There is a forum thread floating around the internet composed by Mac Slavo, a survivor of the war in Bosnia in the mid 1990′s. In this thread Mac describes the conditions that he and his family endured during these extremely troubling times, a real SHTF scenario which he (but not all of his family) was thankful to make it out of alive. Mac lays the background in his writings and then fields questions from people who replied to him on an internet forum. I found the question and answer section to be most enlightening, and I have read it many times over. After my initial read of the thread I immediately re-assessed my priority list and took steps to improve my preparedness level based on his suggestions. The way I see it many of us in the prepper community speculate as to what will happen if various SHTF scenarios take place, whereas Max Slavo actually lived through a real SHTF scenario. His words do not fall upon deaf ears in my household, we have all read about his experiences and take his suggestions very seriously.
The purpose of this post is to outline what I feel are the important points which Mac addresses in his writings and to detail the steps that I (and my family) have taken to become more prepared with respect to each of those points. In some instances I feel very well prepared to face some of the possible scenarios that Mac describes, in other cases I feel that my family and I have much work to do in order to get where we need to be. As a side note, this is one of the reasons I am glad to have started this blog. Not only can it serve as a venue to share ideas with the public but it also serves as my personal journal. I hope to look back on multiple years of blogging and re-read my exploits in order to see where my thoughts (and prepping level) were at particular points in time.
Back on topic, and Mac Slavo’s experience with SHTF in Bosnia. There are 7 main points that I would like to address in this post. For each of them I will include what I feel is an appropriate quote from his writing and a paraphrase / summary of some of his related thoughts on the matter. I will outline where I am and where I need to be going forward for each main point. Hopefully this entire exercise will get all of you to think as well, and to re-assess your present position as I have done.
The importance of having a team
“Strength was in numbers, if you were alone in the house, you’ve probably been robbed or killed, no matter how well armed.”
“One man survivor, no chance (OK it is my opinion) no matter how well armed and prepared at the end you gonna die, I’ve seen that many times.”
This is something I am currently working on and one of those issues where I feel much improvement could be made. SHTF could happen in a variety of ways, this is something I’ve always said. It could be a localized natural disaster or even a short term economic meltdown, or it could be a TEOTWAWKI / major SHTF all over the world, back to the stone age we go as a society. In the first examples I believe my family and I would be fine. We have enough food, water and supplies to sustain ourselves for quite a while and I have enough weapons and ammo to discourage small time looters. In the latter scenarios I feel we would outlast most but certainly would need to find some sort of team in order to survive for any long period of time. Even a well trained and well armed individual has to sleep sometime, and even if 2 or 3 of us were awake and in a defensive posture we could not hold off a well organized group of motivated individuals. I recognize this and am currently working some options as far as the team goes, trust plays a major role and you have to be very careful bringing individuals inside the inner circle.
“About robbing grocery stores and gas stations, it happened very very fast, as soon as shooting started all valuable things was emptied, there [was] some effort of authority to keep it together but everything fell apart in the first weeks.”
There is a belief among individuals who I have spoke with that if the world plunges into madness, that they will simply back their truck up to a Walmart and empty it out for supplies. They have lots of guns and ammo after all, so who would be able to stop them? Clearly this line of thinking is flawed. As Mac mentioned in the article the store shelves would be empty in a matter of days and there would be no resupply of trucks coming in to refill them. Also think about this, if you have guns and are willing to rob a store in order to feed your family how many others out there are just like you? Suffering a gunshot wound (with very little medical support available) over a bag of rice or can of beans in the initial stages of SHTF would be horrible to say the least.
I feel that my family and I are prepared to outlast a short term (3-6 months) food shortage. Within the walls of my house we have enough stockpiled to last for at least 6 to 8 months if not longer. I also have seeds for gardening, and if it came to that we would be able to grow our own vegetables for quite some time. I do feel like I need to buy more long term food storage items, maybe another year’s supply worth of food from Coscto or Beprepared.com. Not only could this food serve to sustain our family but I’m sure when times get rough there will be others who need food. I’m sure we could barter with it, exchanging food for loyalty or even labor. The possibilities are endless but the bottom line is having food on hand is essential and I feel pretty good with what is in the basement currently.
“…lot of people died from diseases, mostly from bad water (two of my family members)”
This area would definitely be a “needs improvement” on my preparedness score card. I feel relatively okay about our water situation but there are still improvements that must be made. I have quite a few 1 gallon containers in the basement, a large 55 gallon barrel with a 5 year storage life, and a water filter systemwhich could potentially filter river water (we live within a mile of the river) for consumption. Even with all that in place the option to boil water still exists and I also have water purification tablets to use if necessary. Still part of me knows that is not enough, water is the essence of life and I feel that we need more to be able to survive if SHTF. My plans are to get one or two more 55 gallon storage devices, and to also get a Berkey filter system which is quite possibly the best and most well known filter system on the market today. Getting sick from drinking bad water is something that could definitely lead to a quick and miserable death, and that is not a road which I want any of us to have to go down.
Guns and Ammunition
“When somebody attack you or your family you need to show then that you are very ready”
“There was pretty much shooting in town, I did not have enough weapon in the beginning, one rifle and one pistol (WW2) , maybe 100 bullets, later I trade some things for more rifles and ammo.”
The best type of gun fight is the one that you never get in. If you get into a gun fight, someone is going to get shot and I sure as hell don’t want that someone to be me or any of my family. However it is very important to have the means to protect ones self in a SHTF scenario where desperate people are willing to take big risks to feed their families. Mac makes it clear in his writings that you should have enough guns and ammo and by enough he means the more the better. I feel pretty decent on where I am with my current inventory but there is always room for improvement.
I need to purchase another long gun and the ammo to go with it, and this needs to be of the 308 (NATO) variety. My current AR pumps out 5.56 which can definitely be an effective and lethal round, but the 308 is absolutely devastating and can punch through walls and vehicles much more effectively. I hope to pick up a battle rifle of the 308 caliber here sometime this spring, and since the ammo is significantly more expensive these are items which I must budget for.
In addition to the guns and ammo you have to have people who can actually employ them effectively. I’ve trained my wife, daughter and brother to shoot but they need more training. Like Mac says there is no such thing as a one man army, those guys are among the first ones to die. I need to have effective shooters who I can count on to lay down effective fire if we are in a time of crisis. The average shooter, even someone familiar with a weapon like an AR15, could not hit a moving target approaching their position (someone ducking behind cover and moving from point to point). The average shooter certainly would not be able to do this while under fire themselves. There is a huge difference between being able to put a round into a paper target while lying on the ground and being able to employ a weapon when under distress. This is why I know that there is still definite room for improvement when it comes to this category.
Medicine and Hygiene
“Wounds was mostly gunshot wounds of course, without specialists and everything else, if wounded managed to find a doctor somewhere he had like 30% chances to live, again it is not a movie, mostly they died, lot of [them] died even from minor cuts and infections.”
“My opinion that hygiene things is more important maybe than food, you can easily shoot pigeon…but you can not shoot hand sanitizer.”
“Believe me with good knowledge and good amount of meds you are gonna be rich.”
Medicine and hygiene are severely overlooked in my opinion when it comes to preparing for SHTF / TEOTWAWKI. In his article Mac talks about trading his medical expertise (he is a trained EMT) for food or other items, and that the shortage of good antibiotics was a serious issue. Fortunately for my family my wife has her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing and works daily in the operating room of a very large hospital. She is not only familiar with medicinal practices and tools, she also gets a front row seat to many life saving procedures which occur on a daily basis. Granted she is no surgeon but some exposure is better than none at all, and while she would not be able to remove a bullet from a gunshot wound to the stomach she definitely could suture or tend to minor wounds. All of her knowledge could come in handy in a SHTF situation where those in need could trade valuable items for her skill in the medical field. Survival is not only about having stuff, it is about having skills.
In addition to my wife’s skills I feel pretty good about our stockpile of medical items. I have a large medical kit and we try to supplement that with other items whenever possible. In addition to the medical supplies, hygiene items are also high on the priority list, especially when it comes to avoiding disease and staying healthy. Mac said it best that you simply cannot shoot a bottle of hand sanitizer. I have a good stockpile of things that, when in very austere conditions for an extended period of time, go a long way to helping a person maintain their feeling of being human. Hand sanitizer, toilet paper, toothbrushes and toothpaste, soap and body lotion, the list goes on and on. These are all very important items which are relatively cheap to purchase but could turn into gold if SHTF. I feel pretty good at my level of preparedness with respect to medical and hygiene items but there is always room for improvement.
Maintaining the right appearances
“It may look weird to say but the most secure houses are gone first, of course we had some very nice houses in neighborhood, with walls, dogs, alarms, steel bars on windows and alarms. And you can guess what happened, mobs attacked those houses first.”
“I agree with low profile policy, it is very important not to attract people with anything, but when they come, you need to have numbers, people and guns, best people is your family.”
“No matter how good is your house security, how good is your weapon, if people see that they have good reason to rob you, they probably rob you…stay uninteresting.”
When reading this part of the article I came to realize just how flawed my original plan was. I was literally thinking about turning my house into a fortress, barricading the windows and sandbagging places from which to shoot if necessary, what a huge mistake that would have been! Instead if the SHTF and things get really bad, my goal is to make my house as uninteresting as possible. Broken out windows, door off the hinges, something to give possible looters a sign that they should just move on, this house has already been ransacked and there is nothing there of value.
Of course there is a fine line and different schools of thought related to this topic and if we did end up forming some sort of survival community setting up defenses would be an absolute necessity. Even then you don’t want to make the community an obvious target, from a mob mentality if you are working so hard to defend something what exactly do you have to hide? For now my thoughts are: the best thing to do is to lay low and only defend yourself if necessary.
“It is a great idea to have a fuel generator (electrical generating unit?) but I think it is better idea to have 1000 bic lighters. Fuel generator is great, but in SHTF scenario in town is going to attract a whole army, 1000 bic lighters don’t take too much space, cheap, you can always trade it for something.”
Bartering and the black market will be huge in a SHTF / TEOTWAWKI scenario and I wonder why I failed to see this until recently. I have since adjusted my prepping in order to compensate for my low supply of bartering items. I feel pretty good about the track that I am on but need a few more months of shopping before I feel decent. The good news is stockpiling small items for trade is a relatively cheap process, small bottles of hand sanitizer or lighters are easy to come by and store well. I have my eye on acquiring more pints of liquor and I hope to build a nice variety of the cheap stuff. Like Mac mentioned, top shelf or bottom shelf, it all drank the same when SHTF.
“In a situation like that lot of things change, most of people turned into monsters, it was ugly.”
I truly believe that I am better prepared to face a SHTF scenario that 99% of those who live around me. Much of that confidence is linked to what we have stockpiled up, but also in the skills that we have as a family and the mindset that we have developed since starting on this journey. I hope that nothing ever happens and that I pass on in 40 to 50 years with a whole bunch of extra stuff stored up, completely unused. Yet these are troubled times in which we live and to not prepare could mean the difference between life and death. Reading Mac’s article and his real SHTF experiences have given me quite a perspective on where I am and and where I need to go.