It’s widely considered to be a given that there will be massive problems with people looting, stealing and assaulting others to get what they need in the wake of a major disaster.
This isn’t just something that preppers have made up or even something out of a fiction writer’s imagination; this has proven to be the norm, over and over again, throughout a wide variety of disasters, cultures and time periods.
That’s why self-defense is such an important part of survival. Just surviving in a post-disaster world is bad enough; but there are those who will see the wreckage and confusion as an opportunity.
Others, who might not otherwise be prone to criminal activity, will be driven there out of desperation. Desperate people do desperate things and having a disaster befall you can make just about anyone desperate, especially those who are unprepared.
Dealing with This
There are two, maybe three different ways of dealing with this, unless you want to call giving up an option. Those are:
- Getting out of Dodge and away from other people before it’s too late
- Defending your castle with superior force of arms
- Making it look like you’re not worth attacking
I see a lot of people picking the first and second options above. But those aren’t necessarily the best options. While bugging out is a great idea, it’s only a great idea if you have a prepared and stocked survival retreat to go to. If you can do it, more power to you; but if not, then bugging out should only be your last resort.
Option two is also something to only be used as a last resort. While you may reach a time when you are forced to defend your home, that should be another last resort, possibly to be followed up by bugging out.
There’s always a chance in you or a family member being wounded in a firefight and even if you win, there’s nothing that says they won’t come back with even more people.
All it would take is for them to spread the word that you have something in there worth fighting for.
This leaves option three as our main mode of operation, without eliminating the other two possibilities. But those are backup plans. So, just how do we make it look like we’re not worth attacking? By covering our tracks, especially those which have anything to do with prepping. Some people call it OPSEC, the military acronym for “operational security.”
For most of us, there are a lot of tracks to cover. While this list may not be totally complete, let’s look at some major important areas:
Pre-Disaster Covering Your Tracks
Hiding your tracks actually starts long before the brown stuff hits the air movement device. The moment you start prepping, you need to start covering your tracks.
Everything you do needs to be done in a way to hide it from those who might want to see what you are doing and ultimately might want to take your preps away from you.
Buy in a Deceptive Manner
Ordering up a truckload of groceries and having them show up at your home is definitely going to attract attention.
My parents did that, not as preppers, but to save money buying semi-wholesale. It attracted a lot of attention then, and would attract a lot of attention now.
Worse, it’s the type of attention that causes people to remember that you have lots of food. It’s much better to buy in small quantities, gradually building your stockpile. This can either be during your regular grocery shopping trips or special trips just to buy prepping supplies.
Either way, avoid being seen carrying in 10 cases of something that you got a good deal on. Go ahead and buy it if it’s a good deal, just don’t let anyone see you carry it in. Put the truck in the garage or backyard to unload it.
Hiding Your Preps
Hiding what you’ve bought doesn’t just mean making sure nobody sees you carry it in; it has to include how you store things as well. A true stockpile is going to fill an average bedroom. That’s not easy to hide, especially if you stack it on shelves where everyone can see.
Ideally, you should have a room in the basement to store your preps in, preferably a room with a locking door.
But even if you don’t, there are lots of places around the house you can hide things; such as under the beds and behind other things in your closets.
I’ve even gone so far as to stack up cases of food and cover them with a table cloth to look like a small table in the corner of the room.
Covering Your Tracks Once the Brown Stuff Hits
Covering your tracks before the disaster hits is just the first part of the game. Once the disaster strikes, it’s going to be even harder to hide what you’ve done and how you are surviving. People’s senses will be on high alert, so things that may not to attract attention normally, could very well be one during such a time. Attracting that attention is something you just don’t want to do.
The last thing you want to do is let people see that you are better off than they are. If they see smoke coming from your chimney, while they’re freezing, they’ll probably come knocking on your door, asking if they can come in to warm up.
That same idea can be carried across to anything that you have, which they don’t. So you want to make sure that everything you do, from turning the lights on to taking out the trash is either hidden or done in a way that looks just like what everyone else is doing.
Applying the Grey Man Theory
What I was just talking about, looking like everyone else, is often referred to as the “grey man theory.” The idea is that people don’t notice what’s not noteworthy. You don’t notice the family sedan driving down your street, because cars like that drive down your street every day.
But if the Batmobile were to drive down your street, you’d notice it.
Dressing in “tacticool” clothing and driving a pimped-out bug out vehicle is the opposite of being the grey man. Rather, you should be driving some average-looking family sedan, preferably in some easy-to-hide color like grey.
Rather than wearing those tactical pants and a plate carrier, wear jeans and a t-shirt. Do whatever you can to blend in, even if that’s difficult to do.
Using Deception & Camouflage
Some things are too big to hide by putting them under the bed, like sand for filling sandbags and the huge quantity of water that we really need. You can’t hide solar panels or a wind turbine either. But you can find ways of making the sand and water look like they are perfectly normal and can give other reasons besides trying to go off-grid for having solar panels on your home.
I used to be an engineer and am still a great tinkerer, so it’s fairly easy for me to be deceptive about my “projects.” My neighbors think I’m a bit eccentric, so when they see me installing rainwater collection or a wind turbine, they just figure I’m experimenting again. They’ve grown to expect that from me, so when they see it, they don’t think anything of it.
When it comes to storing water, the best way to camouflage a water tank is to use an above-ground swimming pool for one. That sand for sandbags can easily be kept in a sandbox for the kids, or in my case, the grandkids. The same idea works for other things as well.
One of the biggest challenges for us in this regard is our weight. If the people around us don’t have food, then they’ll be losing weight.
But if they see us plump and happy, it will be a dead giveaway that we have food to eat. That’s not exactly something that we can hide.
The trick here is to put ourselves on a low-calorie diet, as if we were trying to lose a lot of weight. I’d recommend something like 1,500 calories a day. If that’s all you’re eating, you will lose weight, even if it isn’t as fast as they do.
Even so, it will appear to those around you like you’re having troubles too, even if yours may not be quite as bad as theirs.
Mask Cooking Odors
Speaking of food, one of the big ways we need to cover our tracks is with cooking odors. I doubt anyone is going to be cooking steaks on the grille, but other foods create their own odors. That’s dangerous.
As I was referring to earlier, people’s senses will be on alert, so they are much more likely to smell those cooking odors; even the mild ones. You’re going to have to do some experimenting with the recipes you’re planning on using during that time, to see how strong an odor the produce.
Then, once you have an idea, find stronger smells that you can use to mask them.
For example, chlorine has a strong odor, so opening a bottle of bleach, while you are cooking, can help hide the smell of the food.
Another thing that can help a lot is cooking n enclosed containers, so that steam doesn’t escape. A solar oven is great for this. Then, before opening it, take it inside to open, where the smell of the food will be trapped indoors. The same thing can be done with pressure cookers and other cookers that seal in the steam.
Hide or Burn Your Trash
Trash can be a dead giveaway about your life. You’d be surprised what people can learn, by looking through your garbage. There’s the obvious things, like the box for the big TV you just bought, and there are the little things, like packages that tell what sorts of foods you like to eat.
The easy solution for all this is to burn all the packaging you can. Watch out for plastics and Styrofoam, as they can put of poisonous gases. But paper and cardboard can easily be burnt in the fire. Even those plastics can be melted, making them unrecognizable and unreadable.
Light & Noise Discipline
Imagine seeing a neighborhood, with only one house that has lights on.
It would be pretty obvious, right?
Well, if you’ve got lights on or are watching a movie, running everything with the power you’ve generated from your solar panels and wind generator, everyone is going to see it and hear it.
Even a little light peeking around the edges of the windows is going to be obvious, when you’re the only one who has it.
The simple solution is to put blackout curtains over your windows, when you’re using lighting indoors. If you’re going to watch that movie, don’t just do the curtains, keep the volume low too. Whatever you’re doing that shows you’re better off than others, has to be kept hidden within your home.
Deceptive Bug Out
Your need to cover your tracks won’t end if you bug out, it will increase even more. From the time you leave your home, you’ve got to assume that people are going to be trying to follow you. So you want to make sure that you don’t leave a trail for them to find. Start out in the opposite direction and then loop around. Stick to hard surfaces, where you won’t leave a trail. If you have to go off-road, then try to get back on a road or other hard surface as fast as you can.
Keeping people from following you to take what you have is mostly about not leaving them any sign along the trail. Skilled trackers can do a lot, with very little. A footprint or tire track tells them much more than we want them to know. So the key is to make sure there are no footprints or tire tracks. For that matter, don’t just throw the trash out the window, as that’s like a sign pointing right to you.
Deceptive travel also means that you don’t just head in a straight line for your destination. Rather, you want to go by a zigzag route, which will eventually get you there. But avoid traveling any distance at all, where you are going directly towards your survival retreat, until the very last minute.
Even then, as you arrive, circle around the shelter, checking for other tracks and doubling back on your own trail to make sure that you didn’t leave any tracks of your own.