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Monday, February 21, 2022

What you need to know about scavenging after a long-term SHTF event

Most preppers realize that should the day come where we experience a long-term, grid- down, SHTF scenario, at some point we may have to scavenge to find much needed supplies. No matter how large and plentiful our stock pile is, at some point we will need something we don’t have.

Maybe something important has broke, and you need to find a replacement or parts to fix it. It could be that you ran out of something faster than you anticipated. Either way, finding supplies is something you may have to do should the world as we know it comes to an end.

Let me start out by saying that looting is NOT scavenging. Watching people carry off things like TVs, jewelry, and multiple boxes of shoes during riots, hurricanes, etc. is flat out stealing! That is criminals taking advantage of a bad situation. They were not taking items needed simply to survive but instead taking things for personal gratification. The owners of the stolen property will certainly miss what was taken. Again, this is NOT scavenging!

Scavenging, during a prolonged grid down event is completely different. This is taking items simply for survival. The previous owners are most likely long gone, and the items scavenged will not be missed.

To put scavenging vs looting simply, to me looting (stealing) is taking things for your personal gain and to improve your financial situation. Scavenging is taking things to improve your chances of survival and remaining alive.

Next, I will NEVER advocate robbing someone outright, no matter the circumstances. And while I believe that stealing is stealing regardless of the situation, I do think that in a TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It) scenario, morality could become greyed and even blurred. You may have to make a judgement call at that time. You may have to make some hard decisions, and it something you should think about ahead of time.

Anyway, prepping for a time where you might have to scavenge to stay alive may be a good idea. I’d start with working up plans ahead of time. This would include having maps of your area, and places that may have needed supplies already marked and noted. You should also consider getting some tools and equipment that can help you as well.

Should that day come, and you find yourself having to venture out into a chaotic, post SHTF world, here are some things to consider to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your group when it comes to scavenging.

Have a Plan

As always, you should first come up with your plans before setting off. What specific items are you looking for? Do you need lumber to reinforce buildings? Do you need fuel? Maybe tires and other material to build barricades? Specific medical supplies? Figure out ahead of time what you need and why you need it. Are these items vital to your survival? Is it worth the risk?

Next, what places offer the best chance at finding those items? Have you mapped these areas out ahead of time? Do you know if these places are still intact? What chance is there that there are still supplies there?

Do you have the means and ability to arrive at these places as quickly, quietly, and as safely as possible? Vehicles allow fast movement and may offer some protection, but they are noisy and could attract unwanted attention. Roads could be congested with stalled vehicles, debris, etc or even impassable at some places. Can you carry or transport the items you collect back home if your vehicle becomes disabled or is no longer an option?

Do you have the ability to transport the items you find safely and securely back to your home-base? Can you safely store the items when transporting them back? Do you have the tools and equipment needed to help you get these items?

Are there other factors to account for? Things such as environmental hazards to be aware of? Maybe other groups of survivors are in the same areas? Are there several different routes to the locations that you could use? Try to plan for as many possibilities as you can.

In “A” happens, we are doing this. If “B” happens, we are moving here. Make these plans as a group. That way everyone has input, and everyone will be clear on what they need to do in case of an on-site emergency. While you cannot plan for ever single scenario, having contingency plans already in place increases your chances of survival.

Be sure to scout out not just the areas you wish to search, but also the routes to and from. Aside from looking for active threats and dangers, some of the others things to take note of include:

  • obstacles that could block or slow you down getting to your area ie roads blocked or impassable, fences and barbwire, walls, ditches, damaged bridges, etc
  • obstacles that could impede your ability to carry out and/or load the supplies you find
  • condition of the area/building(s) you will search. Weakened/damaged buildings run the risk of things like the roof collapsing, damaged staircases could fall, dust or dangerous particles in the air, etc
  • signs that the area is occupied, be it other survivors or even wild animals. A pack of starving dogs can be just as dangerous as a pack of marauders
  • potential weather issues. For more on weather forecasting after SHTF, click here

Be sure to scout these areas ahead of time for more than just a few minutes. In truly dangerous times when there is no rule of law, keeping watch on target areas for hours (at a minimum) is a safe and cautious move. Once you feel it is safe to do so, then go in and find the supplies you need. I’d also keep a scout/look out in the area to warn of any potential dangers that might enter your vicinity.

Implement your Plans

Hopefully, you are not having to make your run solo.  Having two or more capable people make your scavenging run should be an absolute must. In addition to a scout, having at least 1 other person with you ensures:

  • you have help to lift, move, uncover, and carry any heavy or bulky items
  • someone to assist should you get an injury
  • extra sets of eyes and ears to help you sense danger
  • can cover more area and search for more items

Once you have your plan mapped out, make sure you have the right equipment. I would recommend coming up with a tool kit bag, or “scavenger” bag. In this bag, you might want to include things like bolt and wire cutters, binoculars, lock picking sets, gas siphon pump (this one is $12 and very simple to use), bags or other ways of holding and transporting items, saws, containers to carry fluids, rope or cordage, etc. This list is by no means complete, but hopefully it gives you an idea of items you might want to get now while you can.

With multiple people in your scavenging group, I would give out assignments/responsibilities before you leave. Maybe you and one person will handle heavy items, while person #3 will look for hand tools, food, etc. Person #4 is the scout/lookout. Try to give assignments based upon the team members’ experience, strengths and weaknesses, and areas of expertise. A medic for example, should be the one who looks for medical supplies, etc.

If there are multiple locations you want to search, I would generally recommend starting with the furthermost area, and working your way back toward your home-base. But situations can change and you will have to remain flexible. Maybe you want to prioritize where you go first based upon the importance of the items you need. Or hit areas first that you are already familiar with.

Either way, make these determinations ahead of time before you leave. Make sure everyone going on the run with you knows the plans, their responsibilities, and what contingency plans you will use should things go sideways.

Places to search

Certain places, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, will have most likely been picked clean. And if not, they in my opinion, are extremely dangerous places to be. I would typically avoid places like these. (Click here to read more about places to avoid.) Instead, I would concentrate on places such as:

  1. Schools – most schools have cafeterias that may have food and cooking supplies. You can also find items like books, tools, first aid kits, fire extinguishers, excess clothing, cleaning supplies, batteries, etc
  2. Libraries/book stores – a wealth of information can be found in books at a local library or book store, information that could keep you alive. There might also be cleaning supplies, tools, etc
  3. Construction sites – a great place to start when looking for building materials and tools. There could also be things like fuel, water, etc.
  4. Parking areas with large numbers of vehicles – in addition to any fuel you can siphon and equipment you find in the car, the car parts (and even the cars themselves) could be very handy
  5. Airports/marinas – the major ones will have things like restaurants, first aid stations, fishing gear, fuel, clothing, etc. Boats will have emergency supplies on them. Airport terminals will have loads of clothing. Don’t forget these places will have a parking lot full of vehicles
  6. Self Storage units – a great place to look for various clothing, equipment, tools, etc
  7. Fire stations – everyone thinks about hitting the police stations for protective gear/firearms, etc. But fire stations will have things like first aid equipment, potentially hundreds of gallons of water (which will have to be purified), axes, and other life saving gear, etc
  8. Churches – many churches have kitchens and collect food for food drives. Churches might also have clothing, cleaning supplies, etc

Scavenging is something that I have started to prep for. It represents a potentially lucrative opportunity, but one that could easily be fraught with danger. You and your group will have to weigh the costs vs the rewards of scavenging. Is the potential hazards worth the items you hope to find? Will those items still even be there?

This is something you will have to think about should that unfortunate day occur. But having the plans and gear ahead of time will ensure that those decisions are a lot easier to make should that time ever come.

Are there other scavenging hints and tips that might be overlooked or not listed here? Let us know in the comments below.

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