In Part II of the ‘Bugging Out to the Redoubt: Dreams vs. Reality’ Series we explore the ‘New World As We know It’ and the Bug Out Destination.
Part II: The Destination
Everyone is focused on surviving TEOTWAWKI (aka The End Of The World As We Know It), when we need to prepare for what the new world will be like afterwards. You survive TEOTWAWKI by preparing your plans and making a successful bug out and subsequent journey to your survival retreat property. Then, all your preps and hard work pay off to help you THRIVE in the ‘New World As We Know It’ (NWAWKI).
No, it’s not meant to replace the Prepper world acronym; ‘The End Of The World As We Know It’. As TEOTWAWKI is the event that facilitates the initial rapid change such as a socio economic crash via solar or man-made EMP (nuclear), pandemic, foreign invasion or civil war in these ‘united’ States; NWAWKI is actually the term for a society forever changed, never to return to pre-event status.
Do you think the world will return to ‘normal’ after hundreds of millions die worldwide from a pandemic like Ebola? Well, there will surely be some fine real estate to buy, for pennies on the dollar. But think about how many years it will take to restore food production operations, transportation and the economy after such an event?
Longer than any of us can imagine.
Are you ready to turn back the clock to the 1800’s for a decade? Are you ready to literally sweat it out 12 hours a day just to eat? Sound far-fetched? No, it’s just time to refocus on the future, well past the crash.
Before beginning your search it’s very important to self-assess your level of commitment to finding that safe haven. This does not entail how much money you have. This means do you have the ability to really make a positive change to your current situation. Do you understand what your personal threat analysis is, and the probability factor of these events taking place? And finally, are you willing to do something about them? This may seem easy, but for some it’s an overwhelming process, especially to those that may be new to the Prepping genre.
Don’t become overwhelmed.
Purchasing a retreat not only comes down to factual search criteria that can be easily vetted with a few spreadsheets, but requires a level of psychological preparedness before moving forward.
Not everyone will prepare for the same threats. Some folks think a nuclear exchange is imminent, others a socio-economic collapse, maybe an EMP (Solar) or, a pandemic like Ebola.
Your threat assessment will help you decide to either relocate permanently to a rural homestead or acquire a bug out property. This list should encompass the full spectrum of threats (i.e., natural, economic, criminal, terrorist, and outright warfare and occupation).
These reasons must be agreed upon by all family or group members to enable a successful property purchase and retrofit.
Everyone’s assessment will be different, and this information will directly impact the selected regions for your possible retreat location.
Rural Homestead or Bug Out Property?
What’s the difference between a rural homestead and a bug out property? The rural homestead is a part-time or full-time residence and is working year round, possibly with a caretaker involved while the owners are away in the big city. The bug out property is sealed shut, hidden and ready for activation upon arrival of the group members.
After you have completed the threat assessment and understand distance and travel times, now it’s time to decide: to live or not to live at your retreat? Both James Wesley, Rawles and Joel Skousen highly recommend that you live full time at your retreat, and we concur. However, this is not feasible for most folks. If you’re blessed enough to have the capital to make this move and can obtain new employment or take your job with you (internet workers, small business owners, or retirees) then great! Have at it. But for the rest of the Preppers the bug out property is your best logical bet to make it through a major event.
It’s important to understand that having a safe haven will not fully mitigate any threat, but it will help you minimize those threats based upon the seven basic criteria: Locale, Location, Water, Energy, Food, Defense and Safe Storage of Supplies. Even millions of dollars will not fully mitigate all threats, but a few wise decisions during the retreat search can greatly enhance both the minimization of all basic threats as well as provide a higher level of ‘thriveability’. The ability to thrive and not just survive is paramount.
We all have seen Doomsday Preppers and other ‘reality’ shows portraying fellow well-meaning Preppers racing to pack a basement full of preps into a trailer and bug out to the woods…
Stop the Madness!
They are already dead and don’t know it. Period.
A general rule of thumb is to have about 20% of the total preps at your home (along with the Bug Out Provisions) in the suburbs, to last about 3 months. Not that you would EVER stick around if the event was that long. But in the rare case when you were completely cut off and couldn’t leave for some reason, at least those preps are there to be used. If you can evacuate hastily, then those preps could be given away as charity with a note left at the door. Probably best not to alert the neighbors directly, lest they want to tag along.
The other 80% of your preps should be at the destination property, with a few pre-positioned resupply cache spots along the intended bug-out route. The word ‘intended’ is used very lightly, as that route will surely change and those supplies will be lost. How to pre-position caches along several routes will be covered in another article.
The point of a bug out property is to minimize as many immediate threats as possible, such as Dehydration, Starvation, Hypothermia and threats of violence. Bug out properties may be rudimentary and very functional but still must meet the seven primary criteria below.
Survival Property Key Criteria
The key elements of any retreat property search are:
After the retreat is built then you’ll need to properly stock it with Preps (pre-positioned supplies).
Before we dive into the fun side of the Survival Property search and criteria, the most important aspect to consider is the retreat locale. This single decision, normally the very first in the search and in accordance with your threat assessment, will often be responsible for your long-term success and happiness.
The locale should fit you as well. Questions such as, “Who are you? What are your beliefs? What activities do you enjoy? Are you single? Married? Children? How old are they now? Does the locale offer all that the children may need as they grow up?” And of course the most important question, “is the locale of ‘like-minded’ people?” Will you want to get to know and work with these locals hand-in-hand to build a new town after the collapse?
We are not talking about joining the local Militia (Leaderless Resistance cells are key. Never join an organized group, ever!). What we are talking about is purchasing a property with a ‘No Regrets’ platform. This means if TEOTWAWKI happens that the property serves the needs of its’ inhabitants. But if not, and you end up on your front porch 25 years from now sipping tea with your significant other holding hands watching the sunset over the mountains, you’ll have no regrets!
These are but a few of the real questions that you need to ask yourself before even thinking about where to purchase that retreat property. Sound silly? No, these are not off the wall questions, as from them come the wise answers to your long-term happiness.
Location and Vulnerability Test
The actual property location within the locale will be very important. Joel Skousen recommends being about 5 miles from a small town and 2 miles off the main road. This is an excellent base to work from, however, remember that many properties will be missed if this is a non-negotiable criterion. From my experience the actual town will dictate these distances, as well as the subject property’s attributes. For example, in some places in the American Redoubt, if you follow the 5/2 rule, you’ll be standing in the National Forest. That’s not all bad of course, but please allow the actual town and its’ characteristics/demographics create the rule for you on distance and location from the city limits.
This is where you’ll want to turn back to your original Threat Assessment, in order to screen the final properties on your list through a Vulnerability test.
How does each property stand up to the threats you wish to shield yourself from? Is the property within the Red or Yellow risk zones? Such risks may be too close to a main road, Fields of Fire are limited due to the terrain, a disproportionate amount of low lying land near a water source and a risk for flooding, maybe the property lacks a secondary source of water as a back-up or simply cannot sustain renewable energy and food production levels set due to north facing slopes and rocky terrain. The list can go on forever, but only you can make the final determination of the property’s worthiness.
Examples of Vulnerability Factors (very basic list for examples only)
Red Zone (EXTREME)
- Wells over 600 feet deep or very low static level in comparison to depth
- Well production under 1 gallon per minute (1440 gallons per day)
- Water must be hauled in and stored
- Rural Parcels smaller than 1 acre and/or neighbors very close
- Rural large tract subdivisions with restrictive CC&R’s
- Locales with wood burning restrictions for heat (like outside Missoula, MT)
- Very steep and unusable terrain (unless that’s on your list for defensibility)
- Only Northern exposure
Yellow Zone (High) Possibly Mitigated
- Community Water system (needs a private well drilled after purchase)
- No basement
- Direct access from main roads with lack of cover/concealment
- Direct visual from main roads (county)
- The property is very heavily wooded with Fields of Fire issues
Green Zone (Medium) Typical rural property issues;
- On-Grid and needs a full alternative energy system w/ backup installed
- Lacks a garden and greenhouse
- Water source is not gravity fed
- Little or no secure storage or safe room(s)
The bottom line is that a property with a Red zone risk attribute should be discarded. Yellow zone risk factors may well be able to be mitigated with physical changes to the property or dwelling and Green zone attributes are typical upgrades that will be necessary to bring the property to a self-sufficient status.
Too Far Out? Having worked with many clients in the American Redoubt, those that chose to put fear aside as they worked with to complete their retreat search and acquisition are the happiest. The few that didn’t purchased properties so far out in the boonies that over half have since sold them and moved closer to small towns in their chosen locale. It’s almost impossible to survive and thrive at the same time, without a small community to integrate into and create a new and simpler life.
There is one threat that retreat owners almost always overlooked, and is the number one killer of rural homes: FIRE.
A large percentage of properties in the American Redoubt are under volunteer fire department response areas (outside of city limits). members of the AmericanRedoubt staff have spent time on local fire departments in the Redoubt and response times at a minimum are about 15 minutes and longer the farther out your property is. You are responsible for your own firefighting (both wildland and structural) until the crews arrive.
Wildland and Structural fires, statistically speaking, are the number one threat, both now and during TEOTWAWKI.
Sure, we all can think about and plan for a raging firefight with UN forces, but the reality is that a simple kitchen fire or slash pile burn that gets out of control will bring disaster upon you and your family, destroying the home and all of your preps. This is why two key improvements are a MUST to consider during your retreat search.
- Firefighting capability (Wildland, Structural and Tactical)
- Safe room storage construction (theft and fireproof)
These improvements don’t have to be in place when looking for a home or property, but the MUST be able to be constructed or retrofitted to minimize these overlooked threats.
Firefighting Capability Checklist
- Water: Regardless of how good the well is it’ll never keep up with firefighting requirements. A cistern must hold a minimum of 2500 gallons, however, this should be sized based upon the exact design requirements and what systems are in use. For a Wildland system alone, a minimum of 20,000 gallons (or more) may be needed since there may be a point where you’ll turn on the sprinklers and evacuate the property. Foam and gel systems that cover the home are now on the market and use minimal water, but are expensive though. There are no drawbacks to having massive amounts of water in reserve on the property, as it can be used for domestic use once filtered.
- Energy: First, any electrical system running the water/foam pumps must be run off a dedicated generator system, and located away from the home with buried lines, even if the property is on the grid. Why? Electrical power will be compromised during a fire. The tanks should be buried and the generator located in a small fireproof, concrete shed if possible. If the pumps don’t have electricity, you’re out of luck.
- Wildland Firefighting: Of all the fire threats, this is one of the scariest. A house fire is preventable and can be minimized and stopped if caught early. A wildland fire is very dangerous, unpredictable, and very hard to fight, as they can grow in size exponentially and require hundreds or thousands of firefighters depending upon the terrain and weather. Choosing a location that is not susceptible to large wild fires is a good choice when looking for a locale. One tactic is to have either preset (buried) sprinklers, or the ability to deploy them around the defensible space on the property, as well as lines that spray the home. Having a steel roof will help immensely, and any retreat should be upgraded as soon as possible after purchase.
- Structural: Many structural fires in rural areas are caused by carelessness with wood stoves or cooking stoves and that the owner panicked and fled, instead of using tools to fight the fire such as a fire extinguisher or a fire resistant blanket. For about $100.00 you can save your home. More importantly, having several pre-connected interior fire hoses (similar to what you see in high rises and hotels) are a great way to fight a fire in a tactical situation, or when you know that the volunteer department is not close by. Remember that a fire can double in size every two minutes, so time is of the essence.
- Tactical: There may be a possibility of utilizing the Wildland sprinklers prepositioned around the property to confuse and delay an attacker, and the internal systems to stop a fire caused by such threat.
- Safe Room Storage: All of your preps MUST be stored in a fireproof, concrete, reinforced room. Call it a safe room, bunker, shelter, the name does not matter but it must prevent theft and fire at a minimum.
Vacant Land or Home?
Everyone has a different idea of what constitutes the perfect property. The most important advice for this part of the search is to remember that the land can really never be changed. Sure, a bulldozer, an excavator, and other heavy equipment can do wonders to a property, but you can’t buy a year-round stream at Home Depot.
The land must meet your criteria, since it will dictate how self-sufficient your property will ultimately become. For many, money is a limit and the budget is fairly low. The best advice is to find the best land in your price range, period. Don’t overbuy and put yourself in a position where the land robs you of the capital that otherwise would have been used to make improvements and bring it to its highest and best use, Prepper style of course.
For those that have the capital and skill sets to build the retreat of their dreams, great, then the land will surely win. But for those that must purchase a home the search instantly becomes harder.
We have all seen the perfect home, sitting in the worst location on land that was nowhere near close to qualifying as a sustainable property. Yes, the home is very important, but one day you’ll wake up and regret that beautiful home if the property as a whole won’t sustain you and your family or group.
What to look for in your future Safe Haven
Now that the locale has been identified and you’ve decided on vacant land or a rural homestead, next comes the fun part: the criteria that will provide you the ability to become self-sufficient before, during, and after the collapse. First, all property should have good sun exposure, hopefully Southern. Then we can work on the big four.
Property Attributes and Criteria
There are four distinct and primary property aspects that must be considered which all work towards the goal of becoming self-sufficient;
Abundant year round water + Alternative Energy + Sustainable Food Production = a property worth Defending.
It’s that simple.
This attribute, like oxygen to live, must be number one, every time. Secondary water is most critical and should be sought after. Not everyone will end up with this attribute. But keeping it on the top of the list, no matter the budget, is paramount.
Most rural properties will have either drilled water well or a hand dug well with a cistern. A few will utilize surface water such as a creek/stream/brook and sometimes spring-fed ponds or lakes for the domestic water source.
Hydro Power: If you find a property in your price range that has the ability to install hydroelectric power, and it meets all the other criteria on the list, BUY IT. Hydropower is the most sought after power source for most Preppers. Although it generates less power each hour, it creates this power 24 hours a day. Plus, you may be able to divert part of the penstock water flow for a gravity fed system for the home and use the tailwater from the hydro system to feed a stocked pond.
Surface Water vs Well Water: Gravity fed spring or diverted stream water into a cistern storage tank is perfect if your budget is constrained. It’s better to have a year round surface water source (in an area of deep wells) as you can save cash for building the home or safe storage facility by simply hauling and filtering the water (never haul water from off site); even integrate it into an Earthship or other alternative building style along with rain catchment.
Wells: A shallow well (under 400 feet is best) that produces over 2-3 gallons per minute will be sufficient for almost all retreats (with sufficient cistern storage tanks). An artesian flowing well is very sought after and should be highly coveted if found.
Community Systems: Although much less acceptable, some properties have a small community water system fed from large producing wells nearby. These are done primarily due to the local well depths, sometimes 700 to over 1000 feet deep, and at cost over $30 per foot, it’s sometimes cheaper to hook up to the local private water district. It’s ok to buy these properties if you plan to drill a well at some point, or have secondary year-round water. Even a large pond filled with seasonal runoff would work if done properly for emergency water and firefighting, coupled with rain catchment for very conservative homes or retreats.
No matter how spectacular the property, make sure there is some type of primary water available. Most vacant land will not have a well drilled by the seller, so be sure to check neighboring parcels for the depths of those completed wells and speak with the neighbors and a local driller before completing the purchase. This information will at least give an idea of what to expect.
After your property is purchased and you have ensured a year round water source has been completed, the power must go on. Many Preppers they narrow the property search right away to only off-the-grid type properties. This is a mistake. Very few buyers
find a fully functioning and ready-to-go retreat. Why? Because, alternative energy is not and will not be very popular with the mainstream crowd for some time due to lack of education about the viability of the systems.
Today the advances in technology and manufacturing of Solar Cells, Nickel Iron Batteries, and upgraded charge control equipment have brought the prices down considerably to the point that it’s economically feasible to be completely off the power grid, which is the point of being a Prepper, right? Does it really matter what the pay back time is on an alternative energy system is when the lights permanently go out?
Most retreats will have Solar power with some sort of generator backup source (gas, diesel, propane) and on rare occasions will have hydropower. No matter the power source, the batteries will be the heart and soul of the system. Most folks will use a lead acid battery that is susceptible to discharge issues and freezing, and they last between 8 and 20 years.
The best batteries by far were invented by Edison over a century ago and are made of Nickel-Iron. They last upwards of 30 years or 11,000 cycles.They are the heart of any off the grid system, be it wind, solar or hydropower. You’ll need a battery that will hold up against abuse and last as long as possible in order to run your retreat to its’ fullest potential and help loved ones and produce goods for barter at the locale market.
The best US-made batteries are from Iron Edison. Be sure to check them out. They are well worth the extra soon-to-be-worthless-fiat-currency.
In many retreat areas in the world, other than the tropical regions, year round food production can be a real threat to the life of a Prepper. During a major TEOTWAWKI event, fresh meat from wild animals will quickly become scarce for several years. Combined with the lack of live enzymes from nutrient-dense fresh garden foods, it will only increase the death toll from sickness that could have been prevented or cured by healthy immune systems.
This leads us to the next task: how to grow this fresh food in the winter? For those able to bring alternative power to the retreat, growing food is as easy as pie. Construction of a standard or walipini-style greenhouse heated by either a wood stove, wood-fired boiler, or a rocket mass stove is best. Then, simply use LED grow lights and you’re off and running. In addition, the property should meet your own specific needs relating to animal production, from grazing pasture to ponds stocked with fish. The sky is the limit.
One last note of sustainable food production: a rural homestead, up and running, with food production already in place when the crash happens will be a valuable asset. Arriving at a sealed bug out property with only dehydrated food and a properly stored seed bank will be a major task to get up and running.
It could be up to three months to the first harvest. If it’s winter, the greenhouse will need to be constructed or taken out of mothballs, so to speak, and the seeds started, while trying to maintain proper heat either in the greenhouse, home, or bunker, and provide the light needed. This is no small task. Even for those of us that grow year round it’s a challenge.
Now that we have a property with abundant Water, alternative Energy creation, and sustainable Food production we can talk about defending the assets you have in place. There is no way to cover actual defensive plans as they are specific to the actual property location. But we’ll cover a few areas that most overlook. It’s not all about guns and ammo, it’s more about food and billeting.
First though, understanding what it takes to really defend a property all comes down to one nasty aspect: the willingness of the defender to take another human life. There is no need to push out our chests and spew macho talk. We all agree that protecting our family is what we are called to do and we plan to do it, hence our genre of Prepping. However, if you’ve never seen combat or been involved in a life threatening situation that resulted in the loss of life to someone, in front of your eyes, then seek out somebody that has. We should seek out those with knowledge in areas we lack to help us prepare, and this is an important way to learn. No amount of preparation can teach you the ‘gravity of the moment’ when you’re looking at a threat through a rifle optic with your finger on the trigger, but it may help.
Moving on, what to expect once you make it to the retreat and everyone is settled in may be different than you think. Here are a few thoughts and tips on overall defense of the property.
- OP/LP posts must be manned 24 hours a day. Don’t forget about tactical communication.
- Manned posts will take more retreat members to cover the property 24/7. Make friends with neighbors and have a mini-local plan w/ them.
- You must feed these members, whether they are original retreat members or they were hired on after the collapse. Therefore, over-build your food production systems.
- Store, pre-build, or retrofit for extra billeting such as:
- GP Tents or Yurts
- Extra rooms in the retreat
- Personal shelters w/ appropriate weather sleeping gear
- Sanitation: privy and/or larger septic system
- Group Standard Equipment (thanks to JWR)
- Buy or require members to have standard camouflage patterns on clothes and gear and identifying markers (day and night)
- Weapons that take the same Caliber and Magazines
- Night vision and Thermal devices
- Medical – Initial Ballistic Trauma kits (Quik Clot, et ceterta)
- Caffeine (Don’t forget to store and rotate coffee beans, or buy them in bulk as the hordes empty the shelves. You’ll need them!)
When searching for the right parcel of land or rural homestead, if you put the defensibility factor first it is unlikely the property will be self-sufficient. Living on the top of a mountain in a fire lookout sounds really cool and defensible, and it surely is, but the year-round stream for hydro power and secondary water is not going to appear out of the air and the rocky terrain will not grow your food, so choose wisely.
Simply remember that a property with water, alternative energy, and food production is worthy of defending. Talk to any combat veteran and they’ll tell you that almost any specific area or property can be defended. It’s just a matter of personnel and equipment, and at what cost.
As a retreat owner, this equates to: Do you have enough friends now, or can you make enough friends in the locale, and can you feed and billet them all? A very simplistic task on paper, but a logistical nightmare to implement in real time.
After your purchase and getting to know the property enough to where you can walk it in the dark, you’ll then be in a position to really sit down and think through a realistic plan of engagement for defensive operations. If you can afford it and the property is big enough, seek professional help from those with actual combat experience to help you design your defensive plans.
Safe Storage of Supplies
Finally, the property or home must have options for secure storage of supplies. Otherwise, what’s the point in bugging out to a great retreat with nothing left after a theft or fire? It’s not imperative to have the best soil for building basements. However, it certainly costs much less to make improvements without boulders of granite (though that can be done).
I’m a proponent of having two separate storage facilities, one underground, built to be fire, flood, and theft proof, outside the home along with a safe room(s) in the home for easy access. Joel Skousen is a master of this area and has written a fantastic book called the Secure Home, and should be consulted whenever ready to make such improvements.
It’s time to get you and your family into ‘Position’ to survive. Stay within your financial means to find, secure, and stock a rural homestead or bug out property that is within reach of your current location based upon a realistic capability to reach that point in a worst-case scenario.
Owning a survival property is an attainable goal to strive for so work hard, think, and act decisively so your family will survive the coming collapse.
Please contact American Redoubt Realty, Inc. for all your real estate needs and be sure to watch the infamous video about Sanctuary Cities at SHTFProperties.com