It does not matter if you live in the city, suburbs, or completely out in the country, you are your first responder.
Just because you are in a nice comfortable town does not mean that resources can reach you in time to be of major help. In the event of SHTF, resources are going to be tied up with those that have more severe problems. You may also be unable to get help because someone that has more money or power than you need that help too. If something serious goes down, you may be absolutely on your own for an indefinite period. Another danger is that even when you do get care, it may not be at the same level you would expect from a licensed doctor.
Consider that as medications and other supplies become more scarce or nonexistent something that should be treated with antibiotic ointment is instead treated with salty water if any salt is to be had or perhaps a garlic salve. When people don’t have basic medical supplies on hand, then they tend to let things go for longer, so the resulting infection is much harder or even impossible to treat during SHTF.
Have a fantastic medical kit and make sure you replenish and rotate out items. It pretty much costs around $200 for a basic Urgent Care Visit where I live. That includes some treatment for something minor like an allergic reaction or flu. I can get a lot of medical supplies for that, so if it is something Matt and I can treat at home, we do.
Home Invasions and Robberies
Disturbingly the frequency of home invasions and robberies is something that seems to be happening more often. Actual home invasions are fairly rare. What is more likely is a few thieves thinking a home is empty when it is not. People in my region tend to be well armed, so it is often someone that is very desperate often due to a substance abuse issue. So this means that you always have to consider that the person breaking into your home may not be even the least bit in their right mind. That is a scary thing. I think everyone should consider what to do in the event of a home invasion. Ideally, you have some security measures in place to prevent anyone from making it past the door.
Alarms, camera systems, good fencing, security lights, and dogs are all good ways to decrease the chance that you have to defend yourself and family against something that is acting less than human. Too many of those reading this have seen what Meth can do. There are plenty of areas where it might already look and feel a little like SHTF due to opioids and meth.
When seconds count, law enforcement and emergency personnel are minutes away.
There have been a lot of violent incidents over the last year. One theme that you have to take notice of is the response time of major agencies. For example, the Parkland school shooting security guard was ridiculed for not doing more to help the kids. I heard plenty of intelligent people wonder why this man fell back and waited for back up. That man did exactly what he was trained to do even though he regrets that choice.
One should consider that a lot of school resource officers are not young police officers. These are guys that are retired or close to retired police officers at best. Not always but often. What is one officer going to be able to do against someone with a rifle and high capacity magazine regardless of their age and shooting ability? The local high school where I live has actually installed a long gun locker so school officials and officers can respond with something more than a handgun and a radio.
Sorry but the reality is that there are procedures in place, and they are not always the most efficient for providing you with the best level of care.
Even if you call law enforcement, unless one happens to be on your block already, you are going to have a wait on your hands, and that means a period of being on your own.
Response times in Rural Areas and Inclement Weather
I know I put up a lot of pictures that portray a very rural place. While it is rural, it is also only 4 miles from the center of town. It feels a lot further because we live up a four-wheel drive only road. While this makes for excellent security, it does mean the response time for the sheriff or medical care is going to be much longer. This is the reality of living in a rural area.
You will be surprised who you can count on for help in hard times and during a true SHTF situation
Friends or neighbors that you think you can rely on may not have the ability or may not want to help you during SHTF. Times can get tough so that it is everyone for themselves in a way. There is a point when every group or individual has to think about themselves and those closest to them and everyone else after that. You take care of your own first is a rule that becomes even more relevant during a SHTF event.
Dealing with the situation during the wait for help
If someone attacks you or is at your place to cause harm you need to be able to do something. If you call the cops, you have some time to wait. If the person doesn’t know you are there, then there are some options to consider like getting away or escalating the situation with a threat of violence.
Here is where you need to look up the laws regarding how intruders can be treated in your state. At the point someone comes through my door without permission in NC, I can by law shoot them although it is helpful to be able to prove the person was there to cause harm. Know how much you are allowed to do before you respond. Of course, if you are attacked, fight like nothing else in the world matters because at that moment nothing does. If someone is that serious then all bets are off as to how far they are willing to take it.
This means having a weapon and knowing how to use it as well as knowing a few self-defense moves. The less strong you are, the more you will need to rely on equalizers like firearms, knives, pepper sprays and weapons, tasers, etc. Reaction time is significant. You have more time with some weapons than others, but you may need to be ready to act fast if danger is imminent.
You need to be the first responder for your animals and livestock too. Vet care is hard and expensive to get at odd hours or for larger animals.
Animals and livestock are another areas where you are going to need to be your help a lot of the time. I find that a lot of veterinary care incidents happen when the vet is not in the office because it is evening, night, or on a Saturday or Sunday. The vet ER hospital is 30 min away. That is not good enough for somethings.
We keep a vet kit with antibiotics, wound dressing, and blood stop powder. We also have a surgery kit and sutures so we could stop some major bleeding if we had to. Thankfully we have not had to use the supplies that often but it is good to know they are there. With livestock, it is even more of an issue being your help because getting someone out to look at a large animal is expensive or impossible at times. Dogs and cats and other pets are easier to transport and some vet offices don’t even offer considerable animal care.
It is very stressful at times being the person or people that have to take care of everything in a place.
During true SHTF situations, you will be forced to do a lot of things that you might have never thought you would have to do. Getting used to being in charge and taking responsibility for your entire life is a habit that is better to get used to now than be thrown into it later. Next time you need something done why not try to do it yourself?
Teach your family to backup to each other
If you have a family, then they need to be taught how to respond in the event of emergencies or unforeseen circumstances. It seems that a lot of families may have 1-2 family members that are on board regarding preparedness. I think kids and teens roles are often overlooked. There are ways to make preparedness fun. Paintball is a perfect example of something that helps teach tactics and self-defense.
Building a small fire in the backyard occasionally and learning different fire starting methods is another fun one. The point is that if you got more people in a survival situation and you can manage to work together in some slight way, then you can survive more easily.
You have to be smart in deciding who to trust with your family, preps, and life. I honestly think that this is one of the fears of so many if SHTF is that they have no one that they can trust. People are very divided.
How far away is help truly?
Do you know what the average response time is to any type of emergency or medical call where you live? You may be surprised, and you will find that it varies a lot depending on what else is going on. In some areas, people report that law enforcement and ambulances even during good times are so overwhelmed that they ignore some calls they determine are not a priority.
Cold weather and blizzards happen, but they can be deadly or at least very hard on people that do not have a good plan and preps for staying warm.
What are you going to do when there is a blizzard, and you need to take care of you and yours? Emergency response times are terrible in inclement weather because so many people are in need of assistance if it is a major weather event.
You need to be prepared to deal with issues like providing heat for your home during cold weather or having enough supplies to deal with not leaving your home for a week. I regularly do not leave my property for a week. All of my work is here. The vineyard, forest, and writing keep me busy.
Being your first responder means living a close to the home lifestyle
I took one vacation opportunity in a decade. It was the first one since we started building our house and the only one besides a few days spent in Hot Springs, NC after we got married since everyone seemed to insist we needed to do something besides going to the courthouse. Well, that single vacation cost me my vineyard getting trampled and eaten by a bull, my neighbor taking my cattle, dealing with law enforcement to get them back, and so on.
My point is that as paranoid as it sounds if you are not there to watch over things then you either need someone there or you need to accept the risk of disaster. During SHTF you will want someone always to be there watching an guarding.
Learning to deal with staying at home now will make it easier during an SHTF situation. Too many people think they need to go out when there is civil unrest. I have heard plenty of people say they cannot live in a rural area because of the interaction they need with others. Learn to deal with isolation now, and you will be doing yourself a big favor when there is a long emergency or SHTF.
As your first responder, learn to pick your battles. Try to do things now that minimize the chances of having to take more drastic means later on.
Good perimeter security is essential. While a fence is not going to stop everyone, it does slow them down, and in the case of some people, it may completely stop them. A lot of people are simply not in a physical condition that they can catapult themselves over a fence. If that fence is fortified with a layer of barbed wire on top, it is even more formidable. That means you are less likely to be the person in front in case of someone wondering in. People do wander into your property sometimes unless you have an actual physical fence. A few strands of barbed wire are not enough, they will simply hop over, especially if they have an idea that you have something that they want.
Here are some posts at Backdoor Survival that can help you plan out your perimeter security. It can take some time, especially if you have a larger yard or property. Remember that a good fence can provide many years of perimeter protection, and if you ever decide to sell your property, a fence can add a bit to the value.
Hungry bellies are no good. Of course, during a true SHTF emergency, there is a good chance it is going to happen sometimes. Keeping a stash of food is important because then you do not have to risk contact with outsiders or in the city for a more extended period. If in the city you can hold out a lot longer if you have supplies, especially rations that you can eat with little to no cooking involved. You might have to be on the move a lot.
Have a get home plan for everyone in your family,
I think any child should know some basic navigation of their area. I realize that very young children may know nothing besides their street or similar, but it is still something. GPS is great but will not always be there for you. People need real navigation skills. Have a compass and some hard copies of maps of your region. Get out and explore! Knowing your way better than the next person could save your life during SHTF.
Realize that you have your limits as a first responder
There is only so much help even a very well stocked and prepared individual can do for a person that is seriously injured. In a SHTF situation one simply has to do the best they can with whatever they can get their hands on. There may be times that despite your best attempts, someone’s condition may deteriorate or you may even lose someone you have tried to help. It really will just depend on the circumstances at the time how much help you can get when it comes to medical treatment.
Leading a healthy lifestyle is not always easy, but it is one thing you can do to make sure you are physically and mentally ready to be your own first responder.
One of the best things you can do now is to try to lead as healthy a lifestyle as you can while putting back some preps. I am not here to judge or condone different diets, but it is important to attempt to maintain a healthy weight and get some exercise in 3 times or more per week.
I think that lack of physical fitness and obesity is going to play a major role in who survives and who does not during SHTF. A lot of people don’t want to hear that, but I am not here and writing about survival to tell you what you want to hear, my job is to help you think and plan how to survive regardless of how terrible the truth can sound or how it makes you think about me. I want you to survive even if the process means you find you don’t like me that much. Harsh but true.
I know that some are disabled and have a hard time with mobility but that doesn’t mean you cannot do some things to make it easier like manage your diet. If my disabled and legally blind Dad can do it so can you.
Maintaining your health means you are more ready for any hardships that might come. I know it is not easy. It takes an effort to change eating habits, but there are a lot more food options out there than there once were so it is not so bad.
I gave up a lot of different foods, but I still have to make myself get adequate exercise during the dreary parts of winter. In fact, I am taking note now of how I have somewhat put myself inside for those winter tasks and not been out in the great outdoors more. Old habits from a colder climate die hard sometimes.
The photo on the left is me at 23 living in an apartment and working an office job in Ketchikan, AK. On the right is me now at 35, after 10 years of homesteading. I show this because I want you to realize I have been there regarding being out of shape. I was nearly 30 lbs heavier and had no muscle to speak of. I thought I would collapse walking up the hill to where we had property when I was in my 20s. That girl on the left would not have been a great first responder!
I find myself denning up for the winter and dedicating myself to the things I have neglected more through the spring and summer when the vineyard work takes over our lives and there becomes these distinct zones of forest vineyard, pasture, and home.
There is a lot to do around here, and we are forever learning what is best. I think we are getting there with the sheep and the grapes, but like anything worth doing we have a long road to go down. I am glad we were able to get started at the age we did.
Perhaps if we can keep this up we may one day be able to have our winery and fulfill some goals, but I can say for sure that we are never going to able to stop being our own first responder and looking out for each other. Outside help is not guaranteed at any time.
Have you experienced first hand how important it is to be ready to take care of things on your own? Have you been in a situation where help was late in coming or simply didn’t arrive?
Samantha Biggers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.