Caveats- This isn’t a finished work, but I felt compelled to help my people. It was also not written directly with these riots in mind. But it will work for them too. It also likely isn’t going to unfuck all of your problems tonight. But it is going to give you some things to think about, while you try to survive till the morning light. Last, there will no doubt be revisions from this to a finished product. But we don’t have time for that shit right now. Strongly recommend you read this, read my columns on guns, and then go talk to your neighbors. No one is coming to save you. Government has shown itself impotent, and all the cards left are in your hands. If we fail, if we cede our cities to gangs of vandals and looters, our nation is over. I, for one, refuse to live on my knees, and I hope you do too. Even if it means dying on our feet.
NEW CHAPTER UP FRONT, OLDER ONES BELOW:
Savages on the warpath- dealing with rioters
One of the major problems an urban survivor can face is a riot. Riots are springing up with more and more frequency, as well as more violence and destruction as cities adopt new softer policies towards them. More so than at any other time in our history, you may find yourself very much all alone as politicians choose to stand down police. It is not without precedent already to have mob violence so widespread that all the cops are already tied up. And unfortunately for you, the city fathers probably care more about Wells Fargo than they do about your apartment.
If you took the previous advice about building a network of allies, this is going to be a lot easier to deal with. Plug in your people as outlined in this chapter where they fit. But for overall defensive strategy, we will build out the plan like you didn’t. A storm of mob violence can take you buy surprise, and maybe you haven’t had time to organize yet. As Rummy said, “You go to war with the army you’ve got.”
So lets say the Orcs are streaming out of Mordor, and you only friends are Becky and Bob that were focused on brunch until nine seconds ago. What are you going to do? Step one, is go find out who is willing to help you defend the neighborhood. You aren’t going to stop a wave of locusts alone. Go door to door, and get a crew together. Bring everyone to a central meeting spot, and figure out what you have for weapons.
Unlike a lot of what I have preached, this defensive plan is very weapons centric. If you don’t have firearms, I absolutely do not recommend a defense in the streets. Melee weapons, in this context, are absolutely no substitute. Riot cops can and do push around a much larger force, using only clubs and shields. But only because they have trained to act as a single organism, like a phalanx of old. And they are still backed up by guns, something worth noting. If as a smaller and untrained force you attempt the same, you are likely to get routed. If you have introduced weapons to the fight, and your side breaks and runs, you are very likely to die. The howling mob will tear you limb from limb, blood lust fueled by the sight of your retreat.
So guns are important. If you have none of them, you are in deep shit. In this case, I highly recommend that you and your team collapse to one house or apartment. You could also conceivably hold the entrance to your building, if construction favors the defender. In certain cases, melee weapons could actually carry the day. How?
With edged weapons, one man can in fact hold a doorway. If you are in a solid building, and have nothing but a spear or sword, you may be able to do enough damage to turn the crowd back. Ten or so of you could conceivably protect a single house, if you use the proper tactics.
We just saw in Dallas a shop owner with a sword get beat to death by a crowd. May he rest in peace, and I mean this in no way to speak ill of the dead. But he made two massive mistakes, though his heart was in the right place. First, he waded into the mob, meeting it head on. Which is how he got hit in the back of the head, knock to the ground, and stomped to death. Don’t do that, unless you happen to be a Peloponnesian War re-enactor, and are backed up by a shield wall.
The second thing he did wrong was how he employed his weapon. He swung it. A mistake that any of us could easily make. Humans are hardwired to slash and hack, as that is our most common usage of the blade. Think about how you use a knife in the kitchen, or even butchering an animal. You cut and slice, rarely if ever do you stab. But a stab or thrust is the preferred offense of spear or sword, for a number of reasons. This is why Roman Legions worked so hard to drill stabbing motions into their soldiers.
First, a stab is harder to dodge. The arc required for a swing means you have a chance to get out of the way. A straight line attack is not only faster, but harder to step out of. Not to mention, it offers very little chance of being disarmed. You can step inside of a swing, or let it pass by you and counter strike. Two feet of razor sharp steel offers almost nothing to grab in a linear attack.
Second, a stabbing attack is more lethal. Slash wounds can look horrific, but even being opened up neck to hip is something you can survive. Especially if it is shallow. Stabbing wounds that hit vital areas, not so much. Have you ever wondered why European sword technology went from broad slashing sabers to thin, pointy rapiers? Its because against un armored opponents, the rapier is actually more deadly. Something the size of you pinky finger, stabbed into your chest wall, is very likely to kill you. Three inches of penetration is usually enough to hit anything vital. It might not look like much, but it is absolutely deadly.
So while I don’t recommend holding a doorway alone as option one, it will work. If you have absolutely no other choice, it can be done. Thrusting weapons, preferably with a good reach, can get it done. Situation dependent, you may be able to get multiple stabbing implements to work, like both sides of a gate or door. Not a lot of people are willingly going to try and push through a wall of blades.
The weapon of choice? Basically any sword made for stabbing would be my preferred option. Ironically enough a Roman Gladius, or a katana would work. A spear would be my next choice, with a 3-4 foot handle. In a pinch, a sharpened shovel or broomstick is fine. If you are making things up, the ideal is a small, deep penetration. A smaller pointy end usually means lighter, better balanced, and therefore faster in movement. A boar spear is fine, but a stabby bit closer to a javelin is better.
Other than that, what can you do? Think siege tactics. If a ground force is attacking, your house or building is holding the high ground. Bricks and molotovs work better with gravity assisting you. Not to mention, it allows you to get more of your people in the fight. Mobs don’t generally bring guns either, which levels the playing field significantly. Construction once again favors the defender. Can your spearmen hold the lobby? Sure. But what would help? How about 5 floors above you with boiling oil on the stove. Anything that would have worked in the middle ages is fair game here.
Now how about if you do have some firearms? That changes the calculus significantly. With some guns and the will, you may very well be able to defend your entire block.
Once again, we must admit that just one firearm isn’t going to turn the tide. You need some help, but the odds do go up in your favor with modern weaponry. This is going to allow you to build a defense in depth, in a manner that favors your survival.
Projecting strength is a big part of how you are going to play this. Riots are basically a version of tribal warfare. Mostly it consists of a lot of noise and posturing, complete with razing easy targets. To combat this, you have to not look like an easy target.
Fortify the entry points to your selected area of defense. Cars aren’t great for actually stopping entry, but they can be used to look serious. I recommend a V shaped barrier at the front and rear of your block. This is easier to emplace and remove than a line of them, and offers better protection from ramming. The top of the V should be nearly engine block to engine block, with a three foot gap in between. The gap gives you somewhere to stand, and funnels the opposing forces into a predictable spot. If you let them, they will start jumping over the barrier. But humans tend to follow the path of least resistance, so they will generally flow the way you want to start.
Up front, you want some strength. A gun or two if you have it, though at least one needs to be back. Showing the capability to deal damage is important. With a bit of luck, this acts as deterrent enough. But don’t gamble on that alone.
The most important person in this plan isn’t at the front of the line. He is back, preferably elevated, and with a very clear view of the defensive position. This man needs to have a heart of stone. He is what is going to save you if things go south.
A designated marksman in the rear is essentially German sniper doctrine from the Great War. While other nations employed snipers primarily in the space between opposing forces, the Germans held them in the rear. This gave them a free hand to protect forward German forces. And it works the same for you.
We live in an age of cameras, and the legality of when you can open fire is extremely murky. Not to mention that for many of you, this is going to be your first time being put to the test. So it is entirely possible that you will let the mob get to close, and they will make a grab for the hardware. In such a situation, especially without training and experience, you are probably going to lose. Even getting a few rounds off isn’t going to be enough to turn the tide back.
If this happens, your rear deployed marksman absolutely must save you. If he doesn’t, all is lost. You will die. You bring a gun to the fight, and get it taken from you, I absolutely assure you they will kill you. Your friendly sniper must be capable of cleaning the locusts off you, so that you can get your tools back in the fight.
If it does turn into a firefight, you need to be over the top with violence of action. A mob could actually more than likely overpower even a trained, equipped infantry squad. IF, and only IF, it could single minded decide to do so. Fortunately, it can’t. Rioters aren’t disciplined soldiers. They are full of fight chemicals, and may rush into the breech even against stupid odds. You have to turn those into fear chemicals, as fast as you can. Break the mobs will on the anvil of superior firepower, and it will disintegrate. Hurt them bad enough, quickly enough, and they will be incapable of reforming.
A gun or two on the rooftops also helps you cover all the avenues of approach. What is to prevent the mob from just bypassing your street, and coming through backyard? Eyes in the sky. It isn’t fool proof, but it helps with economy of force.
What else? Razor wire if you can find it. Lots and lots of fire extinguishers. A riot is like a force of nature. It will eventually blow itself out. You just have to be prepared to stand fast long enough for that to happen.
Our nation seems divided today in a way that it hasn’t since the 1860’s, though they did try pretty hard in the 1960’s. We are sitting on powder keg, with half of the involved parties chain smoking, and the other half asking for a light. Things have the potential to get really ugly, really fast, and after that happens is not the time to open this book. To borrow a proverb from the Chinese, the best time to learn how to survive is 5 years ago. And the second best time is right now.
We have a unique problem in the United States, which us Veterans have lamented many times as our hands were tied by clueless bureaucratic masters. We have protected our civilian population so well since 1941, that most of them have no idea how the world actually works. That often, might does make right. That sometimes you have no good options. And most importantly, that not only do bad things happen to good people, it happens to them on an alarmingly regular basis.
We haven’t had actual dark times here since the last of the Indian Wars, which still didn’t affect anyone outside of the frontier. It has made our population soft and weak, which will have a cascading effect of systems failure at the first sign of real trouble.
As a retired Green Beret, I feel a certain moral obligation to help those that want to help themselves, which is what this book is about. Like a return on investment for your tax dollars. I don’t have all the answers, but I can at least say my opinion is tempered by real world experience both spotting unrest, and surviving it to tell the tale.
Speaking collectively for my brethren, like the Royal I, I/we have a unique insight gifted to us by the GWOT conflict. Fighting in both theaters involved shifting alliances of multiple factions, even amongst the alleged “government troops.” Not dying in your sleep was often a matter of reading the tea leaves correctly. Running our own intelligence networks for two decades has also given us an uncanny ability to smell the fire coming, long before you can see the flames. On a personal note, I have seen more than a few cities burn. Some of those times I was holding the matches, and at least one of them I had nothing to do with, but they all yielded lessons.
Aside from correctly predicting when things are about to go pear shaped, we have learned some very important things about staying alive, which I am sharing with you in this volume. The Concrete Jungle is an unforgiving environment, with its own unique problems and solutions. It is best to enter that arena as prepared as you can be. If we call this book the diamond stone, all I need you to do is be the steel.
I would also like to caveat up front that I hope I’m wrong. Nobody in this world appreciates the little things more than us Veterans. Like air conditioning, and having our garbage picked up on Tuesday, and not catching random sniper fire. For those of us that have seen the horrors of war, we don’t ever wish to see them here. But we also aren’t stupid, and we’ve already proven we don’t back down from a fight. Not ever.
So strap in and hold on to your ass, time to go for a ride.
Chapter 1- Not the Guns.
It is a uniquely American problem to think first that we can buy our way out of trouble. Every prepper forum or survival site in the country has a section devoted to hardware that is twice the size of its nearest competition. For many people, a survival plan stops and ends at mountain of guns and ammo. A few then branch out to big ticket escape vehicles and elaborately stocked provisions. The truly big baller class endlessly prattle on about bug out locations, usually a cabin/fortress in the mountains, self contained and off the grid. But I have bad news. Your Visa card isn’t going to save you. You are going to actually need to do hard stuff, not just go on a camo clad multi year Black Friday shopping spree.
Now maybe I made a classic mistake in grabbing audience attention, and this book is now a permanent resident of your bottom shelf. Maybe I should have started with how to use a CARVER matrix ( Criticality, Accessibility, Recuperability, Vulnerability, Effect and Recognizability) for blowing up bridges, or 37 recipes for dragons breath shotgun shells. Hell, maybe I’m just mad I didn’t start selling water filters in the 90’s, instead of enlisting. But if you stop and think for a second, you’re going to realize that I’m right.
I’ll give you two competing examples. First is the army of Saudi Arabia, especially the commando high speed units. They have more whiz bang toys than you or I have ever had. From the ultra Gucci uniforms, to the finest German scopes, no expense is spared. And they couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag. Example two is our own Vietnam era MACV/SOG troops. The equipment they used is laughable by modern standards, from radios to rifles. Yet they carved a path of destruction and bodies across that green hell battlefield completely out of proportion to their numbers. Even in their 80’s now, I wouldn’t want to tangle with them. I’m betting it hurts to get a walker shoved up your ass sideways, and would prefer to skip first hand experience.
If step number one isn’t a trip to the gun shop with all your money, gold coins and silverware, what is? Glad you asked. You already completed step one by recognizing trouble is brewing, which is probably why you bought this book. Even if you are only here as an apocalypse voyeur, some part of you knows, mayhem is in the forecast.
Now on to step two, which is arguably the most important thing you are going to do to ensure your survival. It runs counter to the common wisdom, for a variety of reasons. But it is what actually matters. You need to engage with your neighbors, and start building an alliance of local help.
Woah, hold the phone! You mean actually talk to real life human beings? Yes, I do. You are going to need to engage in some of that old fashioned, face to face conversation stuff we did back in the old days. For many of you, this is going to be the most difficult phase. We have all been conditioned to use our smart phones for everything, it isn’t uncommon to see people texting each other at the same table anymore. For you young people, it is entirely possible you don’t even know how to have an “ in real life” conversation. Other flavors of preppers are going to have a different issue with this, sticking the paranoia genie back in the bottle.
For reasons I can’t fathom, many in the survival movements will have an intimate conversation with internet strangers about every detail of their plan, but will clam up like a mafia courier the second it comes to real people. Which makes absolutely no sense. You have no idea who you are talking to on the internet, no matter how carefully you check. The like minded person you are talking to about “how to shoot down dem gubbmint’ black helicopters with a deer rifle” may very well be a federal agent, recording it all in a chat log. You don’t know who anyone actually is in digital land. Even if they are a famous member of “the movement”, you have no idea what their real motivation is. Alex Jones could have his own FBI badge for all you know.
Now I am not saying divulge all your secrets to the UPS guy and post up a list of your supplies in the town square. We will talk about OPSEC a little further on, but let’s just say in short, that would be an invitation to get killed and robbed. But you are going to need other people, for a variety of reasons. Lots of the prepper minded like to live a fantasy of them against the world, one extremely well armed man prevailing against all odds. That is Walter Mitty delusion at it’s finest, real life doesn’t work that way. I lay the blame for this at the feet of 80’s action movies, followed closely by the popular fiction class I call “ Navy SEAL turned Secret Service guy/Calvin Klein model saves the day, because he is smarter than the entire US Government put together.”
The problem with the lone action hero trope is that it is no way rooted in the realm of possibilities. Yes, one man can overcome incredible odds, and it does occasionally happen. Alvin York for instance. But the baddest war hero to ever walk the earth would succumb to sufficient numbers. The reason we recognize with medals and awe the occasional one guy lop sided win, is because it is so rare. Let me put an image in your mind, to illustrate the point. In a fight to the death, we have pitted Chuck Liddel in his prime, against a certain number of rabid toddlers. Closed room, so escape isn’t an option. Can Chuck prevail against one? Of course, without breaking a sweat. How about 20? Sure, the odds are still on his side. How about 10,000? Not a chance. Not only is that 300,000 pounds of rabid toddler, the sheer mass of which would crush any human. But I doubt even a professional fighter has the cardio to throw 10,000 punches or kicks in a row.
So numbers help. They aren’t all important, but at a certain tipping point they do make the difference. As Stalin was fond of saying, “Quantity has a quality all its own.” But that isn’t the only reason to need friends in the fight.
I’m a pretty well qualified soldier, and I have seen some of that fancy combat all the kids are getting into these days. But how well can even someone with my resume do all the tasks necessary for combat? Keep in mind, I did this full time for 20 years, and was paid very well to do so. And part of the weekly task on an SF team is cross training, dedicated time for the team specialist to teach other team members his job skills. After a decade and half, the Medic is still a better medic than me. The Engineer is still better at being an engineer. Just because I can slap on a tourniquet and stick in a chest tube, does not mean I can take the Medics place, at least by choice. He spent time not only at a specialized school learning medicine while I was learning to talk to satellites, but practicing his craft for years and years.
At the heart of this is another Hollywood trope, the super ninja that can do everything. James Bond speaks 9 languages, gunfights like Wyatt Earp, beats down professional fighters, and drives like Mario Andretti after a bump of coke. How long, in real terms, would it take one human being to master all those skills? There are just not enough hours in the day. You can find some humans with incredibly diverse skill sets, but they are beyond rare. And at the level you might expect from movies, they don’t exist.
Don’t feel bad. Growing up in the military, I expected CIA dudes to be Jason Bourne come to life. Turns out, not so much. In fact, they suck so bad at gunfighter skills that they outsource that to….. Army dudes. Or ex-Army dudes, same thing. Real life experience shows over and over again, none of us have the cranial capacity to be everything at once.
So you are going to need other people to help provide skills you don’t have, for a start. It isn’t the only reason, but it is a damn good one. This is so high on the list, we actually cover it in detail in another chapter, building your ODA from scratch.
While those are all good and practical, the biggest motivator for you to engage your neighbors is a bit more subversive. This involves a little bit of a tangent into story time, but it is relevant to the subject at hand.
Part of the reason I wrote this book, and you should read it, has to do directly with my background in Army Special Forces, i.e. my time as a Green Beret. On this particular subject, it pays to listen to a Green Beret over any other supposed expert in the field. Because of the primary mission of a Special Forces Group, and I specify the actual US Army Special Forces Group (Airborne). Not the broadly stated any service “ Special Force” unit, commonly known now as SOF ( Special Operations Forces.) Special Forces in colloquial terms can mean Rangers, Force Recon, Omega Force, the SAS/ SBS, SEAL Team 11.5, or whatever the Air Force calls its guys this week. In technical terms, not to take anything away from those other ninjas, the Army has units actual named Special Forces. And we wear a funny green hat, hence our unit nick name, Green Berets.
Of the 5 primary missions of Special Forces (SF), 2 are absolutely unique to us across the US Military. Those are UW ( Unconventional Warfare), and FID ( Foreign Internal Defense). UW, in layman’s terms, means how to start an insurgency and manage a guerrilla war. FID is the opposite side of the coin, it is how to assist a friendly government and keep it from being toppled by an insurgency, while destroying a guerrilla army someone else built.
Now I am not just trying to talk smack here, with the inter-service rivalry, my guys are cool and everyone else sucks bit. Far from it. In fact, if I had to place a wager on who I think is the best the in US military on average, I would pick the Air Force SOF. Hat tip TACP/JTAC’s, you win this round. That would be if I was selecting the most well rounded force, and judging them across the spectrum of combat missions. They do have weaknesses. At certain tasks, like CQB, they would be last on the list of choices. The Army, Navy, and USMC all make better gunfighters, in terms of personal weapons skills. And they should, that is among their primary missions. You aren’t going to let the TACP be number one man through the smoking hole after breach. That isn’t his job. But pound for pound, I stand by them as the best all around at real combat skills. Most of which don’t apply to surviving the type of conflict this book was written to address.
FID/ UW skills are not sexy, they are never going to make a movie about them. Probably most of the reason they aren’t part of the SEAL ( Pronounced Squeel, for the noise they make when they run out of tanning lotion) mission set is exactly that. But they do work, and they work in most cases better than some ill conceived commando raid bullshit.
UW simplified goes a little something like this. Aforementioned non gunfighter Agency dude, using the skills he has, identifies an enemy nation, ripe for the overthrow. Usually meaning factions already exist trying to do just that. He phones the appropriate people to have an SF Team or Teams give it a push. SF shows up by whatever means- HALO drop, scuba insert, or more likely the regional equivalent of a Greyhound bus- the less sexy, the better. SF guys assess the factions, talk over grievances, break bread, and hand out bags of money as needed. It takes time, and a lot of running of the mouth, but they are looking for specific things. What motivates this opposition faction, or that one? Who is both most likely to win, and then likely to be a good long term ally for our national interest? What is the acceptable balance of those two things, if one faction isn’t best at both criteria? What do they need to succeed, and are we willing to pay it? Then, and only then, do you get down to the work of teaching illiterate peasants how to zero a rifle and conduct a combined arms assault. Ground work first. Then you build an army. Then you use that army, and hope your own government doesn’t pull the rug out from under you mid stroke.
Reaching back to the formation of Special Forces in the 50’s, this has proven to be an extremely successful model. Across decades, it has worked from one side of the planet to the other, often in places and conflicts American’s have never heard of. That is another bit of the beauty. Done properly, the entire enterprise is deniable. The newly crowned Emperor of Kerflakistan isn’t going to publicly credit the Great Satan, any more than we are going to admit we did the heavy lifting. Job done, everyone goes their separate ways, and sweep any messy bits under the carpet.
And while the job is unique in the US military to SF, that doesn’t mean other countries haven’t created similar units. The British and the Russians are good at it, and have been for a long time. The whole bit with Crimea’s annexation by Russia is a good example. If that was organic, so is a burger from McDonalds. The Quds force from Iran is fantastic at this method, and the Chinese are actively perfecting the craft as we speak.
What does this have to do with your survival strategy? A lot. In fact, most of your survival strategy should be modeled from FID, unless you think the government is the bad guys, in which case it should be modeled on UW. Aside from the part about being overwhelmed by sheer numbers, it also helps you understand what is going on.
Generally speaking, survival is a regional issue. Not to say the causes of the crisis can’t start far away, they can. And it does pay to at least observe national and global news, looking for potential cataclysms. But your actual day to day concerns are local, and that doesn’t change as a national or international crisis unfolds. I live in the Pacific Northwest. There is literally not one thing that could happen in NYC tomorrow that directly affects me right now. Do I want to know if they have an Ebola outbreak, or get nuked off the planet? Yes I do. And that will dictate some of the steps I need to take in the near future. But whatever ripples their problems create, I will still need to deal with them on the local level.
So much like an SF guy would do in a foreign nation, you need to work on building your own intelligence network. Let’s throw in a caveat, as we live in the digital age. Can’t you just read the local news or use the internet? I don’t recommend it, not as a sole source of information. Not even a little. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, and I don’t think you should be either. But while I don’t wear a tinfoil hat everyday, I do keep one in the closet for special occasions. And I would ask you this- what major news scoop, in the last 30 years, was picked up by a news station first? Not one. And in a major crisis, how hard do you think it would be to censer all the media outlets that exist? Not very. More importantly, signs slip through the cracks with media outlets. They are looking for the big story, because that gets the big reads. To properly gauge any situation, you need to look at a great deal of factors, not just the big ones.
Who knows about local travel habits, and if there has been either an influx of people going coming in or leaving? How about the local gas station attendant? Or the manager of a local motel. Who knows if shipping is on time, and the supply chain unbroken? How about a local grocery store or Wal-Mart manager. Who has on the ground eyes at a regional level, and might have seen anomalies close enough to affect you soon? How about your local truck driver, especially if he runs the same route daily or weekly. A wealth of information exists, but it rarely falls into the hands of someone that can use all of it. That is among the first things you need to change.
All these bits of knowledge are available, you just have to find a way to get them. And this leads us to the idea of actually talking to human beings. Internet chat boards, news sights, and the like can best be equated to SIGINT, or signals intelligence. Signals intelligence can be faked, and it can be drowned out with white noise. Talking to people is HUMINT, or human intelligence, and it requires some skills to sift through as well.
Some HUMINT skills can’t be taught, they can only be gained through experience. Humans sometimes lie, and they sometimes exaggerate. While this can be intentional for deception, more often it is merely to impress you, or tell a better story. How can you tell? First, life experience. The more you talk to humans, while trying to sift for facts, the more you will pick up on these trends. If you don’t know how to spot bullshit, you need to start learning. Obvious tells include inconsistency in facts when asked about details, changes in speech pattern at relevant points that should be seared in memory, and entirely to much badassery on the part of the story teller. This isn’t to say exaggerators should be cut from your network, but their information should always be suspect. One good way to start learning these skills is to read up on police interrogation methods, in addition to practice before you need it.
The absolute best method for sifting information is having multiple sources in the same arena, and comparing the data they give you. I’m not going to dive deep on handling assets, because Uncle Sugar might decide to smack my pee pee if I do. But much of what is alleged to be “deep, dark, espionage secrets” is actually just common sense. If you have three truck drivers that work in a similar area, and the information one them is feeding you is way off track of the others, what can you discern? First, one of them might be feeding you horse pucky. Second, the other two may be plants working against you, feeding you mis-information. Welcome to the forest of mirrors.
All well and good, if you already have a network. But I’m assuming you don’t. How are you going to fix that? Very carefully, and very slowly. Things like this aren’t built overnight, and if you push hard, you are just going to draw attention to yourself. To correctly build a network of informants, you need to understand it is a long haul. And some of your best informants won’t even realize they are giving you the goods. As previously mentioned, this is an unnatural act for most of us, talking to strangers with the intent of gleaning information. It also goes against the grain if you have been prepping in secret, hiding canned beans in floor boards and the like. But there is a right and a wrong way. Let’s look at the wrong way first-
Starbucks Barista- “ Welcome to Starbucks, may I help you?”
You ( palms sweating, whispering conspiratorially)-“ Yes. I will have a Carmel Macchiato. Also, would you like to act as an informant for my militia, keeping us posted on the comings and goings of shifty eyed new arrivals. We can’t afford to pay you, but you will be remembered when the revolution starts. Play your cards right, and you may even become concubine to his Holiness The Warlord Steve, Master and Commander of the Plains of Nebraska.”
Starbucks Barista- “ …..” ( Stares in horror while simultaneously pressing the 911 panic button under the counter.)
Obviously there are a lot of things wrong with that scenario, but which one should have stuck out first? Starbucks. Have you ever seen a slow one? You have zero chance of recruiting a source in a fast paced environment. So save the sales pitch for someone that isn’t your UPS driver or equivalent. At least while they are at work. A UPS driver would be a great asset, if you land him off the clock.
I suggest you start with what the military calls a confidence target, one that is easy to land. Two quick examples are the gas station attendant at a non busy hour, or clerk at a local corner store. Taking the gas station attendant, how do you break the ice?
You- “ Good Morning Jimmy” ( You know his name, because you come here all the time. You learned his name from his name tag on visit one, and called him by his name on the 5 subsequent visits. Establishing a layer of familiarity.)
Gas Station Attendant Jimmy- “ Good Morning Bill. Coffee, and the usual?”
You- “ Coffee for sure. By the way, you’re low on Irish Cream. About that usual, I’m not so sure. I think the new folks in town are buying up all the winners.” ( You have spent a couple bucks establishing a routine, for exactly this moment. Now, one of two things is true. Either you know the area is having an influx of new people, and are both confirming that data, and setting Jimmy up for the pitch. Or you are fishing in the dark, to see if Jimmy will tell you lots of new people are around. Jimmy will have one of two answers, both of which you should be prepared to handle. Because you rehearsed both bits, in case.)
Jimmy- “ New people, that’s rich. All I see is people leaving town. Half my normal customers tanked up last week, headed for the hills. Weird, right?” ( This takes you to decision tree 1.)
You- feigning light laughter- “ I know right? Hell, I’m starting to feel like this is an episode of the twilight zone. Ya know, a fella could really start to wonder at times like this. You know, I don’t scare easy, but things are getting down right spooky. A man can’t be to careful these days. Actually, I wonder if you wouldn’t mind keeping some tabs, just between us…….”
What if Jimmy has a different answer? Glad you asked.
Jimmy- “ Crazy isn’t it? People fleeing California, and probably bringing their problems with them. I don’t like the way they show up here, flush with cash from selling that McMansion in the hills, pushing us all to the side….”
Oh man, bingo! Not only have you confirmed data, but you have learned Jimmy’s disdain for the new people. That sets him up for an entirely different pitch. But just like a deal the Devil would make, not too much up front now.
What if neither of those things happen, and Jimmy just acts indifferent to your lack of scratch ticket purchase? Then you leave and try again another day. If a couple of reels don’t work, then you move on to a new gas station. And you keep going until you have your network filled out. You might end up with five coffee’s and a dozen $1 scratch tickets every Tuesday morning, but that is the price of doing business.
Networking, for lack of a better term, is also good for a great many things besides just intelligence. In survival terms, it is also important for supplies. That doesn’t matter much right now, while the economy is still humming, and the American Express still works. But what about when things fall apart? Would you rather be friends with the local grocer, guarding his deliver trucks against the howling mob for a can of baked beans? Or trying to elbow through the howling mob upfront, desperate to trade your last remaining items of value for that same can of baked beans? When things get tough, people turn tribal, and they do it fast. Much better to be someone they knew from the previous life, than a strange face showing up asking for favors.
I want to interject a couple of things here at the end, guiding principles for dealing with humans in general. Number one is, don’t be a user. You need to have something to barter with in most all of these situations, with the possible exception of the people that just like to talk. And you are still giving them a sounding board, which is what most of them want anyway. What I’m saying is, don’t start washing the local grocer’s car every Sunday, hoping he will remember you when the trouble starts. You are always going to get further with a genuine relationship, and those are hard to fake.
Number two is, don’t promise something you can’t deliver. This was a principle we always tried to stick too, even overseas with dirt worshiping heathens. It is bad for business, and should only be done as an absolute last resort. Not only will you permanently lose an ally, but you might go far enough to make a bitter enemy. If things go pear shaped, you will have plenty of enemies without making extras unnecessarily.
Number three relates directly to number two. Don’t think short term. It is easy to cut all kinds of deals, back stab as needed, and flee into the sunset with your weeks rations. But what happens when the sun comes up on day 8? You should be laying a ground work for a sustainable relationship, because you never know how long a crisis will last. Don’t burn bridges with anyone if you can avoid it, and at least try and leave the pylons if you can’t. Crow may be on the menu, as you can never fully anticipate who will have a resource you need to survive the night.
In closing this chapter out, I want to leave you with a story. Not a cool war story, but a good story nonetheless. And a lot more relevant to where you sit today.
A few years ago, I was driving across the country with my soon to be wife. I lived on the East Coast at the time, and skipping over the mushy stuff, I had made a snap decision to move to Idaho. The last day of said road trip, one of my soon to be step daughters decided to runaway from her father’s house, which greatly upset soon to be wife. So I did what people like me do. I set out to solve the problem.
Two weeks later, and many trailer parks kicked over, I had her back in custody. No small feat, the kid can run. There were a lot of strange looks from the extended family, and no small amount of pats on the back. But only one person asked the right question. How, exactly, had I run this teenager down, in a city where the number of people I knew, I could count on one hand? I didn’t have the knowledge available to find Red Lobster, much less a run away with a deep network. For good measure, I was still pretty recently retired from the Army, and I looked like an absolute psycho. I had 10 inch Mohawk, I’m 6’2”, and I’m built like a linebacker. Not exactly subtle.
I succeeded because I know how to not only build networks, but infiltrate and destroy them. Within a few days, I had informants in every neighborhood on the bad side of town. I used a lot of carrot, and a little bit of stick when needed. At a total price of a 6 pack of Rolling Rock and a few packs of smokes, I bought all the information necessary to piece it together. And I succeeded where many natives had in the past failed. The lesson here is directly tied to your survival strategy. The scary guy isn’t the one that is willing to shoot you. Those are a dime a dozen in any conflict, as well as among any criminal element. The actual scary guy is the one that can find you, no matter where you try to hide. Information is power.
Common Sense Planning, aka the sky isn’t falling. Yet.
There is a reason you picked up this book, and I doubt it was idle curiosity. Maybe you started seeing glitches in the Matrix, and you are questioning the future stability of our nation. Maybe you had bad experience recently, like owning a pharmacy in Ferguson, Missouri. Maybe you have seen a natural disaster strike, and the feral humans that come after. Whatever that reason is, it is time to start taking control of your life.
I foresee more political violence on our horizon, which tends to be centralized to major cities, which I why I wrote this book. You may disagree with that hypothesis, and have one of your own. But regardless of complete economic collapse, foreign invasion, or zombie apocalypse, I have good news. The planning is the same for all of them.
The military teaches all kinds of whiz bang planning methods, most famously MDMP, or the military decision making process. It has dozen of steps, dozens more sub-steps, along with a matrix of weighted values, ending with a mathematical certainty of the right choices. I could write an entire 600 page book just on it, and it would join the tombs of others covering the same material. But I have bad news. The entire process is nonsense, and a waste of your time.
The worst thing the Army ever did was attempt the “cookbook” method for WW2, and stick with it afterward. This institutional cancer has slowly eaten its way into all the military branches, turning what should be a simple process into a time consuming, paper work intensive nightmare. The concept is this, and it was first applied to training- If you build a step by step process, and then force all the steps to be taken, the end result is always the same. For bumping up the huge numbers needed for WW2, it didn’t do a horrible job, at tasks like set up a mortar, or assemble an anti tank gun. But the same process applied to planning is foolish.
Let me put it this way, when it comes to military planning, as it has “evolved”. The operations order for the invasion of Normandy, the largest amphibious landing the world has ever seen, was 14 pages long. For a modern soldier, late in the GWOT, raiding a purse snatchers house required 120 power point slides. I’m going to go on the record as saying that is not an improvement.
So we will be putting aside any talk of consulting DOD publications. Besides, your planning needs to be a bit more vague anyway. At least your overall strategic plan. Later we will get to some more specific planning, to cover things like escape routes. But for now, you need to be thinking big picture. You, nor I, have an exact template for how the crisis is going to unfold. Therefore, a more generalized plan is in order. One thing to always remember though, as it relates to planning. As we say in the business, no plan survives contact, intact. Broken down, that means you should never be so married to your plan that you can’t adapt. If conditions change so much that your initial plan is useless, only a fool would stick to it.
We have established that your urban dwelling environment is going to face crisis, so what do you need to do first? The conventional wisdom is that you need to purchase a bug out location, stocked to the ceiling with provisions and armaments. It needs to be off the grid, large enough to accommodate you and 25 friends, complete with thousands of gallons of fuel storage, spare parts for your car, and horses for when those run out. It needs to be far from population centers, in an environment that supports sustainment farming, yet cold enough to keep refugees from beating down your door. At least one of said friends should live in the location full time, to keep bandits from taking over in your absence.
And if you have that, dear readers, you are doing awesome. But it is outside the realm of possibility for most of us, me included. I am in fact writing this while living in the city, and my bug out location consists of my quarter acre backyard. Just in raw monetary terms, you might as well add surplus F-15 fighter jets to the above list, given most of our disposable income. That is to say, it isn’t going to happen.
It would also be cool to max out your Visa card on ammo and night vision goggles the week before the crisis hits, catching that last UPS delivery and sticking Citi Bank with the bill as we descend into Mad Max world, laughing all the way at any thought of your credit score. But that is a lot like saying it would be cool to buy Apple stock in 1986. If you think you are going to get that lucky, just go buy a lottery ticket and be done. The reality is, all of us need to live like the sky isn’t falling, in case it doesn’t. By the time you are willing to go all in on the chips with whatever credit you have, that credit is likely to already be useless. You might also want to think about the price of generators on January 1st, 2000, after the Y2K scare. More than one person bet the farm on that one, and was never sadder to see the sun come up.
You need to prepare in a sustainable manner not only for your financial health, but for your sanity. If you get all spun up and start fortifying the house with sandbags, you run the risk of ending up in the asylum. So let’s all take a deep breath and think this through.
In a side step from the usual prepping manuals, the first thing you need to look at is money. This is the equivalent of looking at logistics from a military view, since you are effectively buying your own logistics train. As Napoleon said, “ Amateurs discuss tactics. Rank amateurs discuss grand strategy. The professionals discuss logistics.” Money directly affects what you can lay in for bad times, and that is way the cards fall.
The first thing you need to figure out is what kind of coins you can drop on your survival. It is easy to get all emotional and say “ ALL OF THEM! NOTHING IS MORE IMPORTANT!”, immediately followed by a second mortgage on your house. Don’t do that. Just like finance 101, you need to add up your bills, then see what is left over. That is your operational budget. Maybe you can increase it by cutting excess spending on frivolous crap, and I recommend you do. Dining out and beers with the boys all add up, and you may wish you spent that on bullets later. But at the end of the day, you have a finite amount of money to spend.
Once you have your budget in order, it is time to decide what you need to have on hand when the natives turn restless. The categories go something like this:
So which one is most important? It really depends on you. A mountain of ammo in your living room is useless when there isn’t a can of Spaghetti-O’s within 50 miles. A similar mountain of beans and rice is useless if you can’t defend it from the Mongolian horde tearing down your front door. The truth is, you need a balanced approach. You need all those things, but the order is situation dependent.
Weapons get their own chapter later, so I won’t go to much into it here. But to my mind, priority one is a gun. ( Provided you live in a nation where that is possible. I guess a pike or sword if you can’t?) Whatever gun that may be, if you own just one right now, it is enough. I would sleep very well in any city having a single shot 20 gauge and a box of shells. It wouldn’t be my ideal, but it would be enough to rest easy and prioritize my needs.
If I have been so negative about hardware up till now, why I am preaching the one gun so hard? Simple. Survival types like to talk about how long you can survive without this or that, in an extreme case. You can go weeks without food, and days without water, etc. Well there is a number for how long you can go in a gun fight without a gun, and that answer is zero seconds. If you can’t defend yourself, the rest of the stuff is a moot point. Defense first, always.
Okay, so you have your grandfather’s pocket derringer, consider yourself held over. How do you fill in the rest of your needs? I suggest a list, with incremental milestones in each category. And again, much of it depends on your specific needs. Do you live in Seattle? Do you own a mop bucket? Cool, water storage is way down the list for you. Oh, you live in Phoenix, and its July? Water is probably number one. Your diabetic? Screw food and water, your first priority is an extra months supply of insulin.
With the incremental plan, you at least end up with something in each category. Just like the castle surrounded by a Ranger Company and staffed with bikini girls we mentioned at the beginning of the chapter, we all have an ideal load out. But odds are it is a long way off. Best to have a little of everything, than a best in class of one, and none of the others.
Lets break it down like this. You have $200 to spend per month on your list. That is laughable to some, and a high bar for others. Work with what you have. You also have a hand cannon and two boxes of fifty bullets, so that is taken care of for the moment. How do you spend it?
First, you need to think about how much stuff you need. That needs to be balanced with how much space you have. As a city dweller, space might mean a tiny apartment, or it might mean a house with two car garage. If you have very little storage space, you are either going to have to get creative, or make do with less. Let’s look at the ideal numbers first.
Weapons- ah ha! That gets its own chapter later. I suggest reading it before enacting this plan.
Training- Training is the one box that is never fully filled. I was a professional soldier and mercenary for two decades, and I’m still learning. Depending on your skill set, this might be a very high priority. Let’s say you have a decent weapon, but you have no idea how to use it. A $100 class at your local indoor range will do wonders for you. It won’t make you a gunfighter, but it will make you capable of hitting the broadside of a barn. At least if you are standing inside the barn when called upon to do so. If you are already weapons capable, this could be a primitive cooking class. Or a six month paramedic course. The sky is the limit. The inherent problem, however, is that the better the training, the more it costs in both time and money. Speaking for the gunfighter skills at least, good training will cost you $350-$500 a day. Figure a minimum of 7 days to become competent, and this adds up. For now, take the $100 local class, and worry about the rest later.
Equipment- It is easy to go down the rabbit hole on this one, because equipment is a broad category. For your initial stages, it mostly doesn’t matter. If you have a hand cannon, it is limited to a holster for now, and that is just in case you need to run tomorrow. A sling if you possess but a long gun. Throw in a decent pocket knife, and you are good enough for the moment.
Food- Obviously, this one is actually important. If you are a young, healthy, single person, yes, you can survive for weeks without food. It won’t be fun, but you will make it. That is not true of small children. They might survive, but the damage done to their brains and bodies by malnutrition is terrifying to contemplate. So food needs to be on the list, regardless of your status. For urban dwellers, I suggest a 3 month supply, all of it non-perishable. The internet and other survival books are chocked full of excellent storage ideas, and low cost calorie solutions. I can’t do it better than them, it isn’t my area of expertise. But I do stand by 3 months. If the supply trucks to your city aren’t running again by then, it is time to leave. And 3 months, supplemented by even occasional resupply, can easily stretch to 6 months or a year.
Water- Water is hugely important for both hygiene and drinking. I cannot stress the importance of water enough. It is, however, one of the last things I would expect to lose in a city. If the water is cut off for even a short period in a modern city, it will be time to leave, hell or high water. While unorthodox sources do exist in any urban environment, most places they don’t exist in sufficient quantity to prevent a complete catastrophe. If a metro area lost water completely and unexpectedly, I don’t expect most people have thought through the worst case scenario. This isn’t like LA going on water rationing, or Johannesburg saying they will be out of water in two months. Both of those scenarios imply forethought, and at least some government countermeasures. If we are talking the tap just shut off, and stayed off, that is an entirely different ball of wax. Figure the stores would run out of bottles on day one, and most people have zero in storage. Let’s also assume that if the water is out, the power is out, a pretty safe bet. How long before people started dropping dead in a southern city, if it was summer time? How many people in St. Louis would try and drink the river water, and how many of them would have the sense to boil it first? How many people, the city over, would know how to dig a slit trench, or at least use a bucket for waste? And how long before those same people started just dumping waste in the streets? A water crisis, at the extreme, could rapidly lead to a body crisis, beyond the ability of any government to fix. That would lead to a disease epidemic, and a cascading spiral of sickness and pestilence. Time to get out, by any means necessary. That takes things from a minor survival hassle to an abandon ship moment. Given all that, I recommend 7 days of water on hand, at a gallon per person per day. If you live in an extremely hot environment, double that.
Medical- This category is hugely important, but often forgotten. No one likes to think about getting chewed up, it doesn’t fit with our hero fantasy. We are going to gun down all the bad guys, without a scratch on us. Maybe a flesh wound that heals itself in the third act, but certainly nothing serious. Well, more wet blanket time. If you are in any kind of combat, people are going to get hurt. You are going to get hurt. You, or your people, are going to get shot. Having spent time engaged in urban combat, it isn’t a question of if, it’s a question of when. You have to be prepared to deal with this as part of the plan. We will detail medical more in depth in a later chapter, but it needs to start with two tourniquets per person. One is for you, and only you, your emergency lifeline. The other is for patching up friends. From a place like Activity Group, these are going to be about $36 apiece. Adds up quick if you have a family. The second thing in medical you can start doing, right now, is thinking about small items. Hand sanitizer and soap are huge. Prior to WW2, disease and infection did more killing than anything else in wars. All of them, ancient Greece to Gettysburg. Neosporin is cheap, and very helpful at keeping small wounds from becoming a serious problem. Medical tape and gauze solve a wide variety of problems. Don’t go crazy, but allocate some funds for certain.
Escape Hatch- Your city may not be survivable. Another dose of harsh reality. The disaster you are issued may be so bad, Bear Grylls and a team of SAS commandos wouldn’t have a chance. And if that is the case, you need to do the only logical thing. Get the hell out of Dodge! If you are just now considering the possibility of unrest, you need to figure out an exit strategy. For now it can be simple, since we will cover it in depth later. Do you have a car? If you do, what from your residence is both actually important, and will fit in that car. Next question applies if you have a car or not. Do you have a backpack, sturdy enough to hold at least bits from all of the above categories? If not, you need to find a second hand sporting goods store, stat. Anything with a name brand and not threadbare will do for the moment. Chuck some food and water inside, along with a sweater and socks. Keep it under 30 pounds. Cool, problem solved. Mostly. We will detail this up later.
Last but not least, you need paper maps, with a copy for each adult and an extra in the car, and a lensatic compass to match. Your base plan should cover an exit route in at least two different cardinal directions, by car and by foot. Get to work.
That was down and dirty, but it does cover your bases. Lets call that one the 3000 word survival plan. It isn’t perfect, but it will hold you for a short while. And now we can get down to the serious thinking. Grown up decisions and long term planning take time, and more brain power. No one expects you to enact a full conversion to the Cult of Survival overnight. But we do expect you to attend regular meetings.