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?
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.
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 its 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.
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.
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!