Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Historically, the rats come out of the woodwork during and after any disaster. I’m not talking about four-legged rats here, but rather the two-legged ones. The ones who want to prey on others while trying to take what they can while the getting is good. These people aren’t what we would call “career criminals,” but rather opportunists who see an opportunity to enrich themselves while the police are busy elsewhere.
But that’s not to say these people aren’t dangerous. Even if they are trying to avoid getting into conflicts with others, they will still fight if they need to; and that’s just in a localized disaster. What will those people do if there’s a disaster serious enough that there’s a true breakdown of law and order, when they feel they can get away with anything?
It is widely believed in the prepping and survival community that these sorts of people will gang together to steal supplies from whoever they can, as they won’t be prepared themselves or have any other way of getting what they need. Desperate people, it is said, do desperate things.
I see preppers all the time who seem like they are preparing for outright warfare with these people. While I agree that we need to arm ourselves and be prepared to protect home and family, we want to avoid getting into a shooting match with them as much as possible. There really is no win in such a contest for us, as there are more of them than there are of us. We might beat them off once or twice, but they can always gather more people and come at us again.
So how do we avoid them?
Avoid Any Sign that You Have Food and Other Supplies
People on the prowl are going to be looking for homes that look like good targets. What makes a good target? Well, that can vary considerably; but in the types of situations we’re talking about, they’ll be looking for homes where it looks like the people are doing okay.
This isn’t the time to work on your flower bed or make your lawn look well-trimmed. You’re better off letting the weeds and the grass grow and allowing your home to look a bit like it’s abandoned. It wouldn’t hurt to throw some trash out there either; not food packages, but things that can help make it look like someone ransacked your home and dropped some things while fleeing.
Don’t Have Obvious Defenses
An obvious defensive network makes it look like you’ve got something in there worth guarding. While a 10-foot cement wall may make you feel secure, it’s going to tell everyone that you’re a prepper. You’re better off planting a hedge of thorny bushes, interweaving the branches so that nobody can break through.
The same can be said of other things we do to defend our homes. I’m not saying we shouldn’t do them, but rather that we should camouflage them to look like something else. If you feel you need a sandbagged firing position in the front yard, that’s okay. Just disguise that firing position to look like a pile of trash.
Practice Active OPSEC
When the disaster happens, you’re going to have to be careful to not look like you’re doing well. If everyone else is losing weight because of not having enough to eat, you’d better be losing weight too. You don’t have to starve yourself, but putting yourselves on a 1,500 calorie a day survival diet will not only help you blend in, but also stretch your food supply.
Avoid cooking odors as much as possible, keeping in mind that hungry people can smell food cooking from a much greater distance than normal. If you’re cooking something that they might smell, do so indoors and preferably in the basement. Just take care not to start a fire.
Food odors aren’t the only thing that could give you away; food packaging can. If you have piles of trash piling up at the curb, someone is going to get curious. Better to burn that packaging, using it for fuel and eliminating the evidence. You’re much better off not putting any trash out by the curb.
Light and noise can give you away as well. If you are running any sort of lights at night, then make sure you have blackout curtains to go with them. It’s amazing how far light can be seen on a dark night. In the Army they teach that a cigarette coal can be seen from as far as 3.1 miles away on a dark night. It’s also surprising how far away people can recognize the sound of a radio or other form of entertainment, especially when they don’t have them.
Remember, hiding what you have means hiding it in all possible ways. It doesn’t help to hide your stockpile if people can figure out you’ve got it. If they figure that out, they’ll keep coming back until they get what you have.
Stay Out of Sight
The old saying of “out of sight, out of mind” is extremely important during a time when everything is in chaos and lawlessness is the order of the day. People in need are more likely to attack someone they see than someone that they don’t see. Keeping out of sight can help prevent attacks.
This doesn’t just mean avoiding going out in public, but also going out at home. While you’ll need to go out in your backyard to tend your survival garden and do other important survival tasks, you should avoid going out in the front yard or anywhere else where you might be visible from the street or even from the neighbors. While it is basically impossible to hide from neighbors, allowing them to see you could lead to them begging for food or asking questions you don’t want to answer.
Practice the Grey Man Theory
No matter how much you try to avoid it, there will probably be times when you need to go out in public. Whether that is to get water or to scavenge for needed supplies, there are always situations where it is necessary to leave the security of your own home and venture out where others are. When that happens, you want to practice the grey man theory as much as possible. That means blending in, so that you look like everyone else.
Going on a survival diet will help with this, but so will wearing old, dirty clothes. Avoid acting furtively, but rather act downcast and dejected. Keep to yourself as much as possible, acting like you’re just one more person looking for the necessities of life.
On those occasions when you need to go out, do everything you can to avoid others. Walking through a crowd is dangerous as it gives others a chance to scrutinize you closely, even touching you to see what you might have hidden underneath your clothing.
You’re not a threat to them if you’re a block away and you’re probably not someone who they can get anything from. So try to stay a block away, even if that means you have to take a longer route.
Practice Situational Awareness
Learn to keep your head on a swivel so that you see everything that is going on around you. Learn to look around and really see. Why is that person over on the other side of the street and what are they doing? Who is the guy that’s digging through the trash? How is he armed? Is he really just digging through the trash or is he using that as cover for doing a recon of your house?
When you’re out, you need to keep track of everyone around you. Try to avoid letting people get behind you and really avoid allowing them to be close behind you. Don’t cross a street, alley, or other open space without first checking to see if anyone is hiding in there. Look into windows and open doorways to see who might be there.
Every environment has a rhythm and “feel.” Learn what is normal in an environment you have to operate in and things that are different will stand out more. People who don’t belong or who are involved in activities that are not normal to that area will become obvious.
Don’t Go Out at Night
Avoid going out at night unless it is absolutely necessary. Nighttime is the time of criminal activity, as the criminal thinks that it hides their actions. It is harder to recognize people at night and see what they are doing. It is also harder to see someone sneaking up on you or preparing an attack.
If you have to go out at night, you want to stack the deck in your favor. That means using night vision gear of some sort. It also means taking the time to scout things out before crossing into an unknown area. Take your time and use infrared scopes to show you where people might be hiding, if possible.
Avoid a Fight
While you should always be armed and ready for a fight, you should also do everything you can to avoid a fight. I don’t care how good you are, there’s always someone better. Even if you win a fight, you might not come out unscathed. Injuries, at a time when medical services will be limited, are extremely dangerous.
Develop and Train Your Survival Team
Finally, one of the biggest reasons to have a survival team is for mutual defense. While that team can be useful for dealing with survival tasks, when you really need them is when your home or compound comes under attack. The more of you there are, the harder it will be for any attackers to overrun you and get what you’ve got stockpiled.
At the same time, it’s not good enough to just have a bunch of people and guns. Your team needs to practice with their guns, learning to shoot, as well as learning how to work together as a team, using cover and concealment as they bring fire to bear on the enemy. You have to realize that whoever attacks you will have no compulsions against killing you, so you need to be trained how to fight effectively.