I frequently read about varying doomsday scenarios. Everything from a total collapse of the economy, to super-storms, to EMP attacks, and lately even dubious writings about life in a post-antibiotic world. While the odds are not in favor of one devastating event that ends the world as we know it and plunges us into a repeat of the Dark Ages, there is still the possibility that something like a surprise EMP attack or an unexpected asteroid impact could wipe out most of humanity. There’s always that “What if…?”
Before I go any farther, however, let me offer this strong disclaimer:
I do not advocate stealing. I don’t advocate criminal activity of any kind. I believe a man’s sense of honor has no price tag. That being said, in a “What if…?” scenario where most of mankind is wiped out, it will literally be a survival do-or-die situation for you and your loved ones. If that is the case, you will not be giving up your sense of honor if there is no chance of ‘recovery’, [massive de-population,] and you actively forage for the things you need to survive [and it there are no lawful heirs for truly abandoned property.]
Still with me?
Then let’s move on. What I propose is that you begin now to identify resources. You don’t live in the wilderness where deer and other wild game are abundant? You don’t live in a place where wild edibles are everywhere, ripe for the picking? Well, we don’t, either. We live in a small town in northwest Ohio with a population of about 15,000. We even live within the city limits, and our backyard is about 70’ wide, and maybe 60’ deep. That’s where we have our garden and fruit trees. Not much to survive on…
But – taking a look around our small town, I see many opportunities for foraging.
First, we’re in an agricultural area of the State. The farmers around here plant the Big-3 – corn, wheat, and soybeans. Then they store their harvest in silos until the prices are right for selling. Even then, the harvest moves to local granaries positioned on rail spurs, where it is stored until it is loaded onto trains for shipment elsewhere. I do believe these local farmers will be willing to barter for their grains. So we’ll most likely have access to wheat for bread, corn for meal, and even soybeans if, when treated properly, can be used for animal feed or pressed for oil.
Not only do we have farmers tilling the fields and growing crops, we also have farmers locally who specialize in hogs, beef cattle, poultry, fruit, even bees. So the chances are good that we’ll be able to supplement our own food stores with fresh food grown locally.
Additionally, our area currently has a healthy population of deer, geese, wild turkeys, squirrels, and rabbits. The local farms actually find the wildlife to be quite a nuisance. Plus, there are three rivers that come together in our little town, so there is the opportunity for fishing as well. Now I don’t count on hunting to supply my family with food. If everyone in our area who owns a gun heads to the woods and starts shooting, our abundant wildlife will soon disappear.
Notice I haven’t even mentioned the grocery stores. In our small town, we have no less than three grocery chain stores, as well as a large Wal-Mart, and three ‘dollar’ stores. All of these stores carry foodstuffs, but in the event of a total collapse, these stores will be emptied out pretty quickly. Today Black Friday is still a fresh memory – only a few days ago. In view of the violence and chaos that ruled the Christmas shopping experience then, just imagine what it will be like when it’s the last bit of food left available that’s being fought over! In my own humble opinion, I think it will be safer to sit this one out – stay home with our pantry and supplies, and plan on bartering with local farmers for fresh food.
But now to move on to things besides food!
What else will you need? I venture to say that whatever it is, you can probably find it if you know where to look. In our town, we still have a little bit of heavy industry. Having done some research, and talked to people who are employed by these factories, I have found a huge reservoir of vital resources.
Need clean drinking water, but you haven’t had the means to buy a Berkey system? Well don’t despair – at least not yet. In many places of work, companies still utilize the old ‘water cooler’ systems. Remember those? Where people hung out and shared the latest rumors, talked sports, and speculated about who was getting promoted? Many companies still use these today. Not just factories, but offices, too. I know that in our local factories these are in use, and in fact, they go through so many bottles of water that they’ve built racks to stock the bottles in, so they can deliver them with fork trucks. The bottom line is this – if the collapse is sudden and/or catastrophic, there just might be a fairly large stock of clean fresh water readily available!
(To a lesser degree, vending companies also service factories and offices. And while their snack foods and sodas probably aren’t going to do you much good nutritionally, they are after all, a resource. Don’t overlook anything at a time like this!)
Another source of clean drinking water in our town (or nearby) would be ponds. My sister – visiting from out of state – was astonished at the number of ponds that people have on their properties. And I have to admit, it does seem like every other farm or property has a pond. She was further surprised to learn that people often use their ponds as their main source of drinking water. And if that’s the case, these people have filtration systems set up for that purpose. So just like bartering for food, it will be possible to barter for safe drinking water, too.
Many factories use heavy equipment. The industries here in our town use fork trucks (electric, propane, and gasoline), ‘burden carriers’ (like golf carts – some run on battery power, and some are gasoline powered), JLGs (like the lift baskets you see on the power company trucks – some battery and some gasoline powered), cranes, front end loaders, and dump trucks. So there are storage tanks for gasoline and diesel fuel. In addition to all of those things, there are literally hundreds of tanks of oxygen, MAPP gas, and propane. And to make these gas bottles useable, there also torches, torpedo heaters, and space heaters.
Plus – and this is probably unique to our area – we have a foundry in our town (you may have a power plant nearby). This foundry melts down iron and aluminum to pour castings for the automotive industry. What this means for us is that there is a huge stockpile of coke (refined and purified coal) and ground up coal. Power plants frequently use coal as well – although the EPA is making that harder and harder to find. They must still be in use, though. We have trains loaded with coal passing through our town all the time. So it’s out there…
And finally, when the gas, diesel, propane, MAPP gas, and coal are all gone, there is wood. Just about every factory in the world is a user of wooden pallets. The factories in our town not only use pallets, but they use plywood, too. Lots and lots of plywood.
So there are many opportunities for obtaining lumber from construction and fuel for heating, cooking, etc. You just have to know where to look. [JWR Adds: Beware of pallets made of treated wood, or pallets that have been contaminated by spilled chemicals! Also use great caution when cutting up pallets. Destroying a $20 circular saw blade by hitting a nail while trying to recover the wood in a “free” pallet is false economy.]
TOOLS AND SUPPLIES
The businesses in our town do some pretty heavy work. As a result, they are stocked with some pretty heavy-duty tools and equipment. Industrial grade hardware (nuts-n-bolts), heavy tools of every kind, steel (structural and sheet), hoists (electric, pneumatic, and chain falls), (electric and gasoline powered), generators, ladders of all sizes, scaffolding, power tools – in fact, if you name it, they’ve probably got it. So even if looters have emptied out your local big-box home improvement stores, you still might be able to find useful tools, supplies, and equipment.
You might not have such a rich resource in your area, but there are some other things that many factories use that you might find extremely useful. For example, many factories use thermal detection cameras (FLIR) for predictive maintenance. Many factories also use vibration sensors, lasers, photoeyes, and proximity switches. In the right hands, these things could easily be used to build a perimeter alarm system, or night-time surveillance system. In fact, surveillance cameras are so common now that you can find them everywhere. (Our town even has them mounted on all of the traffic lights…) You might do well to do some research into how these systems work and what it would take to turn them into useful tools for your own protection and defense.
And another resource that might be overlooked is medical supplies. Most large factories have their own medical facility. Even if your town doesn’t have such a thing, don’t overlook the local drug stores. In our town alone, there are eight different shops/stores selling prescription drugs and medical supplies. And that isn’t counting the actual medical facilities like clinics and hospitals. None of these possible resources should be overlooked!
And finally – name one thing that every public business has on hand. Give up?
Fire extinguishers! Don’t overlook these possible lifesaving items!
You might be tempted to think that if you live in an urban or even suburban area that you will have a really hard time trying to forage for your survival. I hope I’ve given you some ideas with this writing. Take a look around, and learn to recognize the resources that are right under your nose. Take notes. Plan ahead. Every town and every situation is different, but I truly believe that every situation offers opportunity for successful foraging in the event of massive depopulation. Good luck in your own search!