Today’s modern society, for the most part, is dependent upon several intertwined and dependent infrastructures. We rely upon these intertwined and dependent systems for our 21st Century Western lives. As we have witnessed in the COVID-19 pandemic and the Texas Polar Vortex, these infrastructures can be very easy to interrupt and one disruption can start a domino effect. For many preppers, storing equipment and supplies back is the failsafe method for handling societal infrastructure disruptions. A family of four putting away a 55-gallon blue drum of water seems like a major achievement but in reality, that water will only last 3 to 7 days. Then what? As we prepare for when SHTF, we need to ensure we are building our own prepper infrastructure versus building a false sense of security by just storing things away.
Building prepper infrastructure is different than just storing away equipment and supplies. The concept of prepper infrastructure is that while stores of equipment and supplies are limited or finite, infrastructure allows you to continue to produce to meet your needs. For example, the concept of prepping equipment and supplies would have one store a hammer, nails, and perhaps some lumber away. The prepper infrastructure concept, on the other hand, concentrates on the means of production of hammers, nails, and lumber. We will interchange survival infrastructure for prepper infrastructure but the terms mean the same.
The advantage of building survival infrastructure is that you, your family, mutual assistance group (MAG) or community can continue to function when the supply chain dries up and your shelves are bare. Your survival infrastructure will probably not be as robust as our modern infrastructure but it will provide your basic needs. From a historical perspective, the average family farm of the early 1800s was, in a sense, its own independent self-supporting community. That isn’t to say that those 19th-Century farms were 100 percent self-sufficient. Being Capitalist, someone realized that there was an advantage to using the economies of scales concept and grist and sawmills, that harnessed the power of moving water, became cornerstones of many communities. The other cornerstones of these early communities were the “general store” and the Church. If a community was lucky, it may have attracted a doctor.
Many of our forefathers were generalists in that they had many skill sets, that allowed them to tackle many tasks to survive. Today, our whole society is comprised of specialists, who are trained and employed for one specific function. I think back to when I was younger and how many people would be seen outside on a Saturday afternoon with their car hood up in the air, working on their own vehicle. Now computers, fuel injection, specialized tools, and lack of room to turn a wrench makes repairing our own vehicles a task relegated to the “professionals”. We have developed a complex society, unfortunately, history has numerous examples of complex societies failing. We need to re-embrace the concept of being a “jack-of-all-trades, masters of none” to help us when our complex society fails, and it will at some point.
The Department of Homeland Security has mapped out our infrastructures and their codependences. This image  illustrates codependence. Stockpiled supplies only provide us with a finite timeframe for surviving a disruption. Some of the more common periods are 3 days, 2 weeks, and a year. But what happens when we eat the last pouch of freeze-dried food, or open the last can of Spam? What happens when all our infrastructure stops working? The “Achilles Heel” of our modern society is electricity, stop the flow and all our other infrastructures stop. We need to be ready, willing, and able to survive and rebuild our society.
Having prepped for most of my life, I was always bothered by the fact that stored supplies at some point will run out–then what? The answer is we need to ensure that we have our own resilient and efficient micro-infrastructures in place. Don’t be lulled into believing that a two-week supply of “X” is all you need since after that things will return to “normal”. As we have seen recently sometimes normal is replaced by a “New” normal.
Knowledge is Key
The bottom line up-front is that our survival and re-building of society from a cataclysmic event will not be dependent up physical things but rather knowledge. Each generation has built their technology using the technology of the prior generation. Unfortunately, as time goes on the knowledge of older technologies is not around to be used to rebuild a collapsed society. The very best book that I have read and keep in my survival library is “The Knowledge, How to Rebuild Civilization in the Aftermath of a Cataclysm” by Lewis Dartnell.
When Mike Bloomberg was running for the Democratic Party nomination, he boiled down farming to simply digging a hole, throwing a seed in the hole, and watering. This is a great example of the lack of past knowledge that I’m talking about. For many of us, we have been raised in society where “Fast”, “Instant” and “Quick” have psychologically conditioned us to look for the Fast, quick, and instant ways to prepare for disaster. Take for example the 3-day bug-out bags being sold on the commercial market. How many people buy those and then think, “I’m prepared”? This simplistic type of thinking will not serve us well. Knowledge will be key but that isn’t to say that material items don’t play a role. For example, knowing how to blacksmith is great and one could build their own forge and blower but having a hand-cranked blower would say time and probably be more efficient than what was cobbled together post-SHTF.
As we start to build our micro survival infrastructures, we are probably going to do the same thing engineers have done with the macro systems and that is to create dependencies among the systems. For example, you may install a solar array to power your home and some of that power is used to run your well pump thus your water infrastructure is now dependent upon the energy infrastructure. This is probably unavoidable simply due to economics. However, unlike many infrastructure owners and operators, preppers subscribe to the “one is none and two is one” theorem. Thus, we should expect failures and plan accordingly. We should also limit as much dependence among systems as possible.
For example, instead of having one central solar array with several solar panels charging one main battery bank and providing your electrical needs through one inverter to all your systems, perhaps using several smaller solar panels and batteries sets, each dedicated to providing the power needs of one individual system would be better? It may cost a little more but if one system goes down, you could reposition one of the other systems to fill in. Moving solar panels and batteries around is not the optimum situation but losing your entire capacity for electrical generation isn’t a good situation to put yourself in a well.
(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2.)