This is a classic in the prepping / survival community and it should be required reading for anyone venturing into the subject. Some of the references are dated but the concepts hold true.
There are only so many things you can do to protect yourself in a time of need, but the last problem you’ll need at a time like that is a safe place to go that has the supplies necessary to get you by until things are better. I’m not going to go into the overthrow of the government, civil war or some kind of anarchist takeover, if those things happen you’re screwed and this paper probably won’t help you as much as you’re going to need help. But if the economy tanks, the stock market slides into the crapper, and millions are put out of work and on the street (and you’re one of them), this might help. It was written by a Michigander with Americans in mind, but aside from that, it should still apply the world over, except if you live in one of those progressive countries that took away any chance you had of owning a gun to protect yourself.
If you’ve never known anyone who grew up during the depression of the 1930’s it was not a good time. Unemployment was rampant across the country (fluctuating between 14.3 and 25.2% of the working population of about 52 million or approximately 13 million people with no hope of a job. In comparison, August 2002 unemployment was in the realm of 8 million plus people), soup kitchens were common, you couldn’t buy a job (and even if you had one your income was reduced by up to 40%, due to the increased taxes and other programs the government imposed, supposedly to fix the problem.), crime was a significant problem, and it went on for a considerable length of time (late 1929 to about 1940 or so). Now imagine it worse, twice (or more) the unemployment (if you transfer Depression era unemployment percentages to 2001/2002 workforce population numbers, you have at least 36 million people out of work, now double that), not enough soup kitchens giving out just one meal a day, crime turns into a form of “honest work”, companies, banks, institutions going bankrupt by the thousand, and it goes on for as long or longer. With the loss of people working comes a loss in government revenue, and with that comes a corresponding loss of police on the payroll and social/economic welfare programs. This is just more hungry people on the street looking for something to eat and a place to stay. Think of it like this, how far away from being homeless and hungry are you? One paycheck? Two? You can’t get away from it, its worldwide, and you have to make the decision, am I a sheep or a wolf? Sure, this is a worst-case scenario, but go with the adage ‘hope for the best, but plan for the worst’.
First off you’re going to need a place to go, preferably someplace that is a little remote. You’ll need upwards of five acres, more is better, with plenty of unpopulated land around. Some of this land can be considered part of what you have, it’s mainly for the trees and for some farming area. Shelter of some kind, not too big, just someplace to sleep and keep certain things in out of the elements, something along the lines of 1000 to 1500 square feet, depending on the amount of people you need to shelter. You can always add on later if the need arises. The reason you need to keep it small is for heating, less wood going into the woodstove, and you’ll need a woodstove, it can double for a cookstove. Local taxes on your land will be a problem, but one that can be dealt with. You would have stashed money in advance of the situation, and as long as you are a smooth talker you could maybe see about a payment plan. Pay the lump sum only as a last resort. Remember, everybody is in the same fix, you won’t be the only person trying to make arrangements. The local “G” will figure a little money at a time is better than nothing, and they will already be saddled with enough repossessed (for back taxes) land they can’t give away so they will be open to discussion. And before you think otherwise, the government will be there, not even a stake through the heart will kill that bloodsucker.
Food and water, you can’t have too much of either. Quit thinking about the good life, and all the tasty foods you always loved, they’re long gone or too expensive and they don’t keep well, think about things that have a long shelf life. Dried beans, and lots of them, along with dried corn, rice and other grains. Powdered milk, eggs, drinks (remember TANG?), flour, salt, sugar, and other things that just need to be mixed with water or can be eaten dry if necessary. Canned goods don’t have the shelf life of powdered goods, you can store them too, but you will have to constantly rotate the stock to ensure what you have on hand is the freshest possible, and learn how to do home canning. Fresh meat can be had from the woods, you’ll be surprised how good raccoon or opossum taste after a couple of weeks of beans. Try not to waste your time with livestock, for what it takes to turn cattle feed into a steak, you could live for a year on just the corn. Chickens are good, they’ll eat most anything and they reproduce themselves quite well, and you can sell/trade the eggs if necessary. Pigs or goats will find their own food also, you’ll just have to find them when you want some bacon or meat. Learning how to build a smokehouse or to dry-store meat is another benefit. You’ll need a good supply of seeds to plant a garden, those depend on what will grow in the soil you have, whatever you grow, if you have extra, can be traded for the things you didn’t. Make sure you save seeds for the next year, because you lose a certain percentage if you keep seed longer than a couple of years. Learn which plants medicines are derived from, there are mosses that can heal wounds, plants that can thin blood, aspirin comes from a certain tree bark, learn about these and as many others as you can and plant accordingly.
Water can be a well, lake, river, spring, etc., just as long as it is as free of cooties as possible. Water purification is an absolute necessity, there are too many diseases that come with bad water that you really don’t want to catch. If you’re lying on your back with dysentery, you can’t get anything done, and that is bound to be the time that something bad will happen. Boiling, bleaching, iodine tablets, filters, distillation, etc., they all work to some extent, just try to get the freshest water possible.
Sanitation is an area you cannot skimp on. An indoor toilet is fine, but what if the septic system goes? You’re going to need to know how to build an outhouse at the very least. Don’t go thinking that you just dig a hole and make sure to leave a roll of paper on a branch. Holes cave in and where are you going to get the paper? From the local store, what store? They went out of business, remember? You have to reset your mind to the possible future reality that you might not be able to buy all the things you once could. And even if you could, money is a commodity you won’t be able to waste on wiping your ass, learn how to make paper, its not that hard, or store a shitload (no pun intended) of phone books. A well-built outhouse should outlast you at the very least, and be a small source of fertilizer.
Clothing, it wears out, shoes as well. A few bolts of cloth are a good idea, if for nothing else than repair material. As for shoes, the Indians made do with moccasins for over a thousand years, and anybody can make them. Sure you can store some shoes at your hideaway, but get out of the mindset, learn to make moccasins and store needles and thread. Only store clothes that will last, things like jeans, denim shirts, flannel, etc., and don’t forget the mothballs.
Tools are something you can’t do without. Don’t be stupid and store power tools, do as your forefathers did and use your back and your mind, it didn’t kill them, you should survive. Axes, mauls, handsaws, hammers, wrenches, drawknives, chisels, crank drills, etc., they all have a use and you’re bound to find that out. Stay away from tools that need anything other than elbow grease and sweat to operate, there is a non-power tool to do every job there is a power tool for, where do you think they got the idea? If you had to make your own lumber or forge something, could you? Don’t underestimate the incredible value of a heavy vise and some files, because there’s a reason some people call a file a “Mexican mill”. It is far better to make a necessary part than buy one, but if you made no preparations to do so you’re going to be throwing money away.
Medical knowledge is of paramount importance. There will be cuts and wounds you will have to deal with, and if you think medical care is expensive now, you haven’t seen anything yet. Learn anatomy, you don’t have to learn brain surgery, if the problem is there, they’re dead, but you’ll need to know where all the organs are, along with veins, arteries, bones, etc. Medicine can come from the strangest places, plants, chemical compounds, veterinary supply, etc. Some medical stores are mandatory, sutures, anti-biotics, bandages, etc., but medicines have a notoriously short shelf life, or maybe that’s just what the medicine companies want you to think. At worst, they probably just lose a percentage of their potency.
Electricity is a definite benefit. You can be hooked to the grid, but don’t depend on it to always be there, and it costs. Generators, solar, wind, water, people riding a bicycle hooked to a small generator, these are the things you want to have or know about. A friend hooked up a bicycle-type setup to his TV set, when his children wanted to watch TV for an hour I seem to remember it taking about 20 to 30 minutes of riding, he had the most physically fit kids in town. You can do everything with DC that you can do with AC, except send it long distances over a wire. And a DC motor doubles as a DC generator, all you have to do is spin the armature.
Your library should be extensive, with books on how to do everything. Mine contains books on gun repair, home building/repair, how to make just about anything, chemistry, electronics, small engine repair, edible plants, medicine/first aid, the list goes on for days. I recommend getting a set of the Foxfire books, they tell you how to do everything from the time before electricity and the supermarket. Canning, making tools, butchering animals, everything. Knowledge is power, and money. Which would you rather do, pay someone to do something for you, or have someone pay you because you have a book that shows you how?
Fuel is a necessary evil. Gasoline, kerosene, diesel, you’re going to need some of these, if you haven’t thought ahead and either converted a motor to run on propane or gotten your hands on a steam engine of some kind. Gas might be hard to get and cost an arm and a leg, but a steam engine will run on water and wood, and you will have both of those. Steam engines, even small ones, have incredible torque for their size. One can run the pump for water, turn a generator, and run a vehicle. If you can’t find and buy one now, learn how to make one, or get a book. Otherwise, you’ll have to store fuel and it doesn’t keep well (other than propane). I recommend Sta-bil fuel additive, it will make your fuel store longer, but a year would be really pushing it to the limit.
Money is something you can’t be without, no matter what. Start filling up a jar with quarters, when full, bury it deep, like six feet deep. No metal detector will find it, and if the need arises, you can dig it up and nothing will have eaten the quarters as with paper money. Better yet is gold and silver, there is no place in the world that gold and silver can’t be traded for something. It doesn’t matter if the currency of your country has turned into toilet paper, gold can move mountains. I’m reminded of the story about how during the waning days of WWII, a widow in Germany took a basketful of Deutschmarks down to buy a loaf of bread, she set the basket down and when she turned around someone had stolen it, but the thief had dumped the Deutschmarks out on the ground.
Weaponry, how many, what caliber, how much ammo, there will be so many different opinions here. First off, definitely a couple of .22 rifles, a few pistols wouldn’t hurt, something on the larger scale like a 30.06, and a shotgun or two would be the minimum. The pistols should optimally use the same ammo as one or more of the rifles, you don’t want to have to store a dozen different kinds of ammo when 3 or 4 will suffice. You can kill damn near anything you’ll ever run into with a .22, as long as you’re a decent shot. A thousand rounds of .22 ammo takes up very little room, and doesn’t cost a fortune. If the time came you would only use the big bore as a last resort, like for self defense or if you couldn’t sneak up on the deer and the meat was needed very badly. Save your brass, learn to reload ammo and get some armor piercing rounds for your big bore rifle. If you never need them that’s great, but if you don’t have any and the need arises, what will you do then? If a truck full of people is coming down your trail, smoking the engine in one shot will give at least half of them pause to think about easier pickings elsewhere. Take your weapons apart and learn how they work, if they break, you’re going to have to fix them. I have a .22 rifle that probably only has a dozen parts total, that is something to remember. Less parts equals less things that can go wrong or break.
Communication is going to be a necessity, you’re going to need to know what is going on around the country and in the world. A transmitter would be nice, but a receiver is the least you can have. Regular radio won’t do here, TV either. You’ll need a shortwave, they can get news from all over the world, or down the block. Don’t depend on the news you get from your own country, you can hear the same report on American shortwave and Canadian shortwave and get two totally different stories, the reason being that the government won’t want you to know the true extent of the damage. An example would be what was done during WWII, they didn’t really lie, they just left out things, all in your best interest. The key is to believe no one, and take everything with a grain of salt. Everyone has an agenda, so there will be a different spin on everything you hear. Gather information, and then make your decisions. If there is widespread strife in northern Ohio, and you’re in southern Michigan, then you will have visitors, get ready and be prepared, forewarned is forearmed.
You should have a hidey-hole, one that only you know about. The best one I saw so far was in a mobile home, where the hot water tank used to be. It was like a closet, but the door was inside the house not outside.The guy redid the room where it was located and when he got done with the paneling, you couldn’t see it, and I doubt anyone would have known it was there. This is where you store the guns and ammo, the cash you would have on hand and not in the ground, and a person if you had to. If anyone other than you knows about it, then everybody knows about it, tell no one, period.
The barter system of payment will probably make a big comeback in bad times, it never really goes away, I use it often. I’ll trade you this if you give me that, I’ll build you a barn if you supply me with meat, that kind of thing. Don’t underestimate it, it works very well when money is short. This is when you will need to know the approximate value of some things versus others. Never trade a gun for anything, you just might see it again when it comes back loaded and looking to take the item you got for it. A hammer is worth more than a screwdriver, and nails are worth more than screws, it all comes down to function and re-usability.
The area around your place is something you need to know better than the back of your hand. If anything changes, you need to be able to spot it immediately, and you need to know the exact lay of the land. If there is a hill or gully that can be used for cover you had better know about it, and whether or not it is within rifle shot (200-300 yards). There shouldn’t be more than two or three trees of good size within 100 yards of the building proper, and even that is probably too many. By good size I mean big enough to hide behind, don’t give anyone cover and make it easy for them, nothing bigger than a foot thick is best, if it will cover you, it will cover someone else. This is another reason for the armor piercing ammo. A 30.06 round will shoot through a 16 inch thick tree and probably a 20 to 24 inch one. It won’t matter what someone is hiding behind (concrete, vehicles, trees, etc.), you’ll still be able to get to them, call it peace of mind.
Hypothetically speaking, lets say you have your place and things are doing ok. You have food, water, a few people for company, maybe family, and you’re fairly secure and remote. Late at night you hear a noise outside and when you go to investigate you find someone trying to steal some of your stores. You confront him, there’s a struggle, in this struggle he somehow gets killed. With all the people out of work and living hand to mouth what police there still are around are busy in the cities and towns trying to keep order. If you had called them somehow it would have been hours at the least, or days before they would have shown up. In the meantime had the thief gotten away he would have come back, maybe with help and you would have lost valuable supplies that you could not replace.
Now you face the dilemma of what to do, if you report it to whatever law enforcement there is, at the very least you will be taken away to await the disposition of an investigation that may take months to happen. The jails and prisons are full (as of August 2002 there were 2 million people actually incarcerated and another 4 million either on parole or in the system in some other fashion), crime is a little rampant and you can’t afford to be taken from your place otherwise you’re back in the same boat with people picking you clean. This is where you separate the men from the boys, and you take the body and dig a deep hole, six feet bare minimum, throw him in and cover him with three feet of soil, then a bunch of rocks, and the rest of the soil. It’s either that or a very hot fire, then bury what’s left.
Yes, its morally wrong, and repulsive, but necessary. You have people to think about other than yourself, and they’re counting on you to see them through the tough times. You can always turn yourself in later on when things get better if it still bothers you (no statute of limitations on murder, if it could be called that), but for now you have greater obligations than society. It is no different if someone shows up looking for a place to stay or something to eat, run them off. Don’t let anyone know how many you are, and never let anyone get too close to you, twenty feet is more than close enough to talk, and if they’re carrying some kind of disease or intend to do you bodily harm, it won’t happen from there. You have to stay healthy, and if you catch something, everybody else will catch it too. Only one person should deal with any visitors, the rest should stay hidden so that no one can find out your exact numbers, if they do and there aren’t that many of you they might get ideas, same thing goes if a different person goes out to meet them, sooner or later they’re going to get an exact count and then you have trouble. Don’t hesitate to give someone a reason to never come back.
I know I didn’t go into a lot of detail in this, the objective wasn’t to tell you what to do as much as it was to give you ideas and get your brain to working. You could follow every suggestion in here and still wind up starving to death if you weren’t smart enough to ration out your stores. Neighbors aren’t your enemies, but they’re not necessarily your friends either. Think of them as early warning alarms, if you hear something bad happened a mile to your south, you know enough to keep an eye open. If one of them comes to you looking for a favor, that’s good. You never know when you’ll need one in return, just ask yourself if the roles were reversed, would he do the same for you? There are so many other things that you may think of that either I didn’t, or did but didn’t bother putting in here. How about a big, very mean dog? He’ll eat scraps and be a possible meat source. What about a horse instead of a vehicle? Good point. Vehicles need gas and a horse will eat grass by the side of the road, and you can eat a horse, or make him plow the field for farming. What about planting fruit trees? Gathering walnuts, mushrooms, wild carrots, cattail stalks, young fiddleheads, mayapples, etc? Like I said, the object was to get YOU to think.