Solo Survival in a Societal Collapse?, by Wry Catcher

When it comes to natural and man-made disasters, I’ve seen my share, and each was a learning experience. Although diverse in type, all of them shared a common factor: a dire impact on the human populations they affected. That impact, in turn, led to dangerous encounters with some rough criminals. Some people cannot cope, so they turn to ruthless behavior. Other people are selfish opportunists. While we may have pity for those who can’t cope with the stress of a survival situation, we should nonetheless remain vigilant for those who would do us harm in any way and for any reason. As my niece says, “It only takes one creep to ruin your life.” She is so right!

We preppers and survivalists know by now that being part of a trustworthy and cooperative community will dramatically increase the odds for our survival. Whether surrounded by family, friends, or like-minded neighbors, having a support system in place during hard times is universally considered vital.

Suppose, however, that circumstances preclude you from enjoying the benefits of a protective community. Perhaps your friends and family live out of town. Some of you reading this right now don’t know your neighbors, and don’t want to know them. Many of you live alone by choice. Or perhaps an event forces you to become isolated from your community. Bottom line: you’re on your own. You need to ask yourself some questions now, before the bogey man arrives.

How can I maintain my sanity when chaos reigns around me?
Physical well-being is not enough. Besides the requisite beans, band-aids, and buckshot, a lonely survivor will need emotional and spiritual comfort, and a reason to live. Accumulate some mementoes of loved ones and happier times – photographs, voice recordings, a vacation postcard – anything that will abate the inevitable sense of aloneness and isolation. A few photographs and a small tape or MP3 player will fit easily into a Bug Out Bag (BOB).

Strong faith in an entity greater than yourself is a true comfort in times of trouble. Having faith in someone or something will help you endure the solitude.

As a sole survivor, how can I defend my living space?
The old adage goes, “there is safety in numbers.” Through projecting a sense of multiple occupants, your living space can be defended. If you have a source of electricity, use your radio, scanner, or tape recorder to produce vocal sounds. Set timers to turn on and off lights throughout the house. If electricity is unavailable or sporadic, quietly move about within the building. Keep any would-be intruders guessing as to where you are. Before the SHTF, place decorative glass objects on windowsills, so that anyone attempting to enter through a window will be encumbered. Plant knee-high, thorny bushes under windows and around all entrances. Whether or not actually you have a dog, place used dog dishes where outsiders can see them. Install a burglar alarm with battery back-up. Please note that burglar alarms and cluttered windowsills are not going to stop a determined intruder, but the noise these safety precautions make will alert you to trouble so that you can react accordingly.

Consider having 3M Safety & Security film installed on the inside of all windows so that “smash and grab” is more difficult. Perimeter fences should be sturdy and climb-proof. Landscaping should discourage fires from reaching the residence. Turn a basement bathroom or a laundry room into a bunker and a well-supplied defensive stand. Abandon rooms that cannot be easily defended from within. Another old adage, “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” is good advice when it comes to stashing weapons and water.

If you venture out, keep a low profile and don’t betray your location. A car can be a retreat in desperate times. It can also be a betrayer. Concealment makes the difference.

Will I be able to survive without electricity if my “strength through imaginary numbers” plan cannot be implemented without it?
If it is impossible to project a sense of strength, project a sense of abandonment. Make no noise. Cooking odors and smoke must not be visible. Venture outside of your sanctuary with great stealth and only when necessary for survival. Keep a low profile at all times.

Can I convince those who know or learn that I live alone to leave me alone?
I ask myself regularly:

  • Can I prepare without alerting others to what I’m doing?
  • Does my home look deserted or securely occupied?
  • Or both, depending on the situation?

Perhaps the best defense is to pretend to be absent. I have known people who hid in a secret closet or a basement bathroom while scavengers rummaged through their homes. When the thieves left, the homeowner returned to living as if nothing happened because their survival gear had been stowed with great forethought. Contemplate adding an underground or subsurface bunker to your home. If that is impossible, remodel an interior room to serve as a defensive position.

Present an impenetrable exterior and a well-defended position so that those will ill intent will be inclined to go elsewhere. Your goal should be having a home and property that appears occupied, when that is your best defense, and unoccupied, when that serves your needs. The balancing act is a tricky one, to be sure.

When at home, during times of trouble, keep a low profile. As you plan for survival, downplay each change to your home and your purchase of supplies. Your caches should only be known to family and trusted friends. Loose lips don’t just sink ships, they could sink your personal safety and security. Never hire the same contractor for two separate survival projects – don’t divulge the real reason or purpose of the work you are having done.

Could I use a weapon against another human being, if necessary? Can I train to do so? Are your knives sharp? Can you keep them that way? Is your 4×4 always ready for a quick getaway if you must abandon your home? Most importantly, Do you have a G.O.O.D. plan if things get too dicey? Your weapons should be familiar to you so that using them is second nature. Ammunition should be securely stowed until needed. If your weapons use common calibers and gauges, bartering will be easier.

Can you project a defensible exterior to your home while still presenting a comfortable residence during times of normalcy? This can be problematic unless carefully thought out. Landscaping can be defensibly practical and simultaneously attractive with little effort. Fencing, however, may have local restrictions and aesthetic considerations. Check local codes for current limitations, then work within those limits to create the best perimeter barrier. With a little work now, you can make a fence that can be easily reinforced at a later and more dangerous time. What you do to the interior of your house should be your business, so long as you keep it private and non-hazardous to your neighbors, you shouldn’t have much trouble. [JWR Adds: See the blog archives for my admonitions about liability issues, including chemical irritants and trap guns.] Filled sandbags line the walls of your garage? Why not!

The Bottom Line
Under many worst-case scenarios, odds of solo survival are less than 50-50. The odds get worse as sustained hardships persist. This you must know and accept, if you don’t accept those odds then you need to become part of a like-minded group of trustworthy people who will work with you to survive. If, however, you accept the odds, you must commit to not rolling over and dying without a fight. No human parasite will find an easy victim at your place. Many have survived while alone. You can, too, if you take stock of your vulnerabilities and prepare accordingly. Ask yourself the tough questions and answer them truthfully – your life may depend on it.