Thursday, February 25, 2016

8 Mistakes Made by Beginning Preppers and Survivalists

Yesterday, I came across an article at Gun Preppers entitled "5 Things Beginner Preppers Always Regret." Many of the points the author raises are applicable even to experienced preppers/survivalists. I also thought of a couple more items that tend to be forgotten or overlooked. So I thought I would discuss the 5 points raised in the article and a couple of additional items.

1. Fixating On SHTF Scenarios. The first point raised by the author at Gun Preppers is fixating on a particular disaster scenario to the exclusion of others or, I would add, "end of the world" disasters over more common disasters. If you watched any of the episodes of the television program, Doomsday Preppers, you often saw this phenomena (although I'm sure it was exaggerated by the program's producer): a prepper convinced of a particular disaster--e.g., massive solar storm, nuclear war, peak oil--to the exclusion of all else. Arguably, if you are prepared for (fill in the blank), you are prepared for almost anything. But I suspect that with such narrow focus, there also comes a certain rigidity to plans, where good preps should provide you with options.

The other downside is ignoring the little things in favor of "surviving off the grid." As the author of the cited article points out:
It does you no good to sell the house and move into an off-grid, radiation-shielded bunker if you don’t even know how much food to store in it, how to filter your water, or how to escape your rat hole if it’s ever compromised. I’m not saying you’ll never need a fallout shelter; I’m saying power outages happen every year and sometimes last several days or weeks, and nuclear attacks are a little more rare. 
Assess the risks in your area and be ready for them. The most common risk is interruption of public utilities by any number of natural causes, so prepare to eat, drink, shelter yourself, and administer first aid for at least two weeks before you start digging that fallout shelter.
And it is not true that preparation for one disaster necessarily prepares you for another. FerFal notes over and over in his book and articles that many traditional preps (e.g., moving to an isolated location) will not help you, and perhaps harm you, in a slow economic collapse/decline. This is why experienced preppers generally focus less on the particulars of a disaster and more on their overall resilience (financial, food/water, energy, shelter, defense) for a given set of time (a week, two weeks, month, 6 months, year, etc.), and set goals of becoming prepared for given time period (e.g., start out storing food/water for a week, then increase the amounts).

This also helps with correcting mistakes as you go along and ensuring that your preparations are compatible with your way of life, diet, preferences, etc. When you are starting out in your preps, it is much easier to recover from a mistake in the purchase of a single case of MREs or dehydrated foods, for instance, than if you had purchased a one-year supply.

2. Not Finding Likeminded Allies. The second point ties in with one of the points I will raise later. But the author's explanation is that sometimes we have too much of an "operational security" mindset, when we may have otherwise found other people that were preppers or interested in prepping. This doesn't mean that you have to spill your guts to everyone, telling them everything about your preparations, but just raising the topic of disaster preparation can clue you into other preppers.

3. Copying Other Preppers. The basic point here is that what the other guy is doing may not be right for you; or the other guy may not even know what he is talking about.

An example from my own experience: The LDS Church recommends members store a year's supply of food. Traditionally, members have followed "the basic five," which includes bulk storage of wheat. So we started storing up wheat, bought a couple mills (a hand-cranked one and an electric), etc. In the process, we discovered that the hard red wheat had a more pleasing flavor than standard white, but I digress. We also discovered that my wife had problems with eating large quantities of wheat (probably the gluten). So, while storing wheat was something that may work for many, or even most people, it wasn't the best model for us.

In this regard, the author of the cited article advises:
Go back to the beginning and do a risk analysis. Examine your budget; can you afford it? What are your living conditions? What is the likelihood that a hurricane (or earthquake or wildfire) will threaten your home? Are you physically up to the task of bugging out on foot? 
Every step along the way you should be asking yourself these questions and more. You are unique. Recognize and embrace the fact that with preparedness, one size does not fit all.
4. Relying Too Heavily On Firearms. The gist of the author's point here is that too many preppers treat firearms as a talisman, that (if properly tricked out) will turn you into a Navy SEAL (or Spetsnaz, SAS, etc.), and fail to obtain the proper training. That is true, but I think it fails to address a bigger problem, which is placing too much emphasis on firearms/defense preparations.

Firearms, ammunition, optical sights, and so forth, are expensive. It is easy to get caught up with constantly upgrading your weapon (either with accessories or replacing it), expanding your collection with additional firearms, and stocking up magazines, ammunition, and so forth. This is money (and time) that is being taken away from other preparations. If you have a basic rifle, do you need the $2,000 tricked out AR, particularly if your food stores consist of two cases of Raman noodles and a few left over cans of soup? I know that is an extreme example, but I fear that there are a lot of people that focus too much on firearms (even going into debt to buy the firearms and ammunition) and neglect their other preparations.

5. Overemphasizing Supplies. The gist of this point is another example of treating equipment as talisman. The author warns of getting caught up in the trap of thinking that just because you have lots of equipment or the latest and greatest doodad, you are prepared. You must know how to use your equipment and you must know whether your equipment works. If you are not taking the equipment out of its packaging until you need it, it may already be too late.

The other aspect of this issue is buying more equipment, or more expensive equipment, than you really need. Prepping is designed to free you, and provide options, not be another trap that drags you down and mires you in debt. You need to ask yourself: is this something I need, or is it just something I want? Perhaps your income is sufficient that this is not an issue, but I would bet that for most of you, this is not the case.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the five points raised in the cited article. Now I want to add a couple points of my own.

6. Not Building Tribe. Point 2 ties in with this, but does not sufficiently cover the topic. The question for you is whether you have people on which you can depend to help you in a time of crises and, in turn, can depend on you. John Mosby refers to the process of gathering these types of people as "Building Tribe."

The greatest challenge is building the strong relationships. You may think that you have a "tribe," when you do not. One of the best examples of "tribe" is the community that the Bielski brothers built, which is described in the book Defiance (and also made into a motion picture). It wasn't a perfect community (is there such a thing?), but they were united in their survival against the forces arrayed against them.

One hopes that you could depend on family to be part of your "tribe," but that may not be the case. One of the things that struck me, reading Defiance, was the number of women who apparently had been abandoned by husbands as they fled the Nazis. Not situations of the men going into hiding while the Nazis swept up military age men, but the men simply abandoning wives and children who couldn't keep up. It can go the other way, as well. I have a friend (hopefully he doesn't see this post) who had serious health problems arise suddenly several years ago. A few weeks later, his mother-in-law became sick, and his wife abandoned him to take care of her mother. Before you start sympathizing with the wife, the mother-in-law lived less than a mile away, her father (i.e., the father-in-law) was retired and healthy and fully capable of providing the care needed, and the wife was spending most of the time there simply watching television or putting together puzzles with her parents (my understanding was that she would come home late at night to sleep, after my friend was asleep, but my friend left for work before she woke up). He was left to deal with his health issues, work a full-time job, and do all the shopping, cleaning, laundry, etc., for him and their four children. She only started spending more time with him and the children after his health issues had subsided. Is this someone he can depend upon?

One would hope that you could depend on neighbors, but that isn't necessarily true, either. Again, another historic example: the book Savage Continent attempts to describe the misery, forced expulsion, and other acts of retribution following on the heels of World War II. The book is replete with examples of societies fracturing along ethnic and religious faults, and neighbors turning on other long term neighbors that were of a different ethnicity or religion. This is an extreme example, but it shows that merely living in proximity to someone does not guarantee bonds of loyalty giving rise to "tribe".

Your "tribe" may be a church or other religious congregation. But again, you have to ask yourself how strong that attachment will be. I have previously discussed the response by the LDS Church following the Teton Dam flood. Overall, the assistance and help between and among the members of the Church were very commendable. However, my family's experience was less so. We were further down the river, so that the destruction was limited to flooding of a dozen or so homes near the Snake River--we didn't have a wall of water tearing through town, ripping up trees and pushing houses off their foundations as happened in towns closer to the Dam. Consequently, we were not in the zone that received attention from emergency personnel. My parents were blue collar workers in a ward (congregation) mostly made up of farmers, doctors and lawyers (i.e., upper middle class). My parents were also relative strangers to the area, having only moved into the ward about 5 years earlier, whereas most of the other members of the ward were from families that had lived in the area for generations. We were the only family that had to hire someone to help with cleaning out our flooded house, rather than receiving volunteer assistance from other ward members. The blunt fact is that my family were members of the congregation, but not members of "the tribe."

7.  Focusing on Unreasonable or Unlikely Defense Scenarios. Another point that I've raised in other posts is focusing on unlikely defensive scenarios. This is really a subset of Point 1 (Fixating On SHTF Scenarios), above. Too many survivalists approach defense and firearms as if they are going to be partisans fighting a corrupt government, a legion of UN troops, or the rabid gangs from a Road Warrior movie, and forget that they are more likely to be a victim of a mugging or other type of assault, a car jacking, or a burglary. Its perfectly fine to train and practice for the extreme scenarios, but not to the expense of basic self-defense. And, to amplify on Point 4, above, self-defense is more than just the handling of a firearm.

8.  Becoming Too Focused On Prepping. Prepping is supposed to give you peace of mind, not something to feed anxiety. Prepare, but also remember to live your life. With that in mind, I'll close with this well-known humorous tale:
“A state trooper stopped a 95-year-old woman on Interstate 20 and noticed as he was checking her drivers license that she had a concealed carry permit.” ... “He said, ‘Got any guns with you ma’am?’ She said, ‘Yes, a .45 Smith & Wesson in the glove compartment, a .357 magnum in the console and a .38 special in my purse.’ The trooper said, ‘Lady, what are you scared of?’ She said, ‘Not a damn thing!'”

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