Getting Home When TSHTF, by Flasher

I’d like to start off by expressing my appreciation for this blog – I’ve learned a lot from everyone here. I’m fairly new to prepping and I am by no means an expert. In this article, I will be putting together some of the things that my group and I are doing to raise the odds that we will get home when the Schumer Hits the Fan (TSHTF) and referencing other articles that I found helpful.

Like most people, I commute a long distance to work. I do this because there are few to no jobs in my field that pay a wage that I could live on close to home – just like everyone else. I am fortunate in that my commute is just less than 40 miles, but that is still a long way to walk – especially if I’m walking through the woods and avoiding towns and roads.

Why would I be walking? Several reasons. Although it is stated in this article that there is a fairly good chance that my vehicle will still be running when TSHTF (assuming the event is EMP related), everybody and their dog will be trying to get out of Dodge, and the roads will be backed up. See this article for more information. Even the back roads. I am under no illusions that I’m the only one who knows these roads.

Another reason is that the roads will become traps fairly quickly. There will be plenty of goblins out there whose survival planning involves robbing and pillaging those who had the foresight to prepare. I intend to increase my chances of not meeting any of them, and getting home safely in spite of them. The most successful survival strategy is to avoid a fight, rather than try to survive one.

Where Are We Going?
First, credit where it’s due: this idea was adapted from this article. What I did was to go to Google Maps, and find several different ways to get from the area where I work to home. I then downloaded the USGS maps for those entire routes. It may take some poking around, but you should be able to get contiguous maps for the whole route. It’s best to lay out more than one route. More on this later.

Here’s a tip for working with these maps. They are in PDF format. If you can get your hands on a computer with the full version of Adobe Acrobat installed on it (not just the reader), you can export the map as a JPG image. In version 8, it’s File/Export/Image/JPEG, but that may vary, depending on your system.. Once you’ve exported the image, you can then edit and print it using your favorite image editing software. I use Photoshop, but you can use less expensive (or free) image editing software. The idea is to be able to read the map on the go.

I generally cut out a lot of the extraneous area that I’m not likely to be traversing in my travels. That being said, I usually leave a good amount (several miles worth) around my intended route as I have no way of knowing what conditions will be like when TSHTF, and I want to keep my options open. I leave especially large areas surrounding towns and natural barriers (rivers, cliffs, steep mountainsides, swamps – you get the idea). The more you can cut out of the map, the larger the features in what you’re printing will be.

If you end up with a lot on a single map, you can cut it in pieces and print each piece, or just print detail maps (a zoomed-in section) of the areas of interest (like towns or river crossings, for instance). I have more than a dozen maps for my 40 mile commute. One of the nice features is that the USGS maps show where there are houses and other structures. However, you need to be aware that the structures shown will be those that were there in the year that the survey was done. Just be aware that if the date on the map that you downloaded is 1984, there is a high likelihood that there are far more houses and businesses around now.

Once you have your maps to your satisfaction, you will need to print them. I prefer to use a color laser printer. Color, because it’s easier to read the map, and laser because inkjet tends to smear very easily with the slightest amount of moisture.

I highly recommend purchasing (or borrowing if you’re lucky enough) a laminator. A fairly decent one will cost around $100-$150 and the pouches around $30 for 100 (don’t get the cheaper ones – they’re really flimsy and they don’t seal as well as the heavier ones). This may seem like a lot of hard-earned cash to lay out, but these maps could mean the difference between making it back to your retreat or not.

I typically lay out my maps by route (see Options below), and pair them up. If I have a large map with a detail map of something on the large map, they will go together. If not, then I pair them up in the order that I will likely use them as I’m working my way home.

When I laminate them, I put 2 maps in each pouch – like a printed book, you can see a map on both sides of the page. I then 3-hole punch them and put them in a 3 ring binder in the order that I will be traveling. Take care how you orient the maps when you laminate them – they should all face the same direction. When flipping through the book, you should not have to turn it more that 90 degrees and back to see all of the maps upright.

This book stays in my vehicle at all times. If I’m out with the family in my wife’s vehicle, I put the book and my B.O.B. in there. My wife has her own “emergency kit” that stays in her vehicle all the time.

Options
Once again, credit where it’s due: This came from this article.

I have several routes that I can take to get home from where I work. Unfortunately, they all involve major roadways – one major interstate and two State Highways. However, all three of my main routes home can be (mostly) through heavily forested areas and State Game Lands. This is a big plus in avoiding ambushes and just generally keeping a low profile.

One major problem that I will have is that I have to cross a major river (and possibly a smaller one, depending on which route I’m forced to take). There are two main bridges over this river that I will be avoiding like the plague when TSHTF. I can’t help but think that bridges will be nothing more than shooting galleries: you can only go forward or back, there is no cover for you and the goblins likely have a lot of cover. Not good.

Using the USGS maps (and my knowledge of the area), I have identified at least seven good crossing points on the major river – two for each route. One route actually has three good crossing points. Depending on the time of year and recent rainfall, I may have even more.

The subject of river crossing brings me to my next point:

G.O.O.D. Bag
There are many outstanding articles here regarding G.O.O.D. kits and I don’t want to re-invent the wheel. Keeping in mind that there are many more, a few good recent ones can be found here, here, here and here. As you can see from the selection of articles, I liked the ones having to do with the medical aspects of the B.O.B.

So, I’ve come to the river and I’ve scouted it out and am ready to attempt to cross. How do I keep my gear from getting soaked? My solution is rather simple: garbage bags. I use the big 30 mil, 50 gallon industrial sized bags. I’ll simply put my gear into several different garbage bags and tie them to myself. I have a couple of hundred feet of paracord packed in my bag that I’ll be doing the tying with. Each bag will be tripled – three bags, one inside the other inside the other. This has several advantages. First, it will (hopefully) keep my gear dry. I have actually used this method on canoe trips, and it works pretty well as long as you tie the bags well and don’t snag them on anything. Second, they can be used as flotation devices. When I pack the bags, I put a little bit of gear in a bag, blow some air in it and tie it up, leaving a bunch of the top of the bag free above the knot. I then put this bag inside another bag, leaving some air space between the two bags. When I tie up the second bag, I pull the top of the first bag (above the knot) up into the part of the second bag that I’m going to tie, and then I tie a knot in both bags, leaving a section of the bags above this knot to do the same with the third bag. This way, if any of the bags gets ripped, you don’t risk losing the contents. Depending on how bulky the gear is in each bag, you may not have enough of the inner-most bag left to tie into the third knot (the third knot will be rather big if there is 3 thicknesses of garbage bags in it), but that’s not a huge problem.

The next trick is to be lavish in your use of the cord to tie the bags to yourself. If you tied the bags as I explained above, you should have the outer knot near the end of the bags, and two more knots further down towards the contents. Tie your cord around the lower-most knot – the one on the inner-most bag. You will be tying all of the paracord knots on the outside of the outer-most bag. Now, take the long end of the cord, and wrap it tightly around the bags between the first and second knot (the first knot is on the inner-most bag, second knot on the middle bag, etc.), and then tie it here. Do the same thing between the second and third knots.

I have a “duty harness”. It consists of a webbed duty belt with heavy padded suspenders with many attachment points. This is what I will be tying the bags of gear to – NOT to my belt loops on my pants. In the event that I get tired to the point that I’m struggling to stay afloat because I’m stressed out, I’ve been attacked, the current is too strong, I’ve been hiking for longer than I’m accustomed to or a combination of these, and I want to use the bags as flotation devices, it would be nice if they held my head out of the water, rather than my other end.

I recommend practicing this now as trying to figure it out under the stress of TEOTWAWKI probably won’t give good results. Some of the things that will take some figuring out are how much cord to use between the bags and yourself, how much gear to pack in each bag, how much air to put in each bag. You’ll also want to practice swimming with all of these bags tied to you – they WILL interfere with your movements. When choosing your crossing point, keep this in mind. I found that using a modified side-stroke/breast stroke to be the most effective and the least noisy. Using a crawl-type or any other stroke that takes your hands and arms out of the water generates a lot of attention-getting noise and tends to get you tangled up in the cords. Your bags of gear will tend to keep gravitating towards you as you settle lower in the water or make headway. If you use longer lines, or tie them to your belt, they will interfere less with your movements, but will not work well as floatation devices. This would work for smaller creeks, but not a larger river.

One point: when you put the gear in the first bag, it should float easily on its own. Don’t pack so much in the bag that it barely floats (or doesn’t float at all) and try to make it up on the outer bag(s). If the outer bags get ripped or leak, your gear can become an anchor, which tends to be counter-productive. Having several bags holding you up can be a good thing – especially if the river you have to cross is very wide or has a strong current. The down side of having a lot of bags is if the current is strong they tend to drag you down-river. They also make you a bigger target. I think that I would prefer to cross at night for this reason.

I actually tried this on the major river that I have to cross this past summer. I went to one of the swimming beaches with my gear already packed up in several bags as described above. It was a hot day, and there were a lot of people around swimming, partying, hanging out, etc. I got out of my truck, donned my duty harness, walked down to the river and started tying all of these bags to myself. To say that I attracted a lot of attention would be an understatement. However, I did find out that the amount of gear that I intend to carry, packed into several packages as described above will support me with my head out of the water, but will also slow my progress across the river appreciably. I think that I will probably use a smaller number of larger packages as I don’t intend to spend too much time in the river, if I can help it.

Preparation
This is a very broad topic, so I’ll just touch on a couple of points. First of all, if at all possible, I recommend taking the time to try and walk your route(s) home. Or at least, parts of them. Practice the skills you think you may need. Can you reliably build a fire with only your firesteel and whatever is available wherever you happen to be? Under stress? In the dark? Do you have an alternative method of making fire? Two? Can you navigate from your maps (whatever type you decide to use)? If you have to cross a river, can you without losing or ruining your gear? At night? In the rain? Or freezing weather? How long will it take you to pack all of the gear in your B.O.B. into plastic bags to get across that river? Can you do it silently? In the dark? How long will it take to re-pack it into your B.O.B.? Can you do that silently? Where will you build the fire that you will need to dry-out/warm-up after being in the water? What are the OPSEC considerations of building a fire near where you crossed? What will you do with all of those wet plastic bags? Try to think your scenario through. Better yet, walk it through.

Although my home state is part of America, where citizens have 2nd Amendment rights, I work in a state that doesn’t allow citizens to carry guns (and the requirements for ownership are onerous – especially for those of us who live elsewhere). If your state is similar, how will you defend yourself if that becomes necessary? Will you carry a weapon even if it’s frowned upon? Where will you keep it? How will you get to it when TSHTF? How much and what type of ammo will you carry? This is a highly personal decision, and I’m not making a recommendation one way or the other. That being said, it’s definitely something you need to think about now – most likely, the goblins will have weapons.

One of the problems that I think I may have is that I can’t carry enough food, clothing, etc. for the entire trip. Especially if it happens in winter as I’ll need to carry even more food and clothing. I’m thinking that under ideal conditions, the trip will take about 8 days. Under less than ideal conditions (and we all know that TEOTWAWKI will occur at the worst possible time, in the worst possible weather), it will probably take a lot longer. I’ve decided to use the buried cache to get around this. I had a source for 8 gallon plastic drums with lids and metal snap-rings. Sort of like your standard 5 gallon pail with a snap-ring lid, only bigger. I’ve buried three of them – one on each route. In each one is two weeks worth of MREs, several pairs of socks, soap, underwear, first-aid supplies, vitamins, insect repellent, garbage bags, a sweat-shirt, t-shirts, a pair of jeans and a few other items (yes, it was expensive putting them together). They are located away from homes, roads, businesses, etc. on public lands where few are likely to go or stumble upon them. With the 8 days of food that I have in my B.O.B. and the 2 weeks worth buried, I will have 22 days of food for myself. Considerably less if my friends didn’t bring enough with them, in which case we’ll have to hit more than one.

I am the only person who knows where they are and how to find them. This is important. No matter how well you think you know someone, if they know where your cache is and they get there before you do when TSHTF, you will most likely be out of luck. There are three friends of mine that I will (hopefully) meet up with to travel home, and they don’t know where they are. They’ll find out when we dig one (or more) of them up. Yes, I’m paranoid… But am I paranoid enough?

Communications
I mentioned that there are three friends of mine that I will be meeting up and traveling with for mutual support. They are all further away from home than I am, and I’m not going to hang around where I work waiting for them to show up (it could take several days for them to get there). We will be using hand-held radios with selectable output power levels to communicate. We will have specific frequencies and times that we will be broadcasting on to contact each other.

One of the things that we decided on early on was to stay away from CB radios. They are simply too common and you never know who is listening in. One option that we have considered is Marine Band radios. These require a license to operate, but in a true SHTF scenario, I don’t think that anyone will be enforcing that. With that being said, there is the possibility of a “slow decline” type of scenario, where there will still be some law enforcement out there and we would be putting ourselves in jeopardy needlessly. We’re still working through this one. The selectable power levels are a must, though.

 

OpSec
Now we come to security. The maps that we all will be using are very readable. If one of us should lose our maps, whoever finds them will know whatever we write on them. Therefore, my group has agreed that nothing gets written on the maps. No X’s, Town names, road names, marks, scribbles, doodles, nothing. We have come up with our own names for potential meeting places that would make no sense to anyone but us. If anyone leaves the group for any reason, those of us remaining will change all of the codes and pick new meeting places.

Each person has his own maps for getting from his place of work to the next person’s, in addition to his own routes home, in case we don’t meet up. No one knows anyone else’s exact route, although we’re all going the same general direction, the three routes I came up with are vastly different. The river crossing points on the two that are furthest apart are more than 20 miles distant from each other.

We will be using short, low power transmissions at set times. We won’t transmit from a meeting point. Just because we’re paranoid, it doesn’t mean that they’re not out to get us (and our stuff), and so we will be playing it out as if the goblins can hear everything we say and will attempt to use it against us.

No one will be staying within a half mile of our meeting places. At certain set times, we will make short low-power broadcasts to let the others know we are near using our code names for the meeting place. Once one of us gets to a meeting place, if circumstances dictate that we need to move on, we have mutually agreed upon signs that we will be using to let the others know that we were here and moved on, when we left, which meeting place we’re going to next and possibly why we had to leave. We decided to let each other know when we left so that those following will know whether to try to catch up. If you’re more than a day behind, it’s probably not worth it. If we left because of something dangerous, it would be good to let those following know so that they don’t waste time hanging around there, needlessly putting themselves in danger.

In my opinion, your best bet is to travel in groups if you must travel.

So there you have it – my plan for getting home when TSHTF. I welcome comments, criticisms, suggestions, rants, whatever – I’m still learning, and would like to get others’ views on my plan.

Keep your head down, your powder dry and avoid confrontations.

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