Is Prepper OPSEC Really Important?

Avatar for Gaye Levy Gaye Levy  |  Updated: December 16, 2020
Is Prepper OPSEC Really Important?

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There is quite a bit of disagreement among preppers relative to the importance of OPSEC.  Do you keep your activities hush hush, even amongst family members?  Or do you blab to the world, hoping you can be joined by others who share similar philosophies and goal?  Or is it something in-between?

In layman’s terms Operations Security or OPSEC means keeping your activities secret so “enemies” can not figure out what you are up to.  Remember the old military term “loose lips, sink ships”?  Something like that.

Whether or not you publicize your prepping activities is a matter of personal preference and most certainly, we are all entitled to formulate a mindset that works best for our own situation.  For many, it is a tough call.  Seriously.  Who wants zombies (thugs and marauders) to come knocking their door if the stuff hits the fan?

OPSEC.

I recently came across a thought-provoking article on the topic of prepper OPSEC.  As I usually do when I find something especially interesting, I contact that author and ask permission to share his or her work with readers at Backdoor Survival.

Today it gives me pleasure to share an article by Jeremy Knauff at the How To Survive It website.  Read it, think about it, and come to your own conclusions.

Why OPSEC is BS

There’s a lot of talk within the prepper community about OPSEC and how it’s critical to your survival.

I think this is largely a matter of semantics.

Some believe that OPSEC means keeping all aspects of your prepper lifestyle a secret. I disagree; in fact, I believe we should all make a focused effort to educate more people about the lifestyle. OPSEC does have its place though; for example I don’t think it’s wise to tell someone where your food is stored, what weapons you own, or how to get to your bug out location, for example.

In my opinion, we should bring more people into the fold, teach them as much as we can, but only limit the sharing of information that could be detrimental to our own preps to a select few trusted individuals. A good analogy would be your finances; you might share information on what you invest in or even how much you have saved, but you would never share your account numbers or login information.

OPSEC, as most people “understand” it, is bullshit.

Your “secrets” aren’t even remotely secret to begin with

Many preppers have this cute notion that by carefully choosing who they share details of their lifestyle with, they are somehow living in the shadows like some sort of black ops ninja. Guess what, sport, you’re not. Even if we don’t take into account the NSA (and every other TLA in America) monitoring your phone calls, emails, and internet usage, you still deal with regular companies who have a shocking amount of data about you. And many of them are selling that data directly to the government anyway.

Every purchase you make is recorded by the merchant and your credit card company. That info is often shared with dozens of other companies and is easily accessed by several thousand employees.

You didn’t tell anyone you’re a prepper? Great, but when the UPS guy throws out his back hauling a few cases of .308 to you’re door, he’ll quickly figure out that you’re not a casual plinker. The same goes for buying surplus food. Just a few days ago I had 35 pounds of dried beans in my cart while grocery shopping, and in less than 15 minutes, was asked by several strangers why I needed so many beans.

Have you ever noticed how ads on websites, even those unrelated to prepping, so often appeal to you? That’s because the companies that serve these ads have special software that determines your interests based on your web browsing history. And your mobile phone is even worse because its built-in GPS relays data back to your provider on everywhere you’ve gone to within a few feet.

You don’t have an encrypted phone, fake passports, or a safe house. You, sir, are not Mitch Rapp.  (If it makes you feel any better, neither am I.)

Before I develop carpal tunnel syndrome from deleting all the hate mail this is bound to generate, I should clarify something; I’m not saying you should post all the details of your prepping on Facebook or anything like that. What I’m saying is that your “secrets” really aren’t all that secret and that you shouldn’t develop a false sense of security.

You can’t survive a long-term disaster alone

You are just one major injury or illness away from becoming incapacitated. It’s great to be Mr. Survivorman (or Mrs. Survivorwoman) who can light a fire in a Typhoon by simply rubbing two sticks together, hunt bear with a sling shot, and build an armored personnel carrier out of empty Dinty Moore stew cans, but what happens when you break your arm or get food poisoning?

The “lone wolf” survival strategy is a myth. You need to be able to depend not only on your immediate family, but also your neighbors. It’s relatively simple to ride out a short-term disaster on your own, but a long-term disaster will require your local community to come together. No one person has the skills to do everything, and some things can’t physically be done without a large number of people.

This means you’ll need to educate your neighbors and learn to work together. It’s kind of tough to do that if you’ve never talked to them about becoming prepared ahead of time. It’s a too late to start teaching survival and prepping skills when the hurricane is already knocking down telephone poles.

You need to show others that they don’t need to rely on the government

Self-reliance requires a lot of individual effort, but to reach our full potential, we need for others to become self-reliant as well. When you show people that instead of food stamps and other government assistance programs, they can grow their own food and/or raise small livestock like chickens or rabbits, it does two things:

1.  It shows people that they really can take care of themselves. Aside from the obvious benefits of producing additional food that isn’t loaded with pesticides, hormones, or antibiotics, this also helps to instill general confidence.

2.  It incrementally takes the power back from the government and returns it to the people where it belongs.

You can talk about self-reliance until you’re blue in the face, but until people see tangible results first hand, they aren’t likely to change what they’re doing.

Privacy disappears during a grid-down scenario

Without Facebook, The Real Housewives, or XBox to keep them occupied, people will have a lot of free time on their hands after a disaster, which often leads to wandering the neighborhood. Some may be harmless sightseers or concerned neighbors, but there will undoubtedly be a few bored or angry folks looking to vandalize or loot. Unfortunately, this could include your home.

A quick peek over your fence and all the effort you put into keeping your garden, livestock, and rainwater collection systems hush-hush will disappear.

There aren’t going to be “roving hoards” to hide from

OK, I know this is a subject that a lot of people in the prepper community get giddy about, like a 14-year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert, but, spoiler alert—there’s a 99% chance that you will never encounter these mythical “roving hoards” who are supposedly coming Mad Max-style to get your goodies. Unless you live in some third world shit hole like Detroit, and even then, probably not.

It’s a simple matter of human nature.

Gangs are territorial by nature. They will stick to the areas they know, maybe even expand their territory by a few blocks, but they aren’t going to go on a road trip to steal your mac and cheese. There are plenty of people in their own neighborhoods they can victimize. If you happen to live in an area with heavy gang activity, you’re pretty much screwed.

People will conserve resources in a time of need; that means they aren’t going to waste valuable gas, food, and water, wandering around hoping to find someone who might have a stockpile of whatever it is they need or want.

Risk vs. reward rules the world. As long as they aren’t high on bath salts, most people are not going to risk getting killed by an unknown opponent with unknown firepower for an unknown payout, especially when they already know who is weak or unarmed in their own neighborhood.

Transparency can be a deterrence

You don’t have to strut around your front yard with an AR-15 on a patrol sling while mowing the lawn to make it clear that you are not a soft target. Simply inviting your neighbors to the range from time to time will show them that you’re equipped and trained to defend yourself and your family.

You don’t have to brag about your skills, what weapons, or how much ammunition you own, and most people won’t even give it a second thought until a disaster strikes, but rest assured that when it does, those subtle trips to the range will serve as a reminder that your home is not a safe target for them.

The Final Word

You are probably wondering where I stand on the issue of OPSEC.  I will answer the best way I can which is to say that for me, spreading the message of preparedness if more important than maintaining a high level of secrecy.  That said, as much as I reveal about myself, where I live, and my various preps, there are pieces of information I hold close and I have hidden caches that no one knows about.

This is a tough issue.  I would like to thank Jeremy for sharing with us and invite you to visit his website or Facebook page where you will find many other well-written and interesting articles.

Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye

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Bargain Bin: Couple being a good neighbor and with strong primary defenses and you have a winning combination. Here are some items to consider as you build up your fortress.

Dorcy LED Wireless Motion Sensor Flood Lite: This light is awesome. I use mine downstairs as well as on my stairway and when I get up in the middle of the night, they come on automatically. They are quite unobtrusive and give off a ton of light.  Runs for a year on 3 D size batteries.

BaoFeng UV-5R  Dual-Band Ham Radio: The Baofeng UV-5R is a compact hand held transceiver providing 4 watts in the frequency range of 136-174 MHz and 400-480 MHz. It is a compact, economical HT that includes a special VHF receive band from 65 – 108 MHz which includes the regular FM broadcast band. Dual watch and dual reception is supported.

Tecsun PL-660 Portable AM/FM/LW/Air Shortwave Radio:  This is a world band receiver with a comprehensive frequency coverage including AM/FM, longwave, shortwave, single side band and the aviation band.  As add-ons, George suggests the Kaito AN-200 Tunable Passive AM Antenna and the Sangean ANT-60 Short Wave Antenna.

Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart: This is a really good book from Joe Nobody – a book you should read if you care about defending your homestead.

Two-Way Radios and Scanners For Dummies: I will say it again. Yes, I love these books for “dummies” even though I actually think I am quite smart.

Midland 36-Mile 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radios: These are the handheld radios that I own. There are lots of good uses for the these radios. Handy while hiking, traveling, or simply keeping in touch with your partner while out shopping. They are waterproof – a quality that I feel is important. Plus, in addition to using the included rechargeable batteries, they can use regular AAs in a pinch.  Note: the true range for this type of radio is actually 4 to 6 miles, regardless of brand.  Don’t be fooled.

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33 Responses to “Is Prepper OPSEC Really Important?”

  1. I enjoyed the article.I thin opsec is worthwhile but i also believe the gov knows whos doing what these days .just reading these websitesis a redflag.lets behonest thewen follows your everymove.you visit gun sitesand prepper blogs they can assume what your up too.if you bought guns legally they have the forms and know what you have.amazon for as muchas i love them keeps close track of what you buy and suggests future items.Dont get me started on google they are the worst of the bunch.bottom line people know im a prepper they also know im not to be messed with either.I have flat out told people when they said” i know where im going if the SHTF”.NOT TO MY HOUSE IF YOU VALUE YOUR LIFE

  2. Ask me no questions and I will tell you no lies, Old saying that is as true today as it was years ago keep your own council. I don’t know gale but with the amount of goodies you profess to have Your bug out bag must be a Greyhound Bus.

  3. Oh what a timely article for us. Hubby and I have been discussing this recently. He has cautioned me several times about discussing things with people, but he is an on-line ordering junkie. LOL

    Sometimes I have to laugh at how he thinks of privacy. I guess he probably thinks our orders of food and water prepping supplies don’t really move us up the “perverbial watch list” all that much. However, I think his recient order of ammo probably changed that.

    • Heather. My brother has gone through background checks and has bought guns from dealers. He got a good buy on ammo for the SKS and AK47. I told him I wanted some and my other brother wanted some. He order 3000 rounds on the internet and they arrived as ordered. A week later 2 US Marshals knocked on his door. It seems the background checks missed him going to jail for drunk and disorderly in 1962 while in the Army. They wanted the ammo back. He had to prove he had dispersed the ammo to his brothers. Go figure. They cant make the obumacare website work, but they knew he was drunk in the Army 53 years ago.

    • wow they wont let you have ammo becuase of an arrest in 62? .I think they would be more worried about the 2 rifles.remind to stay the heck out of KY.

    • Joel? Are you that dufus that lives up in northern Indiana? For one thing, my brother lives in West Virginia. I spook of the 2 rifles to tell what kind of ammo it was. It is also a good idea for you to stay out of Ky, as in Ky, we shoot any Hoosier that tries to come across the bridge. Later Joel. Have you built anything lately?

    • doofus? what is your problem? who do you think you are calling me names?. i dont live in indiana BTW but ill go anywhere i damm well please and your sorry ass wont stop me .do me a fovor dont respond to anymore of my posts

    • OK, but I’ll still shoot you if I catch you trying to get into Ky. Is Dufus spelled with a “u” or two “oo”?

    • He was arrested and sent to jail. He didn’t know at the time, he was put on probation. When he got out of the Army, he left the state without permission. That was the no, no.

  4. I don’t know about you all, but when the guy says, “I don’t think it’s wise to tell someone where your food is stored, what weapons you own, or how to get to your bug out location, for example.”

    Well, to me, that – is – OPSEC.

    His bit about how “Your “secrets” aren’t even remotely secret to begin with” is kind of strange. Does everybody buy stuff with credit cards, and buy beans by the shopping cart, all the while explaining to everyone, why? If so, wow.

    Anyway, I found it odd that his (and he’s not the only one) idea of a roving hoard is either a Mad Max bunch, or the Crips and Bloods gone wild. As if there’s no other possibility?

    I just wish I had his crystal ball which told him, “There aren’t going to be “roving hoards” to hide from”

    Myself, I look at history and current events and say, hmm, displaced refugees have happened before, and roving bands of the unemployed (with nothing better to do than cruise the neighborhoods and bang on car doors while the drivers try to go to work) happened in the modern city of Buenos Aires not too long ago, and in other cities in the world. I imagine it’d be magnified ten fold here if and when SHTF. … But that’s just me.

    I won’t even mention Selco.

    Did you see the recent story about the striking cops in Argentina? Thugs went wild. Store owners tried to defend their shops, but the thugs burned them out and killed them. Which is why people need to get together and re-learn the lessons of The Wild West:

    The Culture of Violence in the American West: Myth versus Reality
    //www.independent.org/publications/tir/article.asp?a=803

    When he says, “People will conserve resources in a time of need; that means they aren’t going to waste valuable gas, food, and water, wandering around hoping to find someone who might have a stockpile of whatever it is they need or want.”

    Is he absolutely sure about that? I seem to recall reading about just the opposite in Argentina. It happened in ways that I can easily see happening here. Especially after seeing ‘the down and out’ walking all around my city today.

    Another lesson I’ve learned from reading about Argentina, if they know you have guns, it’s often not a deterrent, it’s just a clue of whom to rob. There’s lots of stories about that. [Hint: John R. Maybe they’re silent because they see Dollar signs in their eyes? Prolly not tho, you’re prolly right. …Maybe.]

    I hope that doesn’t come off as too critical. I liked the rest of what that guy had to write. And I am glad to read all the perspectives. With luck, SHTF will turn out like a dud firecracker, and we can all get on with our lives and rebuild. …But I don’t feel lucky, and the track record so far suggests otherwise. After-all, we’re surrounded by zombies, and they need brains.

  5. This very well sums up my own feelings on the subject. Will be sending the link to this article to many of my friends and acquaintances. Thank you!

  6. I sure like this Jeremy Knauff guy. We have the same feelings. I’ll never forget the look on the real-estate appraiser’s face when he walked into my food storage room. Priceless. My UPS man has spoken the words, “Damn John. Don’t you have enough bullets?” as he grunted up the steps. I dated one lady (yes a redhead) for a few weeks, and the first time I met her children, it was a fiasco. They had seen to many “Doomsday Preppers” and thought I was one. I know I had been the topic of conversation in her family for sometime. There is a man that gives concealed carry classes about a mile up the road. Saturday afternoon the shooting begins. When I hear the shooting, I go to my backyard range and shoot a 30 round mag from my “almost fully automatic AR15.” When they hear me, that stops their shooting for a minute or two. It also lets other neighbors that eye my greenhouse and critters, know that I will not be a pushover.
    I also agree that the zombies will not venture to far from their kingdom. After the zombies are dead, then the organized gangs may try to venture out a bit, but by then, I hope the survivors in my community have come together.
    Another thing. Ky is in the middle of ice storms and snow today and tonight. I have a few lady friends that I have dated and they know me. I emailed each of them to warn them of the coming storms. Get to the stores and stock up. Each of them stated, “no problems. I am prepared from knowing you”. I got that fuzzy all over feeling.

  7. People know that I am prepared and have supplies. They also know that I am armed and dangerous. No body will get anything unless my body is real cold,

  8. Gaye, OPSEC has it’s place, that I know first hand and it sounds like JR does as well. You really should get to know your neighbors really well before even discussing this with them. And it doesn’t matter if they are family, neighbors, fellow church members, or your best friends. You have to be so very careful.

    WTSHTF they’ll know where to go for food and supplies. And they may not want to ask or negotiate for a trade, either.

  9. Good points, though a bit snarky. While it’s true Uncle Sam and advertisers know more about us than we’d like, the operative word is discretion. Let’s hope most of us are so far under the radar that we’re valueless as targets by anyone.

  10. Yes! Neighbor and I were having a casual conversation yesterday when the impending cold weather came up. I brought up the experience of the brown out that happened years previously and wondered out loud if that would occur again.

    My neighbor told me she wasn’t worried – she knew exactly where to go if food became unavailable to her – my house! I think I need to have a word with my wife. I wonder where the heck she got that information, it certainly wasn’t me.

    • re: The Golden Horde

      Yes people could get desperate, but nobody wants to get shot. Sorry, internet SEALS, but you probably won’t engage in firefights like in the movies. More likely shot at by an unseen assailant.

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