We all know that to be fully prepared we need a great survival retreat we can bug-out to. We all dream of the perfect retreat, were we will go post-SHTF. If you are like me however, this is simply not reality. I have no remote, armored, fully stocked retreat to go to in a disaster. Like millions of Americans I live not in the country, nor the city, but the area in between, commonly called the suburbs. Though all suburbs are different most of them share similar qualities, small, less than acre lots, single family houses with well maintained front lawns, a community club house and pool, cul-de-sacs, and middle to upper income residents. The purpose of this article is to provide guidance to the person who will be remaining in his/her suburban home during and after a SHTF scenario. I know that this is not ideal, but it is reality. Effective suburban survival depends on many factors including, individual preparations, community advocacy, and post-event leadership/disaster psychology. If one can make all of these three things work than they can effectively raise their own, their family’s, and neighbor’s chance of “making it through the storm”.
The number one most important thing is getting your family squared away. Now I’m not going to go into much detail in this part because the information is out there, but at minimum this should include adequate food, water [filtration], water storage, defense, medical supplies, tools, et cetera. One other import factor is getting your family educated. By that I mean getting first aid/CPR certified, taking firearms instruction, and numerous other relevant courses some which will be mentioned later.
The second most important thing in suburban survival is community advocacy. The fact is that if you are like me you have no “retreat” to fall back to. Your own neighborhood is going to have to be your retreat. All your neighbors are going to become part of your survival community. Think about that for a second, step outside your front door, look down the street, and realize that those other families are all going to be a part of your extended neighborhood survival community. Community advocacy has two parts; your relationship with your neighbors and educating your neighbors. This first party is easy, get to know your neighbors/community members. Steps to do this include
1. Meet and greet those neighbors you haven’t met. Just stop by and introduce yourself
2. Have neighborhood block parties – Christmas/Halloween/Fourth of July, or whatever
3. Go to community events-homeowners meetings, pool parties, etc.
4. Take an active role in community
If you develop good relationships with your neighbors now it will make things post-SHTF a little easier.
The second part is community education. According to a study by the DHS only 30 % of suburban households were adequately prepared for a major event/disaster. If the rest of the members of your survival community (the neighbors) aren’t prepared your community is doomed to fail. How can you improve this number? While I am sure there are numerous ways, the way that has worked for our neighborhood and thousands of others around the country is the CERT Program. If you haven’t heard of the CERT program is the Community Emergency Response Team. CERT training is designed to get communities to be self reliant during a catastrophic event /disaster when government services are not available (which we all know they won’t be). CERT is government funded and every participant gets free training, training materials and a small disaster kit. But the best thing about CERT is it gets people thinking and excited about survival. In my neighborhood 60 families went through the CERT training, and for most of these people it was the first time they had seriously thought of self sufficiency. From there the program spread, more neighbors became interested. If you can get people thinking, then you have most likely succeeded. People are more likely to do something if others are doing it. In fact on the same DHS study 75% of all respondents said they would be more likely to prepare if there was organization at the neighborhood level. Here are some steps that are proven effective at educating your neighbors:
1. Start some sort of community advocacy program be it CERT or others like it
2. Post disaster prep information in neighborhood newsletters/bulletins
3. Have neighborhood round table meetings on disasters
4. Go door to door handing out disaster prep cards and info
5. Work disaster prep into other organizations- PTAs, churches, women’s clubs, et cetera.
6. Get kids involved – they have great enthusiasm.
But for the preceding it is vitally important to do all of this in a positive way, no doom and gloom, but just the be prepared attitude. If others are well prepared you will be too. Remember the old adage: “a chain is only as strong as the weakest link.” Getting the members of your community squared away drastically improves your chances.
What to Do When the SHTF in a Suburban Setting
This first key is understanding disaster psychology and how people react to disasters. There are four phases the people will most likely go through:
Impact Phase – During the event and right after – people do not panic, the may act numb, unemotional, and dazed
Inventory Phase – After the event – people begin to asses the situation, the realize that life is no longer normal, many panic, go into shock, act unrationally, be uncooperative, unable to focus, and feel hopeless.
Rescue Phase – After they have calmed down – The natural survival instincts kick in, they begin to act rationally, become cooperative, responsive, willing to take direction, eager to lean how to improve their situation.
Recovery Phase – The person thinks they have a plan for their survival, feels in charge of himself. Depending on the person and how prepared they are, they may not experience all of these phases but they generally do. Now the first thing to do after the SHTF is to take care of emergencies be they medical, fire, or structural. Afterwards, start organizing on the community level. This is where leadership plays an important part. When people realize that there will not be any assistance from the government or a deus ex machina, they will look for guidance. It is critical to develop a leadership structure early on. Having a structure helps people feel normal; it helps to eliminate the feeling of chaos. Place the most qualified/best leaders into leadership positions. You will be surprised who lives in your community. There will be doctors, EMTs, police officers, military veterans, ham radio operators, people who grew up on farms, artists, and countless others whose pre-SHTF job will help your community. Remember you need your community, just as your community needs you. If you need more information on leadership, just search the Web. While the needs of your community will be different from the next, basic things that need to be taken care of include
1. Communication (internal and external)
6. Community (entertainment, community bonding, day care)
While I will not go into detailed descriptions of each of these tasks (I have another article on that) the goal is to set up effective leadership. There are however numerous problem which must be solved by the leadership if this community is to be effective and [answer] hundreds of other questions.
1. What to do about people with no supplies
2. What to do about Bad Apples – selfish, bitter, dangerous people
3. The flow of refugees from the city
4. How to get new supplies
5. When to abandon ship
While this is not the ideal “retreat” post-SHTF it is the reality that many of us will be in. By taking steps before hand you can increase your odds of your family making it through. Now some may say this community thing will not work, but it has in post-Katrina New Orleans and in Bosnia during the 1992 civil war, and I am sure in many other places. I hope this at least gets you thinking, which is the first step.