December 12, 2015


What's your bug out apparatus of choice?  Do you have an entire bug out vehicle or just a bug out bag?  There is a tremendous amount of emphasis on bug out bags.  There is also a lot of emphasis on bug out vehicles as well.  I often wonder though, if everyone who is excited about their bug out bag has considered all the possibilities for bugging out with the gear they need.

I would like to propose 2 principles for bugging out:


Doesn't this make sense?  The more gear and supplies you can bring, the more it will improve your chances of survival.  Likewise, the faster you can travel, the better chance you have of escaping danger and getting to safety.

Here is what a common bug out bag may look like.  You are limited to something like 80 lbs and you have to carry it all on foot.

But isn't a garden cart like this one better?  You can carry about 400 lbs (some of which could even be people, like the elderly or children) and a very small amount of that weight would be on your feet.  It rolls, so you could move fast.

But then, isn't a bicycle with a wagon even better than a garden cart?  You could carry almost the same amount, but you can move faster.  Plus, a bicycle will have a lot of value in a world after society has collapsed.

Horses with a wagon is even better than a bicycle with a wagon.  Depending on how many horses and the size of the wagon, you could load anywhere from 1,000lbs - 8,000lbs of gear and supplies.  After the collapse of society, horses will become one of the main modes of transportation.  If you can have a male and female horse, you will do society a big favor by breeding and selling additional horses.  That wagon will also be extremely valuable.  In a post collapse world, you could start a career as a merchant with the help of the wagon and horses.

In situations where the bugging out part is critical (i.e. leaving quickly is important and you may have to travel through and away from many other people quickly), a bug out truck will be better than bug out horses and wagon.  You can load thousands of pounds and move quickly.  If you don't have a nice 4 wheel drive truck, any vehicle will work.  If all you have is a small car, that small car will be better than just walking with a bug out bag.  Remember, if it ends up being a true SHTF and end of the world as we know it scenario, don't hesitate to pile stuff high onto the roof of your vehicle as well and tie it down.  Think of how they do it in the third world.  You'll be glad you did.

Along the same lines, why stop with just a regular truck?  If you have more gear and supplies that will be valuable to you in a world WROL, why not go rent or get a U-Haul truck and load up that entire thing with your supplies and bug out?  It's still fast and you can carry about 3 times as much as you could with a normal truck.  It may not work out, but I think it's worth trying.  If the manager at the Uhaul place is not aware the SHTF, you can just rent it like normal.  If the manager is aware that the SHTF, you can negotiate a deal with him for the truck.  In the end, you'll be glad that you got all that extra gear and supplies to your bug out location.


Some say, "But if you have to bug out in a few seconds, all you can do is grab a bug out bag."  How many scenarios are there where you would actually have to bug out within seconds?  Very few.  And those scenarios are not typically EOTWAWKI events.  They would often just be regional natural disasters.  However, there is a very slight possibility that you have to abandon your vehicle in the middle of your bug out, in which case I would recommend having a complete bug out bag with you in an easily accessible place to grab and run if you need to.  You might want to have a regular size BOB and a running BOB (one that you could grab and literally run with).

If you don't have money or the ability to go larger, it's understandable, but most people should be able to at least get a garden cart or attempt to rent a Uhaul truck.

Not everybody can own horses and have them ready.  That's understandable.

Not everybody is so into prepping that they will even have enough supplies to fit into a U-Haul truck.  However, for people that don't have all the supplies they need, I would recommend making a mad rush to the stores to try and get what they need when the s*** hits the fan.

If you already have a pre-existing bug out location, most (but not all) of your supplies should be there already.

Some say, 'If you get stuck in traffic you may need to abandon your vehicle and just grab your bug out bag and go."  I say, don't get stuck in traffic.  Bug out early and take routes where that is unlikely to happen.  Sure, no plan is full proof and there's always a chance, but I would say try to pack in and tie on a garden cart with your gear and if you need to make the transfer, you can.

What about your vehicle breaking down?  What are the chances of that happening in the 100 mile journey to your bug out location?  And if it does, just transfer your most important items onto a garden cart and abandon the rest (or shuttle the remaining items to your bug out location if it's not too far from where you broke down).

If it was an EMP, the vehicles might not be working, so go for the next best option.

What about road blocks? Bug out early.  I don't think people will get organized enough within the first week to set up roadblocks.

"But a Uhaul truck and other vehicles can't go offroad. On foot, I can go anywhere."  Personally, I would bug out to an undeveloped forest area, so I would actually just drive to within a mile or two or my intended bug out destination, park the truck and shuttle the supplies about 100 yards into the forest, ditch the truck a few miles down the road, then shuttle all the supplies to my final bug out location on foot.

What about leaving a footprint?  I don't worry about leaving a footprint too much, because in a scenario where the SHTF, I think people who are going to steal to survive will go after easy targets in cities and towns first, before attempting to use their tracking skills in the middle of nowhere.

In an eotwawki event, I would actually argue that a bug out sailboat is better than all of these choices, but I suppose that has more to do with method and few people know how to sail well enough.

Lastly, if it's a true end of the world as we know it scenario, you won't want to spend the next years of your life regretting that you decided to bug out with only a 70 lb bag of supplies rather than 1,000 lbs of supplies that would have made life much much better.

September 19, 2015


The bug in vs bug out debate is a heated one. Here's why...

(click image or click this link to open a larger version)

As you can see, there are pros and cons everywhere, no matter what your choice is. Now, this chart is based on a quick total collapse of society, such as the grid going down for good. If you were to do this chart based on temporary emergencies or regional emergencies, there would be more blue in the stay at home columns.

I encourage you to look over this chart and consider your own situation and scenario. Feel free to comment about any modifications you would make or any additions you would make to this chart. I tried to base it off average situations of American preppers and average residences. Your own situation may vary greatly. For further explanation, continue reading below.

To get an idea of how the scenarios rank, we can do a simple count of the colored boxes in each column. Here's the results for that.

City Building:....................................................Blue-6,   Green-7,   Yellow-3,   Orange-10, Red-39
City House:........................................................Blue-8,   Green-4,   Yellow-5,   Orange-18, Red-30
House in Suburbs:..............................................Blue-9,   Green-4,   Yellow-11, Orange-14, Red-27
Small Town House:............................................Blue-10, Green-7,  Yellow-18,  Orange-15, Red-15
Farmland / Ranchland House:...........................Blue-16, Green-12, Yellow-16, Orange-11, Red-10
Countryside House (non-farm, non-ranch):.......Blue-15, Green-16, Yellow-14, Orange-12, Red-8
Very Rural House:..............................................Blue-15, Green-21, Yellow-15, Orange-11, Red-3 
Very Rural Pre-Built Survival Location:............Blue-23, Green-19, Yellow-13, Orange-8,   Red-3
Bug Out in Vehicles to Wilderness:...................Blue-15, Green-17, Yellow-19, Orange-7,   Red-8
Bug Out on Bicycles/Horses to Wilderness:......Blue-14, Green-15, Yellow-18, Orange-10, Red-9
But Out on Foot to Wilderness:.........................Blue-14, Green-15, Yellow-16, Orange-8, Red-13
But Out on Sailboat and Later Settle on Island:.Blue-22, Green-20, Yellow-8, Orange-9, Red-7

From this simple tally, it looks as though the very rural pre-built survival location is the best option, with bugging out on a sailboat in a close second. However, you've probably realized that not all of these pros and cons are equal. Some are much more important than the others.  For example, 9 months stored food and not encountering gangs is far more important than something like room to manufacture things. To fix this, we can just assign values to each of the rows based on importance. I did this in this next chart. Take a look and see what you think.

Point Results:
1794 - Total Possible

1310 - Bug Out on Sailboat and Later Settle on Island
1146 - Bug Out in Vehicles to Wilderness
1131 - Very Rural Pre-Built Survival Location
1064 - Bug Out on Bicycles/Horses to Wilderness
1059 - Very Rural House
993 - Bug Out on Foot to Wilderness
867 - Countryside House (non-farmland, non-ranch)
825 - Farmland/Ranchland House
710 - Small Town House
526 - House in Suburbs
461 - House in City
395 - City Building

So, according to this chart with the values, in a total collapse, bugging out on a sailboat and later settling on an island is the ideal choice. I agree with this. Bugging out on a sailboat really does eliminate a LOT of problems, since you'll be able to avoid nearly all of the chaos. Bugging out in vehicles to the wilderness comes in second according to this chart, which is ok, however I think that if multiple people are able to come together at the pre-built survival location, then that should be the next best option. This chart doesn't account for the potential security in numbers. The problem is that two of the top choices (sailboat and pre-built) will generally require at least a $50,000 investment. I suppose the good news is that the next best options, bugging out to the wilderness, won't require any investment beyond your general survival supplies.

Feel free to examine this chart and value system to better assess your own survival situation to see if you should bug in or bug out.


CITY BUILDING - An apartment building or condo building.
CITY HOUSE - A house that is in the city and packed close to other houses and probably not a large yard and maybe no yard at all.
SMALL TOWN HOUSE - In a town of a few thousand about 150 miles from a city.
FARMLAND / RANCHLAND HOUSE - A house that is right next to crops, orchards, dairies, or a ranch with lots of cattle. You can generally expect small towns to be nearby and larger population centers an hour or more away.
COUNTRYSIDE HOUSE - Just an isolated house in the country.  Likely small towns a few miles away and larger population centers an hour or more away.
VERY RURAL HOUSE - Far from population centers.  Maybe a dirt road leading to it.  Perhaps some scattered neighbors.
VERY RURAL PRE-BUILT SURVIVAL LOCATION - This is a location that is built to be the ideal safe location in which to go if the shtf. It would be the right combination of keeping you safe and giving you the ability to grow food and thrive. Likely, this would be a location that is stocked, supplied and ready to go for the end of the world as we know it, but not occupied by you year round, so for the chart, I considered it a place to which one could bug out. It is also a good idea to be designed to house a few families.
WILDERNESS - National Park, National Forest, State Park, BLM land, or very rural undeveloped land. You would camp in a location that is off road and off trail, so this goes far beyond just camping in a campground or along a main river. I mostly had the western US in mind with this. Bugging out to wilderness east of the mississippi would not have results as good as they are in this chart.
BUG OUT IN VEHICLES TO WILDERNESS - You would take a day or two to pack up and then bug out.You would have a large truck, multiple vehicles, or even a trailer to ensure you are able to bring all of your survival supplies, including enough food to get you to the first harvest. You would drive as close as possible to your desired destination, park the cars, and shuttle all the supplies a mile or two into the forest/bush/wilderness.  (You would probably drive the vehicles another mile down the road and hide them.)
BUG OUT ON BICYCLES/HORSES TO WILDERNESS - You are more mobile than on foot. You will hopefully be able to have wagons behind you or enough horses to pack plenty of survival supplies, but you probably won't be able to bring everything. The destination would be the same--off road and off trail.
BUG OUT ON FOOT TO WILDERNESS - The traditional method here is to pack everything in a backpack and walk out. With this method, the biggest disadvantage is you wouldn't be able to bring with you 9 months supply of food and lots of survival gear, and this is the method I had in mind for the chart. However, if people were to load up their supplies in garden carts or wagons, 3 to 5 times as much supplies could be brought. It would make the column almost as good as the bicycles/horses column, but you would still be very slow and more vulnerable.
BUG OUT ON SAILBOAT AND LATER SETTLE ON ISLAND - This could be a situation where you live somewhat close to the docks.  You have a good amount of survival supplies aboard already, but you have to load more. You would set sail within a day. A 40' catamaran or lager would be ideal. Communications and GPS would be out, so navigation is more dangerous, but being out at sea is safe from the human chaos. You could sail for an uninhabited island or even a sparsely populated island, where you believe the population will be able to survive. Of course, if it is a situation where only North America collapses, you can simply sail to a country that hasn't collapsed and start a new life. Indeed if only North America collapses, I would suggest anyone with access to a sailboat should try that method.

"Other survival infrastructure" - things like smokehouses, outhouses, BBQ pits, wood stoves, fish ponds, etc.
"> 9 months stored food" - this is a good benchmark, since it should give you enough food to get to the first harvest.
"Enough water available" - without having to travel too far or expose yourself too much
"Personal source of water" - having your own source, such as a well or water harvesting system helps to ensure plenty of availability of water, but more importantly, can help you avoid run-ins with others who are fetching water or fishing.
"Automated irrigation of garden" - something other than manually watering with buckets. Could be a system of pipes or hoses from a body of water or a tank/gravity feed system, just something to cut down on manual labor.
"Plumbing possibility" - just the ability to set up showers and faucets, not necessarily flush toilets. It comes down to the ability to have drums/tanks/jugs with a satisfactorily sanitary runoff.
"new power groups" - after the collapse, some groups, such as gangs, warlords, and militias will rise to power. If these groups are not civil and steal to survive, that will be a problem.
"Major barriers" - these are barriers that would prevent attackers from over running you, such as barb wire, moats, walls, abatis, etc.
"Quality fighting positions" - if you get into a gun fight, these would be good places to take cover and shoot at the attackers
"Can outsiders see your goods" - goods would be gardens, food, tools, supplies, living quarters, etc. A lot of this depends on how close your house is to the road and what kind of fence or wall you have. A high wall is best. A low see-through fence is the worst. Also, can people see through windows?
"Fires burn through your area" - Fires will start from riots. Fires will also start from people cooking over open fire and warming themselves with fires. There will be mistakes and buildings and forests will catch on fire. There won't be any firefighters to put out fires. Fires will be a threat in the city, countryside, and forests--almost anywhere. So, this is asking if fires will burn through your area and kill you or destroy your livelihood.
"Accustomed to surroundings" - for some people, being accustomed to your surroundings will be helpful in easing concerns, even though in reality, it is a false sense of security.
"Permanent stench" - this will come from trash, sewage, burnt areas, and dead bodies rotting.
"Watch others die" - this will be instances where you turn starving people away, knowing full well that they will probably starve to death soon. It could also be seeing people die from violence outside or maybe it was people you had to kill.
"Need to remain alert 24/7" - this is mostly tied to the possibility of theft and violence. If gunfire is often heard nearby or someone has already tried to break in and steal stuff, you will probably go into this mode. Although having a large group to survive with will allow one or two people to remain on watch, so you can rest well.
"Chance you'll have to kill someone" - put another way, what are the chances you'll have to get in a gunfight as others attack your position? I just posed it this way, since actually killing somebody would be more detrimental to psychological health, than just engaging in a fight.
"Forced to make tough decisions" - this would be deciding whether or not to feed any starving refugees, adopting orphaned children, enforcing severe punishment, having to reconsider if you should bug out, etc.
"Ability to walk around and travel" - this is kind of like the antidote to cabin fever. It will keep you in high spirits if you feel safe enough that you can just walk around and get different views and do other things in the surrounding areas.
"Encounter blockades" - Authorities and groups of people that band together might set up blockades on roads. These are neutral, so they're not ambushes, but they can cause problems if they hassle you or you have to divert your course along more roads that are already dangerous. I imagine many small towns will set up blockades. Personally, I wouldn't even deal with these. If I see them ahead, I would just take another route if possible.
"Encounter ambushes" - at some point, bandits will probably set up ambushes on roads where when someone comes along, they steal from them and might even kill them (or eat them).

1L - If the sailboat is your shelter, then it already exists. On the island, however, you would have to build a shelter.
3IJK - You should be able to have tents, tarps, and eventually a permanent shelter.  These should be waterproof.
8A - Sometimes city apartments and condos are too small to store a lot of food.
8K - It's nearly impossible to store 9 months worth of food in a backpack, so this gets a very unlikely. However, like I've mentioned above, bugging out on foot can be improved tremendously with garden carts or wagons, which will allow you to bring hundreds of pounds more of supplies.
9IJK - Pre-planting a survival garden could be possible--probably illegal, but maybe no one cares.
10A - I could envision balcony gardening possibilities here. There's not a lot of room, however. You can have plants hanging over to increase space, but that is just inviting problems.
10L - You could do some growing in pots while you're sailing. Once you settle on an island, you can do full blown gardening.
14L - No on the sailboat. Yes on the island. The only wild edible at sea that I can think of is seaweed, but you would most likely have to come close in to the shore.
15L - One major exception that I know of here is if you are bugging out from California and low on food, you can swing by San Miguel Island (or nearly any CA island). There are thousands of sea lions lying on the beaches. They are very fat and very slow. An island you settle on might have wild game as well.
19IJK - You could definitely raise animals there; it will just be difficult to bug out with them in the first place. But if you are able to get animals from someone after you settle, you should be able to do it.
20A - You won't be able to have enough water, unless you can tap into the runoff from the roof.
20BCD - You may be able to harvest rainwater, but it probably won't be enough for drinking, washing, gardening.
20E - A lot of modern farming and water availability relies on a very complex system of dams, canals, and gates of all sorts, especially in the west. It seems as though water will continue to flow to places as dictated by however these irrigation features are left when society collapsed. I'm thinking that it will result in many floods happening as dams give way and canal embankments and levees are breached. Many farms rely on well water, but if you rely on this system of irrigation and your water is closer to the end of the line rather than closer to the source, it's likely that the water won't reach you, because it will have been stopped or flooded some place upstream of you. However, if you are closer to the source, water might not be reliable for you either. Also, consider the elevation and terrain of your location. Perhaps you are in a potential flood zone. Oh....I guess that would give you enough water :p
20L - Most open ocean sailing vessels will have water makers. If electricity is not available, there are even manual desalinators that can make enough water for multiple people.
21L - We could say that the sea water counts as a personal well. On the island, you might be able to dig one if need be, but it shouldn't be necessary.
22I-L - This setup would depend if you can bug out will all the necessary watering equipment.
23L - You will have this aboard. For the island, even if you didn't bring these items, you should have enough containers and hoses to set up something.
24I-L - This isn't likely, but you can always bury some caches here beforehand. Probably illegal, but could save your life. I recommend water proof containers or bear proof containers if need be.
25A-G - This is not applicable to these columns, since they will already have all their supplies with them at home. However, they were still given full points just to make it fair for the comparison tally.
25K - The use of garden carts would bump this up to somewhat likely.
25L - It all depends on the size of your sailboat, how many people, and how many supplies of course. I envision a 40' catamaran or larger as being ideal.
26I-L - If you anticipate difficult fire starting situations, consider fire pucks.
27A-L - If fuel for cooking is ever an issue, you can use solar ovens and fresnel lenses if it's sunny.
30A-F - There will be a lot good usable building materials around, but it just depends if you can safely retrieve it or not.
30G-L - It will mostly be an abundance of wood. Make sure to have tools like saws, adze, drawknife, froe, etc.
36GH - Gangs will go after easy targets first. They will start in the cities and spread out from there, but they will probably use all their gas before they hit very rural locations. They might hit these locations in time as horse gangs or bicycle gangs.
38DEF - Many preppers like to believe that the good guys will rise to the top and be in power, but it really all comes down to organization and enough food for everyone to eat. It will be hard to organize the good guys and very hard to have enough food for everyone to eat. As a result, it's a possibility that many places that are very friendly now will be ruled by the ones that took the low road after the collapse.
39A-D - Remember, this is a total collapse. Food is no longer being delivered to the stores. The ability to ally with neighbors hinges on the ability to feed everyone. Since most preppers only store enough food for themselves and maybe a few other friends/family, it's just not a possibility to work together with neighbors to defend your neighborhoods. You can ally, but you'll run out of food quickly and everybody will starve.
39E - The reason why this is an outlier of being somewhat likely is because there's a chance that there will be lots of food available. If you act quickly, you can work with neighbors to protect the food, harvest it, and trade it as society is collapsing. (also, see what ranchers and dairy farmers can do when the shtf) However, if it's not harvest time, you'll be out of luck.
39I-L - There shouldn't be any neighbors around to ally with anyways, unless they bug out with you.
40ABC - It depends on how long after the collapse, but if we are talking 1-6 years after, the local power groups will be bad guys and there will be fear of getting out and trading.
41ABC - The new local power groups will be bad guys. You might find a few people to develop relationships with, but most of the survivors will belong to gangs.
42K - This can be improved with garden carts or wagons.
43IJK - Even if you bug out to undeveloped wilderness, you can set up some nice defenses for your survival location.
43L - Miles of open ocean is the best barrier.
45A - This gets a better score than the next two, because you might be elevated and have a good view of nearby areas.
45G - I assume many of these places will be surrounded by trees.
45H - Distant views should be incorporated into the planning of a site like this if more than 10 people plan on surviving here.
45IJK - This category can get a good score, but it depends on terrain and potentially clear-cutting the surrounding area, but I only recommend clear-cutting if you have a large group. In most cases, you won't have a large group.
46G - You'll probably have trees in the way, but you can cut some down.
46H - 360 degree views should be incorporated into the planning of a site like this.
46IJK - You should be able to clearcut the area around your location in all directions.
47IJK - You should do your best to camouflage your location and perhaps go semi subterranean.
48A - If you have plants growing on your balcony, or bird traps, or water tanks, etc., they might be seen.
48IJK - Outsiders would be able to see your goods if they are close enough to see your location.
49A - They may see activity on your balcony or notice waste and water runoff leaving your unit.
49IJK - This category can be improved by using rocket stoves or dakota fires, dry wood, or cooking with solar ovens or fresnel lenses. Also, stone paths to the water or underground pipes that lead off from a creek, and living below the snow level helps.
49L - You might think others could see your sails and track you down, but the ocean is too vast and you might be able to outrun them anyways. I suppose once you get to your island and anchor and go ashore, any other sailors that come by could see your ship and then track you down, but that depends on many things, such as the remoteness of the island, visibility, size of your boat, and the shape of the cove. If the island is not uninhabited, it's a possibility of being tracked down.
50A - A city building is the worst place to be when city fires break out--and they will break out.
50G - Clearcutting around your location could improve this box.
50H - This location should have a buffer zone cleared to prevent your dwellings from burning.
50IJK - There are bound to be many forest fires. It may be wise to attempt to locate yourself on the windward side of forests, to reduce your risk of being consumed by a fire. But you'll also want to have a root cellar to duck in or a nearby body of water.
52A - There may be some dog packs, but you will be staying in your apartment, and it's very likely that the million starving individuals around you will catch and eat these dogs.
52BCD - There may be some dog packs that get dangerous, but starving people will begin to hunt and kill any animals they see.
55L - You should be accustomed to your boat, but settling on an island will likely be new.
57L - 2 months in a sailboat can drive you a wee bit crazy. The Island should be great though.
59L - You will need to be more alert at sea, especially if gps and warning systems won't be working.
60A-F - I think in everyone of these locations, starving desperate people will try to steal from you. Gangs may try to steal from you as well. The sheer numbers of starving refugees will almost guarantee plenty of interactions. You may be able to discourage escalation on many of those interactions, but there's a good chance you'll have to fight at some point.
61L - Since you'll be sailing the seas and settling on an uninhabited island, you won't come across other people, which create 90% of the situations that require tough decisions.
62A-E - It will probably be too dangerous to go out.
63A-G - Not applicable, since you would not be bugging out. If you do bug out, it would be late.
63H-L - If traffic lights go out, that could cause traffic jams, even on freeways through cities. I hope they will be able to flash red as long as possible to avoid insurmountable traffic jams.
64A-G - Not applicable, since you would not be bugging out. If you do bug out, it would be late.
64H-L - At this time, most of the violence would be close to the resources, like in the stores.
65A-G - Not applicable, since you would not be bugging out. If you do bug out, it would be late.
65H-L - It will take a couple weeks for criminals to organize and these to develop.
66ABC - You will be lucky if you can still drive out of the city at this point.
66H-L - Not applicable, since you would bug out early.
67E - This is likely, because by this time, many starving people will have migrated to farms, dairies, and ranches to try and find food. You would have to get through these people.
67H-L - Not applicable, since you would bug out early.
68E - Likely, since more people will have migrated to your area in an attempt to find food. They will probably attempt to set up ambushes.

September 12, 2015


Dwight Schrute turns out to be a prepper with a survival bunker and canned food.  In this episode, he was eating his stored food, like 8 year old tomatoes, before it went bad.  The others in the breakroom were making fun of him, so he gave them this scenario, saying, "Hardy har har.  Alright.  Picture this: snowy ash drizzles from the sky. A rabid pack of dogs surrounds you as the flame at the end of your stick dies out. There's only one hope left for you--the door to my shelter. You pound. You beg. 'Dwight, please let me in!', but I ignore your cries and do not let you in...Kevin will be eaten. Pam will be taken slave. Jim will be made a warlord's jester. Meredith will be ok. Be assured, this day will come. It's just a matter of time."

September 5, 2015


Here's a novel idea - take a child's merry-go-round and turn it into a rotating manned turret.  If society collapses and you need to defend your position, this might be a great idea.  High tech, expensive weapons and defenses are often the best, but preppers know that in a post-collapse scenario, low tech, reliable weapons and defenses are often the better choice.

Start with something like this...

Then cut off most or all of the railings.  (They may act as support if you choose to add a roof)  You may need to lay down armored plating on the bottom of it, depending on if you expect projectiles to come up at you.  In these illustrations, I have the merry go round elevated on a platform, but you could have it at ground level.

You'll need a way to spin the turret, so I figure the best way to do that is to cut some holes in the bottom.  One hole would be toward the front and you could use your hand to spin.  The other would be toward the rear, so you could use your feet to turn it.  The shooter could remain in a prone position the whole time, while he spins the turret to the desired position.  You wouldn't necessarily have to have anything special below.  A flat surface with grip would work, but it would be better to have something more substantial, since it will require a bit of force to get the thing moving.  So, I would recommend either a railing all the way around for hands to grip and turn, or corrugated grooves deep enough for toes to dig in and turn the turret.  If the thing ends up being too heavy and too difficult for the shooter to rotate easily, you could have two people working as a team.  Of course, it also wouldn't be too difficult to motorize the thing and rotate it with a switch.

Now for the armor.  Here are some thoughts.  Sandbags are pretty basic...

An optimum design might be something like this...

If the metal plating can be shaped into a circle, you could completely surround it like this...

Will it need a protected roof?  If attackers might have the high ground above the turret, then yes.  Otherwise, there are limited threats from above in a post-collapse world.  Some bad guys will have molotov cocktails.  Some guys will have pipe bombs.  Some guys will have grenades.  Some will have arrows, but who could be accurate enough to hit you with such an arch?  Most will just have guns though.  So, it's your call if you want to add protection above.  It will make it heavier and more expensive.  If you add protection from above, it might look something like this from behind...

With a design like that, you'll have something that looks like the turret from the USS Monitor from the Civil War (just a lot smaller, and a gun instead of a couple canons).

Another option would be to put bulletproof glass on the front end.  If you can afford it, this will give much better visibility.

If you find that the turret is too heavy, you can try alternative designs to cut down the weight, like this one that will use less armored plating...

Or this one with a concrete wall.  I suppose concrete might weigh less, right?  (Actually, it wouldn't need to be a ring wall.  It could just be a rectangle, which will weigh less.)

Where do you locate these turrets?  Different approaches will work depending on your unique setup.  If you have a camp with 4 sides, 4 turrets with one on each corner would be wonderful...

2 turrets on opposing corners should theoretically still be able to cover the entire surrounding area...

With the turrets in positions at the outside of your camp/compound/dwelling, you have to decide if you want the turrets be able to face inward.  There are pros and cons for either choice.  I'm leaning toward not allowing them to face inward.  Rigging that should be a simple welding operation.

If there is an elevated position in your survival location, such as a sundeck, a 2 story building, or a tower, you can have one central turret.  It's a perfect sniper perch where he can remain protected and shoot in all 360 degrees.

Who will the turrets be best suited for?  I have no military experience or tactical training, but I'm thinking it will be best for snipers.  It gives them the perfect opportunity to remain in the prone position and rotate for accurate aiming in any direction, all while remaining protected.  I think it would also be good for machine gunners if you have any, since their protection is vital.  Another option might be if you're in a worst case scenario;  you're under attack and you are low on men and you need women and teenagers to take up arms.  You might want to put your teenager in the turret, because they'll be better protected, while you take up another position.

I think it wouldn't be ideal if you are under attack from multiple attackers, the attackers are in close range, they are approaching fast, or you don't have a good rifle or machine gun.  The limits of the turret are that it spins slowly and has limited visibility.  A person leaning over some sandbags or breastworks has much more freedom of movement to engage more attackers more quickly, so I imagine, most fighters would want to take up normal bunker fighting positions like this...

Should the turret be camouflaged?  If you are trying to keep your entire survival location hidden, then by all means, camouflage it.  If you are not trying to keep your location hidden, you may or may not want to camouflage it.  If it is camouflaged, it may prevent attackers from coming up with a plan to deal with the turrets.  If it is not camouflaged, it may deter attackers altogether, so it's your choice.  However, once fighting begins, I'm thinking it is best for it to not be camouflaged.  If the attackers see a huge turret swing around, they will be fearful.  They will think you are more capable than they expected you to be--than they expected anyone to be in a post-collapse world.

Do you have any suggestions, thoughts for improvement, or critiques of this idea?  I would love for the military guys to chime in.

April 11, 2015


I didn't know the answer to this, but knew it was important, so I researched it.  I'm not an expert, so I'll give you quotes from some who know more about the subject.

The general impression I get is that dams will more or less remain in the flow position they are in when the dam is abandoned.  If the electronic controls go out, there are manual controls, but they take a really long time to adjust.  If the waters rise to the point where the dam will overflow, there are usually, but not always overflow spillways, which will allow the excess water to go over, through, or around in a controlled manner to do little damage.  The concrete structures themselves are very very strong, however dams need continual upkeep and maintenance.  One source says that if left alone the inner chambers will begin to flood in a few years and that will result in the dam failing not too long after.

So, I don't know about you, but I'm just gonna avoid dams and being downstream of them in a post-collapse scenario just to be safe.

Here are some quotes:

"It all depends if the gates automatically close or open when electricity fails.

Overflow or flood gates that aren't able to open might create a problem of excessive stress on the dams." 

"Actually there was something about this on Discovery. That statistics on dams in the US as far as deficiencies is amazing. For instance, the number of High Hazard Dams, those whose failure would result in significant loss of life, in need of repair was 364 in 2001. That number rose the 1,743 a mere six years later in 2007. Now this is a relatively low number considering Oregon has about 84,000 dams alone, 225ish are ranked "high hazard" but, when you see a 500% increase in dams that have a high probability of failure and causing a significant loss of life in a mere 6 years that's a little unnerving."

"According my friend who worked the dams as an engineer for most of his adult life .

In 3-5 years the dams would flood internally and the results would be a failure of the spillways causing a huge release of water that would casade down the river taking out lower dams after 2-3 go the whole mess below would end up failing. He says a couple bad winters could even speed that up.

He says the dams are very hands on and if left on their own for as much as a winter they would be on the path to failure

might not be a worry in the first couple years but soon."

"Without continuous maintenance, they will eventually fail. The upkeep is critical. There is one on the Cumberland River in KY that is leaking around the edges NOW and they are working on a fix for it but without that work that dam will fail."

"While dams are arguably useful for these purposes now, their existence can create significant hazards and uncertainty during a prolonged TEOTWAWKI event.

Most larger dams have outlet works that can be opened and closed to regulate the height of water stored behind them.  Some also have a spillway, which is basically an emergency release mechanism to prevent water from overtopping a dam when the water coming into the reservoir is greater than the water that can be released by the normal outlet works.  The purpose of a spillway is to protect the dam from damage.
If and when SHTF, it is difficult to predict how all of these dams will be left (i.e. outlets opened or closed).  If outlets are left open most reservoirs will eventually drain completely.  If outlets are left closed, reservoirs will likely fill and cause spillway releases or will overtop dams.  The status of the outlet valves will dictate the water level in the reservoir and will influence the flow in the downstream body of water.  The effect will vary dramatically depending on the size of the dam. 
The status of outlets will also dictate downstream safety. Dams without spillways whose outlets are left closed will create a significant downstream flood danger.  As a reservoir fills, the water exerts increasing pressure on the dam. The increase pressure can result in earthern dams becoming saturated which weakens the structure significantly.  Moreover, if a dam is overtopped, the flows can scour the dam which weakens it.  Even dams with spillways may be weakened from repeated spill events.  The breach of a dam can cause massive flooding and damage as it results in a huge release of water.  Here is a link to a report of a large dam failure outside of Estes Park, Colorado:  The bottom line is that you do not want to be downstream when a dam fails, and the likelihood of such a failure will increase during a prolonged TEOTWAWKI event, as maintenance of these structures ceases and they are left in dangerous conditions.
Moreover, spillway releases are nothing more than partially-controlled flooding and can cause serious damage.  Here is a link to a photograph showing a spillway in operation.  The spillway is to the left and the outlet works are on the right.  Thus, even where dams are behaving as designed, they can cause serious downstream carnage.
Being aware of dams near your home or retreat is important for both safety and for water supply purposes.  If the level of the lakes or streams that you plan to rely on when SHTF are influenced by dams, you need to be aware of this to adequately assess water availability and to plan for any changes that may occur when the operation and maintenance of these structures abruptly ends."
(This next gentleman works at a large dam in Washington and is very knowledgeable.  It gets technical though.)
"This is an interesting question. I'm writing this from the control room of Ross Powerhouse were I began my career on Monday April 29, 1974. I've been in Hydro Operation for a while. The generating plants that were here in the 1960's and some in the early 70's would be recoverable after an EMP. Today's plants would be toast. For decades now, I've watched bad Engineering decisons wreck the reliability of generating plants. I've seen processor driven automated systems replace manual controls, the manual controls removed, then the only Engineer that understood the new system at all leave the utility to go to another state. 

Generally, gates do not open automatically. And, given that emergency generators at the dams have electronic controls these days, getting power to open them would be a challenge after an EMP. It's theoretically possible to crank open the two 72" butterfly spill valves in the center of Ross Dam and the three 78" butterfly valves in the center of Diablo Dam, using hand wheels. But it would take a good crew a full day of constant cranking for some of them. For the spillgates you need power. For 16 of the 19 gates at Diablo you need to push a 5,300 lb. "mule" onto the dam, hook it up to power and use its hydraulic grapples to lift the gates. THe two 47 by 500 ft. gates at Gorge need power for a 15hp three phase motor, and even its lower outlets are gates that need power. 

Most concrete masonry dams are well constructed and can withstand a certain amount of overtopping, but it won't do them any good or make recovery any easier. 

As to the generating plants, if we have battery power or other stored energy (sometimes a pressure accumulator) to close the penstock valves, or opportunity to put gate locks in place, we can keep the generators from spinning up and damaging themselves as all power and pressure on the gate servos is lost. If the plant has a functioning water powered sump eductor and we turn it on, we should be able to keep the powerhouse from flooding as long as there is water in the power tunnel. 

The dams themselves are built to last. Concrete is weird stuff, it never really stops curing, only slows down. At 50-80 years, good concrete is very good, indeed. At 150 years, it may actually be getting a bit brittle. 

I don't see these plants as recoverable from EMP in less than... well years, if major equipment is damaged and more has to be ordered, built and transported. Working around delicate electronics to get something running could be done in weeks or months, but that requires some materials, too. And it requires a full time operating staff that no longer exists. The solid state exciters common on modern generators would not fare well in an EMP event. No excitation means that big alternator does not make much power. 

With the generators down for the count, our biggest immediate challenge would be configuring the dams to not be overtopped and perhaps to function as some degree of flood control. Example: the water behind Ross is 82 feet below full right now, because the storage reservoir cycles seasonally. If we could get enough lower outlets opened, leaving space for the lakes to fill before getting close to the tops of the dams, we could still use the dams to even out some of the peaks during flood season. But as far as power, don't hold your breath. 

Federal law requires us to have an "Emergency Action Plan" for the event of a dam breaking or threatening to break. It does not require us to have a plan that would work in an earthquake. We are not required to plan for an EMP event. If we have a solar event like the one in 1859, I'd say our society is back to about the year 1900. 

I am my utility's most senior Hydroelectric Operator. I collect kerosene lamps. Think about it.

In most of our critical infrastructure, not just the electrical industry, we see the skilled blue collar people who keep it working gettting older and older and finally retiring. Very few youngsters are coming up through the ranks. Recently, it gave me pleasure to see two bright young Apprentices "top out" and become Journeyman Electrician Constructors. But this was in a time and place where it should have been a dozen, not two. Physical assets are not being adequately maintained. "Managment" is more and more the political type who will postpone maintenance and upgrades to cut costs. The term "crumbling infrastructure" is accurate. But perhaps equally important is the loss of institutional knowledge and experience as the most experienced people are leaving, or in some cases being driven out, without adequately trained and experienced replacements coming aboard. 

We live in a nation of MBA's who cannot wire a house, fall a tree, or even change a tire or drive a nail. Brace yourselves."

In recent years, much as been done in the way of recalculating Possible Maximum Floods and finding methods to "harden" dams in the event of overtopping. But they weren't really designed for the water to just flow over them. Oh sure, you can design for "surcharge." The full elevation of Gorge Dam is 875 ft. above sea level; that's the top of the gates. But those gates are designed for 5 feet of surcharge. That is, you can let the lake "pile up" as high as 880 ft (but not more, because the roadway on the dam is at 880). Water flows over the top of the gates, but it's not a huge flow compared to opening the gates because it's not under much pressure. 

BTW, if you're planning a micro hydro, it maybe be useful to you to know that with fresh water you get 0.434 psi for every foot of head. Take water from 100 feet above your site, and you have 43.4 psi at your site - until you start it flowing and have to deal with pressure losses due to friction in your supply line.

I really don't want to think about the headaches we'll face at our dams and powerhouses if we get hit with a violent EMP event. The solar event of 1859 had telegraphers thinking their equipment was possessed, and where they had instruments with rolls of paper and a pen to record dots and dashes it actually set the paper on fire. I can't even imagine the damage such an event would do to today's society.

(another said that you would think spillways would always being built into the top of the damn) "You'd think an open spillway could be built with its sill at "full" elevation, "just in case." But not really. The flows in a Possible Maximum Flood would be very large, the dam's gates are designed with that as the maximum they can pass with all gates open. But that is with water level well above the sills of the spillways. A simple open spillway at "full" level would have to be too large and would still "pile up" water well above normal full level, and you can't have that. Instead, along much of the top of the dam you have a bunch of gates that can be opened when you see the flood building and realize you won't have room in your reservoir to hold it.

Over the years, they've recaculated PMF for a number of dams, coming up with high figures, and worked on modifying the dams to survive the new PMF. I've seen a number of ideas. Sometimes it's hardening the face of an earthen dam with roller compacted concrete. Sometimes it's modifying a concrete dam with a lot of the crest being "one time use" emergency breakaway gates that can be cut released in an emergency and allow the dam to spill a lot more water - but not refill its reservoir until the emergency gates are replaced. 

Sometimes modifications to dams to hold back a but more water are poorly thought out. Imagine adding splashboards so that dam could hold back a few more feet of water, but also making its new height at bit more than the height of the bank near the intake for your plant - and placing your emergency generator to power spillgates in an emergency, out on the dam with vulnerable remote control cabling located so it can be easily damaged by flooding - by which time people can no longer access the dam at all. Look into the Upriver Spokane Dam washout of 1986 sometime. 

Look into the much more recent and totally preventable Taum Sauk disaster the overtopped the reservoir of a large pumped storage plant. 

More and more, I'm coming to agree with Murphy about things going wrong, and to believe if there's a way for people to screw it up, sometime, somewhere, they will. 

The Chernobyl disaster was because a new know-nothing Junior Operator came up a a "better way" to do a shutdown from full power. All experienced hands said he was nuts. But he was the son of the installation's Political Officer, who is the most powerful person there, more so than the site Superintendent. So they tried it his way - once..."


Back on the original topic: There are dams that have spillways designed to simply start flowing at a certain water level. But lots of dams are NOT designed that way. More typical is something like our dams, where you have spillgates and often smaller outlets located lower than the gates, but they need to be operated. And that dam is not designed to handle overtopping without damage. 


You would think. But they aren't designed that way. "Full" will be the top of the gates. The reservoir is seldom run more than a few feet lower than that, usually not down near the gate sills - a typical taintor gate might be 20 feet tall (they can be much larger). The exception is a seasonal storage reservoir where the lake might drop many feet in winter, or maybe a pumped storage reservoir where it cycles daily but high flow flooding isn't an issue. The road on top of the dam is just a few feet above that "full" level. "

Sure, an open channel emergency spillway is a good idea. But lots of dams are not built that way. If designing one that way, you'd calculate how high the water in the lake would get with Possible Maximum Flow through the emergency spillway for a number of hours, and you'd have to design your dam to handle water to that level - but in normal operation you'd never run with water level above the sill of the opening to the emergency spillway. 

I'm gonna hazard to guess you'll want to avoid these too:

I might just have this guy build my reservoir dam.