> TEOTWAWKI Blog: How long would order last?



How long would order last?

One of the big questions for any survivalist/prepper is how long order will last. Some say the population is a mere three meals from anarchy, and we certainly have plenty of examples of rioting, looting and chaos shortly after a disaster. In the Survivalist, packs of wild dogs are attacking survivors within a day, and biker gangs are slaughtering innocents within two days.

On the other hand, we have places like Japan, that remained pretty much in calm order after a national disaster.

There are a number of variables that effect how long an area would maintain order after a disaster. The biggest of these, in my opinion, is the overall culture and moral quality of the population. Are the people going to stay clam, band together and help one another get through the ordeal with morals intact? Or are they going to turn into packs of wolves, taking every opportunity to loot, rob and worse while the Law is distracted? Some will use even relatively small, localized disasters to go wild.

You can't control the moral fiber of the general population, but you can control where you live. Obviously, stay away from high crime areas; if crime is bad in normal times, it will get a hundred times worse with "po-po" out of the equation.

Unfortunately, there are morally bankrupt people in most every community. Heck, even many self-proclaimed survivalists/preppers have little more than a bunch of guns, ammo, and a plan to take what they need after a collapse. You'll need to be prepared to deal with people who want to take what you have, no matter how nice and pleasant your community is.

Aside from social norms/morals, there are a host of other variables that will affect how long order remains. The length, scale and severity of the disaster, the overall level or preparedness, the level of outside aid/support and similar. Most of these come down to desperation--will people become so hungry/thirsty/sick that they take desperate measures? How long would that take? While moral people will not engage in looting and other crimes of opportunity post disaster, they may be forced to take desperate measures if the situation is bad enough and lasts long enough. While some people will just lie down and starve, many won't. And when it's a matter of survival, people will take desperate measures to live to see another day.

As a broad generalization, I would expect to see looting and crimes of opportunity within the first 24 hours of a major disaster wide enough to disrupt the normal rule of law, with varying levels depending on the culture/moral quality of the impacted communities. If there is no outside aide or intervention, this level of crime will increase on an exponential basis as the disaster drags on. During the initial few days of the disaster, the average decent person may engage in looting, but only for needed supplies--groceries and similar--once they've realized how dire the situation is. I would expect the average decent person to hold out maybe three days after their food has run out, before becoming desperate enough to resort to other measures. Maybe that's a bit pessimistic, maybe it's a bit optimistic. What do you think?


  1. The variable truly is: How bad is it and how bad does it seem to the Average Joe? If it is really bad, and the outlook is extremely grim for the Average Joe, anarchy on a general scale is guaranteed, as you noted, people will be looting for basics - needed supplies. The (soon to be very dangerous) idiots will be snatching plasma screen televisions, stereos, iPods etc. they will not be thinking food, water, heat, shelter.

    I think if the situation is a true TEOTWAWKI - the cities will become death traps, the suburbs the DMZs and the rural towns will become the centers of "normality", or at least maintain order and cohesiveness longer.

  2. AnonymousJune 08, 2011

    If you are talking TEOTWAWKI then you would have 2 phases. Pre-dieoff and Post-dieoff.

    Pre-dieoff: rural areas not heavily defended, would be subject to looting. The hungry masses think rural = food. They have no conception of agri-buisness in their entitlement world so they will go to where they think food should be.

    Post-dieoff: Rural areas would still need to be organized. I would suspect that a feudal system would evolve. Those who have guns rule and defend those who make food.

    Order has always been maintained through the threat of violence. It all comes down to those who have guns and are willing to use them and those who do not have guns.

  3. I am still wondering where all this crazy biker gang stuff all came from.....

  4. AnonymousJune 08, 2011

    This is one of my biggest concerns - what conditions will be like once the "Event" has taken place and how will everyone else will react. I have the skills and supplies necessary to survive certain conditions but I don't have the manpower and firepower necessary to maintain 24 hour security and stave off human wave attacks as hungry people move on my garden. Its gonna be interesting.

  5. Where I'm at we already have pocket of "wild west-ish" behavior. They're all in rural areas where there's a high poverty rate, little money for police to patrol, little regulation on property (go ahead and let 12 people live in 6 RV's on your acre lot) and it's easy to hide what you're doing. Meth labs, pot grow ops, and chop shops abound. Contrast that to our town of 8,000 where everyone knows everyone (go ahead and try and hide something!) and we pay to have more police than we need. We have a very low crime rate. If something does happen people know about it and take action.

    I think things will come down to having a sense of community. Places where people know each other and have worked together in the past will do better than places where everyone's a stranger. That goes for communities as well as neighborhoods.

    Larger cities might go block by block. It wouldn't be that hard to cordon off a couple of city blocks set up patrols keep you and you're neighbors safe. We saw that in Tacoma in the 80's when gangs were running riot. One neighborhood of owner occupied houses would be calm and really nice and two blocks over it would look like a civil war was going on.

  6. Michael -

    Agreed, especially r.e. rural areas. Just because an area is far out from population centers doesn't mean there aren't all kinds of unsavory types.

    Neighborhoods and communities can and do band together post-disaster; I worry about how long these neighborhood groups would last in a sustained scenario, either due to outside forces (gangs and aggressors) or inside tensions.

  7. This is where i differ with Rawles . The idea of a Bug-out retreat works if you have enough people to defend / guard it. Take where you live " city, town , community." and have 5-10% go off the deep end. Unless you are living in the fictional town of
    Jericho you have hundreds if not thousands of desperate people to "die off". You would need to revert to a castle ideal. Defensible , strong with enough people and supplies to hold off for an extended time. Then recreate order from chaos !

  8. Having lived through hurricane Katrina, I can say - Not very long!!

    If I could go back and change one thing, it would have been to own a AR.

  9. I think you need to assume people are going to go nuts very quickly. If people surprise you and keep it together then great, but better to be safe than sorry/beat to death over a can of spam.

  10. You know the one thing that I think about that I've never seen mentioned is the sewers. Where I'm at it wouldn't be a big deal because everything is run by gravity (so is water, big tank that wont run dry quickly) , but once it gets to the waste plant it needs a really big pump to pump it to the outflow point. Thankfully, the waste plant is a ways away. Where I work there's a small septic tank and an electric pump that has to lift all the sewage about 20 feet to get to the sewers. That's obviously going to have issues in a long power outage.

    RE: Neighborhoods, I'd bet more on people leaving and internal pressures taking things apart. I've known a few people that worked with "hoods in the woods" type programs taking gang kids hiking and such. Some of these kids were really tough and scary kids. But, you take them out in the woods where there's no street lights and they're afraid of the dark, more than a few were afraid to take a crap without a toilet. Take away the car and the cell phone, have them miss a few meals and those kids aren't that tough anymore. They're only tough in surroundings that they feel secure in. I also get a hoot out of tough guy biker types. What are they going to do when the bike runs out of gas? Are they in good enough shape to hike ten miles or ride a bike 50? Do they even have a pair of good walking shoes. I go on three day hikes and 50 mile bike rides for fun.

    As soon as the gas runs out things will get very local very quickly.

  11. AnonymousJune 14, 2011

    I'm not an expert survivalist by any means, but I have been preparing for awhile now ans with my experience as a street cop in a medium size municipality for 16yrs, i can tell you that any city larger than a one horse town will become a death trap/dead zone. Most decent people now-adays dont have the means nor the knowledge/will power to survive a worst case scenario disaster for any length of time and the ones that do have the will power and means are not decent people. My family and i have packed, prepared and have a bug-out plan for the wilderness...get as far away from humanity as possible...the less human contact we run into, the longer and easier our survival will be. I witnessed what went down in katrina also and have first hand knowledge of what actually went down there....and yes, it was alot worse than the media makes it out to be. Anyway, my opinion is that if the worst case scenario hits, your best chance of survival is to get the hell away from people, as far as you can, avoid any human contact unless you are absolutely sure it is friendly and smile and wave from behind cover with a gun behind your back.