Should I Bug Out or Survive in Place?- Part 1, by Jonathan Hollerman

Where are you getting your prepping advice? Why?

Should I try to survive in place or should I bug out? This is a hotly debated question in the prepping community with many people firmly entrenched on both sides of the aisle. There are numerous articles discussing the topic, but most are only a handful of paragraphs that never really explain how or why they arrived at their recommendation. To answer the “Bug Out” or “Bug In” question effectively, we must discuss essential background information and context. I will break down the discussion into three sections: your source for prepping advice, what SHTF scenario you are preparing for, and how to bug out if you don’t have a survival retreat. So, grab a cup of coffee, find a comfortable chair, and put on your seat belt as I get ready to challenge a good bit of commonly embraced ideas and “prepper theology” that are dangerous to you and your family surviving a long-term SHTF scenario. On a side note, if your idea of “prepping” revolves around getting ready for the next hurricane and storing up enough food and water in your basement to last a couple days until FEMA shows up, well… this article probably won’t apply to you.

Your plan to either bug in or bug out depends on what SHTF scenario you are preparing for. Some of them seem silly and unlikely, but most of the scenarios that could lead to a collapse of our society have at least some legitimacy. What should you be preparing for? Should you plan to bug in or bug out? These are the two most fundamental questions to wrap your head around before making any plans for surviving a SHTF scenario. When getting started, I always recommend my clients apply the age-old philosophy, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best!”  At the same time, you need to find a balance between the worst-case SHTF scenario with what is most likely to occur in your lifetime.

So what are you preparing for? Pandemic? Financial collapse? Nuclear war? Long-term loss of the electric grid? I have noticed that most preppers typically “latch on” to the first SHTF scenario they were introduced to and become overwhelmed by the thought of that event coming to pass. Consequently, they focus all their energy on preparing for that particular scenario. They think about how it would affect their family’s chances of survival and dive head first into the confusing Internet world of preparedness. A lot of them start by Googling the word “prepping” or by spending countless hours watching some popular YouTube prepper channel. Unfortunately, what follows is a long, confusing string of bad information, deadly advice, and Top 10 Prepping Tips from “experts” who, quite frankly, have no earthly idea what they are talking about and have no background in surviving a world full of starving and desperate people.

This is why I am starting the discussion by asking “Where are you getting your prepping advice?”. The source of your knowledge will literally make the difference between whether you live or die, should a total societal collapse occur. I see a lot of preppers spending boat loads of cash on the wrong survival supplies and, more importantly, on the wrong plan of action. Part of the confusion on “how to prep” comes from the plethora of prepping advice available at the click of a mouse. I’ve read many “how to” prepping articles on major websites and magazines that literally made me spit out my morning coffee and laugh out loud. I’ve also read over a hundred prepper-fiction novels, some of them extremely popular. Most of them I can’t even finish, due to instance after instance of unbelievably stupid actions the main character takes that he miraculously survives. My most common frustration with most survival fiction authors is how they very rarely explain with any believability how the main characters stay fed in the post-apocalyptic world they are living in.

In one such immensely popular book, the main character is forced to walk home after being stranded by an EMP attack in another state. He completes the journey over multiple weeks and survives out of his get-home pack that he had in the trunk of his car at the time. Nearly every day, the author explains how “Macho Man X” pulls out an MRE to eat when he only had a half dozen or so to start out with. Halfway through the story, I am screaming at the book, “How many freakin’ MREs does this guy have?!” It must be a miracle, like the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. This character has eaten nearly four dozen MREs over the course of his travels, and I was only halfway through the book. I couldn’t help but envision a Sherpa carrying nine MRE cases on his back, stacked four feet high over his head while following a climbing team to the base camp on Mount Everest. Is no one else picking up on these important discrepancies? How in the world does this guy have a four-and-a-half-star review average on Amazon? That is just one of a hundred things I could point out about this unnamed book. Unfortunately, this author has sold an insane number of novels in his never-ending series, and therefore he’s sold thousands of terrible ideas and recommendations to unsuspecting readers along the way.

Please do some research on who you are getting your advice from. If the bio reads “…an experienced outdoorsman who loves to hunt and fish, [Author X] has had numerous articles published in [X prepper forum] and [X prepper magazine],” or “[Author X] lives off grid in the Great Northwest with his wife and nine children,” that means he can hunt and fish; it does not necessarily mean that he has the experience to tell you the best way to prepare for a SHTF scenario. It’s your and your family’s lives that are at stake! What’s the point of spending your time and money on prepping if you are following bad advice and doing it wrong? Most of the more “experienced preppers” reading this are vigorously nodding their heads in agreement right now. They are thinking back to when they first got started and something specific they spent a lot of time or money on. They eventually had to re-do or re-buy whatever it was, when they realized the original suggestion from “X Prepping Expert” was bunk.

Another bad place to get your advice is on the thousands of Internet prepper forums where everyone is an expert on everything. At this point, you are likely bypassing any semblance of reliable and experienced prepping advice. In fact, you are potentially subjecting yourself to some nameless, faceless, self-proclaimed prepper typing away at his computer in downtown Chicago. You have no way to verify the information you are reading and whether or not the person has actually done what he is recommending. There are exceptions to this rule, however. SurvivalBlog is one forum that does a good job of vetting its articles and authors. The main reason behind this, I believe, is because the website is run by James Wesley, Rawles. While Rawles and I don’t always see eye to eye on every aspect of prepping, he has still lived the prepper lifestyle for decades and has the life experience to back up his advice and recommendations. Most other forums seem to be run by people who are experts at Internet marketing that will post any story to get a Facebook share or another follower.

I will give you two examples of very bad prepping advice. Normally, I don’t drop names, but in this case I am going to make an exception because I believe this first guy is going to be responsible for tens of thousands of preppers dying (when their family’s food runs out sooner than they had planned). His name is “Frank Bates” (Google “Frank Bates Charlatan,” if you like). “Frank,” a pseudonym of course, is the owner and profiteer of Food4Patriots. If you have been running in the prepping circles for any length of time, you’ve surely clicked on a link that took you to one of his infomercials where he tells you that “the government is buying up all the long-term food and if you don’t act quickly, you won’t be able to buy any freeze-dried food in the near future.”

“Frank” is nothing more than an Internet marketing guru who has made a lot of money off those infomercials. The problem is, much of the information he is peddling is provably false or misleading, and it is designed to scare you so that you will “act quickly” to buy his product. It’s the oldest trick in the book for scam artists. If you have made a long-term food purchase from him, please realize that all he has done is re-labeled freeze-dried food from another company and made a quick buck off you. You could have purchased the same exact food from the original company for ten or twenty percent less. You also need to realize that the one-year food plan you purchased is only four or five months’ worth of calories for the average adult. I am bringing to light one of the biggest scams in the prepper industry: most long-term food companies are guilty of deceitful serving size recommendations to one degree or another. Never, ever, ever buy long-term food based off a freeze-dried company’s serving sizes or meal counts. The only way to purchase long-term food is by knowing your personal caloric needs (based on your height, weight, sex, and activity level) and buying your long-term food based on the food’s caloric count. But that’s an article for a different time.

The second example is a popular prepping author who wrote seven different prepping guides and books that were peddled online. The guy isn’t even a prepper. He admitted to having zero background experience in prepping and to just writing those books to make money off the “prepping craze”. He believes most preppers are crazy or gullible rednecks. Google his article called “Confessions of a Former Apocalypse Survival Guide Writer” and read it, if you’d like. He refuses to give his name or the names of the prepping guides and books that he wrote. He pokes fun at the entire “paranoid prepping industry” and boasts how he made money ghostwriting for another “prepping expert” who also remains un-named. The moral of the story here is that you need to be extremely careful where you are getting your prepping advice from, especially if you are new to the concept. Just like any other industry on the Internet, charlatans abound. Unfortunately, the prepping industry seems to be overflowing with them.

So who should I trust?

Now, I realize that it seems like I have just painted the entire prepping industry as a bunch of idiots or scam artists. That really isn’t the case. The truth of the matter is that most legitimate prepping experts are honest, upstanding people who have spent years prepping and truly want to help others follow in their footsteps. However, a lot of them just plain don’t know what they don’t know. They have spent years following bad advice and forming opinions on recommendations from other prepping experts who also don’t know what they don’t know.

One of the biggest problems is that the term “prepping” is used to encapsulate a wide array of SHTF scenarios. A lot of these writers are purely focused on short-term solutions for minor inconveniences to our way of life (like preparing for a natural disaster). Some even travel around the country putting on seminars and have hundreds of thousands of followers on YouTube. While I strongly recommend researching the person’s background and qualifications as a prepping expert, I also recommend you research what type of SHTF they are suggesting that you prepare for. A prepping expert whose entire thought process revolves around how to survive the next hurricane is NOT going to offer relevant guidance on how to survive a long-term grid down scenario. His advice will assume that phones, Internet, banking, food distribution, hospitals, the military, and your local police will still be functioning as normal, and his position on looting or rioting will be that it will be mostly contained to the inner city.

Regardless of where any expert falls on the SHTF spectrum, the answer to the question of whether to Bug Out or Survive in Place comes mainly from the on-demand food delivery infrastructure in this country. Can America keep its citizen’s fed under “X” SHTF scenario? Are people going to start starving? The vital take-away from this entire article is this fact: Once people begin starving, they become desperate, and the playbook for surviving such a scenario changes dramatically. This is a key point that a lot of prepping experts don’t understand.

In honesty, most preppers have done little research into and never fully wrapped their heads around what American society will look like in a serious SHTF collapse situation. They began their prepping journey with an incomplete and incorrect understanding of what type of world they are even preparing for. How can you make plans to prepare for something that you don’t understand?

Most prepping experts are Americans. They grew up in the greatest land of opportunity, and the vast majority have never experienced true desperation or starvation. At the flick of a switch, their lights always come on and with the turn of a faucet, clean water flows endlessly. Their life experience and knowledge base of a world in societal collapse is severely lacking. Most “prepper experts” have never been to third-world countries experiencing a famine. They don’t understand that if the same food shortages were to happen in America, the response from the public would be drastically worse than the famine in Mogadishu or the current food shortages in Venezuela. They have likely never seen the effects of true hunger or starvation on America’s shores, and have probably not studied the human psychology behind it.

I highly recommend everyone reading this to research the various works of Philip Zimbardo for a better understanding on the utter insanity and evil atrocities that will ensue when people are desperate and starving and when the laws of the land are a moot point with no functioning law enforcement. Zimbardo is a world renowned social psychologist; his life’s work revolves around studying how good people can turn evil. (You may be familiar with his work during the 1970s—the Stanford Prison Experiment.) His main focus since then has been studying the atrocities that average and everyday people can commit when there is no law and order, or when they are driven to desperation. It will likely have a radical transformation on your overall preparedness plans.

The other prepping experts you need to be careful of are the cross-industry “Wilderness Survival Experts”, who sometimes don the prepping label as well. Don’t get me wrong: learning wilderness survival skills is a vitally important tool in your prepper’s toolbox. Knowing how to start a fire in the rain and build a shelter is very important, and they are life skills that most Americans have lost over the last fifty years. I am not saying that all wilderness survival preppers are wrong, but if their advice is to bug out to your nearest National Forest and live off the land with the skills they are teaching you, then I say, “Run, Forrest, RUN!” The wise point of that advice is the fact that they promote fleeing the major cities after the SHTF. Where they go wrong, however, is their plan to survive off the land like the Legend of Mick Dodge. If you plan to follow their advice and become a “Lone Wolf,” I can assure you there is a 99.9% chance that you are going to end up dead, period. I’ve personally “lived off the land” in the mountains of Washington State for a month straight in January with six feet of snow on the ground. That was during the initial phase of my military training to become a SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape) Instructor. I was a budding expert in wilderness survival at the time, and I still lost fifteen pounds during that single month. (That’s a lot for a lean nineteen-year-old in peak physical shape.)

Now I realize that a few of you reading this are feeling pretty livid towards me right about now. You are sharpening your knives, about to go off on me in the comments section below, explaining how you were left on the roadside as an infant and raised by a pack of wolves or other wildling creatures. It…doesn’t…matter! I still hold to the belief that you will die. Most people that claim these skills on the Internet forums have never actually done it, or they did so in a controlled environment. Even “if” you could prove to me that you had the necessary background to survive and “live off the land” in some wilderness area for an extended period of time, you are not taking into account that the other 99% of Lone Wolves running around the mountains post-SHTF don’t have our skillset.

While you are successfully surviving, the woods will be chock full of unprepared yahoos who fled the big cities and are totally desperate and starving. At some point, you will need to build a fire to cook the occasional squirrel you snare or to warm your hypothermic body; the smoke and light from your fire will bring the other starving Lone Wolves like a moth to a flame. At some point, they will stumble across your camp, or you will stumble into the crosshairs of someone who is so desperate that they will kill you with their deer rifle from a distance, long before you see them, just on the off chance you might have a morsel of food in your pack. At some point, the hungry masses and the rural folk who live around your forest will have killed off every living creature in the woods to feed their family. Your idea of surviving the SHTF next to a fire with venison on a spit will evaporate.

I could go on for hours about the hundreds of scenarios that would get you killed while living off the land post-SHTF. The biggest take-away here is that while you “may” have the ability to survive in the wilderness for a long period of time during normal times, in a post-SHTF world, with starving and desperate people running around the forest, those wilderness skills are not going to save you. Again, the prepper experts that will lead you down this path are offering advice from their personal life experiences of a “surviving in the woods during normal times” mindset. They’ve never wrapped their heads around what life looks like after a SHTF scenario, or more importantly, what their favorite forest bug-out-location is going to look like.

The last piece of bad prepping advice I see often is to grow your prepping slowly when working on a budget. That advice typically goes something like this: start preparing for a hurricane first and then slowly work your way up to surviving the bigger threats. That’s great if you have all the time in the world to slowly build your preparations and you know nothing big will happen until you are done. While I realize that most people are working with a limited budget, your plans for survival should not revolve around your budget. Now listen… I do not mean you should cash in your kid’s college fund. What I mean is that you need to set up your plan of action first to survive the worst-case scenario, taking into consideration your limited supplies. If you start out by preparing for a hurricane and something big happens, you might not have time to re-evaluate your current situation and put in place a better plan of action to deal with it. You are stuck surviving a total collapse scenario in the city with a couple boxes of MRE’s and some candles.

The other problem with this philosophy is that you could get stuck in the small-minded, hurricane prepper community. The websites you visit to help you prepare for these minor situations typically don’t have the needed experience or mindset to help you get prepared for anything bigger. The more you read their advice and recommendations, the more you will begin to believe that the “survive in place” mentality will actually work for something big. Again, prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Don’t prepare for the least and die if it’s worse.

So, before you jump on board the prepping train, even if you’ve been on board for years, please do some research on human psychology. That way, you will have a much better understanding of true human nature and people’s true response to starvation and desperation. You’ll know whether “prepper blogger X” knows what he is talking about or is just offering suggestions from his narrow, pre-SHTF life experience and mindset. Think about who you are getting your advice from, and then ask yourself, “Why?”

Jonathan Hollerman is a former military S.E.R.E. (Survival) Instructor and best-selling author on preparedness. Hollerman is a full-time Emergency Preparedness Consultant specializing in Survival Retreat Design through Grid Down Consulting.


  1. Thank you for standing up and saying it about how really unprepared we are! It is true none of us know what is coming or what true life is like in a true SHTF situation and frankly, I hope I never have to. As a ham radio operator who in the late 60s and on spent time preparing to provide emergency communications in whatever natural or manmade disaster, I know that no matter how well you think you are prepared, it never works the way you invisioned it! As a famous military general said, ” the best prepared and planned battle falls apart at the first shot or encounter with the enemy” Keep up the good work Sir and please, please, do more writing to encourage us to anticipate and overcome when things don’t go the way we expected! God Bless and good luck!

  2. We have been prepping since 89. We have changed or scenario several times as to what we are preparing for. we have changed our BOB’s more time than I care to count. Your article hits Dead On about the people/experts that know everything and take peoples $$$ and really never give them anything in return. We have been purchasing Food stores since the beginning and have gone thru almost every company out there selling. All list different serving sizes and measures but in the long run all offer the same food for about the same price when you do the math. Yes you must look at caloric intake to make the right choices. Depending on your situation how much is important. If your going to sit around and do NOTHING you need only the basic intake about 1200 per day depending on your age and other factors. We have been working it out for the past several years and still don’t have all the answers. I’m a kinda big guy 5-11 230 more weight than I want to be but it is what it is. I do a lot of strenuous physical work on our retreat when we go to it and have been testing what works. I need about 3K per day and I still lose a few lbs over the course of 3-4 days. The 3k calories are spread out at about 6-7 hundred Breakfast, 5 hundred lunch, 6-7 hundred dinner and the balance over the course of the day snacking and such as we work, break, work, work. We are testing our food stores also and you can SURVIVE on Freeze dried Foods with no problem. We just opened a can of Freeze Dried Beef Steaks packaged in 1986 last week and they came back to life as advertised and were tasty (with a little help). I rarely write any responses so I will stop rambling until next time.

  3. Very much appreciated!! I worked for decades with an oil company and learned from their evolutionary thinking. They started with “respond to oil spill from a ship ” after the Exoon Valdez. Over the decades, that became “Crisis Reponse”, as the emergencies define the response, not the other way around. We need to think that way in our personal lives as well. Our response plan will not define the disaster, it will be the other way around. THINKING is an underrated exercise….

  4. The whole ‘Bug-Out’ concept sells a lot of stuff. Most folks would be safer hunkering down with a group. If you choose a plan to bug-out, have a pre-provisioned location and pre-established group. ‘Patriots’ is an excellent example.

    1. I agree Roger. Having a group is better than going it alone but that group BOL must be in a rural location.
      If you are grouping up in the city, it’s just a matter of time till a bigger group comes along and wipes you out (or multiple smaller incursions dwindle your manpower).
      However, with a group, you must also have long-term food to feed the bigger group. That’s a big problem I see with my clients. While they may have plenty of food stored up for “their” family, the other families don’t have enough, if any, food stored at the BOL. That’s a recipe for disaster. Most people that go the “group” route don’t really understand HOW MUCH food a group of 20 people consume on a daily basis and the insanely large gardening infrastructure and cold storage structure needed to keep food for that many people.
      The other big issue is that its VERY hard to put a reliable group together. Most of my wealthier clients don’t have similar minded friends in the “limousine liberal” circles they run. But you are correct, a single family unit will have a very rough time doing everything themselves and trying to keep a 24 hr watch long-term. You have to sleep sometime…

  5. With all respect, history has shown that, in a full-on anarchy, that to survive, one would have to be Mo-bile and Hos-tile. I will be neither, and expect that my life-expectancy, in the extreme rural area in which I live, would be measured in weeks. I am extremely well prepared…far better than most, but would be unable to defend what I have against “your worst enemy”, as the blogger of several weeks ago related.

    1. Don’t get discouraged Gerald, and never give up hope! You are correct that threats could be many and often. If you don’t have a big group for defense, than you need to think like a squirrel.
      Hide your foodstuffs and supplies underground “outside” the four walls of your house. You don’t need a 100k bunker to do that either. Buy a larger plastic water holding tank and bury it under a shed with floor access or something similar. I strongly disagree with the board up your windows and defend your stuff to the last man philosophy. If you build the Alamo, it will have the same results eventually.
      If “your worst enemy” is coming down the drive, flee through the backdoor (or better yet tunnel system if you can afford it). Let them come in your house and steal what they can carry off. This isn’t a life threatening situation if 90% of your supplies are hidden elsewhere. When they leave, move back in… Don’t get into pitched battles after the SHTF if you can avoid them. forget the macho stuff alot of other are peddling. live to fight another day and don’t get yourself or a loved one killed over a little food or sleeping bags… just my two cents brother. Don’t give up. Identify the threat and figure out a way around it…

  6. Excellent article. The idea that people are going to live off the land is , I think , viable for about two weeks. Then we are going to run out of deer , elk , and bears. May take a little longer for rabbits and skunks .

    My second thought is many preppers ( me included) stock pile ammunitition. The idea of huge gunfights is I think, far fetched. Any encounter is probably going to be rare and over in seconds. Keeping a low profile and being ready will be ,I think, the best way to stay alive.

    A reliable water supply and a bunch of food is our plan. An LDS contact is a good way to go, canned rice and beans by the case are really cheap and will last 25 years. We bought 49 cases . You can them yourself . They have everything you need ,including supervision. I’m not a Mormon and don’t plan to become one and was worried they might try to convert me. There were a bunch of nice people at the LDS site who never mentioned religion. They even take visa.

    I would encourage everyone to check calories before you buy any food. As the author pointed out ,many of the supplies marketed simply provide less calories then an individual needs to survive.

  7. As mentioned in the article how impossible it will be to contain a fire in the city, another huge secondary aspect of the grid down scenario that is also not very well understood, is the impact of no electricity to regulate nuclear power plants and hydroelectric dams.. Do not be down wind or down stream. What other physical objects will collapse without power? This is a nightmare scenario with few good options except choosing a very good location, having a detailed and well rehearsed plan, and then having some luck that you are not too far away when the lights go out. Every time I shop at Costco, I buy something extra to add to the supply and think this may be the last time I get to look at all this easy to buy food… Looking forward to reading the rest of the article. Thank you.

    1. Great point on the nuclear facility nearby (and i would add large dams). Know the threats to where you live and if you do have a nuclear facility or big dam near you, than survive in place is absolutely a no go option. A long term grid down scenario is the stuff of nightmares and will likely be ten times more savage than I described or people think…

  8. Mr. Hollerman – thanks for this wonderful series – your insight demonstrates your wisdom and candor that needs to be shared with a much broader audience. A lengthy response and comment, and I’m hopefully that others will benefit from my perspective on your series.

    Growing up around Fairchild AFB as a late baby boomer, I had many parents of my friends that went through the Survival School, and then later in life became a personal friend with one of the commanders of this school – what I know/learned is that “preparation assets” without deep research training and experience are worth much less than many likely ascribe to these assets – having many “BBB’s” without training, the know-how, and resourcefulness will be a surprise and shortcoming for many that think they are prepared. Like many, I have many assets stored away but the research and training are now my focus, especially given my age and decision to bug-in and build a community to respond to such events, rather than to hope to find a “Camelot” in some other remote location. Thankfully, I live in the Midwest, still too close to a city populated by 250,000, but nothing like the hell that will face those in our large metropolitan areas if the black swan emerges.

    Agree with your candid assessment of how to prepare and survive any number of events – I describe the potential risks we face today in these categories: Nuclear, Biological (including pandemics), Chemical, Digital, Natural (CME) and the Human Factor (i.e., someone like a Kim Jung-un or Putin that will perpetuate the event).

    In risk management, one’s focus should be on assessing the “severity – how bad could it be” and “frequency – how many times should we expect these events over time”, and then the case for a “black swan” event (from a natural event or the human factor).

    You can try to prepare for all events but in the end, you have to make choices (unless you have unlimited wealth) and invest in a few assets and skills that will be most appropriate for the risk while perhaps providing some residual remediation for less calamitous events.

    So the question is what event would be the most calamitous – my assessment is that a coordinated “cyber-attack” from a foreign nation or a terrorist/criminal organization is a growing possibility and tops my list (likely a true “black swan” event for many when it happens), followed by a viral flu-like pandemic, an EMP/CME event, a localized biological or chemical attack, and radioactive fallout if you are not within 100 miles of a major military installation or center of economic importance (e.g., the top 20 MSA’s contain 35% of the US population today – these will be the first cities to be targeted – destroyed and quickly turn into anarchy – don’t bother to prepare unless you are lucky enough to leave before an attack or lucky not be in these locations if this is the risk that you believe is most likely to occur).

    With a post-graduate degree in biological science and 30+ years in the financial services industry, my perspective has been shaped by my academic education and watching our financial industry continue to become the Achilles heel for our country, the world and where the risk is sorely underestimated by most and known only by a few.

    Look no further than the frequent guidance (and examination and reporting requirements now routine) by the banking regulators and the Treasury over the last 3 years. Today, every major bank in the United States is desperately scrambling to quickly shore up their cybersecurity and technology infrastructure – you’ll never hear this topic on the nightly news or about the events of a compromised US bank system or the financial losses because it will create a panic. When it happens, it will start slow at first, with those most savvy likely to move and protect their assets, and then broadly impact those living “pay check to pay check”.

    The drive for “digitizing” our economy and currency is one of many strategies to cope with a cyber-attack that destabilizes the currency of a country. The US Dollar and Euro are the targets of a few countries and they know how damaging any success in a cyber-attack could create in the short and long term (e.g., look no further than Bin Laden’s thoughtfulness in his choice of targets that has cost our economy untold trillions over the last 16 years and the 2,998 souls that lost their lives on this date). Even if amounts are not stolen or transferred to another account, when the EBT, ATM’s and the Visa/Mastercard systems fail, even for a few days of disruption at critical times during the month, the panic that ensues will be a startling reminder of this vulnerability.

    Pandemics are not what many fully understand – this event is not an isolated outbreak like Ebola, HIV or even Zika. It’s an event where the human immune system is so unprepared that a modest shift in the genome of a virus will create a level of virulence (how infectious the agent is to the host), a long latency (how long the infection takes to fully fulminate across the host and population, and the ease of the spread), a mortality rate (how many people will survive or die from the infection), and the treatment protocol (how many organ systems does the infection impact and must be stabilized or treated to ensure survival) – all of which compromise and broadly kill the human hosts in a population.

    A pandemic is similar to a black swan event – only after the event does one begin to understand the root cause and what drove the virulence and mortality (and the preventative measures such as vaccinations that may or may not provide to the population). We have not seen a major pandemic event in 100+ years (the Spanish Flu was the last and long forgotten by any generation that is alive today), and if this event were to repeat, we could easily see 5 – 50 million deaths in North America, worse yet completely overwhelming our health care system and our “just in time” economy.

    Preparing for a pandemic is not in the realm of many plans or persons – the only preparation will be near total isolation from anyone that has been exposed to a large population (e.g., frequent travelers, church goers, large office complexes and shopping malls, any health care providers, including EMT’s), assuming you are not one of those that have already been exposed. Isolating or turning away sick family, friends and neighbors will not be easy unless you have significant training in “isolation” medicine (e.g., how to put on and remove googles, latex gloves, tyvek suits, particulate masks, and effectively use disinfectants, isolation and clean room techniques).

    The most challenging pandemic will be a respiratory virus that spreads through aerosols created from coughs and sneezes, with a long latency (7-14 days) and high mortality rate (50-75% of those infected directly or indirectly from other organ failures from the inspection) – no amount of “fish antibiotics” will help you or the patient – in fact, these may further compromise the victim’s recovery in some cases. Your preparations will need to focus on surviving the “burn-out period” – the time frame for the virus to kill off all of the susceptible hosts, leaving only those that were lucky enough to avoid infection or had some immunity or stamina to survive.

    The EMP/CME event, including those from a cyber-attack induced on the electrical infrastructure, could be very broad (world-wide) or narrow (covering a few hundred square miles). Success in any preparation will be driven by the severity and duration of the outage, time of year (e.g., imagine a major power outage in the upper states in the midst of a major snow storm and arctic front that drives temperatures to below zero for several days), the response by the community (e.g., the resourcefulness of those that have the skills to restore any power outage, authorities effectively communicating the actions and response, and the “moral and spiritual fiber” of the majority), and how well prepared you are to help your family, friends and neighbors.

    You can do all of the “desk top business continuity plans and games”, but a major EMP/CME event will be near impossible to completely understand or plan for in the future. My only plan and hope is that my assets, resources, skill and small community can withstand (and hopefully outlive) a slowly unfolding tsunami that will likely kill off the majority of the population. Noteworthy research has shown that through circumstance, luck, and the will to survive and resourcefulness, that 5-20% of those that face such an event find a way to survive, and this same research was the basis for Lloyds of London’s report on their forecast for the mortality rate from a catastrophic EMP/CME event in the USA.

    So, where does this leave the person that refuses to be unprepared and seeks to protect their family, friends and neighbor – simply put, you have to make the best informed choices that are rational and fact based (much like what you shared in your series); you must do your own thoughtful and fact based research and internalize what you believe is the most likely risk based on the environment you live in today; understand how to remediate the risk (what are the few core and key resources needed to cope and overcome the event); how well prepared are you to lead or participate in a community of like-minded individuals to band together (i.e., I’ve learned from Admiral McRaven’s recent book that the key success factor in becoming a Navy Seal isn’t strength of body but rather the strength of the team and your confidence that the man/women behind you is what will keep you alive); and finally the strength of your moral and spiritual fiber – your belief in God, the Lord and the teachings in the scripture, and your will to sacrifice and protect your family and friends in the most difficult of times.

    Thanks again for taking the time to share your candid and thoughtful perspectives to the SurvivalBlog readers.

  9. If planning to use a large plastic water tank underground, make sure it is rated to be buried. My neighbor just had a cistern collapse as he was back filling. It was rated for above ground use only.

  10. This is an eye-opening article! You have pointed out great points and realistic ideas for prepping. Prepping is more of a personal thing, you can refer to survival books, articles, tutorials on the internet, but how you prepare and what are the tools and supply you should buy for prepping really depends on the situation you are in. Alter your Bug Out Bags and suppy everytime is pretty tiring. I guess you should know first the place you live in very well then think about what are the most common disasters or SHTF scenarios can occur there. After that, you can laid out survival plan, prep for gears, and do all the necessary things you could think of for long-term survival situations.

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