Where is the safest place to live in the U.S.? And how does one prep for catastrophic events? Of course, there isn’t a universally accepted answer to these questions, but there definitely is a lengthy list of unsafe places to live, and there definitely is some practical preparation one should do to be prepared for whatever may come in the future. That’s simply common sense and wisdom in practice.
But we also need to ask, “what can I do that is practical and not extreme?” In this article, I’ll give you my answers to these questions, backed up by common sense and the experience of having grown up living off the land in remote Alaska without electricity, plumbing, or modern conveniences, and living much of my adult life in concrete jungles. For the last 28 years I have lived in rural America.
I’ve written elsewhere on this blog about how I came to conclude 28 years ago that rural America and the Olympic Peninsula in particular is one of the safest places to live and raise a family. I won’t rewrite that article here, but briefly, there are a handful of reasons. I wanted a place where I could raise my own children where crime was extremely low, where the school system was still devoted to education, where traditional family values were still alive, and where we could live a wonderful life.
I also wanted to be far outside the chaos and crime that will certainly ensue in the busy metropolitan areas if a major catastrophic event occurs. How would I define catastrophic event?
I define a catastrophic event as any event that creates extreme hardship immediately as the result of a natural disaster (earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc.), a war (nuclear, conventional, cyberwar, EMP, viral bioweapon), an economic crash, a political crisis that shuts the country down, a massive power grid failure (which could be an EMP or the result of a natural disaster or terrorism), or a shortage of the food supply because of lack or supply or distribution failures.
It doesn’t take much imagination to comprehend what will happen in a major city if freeway on-ramps and off-ramps are collapsed, there is no exit from the city, all transportation systems are down, communication systems are down, and the power is out. There will be no gas stations open, but you can’t leave the city anyway. The banks would all be closed, and ATM machines would not be working. You probably could not use your cell phone to call your spouse at home, and even if you could, he or she would most likely have no way to come and get you.
You can imagine the hey day criminals would have instantly, knowing they could commit any crimes they wanted to since no police are going to be able to respond, and since very few people have any means of self-defense. Essentially people caught in the cities in such a catastrophic event would be totally helpless and at the mercy of violent criminals.
None of this is conspiratorial or crazy talk. This is simple logic and a catastrophic event would lead to these results, depending upon the severity of the event. Change the consequences slightly for the severity of the event, and you still have a nightmare of epic proportions. Is it any wonder that I would choose to live in rural America where the safety factor jumps by an order of magnitude!
Lest someone think I’m paranoid or an extreme prepper, think again. I’m neither. I lose no sleep whatsoever on the subject of catastrophic events. I have zero anxiety about the future, what Putin and Biden are going to do, or whether Jamie Diamond is right about a market crash. I live a wonderful life full of peace and contentment. I fear nothing and no one. Of course, I should admit that I am also a genuine Christian, so my relationship with God brings me peace even in times of uncertainty. And we’re definitely living in times of uncertainty!
Nevertheless, is it not wise to do some basic preparation? As my mother taught me when I was a teenager, “It’s better to be safe than sorry,” and surely it’s better to be prepared for emergencies rather than be caught unprepared in a horrendous disaster.
So what have I done, and what would I recommend in terms of practical and affordable preparation for whatever may come in the future? I’ve already covered the importance of living in a location that is not at grave risk for chaos and violent crime and starvation. May I also point out the obvious: city living rarely facilitates or allows gardens and farm animals for growing and raising your own food. This is why running out of food quickly in cities is inevitable, and why criminals will be stealing food and water as they go from door to door in the cities.
Now let’s get to the basic list of items that I recommend wherever you live. In a general order of life sustaining priorities, here’s my list:
- Plenty of bottled water, a Berkey water filter system (possibly the best), and for those of us in rural areas–a private well with a water storage tank.
- Food stored at home that will last at a minimum 3 months, but even better would be 6 months to a year. Most of this food should be dry storage or canned, because if the power grid goes down, your freezer food will thaw and go bad. A huge advantage will go to those who have been canning food and have shelves full, and to those who have a food dehydrator (or freeze dryer) and have been preparing greens and other vegetables and fruits.
- Communications are definitely a priority in any catastrophic event. You will need to communicate with family immediately, and you’ll need to be able to find out what happened and how widespread the event is. We must realize that it is possible that the Internet will be out, and even cell phone service may be out. The question then is, “what communication tools do you have to communicate with your family and loved ones?” Consider a satellite device, like the affordable SpotX, which allows emergency text messages (not audible) using a satellite system. You might also want to consider a mobile ham radio. You can listen to Ham radios without being licensed, but talking to someone on a ham radio requires licensing with the FCC, unless we are in an emergency, in which case you can communicate without FAA licensing on your mobile ham radio. You might also consider a small Faraday bag for your cell phone and laptop, which will protect them from EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) events. There are some claims that the latest smartphones are already protected, but there’s no way to test them without possibly destroying them.
- Heat in cold climates and air conditioning in hot climates requires a plan to manage your survival temperatures in your home. This is where location again comes into play. Where I live in Sequim, Washington, we do not have extreme temperatures either way, so we can literally live without any air conditioning and we can live without electricity for heat since we only need a moderate level of heat for about three months of the year. Heat can be supplied with a simple wood stove. Year round temperatures range most of the time between 50 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Not to harp on living in a good location too much, but our local utility company just announced a reduction in our electricity rates because the Northwest has so much hydro-electric power, and we have no shortage of water and no draught. In many parts of the U.S. people are getting hit with massive increases in the monthly electric bill. If you live in a climate that gets incredibly cold or incredibly hot, you have to figure out a plan to survive those temperatures if the electric rates skyrocket too high to manage, or if we don’t have electricity. The news is full of reports forecasting the deaths of many people in Europe this winter because they won’t have the electricity or gas they need. Let’s hope that does not happen.
- Self defense tools will be a priority in a catastrophic event. I understand our American culture has created an aversion to using self defense weapons, like guns, but if you cannot defend yourself, your spouse, and your children, you will be helpless if they are harmed. The right gun and sufficient ammunition will be critical, and you will have to know how to use it. Do not make the mistake of thinking a stun gun or pepper spray will be enough. Criminals will come in groups of 2 to 4, and they don’t run from non-threatening weapons. You can choose to not own a gun, and that’s a choice you get to make in America, but if that is your decision, you need to acknowledge to yourself that you will have no means of defending yourself or your family from violent criminals. Do not be naive on this topic. I grew up hunting with guns in Alaska. We lived off moose, caribou, Dall Sheep, as well as salmon and cod and trout. That’s how we fed our family. I later became an expert marksman in the USAF, and I know how to use a gun for self-defense. I strongly urge you to learn self-defense with the most effective tool.
- Transportation is another priority that you don’t want to ignore if you are to be prepared for closed gas stations. Having some gas stored in cans is a good idea as long as you know how to do that safely. It’s a good idea to keep the gas tank full or nearly full all the time these days. If both of your vehicles are near empty, and the gas stations all close or have no power to pump gas, you’ll be kicking yourself. You can also protect your vehicle with an EMP Shield. A nuclear event may be unlikely, but all war strategists agree that more likely is a cyberwar and/or EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) event. In newer vehicles an EMP will allegedly take out the electronic components so that the vehicle won’t run. It will just die where it is. There’s a company that makes EMP defense units for the U.S. military and civilian uses, and you can find them at EMPShield.com. As you’ll see from their site, they also offer an EMP shield for your electric panel to protect your home.
- It’s a good idea to have some backup systems in place for your home. You can get affordable electric and propane mobile generators. I have one that will operate off both gas and propane. Then having gas stored plus having extra propane tanks full and ready is a great backup system. You can wire you house’s electric panel to switch to the backup generator, which I have done. That way you can control which appliances in the house will be drawing power. Note: a backup generator is not something you would run all day if you are in a power outage. You would only run a backup generator for a short time once or twice a day to pump water from your private well, to heat up water, to cook a meal, to flush the toilets, and maybe to give a freezer a little more time to keep food frozen. Even then, freezers are not something you can keep going for days on end. That’s why most of your stored food must be dry or in cans. A freezer’s primary purpose is not to provide food if there is a power grid failure, but to provide some food when there’s a food shortage. In a major power outage that lasts for an unknown time period, the freezer will be unplugged after a few days.
- Another great backup for running low wattage items or charging a device are battery backups. These are not cheap, and many are as much as a gas powered generator, but they are a good idea if you can afford them. You can also get solar panels for some of these battery backups, which means you could have some electricity for the long term if necessary.
- Property security is also important, especially because crime will be one of the biggest threats we face. As of this writing, October 20, 2022, we are not even in a catastrophic event and people are being murdered, shot, stabbed, and car jackings and home break-ins are commonplace in nearly all major cities now. Seattle is no longer safe, but neither is Portland, Chicago, L.A., San Fransisco, New York, and dozens of other cities. I strongly recommend video surveillance cameras around your home. You can buy them incredibly cheap now, and you can monitor them and receive alerts on a smartphone. Let me just save you what took me years of trial and error and thousands of dollars with different systems before I found a system that was reliable and powerful and easy to set up. If you’re inclined, go to ReoLink.com. There’s no other comparable system, I promise. You can hard wire your cameras, which is the best way to go, or you can use wireless cameras, which work better with Reolink than any other I’ve used. The wireless cameras work best for a camera at the end of your driveway or away from the house. By the way, don’t forget to secure your property the best you can. I have my entire property fenced with one long narrow driveway with no other access. And once you’ve installed your video cameras, post signs that say, “This Property Under Video Surveillance.”
- I believe the best first line of defense against criminals who would dare to trespass on your property with the intent to steal your water and food is a good dog. I have a dog that will tell me when anyone is on the property, night or day, and he is big and dangerous. I know a lot of people love their cats, but cats are not security dogs. I recommend a good dog who will warn you before someone kicks in the front door.
- Planning for a financial crisis is beyond the scope of this brief article, but I recommend you do your own research and make timely decisions about where you have your investments and cash, and the risks currently in your portfolio. Wall Street retirement funds, no matter how “diversified,” are at grave risk in a major crash, and banks will close, so you won’t be able to get your cash out. Think this through carefully. If you have no resources to buy or sell in a crash, what will you do?
- And do not forget emergency medical supplies. A large kit would be better than the little kindergarten kits you can buy at Walmart. I’ll add the obvious here. Hospitals and emergency medical services will not be available in a catastrophic event. You and I will be on our own.
Stock up on meds if you take life sustaining meds. In a catastrophic event, pharmacies will not be able to fill prescriptions. Most pharmacies have limitations on how much you can order, and you probably cannot get more than 2 or 3 months in advance.
- Lastly, create a network of family and/or friends with plans on how you will communicate and support each other in a catastrophic event. Know how you will communicate if your cell phone and Internet are down. If you’re going to use a SpotX or other satellite device or phone, know in advance how you will communicate, and if you’re going to use a mobile ham radio, know what frequency you will communicate on. While this is last on my list of prepping, communicating may be the first and most important thing you do.
I’ve thought long and hard about preparing for a catastrophic event, and I’ve done years of research. I’ve never shared these thoughts before, so I hope this list is helpful. I hope and pray we never see a catastrophic event in our lifetimes, but better safe than sorry, right?
Maybe it’s time to evaluate your location and your preparedness for a catastrophic event.
Last Updated on October 21, 2022 by Chuck Marunde