What is OPSEC?
A car drives down the freeway with a sticker on the back windshield with 3 stick figures of a woman and 2 children.
A man walks into a restaurant with an NRA hat on.
You are at Starbucks and the man sitting behind you is loudly talking on the phone about a vehicle he just sold to a private party for $5000 cash just 30 minutes earlier.
What do these 3 scenarios have in common?
In these 3 scenarios, each individual was providing critical information that could be used against them.
- A criminal could easily arrive at the conclusion that the driver of this car is a single mom and may be easy to overpower if he wanted to break into her home.
- For home burglars, if they know you own firearms, your house suddenly becomes a great target as these are easy items to steal and sell.
- Same for the cash scenario: that individual has just tipped off those within earshot of his conversation that he’s probably carrying a large sum of cash on his person.
If you’ve been in prepper circles for more than 15 minutes, you’ve probably heard the term OPSEC mentioned. Now, what is OPSEC? Operations Security is a term originating in U.S. military jargon, as a process that identifies critical information to determine if friendly actions can be observed by enemy intelligence, determines if information obtained by adversaries could be interpreted to be useful to them, and then executes selected measures that eliminate or reduce adversary exploitation of friendly critical information.
Wow, that’s a mouthful. So what does OPSEC mean for you and me? It boils down to keeping information to yourself that could be used against you later by those that may turn on you. In the context of this conversation, it could be defined as InfoSec or Information Security, but it’s the same concept.
So now that we’ve laid the foundation for the concept of OPSEC, how does this tie into our keeping our Preps safe from the unprepared? As mentioned a moment ago, in order to keep our preps safe, the fewer others know what you’ve got, the better. And who are these “others” that we need to be concerned about? In a nutshell, they’re anyone that hasn’t prepared. I realize that’s broad in scope, but we’ll chat about this more momentarily.
In this article, we’ll discuss 3 practical steps you can follow to ensure your preps are safe from the unprepared. But before we jump into these steps, I think it’s worth mentioning a real example of what we’re about to discuss.
You may say to yourself, if others know I have prepared for an emergency, this won’t be a problem because people are instinctively kind and rational.
Think again. If you Google “Selco Bosnia”, there are plenty of stories you can read from the individual named “Selco” who lived in Bosnia in the early 90s during the collapse there. Some of the articles can be found on this blog as well, courtesy of Selco. The term “Survivor Hate” comes up in these stories and it’s something I encourage you to read more after reading this article.
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When things go sideways in a region, if others know you have items they need for survival, people will quickly turn on you and you will become a target.
In this article, we’ll discuss 3 steps to practically implement OPSEC both before and during a grid-down scenario to ensure that you keep your preps secure and that you do not become a target if there’s an event in your area.
#1: Do not reveal information about your preps
This is by far the most important point. Ever heard the term, “loose lips sink ships”? This is an American English idiom meaning “beware of unguarded talk” and was used during WWII to warn soldiers that sharing important information may end up getting into the hands of the enemies. So then who are these individuals that we should not be sharing this information with? Let’s look at a few different people.
The neighbors that live immediately around you see a lot of your daily routines. They may see you when you return from the grocery store bringing home all that food and supplies in bulk.
Think it might make them think twice if they see you carrying several 50 lbs bags of rice into your house? What thoughts might race through their head if they see you have large, 55-gallon water drums being stored in your backyard?
The questions will probably come up: what are you storing up for … why are you buying all this stuff in bulk? Ever thought about how you will answer those questions? From the way I see it, you have a few options.
Option 1 is, to tell the truth. You could explain to them that you are preparing for potential emergencies or problems that may arise.
Option 2 is to lie to them. You could tell them that there’s an event coming up at your church and you had to buy a lot of food and leave it at that. In the first scenario, if you tell them the truth, now they have that information and you’ve broken OPSEC. If a problem ever arises in your area, guess who is going to be coming and knocking at your door? That neighbor that you just told about your supplies will be showing up. This leads to many other problems that are beyond the scope of this article, but let’s suffice it to say let this information get out to your neighbors puts you and your Preps at risk.
Just as with a neighbor, the moment you provide information about your preps to a family member, who will they tell? They may tell their neighbor that they have a nephew who is a prepper, or they may tell others in their circle of friends, or the conversation may come up with their favorite cashier at a store. You have no control of how that will play out or who learns what about you. You’ve now become compromised.
Remember that game we played as kids where we passed information around a group and compared what the final person had to say versus what the original story was? It’s a lot like that. You may innocently share that you have food, water supplies, firearms, and medical kits in your home, and by the time that information gets out, there’s no telling how many times the story may change and grow to the point where others see your home as a place to go to if there’s a problem.
Got a new gun or cool piece of prepping gear you just recently purchased and want to show it offline? What happens if you happen to tag a friend in the image? Now their circle of friends sees your posts and it just goes from there. How are the people in their circle of friends? Do you know those people?
In this day and age of information, it’s not hard for people to track you down just from your name and get a lot of personal information, like your house address. I own a company that is in the tech market and I work with information all day. I have come to realize how little people know how sensitive the information is that they’re sharing online that eventually could get them in a lot of trouble.
Be careful about what you’re sharing online. Once that information is out there, it’s all but impossible to get it removed. On a side note, you should consider Googling your name periodically to find out what is out there about you.
I’ve found information about myself that I didn’t want sitting on the internet and I had to go out of my way to get it removed. Again, be careful what information you’re sharing and what message you’re sending to the world in regards to your preps.
#2: Keep items you’re stockpiling out of view
I was in Salt Lake City recently and drove past a big house that was backed up against the highway. In their backyard, I could see that they had large solar panels along with quite a few 55-gallon blue water drums. They looked like were living off the grid and it appeared they were probably preppers (this is an assumption based on what I was seeing).
If things were to go bad and the grid went down, think other individuals in that area would have taken note of this and will probably show up at their door? They looked like they were preparing for something and it was obvious to see. Be conscious of what others see when they drive past your house. Don’t make things obvious.
Also, be conscious of what others see when they visit your home. If you have contractors come into your home, are your preps in full view, or do you put things away? Again, remember our example earlier. Information spreads quickly. So once someone sees something in your home that gets their attention, they’re now going to spread that information to others and you have no control over how that plays out.
Think about the UPS driver who drops off that ammunition you purchased online. The boxes often have a description written on the side and they’re probably making a mental note of this. Also, think about when throwing that ammunition box in the trash as now your neighbors will see that box.
Consider the time of day as well when you’re loading those large bulk purchases into your house. Just made a run to Costco where you purchased a lot of beans and rice? If you’re out in your driveway unloading that into your house, others can see this. You might want to reconsider unloading all that at night.
When I go the range, I make it a point to wait and check the street in front of my house before I walk out with my gun case. I purposefully scan around because this is information I don’t want others gathering. Again, when it comes to OPSEC and keeping your preps safe, the less information have about your activities and what you’re doing in relation to prepping, the better.
#3: How do you keep your preps safe after a major event?
So there’s been an event, a catastrophe has occurred and now there’s no electricity and people are running out of food and water. Now what?
If you’ve got backup power and people see you with lights on (you’ve got the only house on the block that has lights still), people are going to quickly piece it together that you have resources.
If you start cooking food outside on your BBQ grill and others can smell what you’re cooking, guess who’s coming to dinner. This is where you have to use common sense. You need to blackout your windows and prepare food inside or at night.
Then here’s the bigger issue. What are you going to do when neighbors see you’ve prepared and they start coming to your house? What happens when you give out to others that come to you for help and then they go and tell others that you’re providing handouts? In this scenario, others will find out fast … then what?
I’ve read many survival stories of people that have survived through times of hardship and the stories they tell are very common. People can quickly turn on those that have prepared. This is something you will eventually have to deal with. Remember what I said earlier in the article about Survivor Hate? If you research this enough, you’ll see that it typically doesn’t turn out so well for those that have prepared and others find out. When people get desperate, that sweet soccer mom with 2 kids will do whatever it takes to feed her kids. The key is to avoid letting this information out.
When I was in Afghanistan, there was a parable I heard: “beware the fat man in the skinny land”. People were hanging on by a thread and were living with very little. If you stood out as being well-fed, people knew you had resources or at least hide them. In a situation like this, the moment people realize you have things they want, you quickly become a target, so use your common sense and don’t make it apparent that you have supplies. Learn to blend in as much as possible. I have written an article about the Gray Man concept a few years back. I encourage you to watch it to learn some basic concepts of how to avoid standing out.
I tend to keep a low profile in regards to my preps with my neighbors and friends. When I first started, I was excited to share with others but I quickly realized for the reasons mentioned above that this is a huge liability. How many of us have shared prepping with others and had gotten this response: “if things get bad, I’ll come to your house.” This is not a scenario you want to encounter because when people get desperate, they’ll do whatever it takes to survive. Practice OPSEC. Keep vital information to yourself and in the event, anything happens in your area, you will lessen the likelihood that you and your family become targets.
Thanks for reading this article and as always, be safe out there.
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