The advantages of this trip west are due to large open areas with interspersed farms, ponds, and streams, relatively high visibility, and low population density. However, there are always the occasional natural and man-made risks to be wary of. Being largely farmland, most of the surface water is contaminated by pesticides and varying degrees of farm wastes, so have a variety of methods and containers to sterilize water in route. Removing most organic compounds and hydrophobic pesticides from water requires filtering through activated carbon or bio-char created from the gassification burning of wood above 1,652 Deg F (900 deg. C), not plain charcoal. Your local pet store carries ***activated carbon*** for use in aquarium filters. Distillation will remove most chemical contaminates as long as their boiling point is somewhat higher than water’s 212 Deg F (100 Deg C) while initial open, rapid boiling kills pathogens/bacteria and removes the lower temperature chemicals such as alcohols.
Of course the season of the year can present its own challenges, but I won’t detail winter conditions, since most are leaving them. However, if you fan out south in winter, remember these areas are not equipped for ice or snow hazards, and driving can be especially treacherous even on the interstates. From March to July the midwest is also known as tornado alley for a good reason.
The great majority of tornadoes are spawned from storm systems crossing the open plains from the south or west to the east/northeast and usually track the same direction, so missing one can be as simple as driving northwest or south/southeast until it passes by. However, areas where they touch down may be impassable due to debris. Even if you drive a 4×4 truck (which you should!), come equipped with a 2-ton jack, tow chains, and 4”x4” welded steel mesh (WWF slab reinforcement) panels (2’x6’) for escaping snow, ice, and mud. The same WWF panels with some 2×10 planks above also help drive over heavy oil slicks, broken glass, nails, et cetera.
High visibility can work for and against you, so a pair of long distance binoculars are required to spot potential road blocks, barricades, and other nefarious traps. A section of closed-cell, foam pipe insulation (4” long?****) to friction-fit over your eyepieces will keep out sun glare and reduce wide angle reflections someone downrange might spot, and this also works well with rifle scopes. When traveling west try to drive early in the morning and day with the sun behind you and avoid driving into a blinding sunset. When suspicions are aroused, either stop and drive around them without using the most obvious or closest optional route (probably under surveillance) or pull off into an unobservable ditch and reconnoiter the situation first. High visibility is a function of flat terrain and in a grid down situation it would be nice to know where the nearest high ground is in your area. Hills offer a lot of advantages for defense and concealment, while being a good vantage point when staying below the ridge line. This kind of information is available for your entire route by checking the website heywhatsthat.com. This trip will not be a beeline drive after each day that passes a triggering event, so try to discern potential trouble areas ahead of time and from a good distance and vantage point.
The Midwest, Western, and Southern states have been thoroughly infiltrated by the gangs operating in the U.S. and Mexico, averaging 3-6 members per 1,000 population, not to mention the terrorists they have been paid to smuggle across our border. Knowing their mode of operation and identifiers can help avoid direct conflicts or shorten any encounter to your advantage. The National Gang Intelligence Center published a good primer on these groups and their affiliations in the 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment. The following list shows the alliances among the various Mexican drug trafficking organizations (MDTOs) or cartels and their allies/rivals. These gangs specialize in drug/human/child trafficking, weapons/alien smuggling, prostitution, assaults/robbery and murder for hire, initiation, and competition, and most are supporting the reclamation of the Southwest states as a return to the Hispanic homeland of Aztlan. Source: 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment.
Cartel Allies Rivals
- The Sinaloa or Pacific Cartel
- Allies: Hermanos, New Mexico Syndicate, Los Carnales, Latin Kings, Mexican Mafia (CA), Surenos & MS-13 Mexican Mafia (AZ) Wet Back Power Sinaloa Cowboys West Texas Tangos Los Negros Border Brothers (CA & AZ)
- Rivals: Los Zetas, Cardenas-Guillen Cartel (Gulf), Tijuana Cartel, Beltran-Leyva Cartel, Juarez Cartel
- La Familia Michoacana Cartel
- Allies: Sinaloa Cartel, Cardenas-Guillen Cartel (Gulf) Cardenas-Guillen, Surenos, MS-13, West Texas Tangos
- Rivals: Los Zetas, Beltran-Leyva Cartel, Vincente-Carillo Fuentes Cartel (Juarez)
- Los Zetas
- Allies: Vincente-Carillo Fuentes Cartel (Juarez), Beltran-Leyva Cartel, Barrio Azteca, Hermanos, Mexikanemi, Texas Syndicate, MS-13
- Rivals: La Familia Michoacana Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel, Cardenas-Guillen Cartel (Gulf), Arellano-Felix Cartel (Tijuana), Cartel de la Sierra (Sierra Cartel)
- Cardenas-Guillen Cartel (Gulf)
- Allies: La Familia Michoacana Cartel, Sinaloa Cartel, Hermanos, Partido Revolutionary Mexicano, Raza Unida, Texas Chicano Brotherhood
- Rivals: Los Zetas, Sinaloa Cartel, La Familia Michoacana Cartel
- Vincente-Carillo Fuentes Cartel (Juarez)
- Allies: Barrio Azteca, Hermanos, Los Zetas New Mexico Syndicate, Los Carnales
- Rivals: Sinaloa Cartel, La Familia Michoacana Cartel
- Beltran-Leyva Cartel (taken over by Sierra Cartel)
- Allies: La Familia Michoacana Cartel
- Rivals: Los Zetas
- Arellano-Felix Cartel (Tijuana)
- Allies: Mexican Mafia (CA),Surenos, Mexican Mafia (AZ), Border Brothers (CA)
- Rivals: Los Zetas, Sinaloa Cartel
The FBI is most concerned with MS-13, 18th Street gang, Florencia13, Barrio Azteca, Juggalos, Latin King Nation, Los Zetas, various Somali gangs in Minnesota, Washington, and Missouri, Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos running Texas prisons, Mexican Mafia, Mongols bikers allied with Bandidos, Outlaws, and the Sons of Silence, and the Vagos Motorcycle Club. Gangs will be organized and well armed looking for victims, spoils, fuel, and food, so don’t be available or attract their attention. Their road blocks should be visible from a distance and avoided; if not, never hesitate to turn around and leave in different directions with an agreed rally point. Plan a scenario for dealing with their spotters trolling the roads for potential targets, and don’t let them follow too close or long allowing reinforcements to arrive.
A less considered risk but one that may appear overnight after a TEOTWAWKI event are the scattered military installations along the way. State maps are the best way to find them, but the largest by far (215,000 acres) is Fort Hood in north central Texas between US281 and IH35, just west of Temple, Texas. Their presence could be a stabilizing feature of visible day and night patrols or one of check-points and intimidation for out-of-state travelers. Consider one member of your group obtaining a drivers license for the state you are traveling to before-hand as an OPSEC backup. Confuse plate readers by adding reflective tape to reconfigure numbers and letters after crossing each state line. In a TEOTWAWKI event, consider spray paint in black, primer, and rust, or “Plastidip” fast drying, removable spray paint that can be peeled off in sheets after curing to change the appearance of your vehicle as you travel. Consider adding an old roof top carrier for strapping down supplies in HD demolition plastic/woven garbage bags that could be removed during the trip as supplies dwindle.
Home Destination Risks
Upon arrival at your destination, do a visual assessment of how the house is approached and situated to identify a defensive perimeter that can be secured or alarmed on all sides. Take down all area street signs and numbers, relocate all garbage cans, and burn barrels to the front yard, and find any old appliances, scrap, junk cars, or salvage materials that can be used to litter the area surrounding the house. Your new location should be the worst option in the vicinity for potential thieves and scavengers; it should look like it’s not worth the trouble to climb around the debris. This approach serves at least three purposes:
- It shows disorganization, poverty, and lack of resources,
- It provides strategic locations for alarm trip wires, and
- It provides observation posts (OPs) for night watch.
Most scavengers are looking for soft targets with easy access. Your driveway should be blocked by a wrecked car at a distance from the house, so any approach is funneled to a very visible zone with limited options out.
The house needs at least two (2) emergency exits for concealed retreat along a planned pathway with one exit planned not to be a door; use a breakout panel, hinged window, et cetera.
Alarms and Defenses
Perimeter alarms should be redundant, including animals on-site and trip wire cans (drill bottom holes to drain) with pebbles or nails banging around inside when jostled, so even if you don’t hear them the animals will. Open areas can have wire strung between junk piles or rebar stakes at 12” above the ground to impede anyone’s progress particularly for areas of less visibility from the house and at night. The larger windows should be mostly boarded from the outside to appear broken with a haphazard appearance not using neatly cut plywood sheets. The boards prevent easy viewing in from outside and concealed viewing out from inside while still providing interior operation (except awning type). Similar to snipers, all your power projection is from inside concealment not exposed to observation, including daily living and supplies.
If the house does not have a metal roof or even if it does, old beaten, rusty/weathered metal siding can be lapped from the bottom eaves to the ridge like shingles and tied down with tie wire to create a fire break. Panel lengths should run perpendicular to the eaves and side lapped to shed water and molotovs. None of these improvements should be recognized as “purposeful” but merely expedient repairs by poor squatters using limited resources and make-do solutions. A roll of barbed and smooth fencing tie wire with HD twisting pliers are a great investment for most connecting, hanging, hold down, tensioning, and bundling needs as the original rancher’s “duct tape” solution.
Hardening the security of the house is provided mainly from the interior so not to be seen or anticipated. A good example of this concept is my design for an exterior, in-swinging door barrier that resists brute force and cutting tools.
For a 3’ wide exterior door, use a 4’ length of 3/4” EMT electrical conduit as a sleeve for a #5 or #6 steel rebar at least 3’-6” long. Attach chain link fence tensioning bands (loops) to each side of the door jambs using a “SPAX” self-drilling, hex head lag bolt x minimum 4” length directly into the door frame studs. Locate just above the door dead bolt or standard hardware to protect these from saws. Drive two, self-taping stainless steel x 3/4” screws opposite each other into both ends of the EMT with 3/8” exposed approximately 1” from the inside of each band to prevent slipping out of band or conduit during an attempt to break in. Merely lift through the loop’s wide dimension to slide the entire conduit out from inside. Engineered SPAX lag screws (available at Home Depot and Lowes) resist 3.5 times the withdrawal loads of a larger lag bolt and are reusable. Forced entry breaching rams won’t work unless they batter down the entire door panel first and portable metal saws can’t get a good grip on independently spinning metal tubes and rebar.
The breach time and frustrated effort will allow an organized response and potential flanking maneuver from outside by way of the back exits. All standard locks on out buildings and out-swinging doors should be replaced with “bump proof” locks such as combination, magnetic, or electric concealed mechanisms preferably in a steel “puck” surround edge band. If someone is going to break in, you want to hear them in the process.
Blackout window drapes should be used and interior welded bar grates attached to wall studs with SPAX bolts for window ventilation openings. Avoid exterior access to windows and other concealment by using the rebar stakes and trip wire across a 4’ zone in front and to sides of windows. Convex mirrors can be mounted high under the house corner eaves for viewing exterior walls from window jambs primarily for detecting movement. Remember the sage trucker advice– if you can’t see my mirrors I can’t see you. Concave mirrors are difficult to see into from a distance but clear when closeup, like from the internal edge of a nearby window. Another item used for hunting is a FLIR infra-red camera (~$250) attached to an iPhone6 that will show a warm image moving at night from 250’ and a rough silhouette from 100’. Fog and drizzle will only degrade the image, but it can’t see through double pane glass windows. At a minimum, plan to use a solar panel for charging multiple batteries and such devices using a USB port during the day.
In a grid down situation you need to plan methods to avoid using generators, motors, chains saws, lights, sounds, and smells that attract trolls looking for easy targets. Give them every reason and opportunity to move on before you have to act in self defense.
Blessings for All 🙂
Fig. 1; by Brandon Martin-Anderson
Fig. 2; by NASA Earth Observatory NOAA NGDC
Fig. 3; by Oak Ridge National Laboratories for DHS
Fig. 4; by Wikipedia in Public Domain
Fig. 4; by U.S. Tornadoes by County, 1950-2011 Katie Wheatley @UStornados.com