Letter from Bob in England Re: England’s Lack of Retreat Potential

Dear Mr Rawles:
Greetings from the UK. Thanks for the very interesting website. I have your book which I’ve read a few times now. I must admit to a certain envy with the potential you have over there to prepare for the possible difficult times ahead. Just as an exercise and to make some of the people living in even the most restrictive states feel not quite so bad I thought I’d do a run down in your style for England the ‘state’ in which I live. As you will know the United Kingdom is made of (leaving aside the anomalies like the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man) the countries of England, Scotland, Wales and the province Northern Ireland.
Population: 60.8 million.
Population Density: 1211 per square mile
Area: 50,193 square miles
Average car insurance cost: £757/yr. (NB Today £1 = $1.78)
Average home insurance cost: £203/year
Crime Safety Ranking: probably worse than you think.
Boston T. Party’s State Firearms Laws Ranking: 0.0001%. (approx!)
Average per capita income: £34,197
ACT & SAT Scores Ranking: ?.
Plusses: The countryside is still beautiful. Tradition and history still takes some beating. Still contains vestiges of our once greatness if you look really hard.
Minuses: Very dense population, (2nd only to the Netherlands in Europe) Very little in the way of personal freedoms, you know about the complete ban on private ownership of handguns. All other firearms are subject to government licensing. You can still own an air gun (just!) as long as it is less than 12 ft/lbs (rifle) or 6 ft/lbs (pistol). Illegal to carry any knife with fixed or lock blade or longer that 3” blade folding knife. England cannot be recommended for anyone with a hope to survive a TEOTWAWKI situation. Very little space to escape the teeming hoards that will flee the cities, and realistically nothing much in the way of defensive firearms to protect what you have. Of course the bad guys will always be able to get guns so the law abiding won’t stand a chance, humanly speaking. We have to remember that God is sovereign and still in control despite what we see around us and my hope is that he will guide us to prepare as best we can within the limitations.
Bob’s Combined Retreat Potential Ranking: 51 of 19.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"The right of self-defense is the first law of nature; in most governments it has been the study of rulers to confine this right within the narrowest possible limits. … and [when] the right of the people to keep and bear arms is, under any color or pretext whatsoever, prohibited, liberty, if not already annihilated, is on the brink of destruction."
– St. George Tucker, Virginia Supreme Court Judge, 1803

Specific Regions to Consider for Retreats – Western U.S.

I’ve completed the “State by State” level analysis series that I posted earlier in the month. For ease of reference, this data is now archived at the Retreat Areas static page. (See the new button in the SurvivalBlog navigation bar.) I’m now moving on to providing detailed retreat locale recommendations. While I’m posting these, please give this some serious thought. Particularly for those of you living east of the Mississippi and for our overseas readers, I would appreciate you sharing your expertise. If you know of a particular region with retreat potential, please e-mail me the details, and I will post them.

To begin, a great site for surveying the extent and type of agriculture in various regions can be found at: http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/cropmap

My post for the next few weeks will include listings of my most highly recommended regions in the western United States to consider for survival retreats. Note: I will likely add to or delete from these posts, based on substantive input from readers. (SurvivalBlog readers never hesitate to tell me when I’m mistaken—and I’m always willing to defer to those with more knowledge!)

Notes on My Sources (These were also used for my State-By-State analysis):
Most of the tax and real estate price data is from 2003 or later references.
The Crime Safety Rankings quoted are based on 2003 data compiled by the Morgan Quinto Awards. This ranking compares six crime categories: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, and motor vehicle thefts. This data is plugged into a formula that measures how a state compares to the national average for a given crime category. See http://www.MorganQuinto.com for details.
The population density data was calculated by my #2 Son
The health insurance rate data was courtesy of Web M.D. See: http://my.webmd.com/content/article/74/89117.htm
For current information on home schooling laws in various states, see: http://www.hslda.org/laws
For current information on home birth laws in various states, see: http://www.cfmidwifery.org/states/

Recommended Region: The Kalispell/Flathead Lake Region (Flathead County, Western Montana)

Concentrate on small towns north of the reservation line, such as Bigfork, Creston, Proctor, Rollins, and Somers.
On Staying Outside the Reservation: Much of the lower elevations in this region are inside the boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation. The united Salish and Kootenai (“S&K”) tribal government has been forcefully asserting its sovereignty in recent years, affecting both tribal members and everyone else living inside the reservation boundaries. (Even deeded property owners!) If you want to buy land in this region, buy land that is beyond the reservation boundaries but that is still at low elevation. This you will have to look for properties north of Dayton. (Dayton itself is just inside the reservation.)
Statistics (for Kalispell):
Average high temperature in August: 80.2.
Average low temperature in January: 13.9.
Growing season: 140 Days (Typically May 9 to Sep. 27).
Average snowfall in January: 17.1”.
County Median residential home price:
Advantages: Well removed from any urban region. Fairly diverse economy. Excellent fishing and big game hunting. Plentiful firewood.
Disadvantages: Much of this region lies inside the Flathead Indian Reservation boundaries. Cold climate. Relatively high land prices.

Grid Up Retreat Potential: 3 (On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best)

Grid Down Retreat Potential: 4 (On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best)

Nuclear Scenario Retreat Potential: 4 (On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the best)

Inflation–Past, Present, and Future

It has been said that nothing is inevitable except death and taxes. But personally, I add inflation to that list. Inflation is an insidious hidden form of taxation

We’ve been robbed! According to The Inflation Calculator, what cost $100 in 1905 would cost $2052.36 in 2005. The U.S. dollar has lost 95% of its value in that time. (If you were to buy exactly the same products in 2005 and 1905, they would cost you $100 and $4.87 respectively.) The inflation rate jumped considerably in the 1960s and 1970s. It is no coincidence that the U.S. Treasury stopped minting real silver coins in 1964.

Even it this current era of supposedly”low” inflation, the depredations of inflation are inexorable– but just slower. It is like watching a 50 pound ice block sitting in the sun. The real rate of inflation is presently about 6.5%. Thus, you need to make at least 6.5% a year on your money just to keep pace with inflation. In the long term the concept of “saving” for retirement is almost fallacious, especially when you consider the bouts of inflation that are likely to occur in the next 20 years. The twin deficits–budget and trade–will inevitably lead to much higher rates of inflation in the years to come. Perhaps we’ll even experience a full-blown hyperinflationary currency crisis that will wipe out the value of all of our dollar-denominated investments in just a few months. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: If you want to protect yourself from inflation, then buy tangibles. My late father used to be fond of saying: “There are three kinds of people in the world: People who make things happen, people who watch things happen, and [the majority of people,] the people who wonder, ‘What the heck happened?'” Inflation is a process that is so subtle that the majority of people do not recognize it for what it is.

It is safe to assume that inflation will continue, and will only get worse, especially with commodities. Oil will likely double in the next 18 months. So that means corresponding increases in gas, diesel, and home heating oil. Wheat, rice, and other commodities will also jump up in price. They too, may double soon. Protect yourself from inflation. Stock up on tangibles. Not only is it wise to be prepared physically, but you can also consider these tangibles a prudent investment.

Letter Re: 3-D Aerial Topographic Map Site and Oregon

Hello from Pleasanton, California! I too look at the hills and envision the populations of Hayward, Oakland, et al. swarming over into our little valley in the event of disaster. So we have a “ten-year plan” to purchase and stock a “vacation home” in NE Oregon. I have been looking long-distance at the Wallowa Valley. Do you have any particular objection to planning on freshwater lakes as a fallback source of water? (I am thinking of Wallowa Lake.) Just wondering what may have pushed you to choose the Grande Ronde valley over the Wallowa.

You may wish to link to the below: a fantastic collection of 3-D aerial topographic maps. They can really help to visualize a region, and complement “flat” topo maps. This is a very nice tool for folks like myself who do not own topo map software. See:
Best, – D.M.

JWR Replies: I’ll have details on both the Grande Ronde Valley and the Wallowa Valley sometime in the next two weeks.

Letter Re: AK-47 Reliability

Mr. Rawles:
Glad I found your site…it is a daily read for me. I watched a show that was on Discovery (I think) channel this past weekend, about a special police force in South Africa. Relevant here is that part of the show where they went to destroy certain arms caches left from a war decades ago. The arms were buried under massive rocks, far from civilization. At one point it show a truly nasty AK-47, rusted and just looked like garbage. One of the officers poured a can of oil over it, and in it, worked the bolt a few times, jammed a magazine in it, and fired 10-12 straight shots into a target set up 20 or so yards away. It was an eye-opener. Keep up the great work. – Bruce

Note from JWR:

Please continue to pray for the folks who suffered damage from Hurricane Rita. OBTW, your support of efficient (low-overhead) Christian charities providing relief to the area would also be greatly appreciated.

Warning: Today’s blog posts will exceed your recommended daily allowance of Gloom ‘n Doom.

The Big Picture — Grid Up Versus Grid Down–Oil, Soil, and Water

Before selecting retreat locale, It is crucial that you decide on your own worst case scenario. A location that is well-suited to surviving a “slow-slide” grid up scenario (a la the deflationary depression of the 1930s) might not necessarily be well suited to a grid down situations. As stated in my post on August 15, 2005, a grid down situation will likely cause a sudden onset variation of TEOTWAWKI with a concomitant mass exodus from the big cities resulting in chaos on a scale heretofore never seen in modern memory. (See below.)

My own personal “best case” scenario is an economic depression, with the grid still up, and still some semblance of law and order. Things would be bad, but the vast majority of the population would live through it. Living in a rural agricultural area won’t ensure that you’ll always have a job, but probably will ensure that you won’t starve.

My personal “worst case” scenario takes a lot more description: A rogue nation state launches three or four MIRVed ICBMs with high yield warheads simultaneously detonating at 100,000 feet over America’s population center, preferably in October or November, to maximize the extent of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) effects. With only six warheads arriving “time on target” (synchronized for simultaneous detonation) over, for example, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Seattle, and Los Angeles, more than 90% of the U.S. population would fall within the footprint of EMP. With such an attack there would be hardly any initial casualties aside for a few thousand people unlucky enough to be traveling on that day. (Since EMP would disable electric flight controls, causing any modern aircraft to go out of control and crash, and the sudden loss of engine power in automobiles at the same time as a blinding flash would likely cause thousands of high speed car crashes.) A high altitude air burst would impart no blast or radiation effects on the ground. Nothing other than just EMP. But what an effect! Think of the full implications.

As previously stated, the higher an nuclear air burst is detonated, the wider the line of sight (LOS), and hence the larger the footprint of EMP effects. With an EMP-optimized attack, as I just posited, EMP would be coupled to nearly all of the installed microcircuit chips in the U.S., southern Canada, and northern Mexico. In a enormous cascade this would take down all of the north American power grids, and cripple virtually every vital industry and utility: Natural gas production and piping, municipal water systems, telephone systems (hardwire and cellular), refining, trucking, banking, Internet services, agricultural machinery, electrically-pumped irrigation systems, you name it! 95% of cars and trucks would be inoperative. With the dependence of the power utilities on computers, I have my doubts that they would be able to restore the power grid for weeks, or months, or perhaps years. And with the chaos of society disintegrating around them, they might not have the time or opportunity to restore the grid, even if they would otherwise have the means to do so. This would mean TEOTWAWKI on a grand scale. The words “dog eat dog” do not even begin to describe how things would become in the cities and suburbs. Soon after, as the cities became unlivable (without power, heat, water, sanitation, or transportation of foodstuffs) this would cause a massive, involuntary exodus from the cities and suburbs, almost entirely on foot, comprised of countless millions of starving people. With winter coming on, this would result in a massive die-off, perhaps as much as 70% of the American population. It would not be until after that die-off that some semblance of order could be restored.

This crush of humanity will of course head for any agricultural regions that are within 50 to 75 miles of the major cities. Hence, I would not want to be a farmer living in Pennsylvania’s farmlands, California’s central or Imperial valleys or Oregon’s Willamette valley. They will simply get swarmed and overwhelmed.

Surviving a Long Term a Grid Down WTSHTF Situation
Even in the absence of EMP, any set of circumstances that would bring down the power grids (for example a major war, a fuel embargo, a cyber attack on power utility Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) software, etc.) would be devastating, and have a similar result. The biggest difference would be that the Golden Horde would have functional cars available–at least as long as their gas lasted. This would and Lets say that you’ve already moved to a lightly populated agricultural region that is more than 150 miles from any major city.
Assuming that you can avoid the ravages of the Golden Horde by virtue of geographic isolation, you will then have to contend with producing food. If the region that you selected is dependent on electrically-pumped irrigation water, then you’ll be out of luck. That is why I emphasize the importance “dry land farming” regions. (Regions where consistent seasonal rains are sufficient to produce crops.) A small scale “truck” farmer in such as region, producing a wide variety of vegetables will be sitting pretty. Even with horse drawn or hand cultivation, he will have large quantities of excess crops available for barter and charity. By teaming up with neighbors and hired hands (paid in barter) for “strength in numbers” he will be able to defend what he owns. With copious produce available, he will be able to barter for harvesting manpower, horses, tools, and so forth. IMO, a man in this position and locale is the most likely survivor of TEOTWAWKI.

With the aforementioned in mind, you can see than importance of finding the right retreat locale. Ideally, it will be far removed from metropolitan regions, have a fairly long growing season, plentiful rainfall, rich topsoil, a reliable domestic water supply that us not dependent on grid power (preferably spring-fed), nearby sources of firewood or coal, and a light ambient population density. If you combine all of these factors–visualize them as map overlays–you will end up with only a few regions in north America that are wholly suitable for “worst case” retreats. Start with a photocopy of a climate book with maps of America’s farming regions. Mask out any farming regions that are depending on grid-power pumped irrigation water. Then take a compass and start drawing radiuses around all of the cities with a population greater than 200,000 and shade them in. Depending on your level of pessimism about the scenario and/or your estimation of the depravity of human nature, you may be drawing some pretty large circles!

Hurricane Katrina was a wake up call. I cannot imagine how anyone could watch the television coverage of the aftermath of Katrina and not come to the conclusion that we live in a highly interdependent technological society with enormously long lines of supply and just a thin veneer of civilization, as documented in countless newspaper stories. It doesn’t take much to disrupt those interdependencies, nor to expose what lies just beneath that thin veneer. Like an onion, what lies beneath is not very pretty smelling.

Get to Know the NRCS Man!
You will note that I specifically mentioned topsoil in the preceding discussion. The importance of soil quality in the event of a true “worst case” must be emphasized. As S.M. Stirling so aptly described it in his science fiction novel “Dies The Fire“, soil quality is not crucial in modern mechanized agriculture. If an acre of ground produces 5 bushels of wheat versus 12 bushels of wheat it is not of great consequence when you are cultivating hundreds or even thousands of acres from inside the cab of an air conditioned $40,000 tractor, or a $70,000 combine. However, if someday you are reduced to traditional pre-industrial manpower or horsepower, where cultivating just a few acres will require monumental exertion, then the soil quality will make a tremendous difference between feeding a community, and starvation. Therefore, have the soil analyzed before you buy a retreat property! Determining the soil types within a region should be your first step–in fact even before you talk to the first real estate agent. Buying lunch for the soils specialist at the local Agricultural Extension office might be a valuable investment. On your first scouting trip to your proposed retreat region, call the USDA Agricultural Extension Office, and ask to talk to a soils specialist at the NRCS (National Resources Conservation Service) desk. (The NRCS was formerly called the Soil Conservation Service.)

Letter Re: Utah and LDS Church Members, Post-TEOTWAWKI (SAs: Retreat Selection, Relocation, Demographics, Charity, Utah)

James Wesley–
I admire and deeply appreciate the detailed counsel you have been giving about self-sufficiency and defense. After I borrowed “Patriots” from the library, I went ahead and paid $50 for a used copy. We became “First Family” members at Front Sight on your say-so, even though we are in Hawaii and can’t even attend Front Sight until 8/2006. So I think I merit being heard with respect to your musing that being a non-Mormon in a Mormon community might make you “expendable”.

To the contrary, the unbelievably magnificent efforts in time, people and materiel of the LDS Church in the Katrina disaster and the pre-positioning by the LDS Church of additional goods and resources for the impending Rita disaster give the lie to your insinuation that the Mormons look after themselves first.

In fact, I think you have the situation backwards–American history shows that when “push comes to shove” it’s the Mormons who have been expendable. In fact, the first Americans to suffer for defending the rights of “free men of color” were the Mormons. For their defense of civil rights in Missouri, the Mormons were burned out, many beaten, some raped, and a number murdered. Finally, the shameful Missouri Governor’s Extermination Order threatening that if the Mormons didn’t leave the state at once the state militia would kill them makes it abundantly clear who considers whom to be “expendable”. [JWR Comments: Out of fairness, one should distinguish between the mid-19th Century and the early 21st Century. As a “gentile” I cannot be blamed for those atrocities any more than I can be blamed for the institution of slavery in America. We are several generations removed from those events and all of those involved in them.]

It might be enlightening for you to know that the first people to defend themselves against an illegal and immoral invasion by the United States Army were the Mormons. Self-serving politicians sought to gain votes by sending the Army to put down a so-called “rebellion” by the Mormons in Deseret. Thank God, the military leadership refused to be used in such a way and entered an abandoned Salt Lake City peacefully, their commander riding through the streets at the head of his troops with his head uncovered honoring the people he knew to be maligned. I truly believe that, unless you are like the heroes in “Patriots” and are taking care of yourself, the absolutely best place to be in a crunch will be in a rural community with a heavy Mormon majority. And that is true, not insignificantly, because the Mormons believe the Constitution of the United States of America to be a divinely inspired document–and have shed blood defending its principles.

Now on perhaps a lighter note about “who is my neighbor”: When we moved to a little island in Washington state some years ago, a neighbor, getting acquainted, said, “Oh, Mormons! Good. I’ll know where to come when I need food.” I answered (and I meant it): “Yes Ma’am, I don’t have food for one family for 24 months; I have food for four families for six months.”

Now you’ve got me on a roll. This same family: husband an attorney, wife an elementary school teacher, her dad an MD were stuck, like us, in an ice storm on Thanksgiving day some years ago. Everybody’s turkeys were cooling in the ovens. The phones weren’t affected so the neighbor called over to borrow my Coleman stove to heat up some water for coffee. Why not, we had our free-standing iron stove doing its job for us. I sent a daughter over with the, admittedly, ancient white-gas stove. After a quarter hour, the neighbor called back to say the stove didn’t seem to work and could I help. I was embarrassed: here I am the local “how-to-hack it” guru and my dumb stove is DOA. So I went over to apologize, and beat a retreat with my Coleman antique. There they were in their family room huddled around the stove in blankets with burnt out matches on the floor–and with the gas canister still undeployed inside the stove! I realized that had these folks got their fingers on the red knob and opened it, they might well have burnt their home down–and maybe mine too!
It never occurred to me that they were expendable.

I hope you will take the opportunity in your blog to “lighten up” on your castigation of Mormons. I have never checked out my neighborhood to see if any non-Mormons were around that I could get rid of in a crisis. I have held important positions in LDS Church administration in Salt Lake City, California, New Zealand, Washington, and Hawaii, and have never heard any such notions from any of my brothers and sisters in the Church. – B.B. in Hawaii

Letter Re: Washington

Just a few nits to pick (grin), RE: “A draconian business gross receipts tax of 2-to-3%. Marginal gun laws. Very high sales tax. (8.8%)”
Can’t disagree with draconian. Can disagree with the B&O rates, slightly. They depend completely on the type of business. My business is taxed at 1.5%.
Sales taxes vary per county over a very wide range.
Gas tax is $0.28 per gallon.
Just for fun, check out this link for “major” taxes in the Evergreen state. Yikes.
There are also more than a few badges (not obvious, but there nonetheless if you know what to look for) at our local gun shows at the County fairgrounds. Keeping an eye on who, what, and how much. Not particularly comfortable about that one. Best Regards, and keep up the good work. – T.S.

Letter Re: Iowa

Greetings Jim,

I’m writing to give you more information on Iowa. While it’s true we’re too close to Chicago there are only a few handfuls of bridges to cross the Mississippi. These can be blocked by backing semi-trailers onto the spans and abandoning the trailers in rows. Crossing a bridge blockaded in such a fashion, guarded by a few dedicated snipers, makes removal of the barricades a more than interesting proposition! No mob is hard-core enough to attempt removal, or crossing on foot for more than a few minutes, before moving on to a new path of lesser resistance. Field implements with folding hydraulic “wings” can also be used in such instances. Once in place, without the proper equipment, their tonnages are impossible to move, easily or quickly. As for food production, their are many farmers markets during the growing season, that sell everything from fruits & vegetables, to pastry’s & pies, to homemade crafts, (quilts to cupboards). These can be roadside stands to county courthouse parking lots. Usually every Saturday till they sell out of goods. We have good wells with fresh water, most have been tested for contaminants and have passed. We have a good work ethic and have lately been adding solar & wind farms to the economy, plus the expansion of the ethanol industry is helping to get Iowa energy independent. Corn turned into ethanol can still be fed as mash to cattle, the cobs burned to heat the distillers, soybeans turned into bio-diesel for the fleets of semi’s to move grain & goods also improve grain prices, i.e., local economies. Plus we’re far enough away to avoid the problems of the Yellowstone caldera [JWR Comments: I beg to differ! According to geologists, the last time that a super-caldera blew up in the same area, locations as far down wind as what is now Virginia ended up under 15 feet of ashfall!] , and the recently developing 4 Sisters,(soon to be 5?), bulge. Whatever that may entail. The hunting season this year for the first time will also add rifles to the already legal shotgun, handgun, & bow hunting deer hunts. A bonanza of deer & trophy deer being available. Also we are now finding that we have feral pigs in numbers & weights up to 400 lbs. in some timbered areas of the state. I’ve probably missed some other highlights, and hopefully others can fill you in on the price and performance of corn burning stoves, etc., that I have glaringly left out from ignorance. Thanks Jim! Best wishes on this exciting new blog. A fervent devotee, – K.H.

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

Harry: Look sweetheart, for the next few weeks survival is going
to have to be on an individual level.
Ann: What do you want to do, write off the rest of the world?
Harry: When civilization gets civilized again, I’ll rejoin.”
– Ray Milland, Panic in the Year Zero