(Continued from Part 2. This concludes the article series.)
Regardless of how you plan on loading equipment and supplies, it is critical that you document a loading plan. This should define what gets loaded in what order and where it’s loaded. How detailed this needs to be depends on your requirements – if you’re planning on walking from your location to a well-stocked bug-out compound, keeping a simple bug-out bag packed will probably meet your needs, since you won’t need to pack much to get going.
However, if any significant amount of packing or loading will be required prior to displacing, you should design and document a load plan. This is a document that defines what needs to get loaded, in what order, and where it goes. The document should be fairly specific in terms of what gets loaded – don’t just list ‘important papers, guns, medical supplies, etc.’ – list where a specific item/box/bin is located on your property along with a description (e.g. ‘Gray plastic bin labelled ‘Freeze-Dried Food #3’ located on the shelf #6 next to washer’).
Having a consistent system for numbering and labeling everything will significantly simplify this process. Print multiple copies of the loading plan to hand to everyone and assign them specific items to retrieve – it helps if you group them by location. You should assign one person as a ‘load master’ to check off each item on the load plan as it’s brought to the loading location. The second part of the load plan should illustrate how the items should be packed in the cart/vehicle/trailer so that you don’t have to spend a lot of time moving stuff around to figure out how to fit it all in (have you ever had to pack an over-stuffed car with tons of kid’s toys for a family vacation?).
In order for this to work you will obviously have had to go through a packing exercise beforehand to figure out how to best fit everything. This is an area that will benefit from consistently using standard-sized bins for storing all of your preps. You can even practice your loading using empty bins if they’re all going to be the same size, although you’ll still need to make sure you distribute the weight appropriately.
The last aspect of loading you need to plan is how to secure the load(s). You’ll probably be traveling in rougher conditions that you’d normally experience on a family vacation, and arriving at your destination to find out half of your supplies fell off of your trailer on the way would be pretty disappointing. While paracord and a tarp might work for a hand-pulled cart or sled, you’ll need something stronger for a load on top of your vehicle or on a trailer. A combination of good-quality ratcheting tie-down straps and cargo nets, configured correctly, should be able to secure most loads under most conditions. As with the loading plan, you should practice securing the load beforehand to figure out your best approach.
Safety & Security
If you’re forced to displace, something really bad has probably happened, and chances are that the rule of law is failing if it hasn’t already disappeared entirely. You can also assume that many of the safety mechanisms that protect us today, such as severe weather warnings, first responders, park rangers, etc. won’t be available. This means you need to take extra care to ensure your own safety and security while displacing.
From a safety perspective, the same rules will apply just as they do today – don’t camp in a gully that may experience a flash flood, don’t sit under a lone tree in the middle of a field during a thunderstorm, watch for funnel clouds, don’t try to cross a rapidly flowing river, don’t walk on thin ice, don’t start a cooking fire in an enclosed area, watch out for dangerous animals, etc.
The big difference is that you’ll need to be able to recognize the potential for these hazardous conditions yourself and act appropriately. You probably won’t have access to weather alerts, flash flood warnings, etc., and you won’t be able to call 911 to get help if someone gets lost or hurt. Identify potential hazards as part of your scenario and route planning and make sure everyone in your group knows how to recognize and avoid them.
Security Concerns & Mitigation
As with safety, you’re probably going to end up being responsible for your own security if you have to displace after an event. As was discussed earlier, if you’re displacing after an event where law enforcement is no longer active or ineffective you’ll most likely encounter individuals that want to hurt you and take your supplies. You need to take action to protect your people, supplies and equipment while in transit. Here are a few suggestions and considerations:
- Plan your routes to avoid people as much as possible – this includes urban areas and major highways.
- Everyone in your group that can be should be armed. For lower-risk movements (e.g. small group/short duration, travel through deserted areas, etc.), a simple concealed handgun may be adequate, but as they say in the military, no one has ever complained about having too many guns or too much ammo once the shooting starts. At a minimum I’d recommend a handgun for everyone and at least one shotgun or battle rifle (AR-15 or equivalent) per adult. Everyone should have trained with their weapons and at least be comfortable firing them from a fixed position.
- No one should ever go anywhere alone, even if they’re just stepping into some trees to relieve themselves.
- Understand and train on the tactics unique to movement. The book Contact! by Max Velocity has some excellent information on this subject. Pay particular attention to tactics regarding to ambushes, since that’s the most likely scenario you’ll encounter while en route.
- Maintain constant 360° If something in your path looks questionable, stop and assess or try to find a way around. Invest in some good-quality optics (binoculars or monoculars) and use them to scout out your path and surrounding regularly. If you’re in a vehicle make sure someone is always watching out the back and sides. You can purchase some decent quality backup cameras and install them on the back and sides of your vehicle to give yourself some additional visibility. If you’re pulling a trailer make sure the camera is installed behind it.
- If there’s any possible way you can afford it, invest in some night vision optics. These can range anywhere from low-cost active infrared monoculars to high-end military-quality passive sets. You can also go for thermal vision devices which are also available in a wide range of prices. Having night vision will provide you with a much greater degree of movement flexibility and safety by allowing travel and observation at night. A detailed discussion regarding the pros and cons of the various night vision options is beyond the scope of this article, but the critical point to remember is that both active infrared and thermal devices can’t ‘see’ through glass, so you won’t be able to use them behind a windshield while driving.
- It may sound paranoid, but any person you encounter during your travels may represent a risk to you and your group. That woman sitting on the side of the road with a crying baby may be there to get you to stop so her friends can attack you. Discuss and plan how you’ll interact with other people you encounter so that
- Avoid stopping in a in any area where an attacker can approach without being seen, and always have people assigned to keep watch for anyone approaching while you’re stopped.
- If you do have to stop for any length of time, find a location that provides concealment and ensure that someone in the group is always awake and watching. You can also set up simple tripwires around your location to provide some advanced warning of someone approaching.
- Be alert to the possibility of someone following you. Not all criminals are stupid, and they may see you and your supplies and realize that you might be traveling to somewhere with even more stuff and decide to follow you. Keep an eye out for anyone for anyone that seems to be following you and try to minimize the trail that you leave. This will be difficult if you’re traveling through snow or over soft ground, so you may have to set up an occasional ‘ambush’ after going around a corner or bend in the road or trail and wait to see if anyone shows up. If you’re being followed by a vehicle you can also dump some caltrops or a spike strip on the road behind you to flatten their tires.
- If you need to cook food while traveling, stock a small gas cook stove. Keep in mind that the smell of burning wood and cooking food can travel quite a distance, so don’t cook where you plan on staying for any length of time – plan a dinner break well before you reach your camping location and cook breakfast just before you leave. If you do have to light a fire, especially at night, consider using a Dakota fire hole instead of an open fire.
- If you have a large vehicle or cart that isn’t already camouflaged and plan on pulling off the road into a wooded area to rest, consider bringing a camouflage net.This will help break up the outline and reduce the chance of someone noticing it from far away. The same applies if you plan on sleeping in ‘distress orange’ tents.
If you’re displacing with more than one person you’ll need some way to communicate among the group, even when you’re not within talking distance. This becomes even more critical if you’re traveling with multiple vehicles, since you won’t be able to talk to them directly. There may also be situations where you need to talk to someone relatively close by but you don’t want to raise your voice for security reasons. The most obvious solution is to use radios – you can buy some relatively inexpensive Family Radio Service (FRS) radios for individuals to carry, or use Citizen Band (CB) radios to communicate between vehicles. If you’re using portable radios don’t forget to include batteries and a solar panel or some way to power them.
One potential issue with FRS and CB radios is that they’re limited to commonly used public radio bands, and anyone else with a similar radio can listen in on your communications. A more flexible option would be something like an inexpensive Baofeng UV-5R radio, which can communicate over a much wider range of frequencies. Your communications won’t be encrypted, but if you chose several obscure frequencies for your communications, the odds of someone overhearing you are very low. Note that in order to use many of the frequencies on the Baofeng radios in non-emergency situations you’ll need to have a ham radio license, but after a disaster or SHTF scenario the FCC probably won’t be checking too hard.
You may also want to have everyone carry some form of non-electronic emergency communication technology in case the radios fail or are lost. Some simple ideas are to give everyone a loud whistle that they can wear around their neck and/or some aerial flares. These can be used to communicate emergencies, help locate people if they get separated, et cetera.
Communications is a complex area for discussion and there are a lot of options available. I recommend searching SurvivalBlog.com for ‘communicate’ and ‘communication’ to locate a lot of good additional information.
Like any other activity related to preparedness, displacement requires thoughtful consideration of your goals, requirements and options, followed by the preparation, implementation and maintenance of a good plan. Even if your disaster plan is to hunker down and bug-in, subsequent events may still force you to displace to another location. Having a well thought-out plan for doing so can make the difference between continued survival on your own versus ending up a guest of the government in a FEMA camp.