A Tactical Plan for Surviving Major Disaster in the North American Suburbs, by A.M. – Part 1

How would you survive a long-term disaster situation? I am talking about the worst case scenario– gangs of marauders, hungry people fleeing the cities, and/or soldiers storming through neighborhoods with no electricity, no grocery stores, no water, and no heat.

The lead recommendation in this scenario is to bug out to a rural area. Ideally, you would own a self-sustaining property away from the population masses and get there before the chaos begins. Many people will attempt this approach. People from the urban areas will spread out toward the suburbs and ultimately to the rural areas. Those who are fleeing violence in the cities and those that have cabins or strategic property will all be on the same highways at the same time.

You can imagine the traffic jam. Fighting might break out. Cars might be abandoned and permanent roadblocks created.  You don’t want to be in that mix.

However, like us, you may not be able to afford property outside of your regular residence. We have developed a strategic plan to fortify our neighborhood, make it through the first hard winter, and then rebuild civilization as we know it. We live in the suburbs of Minneapolis on a tiny piece of land where winter lasts a full six months and temperatures can reach 60 F below zero. Yet, we intend to stay put and to survive whatever comes our way.


Living in Minnesota means we will have to deal with winter. No matter when crisis hits, the initial focus will be on surviving the first winter and rebuilding the following spring.

For this exercise, we are assuming we are in a grid-down situation and hostile forces exist ready to steal, kill, or otherwise harm the citizens in our area. We plan for the worst and hope for the best. If the circumstances are less dire, unnecessary steps will be eliminated.

These are the main necessities addressed in our tactical plan:

  • Heat
  • Security
  • Law and Order
  • Water
  • Food
  • Health and Hygiene

Heat– Staying Warm Through Subzero Weather Without Fossil Fuels

American suburbs are not usually bastions of available firewood, coal, or propane. Most homes are heated with a central heating system that is fueled by a distant utility company. So, how would we stay warm without access to that heat source?

Some homes may have wood fireplaces, but they are still unlikely to have a large enough supply of firewood.

If you happen to have electricity and can use a space heater, go for it. Assuming electricity and gas are inoperable, you need an alternative plan.

You can build small candle heaters or attempt to harness a vented fire inside your home. They might provide some warmth, but these methods are also dangerous. I recommend you take a cue from the Mall of America. Most people are surprised to learn that the Mall of America does not have a single furnace or boiler to provide heat– not even one. Instead, they rely on solar energy from the windowed ceiling and body heat.

That’s the beauty behind warm-blooded animals. We generate heat, and in a survival situation there is strength in numbers (and heat in numbers!) (As a side interest, google the Mall of America’s heat situation; they actually run an air conditioner during the winter, because the visitors often generate too much heat!)

In our neighborhood, there are 40 houses, with the main roads roughly dividing the area into quadrants. We have designated the four central homes as the living quarters for everyone. Those in the north quadrant would go to house 1; those in the south would go to house 2, and so on. It just so happens that 3 of the 4 center families are hunters and preppers. We are all well prepared to weather a crisis on our own and are taking our neighbors along with us and ensuring our survival as a whole.

Consider the homes’ amenities, residents, and square footage, when dividing up your groups.

There will be limited privacy; there will be limited space, but there will be warmth.

If you find yourself without any neighbors, put on your winter gear and set up a tent inside a small room within your home. Close the doors and bring all your blankets and sleeping bags inside that tent. All family members and pets will live in this room. The body heat and multiple layers of air entrapment should help keep your family alive (though maybe not comfortable) through even the toughest winters.

Security– Protecting the Neighborhood

Suburban neighborhoods are often segregated from main roads by parks, community areas, and cul-de-sacs, but they still have at least one entrance that is accessible by a vehicle. You will want to block these entrances. We happen to have two neighborhood entrances. We plan to barricade those entrances with vehicles, strategically placed so that the owners can move them and still use them, if necessary.

Who gets to park their car at the entrance where it might be smashed by incoming tanks or exuberant drivers that think they might be able to bust through? In our group, those that bring the least resources will volunteer their vehicles.

All of the homes will be emptied of their valuables, including food, water, blankets, winter gear, tools, and more. Most vehicles should be stopped by the barricade, and individuals will hopefully be discouraged from venturing further after finding the first houses completely barren. If anyone has died, it might also be a good idea to leave their bodies in these first few houses as a deterrent, until winter passes and we can then use these lawns for burial.

Whenever anyone is outside of the homes, they will be accompanied by an armed guard(s), whose entire role is protection. Hunters, fishers, and gatherers will work in teams. There will be round the clock security detail, and those skilled with firearms will act as snipers and will engage in combat as needed.

Because of the precarious state of the world, those that have no combat skills will be trained, and everyone will carry a weapon of some kind (ranging from knives and pepper spray to an assortment of firearms, each depending upon their ability).

Law & Order– Those Who Have the Guns, Make the Laws

Choose your leaders wisely. Make sure you are in a position to lead, are able to exert influence on those that might be in control, or that you select leaders with good ideas and strong morality.

Having a plan in your head, before anything happens, will give your community a much better chance of surviving and should immediately show your value in the group. Present your plan and invite your neighbors to join you. If anyone does not want to join the group, let them be. This is America, and people are allowed to set their own path. Also, anyone that wants to leave the neighborhood should be allowed to leave as soon as possible.

However, once the collective has been formed, there must be solidarity. Defectors become a security risk if they, having knowledge of your food storage and security plans, run into a gang of thugs and decide to hatch an offensive against your group. You can decide how you deal with defectors. However, I suggest that penalties for such crimes be severe.

This will not be life as we know it. The rules have changed, and bad behavior can not be tolerated. There are no police or courts to do the work for us. We must uphold order. Most rational people can understand and exercise prudent discipline. Minor offenses deserve reprimands and second chances. Serious crimes deserve severe punishment. Those that refuse to work will lose their rations for that day; those that are derelict in their responsibilities are demoted to a lesser role; and those that commit rape or murder should be killed.

It is important that every person in the group has a suitable role. There will be plenty of work to do, and no one is exempt.

A few of the essential jobs are:

  • hunting,
  • fishing,
  • gathering water,
  • emptying latrine buckets,
  • gathering wild foods,
  • setting traps,
  • washing laundry,
  • cooking,
  • keeping track of resources,
  • growing food,
  • treating water,
  • building (greenhouses, rocket stoves, solar heating units, tables, smokehouses, chicken coops, rabbit hutches, and more),
  • tending to the sick and infants,
  • mending clothing,
  • cleaning the homes,
  • washing pots and dishes,
  • making soap,
  • gathering fertilizers,
  • making compost,
  • keeping watch,
  • sniping enemies,
  • preserving food,
  • protecting the team during outdoor activities and in combat,
  • gathering firewood,
  • procuring resources from nearby homes, and
  • communicating with people outside the area.

Each person will more than likely have more than one role, but roles should be chosen according to skill set and temperament, if possible. Again, remember that those that have the guns make the rules. If your neighbors were unprepared for this crisis, then they do not have the right to refuse the role they are given. They are part of a survival team, and every role is essential. That being said, you may find it necessary to rotate out the unskilled (and dirtiest) jobs after some time.