In this section, we are continuing to explain how to begin developing a comprehensive strategy for a last run shopping trip. Steps 1 and 2 have been described in how to make a list of what might happen and arrange it according to each event’s likihood to happen. Now, let’s move on.
Steps 3 & 4: Determine What’s Necessary to Eliminate/Reduce Problems
Step three requires you to determine what you need to do to eliminate, or at least reduce, the problems that each probable event will cause, and then the next step is to make a list of all the things (supplies, equipment, knowledge) that you need to have on hand to do so.
This is a good point to solicit advice from experts and friends who have actually lived through such experiences. I regularly read biographies of people who have survived extraordinary circumstances, such as our Founding Fathers, civilians during wartime conditions, prisoners of war, and people who have survived shipwrecks, plane crashes, or severe weather conditions. Their ingenuity and mental toughness (including religious faith) inspires me and helps me “think outside the box”.
Step 5: What Will Have to Go
Step Five is the kicker. Here, you identify those things that you will have to do without because you can’t afford them or can’t get them. Much as I would like to have a fully fortified bunker in the Deep Woods, I will never be able to afford it. Accept your situation, get over it, and move on to the next step.
Step 6: Finalize Your List
In this step, finalize the list of what you still need to get, or what you have but could use more of. This final shopping list is the basis of your last run.
Don’t expect your last run to be a walk in the park. At its most basic, it’s a desperate measure that has considerable risks. If you can obtain all your supplies in advance of your crisis, that is certainly your best option. Things that have long lead times, such as ordering products online for UPS delivery, don’t work in a last run. The items for the last run list must be immediately available in your local shopping area. People who live in areas far from shopping can do a modified version of the last run periodically to keep their supplies topped off, but for those who must put off their buying until amost the last minute, there are ways to make their last run safer and more effective.
First of all, situational awareness is key to your success on the last run. Pay attention to what is going on around you, not just in your neighborhood or community but nationally and internationally as well. I read foreign newspapers on the Internet almost every day. They tend to cover American stories with more detail and truthfulness than our own main stream media. I recommend the Telegraph and Guardian in the UK as excellent sources, and there are others from other countries that do a fine job. Focus on politics, pending legislation, finance, business, medicine, and other topics that have international ramifications. Learn as much as you can about the potential impact of changes on the national and world front. This may help you predict how your own life will be affected so you can plan accordingly.
Second, follow the weather. A storm brewing west of you will generally mean a change of weather in your location in the next day or few. Hurricanes develop in the ocean around Africa, south or east of the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast. Cyclones develop in the Pacific. Many snow storms in the Northeast U.S. are caused by “lake effect” snow coming off the Great Lakes. Rain in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys often result in flooding downstream, and too much rain in California results in mudslides while too little causes drought and forest fires. Learn the predictive signs for your own locale. Don’t wait to hear the local meteorologists warn of a coming storm. Too often they are wrong, and underestimating nature can be even more dangerous than any over-hyping.
Third, know the natural history of your area. Is your county prone to flooding, earthquakes, or tornadoes? Plan accordingly, including possible evacuation.
Fourth, be familiar with the human demographics of your region. Do you have a high population of low-income people dependent upon government assistance? Dissatisfied and vocal racial groups? Gangs, druggies, or other serious criminal element? Nearby prisons or penitentiaries? Large airports or tourist attractions? Do you have sufficient police protection in your town or city, if mobs and rioting break out? Where I live, the county sheriff and town police officers are few and far between. In a crisis, they will be stretched very thin.
In Part 2 of this series, we focused on situational awareness and identifying the key characteristics of your community and geographic location. In Part 3, we’ll focus on observing what actually happens in your own community when SHTF.
Pre- Last Run Reconnaissance – Success Is In The Details
The four causes listed above should cover most of the highly probable events that will initiate a last run. Bearing this in mind, it’s especially important to know and understand how your community and the stores in your area generally react to a potentially devastating situation. Impending weather threats are, by far, the most common disaster scenarios and can serve as a template for the other situations.
You are probably familiar with what happens locally when bad weather is on the way. The TV and radio stations broadcast warnings well in advance of the coming storm. Stores in my area, at least, prepare for a run on the “three whites”– bread, milk, and toilet paper. Safeway, where I often shop, brings in extra trucks several days in advance and overstocks on the Whites, canned goods, bottled water, snacks, and other popular items. Frozen items, like pizza and ice cream, are allowed to decline in case the bad weather causes electricity failures. The aisles get crowded, and their storage areas and employee rest areas are all packed to the gills with items people will need. I don’t know if all stores do this in all areas, but it’s easy to chat up a manager where you normally shop and ask how his/her chain typically handles storm preparations.
If, like me, you shop at a Big Box store (Walmart or Costco, for example) think again. The ones in my area rigidly adhere to a specified delivery schedule that does not vary according to short-term modifications in customer demand.
In many communities where a large percentage of the population is low-income and dependent upon SNAP and other welfare programs, the recipients generally shop at the lowest priced stores. These are the Big Box stores. Keep in mind that most of these customers likely will not have put a large amount of supplies away for emergencies, so, if they have recognized that the S has HTF, they will also be out en masse to shop at their last opportunity. Shelves will be emptied very quickly. You’ve seen the pictures on the news. It’s not pretty.
Also, Walmart recently implemented a program whereby customers can order items online and have them delivered to their local stores. Theoretically, a system is in place to alert customers that they can come pick up their items. So far, there are major glitches in the system. Items do not arrive as scheduled; customers are notified that the items did arrive when they did not; items can’t be located when customers come to pick them up, even after being notified that they are in the store; and sales records are a shambles.
I think it unlikely that, in the face of such a badly handled roll-out of a major, well-advertised marketing tool, Walmart would be a dependable place to find emergency supplies without having to deal with hordes of last minute, increasingly desperate shoppers.
That brings you to the alternatives. If you live in a very small community that only has a Mom-and-Pop store, your choices are limited to what they carry in stock. If you haven’t done so, befriend the proprietors and possibly suggest that there are some items you would like to see them add to their regular inventory, as well as ask how they deal with weather issues. Chains like 7-Eleven generally stay open as long as they can staff the stores, but they run out of the Three Whites pretty quickly. True Mom-and-Pop general stores may close down early to allow employees, often family members, to get home safely. Between these two extremes lie a variety of small stores, each of which will respond to weather emergencies differently. If you know you will need to shop at any of them, find out what you’re dealing with in advance and plan accordingly.
Don’t write off specialty shops. If you are looking for common emergency items, like batteries, candles, radios, et cetera, you can often find them in surprising places. I bought my hand-crank radio at Bed, Bath and Beyond, and long-burning candles at the Hallmark shop. Many drug stores and pharmacies now carry a wide variety of everyday items, from toilet paper, soap, canned food, diapers, and other baby supplies, to milk, bread, and snacks. Stores like Dollar General carry a wide range of products, though may be limited in choice of sizes, brands, and quantity. Sporting goods stores carry ammunition, firearms, camping gear, and fishing supplies, as well as a wide variety of outdoor and all-weather clothing. AA and AAA batteries can be found almost anywhere, so consider standardizing on equipment that requires those sizes instead of the larger ones. If you are having trouble getting prescription or over-the-counter medication in quantity, your local veterinary (or farm) supply store or pet store might stock what you need. If you simply need food items and availability is dropping or the crowds are too big, don’t forget that fast food joints and other restaurants sell food! Use the drive through, if the line isn’t too long and you can get through safely or call ahead for carryout.
Be imaginative and keep your eyes open for the unexpected. Even though Walmart carries so many kinds of items and you may be familiar with shopping there, you don’t have to shop there when SHTF.
In Part 3 of this series, we’ll discuss how to safely execute your last run using a trial run to gather information.