I have never been much of a prepper or whatever it is called, but I like to consider myself ready. In the recent history of the United States and more so throughout the entire world, there have been ample situations of civil disturbances. Luckily the United States is so large that when this happens it's usually isolated and easily squashed. Unfortunately for many smaller countries without the infrastructure that we have this disturbance results in widespread chaos. The fact that riots, looting, and chaos happen across the globe shows, in my opinion, that this is human nature. Essentially, we suck at being civilized. This, coupled with the prospect of EMPs, hackers shutting down electric grids, nuclear war, you name it, has had me thinking as of lately. What would I do in the event of a complete breakdown of society as we know it? So I wrote an article!
I will start this article with a little bit of background about myself as well as some context behind my fictitious situation. I was born and raised in a small town in the middle of the Allegheny National Forest. I grew up hunting or fishing every day after school and on the weekends. During college, I sought out the Marine Corps and after the training pipeline I commissioned as an officer. I am currently serving as a rifle platoon commander and spend the majority of my time learning and/or teaching how to fight, move, communicate in austere environments.
Alright, so that’s me in a nutshell, hopefully this should give you some perspective as to my capabilities and why I recommend what I do. Okay so now the fun part, the situation. For the purpose of getting this discussion rolling we will operate under a couple assumptions listed below.
#1) The power grid is completely down
#2) There is no risk of radioactive contamination (different article for a different day)
That’s really all we need to get started. First, we will talk about what this mean to us. The power grid is off because the Chinese conducted some crazy cyber operation against us, so now what? Well a few things are going to happen that are going to put a damper on your day.
All communication systems will go down. No cell phones, no land lines, no computers, no anything. The first thing that will happen is widespread confusion. Without communication, it will be impossible to initially tell if this is a local event or widespread. This confusion stage will be short lived.
The next thing that we can count on is human nature kicking in. The survival instinct. At this point people won’t even know that a serious attack has occurred, but instinctively they will head to the stores in mass. You can expect the food and water at the stores to be gone within three days, if it lasts that long. You might be thinking, well no electricity doesn’t mean no fuel, why wouldn’t the stores continue to be stocked? I’m working off the assumption that if I’m a truck driver and the power is out in my entire city I am not going to work, I am focusing on my family.
After the shelves have been emptied around day three the mass panic will start to happen. This is when the widespread looting will start. A few more days and the complete breakdown of society as you know it, widespread chaos. Looting homes, stealing food, stealing water. Murder, starvation, disease, you name it. Survival and family are the two most primitive instincts that we have. These two instincts are going to be driving decision making during this time. If these conditions continue I would guess that within one month over 75% of the population would be dead. The majority of these casualties coming from large cities and seeing as the most recent census had over 80% of the US’s population in urban areas the casualties will be countless. After those initial few months population would continue to decline, winter would claim scores of lives in the northern states, eventually we would adapt.
So, the question is what we can do to keep from becoming one of the many casualties. Below are the steps I would take in this situation.
1.) Get as far away from the city as possible
This is easier said than done. The hardest part is going to be recognizing that this is a serious enough situation to warrant actually getting out of dodge. The next question is what do you bring? And where do you go?
What do you bring?
I could write an entire article about the specific by brand, gear that would be ideal. But we will keep it semi-general for the purpose of this article. We are going to work off of the assumption that we are going to drive, but pack light for when we run out of gas/have to evade looters.
Generally, the survival community works off of the rules of “3.” You can generally go three minutes without air, three hours without shelter in a harsh environment, three days without water, three weeks without food. Due to the nature of the hostile environment we will be planning with these factors in mind, but with the high potential of looting we added in that we don’t want to go three seconds without protection.
-Protection- You are going to want to be strapped when all this is going down. Hopefully it will act as a deterrent but you can defend yourself if need be, and it also doubles as hunting tool. I recommend planning on having a semi-automatic magazine fed AK type or AR type platform weapon, chambered in 7.62x39 or 5.56x45. These are the two most common rifle calibers of ammunition in the United States making ammunition more easily accessible. The reason why I would recommend the 7.62x39 first is twofold. First the ammunition is cheaper, second it is more suited to big game hunting although 5.56 or .223 would be sufficient in most cases. I would also recommend a side arm for more flexible protection in the vehicle and/or tight quarters. Pistol should be chambered in 9mm or 45mm once again due to availability of ammunition.
-Shelter- You can’t feasibly carry around a shelter that is going to provide you all you need for long term sustainability, eventually you will have to improvise and make or acquire a shelter. But for this I would just take a thermal ground pad (iso-mat), a good sleeping system, and a large, durable tarp (within reason).
-Water- The easiest way to purify water is by bringing it to a boil. So, for this I am bringing fire starting material and some compact pots. Additionally, for emergencies if you have iodine or another small water filtration device that would be ideal. Jet-boils are welcome.
-Food- Once again the fire material is crucial for this. In addition to the rifle I am not going anywhere without some fishing equipment and knowledge of making improvised dead fall traps. (Some of which I will cover in a different article).
Where do you go?
As soon as I grab my gear, I am getting as far away from civilization as possible. In my opinion, the key is to try and stay one step ahead of everyone else. Grab your gear, hop in your car and drive to somewhere where you think you can sustain yourself. For me I would head to the Allegheny National forest. I have no doubt that I could survive and thrive there for an extended period of time.
On your way to your spot I would definitely recommend grabbing some close friends and family. Traveling in a group will offer you protection, and really what’s the point of surviving this thing if you don’t have someone to share a beer with when you are scavenging through the wreckage of society. Or a Twinkie (Zombieland reference)
2.) Plan for long term sustainability
We can pretty much assume that if shit hit the fan, so much so that there has been wide spread looting, chaos, and death, that it is going to take some time before civilization is re-established. Instead of gambling and hoping the government is stable enough to come in and solve the issue before I fall victim to the widespread crime. I plan on living in seclusion from society with my small group of comrades for at least a year. This year is pretty much this step of my plan. Long term survival. Me and my posy building long term shelters, smoking houses, fishing rigs, small farms, the works for at least a year.
3.) Head back to civilization
Now this step is delicate, the timing is pretty critical. On one side of things we don’t want to head back to civilization just to find a horde of looters and more chaos. On the other hand, we don’t want to unnecessarily be living in isolation when there is cold beer on tap one town over. At some point the group will have to make a decision to do some recon and see how things are going in the real world. A way to mitigate have to do all this would be one of those high speed hand crank operational radios and periodically give it a scan, probably a good thing to add to the packing list.
Main things to remember if the situation ever arises is to avoid civilization because people have a strong survival instinct, try and stay one step ahead of the average person, travel in a crew, and just be ready. Hope this was at least though provoking. Like I said from the beginning I am in no way a prepper. And if I was a prepper I wouldn’t advertise it. At the end of the day I don’t want to be the guy sitting on a metric F*** ton of food, water, and ammunition while my neighbors are starving. That just sounds like it would weigh on my karma and eventually those neighbors would come knocking at my door.