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 is 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?
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.
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
Gaye Levy, also known as the Survival Woman, grew up and attended school in the Greater Seattle area. After spending many years as an executive in the software industry, she started a specialized accounting practice offering contract CFO work to emerging high tech and service industries. She has now abandoned city life and has moved to a serenely beautiful rural area on an island in NW Washington State. She lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle through her website at BackdoorSurvival.com. At Backdoor Survival, Gaye speaks her mind and delivers her message of prepping with optimism and grace, regardless of the uncertain times and mayhem swirling around us.