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Our Future, Part 2 of 4

(Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/ Our Future, Parts 1-4)

H.  Energy Descent: The Ignored Scenario 
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Public discussion of energy descent is generally seen as unrealistic, defeatist and politically counterproductive although many activists promoting sustainability strategies privately acknowledge that energy descent maybe inevitable. I want to expand the systems approach to future energy transitions by focusing on the most ignored of the long term scenarios for the following reasons.
_1.   We do not have to believe that a particular scenario is likely before making serious preparations. For example most people have fire insurance on their homes, not because they expect their primary asset to be destroyed by fire but because they recognize the severity of this unlikely event. Similarly, energy descent scenarios,  by their very nature, require more forethought and proactive planning than energy growth or steady state scenarios (to avert catastrophic consequences) .
[Image at left: Amish horse cart outside of SUV’s in auto sales lot, Raleigh North Carolina. 2005. A model for energy descent in more ways than the obvious. The Amish driver is likely to be a farmer, a symbol of the greater number of people who will be involved in food production both domestically and commercially in a future of less energy; in ironic contrast to the Burger King take away food sign in the background.]

_2.  The rapidly accumulating evidence on both climate change and peaking of world oil supply, to name the two most important factors, makes some sort of energy descent increasingly likely despite the deep structural and psychological denial of this evidence.
_3.  The likelihood that permaculture principles and strategies (not necessarily by that name) could inform societal-wide redesign and re-organization in an energy descent future. Since this scenario is the one in which permaculture is naturally at the fore, it is logical for those committed to permaculture to think more deeply about energy descent.

Ecological modeling suggests an energy descent path that could play out over a similar time frame to the industrial ascent era of 250 years. Historical evidence suggests a descent process that could involve a series of crises that provide stepwise transitions between consolidation and stabilization phases that could be more or less stable for decades before another crisis triggers another fall and then another restabilisation.

There is a desperate need to recast energy descent as a positive process that can free people from the strictures and dysfunctions of growth economics and consumer culture. This is now apparent to many people around the world and is far more fundamental than a public relations campaign to paint a black sky blue. It is a necessary process to provide a sense of hope and connection to fundamental human values expressed by every traditional culture throughout human history; that the pursuit of materialism is a false god.

One of the positive aspects of energy descent that is often overlooked is that it is a culture of continuous and novel change over many human generations. Ironically the growth culture of the previous several hundred years provides us with some conceptual and cultural experience at dealing with change that traditional peoples in more stable societies lacked. We are now familiar with continuous change, that we must do something different to our parent’s generation and that our children must do something different again. This may seem a small bright spot when considering the challenges of energy descent but it is a real asset that we must harness if we are to deal with energy descent in the most graceful way possible.

Section II  Explores the relevance of permaculture design systems to an era of energy descent.

 A.  Permaculture
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Serious and thoughtful responses to energy descent futures over the last 30 years (from both sociological and ecological perspectives) have received limited attention academically.  In affluent countries, movements advocating low energy lifestyles, such as permaculture, have contributed mostly to action and changes at the fringes of society. Permaculture has been stress tested in poor countries and in crisis situations, and as fossil fuel depletion hits levels of
affluence globally, its relevance will likely increase radically.
[Image at right: Melliodora central Victoria 2004. View over poultry deep litter yard, roof runoff garden, olive and fruit trees to house with solar clerestory showing above trees. ]

Permaculture was one of the environmental design concepts to emerge from the 1970’s debate over energy and resource availability and was founded on the assumption that the next energy transition would involve the re-emergence of biological systems as central to economics and society. The vision that informed permaculture design, teaching and action saw relocalized food and renewable energy production, revitalized household and community economies and bioregional political structures establishing a permanent (i.e. sustainable) human culture. The opportunistic use of fossil fuelled wealth and waste to fund the transition was an integral part of the permaculture strategy. I see permaculture design generating more appropriate biological and human capital in ways less demanding of physical resources and with low depreciation rates that are useful to a world of energy descent. In my book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, I explained the title in terms of the Energy Descent future undermining the steady state notions inherent to most thinking about sustainability and even permaculture.

Permaculture has spread around the world but has an extraordinary, perhaps unique role in Australia, as a concept, a collection of design strategies, and as an environmental movement. A definition is included in the Macquarie dictionary and it is almost a household word. As a “brand” it carries a great deal of good will but also much baggage and is generally regarded in policy and planning circles as marginal to mainstream decision making. Some more thoughtful people recognize it as tuned to a world of declining resources that will require adaptive strategies quite different from those being pursued currently.

Permaculture is already contributing to changing Australian suburbs and lifestyle via bottom up and organic processes. Increasing community awareness of environmental issues combined with rises in the cost of energy, water and food are likely to lead to an explosion in permaculture inspired activity in Australian cities, towns and rural landscapes. It is now essential that academics, educators, activists, planners and policy makers understand permaculture as both a factor in the social and physical fabric of Australian society and a conceptual framework for the organic redesign of society and culture for the energy descent future in Australia as well as globally.

Not surprisingly, Permaculture solutions have been more effectively applied in community and agricultural development work in many majority world communities where energy descent has been a reality for many people. While these conditions can be understood in terms of inequitable distribution of resources rather than fundamental limits, they provide models for behavior in response to energy descent. The most dramatic example is the role that permaculture strategies and techniques played in rapidly increasing urban food production as part of a multi pronged strategy to avert famine in Cuba in the early 1990’s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. What is particularly interesting about this model is that Cuba is a middle income country with a long history of industrialized agriculture and an urbanized and dependent population similar to many affluent countries. Today Cubans have life expectancy and other indices of development comparable with the USA while using one seventh the energy and resources.

Permaculture is, intuitively, most relevant to the Energy Descent scenarios in which there is a major decline in the power from non-renewable resources but many of the strategies are synergistic with those focused on appropriate responses to the Techno Stability scenario which demands a degree of relocalization of food supply and other key economies and a shift from centralized to distributed energy sources.

One way to understand permaculture is as a post-modern integration of elements from different traditions and modernity that involves continuous change and evolution.

Sometimes permaculture is understood as simply returning to traditional patterns from the past and is consequently criticized as impractical. While it is true that older, more traditional patterns of resource use and living provide some of the elements and inspiration for permaculture, it is certainly more than this. One way to understand permaculture is as a post-modern integration of elements from different traditions and modernity that involves continuous change and evolution. This builds on the human experience of continuous change rather than static tradition as well as the more recent emergence of design as a new literacy that allows us to effectively and efficiently respond to and redesign our environment and ourselves.


B.  Climate change and Peak Oil as Fundamental Drivers of Change
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The simultaneous onset of climate change and the peaking of global oil supply represent unprecedented challenges driving this energy transition but historians may look back with the verdict that the efforts at transition were too little too late. The immediacy of the problems undermines many of the options for longer term restructuring around renewable energy and appropriate infrastructure. The systemic interlocking of human/environment systems suggests other apparently independent crises from the psychological to the geopolitical are being drawn together to reinforce an historic inflection point.


C.  Climate Change
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While Peak Oil has remained a concept at the fringe of public debate and policy, climate change has gathered speed as the key environmental issue demanding attention alongside more traditional concerns about economics and security. The creation of the IPCC in 1988 reflected the scientific consensus in the mid 1980’s that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide was caused by human emissions but the realization that climate change was already happening began to take shape in the 1990’s and by 2007 even political leaders in the USA and Australia (who had become infamous for denying climate change) began to accept it as a reality. It has been the increase in drought and extreme weather events more than increases in average temperatures or subtle ecological changes that have spurred the political and public realization that climate change is already happening. The focus has shifted from impacts on nature to impacts on humanity.

Strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions have become almost synonymous with the sustainability concept. New financial instruments such as carbon trading have developed despite the uncertainty about international agreements to underpin and sustain them. Renewable energy sources have grown significantly especially in countries with the most progressive responses to climate change. At the same time geological sequestration of carbon dioxide has been strongly promoted as a way to allow coal-fired power stations to continue to provide the bulk of the world’s electric power without creating climate chaos. The nuclear industry has been recast as an environmental savior. Despite all the focus on the issue, the emissions of greenhouse gases worldwide has continued to parallel economic growth. Consequently the emissions increases have been higher than even the worst case (business as usual) scenarios produced in the earlier reports by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).  

The most recent evidence on climate change is showing that the rate of onset of warming in the Arctic make the IPCC’s fourth report look incompetent in its failure to be alarmist enough. Hansen’s report suggests that the onset of severe impacts from climate change are now inevitable even if there is a huge world wide effort at mitigation. Greenland ice cap melting and sea ice retreat are occurring now far faster than expected. This new evidence has been ignored by the IPCC’s ponderous processes for its reports. James Hansen’s research suggests that sea level rises could be 5 meters by 2100 rather than the 0.5m used in the IPCC’s fourth report. This suggests that the onset of severe impacts from climate change is now inevitable, even if there is a huge world-wide effort at mitigation.

There is also very little evidence that mitigation within the  context of modern affluent society will radically reduce greenhouse gas emission in any case. Most of the increases in efficiency and other  gains through technology have been countered by increases in emissions elsewhere. This may appear to be due to the small scale and spread of these gains but there is a more fundamental problem that is known to systems theorists as the “rebound effect” or the “Jevons’ paradox”. A gain in resource efficiency in one part of a system is immediately used to drive growth in another part. For example, the savings made in reducing Economic recession is the only proven mechanism for a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions house heating costs is typically being spent on something like an overseas holiday by a householder. This suggests that without radical behavioral and organizational change that would threaten the foundations of our growth economy, greenhouse gas emissions along with other environmental impacts will not decline.  Economic recession is the only proven mechanism for a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and may now be the only real hope for maintaining the earth in a habitable state.

Further, most of the proposals for mitigation from Kyoto to the feverish efforts to construct post Kyoto solutions have been framed in ignorance of Peak Oil. As Richard Heinberg has argued recently, proposals to cap carbon emissions annually, and allowing them to be traded, rely on the rights to pollute being scarce relative to the availability of the fuel. Actual scarcity of fuel may make such schemes irrelevant.


D.  Energy Reserves and Production Peaks
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Most of the comparative discussion about energy resources has focused on “Proven, Probable and Possible Reserves”. These are economic concepts about what can be profitably extracted using current technology and prices. Banks lend massive amounts of money to develop energy projects over long periods with risks of price collapses that can reduce or eliminate profits. The Proven reserves represent assets that can be considered as collateral by the lender. There is a long history of “reserve growth” of Proven reserves. While some of this is due to technology improvement, and more recently price rises, very little is due to finding more oil. Most is simply due to shifting reserves from the Probable to the Proven category driven by reporting policies and regulations.

Nationalization of oil reserves in the 1970’s allowed OPEC countries to report reserve growth with less scrutiny by western banks and in the 1980’s radical revision upward of reserve figures were made without finding any more oil. This hopeless corruption of reserve figures, of arguably the most important set of accounts in the world, was not exposed until the late 1990’s with the work of Campbell and Laherrere beginning the current debate about peak oil. It is still yet to be accepted or acknowledged by governments or intergovernmental agencies such as the International Energy Agency, charged with providing transparent and accurate information on energy resources.

The debate about Peak Oil has also highlighted the confusion in economic and political discourse about the importance of production rates and their potential to keep expanding. This collective myopia on the part of the intelligentsia is all the more stunning because it has been increasing rates of energy production (not reserve growth) that has underpinned economic growth. The orthodox view that healthy reserves, by themselves, can ensure expanding production has been show to be false.

The collective myopia on the part of the intelligentsia is all the more stunning because it has been increasing rates of energy production that has underpinned economic growth.
Similarly, the conventional wisdom that coal reserves are so great that we can expand coal based electricity with or without carbon sequestration, and make liquid fuel from coal is now being widely challenged. As with oil, we see that reserve figures are of dubious reliability and large reserves do not mean that production rates can necessarily increase. The slow rate of increase in oil production from the Canadian tar sands, despite massive investment, heroic logistics (and massive environmental damage) proves that large reserves do not necessarily lead to high production rates. The fact that Canada, overnight, became the nation with the largest oil reserves in the world because it was allowedto classify its tar sands as oil, highlights the arbitrary nature of the reserve concept. It is highly likely that nowhere near enough fossil fuels can be mined fast enough to generate the worst case emission scenarios of the IPCC. It is just unfortunate that climate change seems to be happening at much lower levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide than predicted in those same models.

The evidence on peak oil is gathering so fast that it is now certain that the world has already peaked in the production of cheap (conventional) oil and that the peak production of “crude plus condensate” (the standard measure of oil) may have already passed despite vigorous debunking of peak oil that continues in policy circles and the media. The steady climb in prices for eight years should have been enough to lift production if that were possible. The impacts of peak oil are unfolding all around us in the world but they are being regularly interpreted in the media as caused by more familiar (above ground) factors such as terrorism, oil nationalism, corporate greed or incompetence, speculators, etc. The combination of rolling crises and obfuscation of the issues is leading to confusion and inappropriate responses (from oil wars to biofuels from agricultural crops) that are compounding the problems.

The debate amongst peak oil analysts has now shifted from when, to at what rate, the world will decline. The debate amongst peak oil analysts has now shifted from when, to at what rate, the world will decline after we move off the current plateau in production. The decline rates in the UK and Mexico have provided progressively stronger evidence that the application of modern management and technology in oil production, while delaying peak, ultimately leads to faster decline rates than had been expected (based on past rates of national decline). If these higher decline rates follow through into global decline, then mitigation and adaption strategies, without economic collapse will be very difficult. Given the accelerating consumption of natural gas and coal we should assume peak production of both will quickly follow oil peak.

Access to oil will likely decrease far more rapidly in importing nations as explored in the next section
Collapsing Oil Exports 
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Another factor is already accelerating the impact of global peak on the importing countries. Almost all of the oil producing countries have rapidly growing economies driven by large oil revenues and in many cases rapidly growing populations. Internal consumption in these countries is ensuring that after peak, the rate of exports declines much faster than production. The two largest producers and exporters Saudi Arabia and Russia are the prime examples.  Global economic growth may continue for some years in oil and resource rich countries, but not in the importing countries that have been used to affluence and continuous economic growth for the longest.
[Image at left: The rising cost of intercontinental shipping costs is threatening to reverse the globalization of manufacturing.]

Alternatively, a constant state of corruption, dysfunction and/or open war, in oil exporting countries can have the effect of enforcing exports in the face of shortages at home. Although this appears counter-intuitive, the failure of functional governance in the national interest combined with a shattered or stunted economy reduces the capacity of the national market to pay for oil and allows foreign oil companies to gain favorable concessions and military protection from corrupt governments. Aspects of this scenario are at work to maintain the flow of oil from Nigeria and Iraq to the USA and other large importers.

Thus, we can see both the collapsing exports, and enforced export scenarios unfolding simultaneously as the major expression of the struggle for declining production. This suggests at the very least, massive shifts in geo-political and economic power over the next few years, even if global growth continues.

Section III considers one other compounding factor, that of decreasing net energy returns.

Net Energy Return
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An even more fundamental issue is that of net energy return. It takes energy to get energy. Fossil fuel resources have been such an abundant source of concentrated energy that the investment of energy we make in exploration, mining, transport and processing has been relatively small. Even when we consider all the energy embodied in equipment and infrastructure, the net energy return or profit has been very high. Adding all the energy and resources needed to train and support all the engineers and other employees in the energy industries still leaves a huge net energy profit which explains why the oil industry has been such a profitable one. However now that we have passed the peak of production of conventional oil,  the net energy yield from new projects tapping the heavy, deep ocean, arctic and small remaining amounts in old oil fields, using advanced recovery methods, is less and less.

This decline in net energy yield results in an increasing proportion of society’s real wealth being devoted to the energy harvesting sectors of the economy, leaving less and less for all other sectors.

Other resources sectors with rapidly increasing demand for energy include mining and metal processing, which currently use about 10% of world energy supply, have an escalating demand as lower quality ore bodies are mined. The implications of declines in Energy Return On Energy Invested (ERoEI) are so shocking that there is much confusion and denial about the concept of net energy.

The idea that biofuels or coal to liquids will simply replace oil and gas the way oil and gas have replaced wood and coal shows an astonishing degree of ignorance of the concept of net energy. When we moved from wood to coal and on to oil, the increase in power available to humanity was not just from the increasing quantity of energy, but from the increasing quality. The quantity is easily measured in joules (heat energy released) but the quality is something scientists are more confused about. It is widely accepted by scientists that energy quality is real and determines the usefulness of energy, but without an agreed way to measure quality, it is largely ignored.

The net energy concept is just beginning to surface in the media and policy circles as a way to assess alternative energy sources and strategies, especially in the debate over corn ethanol in the USA. While different methods of accounting for net energy produce substantially different net energy profit figures, they all show a pattern of higher returns for current and past sources of fossil energy than new ones. Economic power and profit from past development of different energy sources also reflects these general patterns revealed by net energy calculation methods. This suggests they can be used to predict real economic impacts of future energy systems.

The declining net energy yields of our energy resources results in an increasing proportion of society’s real wealth being devoted to the energy harvesting sectors of the economy, leaving less and less for all other sectors.

[The above graph models gross energy availability.  Due to decreasing net energy yields of many of the above resources, actual available energy for society will likely decrease more dramatically.]

The promotion by the US dept of Agriculture of research showing a Energy Return On Energy Invested of 1.6 as a good result, indicates how the understanding of these issues is very poor, even by the scientifically literate. A society based on an energy source of this quality would be constantly investing 62% of its energy back into the energy industry (the 1 in 1.6), leaving only the remaining 38% of the total energy in society for everything else, ie. health, education, culture, food production, law, leisure and so on. Our modern industrial society has been fueled by energy sources with Energy Return on Energy Invested as high as 100 and at least 6 (requiring between 1% and 17% of the wealth created being invested to get the yield)

Ironically conventional economics is blind to this shift because one type of economic transaction is considered as good as another, so growth in the energy sector at the expense of say personal consumption is not seen as indicative of any fundamental problem.

My own tracking of these issues over the last thirty years leads me to the conclusion that the next energy transition is to sources with lower energy production rates and lower net energy yield which in turn will drive changes in human economy and society that are without precedent since the decline and/or collapse of previous complex civilizations such as the Mayans and the Romans.

The most sophisticated method of evaluating net energy, with the longest history of development, is EMergy Accounting developed by Howard Odum and colleagues. It has informed my own development of permaculture principles and strategies over the last 30 years but unfortunately it remains unknown or at best misunderstood in academic and policy circles. EMergy accounting includes ways of measuring energy quality (called “Transformity”). This makes it possible to account for small quantities of very high quality energy in technology and human services that undermine many of the more optimistic assessments of alternative energy sources including biomass, nuclear and solar.

To test the relative impact of net energy compared with declines in energy production rates, I used a recent assessment of global energy production through to 2050 by Paul Chefurka published and discussed on The Oil Drum website. The study was well referenced and its assumptions and methodology were clear. It took account of likely reductions from oil, gas and coal but included reasonably optimistic figures for future production from renewables and nuclear. It shows a peak in total energy production about 2020 followed by a decline to 70% of 2005 production by 2050. This is a very serious reduction given an expected global population of 9 billion. Below are the key production projections and energy mix pie charts from the study.

Using published EMergy accounting studies I multiplied these current and projected global energy sources by their net EMergy yield ratios. This shows that the energy quality of 2050 energy mix will be 58% of the 2005 energy mix. This suggests that declining net energy is a greater factor than projected declines in production. Multiplying these factors together suggests real energetic power available to humanity will be 40% of current yields. This does not allow for the energetic cost of carbon sequestration (still unknown) to ameliorate the otherwise disastrous impacts on the climate of the increased use of coal.

The net energy return from fossil fuels including coal will decline so that  the above calculation of humanity having about 40% of current net energy by 2050 may still be optimistic. Further it does not take account of decline (or increase) in the average net energy return for a particular source. While it is possible that net energy return from newer renewable sources (such as solar and even wind) could conceivably improve with time, it is more likely that they will decline as the embedded fossil energy contribution (to the new energy sources) declines. A new evaluation of the net energy return of gas production in North America using a methodology developed by Cleverland and Costanza suggests net energy return is in the process of a collapse so severe that net energy yield from gas in Canada will effectively fall to almost nothing by 2014 and that similar results apply to US production. This is very different from the official view that claims the USA has 86 years of production at 2004 levels based on production to reserves ratios.
The implications of some of this information is so shocking that the naïve and simplistic idea that we are running out of oil and gas (rather than just peaking in production) may be closer to the truth than even the most pessimistic assessments of peak oil proponents a decade ago.

Section IV considers briefly some other major factors besides Peak Oil and Climate Change which will determine the future.
Associated issues 

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Many other factors beyond Climate Change and Peak Oil are increasing the stress on global ecosystems and humanity making some form of energetic descent if not collapse, seem inevitable. A few of the more fundamental ones need at least a mention.
•  Critical materials depletion
Accelerating economic growth and energy extraction over the last decade has greatly increased depletion of other essential non-renewable resources, especially phosphates for food production and non ferrous metals for industry. Almost all the unfolding plans and projects for energy transition beyond oil will place more demand on these depleting resources. For example, the demand for nickel steel alloys required for high pressure natural gas pipelines is pushing up the price of nickel and further depleting the remaining stocks. As lower quality deposits of critical materials are tapped, energy demands for extraction and processing will escalate dramatically and production rates will fall.  The title of Richard Heinberg’s latest book Peak Everything sums up the situation.

•  Water depletion
Water is the most abundant resource used by humanity, but the growing demand, is so vast that the limits once specific to a bioregion, are now being expressed at the global scale. Although I don’t subscribe the view that global water shortage will constrict global growth before or more severely than liquid fuel supplies, the global water crisis is already quite severe. Even if we attribute the most dramatic impacts of droughts directly to climate change, other factors are independently contributing to the water crisis.  The loss of wetlands, perennial vegetation and forests as well as soil humus are all reducing the capacity of catchments and soils to catch and store water between periods of rain, which in turn, escalates demand for irrigation. Increasing affluence is directly and indirectly increasing water consumption especially through intensive livestock husbandry dependent on irrigated fodder crops. The extraction of ground water beyond recharge rates, including huge reserves laid down after the last ice age, makes many water resources as depletable as fossil fuels, giving rise to the term “fossil water”. Finally, the decline in water quality is increasing death and illness from water borne diseases, demand for expensive water filtration and treatment as well as bottled water supplies.

•  Food supply
The unfolding global food crisis can be largely attributed to the manifold interactions and knock on effects of energy costs and climate change including droughts and bad seasons, biofuel demand and escalating costs of (energy intensive) fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation.  Other factors exacerbating the crisis include rising affluence increasing demand especially for beef and cotton, past low prices destroying farming as a livelihood and failure of the land reform agenda in most countries. Fixing these secondary factors is technically possible, but seems unlikely. But there is also evidence that agriculture is running up against fundamental yield limits for our main crops that, despite all the promises, genetic engineering has failed to break through. Widespread application of organic methods and permaculture design, especially when applied to small scale systems could reduce the impact of the crisis but this will not be simple or quick.

•  Population Pressures
The continued growth in human numbers is now pushing well beyond that which could be sustainably supported without fossil fuels. Although affluence, conflict and other human created factors are multiplying the impact of population, there are structural factors that make the large and growing human population more important than it might otherwise be.  The total size of the human population, its density of settlement in cities and the constant interchange of microbes due to travel and trade are all powerful factors increasing the likelihood of new and old diseases creating pandemics on an unprecedented scale.

•  Financial Instability
The accelerating growth and concentration of debt and financial assets especially in the housing and derivatives markets is destabilizing the global economy. The virtual impossibility that future growth in the real economy could ever be large enough to justify those debts and assets suggests a major and enduring economic contraction in the near future. Alternatively we may see the financial crisis in the USA trigger a collapse similar to that which happened in the Soviet Union. If China, India, Russia and other growing economies survive relatively unscathed,  completely new global power and economic systems could emerge quite quickly.

•  Psychosocial limits to affluence
The psychosocial limits of affluent consumer culture suggest that multi generational mass affluence may burn itself out in a few generations, through dysfunctional behavior, addictions and depression. While the “Roaring 20s” in affluent countries gave some examples of the excesses of affluence that were swept away by the Great Depression and Second World War, the three generations of affluence since then have stimulated lifestyles and behaviors that are amplifying unsustainable resource consumption to new heights. The onset of severe psychosocial dysfunction in the long affluent western world could be as powerful a force as the financial system instability.

•  Species extinction
The accelerating rate of species extinctions suggests humans have initiated a wave of extinctions on the scale of the asteroid that is believed to be the cause of the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Apart from the ethical and psychological issues involved, it is hard to predict how, and when this will result in major adverse impacts on humanity other than to recognize that it is eroding the genetic base that we will increasingly depend on in the future, as well as increasing ecological instability that is undermining our ability to produce food.

Despite the severity of these and other associated problems I see climate change and peak oil as the most fundamental ones for the following reasons:
1. They both are inevitable consequences of the accelerating use of fossil fuels, the undeniable primary factor in creating the explosion of human numbers, cultural complexity and impacts on nature.
2. They both appear to be generating immediate and severe threats to humanity
3. They both show a long term pattern of accelerating intensity
4. They both contribute directly or indirectly to the impact of the other serious problems threatening humanity and nature.

To suggest that the next energy transition will fall well short of the past patterns of human collective expectations is a gross understatement. My quick overview of evidence around the most critical issues suggests we need to refocus our assumptions about the future around energy descent while developing the psycho-social and eco-technical capacity to respond to the range of possible scenarios that we could face.
While continued efforts to better understand the rate of onset of climate change and the decline in oil production is very useful, an equally important task is to understand how these factors will combine to create differing futures.

Continued in (Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Our Future, Part 3  of 4)

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Our Future, Part 1 of 4

(Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/ Our Future, Part 1-4)

The Future according to Robert Crumb” Whole Earth Review,
Winter 1988


Future Scenarios
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A.  The Energetic Foundations of Human History
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By David Holmgren, co-originator of the permaculture concept
Seethe  book: Future Scenarios: How Communities Can Adapt to Peak Oil and Climate Change [Paperback], $9.40.

The broad processes of human history can be understood using an ecological framework that recognizes primary energy sources as the strongest factors determining the general structure of human economy, politics and culture. The transition from a hunter-gatherer way of life to that of settled agriculture made possible the expansion of human numbers, denser settlement patterns and surplus resources. Those surplus resources were the foundations for what we call civilization including the development of more advanced technologies, cities, social class structures, standing armies and written language. Archaeology records a series of civilizations that rose and fell as they depleted their bioregional resource base. Archaeology records a series of civilizations that rose and fell as they depleted their bioregional resource base. Lower density simple agrarian and hunter-gatherer cultures took over the territory of collapsed civilizations and allowed the resources of forests, soils and water to regenerate. That in turn, gave rise to new cycles of growth in cultural complexity.

In the European renaissance, the medieval systems that evolved from the remnants of the Roman empire were reinfused with knowledge and culture from the Islamic and Asian civilizations and grew into competing nation states. A combination of the demands of internal growth and warfare between nations almost exhausted the carrying capacity of Europe. As this ecological crisis deepened in the 14th and 15th centuries, European exploration in search of new resources carried the “diseases of crowding” around the world. In the Americas up to 90 percent of many populations died, leaving vast resources to plunder. Starting with the repatriation of precious metals and seeds of valuable crop plants such as corn and potatoes, European nations soon moved on to building empires powered by slavery that allowed them to exploit and colonize the new lands well stocked with timber, animals and fertile soils, all rejuvenating in the wake of the collapse of indigenous populations.

As industrialization spread oil quickly surpassed coal as the most valuable energy source, and accelerated the jump in human population. European population, culture (especially capitalism) and technology grew strong enough to then tap vast stocks of novel energy that were useless to previous simpler societies. European coal fuelled the Industrial Revolution while food and other basic commodities from colonies helped solve the limits to food production in Europe. As industrialization spread in North America and later in Russia, oil quickly surpassed coal as the most valuable energy source, and accelerated the jump in human population from 1 billion in 1800 to 2 billion in 1930 and now over 6 billion in one lifetime. This massive growth in human carrying capacity has been made possible by the consumption of vast stocks of non-renewable resources (in addition to expanding demand on the renewable biological resources of the planet). Rapid rates of urbanization and migration, technology change, increasing affluence and disparity of wealth as well as unprecedented conflicts between global and regional powers have accompanied this transition.  The history of the 20th century makes more sense when interpreted primarily as the struggle for control of oil rather than the clash of ideologies.1  In emphasizing the primacy of energy resources I am not saying that the great struggles between ideologies have not been important in shaping history, especially Capitalism and Socialism. But most teaching and understanding of history under-estimates the importance of energetic, ecological and economic factors.

The fact that conflict has increased as available resources have expanded is hard to explain using conventional thinking. One way to understand this is using older moral concepts about more power leading to greater moral degradation. Another equally useful way to understand this is using ecological thinking. When resources are minimal and very diffuse, energy spent by one human group, tribe or nation to capture those resources can be greater than what is gained. As resources become more concentrated (by grain agriculture and more dramatically by tapping fossil fuels), the resources captured through diplomacy, trade and even war are often much greater than the effort expended.

The final phase in the fossil fuel saga is playing out now as the transition from oil to natural gas and lower quality oil resources accelerates, with massive new infrastructure developments around the world as well as increasing tension and active conflicts over resources. We can only hope that nations and humanity as a whole learns quickly that using resources to capture resources will yield less return and incur escalating costs and risks in a world of depleting and diffuse energy.

B.  The Next Energy Transition
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Quite early in the exploitation of fossil resources the debate began about what happens after their exhaustion, but it has remained mostly academic. The post WWII period of sustained growth, affluence and freedom from the adverse effects of war had the effect of entrenching the faith in human power and the inexorable arrow of progress that would lead to more of whatever we desired. Consideration of external limits or cultural constraints on individualistic affluence remained at the fringe. Throughout most of the 20th century, a range of energy sources (from nuclear to solar) have been proposed as providing the next “free” energy source that will replace fossil fuels.

In so called developing countries, the power of the dominant globalist culture both as a model to emulate and a mode of exploitation to resist, preoccupied most thinkers, leaders and activists. The key issue was how to get a share of the cake, not the limits to the size of the cake.

But the super accelerated growth in energy per person of the post WWII era came to an end with the energy crisis of 1973, when OPEC countries moved to exert their power through oil supply and price. The publication of the seminal Limits To Growth report in 1972 had defined the problem and the consequences by modeling how a range of limits would constrain industrial society in the early 21st century. After the second oil shock in 1979 the debate about the next energy transition intensified, but by 1983 a series of factors pushed energy supply off the agenda. Economic contraction not seen since the Depression of the 1930’s had reduced demand and consequently prices for energy and natural resources. In affluent countries conversion from oil to gas and nuclear for electricity generation reduced demand for oil. Energy efficiency gains in vehicles and industry further reduced demand. Most importantly, the new super giant oil fields in the North Sea and Alaska reduced Western dependence on OPEC and depressed the price of oil. All other primary commodity prices followed the downward trend set by oil because cheap energy could be used to substitute for other needed commodities.

The economies of the affluent countries were further boosted by two important changes. The shift from Keynesian to Friedmanite free market economic policies reduced regulatory impediments to business and enlisted public wealth for new private profits. At the same time, the Third World debt crisis in developing countries triggered by collapsing commodity prices didn’t slow the flow of interest repayments into the coffers of western banks. In line with the new free market ideology, Structural Adjustment Packages from the IMF and World Bank provided more loans (and debt) on the condition that developing countries slash education, health and other public services, to conserve funds for repayments.

The scientific consensus about Global Warming in the late 80’s and early 90’s renewed the focus on reducing fossil fuel use. Not to conserve resources, which were widely thought to be abundant, but to reduce carbon dioxide additions to the atmosphere. But with energy prices low due to a glut of oil, the main action was an acceleration in the shift to gas as a cheap and relatively “clean” fuel.

Half a century earlier in 1956, the startling predictions by eminent petroleum geologist M. King Hubbert that oil production in the USA, the world’s largest producer, would peak in 1970, had almost destroyed Hubbert’s career and reputation.  Ironically the controversy within the oil industry over Hubbert’s methodology and predictions was not known the authors of the Limits To Growth Report and was not part of the 1970’s public debate over limits of resources.  It was nearly a decade, at the depth of the greatest economic recession since the 1930’s, before the industry would acknowledge that the 48 lower states of the US had in fact peaked and declined despite the greatest drilling program in history.  Hubbert has also made a more approximate estimate of a global peak early in the 21st century.

In the mid 1990’s the work of independent and retire petroleum geologists who were colleagues of Hubbert reviewed his original predictions using new information and evidence, triggering the debate about peak oil that grew and spread along with the internet in the last years of the millennium.  But with the cost of oil as low as $10/barrel, the gurus of economics and oil supply quoted in the mainstream media thought that oil was on the way to becoming worthless and redundant through glut and technological advances. The delusions of cheap energy were widespread.  Ironically, many environmentalists concerned about the mounting evidence of, and inaction of governments about climate change, put their faith in the “hydrogen economy” powered by clean renewable technologies to save us from polluting the planet to death.
[Image at right: Freeway in Raileigh, North Carolina at peak hour, 2005. The classic symbol of automobile dependence in the USA where personal mobility in private automotives consumes about 60% of total oil production and imports.]

While energy and consequently food costs in affluent countries remained the lowest in human history, the evidence for energy descent rather than ascent made little impact, outside the counterculture.  Since 2004 the rising cost of energy, and now food, is focusing the attention of leaders and the masses to the questions of sustainability not seen since the energy crises of the 1970’s.

The research, activism and awareness of energy and climate issues provide a context for the growing debate about the ecological, economic and social sustainability of everything from agriculture to human settlement patterns and even fundamental human values and beliefs. There is a huge body of evidence that the next energy transition will not follow the pattern of recent centuries to more concentrated and powerful sources.

But the likelihood that this transition will be to one of less energy is such an anathema to the psycho-social foundations and power elites of modern societies that it is constantly misinterpreted, ignored, covered up or derided. Instead we see geopolitical maneuvering around energy resources, including proxy and real wars to control dwindling reserves and policy gymnastics to somehow make reducing carbon emissions, the new engine of economic growth.

 C.  Energy Futures
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There is still much debate about the basic nature of the current energy transition, driven most notably by climate change and peak oil. Most of that debate focuses on the immediate future of the next few decades, though I think it is essential to first see these changes on a larger temporal scale of centuries if not millennia. I have set the scene by characterizing the debate about the future as primarily one about whether energy available to human systems will rise or fall. These are outlined in the next section, Four Energy Futures.

D.  Four Energy Futures
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Four broad energy scenarios provide a framework for considering the wide spectrum of culturally imagined, and ecologically likely, futures over the next century or more.

I’ve labeled these:

  • Techno-explosion,
  • Techno-stability,
  • Energy Descent and
  • Collapse

 [Chart above: The Four Energy Futures]

Techno-explosion depends on new, large and concentrated energy sources that will allow the continual growth in material wealth and human power over environmental constraints, as well as population growth. This scenario is generally associated with space travel to colonize other planets.

Techno-stability depends on a seamless conversion from material growth based on depleting energy, to a steady state in consumption of resources and population (if not economic activity), all based on novel use of renewable energies and technologies that can maintain if not improve the quality of services available from current systems. While this clearly involves massive change in almost all aspects of society, the implication is that once sustainable systems are set in place, a steady state sustainable society with much less change will prevail. Photovoltaic technology directly capturing solar energy is a suitable icon or symbol of this scenario.

Energy Descent involves a reduction of economic activity, complexity and population in some way as fossil fuels are depleted. The increasing reliance on renewable resources of lower energy density will, over time, change the structure of society to reflect many of the basic design rules, if not details, of pre-industrial societies. This suggests a ruralization of settlement and economy, with less consumption of energy and resources and a progressive decline in human populations. Biological resources and their sustainable management will become progressively more important as fossil fuels and technological power declines. In many regions, forests will regain their traditional status as symbols of wealth. Thus the tree is a suitable icon of this scenario. Energy Descent (like Techno-explosion) is a scenario dominated by change, but that change might not be continuous or gradual. Instead it could be characterized by a series of steady states punctuated by crises (or mini collapses) that destroy some aspects of Industrial culture.

Collapse suggests a failure of the whole range of interlocked systems that maintain and support industrial society, as high quality fossil fuels are depleted and/or climate change radically damages the ecological support systems. This collapse would be fast and more or less continuous without the destabilizations possible in Energy Descent. It would inevitably involve a major “die-off” of human population and a loss of the knowledge and infrastructure necessary for industrial civilization, if not more severe scenarios including human extinction along with much of the planet’s biodiversity.

E.  Views of the Future
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The views of academics and commentators about the future are colored by their beliefs about the degree to which human systems are the product of our innate “brilliance” that is independent from nature’s constraints, or alternatively, beholden to biophysical deterministic forces. Those with plans and actions to shape the future (especially current power elites) tend to focus on scenarios where they see options for effective influence.

Over the last 60 years we have seen substantial achievements as well as many dreams and promises towards the Techno Explosion future that might free us from the constraints of energetic laws or at least those of a finite planet. This belief in perpetual growth has survived the scorn of mathematicians explaining how constant exponential growth even at low rates leads to explosion, literally. This belief in perpetual growth has survived the scorn of mathematicians explaining how constant exponential growth even at low rates leads to explosion, literally. The term “negative growth” used by economists to describe economic contraction shows that anything other than growth is unthinkable. The dream of infinite growth from free energy and colonizing space have not been realised7despite the novel and substantial contributions of computers and information technology towards this goal.

The unstated assumptions of “business as usual”
At a more pragmatic and immediate scale, the reasons for the faith in future growth are rarely articulated but can be summarized by a few common assumptions that seem to lie behind most public documents and discussion of the future. These do not represent specific or even recognized views of particular academics, corporate leaders or politicians but more society wide assumptions that are generally left unstated.
•  Global extraction rates of important non-renewable commodities will continue to rise.
•  There will be no peaks and declines other than through high energy substitution such as the historical transitions from wood to coal and from coal to oil.
•  Economic activity, globalization and increases in technological complexity will continue to grow.
•  The geopolitical order that established the USA as the dominant superpower may evolve and change but will not be subject to any precipitous collapse such as happened to the Soviet Union.
•  Climate change will be marginal or slow in its impacts on human systems, such that adaption will not necessitate changes in the basic organization of society.
•  Household and community economies and social capacity will continue to shrink in both their scope and importance to society.

Being more transparent about our assumptions becomes essential in times of turbulent change and historical transition. All of these assumptions are based on projections of past trends extending back over a human lifetime and drawing more broadly on patterns that can be traced to the origins of industrial civilization and capitalism in Europe hundreds of years ago. Simply exposing these assumptions makes it clear how weak the foundations are for any planned response to the issue of energy transitions. Being more transparent about our assumptions becomes essential in times of turbulent change and historical transition if our aim is to empower personal and community action.

Mainstream approaches to sustainability assume that the Techno Stability long term future is inevitable. Since the environmental awareness and energy crises of the 1970s, we have had a parallel stream of thinking and modest achievements towards the Techno Stability future that, in theory, is compatible with the limits of a finite planet. The principles and strategies of mainstream approaches to sustainability assume that the Techno Stability long term future is inevitable in some form, even if we go through some crises along the way. The focus is on how to make that transition from growth based on fossil energies to a steady state based on largely novel renewable sources.

The tricky issue of dependence of the financial systems on continuous economic growth has been largely ignored or side-stepped by the assumption that the economy maybe able to keep growing without using more and more materials and energy. The explosion of economic activity based on financial services and information technology in the dominant economies during the early 90’s gave some credibility to this concept of the “weightless economy”, although it is now clear that globalization simply shifted the consumption of resources to other countries to support this growth in the service economies.


F.  Human capital
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Much faith in both growth and steady state scenarios rests on the observation that human ingenuity, technology, markets and social capital are at least as important in shaping history as raw energy and resources. The stunning power and spread of computers and information technology into all sectors of industrial society is seen as much a product of human capital as it is of natural capital. The rise of the service economy promised continued economic growth without using more energy and materials. But these service economies and the human capital that helped create them were themselves created through the flows of energy and resources. For example, mass education, and especially mass tertiary education, is a very expensive investment in technical capacity and social capital that has been possible because of economic wealth from the extraction of cheap fossil energy and non-renewable resources.

Mass education has been possible because of the extraction of cheap fossil energy.

In pre-industrial societies it was not possible to have so many potential workers outside the productive economies of agriculture and manufacturing, or to build the educational infrastructure necessary for mass education. Human capital, in the form of mass education, the media, democracy and other characteristics of industrial culture has greatly expanded the apparent power of human rather than ecological factors in determining our future. While these new forms of wealth are clearly important, they are in reality “stores” of high quality embodied fossil energy. Like more material forms of wealth, they depreciate over time and must be used and renewed to remain useful.

Much of the technological and economic innovation since the oil shocks of the 1970’s can be attributed to society’s capacity to draw on this human capital and, by further cycles of reinvestment, further build human capital. Several factors suggest the continuous growth in human capital and capacity is an illusion.
_1.  Firstly, much of this growth is in forms that are increasingly dysfunctional. For example the increasingly sedentary lifestyle created by the computer and other innovation is requiring escalating expenditure in the health care system and in the health and fitness industry to compensate for lifestyles that are incompatible with human biology.
_2.  Secondly, much of the economic growth since the energy crises of the 1970’s has come through economical rationalist policies such as privatization. Many academics and social commentators have identified how much of the apparent economic growth has come at the cost of decline in many social indicators of well-being. We can think of this growth as being driven as much from mining (rather than maintaining) social capital as it has from mining the earth. For example, the privatization of many electricity and other utilities has resulted in the loss of detailed knowledge about the maintenance of infrastructure, while maintenance budgets have been cut to the bone.  Gains in productivity and efficiency have been achieved at the cost of resilience and long term capacity.

One of the characteristics of a robust, enduring and mature civilization is the capacity to consider the longer term, aim for desirable but achievable futures, but have fall-back strategies and insurance policies to deal with surprise and uncertainty.  Given the globalised nature of culture, knowledge and wealth, our industrial civilization should have been able to devote resources to serious redesign strategies at the technological, infrastructural, organizational, cultural and personal levels which are able to respond to the potentials of all four long term scenarios.  Instead we see remarkably short term behavior and a cavalier disregard of the fate of future generations. While this is often explained as “human nature” of fallible individuals, this explanation should not apply to institutions such as corporations let alone governments. History and systems theory suggest that powerful and long lived human institutions should embody longer term cultural wisdom and capacity.

We can interpret the short sighted nature of information and decision making in our largest organizational structures as one of the many signs of cultural decay, reflecting the fact that our stocks of human capital may be declining just as our stock of natural capital is. Applying the concept of resource depletion to that of social capital in both affluent and poor countries over the last 40 years is more than metaphorical. This depletion suggests these less material forms of wealth may be subject to the same laws of energy and entropy that govern the natural capital of the earth, air and water.

Consequently, we should be skeptical of the notion that innovation in technology and organization is a continuously expanding human resource that we can rely on to solve ever more complex challenges. This is not to say that given the right conditions humanity cannot rise to the energy transition challenge we face. However the conditions that could harness that human capacity are unlikely to include the continuation of endless economic growth, maintenance of current world power structures and the idolizing of consumption. A smooth conversion to a steady state economy running on renewable energy without massive geopolitical and economic crises is unlikely. In fact an increasing number of commentators recognize that we are already in the crisis that has been unfolding since the turn of the millennium.

G.  Collapse
For a minority of intellectuals and ordinary citizens, unimpressed by the likelihood of Techno Explosion or Techno Stability, the logical future seems to be some kind crisis leading to implosion and the collapse of civilization. The old adage “what goes up must come down” still has some truth but several factors lead to people jumping to the conclusion that the Collapse scenario is inevitable without thinking about the possibilities of Descent.

Several factors lead to people jumping to the conclusion that the Collapse scenario is inevitable without thinking about the possibilities of Descent. Firstly there is a long tradition of millennialism in Judeo-Christian culture which periodically leads to predictions of the “end of the world as we know it” based on the idea that our current world is fundamentally flawed in some way. The simplicity and mostly incorrect nature of these past predictions suggest caution when considering current predictions of doom. The fable of the “boy who cried wolf” is sometimes cited to suggest current concerns are also false alarms. But this history also has the effect of inoculating society against considering the evidence. Exposure to a small dose of millennialism leads to resistance to the effects of larger doses. Ironically, the point of the fable is that the threat of the wolf is real but that no one takes any notice because of past false alarms.

Ironically the point of the “boy who cried wolf” fable is that the threat of the wolf is real but that no one takes any notice because of past false alarms. Another factor reinforcing this tendency of some to believe in Collapse is the rapid rate of recent cultural change and the very short term perspective of modern people despite the huge increase in knowledge about the distant past.  Life in cities and suburbs, surrounded by technology and sustained by reliable income and debt is “normal” for many people in affluent counties, even though these features only emerged in the latter half of the 20th century. If future change were to sweep away this way of life, many people would see this as “the end of civilization” even if these changes were quite modest from an historical perspective. For example, a return to the conditions of the Great Depression is clearly not “the end of civilization”  but the idea that any downturn from the current peak of affluence represents  “the end of civilization”, is quite widely assumed. Perhaps this reflects the egocentric nature of modern mentality where we consider our own survival and well being as being more important than was perhaps felt by past generations. It may also be interpreted as an intuitive recognition that this peak of affluence, like peak oil, is a fundamental turning point that will break the illusion of the, more or less, continuous arrow of growth and progress into the distant future.

There is substantial evidence that current, let alone projected human populations cannot be sustained without fossil fuels. The concept of overshoot in animal carrying capacity has been used by population ecologists to model past and potential future collapses in human populations.There is substantial evidence that current, let alone projected human populations cannot be sustained without fossil fuels. Historical evidence from the Black Death and other pandemics show that societies can survive significant die-off in human numbers even if they do go through great setbacks and changes as a result. Because human systems are now global in scope and integration, the more limited regional collapse of economies and civilizations in the past is not necessarily a model of the scale, intensity and likely recovery from any global collapse. Also these societies were less complex with less specialisation of critical functions. It is possible that loss of critical numbers of engineers, technologists, medical specialists or even large scale farmers in a pandemic could cause modern industrial society to collapse very rapidly.

…but the best documented historical case, that of the Roman empire, suggests a more gradual and less complete decline process. The consideration of collapse has been strongly influenced by some ecological historians such as Catton, Diamond and Tainter. While Catton emphasizes the concept of overshoot leading to severe collapse, Diamond emphasizes the aspect of societal myopia leading to unnecessary collapse. Tainter provides a systemic view of how failure of energy capture strategies leads to decline in complexity that can play out over centuries. In turn, the conditions for ordinary people may actually improve when the resources devoted maintaining societal complexity are freed for meeting more basic needs. While all these perspectives and understanding are useful, I think the all-encompassing use of the term collapse is too broad a definition and inconsistent with our normal understanding of the term as a rapid and complete process. Historical examples of relatively complete and/or sudden civilizational collapse from the Minoans in the eastern Mediterranean to Mayans in Mexico are potential models for what could happen to global industrial civilization. The best documented historical case, that of the Roman empire and Greco-Roman civilization more broadly, suggests a more gradual and less complete decline process.

I don’t want to underplay the possibility of a total and relatively fast global collapse of complex societies that we recognize as civilization. I think this is a substantial risk but the total collapse scenario tends to lead to fatalistic acceptance or alternatively, naïve notions of individual or family survivalist preparations. Similarly, the Collapse scenario is so shocking that it reinforces the rejection by the majority of even thinking about the future, thus increasing the likelihood of very severe energy descent, if not total collapse. Perhaps a majority of people think civilizational collapse is inevitable but think or hope that it won’t happen in their lifetime. A more realistic assessment of the possibilities and adaptive responses to the Collapse long term scenario is only possible after a deep and nuanced understanding of the diverse possibilities and likelihoods of the Energy Descent long term scenario.

Continued in (Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Our Future, Part 2 of 4)

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The Escalation Ladder to War & Situational Awareness

(Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Escalation Ladder & Situational Awareness)

A.  The Escalation Ladder to War
Conflicts are an integral part of human life. They are inevitable but also dynamic in their nature.
Escalation is the phenomenon of something getting more intense step by step, for example a quarrel, or, notably, a war between nations possessing weapon s of mass destruction.

The Escalation Ladder discussed below was a version created by Herman Kahn.
Herman Kahn was a strategic theorist who was cited as being the father of scenario planning during ‘The Cold War’ (1945-1990), he was also founder of the Hudson Institute think tank.  Mr. Kahn eventually developed a 44 rung Escalation ladder with fine nuances between the escalation rungs.

The 16 rung model discussed below has ‘lower resolution’, but gives a good idea how important an international conflict has become and how rapidly it is evolving.
This knowledge could give you days, weeks or longer to finalize emergency preparations.

By tracking and timing the model, you could, for example, buy an extra $100 worth of groceries, long-term freeze-dried and dehydrated food with every increase in escalation beginning at Rung 6, then put an additional $200 into other supplies with each increase, starting at Rung 8.
In this way you’d have an extra $1,000 in long-term food storage and another $1,000-$1,200 in other equipment: tent, 22LR rifle, propane stove, propane heater and spare tanks, candles, Porta-Pottie, etc. should an All Out War occur with an enemy who has civilization busting weapons.
The book  that I took the following table from was not  referenced-credited when it was copied into my journals during the mid 1980s, my pardon to the author. Books by Herman Kahn can be found at

Awareness is a life style. You have to think about the unthinkable, keep it in the back of your mind at all times. Know your wildlife, your plants, the habits of predators (2 or 4 legged, crime laden neighborhoods, aggressive or questionable individuals or groups, spokesmen economists-popular politicians-talking head news media) and watch for changes in and from the normal. If the normal changes without obvious reason, something is wrong. Always assume that change will have a bad outcome for you. If you’re mistaken then you can feel good about being prepared and about good fortune. If you are right, you are prepared to survive.

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The Escalation Ladder

Rung Response
1. Sub crisis Disagreement
2. Crisis
3. Political, Diplomatic & Economic Gestures
4. Show of Force
5. Modest Mobilization
6. Acts of Violence
7. Limited Military Confrontation
8. Intense Crisis
9. Limited Evacuation
10. Super Ready Status
11. Controlled Local War
12. Spectacular Show of Force
13. Limited, Non Local War
14. Complete Evacuation
15. All Out War
16. Aftermath

The Progression of Events

Rung 1- Sub crisis Disagreement
Opposing sides have a disagreement in opinion, they may still be polite; however, the possibility of escalation is introduced.

Rung 2 – Crisis
a)  Vague or implicit threats are made
b)  You may expect explicit announcements or speeches.
c)  There are officially inspired newspaper stories.
d)  The press may have angry outbursts against the other side.
e)  There is speculation regarding possible military measures.
* Current issues must be solved or there will be further escalation.

Rung 3 – Political, Diplomatic & Economic Gestures
Herein occur actions which may not only hurt economically, but also politically, in as much as they can lead to popular dissatisfaction with the government.
a)  Recall your ambassador
b)  Refuse negotiations on other issues.
c)  Make overtures to the other side’s enemies.
d)  Denounce a treaty.
e)  Make a legal or economic reprisal.
f)  Start a violent publicity campaign.
g)  Increase conspicuous military maneuvers.
h)  Encourage “spontaneous” public demonstrations.

Rung 4 – Show of Force
Make it clear that violence IS NOT unthinkable. Move ships and aircraft around, mobilize the reserves, carry out provocative exercises. This step begins mobilizing one’s own resources.
a)  Indirect show of force: Increase the draft call, test fire missiles, conduct maneuvers.
b)  Direct show of force: Mass troops in a certain area, move ships to a certain area.
* As the public becomes involved, “punish the enemy” cries will be louder than before.

Rung 5 – Modest Mobilization
This phase normally begins with the cancellation of leaves and discharges in the military service. This is accompanied by any of the following measures:
a)  Public and official statements.
b)  Failure to phase out obsolete equipment.
c)  Cancellation of previous cuts in arms expenditures.
d)  A modest increase in the budget.
e)  Increased conscription.
f)  Possible preparation in rural areas to receive evacuees.

Rung 6 – Acts of Violence
Incidents are manufactured which are designed to harass, violate, discredit, frighten, confuse, harm, or weaken the enemy. For example:
a)  Enemy nationals are arrested.
b)  Embassies are stoned or raided.
c)  Bombs may be dropped by unauthorized or anonymous planes, there might be ‘over flights’.d)  Terrorism, kidnapping and assassination of important persons.
e)  Paramilitary actions.
f)  Soldiers on the border may be shot at.
g)  There is an increase in intelligence and reconnaissance.

Rung 7 – Limited Military Confrontation
As pressures continue to build, it may become necessary to demonstrate that limited war or all out war is becoming thinkable. At this stage look for:
a)  Every possible piece of equipment and unit is put into a ready status.
b)  Combat alert status.
c)  Limited war forces are deployed.
d) The consequences of a thermonuclear war are stressed to the other side, along with indications that no alternative exists unless “they” come to their senses.
* Due to the fact that SAC (Strategic Air Command) is on permanent alert, this is a range rung on the escalation ladder.

Rung 8 – Intense Crisis
By this time, decision makers are no longer offering choices to the enemy, they are announcing, “back down or we will go to war’. The main elements of this rung are ultimatums and unplanned evacuations.
a) There may be military actions involving divisions or larger forces.
b) This rung is achieved when, due to fear, 20% of the population leave a major city in the USA.

Rung 9 – Limited Evacuation
Either or both opponents may carry through a partial, official evacuation. This would meet great resistance from the population. Decision makers are not likely to be paying politics at this time and may feel they have a stronger hand if most of the population is relatively safe.
At this stage, the public has little to say.

Rung 10 – Super Ready Status
In effect, this rung offers the enemy a choice: 1) Compromise, 2) continue the current dangerous crisis or, 3) immediately escalate to “all out war”.
It involves dangerous and costly actions, i.e.,
a)  Causing a high false alarm rate in the enemies warning and alert system.
b)  There may be limited destruction and violence designed to degrade his defensive capability so he will be less able to counter attack, after he is “surprise attacked”.

Rung 11 – Controlled Local War
The military may be employed on a scale of the Korean War, but it is limited to conventional weapons. Tactical nuclear weapons may be used-less to destroy military forces, as to show the opponent that unless he backs down, more will follow. pressures associated with the “First Use” on nuclear weapons:
a)  It could lead to uncontrolled disarmament later.
b)  Many non nuclear nations may suddenly go for their own nuclear weapons stockpiles.
c)  It sets a precedent, which would make escalation into an “all out war”, more likely from a future Limited War.

Rung 12 – Spectacular Show of Force
This rung involves the actual use of major weapons, whether or not their objective is to kill. The weapon may be used to punish the enemy for a previous or immediately intended act. A nuclear device detonated over enemy territory says in effect: “Halt or I’ll shoot!”

Rung 13 – Limited, Non Local War
At this point, major weapons start to be used against “sanitary” military targets:
a)  Ships at sea,
b)  Isolated military bases
c) Expensive industrial installations, especially ones with a semi military character.

Rung 14 – Complete Evacuation
On the verge of, or actually in a war. If possible, both sides are likely to evacuate their cities, leaving only 5-10% of the population operating essential facilities.
Martial law is declared and some rights under the Constitution are suspended. The state of affairs on this rung, are expected to cause enormous political, social, economic and psychological problems.

Rung 15 – All Out War
This does not necessarily refer to the “spasm” war, where each side strikes indiscriminately against each other’s cities and military bases. There is the potential for a rational, controlled nuclear war, where military actions are accomplished by threats, promises and controlled destruction, i.e.,
a) Care may be taken to avoid civilian targets, or by using low yield weapons against SAC bases which are associated with cities.
b) Early in the war, either side could easily back down after a limited response and feel that its opponent did not get away scot-free.
c) After 10-20 hours, the war could, however, degenerate into a “city busting” phase.

Rung 16 – Aftermath
The aftermath could include increased cooperation or increased competition, it could lead to real stability or to an accelerated arms race.
De-escalation could occur from any Rung, measures often include;
a) Reversal of a previous escalation move.
b) Settling another dispute.
c) Freeing prisoners.
d) Conciliatory statements, etc.
* Decisions are made from a national or international point of view even if it means that local considerations are inadequately considered.
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B.  Global Trends 2025 – Future is nuclear war and famine – US intelligence
March 29, 2008, 1913Intel, by Matt
“The use of nuclear weapons will grow increasingly likely by 2025, US intelligence warned in a report on global trends that forecasts a tense, unstable world shadowed by war. “The world of the near future will be subject to an increased likelihood of conflict over scarce resources, including food and water, and will be haunted by the persistence of rogue states and terrorist groups with greater access to nuclear weapons,” said the report. “Widening gaps in birth rates and wealth-to-poverty ratios, and the uneven impact of climate change, could further exacerbate tensions.” Called Global Trends 2025 – a Transformed World, the 121-page report was produced by the National Intelligence Council, a body of analysts from across the US intelligence community. Officials said it was being briefed to the incoming administration of president-elect Barack Obama. A year in the making, the report does not take into account the recent global financial crisis. “In one sense, a bad sense, the pace of change that we are looking at in 2025 occurred more rapidly than we had anticipated,” said Thomas Fingar, deputy director of National Intelligence. One overarching conclusion of the report is that “the unipolar world is over, (or) certainly will be by 2025,” Mr Fingar said. But with the “rise of the rest,” managing crises and avoiding conflicts will be more difficult, particularly with an antiquated post-World War II international system. “The potential for conflict will be different then and in some ways greater than it has been for a very long time,” Mr Fingar said.”

See Nuclear Target maps for potential targets in your state, (go to the website and select your state from the list):
Once there is any use of nuclear weapons, it will be like giving permission for anyone to use them.

Table: Who has nuclear weapons and approximately how many?

Nuclear warheads
No. of war heads, 20095 Inter-contin-ental missiles Short range missiles Bombs Sub-marines/
In reserve/ awaiting disman tlement Total Now Total In 2000
China 121 55 176 400
France 60 240 300 350
India 75 0
Israel 200 0
North Korea 2 0
Pakistan 90 0
Russia 1355 576 856 2050 8150 12987 21000
UK 192 192 185
US 550 1152 500 500 6700 9552 10577










The table above is from: <;
Remember, it would only take 2- 3 appropriately spaced, near orbital altitude nuclear explosions above the USA to create the EMP for a long-term knock out essentially the entire North American power grid (most of Canada, all the USA and norther Mexico).

C.  Situational Awareness
Part of developing a survival mindset is being aware of your situation. The military developed a set of color codes which Col. Jeff Cooper (a respected firearms trainer and originator of modern pistol fighting techniques) adapted for personal “street” survival by those who carry a firearm. (If this seems familiar it is because Homeland Security adopted a version of this Color Code.) Captain Dave has adapted and modified the original to pertain to survival in the broader sense.

‘Condition White’
An individual in Condition White is totally unaware that the world is an unpredictable (at best) place and that they could be put in danger by a man-made or natural disaster with little or no warning. They suffer from the misguided belief that the government will protect them and keep them safe. When disaster strikes, they are surprised, angry that it could happen to them, and totally unprepared. Most of the populace is in Condition White until they see the hurricane warnings on TV or the evacuation siren goes off.

‘Condition Yellow’
An individual in Condition Yellow has accepted responsibility for his or her personal survival. They have admitted that the veneer of civilization can be wiped away, catapulting us back to an era where our modern conveniences don’t work. They realize that the police cannot protect them before a crime has been committed. They realize that while mankind can harness some of nature’s powers, and predict some of her behavior, but it cannot stand against her fury. They may have even done something about it, or they may be preparing to. This is the beginning stage for survivalism, and people reaching it can either proceed to Condition Orange or shrug their shoulders and slip back into Condition White.

This individual has started making preparations to protect themselves and their loved ones from potential disasters. They monitor the news for weather-related danger or potential civil unrest. By reading this far into Captain Dave’s Survival Guide, you are probably in condition Yellow.

‘Condition Orange’
You are in Condition Orange when you realize a dangerous event is on the horizon and looming closer. It could be a hurricane heading towards you, an impending snow storm or a gang of youths crossing the street on a course ready to intercept you. In condition Orange, you are preparing to survive an impending situation. This could mean filling improvised water tanks or bringing extra fire wood into the house to dry. It could be loading the car in preparation to evacuate or hanging hurricane shutters.
(Note, in some emergencies — like an earthquake or terrorist bombing — you may go straight from Condition Yellow to Condition Red or Black.)

‘Condition Red’
You are in a survival situation and the dangerous event is there NOW. This means the bullets are flying, the water is rising, the wind is howling, the electricity is out, or the snow is piling up. You’re most important priority is to ride out the moment, to survive the immediate event. This probably means taking shelter or running or, depending on the situation, fighting back. Condition Red can last only a few minutes in an earthquake or Tornado, or it can last for weeks or months in an epidemic.

‘Condition Black’
Condition Black is after the catastrophic event, but before the situation has returned to normalcy. You still are depending on your survival stash and skills to survive, but the danger is longer term, not immediate.

Here are examples of condition black that could last a few days: The earthquake that is over, but you can’t return to your home. Or the river has crested, but it will be days before you can return home and longer before you are cleaned out. Or the riots have died down, but you dare not leave your house or neighborhood. Or the snow has stopped but the electricity has not been restored, and it will be a few days before the plows dig you out. The terrorists have struck but there is a hold on all travel.

Depending on the emergency, Condition Black may last a few months or even years. For example, imagine if 25% of the world’s population has died in a terrible pandemic and our government has declared martial law. Power and other utilities are intermittent and food delivers have stopped. Or, a nuclear exchange in the Middle East has spread fallout across the globe and caused oil prices to quadruple. Or, the U.S. is at war with China over Taiwan and all commerce between the two countries has stopped.

See also the 4dtraveler posts:
(Survival Manual/1. Disaster/ Nuclear EMP)
(Survival Manual/1. Disaster/Long Term Power Outage)
(Survival Manual/2.Social Issues/Marshal Law)
(Survival Manual/2.Social Issues/Prep with Cash & Equivalents) (Survival manual/3. Food & Water/Develop a survival food list)

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ArkStorm (Atmospheric River Storm)

RainManWhen this scenario occurs, if you’re living in central California, you will be put in a survival situation. If you were not living in California, the result will be seen developing into a national economic depression.

See also the 4dtraveler posts:
•  Survival manual/1. Disaster/Hyperinflation
•  Survival manual/3. Food and Water/Developing a Survival Food List.

1.  California Superstorm Would Be Costliest US Disaster
Mar. 8, 2011, ScienceDaily
  “A hurricane-like superstorm expected to hit California once every 200 years would cause devastation to the state’s businesses unheard of even in the Great Recession, a USC economist warns.
Researchers estimate the total property damage and business interruption costs of the massive rainstorm would be nearly $1 trillion USC research professor Adam Rose calculated that the lost production of goods and services alone would be $627 billion of the total over five years. Rose, a professor with the USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development, also is the coordinator for economics at the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE) at USC.

That number would make the severe storm scenario “the costliest disaster in the history of the United States”, Rose said, “more than six times greater than the 2001 World Trade Center attacks and Hurricane Katrina, which each caused $100 billion in business interruption.” [Photograph above right: K Street, Sacramento, CA in early 1862 following an ARkStorm.}

The storm simulation U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists termed “ARkStorm — or “atmospheric river storm” — is patterned after the U.S. West Coast storms that devastated California in 1861-62. The storms lasted for 45 days, forming lakes in the Mojave Desert and the Los Angeles Basin. California was left bankrupt after the storms wiped out nearly a third of the state’s taxable land, according to the USGS. But those storms were no freak event, said USGS scientists, who called the ARkStorm model “plausible, perhaps inevitable.”

The ARkStorm areas include Orange County, Los Angeles County, San Diego and the San Francisco Bay area. The megastorm likely would require the evacuation of 1.5 million people.

According to the USGS, the ARkStorm would:
•  create hurricane-force winds of up to 125 miles per hour in some areas and flood thousands of square miles of urban and agricultural land to depths of 10 to 20 feet.
•  set off hundreds of landslides that would damage roads, highways and homes.
•  disrupt lifelines such as power, water and sewers that would take weeks or months to repair.

Rose estimated the ARkStorm would cause the state’s unemployment rate to jump six percentage points in the first year, a further blow to the California economy that currently has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation at 12.4 percent.
Rose called the severe storm scenario “much more imaginable” after Los Angeles was hit with 9.42 inches of rain in December [2010]. It was the wettest December in downtown Los Angeles in more than a century.
Climate scientists said global warming is a major factor behind the increasingly destructive power of hurricanes and other storms. The sea level is rising as oceans warm and glaciers melt, which can create higher storm surges and more disastrous flooding in coastal areas. “Climate change affects how the whole ecosystem works,” said Mark Bernstein, managing director of The USC Energy Institute.
“Storms form based on how warm the oceans are and how the jet stream changes,” Bernstein said. “The consequence is [the rain] will come in shorter and more intense bursts.”
Businesses and local governments can minimize the long-term impacts of such a disaster, Rose said, by creating emergency plans, increasing inventories of critical materials, backing up information systems, and diversifying supply chains and routes.”

_A.  The Los Angeles River Flood Study
Pasted from <>
“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Los Angeles District prepared a comprehensive flood control study in the Los Angeles River basin. The draft Flood Study of Los Angeles County and Incorporated Areas, California was analyzed and evaluated by SAAD Consultants senior staff to map the flood risk along the Los Angeles River and Rio Honda for Los Angeles County and fifteen communities. The inundation reflected the existing conditions of “no flood control project” in the Los Angeles River basin.

The levees along these two flooding sources do not provide 100-year flood protection, according to FEMA’s guidelines and specifications. Levee failure scenarios were evaluated to arrive at an approach that would be most reasonable for floodplain management purposes within these communities. SAAD evaluated and resolved appeals submitted by eleven of the affected communities, requiring close coordination with Los Angeles District and FEMA.

This flood control study resulted in a significant increase in Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) along the Los Angeles River and Rio Hondo for these sixteen communities. The increase in the SFHA was primarily attributable to decertification of levee systems along these watercourses from protecting against the 100-year flood. As a result, approximately eighty square miles of new SFHA were added, affecting approximately 400,000 local residents and 125,000 structures. The proposed control project, given the spillway releases of the upstream dams were maintained, would contain the 100-year flood (@130,000 cfs) within the river channel by constructing parapets on top of both levees (2-4 ft) and raising several bridges along the Los Angeles River.

_B. Whittier Narrows Flood Zone (below)
Pasted from <>
Created by the Army Corps of Engineers in August 1986, these maps have been scanned and stitched together in Photoshop to show the entire area in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. The Whittier Narrows Dam was built to be big enough to hold the water from four dams upstream in a disastrous situation. The Dams in the mountains were built in the 1930s the WN Dam in 1957. The WN Dam was not built to hold water like a lake.

.2.  Another ARkStorm is Inevitable
Such storms have happened in the California historic record (1861-1862), but 1861-1862 is not a freak event, not the last time the state will experience such a severe storm, and not the worst case. Associated with the Arkstorm will be:
•  Massive, State-wide Evacuations – Because the flood depths in some areas could realistically be on the order of 10-20 feet, without effective evacuation there could be substantial loss of life.
•  Economic Catastrophe – A severe California winter storm could realistically flood thousands of square miles of urban and agricultural land, result in thousands of landslides, disrupt lifelines throughout the state for days or weeks, and cost on the order of $725 billion. This figure is roughly 3 times that estimated for the ShakeOut earthquake, another planning scenario reflecting an earthquake with roughly the same annual occurrence probability as an ArkStorm-like event. The $725 billion figure comprises about $400 billion in property damage and $325 billion in business-interruption losses.
  Wide-spread Flooding – Perhaps 25 percent of buildings in the state could experience some degree of flooding in a single severe storm.

The population of the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys exceeds one million people, and because of how and where those valleys are situated, an ARkstorm similar to the one from 1861/62 would be absolutely devastating, likely displacing the majority of that population. This does not include other low lying areas of the state which would be affected. Such an event would affect not only California, but have disastrous effects across the entire nation, economically.

The USGS report also identifies various challenges faced by emergency response personnel:
There is a lack of policy and experience among state and local emergency responders and government managers in dealing with the complexity of mass evacuations, short- and long-term housing needs, and the restoration of communities statewide once the flood waters recede.
Translation: When it hits the fan, you’re on your own. Like any major natural (or man-made) disaster scenario from floods and earthquakes to hurricanes and tornadoes, expect that no one will be there to help, especially for the first 3 – 7 days. Federal, state and local response to Hurricane Katrina should be used as a guide.

See also, USGS Overview of the ARk Storm Scenario [pdf] at <;

(Survival manual/1. Disaster/Arkstorm)

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Urban survival techniques

A.  3 Stages Of SHTF
14 February 2014,, by Ken Jorgustin
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urban slideSlippery Slope
The first stage of SHTF begins with creeping normalcy and shifting baseline. This is happening now, and has accelerated rapidly. It has been happening slowly for many years… the inability of people to react to significant changes that occur gradually. People that do not make themselves aware of gradual change, suffer eventual undesirable consequences. The powers that be have always known that change needs to be gradual to be accepted; at least until such time that a critical mass of useful ‘idiots’ have accepted it, which results in a very rapid final push towards the final change or changes. We have reached that point and are moving beyond it.

The next stage of SHTF is collapse. Societies along with their life support systems suffer abrupt failures after the long term ‘slippery slope’ decline of its culture, its civil institutions or other major characteristics of it as a society, eventually and suddenly collapsing after triggering or passing a tipping point when they fall off the cliff, so to speak. There is no turning back. Factors that may combine and contribute to collapse are economic, social and cultural, overpopulation, resource depletion, or major natural or man-made disaster including war or invasion.

During collapse, and for a time, power becomes decentralized and people tend to be more self-regimented and have many more personal freedoms with a slackening of social rules, although what’s left of society as a whole is suffering chaos. Geographically speaking, communities become more isolated.

 Lock Down
The third stage of SHTF is lock down, a state of containment or a restriction of progression to prevent people or information from escaping. It is ordered by someone in command and implemented by force. Martial law or takeover imposed on an unstable population. It accompanies curfews, the suspension of civil law, and civil rights. This final stage can be the most dangerous in that it will encompass a time of either total compliance or civil war, or a mixture of both.

Preparing for, and functioning under each of the three stages of SHTF involves different methods, choices, and behavior. While we are most definitely in Stage 1, the slippery slope, many people instinctively know that we are not far from Stage 2, collapse. It may benefit you to consider each of these three stages and form a plan how to prepare and survive through each of them.


B.  The 3 things you will always need in an Urban Survival situation
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WTSHTF maybe you are prepared for an extended survival scenario away from civilization, but you have to get out of the city first (maybe). In a disaster situation that might not be so easy. If you have these three things in place you will greatly increase your chances.

1.  Get Home Bag (GHB)
Imagine for a minute that you work downtown in a large city, maybe you ride the subway or take a bus to work every day. You are in a large office building with many floors, thousands of people, and you are on the fifteen or twentieth story. If a disaster strikes how are you going to get out? I mean literally. If there is an earthquake, or a catastrophic man made event how are you going to get out of your building? How are you going to get down the street? How are you going to get home? Do you want to be one of the people covered in dust wandering around in shock? I sure don’t.

But I have my Bug out Bag you say!

Oh really, where is it? Even if it is in your car it is useless to you at this point. The parking garage is at street level and possibly blocks away. That could mean life or death in this situation and you need to act now.

Even if you could get to your Bug Out Bag, how much good would it do you in this environment? Most people’s B.O.B. is packed for survival in the wilderness. Camping gear, food, clothing, etc.

A Get Home Bag contains an entirely different set of tools and serves one purpose: To get you from wherever you are to your Home.

…How to Choose an Urban Survival Bag
Your GBH should contain things that are going to get you out of the building like a prybar. Things to help you make it through the aftermath like water and breathing masks. Things you might use to help rescue others like flashlights or radios. Things that will help you on what could be a very long walk home such as food and maybe shoes.

Clearly a GHB is not a Bug Out Bag. Sure they have some overlap, but a GBH can be much smaller, less weight conscious, have more specific tools, and be planned for one purpose. Do you have one cached in your office or place of work?

…Gear for your Get Home Bagurban GHB
Use Sunglasses to Maintain a Tactical Advantage
The Platypus Collapsible Water Bottle
Dust Mask for Toxic Dust and Debris
Window Punch: Because It’s Quieter Than a Rock
Ear Plugs could make your Urban Survival more Bearable

 2.  A Bug Out Plan
So you made it home, now what? Let’s assume that the SHTF out there. You have surveyed the situation and determined that the city is in mass chaos and you need to get out now. What do you do ? Again, you have your Bug Out Bag, but you still have to get out of the city. Do you have a Bug Out Plan?

For our purposes here let’s assume that your Bug Out Plan needs to get you from your home to your serious survival cache or Bug Out Location outside of the city. I understand that not everybody has caches hidden in various places, and even fewer people have a dedicated But Out Location. While you should probably be working on that, you still need a Bug Out Plan.

There’s no way I can go through all of the various problems you might encounter while trying to bug out of your city so you will have to plan for yourself. What I will give you are some questions to consider and one rule: Contingency. Is your way out double, triple, and quadruple backed up?
If the highways are shutdown do you have a surface street route?
If no roads are passable do you have an off road route?
If driving is out of the question do you have a planned walking or riding route? (Do you have maps of your area in your Bug Out Bag?)
Do you have a rendezvous point with other family members?

3.  A Bug In Plan
Lets back up a minute. Pretend you just got home again, but this time you surveyed the situation and decided that you are not in immediate danger but are still not at situation normal. Now what do you do? A Bug In Plan is for emergency situations where you can stay in your own home but have to rely on your own preparations to survive. This might just mean that you will be without power or water for an extended period. Maybe it means you actually can’t leave your home at all for whatever reason.

What plans do you have in place to live like this? A Bug in Plan should include food and water preparations first and foremost. What will you eat since all of the food in your refrigerator is going to be bad soon? Do you really want to live on the backpack meals out of your Bug Out Bag when you don’t have to? (Be sure to stock the Top 100 Items that will Disappear First.)

How much water do you have stored? Do you have a sewage system set up. (No water=no sewage: it’s always the little things….) Do you have unprepared neighbors to worry about? (To help or guard against?)

Starting out a survival situation in an urban environment is almost an immediate set-back compared to those bugging out from more rural areas, but with a Get Home Bag, a Bug Out Plan, and a Bug In Plan you are better off than most people.


C.  Scavenging for Survival After SHTF
12 May 2013,, by Website Administrator
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urban scavennge1

Looting, scavenging, call it what you will. When the SHTF, you might need to do a little scavenging. Scavenging after SHTF carries significant stigma, invoking your most dreaded nightmares. During man-made or natural disasters (including war), scavenging is a common occurrence.  Practicing subscribers to usCrow and other various prepper or survival websites are more prepared than others. However, even the most faithful survivalist will need to scavenge.

There are several reasons to scavenge. In the short-term you might need parts for your shelter, vehicles, equipment and etc… In the long-term you will deplete your two-year food/water/supply storage. If you don’t have a renewable food and water source as pointed out in CMF Contributor Black’s Victory Gardens article… Either way, get ready to scavenge.

This guide will attempt to explain the basic parameters for scavenging on an operational level. Instead of aimlessly wandering out to find day old tacos, you will approach scavenging with a strategic mindset. The human condition will never change. When the shit hits the fan, you damn well better know the whole of humanity will revert to the laws of nature and natural selection.

While survival groups are safely hunkered down in their various BOLs (bug out locations), looters will be hard at work clearing out the shelves. We’ve seen it time and time again. The unprepared will go into panic mode in the presence of disaster. That panic will lead to a frenzy, sending the most legitimate and ‘stand up’ people into desperation mode. That desperate frenzy will not only cause mass casualties, but it will also leave factories, grocery/department stores, farms, and etc completely bare.

Not only will looting leave stores bare, but it will turn any suburban center into a complete wasteland (if said suburban centers weren’t wiped out in the initial disaster). It takes one disrespectful asshole to ignite a plague of destruction. A present day example of looting and destruction can be seen in; any Occupy protest, post game celebrations, natural disasters and etc…

The Threat of Scavenging
Scavenging will most likely require your survival group to visit highways, population centers, government facilities, farms and other various installations. Evaluate each mission. Prior to a scavenging operation send a scout out equipped with a direct line of communication to your base of operations. Scouts should be fully versed in travelling through hostile territories, preventing a hostile force from tracking your scout back to your base. Service members who were snipers in the military are ideal for scouts. They are well-trained, well-disciplined, and an essential element of your survival group.

Scouts should survey the target area from a safe distance using standard surveillance techniques to avoid detection. Such evaluations should consider; hostile occupying force, environmental risk (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and natural conditions), variables, and operational costs. Operational costs include; distance, weather conditions, force elimination. By establishing operational costs the scout can report to the commander of the survival group outlining how much food, water, fuel, required equipment, force needed, and munitions the scavenging operation will cost. At which time the commander can make the call.

If it’s not worth it, it’s not worth it! Should your commander make the decision to carry out the operation, those assigned to carry out the task must be well versed in combat theater and tactical operations. Scavenging like all other ops must maintain command, control, communications and intelligence.  In addition, MOPP Standards should be applied for all operations.

Where to Scavenge after SHTF
Your scavenging target shouldn’t be some random location like Wal-Mart; your target should fit your need. Going to a random location with no direction would likely force your group into a shitty situation. Aimlessly moving from one location to the next is strictly prohibited. It’s prohibited because it will tire your group while exposing them to the human and natural threats in theater.

Scavenging operations should not only have a specific target, but two backup targets should be established (when applicable). The following are examples of scavenging needs versus targets;

  • Automotive Parts – Logic would dictate the last place looted would be automotive shops. I don’t see a Mad Max scenario happening because most of today’s generation can’t even change a tire. In the absence of an automotive shop you will need to scavenge from nearby abandoned vehicles. Luckily a part replacement scavenge op will most likely only need a three-man team; two assisting cover operators and a mechanical engineer. Note: in all usCrow articles we highly stress the need for a mechanic in your survival group.
  • Renewable Power – Again, this could easily be considered a low-risk op with a three-man team. Excellent locations include federal installations. Federal installations are equipped with commercial grade solar panels. Such locations include; power-substations, federal office buildings, freeway lighting and etc.
  • Fuel – Fuel can be scavenged from abandoned vehicles by siphoning the gas out of abandoned tankers (if operable take the tanker), cars/trucks, convenience store fuel holds, and etc. You will need a vehicle to transport the fuel when applicable and a four man team to acquire it.
  • Ammunition – Had you taken our advice you’d be reloading your own ammo. Even then, you could possibly run out of ammo. This means you will have to take on a high-risk op. Ammo will be a hard thing to come by and in the event of scavenging for ammo you will need a five man team. Five are required not only for adequate force but for adequate manpower. Ammo is heavy! Such targets include; military bases, law enforcement vehicles and stations, gun stores, and dead bodies.
  • Food and Water – Food and water will be extremely hard to come by when scavenging (food more so than water in most locations). Think unconventionally. For food, target wholesale distribution warehouses. You will have to establish these locations prior to disaster because they are not easily identified. In addition to distribution centers, food can be acquired from; abandoned homes, tractor trailers, grain mills, farms and etc. Read the usCrow SHTF Water Source Guide for potential water scavenging locations. See:
  • Niceties and Necessities – Niceties and necessities include various items that make survival much more tolerable. Necessities include; birth control, prophylactics, Lysol, bleach, soaps detergents, and etc. Niceties include; entertainment, board games, toys for the kids, electronics and etc. Birth control is priority. Pregnancy after SHTF will not be easy. However, if a member of your group becomes pregnant, that child is not only the mother’s responsibility, but the entire group’s. Children take priority over all. The acquisition of these items should not take precedent over the safety of the group. These items can be acquired from several locations, you just have to be smart.


D. How to Scavenge After the SHTF
30 October  2014, Urban Survival Site, by Alan
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urban scavenge2

I know what some of you are thinking: “I won’t have to scavenge because I already have everything I need.” Maybe, maybe not. Even if you’ve been prepping for years, it’s still possible you forgot a few things. But even if you didn’t, you could still end up in a situation where you need something you never thought you’d need.

What if you have to take in a pregnant woman or a parent with a small child? You may have to go looking for baby formula. What if your mother’s prescription medications are lost or destroyed? You may have to go looking for replacement meds. What if vital equipment is damaged? What if you need parts for your shelter or vehicle? These are just a few possibilities off the top of my head. There are dozens more situations we won’t think of until we’re in them.

The point is, you might have to scavenge for supplies after the SHTF. If someone’s life is on the line, you’ll have no choice. But before I explain how to scavenge after the SHTF, I want to clear up some confusion about the difference between scavenging and looting.

Scavenging is Not Looting
After hurricane Katrina, were the people running down the street with arms full of jewelry and electronics scavenging or looting? I think that’s pretty clear. Looters are not looking for things they need to stay alive; they’re just taking advantage of the situation. Looters know someone is going to miss the stolen items. They know the owner will eventually return and find out what’s missing. For these reasons, looters are no different from common thieves.

Scavengers are a different breed altogether. They search for things they need to live through a disaster, and they only take things that have been discarded or are unlikely to be missed. There could be a situation where you have to take food or medicine that will be missed, but I believe this is justified if someone needs it to live. Taking food or medicine right out of someone else’s hands is another matter.

I know of some legalists who insist that stealing is stealing no matter the circumstances, but morality is not a simple list of do’s and don’ts. Frankly, people who are squeamish about morally gray areas will not do well after the SHTF. Now on to scavenging.

Send a Scout
If you know the area you want to search, it’s a good idea to send a scout with binoculars, a radio, and a gun. Scouts should watch the area for a few hours to make sure no one is living there and that there are no bandits lying in wait. It might sound paranoid, but some people become very dangerous when there are no police to keep them in check. The last thing you want is to get robbed or possibly killed while scavenging for supplies.

The radio is so your scout can stay in touch. If the area is compromised or not worth the trouble, the group’s leader can instruct the scout to return or to check another area. If you lose contact with your scout, you’ll know something is wrong and can send reinforcements. But the reinforcements need to be careful not to wander into a trap. The purpose of the scout’s gun should be obvious.

When surveying the area, the scout needs to note any obstacles that might make the area more trouble than it’s worth. Examples include barbed wire fences, high walls, ditches, streams, and so forth. All these things might make it too difficult or dangerous to lug back supplies.

The scout should also note whether any buildings in question have been damaged by things such as bombs or and earthquake. You don’t want the stairs you’re climbing to collapse or a ceiling to fall on your head while you’re digging through rubble. You and your group will have to weigh the costs versus the benefits and the risks versus the rewards before searching an area.

Make a Plan
Once you’ve decided where to go and what to look for, you’ll have to decide who to send. Never send someone alone. He or she could twist an ankle or something and need help returning to camp. Also, there could be heavy obstacles or supplies that require at least two people to move. And remember, one person is far more likely to be robbed or killed than a group of people. Ideally you would send several people, but that depends on how many you can spare. You don’t want to leave children alone at your camp.

Everyone who goes should bring a sturdy backpack along with several empty bags (cloth, mesh, or even trash bags for light stuff), work gloves, a multitool, a good knife, a flashlight, a gun, a face mask, and goggles. Those last two are in case the location’s air is full of dust, smoke, or toxic chemicals. At least one person in the group should also have a crowbar. And if you need gasoline, don’t forget to bring a siphon and a gas can.

If you have several areas to search, you’ll have to decide the order in which to search them. It’s better to start farther out and work your way back toward camp so you don’t waste energy carrying supplies farther than necessary. But if you know the heaviest items are going to be in a particular place, you might want to go there last. If scavenging your area is going to take several days or weeks, you should get a map and mark the locations you search so you don’t accidentally visit the same place twice.

Where to Look
Pretty much everywhere! Here are some possible targets and what you may find within them.

•  Automotive Shops – You have a better chance of finding the part you need here than in a department store. It’s true now, and it will be true after the SHTF, too.
•  Cars – You’ll want to check the glove box, under the seats, and in the trunk for snacks, tools, and other useful items. Parts of the car itself might prove useful, too. The mirrors could be used for signaling, the wiring for cordage, the upholstery for bedding and insulation, the battery for power (if someone in your group is mechanically inclined), and of course the engine parts if you need them for your own vehicle.
•  Distribution Centers – Most people will hit grocery stores first, so it will be a little longer before the warehouses are picked clean. Even then, there may be a few things that were overlooked. Also check the semi-trailers. You may find non-perishable foods and other supplies.
•  Dumpsters – It won’t be fun, but you might find some hidden treasures in dumpsters.
•  Fire stations – You may find food, supplies, and clothing. Plus, the fire engine has a tank with hundreds of gallons of water. It will need to be filtered, though.
•  Gas Stations – These will probably be picked clean, but you never know.
•  Government Buildings – Most federal installations have commercial grade solar panels. You may also find backup lighting and emergency supplies.
•  Grocery Stores – These will probably be picked clean, too, but you may find food in less obvious places such as under shelves and behind displays. Also check the bathrooms, the offices, the stock room, and the loading dock.
•  Hospitals – Obviously these should have lots of clothes and medical supplies.
•  Houses – Check everywhere–rooms, garage, basement, attic, backyard, storage sheds, the garden if there is one, etc. The water heater has up to 70 gallons of drinking water. Better yet, look for houses with swimming pools. Also keep an eye out for metal mailboxes which can be converted into woodstoves.
•  Manufacturing Facilities – They may have fuel, batteries, tools, and first aid supplies.
•  Marinas – Check abandoned boats. They usually have supplies like emergency rations, communication equipment, fishing equipment, and possibly guns.
•  Office Buildings – Check break rooms for vending machines and check desks for snacks and small tools. There should be fire extinguishers in most rooms and cleaning supplies in the janitor’s closet.
•  Pawn Shops If you’re lucky you’ll find weapons, ammo, and other miscellaneous gear.
•  Pet StoresIf your pets are still okay, a pet store might make it possible for you to keep feeding them without giving up any of your own food. You could also eat it yourself, but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you’re really desperate. There are no FDA regulations on pet food and it could make you sick if you eat too much.
•  Restaurants – These will probably be empty, but check anyway. There may be a few cans or bags of food that were overlooked. Anything that was in the freezer will have gone bad, though.
•  Retail Stores – See “Grocery Stores” above. Consider grabbing some non-electric entertainment such as books, cards, board games, sports equipment, etc. •  Schools – There’s a lot to be found in schools–tools, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, cleaning supplies, and possibly food in the cafeteria.
•  Self-storage Facilities – If you have time to pry open all of them, it might be worth it. You probably won’t find any food or perishable items, but there ‘s a chance you’ll find some clothes or useful gear and equipment.

Hopefully you’ll never have to go digging through any of these places, but you should prepare for the possibility. Good luck!

(Survival Manual/ Prepper articles/ Urban survival techniques)

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Elderly & Disabled Prepper needs

A.  Taking Care of the Elderly for Preppers
25 July 2014, Preparedness Advice Blog, by admin
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 elder handRecently, my life was thrown into disarray by the loss of my mother and now we have to take care of my father.  With all of this going on, we have learned quite a bit of what is required to take care of the elderly and now we are going to try to pass some of this knowledge on to you.

My mother was 92 and lived a good life.  She was able to die at home with the help of friends and family.  My father still lives in the same home, again with the help of friends and family.

Congestive heart failure and old age was the cause on my mother’s death, although she also suffered some affects from a stroke she had 15 years ago.  There is a whole list of things that you should stock to help keep someone as comfortable as possible during their last days.

    • Commodes
    • Adult diapers
    • Walkers and possibly a wheelchair
    • Canes
    • Any special medications or medical apparatus.
    • If they need oxygen and you have a concentrator, can you power it?
    • You need to keep a list of medical conditions, prescriptions and other important information.
    • Extra sheets and blankets
    • Pads and medications for bedsores.
    • Pain killers, at least over the counter
    • We used the Cleanlife Shampoo and body wash that requires no rinsing. See a post on these products No Rinse Shampoo and Body Washes  See at:

FEMA estimated that the majority of those over 70 years of age and those who are functionally disabled or medically dependent will die within the first thirty-days of a full-scale national disaster.
To help make their last days more comfortable, talk to them, spent time with them, if they are coherent get them to talk about their past.

As you can see from the FEMA studies most of you who are taking care of functionally disabled or medically dependent will be faced with the death of a loved one shortly after a major national disaster.  The above items will help you keep your patient comfortable during their last days.
After they pass, you will have to clean and dress the body for burial.  In our case my wife and one of our granddaughters prepared my mother’s body for burial.  Treat the body with respect, but be prepared to dispose of the body rapidly, depending on the weather the body can start to decompose rapidly.  A body bag or sheet plastic may be a useful item to have.

I know that this is a gruesome subject, but it is something that we will all have to face at some point in our lives.  In our case, our faith in a living God helps.  But you each have to find your own way to deal with this; it is not a subject from which you can hide  We will write more later on caring for bedsores and how to handle hygiene problems.
The time that you spend taking care of the elderly will have great meaning to you after they pass, you will know you have done the best.


B. Emergency Preparedness for Your Elders – How to Take Care of Grandma in a Crisis
11 March 2013, Mom With A Prep, by Jane Baldwin
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elder natureBeing the primary caretaker of an elderly or disabled family member is hard. Even if they are living on their own,  living in assisted facilities, living with in-home nursing and care staffs, living in a long-term care facility or you have huge extended family that all help out, the responsibility of being the primary caretaker for Grandma is  an awesome and somber responsibility, especially in light of preparedness.

What I’ll be discussing are our senior members whose health has affected their mobility or mental acuity, not healthy, active senior who could probably kick MY butt on any given day!

Here are some tips for preparing for your elders:

In home

  • Emergency Bag – make sure Grandma has a bug out bag/72 hour kit and supplies specifically for her (do you need special dietary supplements, medical needs, incontinence supplies, glasses, hearing aids and batteries, monitors, oxygen, extra walker or cane, etc.) Mostly likely, you or another family member will be carrying it if you have to leave, but you should have it stored in your home, nonetheless.
  • Comfort items – make sure, in your checklist, you allow for grabbing Grandma’s favorite sweater or family photo. You’d be surprised at how quickly her mental status can fall when they become scared and overwhelmed. A comfort item can give her a focus and something that makes her feel somewhat safe.
  • Safe Passage – make sure that whatever exit strategy you have for Grandma gives you and she a safe passage without crawling over, through or around things, especially if mobility or sight is an issue for her. Try to make her exit the easiest exit possible for your situation.
  • Emergency exit – If Grandma is completely immobile, make sure your plans include a quick way to get her out of the house – whether it’s to knock out a window/sliding glass door to get a bed out, extra sling to help carry her to safety with other family members or neighbors
  • Consider a bug-in plan that allows for safety of your family and support for Grandma.
  • Backup generator for Grandma if she needs to sustain medical equipment. Talk to your doctor, local fire department and elderly care facilities to find out best ways to ensure long-term power outage situations.
  • First Aid/CPR – know that in this situation, unlike others, the mere situation may cause need for first aid because Grandma is already in some physical distress and an emergent need because of her health. Having first aid knowledge is a huge bonus in these situations (as in all, but this is a unique situation), to be able to assess and quickly treat those issues that arise.
  • Have an updated list of medications handy in case you have to call for replacement meds. Your pharmacy will likely have a record if you still have power, and will have to contact Grandma’s doctor for confirmation on replacement, but there may be quite a few they can release for a short-term emergency until a doctor can be reached. Otherwise, keep a list handy to give to any interim doctor you may have to use.In  care facility – this is a harder situation for families. You cannot create a complete safety net at a long-term facility for Grandma because it’s impossible. Supplies that you tuck there may disappear, staff may not be able to follow your guidelines because of state regulations, etc. Of course, if Grandma is in an Assisted Living facility, options to store supplies is much easier. But you can prepare as much as possible given Grandma’s particular situation including:
  • Make sure the facility has well thought out, recorded, and state-approved emergency response guidelines. This includes the guidelines they have for hurricanes, tornadoes, fire, evacuation, etc.
  • Have your emergency contact information on file with both the office and the nurses station as well as in Grandma’s room.
  • Have a pack at home for you to grab and go in an emergency that you can use one you’ve reached the facility to help Grandma in any way you can.
  • Have backup gear in your vehicle for things like walkers, canes, and have her emergency bag ready.
  • Keep a locked bag of luggage in her personal storage area (closet, etc.) with items that you would need if you could get to the facility in a time of crisis. This may contain extra eyeglasses, equipment, and things that you know are needed for backup. It could be her get out bag, or if leaving without the aid of facility personal is impossible, it can be your bug-in bag until a plan can be implemented.
  • Make sure to have all-season clothing and shoes available at all times of the year for Grandma to wear in case evacuation is necessary.
  • Have a meet up plan with the facility in case evacuation does happen and you know where they plan on taking Grandma. They may transfer her, temporarily, to another facility and you don’t want to lose contact on where she has been taken.
  • Have a 72 hour kit/bug out bag available for Grandma, even if you store it at home. If you can get to the facility and bug-in with her for a short-term emergency, you have the supplies you need for both of you.
  • Be sure to have an updated medical record available (medications she is taking, treatment plans, etc.) available so that any interim medical staff will know how to treat her. If you have a chance to get to her before an evacuation, it would be a good idea to keep a copy with her in case you are separated.
    Know that Grandma will probably be scared and confused. Do the best you can to help calm and reassure her. Be realistic about the situation and what will be feasible for you to accomplish, and what won’t so you can make the safest decisions you can make to keep you, your family and Grandma as safe as possible.
    YouTubeI want to thank The Patriot Nurse for making this video to talk about this very issue.
    Patriot Nurse video:


C.  Disaster Preparedness for Seniors and the Elderly
10 Aug 2011, Backdoor Survival, by Gaye
Pasted from:

This week I would like to explore some of the special preparedness needs of the senior and elderly members of our families and communities.  At first blush, you may be saying, “Yes, I understand that there are elderly people but how would their needs be any different than mine?”.elder cameo

That is a great question and certainly one that I have asked myself.  But consider this:  the elderly are less mobile and far less likely to be able to evacuate on their own.  Their eating habits may be more finicky and, for health reasons, restricted.  The need for life-sustaining prescription medications and medical devices increases with age, and perhaps most difficult of all, the a sense of fear may result in profound depression as the familiar and comforting world around them has changed.

For those embarking upon the family preparedness lifestyle, it is important to consider the special needs of elderly adults and to help educate and assist them now, before they experience a true SHTF situation caused by natural, man made or economic disasters.

The checklist below is designed to be shared one on one with members of our older adult population (our moms and dads, grandparents, and neighbors).  Review this list and use it as a guideline for initiating a discussion with these important members of our community.

1.  Prepare Now for a Sudden Emergency In the event of a disaster, local and rescue workers will do their best to arrive quickly but there may be physical or other impediments to a swift recovery effort.  The key is to prepare now for a sudden emergency.  Here are some things you can do: 

  • Assemble a disaster kit that includes food, water, first aid items, a flashlight, batteries and some cash.
  • Arrange to have someone check on you on a periodic basis.
  • Plan and practice the best escape routes from your home.
  • Get to know the types of emergencies most likely to occur in your geographical area and find a safe place to shelter in your home if disaster strikes.
  • Create window signs that you can use to signal the need for assistance.
  • Post emergency phone numbers close to your phone.  Do not rely on your memory.  If you require special equipment (medical devices, oxygen, wheel chairs), keep a list and the location of operating instructions handy so that rescue workers can find them.
  • Be prepared to defend yourself.  Get some pepper spray or even some aerosol hair spray to squirt at an intruder who is trying to loot or otherwise steal your stuff.

2. Take Care of Your Medical Needs
      •  Assemble some spare medical supplies in an easy-to-carry, transportable container such as a backpack, shoulder bag, or duffle bag.  Include a 7 to 14 days supply of prescription medicines and be sure to include written instructions regarding the dosage, and a list of allergies, if any.
•  Pack up an extra pair of glasses (even if they are old) and hearing aid batteries
•  Label your stuff.  This includes your bags or other containers, walkers, canes, wheelchairs or anything else that you are likely to need.
•  Make a copies of your medical insurance and Medicare cards and include them with your medical supplies along with a listing of your doctors.  Also include a list of the style and serial number of medical devices such as pacemakers.  Share copies of these documents with a trusted family member or friend.

3. Prepare for a Possible Evacuation
•  Learn how to shut off water, gas and electricity.
•  If you can, take your pets with you.  But, also keep in mind that pets may not allowed in shelters.  Ask!  If not, you will need to allow for sufficient food and water for an extended period.  Put a sign in the window indicating that there are pets inside.
• Leave a note taped to the refrigerator or elsewhere indicating when you left and where you are going.

4. Assess Your Physical Limitations and Coordinate a Plan for Assistance in Advance

  • Contact a friendly neighbor in advance and make them aware that you have limitations that will preclude your evacuation in an emergency.  Ask for their assistance in helping you or in contacting family members.
  • In the event of an evacuation, wear warm clothing (even if it is hot outside) and sturdy shoes.  You can always peel away the extra clothing later if you are too warm.
  • Make sure that someone you know has an extra key to your home and knowledge of where you keep your emergency supplies.
  • If you don’t already have one, get a cell phone.  In most recent disasters, cell phone service was active long before land lines became functional.

What else can you do?
In addition to having a discussion with the older adults in you life, I would like to suggest that you help them gather supplies and educate them regarding the proper storage of extra food and water.  You know what I am talking about:  keep your supplies sealed and keep them cool.

You also might want to consider putting a Bug Out Bag together to give to them as gift, or to take them shopping to purchase the necessary supplies.

Perhaps most important of all, you can start to educate the elderly so that when and if the time comes, they are less fearful and less inclined to panic or worst case, shut down completely.  I highly recommend that you download this free  booklet, Red Cross Disaster Preparedness for Seniors By Seniors which was written a group of older adults who experienced a two-week power outage during a ice storm.  It is excellent.

 D.  Preparedness Tips for People with Mobility Challenges
28 February 2013, Backdoor Survival, by Gaye
Pasted from:

elder cartIf you have ever had an injury that limited your mobility, you will understand why knowing how to deal with mobility challenges following a disaster are important.  A sprained ankle, a broken leg, a fractured arm – all of these can severely restrict your ability of evacuate or bug out following a disaster.

Now put yourself in the shoes of an individual with a permanent disability – someone who requires a walker, a wheelchair or a scooter to move around.  Clearly, an evacuation will be slow and ordinary objects such as furniture, stairs, curbs, and doorways become obstacles or even barriers to escape.  Add to this the challenge of moving about during chaos and panic and you can understand why planning in advance for survival tactics is important.

Today I am going to share some preparedness tips for people with mobility challenges.  But please take note.  These tips are for everyone because when and if the time comes, it may be you with the challenge and not your neighbor, your spouse or your friend.  Having an awareness of the obstacles that a person with mobility issues faces will make you a better prepper.

Regardless of any physical challenges, the basics of prepping still apply.  Accumulate food, water, first aid, self defense and the other items to get by under dire conditions.  Have the gear you will need to stay warm and the means to cook your food when the grid is down.  Practice your homesteading skills and develop a community of like minded people to watch your back as you will watch theirs.

These are the things you will do because these are the things that all preppers do.  And for now, that is all that I will say about that.

Store Your Stuff
Store emergency supplies in a pack or backpack that can be attached to crutches, a walker, a wheelchair, or a scooter.
Store the needed mobility aids (canes, crutches, walkers, wheelchairs) close by in a consistent, convenient and secured location. Keep extra aids in several locations, if possible.
Keep specialized items ready, including extra wheelchair batteries, oxygen, catheters, medication, prescriptions, food for service animals, and any other items you might need.

2. Put Together a Specialized Emergency Supply Kit
Keep a pair of heavy gloves in your supply kit to use while wheeling or making way over glass or debris.

If you use a motorized wheelchair or scooter, consider having an extra battery available. A car battery can be substituted for a wheelchair battery, but this type of battery will not last as long as a wheelchair’s deep-cycle battery. Check with your wheelchair or scooter vendor to see if you will be able to charge batteries by either connecting jumper cables to a vehicle battery or by connecting batteries to a specific type of converter that plugs into your vehicle’s cigarette lighter in the event of loss of electricity.  And if so, get some of these cables to keep in your emergency pack.

If your chair does not have puncture-proof tires, keep a patch kit or can of “seal-in-air product” to repair flat tires, or keep an extra supply of inner tubes.
If possible, store a lightweight manual wheelchair.

3. Know your surroundings
Arrange and secure furniture and other items in a manner that will provide a clear path of travel and barrier free passages.
If you spend time above the first floor of a building with an elevator, plan and practice using alternative methods of evacuation.

If you cannot use stairs, determine in advance which carrying techniques that will work for you. Understand that there will be instances where wheelchair users will have to leave their chairs behind in order to safely evacuate a structure.

Sometimes transporting someone down stairs is not a practical solution unless there are at least two or more strong people to control the chair. Therefore, it is very important to articulate the safest mode of transport if you will need to be carried.   As an example, for some, the traditional “fire fighter’s carry” may be hazardous due to respiratory weakness.

Plan at least two evacuation routes; you never know when your primary means to exit will be blocked or inaccessible.

Communication Skills are Important

4. Communication Skills are Important
Practice giving clear, concise instructions regarding how to move you. Take charge and quickly explain to people how best to assist you. 
Determine in advance how much detail will be needed and drill your “speech” with a trusted friend that will give you some feedback.

You know your abilities and limitations and the best way that someone can assist you or ways in which you can assist them. Again, practice giving these instructions clearly and quickly, not in four paragraphs but a few quick phrases, using the least amount of words possible.

5. Community
Create a network of neighbors, relatives, friends, and coworkers to aid you in an emergency. Discuss your needs and make sure everyone knows how to operate your equipment.
Discuss your needs with your employer.
If you live in an apartment building, ask the management to mark accessible exits clearly and to make arrangements to help you leave the building during a disaster.  The more people who know where you are and the need for assistance the better.

Other Important Itemselder w-chair
•  Be sure to make provisions for medications that require refrigeration.
•  Keep a list of the type and model numbers of the medical devices you require.
•  Wear medical alert tags or bracelets to identify any disabilities that may not be visually obvious to a stranger.
• Just like any other survival skill, it is important to practice your emergency plan through regular drills.  Imagine the worst and practice for that.

The Mobility Challenged are Not Helpless
Let me be clear on one very important point. While mobility challenges are real, the mobility challenged are not helpless.  If they are preppers, they garden, tend farm animals, preserve food, practice self-defense, teach, sew, entertain, and embrace self-sufficiency with gusto.

Whereas in an emergency, the mobility challenged may need some extra assistance, at the end of the day it is the grey matter between their ears that counts.  The ability to think, reason, and take appropriate action is a key component to being a prepper.  Do not lose sight of that when working with your mobility challenged neighbor and comrade as you pursue your preparedness journey.

(Survival manual/Prepper articles/Elderly & Disabled Prepper needs)

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Survive the Collapse

A.  How to Survive the Collapse of Civilization
Nov 2012,, by James Roberts
Excerpt pasted from:


“…Priorities considerations in the event of total social breakdown (the order here doesn’t matter, as it could conceivably change greatly depending on the situation)

 Find food and water – If you are someone that believes the world is on the doorstep of Armageddon or could be in for some tough years ahead, you may want to plan for this one in advance. If everything breaks down, one of the first things you’ll need is an immediate supply of food and water.

Best case scenario: you thought about this before the problem and have emergency supplies on hand at your home and / or office. This will help you get through that first week or two.

If not, this could conceivably become the first order of business. Sustain yourself for long enough to come up with a plan. By the way, in speaking of a long term plan…

Find a group ( if there is one available to you )- Under circumstances where complete social chaos is reigning, you might not want to be by yourself. First, there’s physical safety in numbers (on Jericho there have been several situations where outsiders have come to the town intent on doing folks harm; on Lost, of course, there’s the Others).

Regardless, a group will help you protect your family and yourself when and if further danger arises.

Beyond that, group membership will help to meet your need to belong later. That’s right, like the world famous psychologist Abraham Maslow has indicated, all human beings need to feel as if they belong and are safe.

Regardless, look to those you can trust: people within your own neighborhood, for example. Further, if the availability is there – as in the case of Jericho, Kansas – look to your town.

Pick a leader – Football teams need a head coach and some assistants. Without this, any player or coach will tell you that chaos would reign. Every form of government also has a set of leaders. Don’t believe – even for a second – that you can survive chaos without installing some kind of power structure. Everything that is civilization tells us different. Further, by implementing a power structure of sorts, you’ll have in essence brought some order to the chaos, even if only within your own group.

Therefore, small groups would be wise to elect a leader early on (this will be easier within groups that truly know one another). Further, plans regarding the future power structure should be made at this time ( will there be voting?). Such discussions might serve to quell the jealousy of those who are not elected to lead.

Bigger groups could go the democratic route and have mini parliament of sorts, if they chose. Or perhaps an elected official might serve the purpose (like a town mayor).

Protect yourself from the elements with a shelter – Do you still have a house? If so, great! If not, look for natural shelters (like the caves in Lost). Or if no manmade or natural shelters are available, consider building some (like the contestants always do on the hit CBS show Survivor).

By the way, do this quickly. Further, if total social breakdown occurs in an area where the elements are a big problem, this may need to be your first order of business.

Heating and cooling – Is the electricity working (not in Jericho, Kansas, it isn’t)? Are there any heat sources available? If not, we’re talking fire. Which of course requires something to burn.

It would be smart to have a plan for dealing with this.

Can you defend yourself?

Are you in danger? – In other words, are people walking down your road with guns intent on stealing or otherwise doing harm to you? Obviously, if this is the case, then defending yourself becomes first priority.

Perhaps it’s an opposing military; perhaps it’s our own citizens trying to better their own situation. Regardless, here are some ideas to consider.

Fortify your area – There are all types of things you could try. You could line cars, busses, or trucks around you for protection. You could try to build a wall if time permits. You could even attempt to build a fort of sorts. Here’s the problem with all of those ideas.

They let people know where you are.

Thus, the best course of action would likely depend on the situation. If you’re a relatively large group that has weapons and capability, doing some fortification work may not be a bad idea. However, if you’re a small group that wants to remain nameless, the last thing you may want to do is line a bunch of trucks around four houses, particularly if there are groups out there to fear. After all, fortification strategies like that tend to scream, here we are!

In such situations, search for natural barriers to live near (lakes, mountains). These won’t bring any obvious unwanted notoriety. However, keep in mind that if you live near fresh water, expect others to eventually come calling (food and water would, of course, be of paramount important to survivors of social breakdown).

Collect weapons – This is an obvious one. Just remember that if someone wants to be a part of your group, their weapons are too. It can’t just be a band of individuals.

Remember the power structure – When it comes to military maneuvers, a power structure is absolutely of paramount importance. In fact, when you’re electing or deciding on a group leader, their ability to lead you in a military sense should be high on the list.

This leader, if they’re worth a grain of salt, will devise a guard schedule. If there is any truly conceivable danger at all, a watch should always be put into place along with a way for the guard to contact others without alerting attention to him or herself.

Finally, think long term when it comes to food – How are you going to sustain yourselves in the long term? If there is true social chaos that could go on indefinitely, this needs to be considered in great detail. Some things to think about are:
a) Rationing the food you have.
b) Freezing food that might go bad (if you have the means). If not, then eat that first.
c) Farming possibilities (present and future).
d) Cattle availability.
e) Winter rations.

In sum, total social breakdown has never happened in the United States. During periods of specific social unrest, this country has always been able to recover. Regardless, there could be any number of situations that could change America’s luck.

Terrorists, a nuclear war, the consequences of global warming, etc.

Further, total social breakdown can occur in other ways (think Lost). So are you ready? Would you know what to do? Here’s what’s certain.

This article is only meant to get you thinking in the right direction. If the real thing were to ever hit, survivors would have to do a lot of thinking on their feet. Of course, if you thought some of this through before the event, that might save some time and effort…

That’s for you to decide. “


 B.  Long-Term Security, Perimeter Defense and Lethal Tactics
5 October 2012,, by Max Velocity

This article first appeared at Ready Nutrition as part of the 52 Weeks to Preparedness Series and is written by Max Velocity of Max Velocity Tactical.

Max Velocity has been kind enough to dedicate his time and professional insights to our preparedness community. He has an extensive military background, having served in both the British and the U.S. armies and also as a high threat security contractor. He has served on six military operational deployments, including to Afghanistan immediately post-9/11, and additionally he spent five years serving as a security contractor in both Iraq and Afghanistan. During his career in the British Army he served with British SOF (The Parachute Regiment), to include a role training and selecting recruits for the Regiment. More recently, he has served in a Combat Medic and Civil Affairs role in the US Army Reserves. He is the author of two books: Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival and Rapid Fire! Tactics for High Threat, Protection and Combat Operations. With his vast military background and real world experience, Max provides the kind of information that every prepper needs to learn, understand and integrate into their long-term security and home defense plans.

defenseIn this article for the final week of ‘52 Weeks for Preparedness’ I will discuss long term security and defense of your retreat location. We cannot predict now exactly what conditions will look like after a collapse and as such I urge you not to make too many assumptions based on your particular idea of what such a post-SHTF situation will look like. The purpose will be to give you the general principles and techniques of defending a location, which you can tailor and apply as necessary and appropriate. It is best to adopt a mindset of flexibility and gather mental and physical knowledge and ‘tools’ in order to be able to develop your response and put some of these measures in place as you find them necessary and appropriate. For the article I will assume a broad post-SHTF situation of societal collapse with a general absence of law and order.

What is the threat? As a prepper hunkered down at your home, with food stores, the most likely threat will be from looters and marauders. These could take many forms from a simple beggar, through starving neighbors, mobs, tricks and deceptions, to a tactically organized group with weapons and equipment. The worst case is some sort of organized paramilitary style force with heavy equipment bent on forced redistribution. Therefore, remain flexible and have an emergency rally point and extraction route should you be overmatched. Know when you have no alternative but to bug out. You can make this decision if you have the information before the threat arrives and conduct the bug out in good order. Alternatively, you may be forced to make the decision as the attack progresses and have to ‘break contact’ and withdraw under enemy fire; this is one of the most difficult tactical maneuvers. Work on your leadership, decision making and decision points so that your response under the pressure of both time and enemy is optimal. Tied in with this is the need for clear rules of engagement and for the use of force appropriate to the threat.

This short article is mainly concerned with defense of a single location and as such will not go into techniques such as mobile and area defense, which could be useful for a larger community. Remember, the best form of defense is to avoid the fight. But that may not be possible and you have to always plan and prepare for that fight. You can better avoid the fight by adopting a lower profile at your location, attempting to conceal your supplies and capabilities. The opposite of this is to have a high profile and try to use threat of force as a deterrent. But remember that a good rifleman could sit out at long range and simply shoot your defenders in their sentry positions. In my opinion, the best approach for a small survivor group is to adopt a lower profile while maintaining the capability to defeat threats as they are encountered. The following are some principles of defense that you should consider and apply to your location and plan:

  • All Round Defense, in order to anticipate a threat from any direction.
  • Depth, in order to prevent penetration of your defended position.
  • Mutually Supporting Sectors of Fire, in order to increase the strength and flexibility of a defense.
  • Concealment and Deception, in order to deny the adversary the advantages of understanding.
  • Maintenance of a Reserve.
  • Offensive Action (where appropriate), in order to seize or regain the initiative.
  • Administration, to include:
    • Appropriate numbers of trained personnel.
    • Appropriate weapons, ammunition and equipment.
    • A watch system for early warning.

Most modern family homes do not lend themselves to defense. The structure is vulnerable to high velocity rounds which will pass through multiple frame, wood and plasterboard walls, and also simple mechanical breaches are possible with tools and even vehicles used as rams. They are also very vulnerable to fire. If you try and defend your house from the windows, then you will not be protected by the walls framing those windows and the room can be filled full of high velocity rounds by an attacking group. There is a real danger of being suppressed by superior firepower. If you stay back from the windows as you should, then you limit your fields of fire and unless there are enough of you defending then the enemy will be able to take advantage of blind spots to close with and then breach the house. You need a basement or other ballistic protected safe room for your noncombatant personnel (kids etc.) to shelter in; otherwise they will not be protected from the violence and from the high velocity rounds ripping through the walls.

One of the key things for a prepper defense of a location is to have an appropriate number of trained personnel with appropriate firearms, ammunition and equipment. You will also have to take measures to harden the building to slow down attempts to breach. You need to consider whether or not you want your property to look derelict; this could be good or bad in the circumstances. It would be worthwhile to consider boarding up or shuttering at least the ground floor windows and think about putting up door bars or even board up some of the doors. This will also help with light discipline. External boards can make the place look derelict, but looking derelict could also encourage approach by potential squatters. You could put up the boards internally, or something similar, in order to maintain a low profile and slow any breaches. There a lots of pros and cons each way. When boarding up doors, ensure that you have at least two independent exits that can be used both for routine tasks but also for egress if you have to escape. Boarding up your windows and doors does not make them ballistically hardened. You could have sandbags ready to go, and you will need to consider a big pile of dirt to fill them from. Consider the benefits of simple mass of soil in protecting you from high velocity rounds, and for the construction of fighting positions. Sandbags need to be at least two deep to protect against high velocity rounds. If you try stacking enough of these on a modern upper floor, or even a ground level floor with a basement beneath, then the weight of a constructed fighting position may cause a collapse. You could stack sandbags externally around designated window fighting positions on the ground floor, but you will need a lot of them. Other alternatives would include filling a chest of drawers with soil to create firing positions, or maybe even material such as steel plate that will weigh less but will provide ballistic protection.

From the principles of defense it is clear that we need to establish a plan which provides early warning, all round defense and mutually supporting sectors of fire. We also need to create depth, which is best utilized outside the building rather than with fall back positions inside the house. We can create depth using external fighting positions to keep attackers away from the house, which will also aid mutual support. A key thing that will really help defense of a house is to have a second or more positions outside of the main building that can provide fire support, thus these positions support each other by keeping enemy away from the house and each other. This position(s) could also be another house or cooperating neighbor if it works out that way. This creates a ‘cross-fire’ so you must enforce fire discipline and allocate sectors of fire to ensure you do not cause ‘friendly fire’.

A very important concept is that of ‘stand-off’. This can be created with a combination of fighting positions in depth and cleared fields of fire with obstacles. If you have an obstacle, such as wire, it must be covered by fire to be effective. Utilize stand-off distances to keep enemy away from the property, combined with obstacles to slow vehicle and dismounted approach. Examples like wire are good for dismounted personnel and also vehicles if it is correctly laid concertina wire. Obstacles such as steel cabling, concrete bollards or planter boxes and felled trees will work well against vehicles. This will also have the effect of reducing the risk of attackers getting close to set the place on fire, which they are likely to try if they can’t get in to get your stuff. If we expand this concept we can see how a mutually supporting neighborhood with checkpoints/roadblocks and observation/fighting positions will provide a great advantage. Stand-off is also important in terms of engaging the enemy with accurate effective fire at the longest range that is physically and legally possible. If you are competent and have the equipment for long range effective suppressive fire, this can have the effect of keeping the enemy at arm’s length and reducing the accuracy and hence effectiveness of their fire, which will prevent them successfully suppressing you and subsequently maneuvering onto your position to breach or burn the property. In addition, consider the presence, placement and potential hard protection of any flammable sources on your property and close to your buildings, such as propane tanks and fuel supplies. Ensure they cannot be repeatedly fired upon by the enemy to cause a fire or explosion. The ability to generate accurate effective long range defensive fire depends on skill, equipment, positioning of fighting positions, your policy for the use of force and also the way the terrain affects weapons killing areas and ranges. To engage at long range you have to reasonably fear that the enemy presents a threat of lethal force against your defended location. However, if you are in a closer urban or wooded environment you may find some of your fields of fire are limited and you will have to plan and position accordingly.

Administration is a key factor. While you are maintaining your defense you need to look after the welfare of the team, equipment and the site itself. Administration is what preppers usually concentrate on. This is your “beans, bullets and band-aids”. This is an area where those that are non-combatants can really pull their weight and make a difference. You must maintain a watch system which will be tied in to ‘stand to’ positions and maybe some form of ‘Quick Reaction Force’ or reserve, depending on the resources and numbers available to you. Your watch system can be augmented by other early warning sensors such as dogs and mechanical or electronic systems. Day to day you will need to keep the machine running and this will be the biggest challenge as time goes on. Complacency Kills! Depending on the extent of your preparations, stores and the resources within your property, this will have a knock-on effect to your ability to remain covert and the requirement to send out foraging patrols. People will also start to get cabin fever, particularly kids, and you will need to consider how to entertain them. Consider that while mundane tasks are being completed, there is always someone on watch. People that are not on watch need to have weapons and ammunition carrying equipment close or on their person while doing other things. Consider carrying long rifles slung as well as handguns everywhere you go on the property, with at least a light bit of web gear with some additional magazines in pouches. Rifles should never be out of your arms reach if there is any kind of threat of attack. You should put rifle racks or hooks/nails on walls in key rooms, out of reach of kids, so that rifles can be grabbed quickly if the alarm is sounded.

Regarding your noncombatants or protected personnel; what you do with them depends on who they are. The younger kids will need to be protected in the safest location you have. Others will be useful to do tasks such as re-load magazines, distribute water and act as firefighting crews. Note that you need to have fire-extinguishers and buckets of water and /or sand available at hand during a defense to put out any fires. The more tasks you give people during a crisis, the more the activity will take their minds off the stress of the situation and the team will be strengthened. Ammunition replenishment, water distribution, casualty collection point, first aid, watching the rear and looking after the younger kids are all examples of tasks that can be allocated to make people a useful part of the team when personnel resources are tight.

Firearms and equipment has been covered under the home defense article. For this kind of defensive situation you will be well served by the ability to detect, observe and accurately engage enemy at the longest range possible by day and night. This is easily said, but would take throwing money at it to get all the equipment you need to best do it. In terms of firearms, I would recommend tactical type high capacity magazine rifles for the main work, backed up by handguns and pump action 12 gauge shotguns. The shotguns are good for close work and if the enemy gets in to the building, last ditch stuff. Long range hunting type rifles are good for observation (scope) and longer distance engagement. You would be best served with good optics for your weapons and also observation devices such as binoculars. Think about night vision and even thermal imaging if you can afford it. You will also have to consider that even if you can afford a night vision device, it will only work for whoever has it so how will the rest engage? What type and configuration of these night vision devices, on weapons as sights or not? Without night sights you can fire at muzzle flash or use whatever illumination is available, white light or whatever. A good option is to have parachute illumination flares. Loose barking dogs on your property are perhaps the best low budget early warning system; however consider that they may give away your position if you are trying to be totally covert. Decide on your priorities and strategy and tie that in with what money you have to spend on equipment. You can get expensive systems such as ground sensors, lights and alarms, but these cost money and you have to consider their use in a long-term grid down situation. I would prefer to spend money on optics and night observation devices which will last without grid power (but will require batteries) and can also be taken with you if you have to move locations. Here are some basic suggestions for equipment to augment such a defense:

  • Appropriate tactical firearms & ammunition
  • Web gear and magazines
  • Ear and eye protection
  • Body armor and helmets, NIJ level IIIa or Level IV
  • Barbed wire, coiled (concertina) and for low wire entanglements
  • Sandbags or other ballistic protection options
  • Night vision devices
  • Binoculars plus optical rifle sights
  • Black out curtain and pre-cut plywood for windows
  • Parachute illumination flares
  • Trip-flares
  • Trauma medical kit incl. CAT tourniquets
  • Range cards
  • Two way radios and/or field telephones
  • Multiple fire-extinguishers and/or buckets of water

If you have put a group together for such a defense, they need to be trained on not only tactical shooting and basic small unit tactics and movement, but also briefed and rehearsed on the defensive plan including fighting positions and sectors of fire. Consider that depending on your circumstances and the terrain, you may be benefited by running periodic clearance patrols around the property to mitigate against surprise attack, and to do this your team need to be able to patrol and move tactically, as well as respond to any enemy contact. You will preferably have a medic with a trauma bag. You do not want to ever run out of ammunition, so make sure you have as much as you can reasonably purchase. Like tactics, ammunition quantities are a subjective argument with many solutions. I recommend a personal load of six to eight thirty round magazines on the person, with at least as many full magazines for resupply. And once you have used that, you need another resupply! In a real life contact you will likely use less ammunition than you may during training and you must concentrate on effective accurate fire rather than simple quantity. Train your team to engage positively identified enemy, or suppress known enemy positions. A rapid rate of fire is 30 rounds per minute; a deliberate rate is 10 rounds per minute.

Practice and rehearse the command and fire control procedures at your location, including the communication of enemy locations and actions. Use range cards to tie in sectors for mutual support and to prevent ‘friendly fire’. Run ‘stand to’ drills like a fire drill by day and by night and be able to call out which direction the enemy threat comes from. Be aware of diversions and demonstrations intended to distract you from the main direction of attack. Always cover all sectors, even with just one observer looking to the flanks and rear in a manpower crisis. Keep unnecessary noise and shouting down, allowing orders and target indications to be passed around the position. Every team member is a sensor and a ‘link man’ to pass on information.

Having said all that, you are not going to open fire on just anyone coming to your location. Any actions that you take should be justifiable as self-defense. Do be mindful of tricks and the potential for snipers. However, don’t give up on morality and charity and don’t illegally open fire on anyone that comes near your defended location. You need to agree on rules of engagement for your sentries and you should apply escalation of force protocols to meet a threat with the proportionate and appropriate force necessary to stop that threat. Have the ability to warn anyone approaching, whether you have permanent warning signs or something like a bullhorn that you use as part of your escalation procedures through warning to non-lethal then lethal force as you begin to identify them as posing a threat. Remember that escalation of force is a continuum and you can bypass the early stages and go directly to lethal force if taken by surprise and faced with a lethal threat that must be stopped.

Max Velocity is an author and trainer providing tactical instruction and advice for those preparing for disaster survival and high threat, protection and combat operations. He is the author of two books on security issues: Contact! A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival and Rapid Fire! Tactics for High Threat, Protection and Combat Operations .

 (Survival manual/ Prepper articles/ Survive the Collapse)

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