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Tuesday, July 23, 2013


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself that Doomsday Prepping is not going to work: I really enjoy watching the shows about people preparing for financial collapse, the Yellowstone volcano, an EMP blast, the collapse of the power grid, a pandemic, zombies, alien invaders, government takeover of everything, or some kind of widespread terrorist or enemy attack. I laugh because none of the preps are going to work for anything that bad.

1. In the basic scenario, society collapses into anarchy. We see this happen today in limited areas, usually in a war-torn country but sometimes in a limited area (e.g., the Rodney King riots in LA, or the Katrina mess in New Orleans, or the hurricane in New Jersey). In the limited situations we have seen, there is plenty of stable area outside of the chaos which can send help. Doomsday prepping assumes that there is no stable area outside from which help can arrive, that everything goes bad everywhere (at least, everywhere in the US). There would be no police, and everyone would have to fend for himself. The collapse of society means the collapse of the food distribution system, and within three or four days, entire cities would be empty of food and full of hungry desperate people. A hundred million Americans will die of starvation the first year.

2. Some plans involve "bugging out" and leaving the city for some area with fewer people and more resources. Good luck with that! Everybody in the city is going to be fighting to get out, and the 99% who did nothing to prepare for the apocalypse will steal the supplies and tools from those who did. (I saw one couple on TV who planned to hike several miles across Manhattan carrying paddles and a rubber boat, then escape across the Hudson River. Now, think about it. If a couple of million people on Manhattan want out and cannot get out, and they see these two idiots walking across Central Park carrying paddles, what is going to happen? You guessed it. The bigger meaner people are going to take their boat away. Guns don't help. Two people with pistols are not going to fight their way past a few thousand people with clubs and rocks who want that boat. Sure, lots of people get shot, which may be better than starving to death. At least that rubber boat will probably be full of bullet holes by the time they put it in the water.) The best you can hope for is tens of thousands of hungry and sullen but well-behaved people trudging their way down the roads out of town to some sanctuary they can only imagine exists.

3. Then let's think about those people who plan to drive somewhere. Think about rush hour traffic, then double the number of cars on the road, all of them going the same direction on half of the roads. Can you say Mother of All Traffic Jams? I thought you could. Cars will run out of gas waiting for the car ahead of them to move, and that just blocks the road for everyone behind. (There will be no place to move the stranded car.) Gas stations don't have the supply to refuel them all. Mix into this that the people will be desperate and hungry and many of them will have guns. Once a fire starts in that gridlock, forget it.

4. Let's say you get far enough out of town that the traffic has spread out and you can zip down a half-forgotten country road on the way to somewhere you think you will be safe. You can bet you'll run into a roadblock. Now, this roadblock may be manned by criminals (who brought their guns along but had no other prep supplies like food, tools, or medical supplies) and will just take the supplies from the next fully loaded vehicle that comes along. They won't have any reason to leave you alive, and will not really have any reason to negotiate. Unless they actually need your vehicle, they'll just open fire when they see you approaching, disabling the driver and killing everyone else after they walk over to where you crashed. Another option is that the roadblock might be good nice people who just want to keep the riffraff (i.e., people without their own supplies and tools) from entering the selected wilderness survival area (where, presumably, a few people might survive as hunter-gatherers). Do you qualify to join them? Are even nice people likely to be trigger-happy? Are even nice people liable to be picky about more people entering the survival bastion? (Even if you legally hold title to a few acres of the area, do the people who got their first need more survivors competing for whatever resources there are? Remember that there are no police to tell these nice people with guns that they don't get to survive on land you legally own.) A final option is that roadblock might be manned by perfectly nice people with plenty of food and survival tools who had their car break down or run out of gas. They're now pretty desperate to complete the journey to the remote wilderness area where they can survive, and they ask nicely if you will let them load their family and their supplies into your vehicle (which is already full of your family and your supplies). Do you see any potential problems with this?
5. Somehow, you arrive at the remote wilderness area where you plan to camp out (or occupy a previously built house or bunker) until the world returns to normal. Well, did anyone else get to your hideout before you did and either occupy it or steal your stuff? Think about it. Imagine if you got out of the big city full of starving desperate people with only the guns and food that were in your house when the apocalypse started. You have nowhere specific go to, but you drive around until you find an unoccupied cabin in the woods and move in. Perhaps you even find it stocked with supplies. What happens when the legitimate owners drive up and order you to leave or they'll call the sheriff to evict you? Now, imagine that you just drove up to the cabin you built and stocked and find it occupied by armed desperate (nice) people. Or even worse, by heavily armed criminals who are as desperate to survive as non-criminals but far less reluctant to fight for their lives. Do you see any potential for things to go wrong here?

6. But maybe everything went right? You got out of town, hit no roadblocks, and reached the bunker or cabin you built just for this purpose. The generator is running, steaks are on the grill, the children are fishing in the creek, and your spouse no longer thinks that prepping was a stupid idea. Just how can you defend this place? Even a steel bunker is not going to survive a determined attack (or siege) by a gang of heavily armed and very hungry drug dealers. Think about that. Drug dealing street gangs are organized, heavily armed, ruthless, and (now) desperate. They're the ones most likely to fight their way out of the city, and best equipped to gather supplies. They will not be gathering supplies from nature, but from refugees who stockpiled supplies or brought them along. Think about a wilderness area of 20 square miles dotted with a few dozen prepper cabins and bunkers. A drug gang of maybe 50 armed people move into the area, kill everyone they can see, attack every house above ground, and then settle in to dig out the few $60,000 bunkers (which they regard as Christmas presents full of goodies). The sheriff is not likely to show up and arrest them. They can just stake out each group of preppers in turn, capture anyone who wanders into the woods, and then parade the prisoner up to the camp/bunker with a gun to his head and demand that you lay down your weapons. Do that, and you're all as good as dead. Don't do it, and your family member is going to die and at least some others will be killed or injured in the imminent gunfight. Your odds of winning that gunfight are not even 50-50.

7. Ok, once again, you escape from town and reach the cabin or bunker you stockpiled. Having planned ahead, your cabin is near that of other preppers and you have a solid network or community designed for mutual defense. The two or three roads into the area are blocked by previously dug battle positions manned by you and your neighbors. Let's even assume that you survive here for six months or a year while the world burns and 90% of the population dies of starvation or gets killed in the chaos. Now what? Your canned food and fuel will eventually run out, and your ammunition won't last forever. You'll be back to the 1870s Old West, trying to find or raise enough food to keep your family fed. Outside of your little community there are the worst and most dangerous of the gangs that arose to prey first on the weak, then the survivors, then the preppers. You're on an island in Indian Country and there is no cavalry regiment going to show up and force the blood-thirsty savages to behave. Now what?

8. Let's try this another way. You knew that getting out of town was going to be a problem and there was nowhere to go anyway. So you planned to "bug in" and defend your home with its basement full of canned food and its back yard (or rooftop) full of fish tanks and hydroponics gardens. Good luck unless you have at least six riflemen and have wired your neighbors' homes for demolition to clear the fields of fire. Even assuming that the barbed wire on the fire escape and the plywood on the windows stops a determined attack by a hungry mob that managed to find a few guns, sooner or later (given no fire department) there will be a fire and you'll get burned out. (Fires can start from lightning, arson, idiots, broken gas lines, leaking gas appliances, or out of control campfires in trash barrels.)
 9. So you're going to wait for society to return to normal. If things are as bad as prepper scenarios expect, that's not going to happen. Remember, there is no big secure area full of nice people who are going to arrive with truckloads of stuff to help you rebuild. You're going to have to rebuild society from what you can salvage. After the riots, the wars, the raiders, and the savages, you'll be lucky to be living in the 1870s, and headed downhill fast. Do you know how to make gunpowder out of something you mine from somewhere? Can you build a computer? Can you operate a factory to can food? Do you know how to do the old-style home canned food?

10. I have said before that the best thing you can do is to prep for realistic localized scenarios (snowstorms, hurricanes, tornadoes) which might last up to a week. Stockpile 10 or 20 days of food and water. Have a first aid kit, a hand-cranked flashlight and hand-cranked radio, a water purification system, a realistic number of firearms (one per house or one per person), and a realistic plan to dig in and stay safe. A bug-out plan should be based on driving 50 miles to a nice hotel out of the disaster zone, not driving 300 miles to a bunker in the woods past desperate armed mobs.