> TEOTWAWKI Blog: Stealth vs. Open Defense in a TEOTWAWKI Scenario



Stealth vs. Open Defense in a TEOTWAWKI Scenario

The Two Strategies
At a high level, there are two different strategies that one can take when trying to survive aggressors when TEOTWAWKI rolls around.
On one hand, you can lay low and try to remain unnoticed/hidden, or at least be so elusive that an aggressor can't mount a direct attack against you. You operate from concealment and have, generally, a run/hide mentality when trouble runs around. If you engage the enemy, it's going to be using sniper or guerrilla tactics; you won't survive a standup fight. But mostly, you hunker down, stay hidden and survive.

On the other hand, you can maintain an open defensive posture, where you directly confront aggressors. In this case, you would have things like open patrols, check points and other obvious defensive measures. Your organization would have ability to project obvious power and control within your area of operations, allowing you to maintain some level of law/order. When trouble comes around, you stand up and fight.

These two different strategies go back to the natural instincts of fight versus flight--sometimes, it makes sense to stand and fight, other times it makes sense to run and hide. You can see these play out in conflicts today and throughout history--the U.S. against insurgents/Al Queda, the DEA against drug smugglers, Anne Frank and the Nazis and so on.

Open Defense
This is the defensive posture we'd all like to take -- no one wants to live in secrecy and in constant fear of attack or discovery. You want to stand up for yourself, your family and what is yours. Unfortunately, it takes a good amount of power to be able to live this way. You've got to be strong enough to scare away potential attackers and defeat any who are brave enough to test their luck. That means that you need manpower and firepower.

A small survival group is not going to be able to take this stance--you'd need a larger group--a neighborhood or a small town, most likely. The community would form some kind of neighborhood watch or town militia for mutual defense, probably with the aid of intact law enforcement or military personnel. With the bodies and some fire power, a community could defend their homes and maintain order.

In survival fiction, the towns in One Second After and the neighborhood in Lights Out take an open defense posture. The town in Jericho does, too.

In a collapse scenario, I think this would be the response of most communities. When a larger community breaks down (nation, state, city, etc.), it's a somewhat natural transition to fall back onto a more immediate community--the people next door and across the street. There's huge advantages to community--it's civilization and safety. A sustainable community would provide the best quality of life, post-TEOTWAWKI--but it would have to be sustainable. That means things like local water, food, probably some kind of fuel, and decent people who don't already hate each other.

Problems come when things like food and water run out, internal strife tears the community apart, the community runs into an aggressor they can't contend with, or if disaster renders the community unlivable. How fast that will happen is going to vary wildly based on your location.

The Stealth Approach
If you can't beat aggressors in a stand-up fight, then it's run and hide or become subject to the aggressor's will. In general, this survival strategy means, surprise, a lot of hiding out and going unnoticed. If fighting must be done, it's using sniper and guerrilla tactics. If movement must be done, its probably at night or at least in thick cover and well camouflaged. If your hide site is located and threatened by a superior force, then you bug out to somewhere safe, maybe with a sniper or guerrilla attack to slow the baddies down and allow you some breathing room. You get the picture.

This kind of existence is difficult to sustain long term. Survival is hard enough without having to worry about doing everything in secrecy. For example, how do you farm or raise a vegetable garden in secrecy? How do you cook or keep from freezing to death without drawing attention? How do you deal with waste? Now compound these problems with multiple families. Very difficult.

Living way out in the hinter-boonies would offer some advantages, but in a collapse scenario, every remote farmhouse or cabin will have a good number of visitors looking for a place to hole up or scavenge. If there's a road, people will find it. And yes, you can make a house look abandoned or burnt out, but desperate and curious people will still check it out. Crowds certainly will be smaller way out in the middle of nowhere, but your chances of having backup from neighbors/the community are also going to be lower. If your group can't deal with whoever comes knocking, then you've got a problem.

A real hide site is going to be, well, really difficult for anyone to find. Hard to access and hidden. In a rural setting, a remote and well-camouflaged camp that's not accessible by road; maybe a cave or excavated hide. In a more populated setting, a concealed bunker or hidden safe room. Spider holes and hideouts, that kind of thing.

As mentioned, a hide is going to be very difficult to sustain long term, so it will probably need to be a temporary situation. You will need to emerge and resupply eventually, whether that is through pre positioned caches, barter, hunting/gathering, farming or relocating to another area entirely.

In survival fiction, the man and his son in The Road generally follow a stealthy approach to survival, avoiding contact and hiding when trouble comes around. They have it best when they find the concealed and well-stocked underground bunker. In Patriots, the Group adopts this strategy when confronted by the evil U.N./black helicopter invaders and retreat to their wilderness hide and begin their guerrilla war. In the Survivalist series, John Rourke's concealed retreat/cave complex is an elaborate and well-stocked hide.

Use Both
It would be narrow-minded to only think through one strategy or the other. An open, community or large group-based approach to defense and security is going to be preferential for most of us, but it may or may not work out. The back-up plan in that case would be a stealthy approach--if the community is done for, you bug out to somewhere safe and hunker down until things blow over.

In more common prepper terms, if your local neighborhood/community is a viable option, then an open, community based approach may make sense. If that fails, then you still have the opportunity to bug out and hide. Consider and plan for either possibility and I think you'll be better off.


  1. Not intended at all as a criticism, just a comment/thought to keep in mind. I will assume that if you are reading this site, you are of above-average intelligence. This occasionally leads to over-estimating "average" and "dumb as crap" intelligence levels, whether in an urban, suburban or rural locations. If I sound like an elitist, here, probably guilty as charged. Live until nearly 60, you probably will be too.

    If you, or your community, present a visible, united, strong front, regardless of location, SOME bunch of drunk/stoned/starving yahoos will eventually try and test your toughness level. Go to your local martial arts dojo- any style - and ask the sensei how many times some street-bozo has challenged him/her after studio closes. You may be amazed. I guarantee that.

    If the thugs have to really work to find you at all, you save valuable ammo, have fewer regrets, and spend less time digging graves. Just sayin'

  2. Wyzyrd -

    Agree with you.

    I'd want a couple dozen, preferably a couple hundred, willing and able defenders before hoping that an open stance would work. Yahoos--even the dumbest--aren't going to try something if they're hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned. You would certainly get some "feeler" attacks and violence that would have to be dealt with. A smaller, out of the way community would certainly see less traffic, too.

  3. As a "geeky historian/medeivalist", I think of the post-Roman European definition of a 'king'- 'somebody who could convince a couple dozen big lads with swords, axes and big sticks to kill his enemies in return for beer, food and a place to sleep..'

    If/When SHTF, we may end up with biker clubs/urban gangs/drugrunners running things for a bit, but I'm hoping for a return to the US Constitution ..

    We don't need kingdoms, we all need to hang together.

  4. I think there's an element of time involved here and that it works (at least) two ways.

    1. Short term disturbances. It wouldn't be that hard for most people who where prepared for it to hunker down and hide out for a couple of weeks in their own homes in some sort of short term conflagration. You can pop back up once order gets restored.

    2. Long term disturbances. If things don't get solved in the short term, then you're going to have to figure out how to get water, grow a garden and so on and how to do it without being seen and how to protect yourself and stuff from others. You're also going to need water for yourself and your garden.

    I'm not terribly worried about the short term thing where I'm at. I live in a pretty quiet corner of an upper middle class suburb and there's just not good picking for anyone who'd want to loot here and no way for looters to be inconspicuous. Stealth mode would work just fine.

    Long term would be more problematic. On the good side, lack of gasoline, car wrecks and road blocks would probably reduce people's ability to get around in cars and trucks, making it easier for you to defend your place. On the bad side, getting water for myself and a garden would be problematic and. We'd also have problems with rats and rotting trash and diseases from lack of proper sanitation. I think most of these problems would hold true for most places in America. You'd probably need more of an open defense in the long term and community wide organization for things like, water, sanitation, and policing. Really you'd need your town to reorganize and get back on it's feet.

    I really doubt that we'll be seeing a wide spread, long term, fast collapse around me. Not that it couldn't happen. Detroit fell apart pretty quickly in the late 60's and stayed that way. New Orleans was already collapsing when Katrina hit, the hurricane just pushed it over the edge.

    I think it's safe to assume we'll see more places in America looking like Detroit and post Katrina New Orleans in the coming decades. The trick is to find a place to live which wont be one.

  5. I would think stealth will always be my primary but plan for open defense as last resort.

  6. Both means of survival have merits, just a couple things to remember....bullets dont have a name on them, they are random and dont care who they hit or when or if they are fired by a proffesional or some un-disciplined street thug, they are indiscriminate..every firefight or confrontation you get into is one more closer to catching a bullet...you or a family member and medical attention will be sparse or non-existent...one lucky (unlucky) gunshot wound and thats it...game over. Besides the actual health risk...ammo is limited, why waste it when you dont have to, the less i shoot at people, the more i can hunt and provide food for the family. Take the example of a Special operations team, all highly trained and motivated, well equiped and having back-up and escape plans in place, but in the majority of their missions, getting in and getting out without ever being noticed is the primary goal...they will fire if they have too, but would prefer to just slip away. Even when the mission is a specific target, sweep or prisoner snatch...they try and keep contact to a minimum, practice fire discipline and break contact as soon as possible. Just personal opinion, but I dont think the whole garden thing will be viable unless you have a fortified, untied community or stronghold...everyone is going to be hungry and desperate...unless your going to post guards on that garden or stand 24hr watch yourself...not gonna be possible...wild edibles and game are gonna be the viable food source, they are readily available to everyone, everywhere and no one has to fight over them. As far as water...My family and I have already mapped out the natural springs in our area and other not to distant areas...that will be our rally point and base of operations if the SHTF...plenty of natural shelter there, wild edibles, game and cold fresh spring water comin out of the ground...no need for anything else.

  7. Evile451 -

    Some things to keep in mind.

    - No one is advocating picking fights. In open defense, you're projecting a strong and united front; basically one that a gang of baddies would be suicidal to attack. Assured eradication will get baddies to move elsewhere.

    - If you're in a small group and in stealth-mode, and you're found by a group of baddies, they're much more likely to attack. Four people are a lot easier to take on.

    - Again, if you're in a small group & stealth mode, there's an even lower chance of having backup and a community to help out. Communities will have more skills and resources to draw on - there may well be doctors, vets, nurses, dentists and so on.

    - The group of special ops soldiers are in stealth mode because they are outnumbered and outgunned. They won't win in a standup fight against the enemy, and they can't stay "behind enemy lines" for an extended period of time.

    - You can do some "stealth" gardening, but large scale food production is going to need a good sized group to defend.

    - You will want to have guards and/or a watch/observation post, regardless of which approach you take. Even if you're in stealth mode, you will still want to know what's happening in the area and have an early warning if baddies are in the area.

    - I would not count on being able to survive solely on wild edibles and game unless you live in a really remote area. Every single other person in the area is going to have the same idea, including any displaced refugees. Same with watering holes, unless there's an abundance in the area.

  8. I think a lot of people would like both. Your home as the main site, but with a small hard shelter in a BO location. I guess a houseboat might serve as a mobile 2nd option - just hide along a secluded bank with reeds surrounding it. No trails for cluing others it exists. Food source nearby. It has some possibilities.


    I have an unpopular idea that would be useful to some. It involves significant sacrifice for many; but the benefits are great.

    For starters, I have noticed a trend that some preppers tend to: wake up, search out useful intel, find suggestions on critical gear, acquire said gear with some compromise, store food etc, and learn to shoot and get some medical proficiency. But most tend to still be committed to life as usual. As a result, we have become a demographic characterized by having some stuff, a loose plan with too few people, and with MARGINAL SKILLS at best.
    By 'committed to life as usual', I mean Nascar, TV, dance clubs, partying, golf, croquet with your buddies. Many activities have some value, but we tend to not commit wholeheartedly. Why not?
    If you read these sites and believe the content regarding what our future may hold, why would you not commit? My practice is to only plop on my butt in front of the tube AFTER I am exhausted from getting ready. Much can be said about this problem, but a quick assessment is worthwhile:
    1.) Think about the average skilled gunman. How many of them are you CONFIDENT YOU COULD DESTROY IF YOU WERE READY, NOT AMBUSHED? ONE, TWO, THREE? Makes you rethink that double barrel?
    2.) What level of trauma could you stabilize in the field? Arterial bleed, broken bone, sucking chest wound?
    3.) If you are separated from you Berkey water filter, can you confidently purify ditch water for drinking with only improvised materials? Do you know exactly how to do it more than one way?

    How did you do in the assessment? My point is, the argument about the best way to defend your family is much less complex if you can out shoot a SEAL in a friendly competition. Can you? Maybe you won't, but passing a NRA Handgun Class is a starting point. It doesn't certify a father is a gunfighter.
    If we believe this and are getting ready for the worst, then shouldn't our weekends be full of hardcore training? All I am saying is given the choice between weekends at the sports dome or being more than competent with skills is no choice at all.

  10. I agree with rooster on the training, if you doubt your skills, get some..if your confident in your skills, train some more, you can never over do it. Wolf, didn't mean to sound argumentative, just my total lack of faith in my fellow man makes me pessimistic sometimes....all good info and advice though....hopefully we will all make it easier and recover faster than we think....and restore some of that faith!

  11. Anon -

    Both would be the ideal - with multiple fallback points, if possible.

    I've been trying to come up with a sustainable "mobile" option for surviving. Mobile in the sense that instead of fighting or hiding, you just RUN for it when baddies roll around. A plane, for example - you would keep your eyes open and if bad guys roll into the area, head for the skies and safer lands.

    Mobile options are going to be difficult to self sustain, though - you will eventually need an outside source for fuel, food, etc., and you're essentially a refugee with a fast ride. If there were safe communities that you could barter with or hunker down in, it could make the idea more viable. Wandering the wastelands is not a good survival approach.

    1. Hmm... A boat maybe. But, even the most efficient powerboat is a gas hog and sail boats take skills that take time to develop. Plus, that keel under a sail boat means you're going to have keep it in deep water, no pushing it into a reed bed to hide out.

      I really think the answer is not living in a place that will fall apart at the drop of a hat and having the skills, stuff, and community connections to weather short term storms and get things going again after the storms blow over. Look at all the flooding that took place in the upper mid-west and Vermont last year and how every single town pulled together and people helped each other out. Or Joplin MO after the tornado hit. There were only a handful of looters in Joplin and they were sent packing quick.

  12. Evile451 -

    No worries, I didn't take it as argumentative :D. And I understand the lack of faith in people--just make sure it's justified. People and community can be a valuable asset, or they can kill ya!

  13. If you are relying on any group to be your mutual defense just be aware that some of the people are going to be cowards (usually the loudest talkers) and others are going to sell you or the group out if there is a better offer. I have seen police officers in uniform who were cowards in a gun fight and there are numerous examples of people betraying one another. Know who you are depending on to defend you and your families well being.

  14. The current situation gives the worst of both worlds: one is under assault by low lifes, the black undertow, etc. AND one will be violently suppressed by the state for doing anything about it. (Anarcho-tyranny, to put it another way.) In this situation the stealth approach is, at best, all one can do.


    We are all limited by our specific circumstances and have to adapt with our limitations in mind.
    Much of the ON THE RUN options are out the window off the table for me. Wife and for little ones. Six years from now, we will be a five rifle battle team. But for now it is shelter in place or move slow...especially in bad weather.
    One great consideration is whether or not you can join another group on the fly if needed. Who would want me? Well, make yourself as valuable as possible. I can improvise and build-repair. I have learned hardcore gunfighter skills. Many of the skills in the Foxfire book series are my hobbies. The Mrs. can do practically anything with grain and bean bulk items. She can sew, knit and crochet. You name it, she can do it. And with the added weight of children, we would have to be holding much skill for anyone to want us if the need arose and we were uprooted.

  16. Ugly Rooster -

    Exactly right! Your survival strategy will need to be tailored to match your personal/family circumstances. A family with young kids, a retired couple and a single ex-SEAL member are all going to have unique needs.

    I think with skills like yours you would have zero problem getting "in" with a community. You and your wife would be a welcome addition in tough times.

    1. Awww... Thanks Wolf. That gets me right here, and makes me tear up a little. Hey if times get tough and you end up down South, I get first dibs on you and your tech skills. We can get the tractor fixed, but the ham radios will be paperweights when they bust.

  17. I think the biggest thing to take away from this, is that Nobody is an expert. No one knows what will happen and when it will happen. The main thing is to prepare and get your skills in place NOW for when something does happen. It could be a series of natural disasters, or terrorist attacks on vital industries or utilities. You may be without for a week or months or years no one knows. So be ready for what you can and don't sweat it all the time , life still must go on and you can't stick your head in the ground and expect to be okay or that someone else will take care of you.