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6/18/14

What will TEOTWAWKI look like?

While trying to predict the exact cause and magnitude of an unexpected, low probability Black Swan type event is difficult and potentially futile, having some kind of reality-based risk assessment is essential in guiding your preparations.

"The end of the world" could come in a great many forms. It certainly has if you look back over examples found in history--from war to natural disaster to pandemic--crap hit the fan events have come in many shapes and sizes.

Many take the approach of preparing for the literal worst-case, Mad Max-level scenario. EMP, nuclear war, the zombie apocalypse--if you're prepared for any of these, you're prepared for anything, right?
While focusing on such a severe event can ultimately square you away for most anything, it can also lead to some unintended consequences like:
  • Allocation of scarce resources (cash, time) to things that will ultimately help you out in a few, very extreme cases (e.g., blowing thousands to have an EMP-proof vehicle, tens of thousands on a fallout shelter, hundreds of thousands on a remote mountain retreat, etc.)
  • Similarly, draw focus those resources away from assets and skills that will help out in more common cases (e.g. financial safety net, skill with a handgun)
  • Leaving would-be survivalist-types feeling intimidated or exhausted by the scope of preparations needed 
There are many in the survival blog-o-sphere who talk about keeping 'preparations' practical and reality based, versus going off the deep-end into selling everything you own and dumping it into a bunker in Northern Idaho.

I try to be one of those practical, reality-based dudes, though I am certainly as guilty as any of being occasionally unfocused and easily distracted, bouncing around to projects and leaving many halfway finished. Keeping things grounded and focused on where they should be is a regular struggle.

To me, the smartest way to keep things practical and focusing resources in the right places is by having an accurate assessment of the scope of risks--how bad things are likely to get.

War gaming potential scenarios is one way, but can often slip down the path to the fantastical. Analyzing current and historical events from around the world is another.

Economies collapse, governments go bad and civil wars break out fairly regularly, so one doesn't need to look too hard to find examples. Do you think your neighborhood will become like current-day Ciudad Juarez?  Argentina circa 1998-2002? 1970s Rhodesia? Sadr City circa-2008? WWII-era Stalingrad?

How do people survive those kinds of environments? What are the impacts? What do successful survival strategies look like? What is useful, what isn't?

There are endless examples out there to work from and some good resources from been there, done that people in the survival-sphere like FerFAL from Surviving in Argentina and Selco at SHTFSchool.

Of course, these guys are drawing from a sample size of one - what they went through during their event. You can't predict what your situation will look like, so it's especially helpful to look for common themes across events to draw from. Across real world events, what did successful survival strategies look like? What strategies failed?

For example, there are countless examples of people bugging out to safety, but it's not usually strapping on a 70 pound backpack and heading into the mountains to live off the land. It's more like throwing the kids into the family sedan and driving through the night to safe territory, sneaking across the border or bribing your way onto a flight. 

I'm actually kicking around the idea of doing some data gathering and pulling together some analysis around these kinds of questions--various crap hit the fan-level events, their impacts and survival strategies that worked versus those that didn't have. No promises on whether that will materialize, but it would be interesting.

Anyways - some thoughts that I've been bouncing through my skull.

What's your point of view? What scope of event are you preparing for? If a crap hits the fan event hits, how bad do you think things might get? Do you take current or historical events into account when planning?

16 comments :

  1. riverriderJune 18, 2014

    regardless of the cause they all have the same results of varying degrees.loss of power, security, logistics. plan for one, plan for all.

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    1. You miss the point. Trying to pin down the cause is less helpful, but having a feel for the scope can be helpful.

      The results can vary widely - how bad are you planning for?

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    2. SEKPrepperJune 19, 2014

      I am relatively new to the prepper-sphere. I LOVE reading all the differing views/predictions/scenarios. It is fun and I am impressed at the well thought-out ideas. Maybe my take is too simple because of me being a newbie, but my wife and I put up water and food (everyday and long term), buy tools (garden, repair, etc) learn practical skills (gardening, DIY home repair, etc). Maybe we will not be prepared for a "Mad Max" type event, but we feel ready for a tornado or snow/ice storm that hits us here in the Midwest. If we have a job-loss situation, we will have the food and gardening skills to help us until our life situation improves. The peace of mind is good for our soul and our relationship!
      Oh, and by the way, purchasing solar panels and solar ovens and rocket stoves and making first aid kits and bug out bags and modifying my EDC is all fun and have been useful too!!!

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    3. riverriderJune 19, 2014

      i fail to see how i missed the point. i worked emergency response/disaster relief for the last five years of my military career. disasters natural or man-made result in the basically the same things. loss of power, loss of security, and/or loss of logistics. prepping for those 3 things will cover you for 99% of what may come. personally, i planned for short, medium and long term issues. the derecho knocked out my power on a regional scale for two weeks. had genny and gas etc. solar activity could very well be long term event. have solar power back up systems and 12v appliances to fill the void. canned food for short term, freeze dried for medium term and super pails of staples and seeds etc for up to five years. the bible often mentions 7 years, so i'm working toward that goal food wise. i feel civil war/unrest is eminent, so have made preps for that. solar activity/emp is next on my probability list. we seldom have any natural disasters of large scale here and issues are easily mitigated. what will it be like? who knows, too many variables, but my guess would be bosnia. serving a tour there got me off the sidelines and into serious preps.

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    4. Yep, at a high level the problems associated with a collapse look the same.

      But as you note, there are big differences between the scope of issues - something comparatively minor versus something apocalyptic. Different scale of investment and different focus required.

      Sounds like your point of view leans towards the apocalyptic in scale--you're building up off-grid power, putting back 7 years worth of food, etc.

      Someone who thought the severity of conditions would be about as bad as Argentina in '99, with high crime, corruption, unemployment, unrest and inflation, but still with quasi-functional grid, services and logistics, would do things differently.

      The point that I was trying to get at was that folks should develop some kind of POV about the scale/scope of event they're preparing for, and would be smart to do some war gaming and draw from historical conditions when doing so.

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    5. riverriderJune 20, 2014

      okay, i get it now. yeah, i'm prepping for worst case and hoping i'm all wrong:)

      Delete
  2. AnonymousJune 19, 2014

    I believe a good plan is the one proposed by MainePrepper on Youtube, prep for a week, then prep for a month, and then two months, and so on. Obviously big purchases like a generator or firearms need to be made based on your particular situation, but I think starting small and expanding is best to cover all of the bases, even in a Mad Max scenario, it would be awesome to have a well stocked trauma kit and a water filter versus just bullets. That all being said, I think eventually it's going to get bad like the Great Depression.

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    1. AnonymousJune 20, 2014

      I agree. Southernprepper1 (also from youtube) teaches a similar approach. He cautions people to not get so focused on one area that they let others slide. He advocates prepping in stages, the way you said Maineprepper does. Prep for a week, then a month, etc, etc...and it's a good idea not to just focus on one area.
      Another thing SP1 encourages people to do is to "stop and smell the roses" regularly...take a break from it every now and then. Enjoy non-prepping related activities and family, etc...don't focus on gloom and doom 24/7 and don't operate out of fear. If you operate out of fear, you won't think rationally or constructively.

      PS: I love this blog !

      Delete
  3. AnonymousJune 19, 2014

    Having survived Hurricane Celia as an 8 year old, left me with an indelible bench mark in my mind as to what I would have to deal with. No electricity, ice, gasoline, mosquito bites, stepping on nails, subsequent tetanus shots, (in fact there was a 4 hour wait for tetanus shots the next morning at the nearest emergency room, clue: keep yours up to date). The community as a whole all pitched in and cleared our yards, fixed our roofs and suffered together. The following Sunday churches were packed with many who had had a come to Jesus meeting during the storm. OFF was passed instead of the offering plate. LOOTERS WILL BE SHOT signs were prominently displayed. Usually with a man and a shotgun sitting underneath. It is a different time now. We had very little visible help from the feds. We didn't know we had to wait on them. Kerosene, Gasoline and dry ice lines were very long and not worth waiting in. That is my benchmark. But the need to expand the idea of complete financial collapse, with neighbors who may or may not be cooperative quite frankly is alarming. Why? Because, when and if communities dissolve from mutual support to every man or small group/fiefdom for themselves then you do have TEOTWAWKI. All other scenarios seem to me to be temporary disasters, surmountable in a few years at most: SHTF! Somethings can be prepared for. TEOTWAWKI speaks for itself. You prepare for the disasters (most likely events) with and eye for the ultra long term events. Its the difference between a GOOD Bag and an INCH bag. Long term in the vein of hybrid seeds,renewable protein source (rabbits, chickens, goats) and skills, mechanics, alt. energy, medical, gardening-, carpentry, metal working/ etc. etc. all of which are valuable in the present but not exactly a must have until you must have.

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  4. AnonymousJune 19, 2014

    1. It will stink. Literally &figuratively.
    2. You won't know whom to trust.
    3. You'll be significantly more tired everyday, than you are now.
    4. You'll eat things you never considered edible.
    5. People you once trusted will prove you a poor judge of character.
    6. You'll see desperate people resort to behaviors you once beloved impossible.
    SD3

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  5. A good post indeed! Sometimes practical things aren't so glamorous and get pushed to the side to make room for guns, ammo, knives and the like. Do you have gasoline or other fuel stored up? Do you have enough? How's your water storage? If you don't have much water stored up does it really make sense to buy another rifle or 10,000 rounds of ammo? Don't get me wrong--the cool stuff has its place as well, but in a disaster stuff like clean water, food storage, and some fuel for your car are probably going to be more useful than an armory full of guns and ammo.

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  6. AnonymousJune 19, 2014

    In terms of planning, I've found it most helpful to make a list of potential TEOTWAWKI scenarios for my location. For example, I live in a part of the country where the greatest natural disaster threat is a tornado, but we don't really have to worry about earthquakes or hurricanes around here. Thus when planning, I rank the likelihood of scenarios in my area, natural and manmade, and use that to guide my preparations. Thus my preparations and plans will be different here than if I lived somewhere else, even a few hundred miles away.

    Scale of impact also has a say. It's entirely possible for a tornado to hit my workplace but not my home only a few miles away. Thus my most likely natural disaster scenario is self-limited, and if I have tools and preps to get myself and loved ones out of the immediate area or into a safe room, we will be relatively out of danger. I've lived in hurricane prone areas, though, and endured one direct hit. Tornados do greater damage but hit a more focused area like a neighborhood or a small city. Hurricanes damage much broader areas and pose a different challenge entirely.

    Time of development and duration of the emergency also plays a role. Earthquakes and tornados come with little or no warning. Hurricanes come with days, sometimes even weeks of warning. Manmade emergencies can be similar. Some will pass quickly while others could require days or weeks or longer, with longer times being generally less likely scenarios. Knowing the warning signs, if any, for the disasters most likely to happen in your area and having processes to monitor for these (weather radios, monitoring the news, etc.) can help guide planning.

    Lastly, before ever spending any money, it's possible to get prepared simply by generating your own localized and ranked list of possible threats and then making some plans. If X happens, how would I get home? What route would I take? What supplies might I need? Would I have a home to go to? Would it be too risky to travel through certain areas of town or country? What kind of traffic/impedance to my travel will other people escaping the same situation likely create for me? Etc. In a small scale event, even knowing ahead of time the escape routes from home or from work to get out of the immediate area and to safety puts you way ahead of most other people. Drive the different routes multiple times so that you know the route. Think in terms of what you would do if you had to abandon your vehicle and walk the rest of the way home. Do so for every location you spend any amount of time in on a regular basis. This also applies to getting to your bug out location, if you have one or don't plan on "bugging in." All of this requires thought and time but does not require immediate purchase of any equipment you don't already have and will put you much further down the road to surviving than the majority of people who never considered the possibility.

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  7. PineslayerJune 20, 2014

    Shelter, water, food, security. I plan for grid down, no matter what the cause.

    Most likely we will experience a continued decline in services and quality of life until people wake up one day and think, " where's my six pack and dorito's". Then buildings will burn and cars will be burn. The government will try and quell the riots, people will get shot for being stupid, because they have been stupid their whole life, and we will try and weather the storm. It will be ugly. Those of us who have been putting stuff up for the collapse will be trying to stay low and not get caught up in the madness, with varying success.

    I have a plan for many scenarios, most overlap. The main plan is to protect my family and build my platoon/community. If you wish to survive most scenarios, it takes a group effort or millions of dollars.

    My last thought/comment is a quote from Thomas Paine, " If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace".

    So if the reset is going to be hit, let's get it on, because I ain't getting any younger.

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  8. Things hit the fan a few years back when my single mom sister was diagnosed with cancer. Since I live a pretty low key lifestyle, had all my bills paid off, and food stashed away, it was easy for me to cut back at work and focus on helping my niece and sister while she went though chemo.

    In the not so distant future around here the chances of major winter snow storm knocking out out power and there not being enough cash or diesel to run snow plows 24/7 so the lights stay off for a bit and it's a few weeks before the stores get restocked is probably right around 100%.

    I'm thinking about these sorts of things. Not the Mad Max Stuff.

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  9. AnonymousJune 22, 2014

    I live in the desert SW. Our greatest risk is interruption of food, water and power. Got all the 24 hr, 72 hr, 7 days & 30 days items set but if it continues longer here the answer is to leave. My silver is to bribe and gold is to thrive wherever we land. Taking hints from the 4th turning predictions. We could not thrive here past 30 days so even though I have flexibility (solar, fuel, water) it could never mimic the redoubt. I expect the worst eventually which would necessitate leaving the US. Gold stash equals average annual earnings by an American family for 12 years, pre-tax. Or, I could outfit a squad and raise a hell of a rukus. That's my plan & outlook. How long will this charade continue to be propped up? Longer than I expect but not longer than I will live.

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  10. AnonymousJune 23, 2014

    What's your point of view? What scope of event are you preparing for?

    I hope the following is not likely or probable, but I do think it's possible: Economic Collapse, a false flag event, some civil unrest, then culminating in martial law. When I wargame it in my head, I don't see why the grid has to go down. I'm not wargaming an EMP attack, nor a solar CME. There should still be water and energy under that scenario, no? So with this very tentative thinking (happy to revise later), it affects prepping choices and decisions. I.e., more of a focus on food storage and food growing. And emphasizing to all family members and friends not to take the Mark of the Beast in order to transact business, i.e., to eat. To die rather than surrender to the Mark of the Beast.

    Signed,

    A Free Slave

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