Sunday, February 5, 2012

Survival Strategy and Tactics - Where is Your Castle?

As a Boy Scout, I was taught to "be prepared," and in the news, every day, I read about the success of people who made it a point to "be prepared" ... and I read about the human tragedies that descend on people who are not prepared for what life throws at them.

Over the past four years, as our economy has tanked and home ownership has descended from a right to a dream to a folly - at least in Las Vegas, the city with the highest foreclosure rate in America - and that brings into sharp focus some of the survival issues many Americans now face.

The implication of 'my home is my castle' includes the notion that nobody can take it away from you, at least not without a fight. But for those who took out mortgages and who now face a situation where their houses are "under water" - where they owe far more than the house is now worth on the open market - their castles can be taken without a fight by some faceless bank corporation.

The first rule of survival is to have someplace safe to live, and if your home is not owned free-and-clear (and especially if it's under water with an upside-down mortgage), you don't have someplace safe to live. Strategically, that's a significant problem.

However, that problem may be illusory, especially if you live in a metropolitan area.


Because in America, there are few (if any) metropolitan areas that will remain livable if-and-when our social infrastructure begins to collapse. Without a few basic necessities - an operational electrical grid and a functioning transportation system - cities can't survive for more than about 72 hours. Today, our metro areas are based on the assumption that the grid will remain intact, and that over-the-road transportation will continue to function.

Water - that most basic of necessities - is linked to the grid, because virtually all municipal water pumps are powered by the grid. To survive, at a minimum, people need several quarts of pure drinking water every day. If the grid goes down, how much stored potable water do you have? How much drinking water do your neighbors have (assuming they'd be willing to share with you)?

Safe and secure transportation depends on gasoline or diesel fuel (which is pumped from underground storage tanks by electricity), and by the safety of the highways for over-the-road travel. Because that's a "given," most cities have no more than 72 hours worth of food on store shelves, with that amount based on standard consumption rates. If the grid went down, perishable foods would be sold quickly or would spoil, and there would be a run on grocery stores that would quickly strip the shelves of food and bottled beverages.

With no municipal water supplies and no trucked-in food, how long would your metro area remain survivable. How long would it be before desperate, hungry people began breaking into their neighbors' homes, looking for food for their children?

So the question becomes, how likely is it that the grid will fail? Grids have failed in the past, but primarily in narrowly-focused local areas, and primarily because of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, blizzards and other limited-area/short-term "acts of God." But the grids have also failed - again, locally - because of solar flares. And right now, the Earth is past-due to experience another solar flare comparable to the one in 1859 which knocked out telegraph service in the US and Northern Europe - in fact, most of the Northern Hemisphere. At that time, except for telegraph service, there was no "grid," but a lot has changed in 153 years.

But when such a solar flare hits again - as it most certainly will - the grid will go down, not in a few localized areas, but across the continent. When no electricity is flowing, when no water is being pumped, when no gasoline or diesel fuel is available to power over-the-road transportation, how long will it matter whether you own your own home or not?

That answer is 72 hours. Which raises the question: If the grid goes down, what are your survival strategies and tactics? How will you survive - not until help arrives - but until society slowly rebuilds itself, months - or years - or decades - after the grid collapses?

Clearly, this is a worst-case scenario, right up there with the Earth being slammed by a dinosaur-killer-grade asteroid. But what if you're in an area like New Orleans (think back to Katrina, and how that devastated an entire metro area, leaving people to fend for themselves)? What will you do when municipal electricity and water services are shut down for weeks or months? What will you do when the trucks don't bring in fresh food, and your "neighbors" start roaming your city in packs, looking for the resources THEY need to survive - looking for victims upon whom they can prey to get what they need for themselves?

This blog will address these issues - the potential risks, for sure, but also the strategies and tactics you'll need to "Get out of Dodge" before civil society collapses around you.

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