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Securing Your Neighborhood When The Grid’s Down

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Security after a disaster or grid-down scenario is always a top concern among those in the preparedness community. We’re well aware of the need to defend our family and property against looters and invaders if a calamity with ensuing civil unrest strikes our area, and a lot of us have made necessary precautions. But only few of us have considered planning for such contingencies on a larger, community-wide scale.

Consider this: A disaster has struck your area or the city near you, and it’s so destructive it caused massive loss of lives and property, power outage and damaged roads. With the loss of electricity came water shortage and closure of grocery stores, restaurants, banks and gas stations. It turns out to be a regional grid-down scenario.  FEMA and law enforcement agencies can’t get to your area, and you and your neighbors start to become anxious as hours and hours turn into days. Because no help or security forces are present, panic and civil unrest follow. A “without rule of law scenario” (WROL) situation starts to develop. It happened after Hurricane Katrina. It can very well happen again.

(Listen to Off The Grid Radio’s in-depth report on a grid-down scenario there.)

If you live in the outskirts of town or out on the freeway, you can expect to see refugees filtering in to your area. Hungry and desperate, they hoard groceries, water, fuel and whatever basic supplies they can get their hands on at the local store. As night falls, the looters, armed gangs and all kinds of opportunistic types make their way into your neighborhood, looking for homes to rob. Would you be able to fend them off? What if they came in large numbers? Even if they can’t bother you now, what if they come back with reinforcements later?

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After a major disaster, many people manage the first 24-48 hours relatively well, without having to face a serious threat to their safety and well-being. Many are moderately prepared for natural calamities, with enough food and emergency supplies stored inside their homes. But beyond 2 or 3 days, when battery power of cell phones has long died out and food and water stocks start to dwindle, many begin to panic and wonder if any help is going to come at all.

Why not consider working with your neighbors to protect yourselves from unwanted elements – long before they reach your street? Those with a preparedness mindset could work together to secure the whole community, especially if you:

  • live in a small town or suburb.
  • can’t bug out and have no place else to go.
  • get along well with your neighbors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following steps can be taken for a short-term survival plan during a WROL situation. While this insular lockdown might not be able to protect you for the long-term, it can buy you more time as you find other ways to ensure your family’s survival. (In a worst-case scenario, your only resort might be to evacuate and find shelter elsewhere.)

1. Establish blockades. If your area has an entryway several hundred yards from where the houses are actually situated, put up barricades there. You can use old cars, garbage bins filled with rocks or sand, cinder blocks, even fallen trees. (But while barricades should be sturdy, also consider if they can be dismantled easily in case residents may need to leave or emergency vehicles need to get in.) Broken bottles and bent nails can be scattered along the road. Determine any weak spots that that could be penetrated by intruders, like abandoned buildings, thick brush or tall grasses. During such a scenario, consider putting up barbed wire over fences and trip wires across woody areas.

2. Arrange a neighborhood watch. Take shifts and go on roving patrols on the ground, as well as lookouts on trees, rooftop and strategic high places. Have a communication or alarm system to alert each other: car horns, whistles, even pipes hitting trash cans to serve as gongs. Remember, you have the home turf advantage so you know the ins and outs of your neighbourhood much better. Get the names of all the residents, and let no one in without IDs unless another resident can vouch for him or her.

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3. Identify who’s who and what useful skills he or she could share for the common good: medical, military/security, radio communication, carpentry, etc. Find out what resources people have and if they’d be willing to share them: food, water, tools, HAM radio, medical and security supplies. There are, of course, risks to sharing weapons. (How many of us truly know our neighbors?) This is something you’ll have to decide on your own, after weighing the pros and cons.

4. Have some fire control preps. Gangs and rioters often use Molotov cocktails to invade and loot stores and homes. This works for them, as fires leave no evidence for investigators to track. Identify who has fire extinguishers and sandbags at their disposal, or scout areas for ponds, creeks, canals and all kinds of water catchment systems that you could tap in case of fires.

5. Connect with authorities. If you’re comfortable doing so, consult your county sheriff, councilman, fire department, paramedics, etc. to find out existing plans they have for disaster response and how you can work with them. Get their names and numbers and distribute these among homeowners. Also aside from FEMA, there are various organizations that host planning meetings and provide preparedness training, information and support for communities that want to be prepared. These are the local chapters of the Citizens Corps, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT), USAonWatch, Fire Corps, Medical Reserve Corps, the American Red Cross and the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster.

6. Stay vigilant. Keep updated of news and weather reports. Aside from your regular sources of local and national news, you can get alert notifications on human or man-made disasters, extreme weather and other emergencies in your area through the Integrated Public Alert and Warning Authorities. If you’re in an earthquake-prone area, make it a habit to check the USGS regularly for signs of unrest within the earth.

This is by no means a complete list, but mere starting points which you and your neighbors can further explore. While these will not work for every community, see if and how far they can go with yours. Chat with the folks next door and get a feel of their preparedness mentality (or lack of it), if you haven’t yet. Stop by yard sales, attend homeowners’ meetings, talk as much as you can with the mainstays in your area — the small grocery store owner, the coffee shop barista, the community soccer team coach, the local church and YMCA. If you find there’s an opening, discuss preparedness with them and see if they’re concerned about it as much as you are.  If you’re up to it, distribute flyers down your street with your contact info in it, a tentative meeting date and an RSVP request — just to see who would attend, if any.  From there you’d be able to tell if there are folks who are interested, and how many you could start working with. It doesn’t matter if there’s just a handful; the number will increase as word spreads and more people realize the need later.

It’s best to strategize now, while you still have time, than have nothing to fall back on after an actual catastrophe.

What would you add to this list? Share you suggestions in the section below:

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