(The first of the three-part series.)
One of the primary tenets of the preparedness community is that we want to be prepared for any eventuality. We stockpile supplies, develop skills and make changes to our homes and lifestyles to help increase the chances that we can survive any scenario that we might encounter, be it natural or man-made. In regards to displacing in the event of a major SHTF situation, some people plan on taking the ‘forting up’ approach and fortifying their current location, while others favor the ‘bug out’ approach and plan on relocating to a more secure location. Regardless of your preferred approach, at some point during or after an event, you may be required to relocate people and supplies to another location, and if you haven’t planned for it you’re potentially leaving yourself wide open for failure.
Some people will assume that since they live in a well-protected or isolated location they don’t have to worry about displacing during or after a SHTF scenario. The reality is that even if you’re safe initially, there are a lot of things that could occur that could force you to displace later. Wild fires, hurricanes, large armed groups, volcanoes, rising flood waters and other events could force you to displace from your secure location. And as Ben Franklin said: ‘By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail’. Note: there are some folks who state that they’ll die defending their property and not ever consider leaving for any reason. If that’s your preferred approach then this article probably isn’t for you.
For some real life examples of why displacement planning is critical, consider the images you’ve seen in the media of people preparing to evacuate ahead of an incoming hurricane or, as we’ve seen more recently in the US, a fast-moving wildfire. People are stuffing everything they find into their cars with little time to consider if they’ve packed the most critical items, and in interviews after the event are talking about how they lost important papers, valuable jewelry, family heirlooms, etc. Some simple displacement planning could have greatly improved their situation.
As with any planning activity, the first step in displacement planning is to define your goals. The questions you need to answer include:
- What scenarios could occur that would force me to displace?
- What time(s) of the year could they occur?
- Who will need to displace?
- What will I need to take with me?
- Where will I go?
- Do I want to or will I be able to return?
You should start by creating a displacement planning document that includes sections for each combination of scenario/season and use that as a starting point, since each combination may involve different goals, requirements and limitations.
Note that one of the most critical goals you’ll need to define is your destination, since that will drive a lot of the other planning requirements. Displacing without a destination is just wandering about aimlessly, and having a destination is even more critical if there are multiple people or vehicles involved. If a person, group or vehicle gets separated, having a destination will increase the chances that everyone will be able to join back up successfully. Planning for multiple possible destinations provides you with even more flexibility, especially in situations where one possible destination may not be viable due to the same event that caused you to displace.
Regardless of any other factors, displacing will always involve moving people and supplies from one location to another. There are three broad categories of transport you can potentially leverage to accomplish this:
- Mechanical advantage
- Externally powered
Manual transport involves moving people and supplies using just the human body. This means walking, swimming or climbing, with supplies carried on your body with a bag, backpack, etc. This tends to be the slowest and least load-bearing option, but it’s also the most reliable, barring terrain obstacles, physical injury or physical disabilities. It should go without saying, but being in decent physical condition is critical to being able to successfully displace any reasonable distance manually.
Mechanical advantage means utilizing a mechanical device powered by the human body to move people or supplies. This can include bicycles, travois, carts, rafts, skis, snowshoes, etc. Utilizing mechanical advantage transport can greatly increase the speed at which a person can move, as well as the amount of supplies they can carry.
Externally powered devices utilize an external power source to enhance transport. These can include cars/trucks, ATVs, motorcycles, motorboats, sailboats, airplanes, pack animals, etc. Externally powered options tend to provide the greatest speed and load-carrying capacity, but also tend to be subject to greater restrictions such as route limitations, breakdowns, etc.
Regardless of your primary transport option you should always have a plan to gracefully downgrade your level of transport in the event of a failure. For example, if your primary plan is to use your truck to pull a trailer when displacing, what will you do if the truck dies or the roads become impassable? Having some wheeled carts and backpacks in the trailer would allow you to continue transporting a subset of supplies to your destination.
Available transport options tend to be dependent on the types of scenarios you’re planning for, the season and your intended destination. For example, a route that you can drive in 1 hour in the summer may require snowmobiles/snowshoes and sleds in the winter when there’s 3’ of unplowed snow. If its summer and you’re displacing due to flooding, you may have to use boats and/or inflatable rafts to cover that same route.
Having pre-planned routes will be critical to successfully displacing and getting people and supplies to the desired destination. Route planning should include options for multiple possible scenarios, weather conditions and transport options. For example, you can plan a primary road route for displacing in your vehicle with a trailer, but you should also have secondary routes identified in case you have to ditch the vehicle and continue on a bike pulling a cart or even on foot. Another example would be planning for displacement due to flooding – you’ll need to make sure your route avoids any low-lying areas that may be flooded. One thing you’ll always need to consider when route planning is an appearance by Mr. Murphy – you need to assume that you’ll encounter obstructions, delays and other problems when displacing and have alternate routes available.
Planned routes should be documented on a map, and each person that will be displacing should have a copy of the map. I recommend using USGS-type terrain maps, as they can document roads as well as walking routes. For longer routes you should also have waypoints defined and marked; these are places that people that have gotten separated from the group can meet up, or potential overnight stopping points on a longer route. Note that one potential concern some people may have with this approach is operational security (OpSec) – if someone with a map is captured by people that wish to do you harm, they will know your routes and waypoints and could potentially ambush you.
Given that displacement is a transient activity and that you’ll be on the move, I believe that the risk of someone in the group getting lost or not finding a waypoint is a lot higher than someone ambushing you, but you’ll have to weigh the risks and make that decision yourself. One thing I would recommend against is marking your final destination on the map, as that can tell potential adversaries exactly where you’re going and open you up to future attacks. Have your marked destination be a rally point located a couple of miles from your actual destination, and make sure everyone knows how to navigate the final few miles.
You also need to consider the impact seasons may have on your routes. For example, if your destination is on the other side of a large lake you may need to go around in the summer time, but if it’s the middle of the winter you may be able to drive or walk across the ice. Conversely, if you need to cross a river in late summer, the water level may be low enough that you can ford the river instead of having to go over a bridge. One approach I use is to highlight different routes on a map using different color highlighters, with each color representing routes for different conditions. I also keep a notebook that I fill with notes and observations that I’ve made while testing out the different routes.
One critical requirement is that everyone that will be displacing needs to have at least basic navigation skills and some degree of familiarity with the routes they’ll need to travel. They should all have a compass (even a decent quality button compass is better than nothing) and be able to locate their position on a map using reference points. You should plan on driving/biking/walking the routes as frequently as possible, both to familiarize everyone as well as to make any adjustments based on changing conditions (e.g. bridge permanently out, new obstacles, etc.). Note that there are a lot of good articles here on SurvivalBlog.com about navigation – just search for the word ‘navigation’ in the search box.
(To be continued tomorrow, in Part 2.)