Many times, as preppers, we tend to focus on long-term food storage, bug out bags and survival equipment, and all the stuff associated with prepping- which is important- but we don’t always spend as much time and consideration into planning and creating multiple contingency plans for whatever situation may occur. All the canned food and stockpiled ammo in the world will do very little good without a plan on what to do when they become essential to survival.
Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst
This may seem elementary in the extreme (of course we’re preparing for the worst, we’re preppers, right?) but it isn’t quite as obvious as it seems. For instance, if your plan is to bug-in, and hunker down to weather out whatever troubles go on from the safety of your fortified home, what would you do if you were forced to leave? At what point would you make the decision to leave? Would you go before the roads became impassable and the streets filled with roaming gangs of thugs or government troops forcing you to evacuate, or would you wait it out until there was no option but to leave, forcing you to fight your way out? When you do leave, where will you go, and how will you get there?
If you are planning on bugging-out, do you have multiple routes planned out to get there in case one, or several roads or highways are cut off or impassable? Do you have enough fuel to get to your destination if there is no gas available to purchase? Are you prepared to walk out, and how long would it take you to reach your BOL by foot?
Know your Surroundings
An important component of your Plan should be to get to know your surroundings as well as possible, and assessing them for both threats and opportunities. In a grid-down situation, a nearby prison could become a leaking sieve of escaping prisoners taking advantage of the resulting chaos to escape and prey on nearby residents for resources for food, equipment, and weapons. Likewise, local stores, warehouses, orchards, or junkyards provide excellent places for foraging for food and supplies- but be aware – there is a very thin line between “foraging” in a survival situation and looting, and usually law enforcement and local vigilantes make no distinction between the two.
Every prepper should know their local area like the back of their hand, able to get from point A to point B by any number of back roads or side streets. In a SHTF situation, it will be imperative to stay off the main roads while martial law is imposed, as well as avoiding getting caught in roadblocks and ambushes. Knowledge of local rivers and having the ability to navigate by boat would also be extremely useful – any means of travel that circumvents the major traffic areas and population centers.
A good way to start doing this is to simply take a weekend drive around town and the surrounding areas, going down the little roads you normally pass by on your way to the store, and see where they lead. You can also usually obtain local and county maps from the chamber of commerce or visitors’ center for free, as well as state road maps from your local state government or department of transportation via their website. Often there are hunting maps and state and federal park land maps freely available too, which give topographical information. These maps could be invaluable tools in a survival situation, and should be included in your bug-out bag.
Have multiple plans ready
Asses the threats specific to your region – natural disasters, locations of nuclear power plants or weapons depots, potential terrorist targets, high density population centers, etc. – and make plans with contingencies specific to each possibility. For instance, in a region like Southern California, a prepper should have plans in place for earthquakes, fires, water scarcity, and anything else which may be specific to their location, as well as general threats like civil unrest and terrorist attacks. You should plan multiple routes of escape, and know where there are safe places to shelter, both at home and also if something happens when you are at work or shopping at the store.
Include your family in the planning process
Make sure every member of your family knows what to do in an emergency situation, and have a communication system in place to be able to reach each of them when a situation develops. Time how long it takes for you to pick up the kids from school and get home, or get from your job to your house. Set up a secondary rally point in a central location if for any reason a family member is not able to make it home, or if communication is cut off. Set up a safe word or phrase which can be used to alert family members that it is not safe to come home if you are being held hostage but can communicate. Most importantly, know each other’s schedules and routes and be sure to communicate any changes in your daily routine quickly to every person in your family. In a SHTF situation, survival will depend on your family working together, functioning and communicating as a unit, rather than being separate and disjointed.
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” No plan can completely predict every contingency and take into account every variable. Be prepared to think on your feet and change your plans if the one you’re following does not work out. Sometimes bugging out might be far more dangerous than sheltering in place. Be prepared to be flexible, and exercise situational awareness to best determine your course of action. Historically, the species that have survived are the ones which have learned to adapt to their environment, and have evolved to changing circumstances. We must be ready to do the same if we are to survive as individuals, and as a species.