If there’s one thing we all have to come to realize at some point in time, it’s that we’re all imperfect. I don’t care how many years you have been prepping or how much time you’ve spent studying survival, you’re not going to get it all right. Mistakes will happen. That’s a given, but we don’t have to accept those mistakes as the norm.
How would you feel if, due to a few small but critical miscalculations, all your prepping efforts came to naught?
This article is to help you gain some perspective on inaccurate assumptions that may derail all your painstaking preparation.
Prepping mistakes won’t only waste time and money but could get you killed.
I am reminded of the Maginot Line. That great wall and concrete barrier the French constructed to keep the Germans out. The speed with which France fell when the Germans invaded is a spectacular example of wasted effort and false security.
And, keep in mind, that French military personnel spent years planning the wall. If professionals can make such glaring mistakes, how can we small folk even hope to plan for disaster or onslaught?
This article will get you thinking about how SHTF could catch your unawares, and help you to think your way through critical decisions that could save your life.
The article challenges assumptions that could lead you down the wrong path and helps you to get a better grip on what post-SHTF reality could look like.
I have compiled the following as a list of prepping mistakes that could get you killed. I will mention each and then discuss them in general.
One of the biggest mistakes that preppers make is that they think they can predict what is going to happen. You may be able to see an SHTF event coming. But witnessing global events and dealing with the specifics as they unfold in your town or on your street are two very different things.
Stockpiling food for 6 months will help almost nothing if you are in an accident on your way to pick up your kid from school, or your daughter is away at college.
While SHTF events may be foreseen, the specific sequence of events is highly speculative at best. Your plan must rather take on the form of a statement of strategy.
A strategic statement that lays a foundation for action. A tactical plan is to have 50 pounds of rice in the basement. A strategy is to ensure that every member of the family can support themselves on the move for 72 hours while making their way to pre-defined rendezvous points.
Another way of looking at this is to ask the following questions: Are you preparing the road for the travelers? Or are you preparing the travelers for any road they may encounter?
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Black Swan Events
Another mistake preppers make is to underestimate Black Swan events. The name stems from the belief Europeans had that Black Swans did not exist. Until the first Europeans made their way to China, only to realize that Black Swans were quite numerous!
Since then, the term has been used to indicate events that were believed to be impossible but did occur anyway.
The principle of Black Swan events is that they are almost impossible to foresee. Not only are they in contradiction to expectations, but they are also events that are deemed so unlikely that preparations are not made and precautions are not taken. It’s impossible to prepare for every virtually impossible event.
Expect post SHTF to be full of black swan events.
Your main focus must be the ability to constantly adapt to new circumstances as they unfold. You will be operating with imperfect knowledge in an environment that will challenge you in unexpected ways. The main skill you need. The ability to shift your focus between constantly changing objectives.
The mistake is preparing only for the dangers you deem likely. The way to overcome this is to have a strategy for dealing with the unexpected.
As a side note, the difference between black swan events and prediction (mentioned above) is this. Thinking you can predict events narrows your focus and has you prepping for specific circumstances.
Black Swan events require that you have a plan for events that you don’t think can occur.
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Safety and Dangers in Numbers
Many preppers have a roadmap for post SHTF. This often will include concepts for who will be in their group and how large the group will be. This raises the question of how large is the ideal group?
Large groups are great for defense but cannot stay under the radar, and are easily found. They enjoy the benefits of economies of scale and division of labor.
Small groups can stay hidden but are vulnerable. If you are alone, you are your doctor, hairdresser, guard, cook and the list goes on.
Historically, large groups have always fared better, achieved more, and provided greater safety. Individuals are almost always more vulnerable to dangers from outside the group than inside the group.
In an SHTF scenario, you need to make your own choices, but the conclusion above is borne out by historical data. In my mind, it would be a mistake to try and survive on your own.
The mistake to avoid is trying to set up a group post SHTF. Build your tribe in the good times so you know who you are facing the tough times with.
Another critical mistake is miscalculating what keeps groups together. You may think it’s common goals or even benefits to the members of the group. Both these may foster social cohesion, but they will fail in the face of harsh pressure.
The most important characteristics are shared values and beliefs. It explains in part why religions have been so successful in promoting the interest of large groups. It also explains why cults are so effective at retaining certain members. When finding your tribe, make sure that you are in the company of people who share your values.
The current US political situation highlights this point. You would find people at different ends of the political spectrum who place a high premium on what they perceive to be fairness and justice.
You will find people who are focused and physically prepared. But they will not be able to work together due to severe ideological differences.
The mistake to avoid is to have your vision blinded by people who have similar objectives to yours. Long-term thinking dictates cohesion around shared values.
No-One is Coming
One of the worst mistakes you can make is to think that someone else will save you.
Thinking that there is a government agency, military, EMS, or some other group that is preparing to rebuild society and save survivors. Someone could be on their way, but the likelihood is low. Besides, depending on someone coming saving you, is not a plan. Just think about the numbers.
There 3 – 4 police officers for every 1000 members of the general population. This is even less for soldiers, emergency personnel, and other first responders.
In a full-out SHTF scenario, they will also need to save themselves before getting round to saving others.
Don’t factor outside assistance into any part of your survival plans.
Supplies Will Run Out
It’s one of the mistakes to think you can store enough food and supplies to last you indefinitely.
Even if you store food for 25 years, your supplies will run out. Your strategy needs to depend on storage and production, or you will die soon after your supplies run out. Seeds are an optimal solution, but plants generally have lower nutrient densities than animal products. Particularly concerning protein.
Domesticated animals like cattle and sheep have a tough time surviving without humans. If you are serious about long-term survival, you will need to make provisions for animals.
Hunting wild animals is an option. So is herding. Our forebears use to move their animals with them wherever they went.
Geography is Destiny
Not all places are created equal. The real-estate industry has a mantra that says the three most important things to consider before you buy are: Location, location, and location.
Historians will also tell you that geography is destiny. This may sound counterintuitive but think about the following. People who live close to the sea become fishermen and seafarers. People who live in mountains don’t build boats, but climb rocks and learn to breathe thin air.
Your short-term vision should include surviving the initial turmoil, but long term, you will need to think about the optimal geographic region where you may want to settle.
It would be one of the mistakes to keep living in a place if that presents less than optimal conditions for survival.
Your relationship to space will also change a lot, when there’s no gas for cars, a region of 10 square miles becomes huge.
Try to settle somewhere close to water and fuel for a fire. Water has the added benefits of fish and also transportation possibilities.
But, the good spots will become cherished, so be ready to defend your turf. Plan your move ahead of time and have more than one option in mind.
Children and Old Folks
Every society is made up of productive members, and non-productive members.
In modern societies, children and old folk are typically looked after.
In a post SHTF world, scarcity of resources will dictate that all members of a society be productive. It would be a mistake to think that you will be able to look after large numbers of non-productive individuals.
Besides, in small groups that face challenges together, all members will feel compelled to contribute. Find a way to ensure that all members of your group feel worthy by allowing them to contribute to the survival of the group.
Think beforehand about how children and old folk can contribute. Even if it’s as simple as cleaning and mending.
This is a difficult one to manage; mostly because it’s hard to find the balance between keeping your plans and preps secret and recruiting others to be part of your survival team. I have yet to find a perfect answer for that one, and I’ve been at this for a lot of years.
The fact of the matter is that you are going to have to tell some people what you’re doing, or you’re never going to put that team together. Not only that, but the people you’re going to recruit are most likely already friends. You’re going to want to at least try to convince them to become preppers themselves, because of your friendship and love for them.
But that doesn’t mean that you should let anyone else know what you are doing. There’s no way that you should let people you don’t trust have any idea of what you’re up to. Makeup stories that you can use when your neighbors ask why you have a water tank or are putting solar power on your home. Those questions will be coming, so you’d better be ready for them.
Another thing you’d better be ready for is your friends showing up at your door when the SHTF. Those who don’t decide to become preppers themselves are unlikely to forget that you are one. There’s a very good chance that they’ll remember that when their kids are hungry and they don’t have anywhere else to go. What are you going to tell them?
Not Learning First-Aid
Probably one of the single most important survival skills to learn is first-aid. Yet most survival teams leave this for their team “medic.” I’ve got nothing against a team medic, but they shouldn’t be the only one who can properly splint a fracture or bandage a wound. It might be the medic who gets injured, then what are you going to do?
Learning enough first-aid to keep someone alive isn’t really all that hard. A few classes, a little bit of practice, and you’re going to be much more valuable to your survival team. The time you spend could save someone’s life, maybe even someone that you love.
Teeth and Pain
I mention these three because there are good odds that your thinking is leaning towards storing antibiotics and pain meds. And while that is important, it would be a mistake to stop there.
Health starts with nutrition, and nutrition starts with masticating food. In years gone by, dental health was a good indicator of life expectancy and vitality.
Stock up on toothbrushes and toothpaste, and learn how to take care of your teeth when these items run out.
Bad teeth will lead to malnutrition, weakness, and vulnerability.
Conquering pain was one of the main advances in medicine over the past few hundred years. Aside from stockpiling pain meds, if there is one thing you need to learn how to produce, it’s local anesthetics.
That falls well beyond the scope of this article but will be a worthwhile investment for a post SHTF world. Think off amputations, sutures, re-aligning broken bones, and any form of dentistry.
A distillery is a good way of turning sugars into alcohol which will be extremely important for disinfecting medical instruments and injuries. You can also drink it…just be sure you know what you’re doing.
Experts agree that making a stand or displaying courage could be one of the deadly mistakes.
I once listened to a discussion about the best course of action if you are attacked while you have a small child in the house with you. The experts were all in agreement that running away and leaving the child behind was the best course of action. They also agreed that almost no grandparent or parent would do it.
But think about the following. If you run away:
• The child cannot be used as leverage against you.
• The child poses no risk or danger to the attacker.
• If the attackers have come to kill, one death is a better outcome than two deaths. Staying would guarantee that you die while running increases everybody’s chances.
• The attacker will feel nervous with you go because they don’t know if you are calling help or have a sniper rifle ready to shoot at them.
It could be a mistake to stick around when attacked. Thin this through and discuss it with your group.
Nutrition and Health
The internet is currently a battleground of ideologies, and nutrition finds itself sequestered into many of these battles. Many of us make the mistake of confusing ethical considerations for sound nutritional practices. Just remember, ideology doesn’t feed your body.
In a post SHTF world, doctors will be rare and they won’t have drugs to treat you with anyway. Your health will come to depend largely on your nutrition.
Keep in mind, that physical strength and mental acuity will give you an edge over weak and malnourished individuals. Sarcopenia is the wasting of muscle and occurs when protein intake is low or you are living with poor sources of protein. It’s typically age or mobility-related, but nutrition also plays a big role.
Potatoes: 100 grams of potato supplies 77 calories and 2 grams of protein.
Eggs: 1 large egg = 57grams of egg and supplies 72 calories and 7 grams of protein.
You can eat eggs raw. You can consume the shell for calcium. You can eat the chicken that lays the egg. Chicken poop is fertilizer. You can easily free-range chickens, but this requires a larger area.
Potatoes need cultivation and have to be cooked. You will need quite a bit of additional water to keep them going, but they can be cultivated in a small area.
Eggs have much higher levels of Omega 3 fatty acids, and apart from vitamin C, eggs have more of all other micronutrients.
The bottom line is this. You can live better off 10 eggs per day than 2 pounds of potatoes. With potatoes, you will run out of protein and most other nutrients much sooner than eggs.
Choose wisely, my friends, and don’t make this mistake of thinking humans are herbivores.
Behavior and Violence
Those who study history will tell you that ancient societies had much higher levels of violence than modern societies. This holds true even when you look at death rates during peaceful times.
While all Preppers expect that SHTF events will be violent, some think that post SHTF worlds will be peaceful with small bands of people going about their lives.
History teaches us this kind of thinking is highly mistaken. If history teaches us anything about human nature, it’s that violence thrives in the absence of authority.
The post-apocalyptic literary genre may offer some clues as to the directions in which human nature may move societies.
In my opinion, Lord of the Flies is one such book. Another that I would recommend is The Road by Cormack McCarthy.
A sparsely populated world in which survival is tough may see humans regressing to more primitive states of being.
Almost all ancient cultures practiced human sacrifice and many modern examples exist of the low value we place on the life of their enemies.
Thinking that ethics will govern the post-SHTF world because humans are naturally benevolent will be one of the worst mistakes you can make. Benevolence is usually only directed to those inside the tribe.
Post SHTF world will not resemble a watered-down or alternative version of what we experience currently. The costs of mistakes will be much higher, with some mistakes or errors in judgment proving fatal.
Current thinking will get you killed in a post-SHTF world. So while you are Prepping for physical survival, make sure that you are ready to recalibrate your way of thinking. It will also be a mistake to think that the evils that plague society now will be better post SHTF.
So there you have it, folks. Prepping mistakes that will kill you if you get them wrong, but will greatly improve your chances of survival if you get them right!
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Comments on “Fatal Assumptions That Preppers Make In These Times”
In your section of the article, “Run Away,” while I can fully understand the logic behind leaving one or more children behind as a tactical decision, I would have to say that the experts are probably correct in that, as a parent, there is NO WAY I could leave my children. Regardless of the gamble or even the small possibility of a more positive outcome for myself and/or my children, I simply could not live with myself IF anything bad happened to them, period. It is a father’s job, first and foremost, to be the protector of his family even to his on detriment, if need be… Excellent article, nonetheless! God bless!
Life would not be worth living if you act like a disgusting coward and run away leaving a small child alone with attackers just to save your own skin
Such a suggestion is why the world is in such a putrid state morally.
Preppers shoud realize they are only two types of preppers. Those that prep and will pray and those that will not prep and will prey.
Thanks for all the great info and considerations to ponder and prepare for in all your writing. Perhaps you or others have addressed this before and I’ve simply missed it, but I keep wondering when anyone will delve into this topic: There are A LOT of middle-aged single females out here who are caring for elderly parents (I take care of my mom who has severe dementia). Many often move to another part of the state or country to do this, thereby giving up their existing and well-developed network, support system, friends, church, employment, etc., and pretty much have nobody they trust or can rely on, and limited ability/time/energy/freedom to socialize or create new networks/groups (especially with the current social/cultural/societal challenges). Some of us live in Constitutionally UNfriendly states where proper self defense methods may be difficult or nearly impossible to accomplish (particularly with mentally unstable elders in the household or limited finances). Others have physical limitations due to age or unforeseen issues. Despite preparing well for years, some, or even many of us, may end up more vulnerable because of factors and circumstances beyond our control. What suggestions do you have for us? In all the articles I’ve read and videos I’ve watched via the prepping community, it seems we are a forgotten segment of the preparedness population, yet I can’t help but wonder how significant our numbers actually are. Thanks for your consideration.