My proof reader, harshest critic, and prepping partner (my bride of 45 years) read my first cut of this article and told me that it was interesting …….. but boring! She may be right, but I still think it’s worthy of a few minutes of your time to read. The points I make may be intuitively obvious to the most casual observer but, even if that’s the case, they just might offer some guidance to help us better understand the timeline of how things might shake out ……….. and how that will affect our actions. If we understand the structure of an Event cycle it might help us to prepare more effectively. In this post I have used the word “Event” to describe anything we would otherwise refer to as “SHTF” or “TEOTWAWKI”. The term “Phase” describes distinct (although variable) blocks of time before, during, and after an “Event”.
As I go through my routines of prepping the topic of this article kept popping into my mind. For me, and I suppose for all of us, prepping is a constant cycle of reviewing my plans and evaluating priorities for the purchase of goods we still needed. That and trying to figure out how much is enough keeps me busy! I find that attempting to balance the issue of available funds (we’re retired and on a fairly fixed income) versus the timeline of how soon the items might be needed is an almost daily task. Our “prepping” priorities can quickly change as U.S. and World events mutate and continue to degrade. Decoding the available information regarding world affairs (in an effort to make intelligent decisions) can drive a person to distraction. Even so, we must keep our focus on the reality of our own situations. I guess it’s a matter of trying to productively function somewhere between Chicken Little’s “the sky is falling” and a more complacent attitude of “watch and wait”.
While working intently to prepare for “it”, I realized that I had become somewhat preoccupied with the “right now” aspect of prepping. Sure, like all of us, I try to stay plugged in to many different sources of information; but, was I so caught up in the minute details of prepping that I had lost my focal balance regarding the bigger picture? Not necessarily that I had lost my vision that is the motivational force behind my prepping, but more like the tasks of dealing with the details kept my focus “in the weeds”. Was I overlooking anything important? Was I was focusing too much on accumulating what I thought I’d need to have on hand and not enough on the broader ramifications of what will likely occur as a result of an Event? These points were also driven home after a recent conversation with some fellow Preppers. This discussion provided more impetus to give additional thought to the many details of prepping for TEOTWAWKI! Seems as though we each had a somewhat different opinion regarding what would take place after an Event. Obviously we all look at an Events impact in terms of its effect on our immediate locale …….. but…….. how will things unfold?
My thoughts keep coming back to the same sequence: There’s now, there’s when it happens (whatever “it” ends up being), and then there is “after it happens”. Although these are simple statements, they cover a lot of ground and deserve some in-depth analysis. I recently spent some time thinking about this trio of statements and all that they might imply. How would these three phases affect me/you personally?
It’s my belief that all Events (large or small) follow a timeline that can be broken down into distinct Phases. Each Phase carries with it a different set of criteria for personal survival. Although there are many different possible worst case scenarios for an Event, all will follow the same basic script:
Phase 1 – Pre-Event
Phase 2 – The Event Occurs.
Phase 3 – Reaction of the General Public to the Event.
Phase 4 – Government Reaction to the General Public’s Reaction to the Event.
Phase 5 – Individual Reaction to the Governments Reaction to the Event:
Phase 6 – Stabilization of Situation Post Event.
Phase 7 – Long Term Adjustment of Population and Governments to Situations Resulting from the
Phase 1 – Pre-Event: We are all now in the final stages of Phase 1. News from all over the globe is rife with stories of discontent, war, insurrection, natural disaster, disease, geological changes, financial instability and more. There are more people competing for fewer resources, a greater proliferation of weaponry (all of it much more deadly on a grander scale), less fiscal and personal responsibility, degradation of public morality, etc., etc. It would be difficult to identify a time when things were more unstable. Is our current world any different than it was 50 years ago? How about the way it was 100 years ago? Of course it’s different: We live in the most dangerous of times! There is no debate about the threats posed to all of us by the status of today’s world. A prudent person would say that the structure of Society is fragmented and appears to be teetering on collapse.
It seems to me that a lot of Preppers focus in on a specific type of event they believe is probable; a massive earthquake, financial collapse, an EMP destroying our electrical grid, terrorism or outright war. They spend a lot of energy and resources focused on surviving that event (sometimes to the exclusion of other possibilities). Kudos to anyone that takes steps to prepare; but I believe that focusing on a specific type of Event as the basis for your planning is short sighted. There are many potential event scenarios not the least of which is our own government going fully renegade (more than it is now) and setting our constitutional protections aside. Accurately forecasting which specific type of Event will occur is, in my humble opinion, much too dependent on luck. Educated guesses are just that …….. Guesses! Better to base your prepping on the effects of a generic catastrophe; accumulating supplies that will see you through hard times no matter what the cause. Once those supplies are safely in hand you can then branch out to obtain those items you feel will address your specific situation.
The questions of how much time you have to obtain those supplies before they will need to be put to use, and the priority of when they will be put into service, highlight the importance of being able to accurately identify where you, and others, are within an Event cycle. No matter how well you’ve prepped, your plans and preparations will surely be affected by others. Their actions will most likely stress your well thought out plan as they compete to survive. If you have read an earlier post of mine you’ll remember that I commented: “In military circles it is well known that no battle plan survives intact once combat is engaged”. The truth of this comment applies here. As we prepare to implement our survival plan we must focus not only our own plan, but how our plan will probably be modified by outside forces. The lesson to be gleaned from this is that we will not be operating in a vacuum, but in a highly charged environment that will be constantly changing ………. yet still following a common sequence.
Too many of our family, friends and neighbors turn blind eyes to the potential future facing all of us. As is often said: “You cannot awaken someone that is pretending to be asleep”. These “sheeple” live in blissful ignorance and will perish. Sadly, they will be some of the first casualties of any Event. Preppers will continue to prep, but we must stay informed to better see and understand the warnings. Do not rely on only one or two sources for your information but cast a broad net to glean data from all available sources. The warnings exist for those of us that seek them and are wise enough to recognize their message. Forgive me if I’m preaching to the choir!
You still have time to obtain your supplies …………… but don’t dawdle!
Phase 2 – The Event Occurs: It has happened! An Event takes place. Your ability to identify this specific point in time will be affected by a multitude of factors: The type of Event, your proximity to the Event locus, where you are, or live, when the Event occurs, on and on. The Event may turn out to be a relatively subtle thing that grows into a catastrophe.
So, something big has occurred and you think it’s finally happened ………… the SHTF for real! Maybe your family, home, neighborhood, town, or city has not yet been severely affected. Perhaps there’s been a loss of power, communication (TV, internet, phones) or other normal services. In and by itself, these loses are not necessarily all that unusual; but you can see the writing on the wall. What do you do next? How fast things deteriorate depends to a great extent on a multitude of factors: What type of Event has occurred? Is it a local, state wide, national or global Event? Is there any way to confirm the Event? Have your worst fears come to fruition? Stop for a minute and think about your immediate situation. Where are you when it happens? Do you (can you) leave for a safe area or must you stay put? Does your family have a previously agreed upon rendezvous location? How long do you have before things get really dicey? You wonder if you need to activate your survival plan! The first thought that comes to your mind is “NOW”! I’ve got to pull the plug and go into hyper survival mode right now! Your subconscious has moved you into the “fight or flight” mode.
There are so many questions to be answered that it seems impossible to know what to do. It can be difficult to come up with viable answers when all of this is a hypothetical exercise let alone under very stressful conditions. As a Prepper, you are already mentally ready to go off the grid, so an inability to immediately answer all of the questions above does not mean you won’t survive. The odds are good that you’ve spent time going over potential scenarios and you’ve already laid down a generic action plan as a guide. Your planning means that you will probably identify that an Event has occurred faster and more accurately than those folks still in the herd. Keep in mind that a man-made type of Event such as a financial collapse, EMP, war, etc. will probably be quickly obvious and quickly impact us all. But a natural disaster Event may occur in a way that at first affects only a localized area. The negative impact to locales at a distance from the locus of this Event may be delayed. Another difference between these two Event types is manifested by the speed with which the effects are felt at distances from the Event locus. The effects of any Event will spread like ripples on a pond. The size of those ripples, and the speed at which they will travel, will be determined by the type and size of the Event!
I suggest that if you believe an Event has taken place pay heed to your instincts ……… go to battle stations immediately! If it is a false alarm, that fact will soon become evident and you can consider your actions to be a drill. If it is the real thing, then you are ahead of the curve. To be a Prepper is a proactive philosophy. But to survive the Event, you will need to immediately become reactive. Do you activate your plan, batten down the hatches and load the weapons? YES. How you react to the Event will be based on your interpretation of what has happened, and perhaps more importantly, what will happen next!
At some point you will decide that an Event has occurred ………. After making that decision, you will have moved into Phase 3.
Phase 3 – Reaction of the General Public to the Event: The reaction of the general public to the Event will vary greatly from person to person. As I’ve said, factors such as their proximity to the Event locus, type of Event, immediate effects of the Event, their medical condition post Event, etc. all will play a role in determining an individual’s initial reaction. The reactions of the population as a group will run the gamut from thoughtful rumination to violent lawlessness. I think that a person’s true character will come to the forefront and be the determining factor in how they each respond to adversity. “A person is smart ……….. a mob is dumb!” Each person will be pushed to action based on how quickly the Event becomes a first person affair. However, due to forces beyond their control, individuals may not have a choice as to how they will react.
How quickly people move through Phase 3 will depend on multiple factors:
– Event type and resulting damage to physical and social infrastructure.
– Their location and proximity to large groups of the population.
– Being able to correctly identify which phase they are in and adjusting accordingly to face the situation at hand.
– How well they have prepared, both mentally and physically, for a life changing Event.
Unless you are already isolated, living off the grid with no neighbors nearby, you will surely be affected by a societal reaction to the Event more than any other factor …….. assuming of course that your location is not ground zero! Folks living in or near a large metro area will probably experience a quick slide into the negative aspects of Phase 3. Rioting, looting and general lawlessness will probably begin very quickly. People scrambling to survive will choose to forsake societal norms. The general public (non-Preppers) will be forced into two types of mind-sets: Hunker down or Flee. Those folks caught in a city environment when the event happens will quickly evaluate their circumstances and react in a manner that reflects what they perceive as their best chance for survival. In all likelihood, the subsequent result will be a mass exodus from the cities. Those left in the cities will be subjected to all of the worst case scenarios we all fear. Gangs (newly formed and older established groups) will run rampant but may not move away from those territories where they are most familiar. Rural folks may see some delay between the Event and adverse local public reactions, but it will occur eventually. We know Preppers will react to the Event differently from the general public. They will begin to activate their survival plans as soon as they have determined Phase 2 has occurred.
Phase 4 – Government Reaction to the General Public’s Reaction to the Event: Our government, like all governments, will most likely delay their response until they think they are sure what has happened and how it is being perceived and dealt with by the public. I believe the intensity of the government’s response will be relative to the magnitude of the Event. However, I do expect that the FEDS will follow their inclination to “swat the mosquito with a howitzer”. A heavy handed reactionary response to gain control will probably follow a brief initial period of relative inactivity (while the bureaucrats, politicians, and professional military entities assess the situation). Make no mistake about it; Governments are all about power, control, and self-preservation. They will eventually step in to take control over everything and everyone …………….. that’s the way their playbook is written and it is their answer for handling all contingencies. I doubt that there will be any subtlety in their response and subsequent implementation of Martial Law nationwide. Local governments will probably try to respond by imposing control and authority quicker than the State or Feds. The government will initially be more focused on gaining control of the larger population centers than the rural areas.
Phase 5 – Individual Reaction to the Governments Reaction to the Event: This phase might be considered a subset of Phase 4 but I feel it deserves some discussion. As I’ve said; to a great extent the type, severity and magnitude of the Event will dictate how the government will react. Local, State and Federal agencies have one thing in common: Control! Lately we’ve seen examples of their reactions to situations that would lead us to believe that their preferred way to deal with any situation is by an overwhelming response. That type of response may make good prime time TV, but it doesn’t necessarily give us the warm cuddly feeling that our benevolent Uncle is interested in us as individuals. I doubt that any of us would be Preppers if we thought our security was in good hands and assured by government at any level.
“Hello, I’m from the government and I’m here to help you.” How will you react to hearing these words spoken to you by a government representative after an Event has occurred? I will be very wary ………… untrusting and waiting for the next shoe to drop. But then again, I’m a Prepper. What do you think the vast majority of non-Preppers will do when the government demands control over their lives? I believe that they will meekly follow what they are told to do in the mistaken belief that their government knows best. This is even more likely if the Event has shut down or degraded communications. Without up to date information on the status of things people will gravitate to those appearing to have the latest information. I also believe that these folks will soon be treated like cattle and, once penned like livestock, will be controlled through a dependence on their captors for food, shelter, and security. Most likely these herds will be comprised of city dwellers. The Government forces will first focus their efforts where they can control the largest populations. Those of us still outside of the pens will quickly pose a threat to the government. It doesn’t matter whether or not we actually are a threat, but only that we remain beyond their immediate control. This situation will be perceived by those in power as unacceptable and steps will be taken to eliminate that threat. Remember that governments tend to believe that any protruding nails must be pounded flat ………………. and they will not use a tack hammer!
When personally confronted by an entity demanding our conformance to the new rules, many individuals will be torn between conformance and resistance. If enough individuals resist the demand to conform there will be lawlessness and violence. That’s not an assumption but a fact based on human nature. The scale of the violence will be determined by the level of resistance and the temperament of the government. Of course, exactly how all of this transpires will be, to a great extent, dependent on the type, magnitude, and dispersed effects of the Event.
Phase 6 – Stabilization of situation post Event: I used the term “stabilization” but perhaps a more appropriate word would be “acceptance”. Once the initial shock and reaction to the Event (Phases 3, 4, & 5) has passed there will be a move toward establishing a new routine for daily life. This routine will certainly be very different from our pre-Event lives. Yet, as time passes, even the new-normal will eventually be accepted as the way things are. Violent threats to our existence will probably be a less common occurrence than they were during Phase 3. Most of the lawlessness that was present during Phase 3, early Phase 4, and perhaps Phase 5 will have been dealt with. Attrition will have removed the innocent unprepared and vigilant self-defense will have eliminated most of the threat posed by more violent individuals. We will settle in to the routine of our existence, accepting that life as we knew it is forever changed.
Phase 7 – Long Term Adjustment of Population and Governments to Situations Resulting from the Event: At this point considerable time has passed and communities are starting to re-form. If there is any local or national government still viable it will try to consolidate its influence so as to control those surviving the Event. There may still be some conflict between survivor groups and fledgling governmental units as they both struggle for control and stability. Bartering will be the prime method of commercial exchange. Communal vigilante groups will protect their homes and families as they unilaterally enforce their laws to ensure group safety. Until general communications and the ability to travel long distances (with shortened travel times) are re-established, small communities will remain isolated and dependent on their own skills to survive.
Summation: The dividing lines separating these seven phases are not sharp and may not be easily discernible. Transition from phase to phase, and the duration of each phase, will vary widely depending on the type of event and your physical location in relation to the Event locus. It may be that you will exit one Phase and then return to it after some time passes and situations continue to change. Consider for a moment my earlier comment: “The resultant effects of the Event will spread as ripples on a pond”. As an example consider the following scenario: What if there was a major earthquake on the New Madrid Fault? This major fault undermines our central states at a point where the U.S. is at its narrowest (North to South). A large earthquake here could isolate the Eastern US from the Western US. Land routes between these two areas would be disrupted. People at the epicenter would immediately suffer greatly, yet those a thousand miles away might initially be unaffected. They would only know a disaster had occurred but it didn’t affect them ……… yet. Later, when shipments of critical goods begin to be delayed or stopped, their local store shelves are depleted, when rolling (or long term) utility outages hit their towns, then would they finally feel firsthand the effects of the Event. Note that the intensity of the “Event effects”, unlike the diminishing ripples on a pond, will not necessarily be decreased by their distance from the Event epicenter. In fact, the opposite may be true depending on the type of Event and its locus. Your distance from the EVENT locus may only factor in as a function of how long it takes for you to feel the effects. How you are personally affected will ultimately be determined by many variables.
History provides us with numerous examples of how societies react to Events and their aftermath. In virtually every instance the general populace fares poorly until a semblance of order and control can be reestablished. Some societies never recover …………. they disappear forever. In societies where the majority of the populace is dependent on being supported by a “benevolent” government, it is the rural population that offers the greatest hope for the future.
It’s obvious that there are sub categories within each of the Phases I’ve identified. You can fill in those blanks with additional details that are more specific to your particular situation. In the end, it really doesn’t matter what type of Event takes place, these Phases are still going to occur. Your ability to correctly identify where you are in each Phase, at any given moment, will surely raise the odds in favor of your survival.
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