Podcast: Play in new window
I think it’s time we had a thorough talk about Scenario-X. It’s been popping up in a lot of the conversations and interviews I’ve been having lately, and therefore it’s important to lay some further groundwork for my imaginary disaster scenario. This is also because several of the upcoming episodes I’m going to publish involve aspects of this situation.
If you aren’t familiar at all, I first introduced Scenario-X when I started talking about load carriage. It is a fictional situation based on my own experiences growing up getting hit with hurricanes in South Florida, living through blizzards and wildfires out west, and observing many other natural and manmade disasters over the years.
Let’s review some of the basics, and then get into the nuances I haven’t really discussed before.
You live in a suburban neighborhood outside of a mid-sized city with a population in hundreds of thousands. Your town is much smaller, but attracts a lot of professionals who commute to the city due to good schools and more affordable housing. It’s a distinctly middle class life with cul-de-sacs, green yards, and church on Sunday.
About two months ago, an unprecedented storm system ripped through the region. The first indicator was losing the electrical infrastructure. Later, you learned about some areas being flattened with windstorms, rendering entire communities uninhabitable.
Your local government is all but shut down, as it didn’t have the budget and infrastructure to deal with such widespread damage. They managed a few electrical repairs with parts on hand, but they didn’t have enough to bring everything back on consistently. State and federal resources have primarily gone to the nearby city, which started devolving into chaos within a week after the storm.
For you and your neighbors, the first few days were no big deal. You convinced your kids that it was like going on a camping trip at home. You had a stash of food, and a deep enough water supply to keep a relatively comfortable life going. The main issue was keeping everyone entertained.
As the first week rolled by without recovery, things grew more dire. Most of your neighbors ran out of food by the fourth day. You had more than a month of supplies, but you worried about helping anyone out for fear of word spreading that you were a “prepper” and could supply everyone.
The local grocery stores became a madhouse. Would-be shoppers scrambled to grab what food they could that wasn’t yet spoiled from lack of power. Violence was common between desperate individuals.
After two weeks, things kept getting worse. The solar-powered shortwave radio you kept on hand is telling you that the urban areas are overwhelmed. Hospitals are beyond capacity, and people are starting to succumb to the second-order effects of power loss. There is no environmental controls in homes and no refrigeration. Medications are expiring, and there’s no way to get a refill. The water is untreated, mixed with raw sewage.
After a month, many people began fleeing. Migrants from the urban and decimated areas have been passing through or setting up camps in nearby parks. You hear stories of lawlessness and desperation as the thin veil of civilization was stripped away.
Your neighborhood is a ghost town.
Wolves on the Horizon
Rumors are circulating about a groups of criminals taking advantage of minimal government authority. The stores have long since been looted, so these groups see suburban neighborhoods unaccustomed to “hard life” as ripe for the picking.
In the months since the disaster you’ve built up connections with about 35 of your neighbors who stayed behind. You’ve talked, coordinated, and come to the conclusion that you’re all better off working together to get through things than separately. A handful of your group has military experience, scattered between logistics, combat arms, maintenance, and other specialties.
Most of them do not, though, and they have families.
Amongst your group, you have a smattering of small arms, ammunition, binoculars and observation gear, medical supplies, radio equipment, and common tools.
The wolves haven’t arrived at the gate just yet, but you want to be ready should it ever happen.
The stage is now set.
Now for the Nuance
This scenario is merely a stand-in for any kind of disaster you can think of. It doesn’t have to be a storm, but could instead be a pandemic, riot, collapse of society, zombie apocalypse or anything else. The point is that the normal lines of supply, authority, and societal consequences are no longer present. In order to sustain life, you and your group are now more or less on your own.
This is a difficult place for most people to imagine. So much of civilized society works as well as it does because of a shared sense of identity and understanding of consequences. In Scenario X, legal consequences went right out the window, and we’re all effectively making up our own rules.
This whole scenario is the backdrop for other decisions you and your group now have to make. Things like defensive posture, profile, lines of communication, equipment, and more are all things yet to be decided. Just because things look and feel bad does not mean it’s time to rock plate carriers and start laying ambushes.
This deserves a whole separate post to itself, but I want to touch on it here. Most people are somewhat familiar with the way the US Department of Defense implements Defense Conditions (DEFCON). Movies make a big drama out of it. There are others, such as FPCON, REDCON, and I’m sure more that I can’t think of a the moment.
The point of these conditions is providing a quick way to disseminate posture. When I was in the nuclear business, moving to each level of DEFCON came with a set of procedures unique to my weapon system. In other parts of the military, a DEFCON change came with different procedures, but the point of each increasing level was a change in posture to be ever more ready for war.
I think such a system has value in Scenario X as well. While the general feeling of “things suck right now” is pervasive, you don’t always need to be on “war” footing. In fact, there are a lot of situations, such as connecting with other neighborhoods and communities where discretion is the better course of action.
That means keeping things concealed.
Just as with the military, if you pick up general or specific threats that indicate armed conflict might be around the corner, then it makes sense to raise your posture.
What Comes Next?
Now that you’ve got the baseline of the situation, and how the conditions themselves are separate from your defensive posture, how are we going to use this?
I’d like to discuss several aspects of this situation from different angles. We’ll start with better defining out community defensive postures, and then progress towards the structure, skillset, and equipment for your group.
Great introduction, Matt. I look forward to seeing how you think through the dimensions of Scenario X. One aspect that I wrestle with is the fact that many families will relocate and consolidate at a home deemed the safest. In my case, I live in a nice suburb of a big-ish city. I’m blessed to have neighbors who, while not what I’d call preppers, are good, trustworthy friends. We’re much closer to a mutual assistance group than a lot of people have. However, due to our proximity to a big city, it’s likely that if things reached a certain level… Read more »
Thanks, Augray. I’m looking forward to releasing more. There’s always going to be variations on how the setup works, such as relocating yourself to another place for better safety. I think the underlying principles remain the same, though. Once you’ve settled into a location, what next?
So happy this is going to be a topic. Have you ever read the book ‘Going home’ by A.American? It’s the first book in a great series that’s puts readers in the mindset of the world that you’re talking about.
So this is the ‘gaming’ stage – I love it! ‘Scenario X’ works well as many of us will have different visions of what that is – root causes. Remember ‘something feels off’? I’m in that boat too. Don’t get a lot of natural disasters here in the southwest though when there’s a power outage during the summer – the A/Cs go down and that hurts a lot of folks. On really smokin’ hot days its usually the massive use of air conditioners that cause the outages! We all know ideally, living on a self- reliant ‘off the grid’ homestead… Read more »
Thanks Matt, looking forward to reading more. I think it’s safe to assume DEFCON 5 and FPCON Alpha are a thing of the past for most of us. Maybe one day we’ll get there but let’s not get complacent.
“Good Gouge”! Evaluating this very thing for LBE and the like. I spend a fair amount of time on the road and I have to access Mil Installations for work as well. Rather than impulse buy gear as I used to, taking a more methodical approach this time. And I am also reminded of Col Cooper’s threat color spectrum as well. Would be interesting to discuss the relationship / correlations.
Cooper’s threat spectrum is a useful tool as well. It’s honestly very similar to this, though done at an individual level. I had it somewhat in the back of my mind while putting it together.