I'd like to discuss some planning concerns for when the world really starts to unravel that you might have overlooked:
Quite a few authors write about situations which probably only constitute a partial collapse of society as we know it. Such situations include those where there still exists some semblance of trade or even transportation of some goods. Perhaps some vestige of government is even functioning. What if a disaster happens and we are left with even less than that.
At the risk of being criticized for being too much of a pessimist, I would suggest that a thoughtful prepper should consider planning to survive a really serious collapse of society. (TEOTWAWKI.)
First of all, without the constant assistance of society and a modern economy, most of the people in the world would die; after making a desperate effort to hold onto life . This is not news to many but some of the ramifications of this might be. The untreated human waste caused by the unprepared is an obvious problem. Feces carries disease and the lowly fly is a prolific carrier of many these serious diseases. Flies also like carrion and an unburied carcass is a health hazard too . I am not a biologist but a simple study of the reproduction rate of house flies and a prediction of the biomass available to post-SHTF flies shows a good possibility of clouds of voracious flies settling on any potential food source, at least until the supply of available food drops to support a sustainable number of these pests. Luckily, the fly’s range is limited. Certain areas may have an increase in the mosquito population and those insects are a vector for other diseases. I would suggest fly masks for animals, bug suits for all individuals in the group and insecticide as well as plenty of bug screen for your structures, should not be overlooked. I believe fly repellent collars can be purchased for dogs. Populations of other animals could become a threat as well. There is the already written about concern with packs of feral dogs . Could there be a potential threat to your bee hive(s) ? If you are keeping or sheltering bees to help with your crop pollination and provide honey, they may need to be protected and even fed over a particularly lengthy cold period. Perhaps you have food storage that could be protected from rodents by a cat. Local animal predators , emboldened perhaps by reduced hunting and more scarce prey , could become a more substantial threat to livestock. I would suggest that traditional means for dealing with some of these threats should be considered. Use your judgment and knowledge about your area to discern other potential biological threats to your retreat which may not be obvious to the casual thinker.
Likewise, one sometimes reads how prepper groups might post a member outside the retreat to discourage refugees or potential attackers by acting sick or insane on the approach to the retreat. Won’t this just advertise that a person with these disabilities can somehow survive in this area; this at a time when groups of healthy and sane people are desperately looting anyone and anything they can find just to survive ? What if your human scarecrow is captured ? I would submit that hostage taking is an ancient practice that still goes on in much of the world today and care should be taken to avoid , or at least reduce ,this serious threat.
If you are presented with enemies in a collapse situation, they are likely to be more desperate than most of us can imagine but clever and creative. In a really serious collapse, they are also likely to be ruthless. Without going into extensive detail, a study of raiding in more primitive societies should go a long way to assessing and preparing for the general threat to any given group at a particular location. The notion that , in a serious collapse situation, simply defeating a raiding party will stop the threat, even from that group, may be naive. Unless the particular threat to your retreat is seriously degraded, you are likely to have continued conflict from local raiders. When they are repulsed by you, where will they go to regroup ? Proximity to other people in your area must be factored into your defense plan. You might consider some flexibility in your defense plan to include some of your neighbors , if that is what your immediate area warrants. With some help they could contribute to the security of your area. In any event, you must deny any foe a convenient base of operation if not a ready supply of hostages , forced labor or supplies. For that matter, if you have the means, you might even consider stockpiling a few supplies for some of your neighbors now, or set your food production up to yield a sizeable surplus for this purpose. Relief from fundamental want may be appreciated by your neighbors and foster cooperation among like- minded people . Necessity will encourage cooperation but a prepared group can not count on having neighbors that are equally ready for a collapse of society. Of course, especially with local interaction ,care must be taken to maintain (and periodically change) your code system and keep the essential aspects of your retreat security confidential. You may even wish to include some deception in the circumstances surrounding your charity and local support so information gained from these interactions is not exploited against you or your group at a later time. The level of local cooperation you should participate in is a matter that will demand shrewdness and a discerning mind.
The often lamented lack of personal responsibility that exists in our society has not generally helped us select the most talented or principled leadership. After the crisis passes, it may not be a just and competent leadership that emerges. Incompetent leadership is nothing new to the human species, but there will be little, if any room for error in these potentially dire circumstances. I would suggest that a simple rule should be followed.. Position yourself so that you are not forced to suffer the consequences of another person’s mistakes. Little reminder need be mentioned about protecting independence. Perhaps a combination of usefulness to the community and strong security may help to protect your individual independence and the independence of your group. Also, if you are a good leader you may be exposed to danger so you might want to consider leadership succession in case something unfortunate happens. Likewise, cross training your group in your available skill sets is wise.
Remember, in a serious collapse you may be faced with an enemy that is altogether willing to accept casualties and the value most of us now place on human life may quickly evaporate. It bears mentioning that there are large numbers of veterans with combat experience and it is possible that at least a few of them will end up arrayed against you and your group. It is worth noting that a small number of preppers think that stealing private property in these circumstances is only justifiable foraging. Plan and train accordingly.
Spiritual guidance will be particularly helpful in maintaining the right balance of independence and cooperation. When the crisis subsides, the threats to personal independence and safety may change. Reconstituting society after a catastrophic event will likely contain its own problems and there is no reason to believe evil will not be present then.
A few survival scenarios entail an extended winter. (Such as nuclear winter, supervolcano eruption, asteroid strike etc. ) These possibilities are particularly challenging . The four horsemen of the apocalypse, war, famine, disease, and pestilence are thought to come together ; one tending to bring the others. This has often been true historically and there is no reason to discount that possibility in a survival situation. A year without summer would cause severe world wide food shortages and a longer cold period would cause extensive famine and conflict in many places in the world. Laying in a supply of food for people and animals to last through such a time is a daunting task.
It is worthy of the effort of anyone who believes that such a calamity is more than possible. Along with those items, cold weather gear, snow shoes, skis and sleds, as well as an extended supply of fire wood would be advised.. Such a winter could be worse than anything seen by modern humans and cause a complete break down of human society. It could be so catastrophic that the risk of large scale raiding is reduced because such groups would not be able to keep fighters in the field in such harsh conditions . Some regions have hunters who are well versed in field craft. Snipers are dangerous; take steps to deal with that threat. Beware of smaller groups that can operate in such adverse conditions and be able to match their ability to move and fight in a frigid environment.
In these conflict situations you have the advantage of being able to prepare your ground. Map out avenues of approach to your defended area and be careful not to ignore anything that could overlook your location or provide an attacker with cover. Deny any potential enemy the use of these tactical areas , if at all possible. The advantage of surprise has been sought by armies from the earliest recorded time. Surprising a would be attacker will damage enemy morale. Take steps to reduce a possible marauder numerical advantage. Exhausting and harassing enemy movement is useful if you have the means to accomplish this with some degree of safety. Do not ignore intelligence gathering measures. Take steps to identify friend from foe. Include steps to identify neighbor from foe. You may not be the only self reliant group trying to defend itself in your locality. If possible, engage would be attackers away from your retreat. You may even need the capability of pursuing a defeated foe to discourage subsequent incursions by the same or a related enemy. There is no substitute for knowing your area intimately.
Your enemy may need to forage for food and supplies and that is a weakness that can be exploited. You may be able to starve him out of your area or he may have to divide his forces to canvass your area thoroughly and thereby give you the opportunity to defeat parts of his divided force. Traditionally raiders were slowed when they weighed themselves down with booty. This presents opportunity for ambush. Defeat can be a learning experience so be careful not to try the same tactic twice on a surviving enemy force.
The best plan would include provision for later in the aftermath of disaster. After the thaw, watch out for the flies.