows an expired domain. I'll bring it to her attention. I understand all about expired domains, grunt.

      - Patrice

  3. Patrice, one little typo - search for "employment" and add an "un" in front. I did chuckle though at the way it was written.

  4. This is a really neat article, and while the seven areas you list are vital, there are a number of areas that I think could be added. For example: Financial preparedness, Tools & Skills, Communications, and Air/Breathing are all very important areas, too. Also, I’ll second the notion that “Heat” is too specific. I live in the desert southwest, and while heat is important in the winter, the opposite is required to survive in the summer; I’d change this to shelter from the elements. Also, I like that Medical is on your list, but I’d expand it to encompass general Physical and Mental Fitness prep. And finally, I don’t see anything on your list as it relates to Spiritual preparedness, which I believe to be right up there with food and water! In any case, great job.

  5. Let me begin by saying I am not a prepper. I have no expertise in this area at all. However, some of the blogs I enjoy do occasionally cover the topic (yours, for example) and I continually see what I believe is a huge blind spot. Unless you grow your food in an underground hot house (which would require a lot of electricity for grow lights and fans), it is planted in a garden somewhere on your property. You can hide yourself, but not your garden. Are you going to take your beef herd into your house with you? In any long-term crisis situation, your cattle and garden will be indefensible and therefore gone in a matter of months. You cannot protect them from a determined large, armed group and still graze them every day. Sure, you could butcher all of them, but there goes your long-term sustainability. Same with the garden. One raid and your entire year's worth of food is gone. Do you honestly believe you will be able to protect a garden plot (large enough to supply your family with a year's worth of food) for an entire growing season? As an urbanite, I know that millions and millions of people will head for the less populated areas of this country. They will travel in large groups for safety and they will be armed to the teeth. They will not worry about "Will the locals welcome you?" They will do whatever it takes to survive, which likely will include murdering "the locals" for their resources. You cannot run without abandoning your food (growing or canned). You cannot hide your food and produce it at the same time. It will become "survival of the most ruthless." So as you're teaching your daughters to fire their assault rifles, have you talked to them about the fact that in a true survival situation, it will be human beings they'll be shooting? Are you "prepping" them for that? It wouldn't take a very large group for you to be outnumbered and then either pinned down inside while all your outdoor food is stolen, or overrun completely. What then? It seems to me that any prepper scenario only works if you're willing to kill others to survive, and even then only until the canned goods hold out. The minute you have to plant and tend a garden, you (and your food) will be sitting ducks. I realize this post must sound really hostile, but it isn't meant to be. I'm just curious about whether preppers think about these eventualities, and what's the plan then?

    1. You raise some excellent points, but consider the alternative. Do you throw up your hands and give up? Do nothing? Be helpless?

      This is why "safety" or "protection" is listed under the seven core areas. This category needs to be interpreted and adapted to suit everyone's particular circumstances and abilities.

      - Patrice

    2. I would also like to add that this is only a problem if the invaders know what they're looking for and know what to do with it.

      Yes, veggies can be pulled from the garden, but how many will know how to process livestock or even how to get it off your property?

      Also, with the advent of processed food most people don't know how to cook from raw ingredients much less harvest them from the dirt.

      But, as Patrice points out, we don't stand still because of the "what if's".


    3. They're fair questions, and my honest answer is, "Yes, I'm doing nothing." I am doing nothing to prepare for a long-term national or global meltdown. I have preparations for local, short-term disasters, but I honestly believe that in the long-term, bands of ruthless murderers will be at the top of the food chain. I believe they will virtually unstoppable. And I think there will be hoards of them, even in northern Idaho. (Don't forget that Canadians will see Idaho as a warmer, more hospitable climate.) Gangbangers and other hardened criminals are "prepping" right now too. They're "prepping" by strengthening ties with one another and searing their consciences for the kind of violence that will become rampant. So when the beep hits, I don't think there will be much anyone can do to keep life as we know it intact at all. Within a few months, anyone who will not resort to murder and mayhem will survive only by miraculous intervention. They may hide, but very soon the stockpiled food will be gone. What then? Which brings me back to my point... Since I don't think there is a circumstance or ability that CAN be adapted to withstand those who will have the upper hand due to their pure evil, I think all Christian preppers should answer the corresponding question now, today: Would they be willing to kill someone else to protect their food? Would they ask their children to kill? And when they can't grow/raise more food, would they be willing to steal it? Kill for it? Trade a daughter for it? Where is the particular line they wouldn't cross? You know the advice people give about making important moral decisions - they should be made ahead of time in the quiet conviction of the heart, not in the heat of the moment. I feel that's the first "prep" all preppers should make.

    4. You are right. We can adapt security to suit our individual needs. There are ways of having perimeter protection for gardens, and animals can be kept in barns or other enclosures, if needed. I hope and pray that I never have to protect myself against another human being, but I am prepared to do so if my family is threatened.

    5. Your concern is right on the mark. That is what most preppers fear and to some extent they prepare for but don't enjoy talking about. Good people can only be pushed so far before they will resist and fight back. It would be a mistake to assume that because someone is a good person that they will lose when confronted by really bad people. Instead what I would expect is a very fast paced evolution where the good people, the farmers and ranchers would quickly adopt more serious outcome based tactics to protect what they have. It will be cowboys and Indians and one side will win. The urban gangs may be more violent and aggressive but the preppers may be smarter and have more levels of resilience. It is impossible to predict how each confrontation will end but it would be a mistake to assume that simply because the attackers were gang members in the city that they will prevail in the country.

    6. Anonymous @7:54AM, I am going to accept your sincerity. I mean no offense but being an ‘urbanite’, you live in a completely different culture from rural folks. For example, I would be lost if I had to use a subway; elevators, taxis, high rise buildings would give me an anxiety attack. In an urban survival situation I would be like a lamb ready for slaughter,

      You seem conflicted by moral decisions. As for me, I believe God instructed man to not murder (shedding innocent blood). He expects us to assume the God-given DUTY of self-defense and protecting our loved ones. If necessary, I (and many God-fearing rural folks) will shoot anyone who threatens us or our loved ones. Anonymous, would you not do the same?

      Sadly, I have loved ones who like yourself, are basically unprepared urbanites. Worse yet is that they are uninformed and uninterested. At least you are searching about survival. Anonymous, I will ask you the same question that I ask them: What Will You Tell Your Children? Then I urge them to reflect on this article: http://www.louisbeam.com/whatwill.htm

      Montana Guy

    7. In a major event there will be problems for people with homesteads and preppers will certainly loose food in the garden and meat on the hoof.
      If the prepper lives just off a major road or just outside a large population centre then they may lose their entire crop but most plants don’t come to harvest at the same time so the possibility exists that they may still save some food and some food is better than no food. Even if they lose the entire crop and have to dip into the drums of corn and beans in the basement for a year the experience they have growing food will let them recover the next year. Replacing animals will be harder.
      As far as gangs go. Either the gangs will be on foot, in which case they can only travel slowly and can’t carry off a herd of cows or they’re motorised in which case they will be easy to see and hear coming. The first few homesteads will get surprised but if the community are still communicating then eventually the gang will reach a homestead that is to some extent expecting them. Either they’ve hidden the heard in the woods or they’re gunned up and ready to shoot first (in reality just retaliating for their neighbours).
      Preppers will die, gangs will die, it will be messy but it’s still better than starving to death looking at your (now dead) giant TV.
      I know of some preppers who intend to lie low for the first year after a major event until the gangs and homeless have died off and then plant crops the second year. This strategy has a few flaws, namely you need to plant crops now to get and maintain the experience and ensure that you have the tools and infrastructure to do so and also it doesn’t work as well for animals (you can’t exactly hide eggs away now and plan to hatch them in four years time).
      Once upon a time Vikings devastated the coasts of Europe but the villages survived. It’s not that easy to run off with a field of wheat.

    8. Thanks to all of you for your respectful, considered responses. I appreciate the dialog. I would just caution you not to underestimate the urbanites. We may not know how to butcher a hog properly, but that won't stop the thieves from taking it. I also truly believe you vastly underestimate the sheer numbers you will face. What will one family, even one community, do against literally hundreds of armed marauders? Yes, you may hide until they pass, but your resources will be pillaged. Livestock, barns, hay, tools, machinery, vehicles, fencing, lumber, food, anything left behind will not be there when you return. And as I said, no one seems to have any plan for hiding the food while you grow it. That is the weak link in the food chain. Sooner or later your stockpile will run out (or be taken from you) and producing more means growing it or raising it. You'll have just a few months of growing season to produce enough food for a year. That takes a large garden area. It might be a very enlightening experiment to try to grow enough food to feed your family for one year. Even without any pressure from thieves, it is a daunting and sizable task. And when you add the need to produce the food your food eats (hay, chicken feed, etc.), the job seems impossible, especially if there are bands of marauders you must somehow protect it from day and night. I hear the sentiment that you feel you must try, you must plan to do something. But it seems like you need to rethink the idea that you will be able to continue to produce/grow what you will need. In the end, it will be the very reality that you ARE rural (and therefore relatively sparsely populated) that will be your biggest problem. There will simply be far more of them than of you. Each farm, or ranch, or homestead will make its stand, but I think the overwhelming numbers will win out. They will have time and the odds on their side. They don't have to win every single time, you do.

    9. I'd like to take an opportunity to address the points made by Anonymous 6:34pm, which I have summarized below:
      1. Large numbers of urbanites swarming the rural areas.

      In reality, the number of urbanites will be drastically reduced to that which can be supported by the residual resources of the city long before the urbanites start spreading out. The main causes would be:

      Dehydration: This alone will result in a huge die-off in urban areas. Without power (or a civil society to provide it) the water pumps stop, the water treatment plants go idle, and the pipes under the city streets dry up. Without clean drinking water, most people will die within days. Some who have either made preparations or have the wherewithal to clean and store water will survive.

      Starvation: Those that did not die from dehydration will be faced with starvation. Some folks have the idea that the local grocery store represents a vast store of food and other consumables that will sustain them well into the future. Unfortunately, this is simply not the case. Virtually all major retail operates on the Just In Time Inventory management system. This means that even your local WalMart Superstore stocks enough of any given item to last until the next truck arrives next week. If one assumes a weekly restocking of inventory, there is only enough in the store to serve its immediate area for a week. This period extends as the number of people in the area die off, but not appreciably since the people will last longer than the food supply in the store. Typically, there is no “storeroom in the back” where excess inventory is kept: what is on the shelves is what is in the store, and there really isn’t that much. Next time you’re in the grocery store, count the cans of peaches, then divide that over the number of people living within a mile of that store. You’ll see that there aren’t a lot of peaches to go around.

      Exposure: Without power, most urban residences will be uninhabitable during the winter. Certainly, this does not hold for the southern portions of the country, but most of the country’s population lives in areas subject to freezing during the winter. Without a means to heat their homes, most people will die in the cold. Make no mistake; 50 degree rain has killed more people than sub-zero temperatures.

      Disease: Imagine an urban city center; thousands of people on the sidewalks, driving, in offices and apartments. Literally thousands within a few block radius. Now image that 75% of those people are corpses lying in the streets, in the offices, and in their apartments. Tens of thousands of corpses and no one to clean them up. For those that somehow escape death by dehydration, starvation, or cold, their world is a stinking, rotting hell hole where the air they breathe is filled with lethal pathogens oozing from the decaying bodies. Death by infection will claim a large portion of those survivors, not unlike how the Bubonic Plague ravaged Europe.

    10. (Reply continued)
      But won’t the raiders venture out long before they are hampered by these conditions? Not necessarily, and I would argue this premise is false. Depending on the nature of the collapse, there are strong motivations to not venture out on raids. A slow economic collapse affords more time for reaction by the population and the government. Urban gangs will shift their tactics and strategies to continue their victimization of the people left in their turf under the new circumstances as those evolve. At some point, where social order begins to truly break down, the government will move in and restrict the movements of the urban populations, gangs included. The collapse of the support systems in a grid-down situation (whether by solar flare or hostile EMP attack) is instantaneous and final, it comes without warning and there is no recovery within any meaningful period of time. The services that allow high density populations simply cease to exist. In that case, a majority of the urban population dies within months, if not weeks. In either case, normalcy bias will keep a vast majority of the people in their homes and neighborhoods. Those that survive will be those that come to understand the new conditions and adapt, and do so quickly.
      Therefore, there will not be millions of people pouring out from the cities. Perhaps there will be thousands, but not the horde that presents the numerical superiority presumed.
      Another factor, and this is crucial, is those that do venture out of the urban areas will travel in different directions: the Inverse Square Law kicks in. The further they go, the lower the density of migrating urbanites. This fact does not rely on mortality while traveling, which will happen and further reduces the presumed numerical superiority.
      2. Hiding of food creation (gardens and livestock)
      Homesteaders don’t need to hide their gardens; they only need to have them in their field of fire from a protected position. Under the presumed socio-economic conditions, an unauthorized person attempting to pick vegetables is going to get shot. In my state, ranchers are within their rights to open fire on livestock thieves; it is just part of life out here. In the event of societal collapse (and the attendant lack of law enforcement) farmers and ranchers will have even less compunction against using deadly force to protect their property. Certainly, raiders could deny the rancher his livestock by staying out of the rancher’s range and sniping the animals, however, if the livestock is wisely kept in the rancher’s field of fire, any attempt at recovering the meat is, to say the least, fraught with risk for the marauder.

    11. (Reply concluded)
      3. Difficult work to grow enough food for a year in a short season.
      This is true and anyone who has attempted it would agree wholeheartedly. Working the garden or tending the stock presents the homesteader/farmer/rancher with the greatest risk. One is away from defensive positions, exposed to hostile fire, and typically paying attention to the task at hand and not to the surroundings. Again, unless the homesteader is truly alone, even if the marauder is successful in shooting the gardener, he is still faced with the prospect of harvesting while under fire himself. One also needs to consider the very short window of time in which a garden is immediately valuable: harvest time. Even if one assumes the raiding party is successful in securing the garden for its own benefit, unless it is harvest time, then the raiding party has assumed all the work necessary to bring the garden to harvest and all the tactical liabilities that allowed the garden to be taken in the first place.
      4. Low population density is greatest weakness; and farms and ranches being defended individually.
      This presumes a different mindset than what actually exists in rural areas. Briefly put, it is because neighbors are so rare that neighbors become so valuable. People think about and treat their neighbors differently in rural areas than they do in urban areas. My neighbors are on the phone to each other when a strange car is seen on the road. “Did you get a new truck?” “Do you know anyone who drives a green Chevy?” In a societal collapse, those bonds will be even tighter, and strategies for mutual defense will be created. At the community level, one can be assured that the news of urban marauders making their way through the countryside will travel faster than the marauders. I can almost guarantee that within hours of receiving the news, every small town will organize an extremely well-armed and highly motivated militia which will vigorously defend their ground.
      5. Marauders have time on their side.
      Actually, the opposite is true. The marauders are marauding because they have run low/out of resources. Having resources means having time. Furthermore, remaining mobile requires limiting the resources available to that which can be transported. The marauder is the one who is feeling the pinch of time. The marauder is the one most exposed to the elements and subject to the weather. The only thing the marauder has in abundance is desperation, and desperation invariably leads to stupidity. In a collapsed society, stupidity will get you killed.

  6. Excellent article!! Thank you for your blog, I read it daily.

  7. I found your article through Survivalblog and just want to make one addition to why you should stock up.

    Short term storage of food is also beneficial for job loss reasons. Imagine an economic downturn and you lose your job with no cash flow and possibly a small amount in savings. Your next step will most likely be a food pantry or food bank.

    I lost me job at the beginning of 2009, but wasn't affected much because I heeded the warning signs from 2007 on. We weathered the recession (and the 2 years it took me to find a decent job) fairly well. In fact, because we had a stock of supplies our life didn't change all that much except for not taking a vacation.

    Definitely on the list of why to have a stock of supplies.


  8. The link for the feminine washable napkins isn't there. Could you provide one? thanks.

  9. Excellent! What a wealth of information. I was glad to see you emphasize "Practice Practice Practice". Much of our practice was basically camping under different weather conditions at our bug-out location. We uncovered many weaknesses and glitches. Now is the time to make corrections.
    Montana Guy

  10. I really enjoy the thought of turning off the power for a week... Summer break is here, and I think I i will try it. But I bet my two boys can't live even one day without their precious electronics! Haha! Wow! I think I really WILL enjoy this exercise!

  11. Rural living isn't as safe as it sounds anymore!

  12. A couple of comments for an excellent article. Don't forget about food for your animals, dogs / cats / pets. They can't always eat people food. Also, if you have a generator you must also remember gas to run it unless everything is solar powered. Personally I cannot afford a gas generator or extra gas so we have invested in something called a 'crank-a-watt'. I have no interest in selling these but have been very pleased with ours. Here's a link:


    It is quiet and is enough currently to light a small electric light, charge a cell phone or iPad and also recharge batteries. Ours will not heat our home or run the refrigerator or water heater. But that's what we have our wood stove for. It is hand cranked or you could hook up a bicycle and peddle your way to health while lighting a room.

  13. Patrice
    I read your articule and it was great and it may me think. My
    husband has to go back east tomorrow for a funeral. What if we
    had a erthquate and I don't remember how to use our campstove
    and he doesn't have the time to teach me this evening. So guess what when he gets home. there will be some leasons to go over.
    But on another subject, he is cleaning out the garage. He didn't
    get done. But you were talking about water. In the summer we store water in those 5 gallon water containters that you can get
    from Wal-Mart, camping supplie stores.etc. Right now they are sitting out by the well for use. We bleach them out twice a year.
    That way there are no upset stomacks. You were talking about the water filter. that is fine if you can pump up the water out of the well with no electric. And do you have gas if you have a
    generator?? And can you afford the genitor?? We cannot.
    And so it might be wise to have some water stored somewhere,

  14. This is an excellent article and gives much food for thought. Here in Australia we have very strict gun laws and most people other than those on the land do not have fire arms so defending ourselves from the criminal element would be difficult. How ever there is much we can do to prepare in the event something does happen. In the end for us it comes back down to faith and being good stewards of what we have and what we need to do to keep ourselves and neighbours and friend safe. I really enjoy your wonderful blog.
    Blessings Gail.