There’s a saying in the military that no plan survives contact with the enemy. This is a pretty good thing for us to keep in mind, as preppers. While we may not have a human enemy that has a vote in whether or not our plan will succeed, we can say that the disasters that we face and the need to survive are our enemy. As such, we should recognize that whatever survival plans we have won’t necessarily survive more than about five seconds after the disaster hits.
This was brought home to me by the hurricanes we had this year. While I was not caught in any of them, Hurricane Harvey looked like it was headed right for my home, before it veered north to attack Corpus Christi and Houston. But it was my after-action review of these hurricanes that made me realize that no matter how good any of our plans might be, we may not be able to use them, because nature and circumstances get a vote in their effectiveness.
That’s not to say that we shouldn’t plan; we should. If nothing else, a plan helps us determine what it is that we need to prepare. But at the same time, we shouldn’t put too much faith in our plan. Rather, we should see that plan as merely a starting point, a tool, used to help, but not chiseled in stone.
An important part of any planning process is looking to see where the plan might fail. Then solutions for those failures need to be developed, adding to the plan and making it more robust. Truly excellent planners develop a series of alternative plans or parts of plans, which can be turned to at a moment’s notice, once something goes wrong with the main plan. That way, everyone knows what to do, no matter what happens.
So what I want to do here is look at some of the overlooked ways that our prepping plans might fail, giving you the option to think those failure scenarios out and decide how you are going to mitigate against them.
1. A Natural Disaster Makes Your Home Untenable
When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, over a million people were displaced from their homes, mostly in Southeast Houston. I had to ask myself: How many of them were preppers and how many of those preppers were really ready for that to happen? Houston is in hurricane country, just like I am, so they should have been ready for that.
We all talk about having a bug-out plan, but how many of us really have one? I don’t mean just some vague idea about what we’ll do, but a true workable plan, which we can put into effect and which won’t be ruined by a million other people trying to evacuate and find someplace to go.
The other wake-up call that Hurricane Harvey gave me was that I don’t have any sort of boat, even though I live in a hurricane zone. Granted, my home is about 70 feet higher in altitude than Houston is, but the land is flat, so water won’t drain off well, the same problem that Houston had. While buying a swamp boat is a bit beyond my budget, you can buy a rubber boat for as little as $100. What hadn’t I?
2. The Government Calls for a General Evacuation
Officials in Houston didn’t call for a general evacuation, due to the problems with evacuating the city for Hurricane Rita in 2015. People died during that evacuation, from nothing more than sitting in a 100-mile-long traffic jam that lasted over 24 hours.
On the other hand, state officials in Florida called for an evacuation of the entire peninsula in preparation for Hurricane Irma. The governor was so emphatic in his call to evacuate, that he told Florida residents that the government would not help people who chose not to evacuate. Doing so would have forced government workers to stay behind, putting them at risk.
What do you do in such a situation? Do you obey the government and bug out, or do you try and hunker down and ride it out? That’s a difficult call to make, but one that any of us could be faced with at some time. Better to think it through beforehand, as well as thinking through how you’re going to avoid that 100-mile-long traffic jam. Will you bug out early or late? What alternate routes can you take? What can you use for emergency shelter, if the disaster strikes while you’re still trying to bug out?
3. Your OPSEC Doesn’t Work and Your Neighbors Knock on Your Door
I can just about guarantee you that this one is going to happen. I don’t care how good your OPSEC is, all it takes is one nosy neighbor to blow it out of the water. Even if they aren’t a gossip and don’t blab to the whole neighborhood, you can count on them coming knocking on your door when they run out of supplies.
We all say that we have to take care of our families first, and we can’t take care of everyone. The standard answer in the prepping community is that we don’t help our neighbors out, that it’s too impractical. But is it practical to deny them food and turn them into enemies?
This is a difficult one to deal with, but we need to be ready for it. My personal plan includes plenty of rice and beans to share with my neighbors, as well as extra seed for gardening. Rice and beans are cheap, so putting a few hundred extra pounds of them in my prepping stockpile really wasn’t all that big a burden. While that’s not as good as what I’m stockpiling for my family, I can at least give them something to eat, making them beholden to me.
Of course, when the time comes, that rice and beans will have a price. Specifically, I’m planning on making them work for it, trading labor for food. That way, it’s not just a handout.
4. Your Family is Widely Scattered When the Disaster Hits
This is one of my favorite problems to harp on, so bear with me if you’ve heard this before. The problem is that we tend to start our planning from an “ideal point” with everyone home when the disaster strikes. But real life isn’t that neat. With all the activities that the modern family has, chances are that your family will be scattered when the disaster strikes.
The answer to this one is actually fairly simple; you need a plan for bringing your family together, along with alternatives to use, if you can’t stick with the original plan. More than anything, you have to ensure that both parents have a secure way of getting home and that you have a plan for picking up the kids.
Another important part of this is making sure you have communications with your kids, so that you can warn them that you’re coming to pick them up at school or their other activities. How would you inform them, if an EMP takes out their phones? What can you use as an alternate signal? Or could you have it as a given that you will pick them up under certain circumstances and that they should get out of class and be ready.
That’s another part that you need to think through and discuss with your children. How are they going to get out of class? If the school is in lockdown, what can they do? How can they give their teacher the slip and meet you outside?
5. A Member of Your Survival Team Turns Against You
With tensions high and people packed close together, chances are you’re going to have some strife in your survival team. Even if you’re the best of friends, living together while trying to survive is going to put your relationship under stresses that you’ve never encountered before. There will be disagreements, possibly severe enough to lead to fights or a splitting of the team.
The other way that a disgruntled team member might act is to betray you to outsiders, in the hope that they can integrate themselves in that group, when they leave. That’s a dangerous tactic for them to take, but people tend to get irrational when they are upset.
You need to establish safeguards within your team rules for how you will deal with disagreement and strife. What can you do to minimize that? How can you resolve conflicts, before they become serious? How will you handle common property, if one team member decides to go it on their own? What
6. Unseasonably Cold Weather Causes You to Run Out of Firewood
It is truly amazing how much firewood you can burn through in one winter. If you’ve never heated your home with wood, you will be surprised the first time you do. Unless you have six chords of good hardwood split and stacked, you can’t be sure that you’ll have enough.
What will you do, if your firewood runs out? Where can you get more? How will you cut it and haul it back to your home? What alternatives can you use? Wet wood doesn’t burn well, so is there another wood source that you can count on, which won’t already be consumed by people who aren’t prepared?
For that matter, once you make it through the first winter, you’re going to have to start preparing for the second. Where are you going to be able to cut wood for that winter? What can you cut it with?
7. Someone in Your Family is Injured
The higher level of physical activity that survival requires, especially long-term survival, greatly increases the chances of serious injury. With transportation down and hospitals that might not have power, how will you get medical care?
Obviously, the best thing to do is to have a medic as part of your survival team, the more trained the better. You’ll also need to have a good stock of the necessary medical supplies for them to work with. But what can you do, if you don’t have that person on your team? What alternatives are out there? Is there a doctor close by, who you can make an alliance with, even if they aren’t part of your team?
Another option is getting enough medical training to take care of most things yourself. This is extremely time consuming and not everyone can handle it. But it might be the best option you can find.
8. Part of Your Food Stockpile Goes Bad
If there’s anything that we preppers depend on, it’s our stockpile. But what if something happens to it? What if it gets damaged by flooding, stolen by thieves or destroyed by insects; what then? Do you have an alternate plan? Do you have an alternate cache of supplies and a means to move it to your home?
9. Your Home is Attacked
Finally, here’s another one that I think we should all count on, our homes coming under attack. The common scenario is that starving people gang together and attack a prepper’s home, trying to take their food stockpile. What will you do?
I’m not looking for a general answer here, like “I’ll protect my home” I’m looking for a specific one. Do you really have a defensive plan in place? Have you made the necessary modifications to your home to make it defensible? Do you have a defensive perimeter in place?
Remember, your home’s walls won’t stop bullets, especially rifle bullets, even if your home is made of brick. I’ve shot a brick wall, just to test out what would happen, and everything I used, with the exception of a .22 LR, busted the brick. So don’t count on that brick for protection. At the best, all it is, is concealment, not cover.
What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below: