The Ugliness We Seldom Consider
By C. Watson aka Redhorse_Ronin
How many people have considered the truly ugly details of a critical infrastructure collapse? I was in Gulfport, MS 72 hours after Katrina passed through. I spent two weeks there with my unit helping to secure the area and distribute ice, water, and food to the victims. After coming home for a couple of weeks, I redeployed to New Orleans as a result of Rita’s subsequent passing. I would spent almost a month there in the heart of the city, living in the Convention Center, just a few feet from bio-hazard tapes and rooms where bodies were still being discovered a month after Katrina. I have deployed to numerous 3rd World and 2nd World nations in my career in Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East. I have seen what a lack of infrastructure or a collapsed infrastructure looks like. What I saw in New Orleans, rivaled anything I saw in Honduras, the second poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, or Iraq, a once proud nation broken by decades of wars and economic embargos.
The lack of infrastructure is bad for the people; however, the people who suffer a collapse of their infrastructure fare worse because they are not prepared to lose the stability that their government and utility services provided. Historically, the more advanced an economy is, the worse its collapse will be. The collapse of the Roman Empire left Europe in a centuries long period of anarchy and catholic tyranny known as the Dark Ages. The dysfunction of Africa is directly attributable to the collapse of European colonial administration.
When the collapse of the United States happens, it might be sudden, but probably it will be a more gradual, yet still rapid process. The process can come in many forms that are impossible to predict.
Let us look at a pandemic or EMP like event that results in the loss of electricity on the national scale. We, as preppers, all say that we have plans and have our high speed tactical BOBs with our tricked out BOV’s and intend to hold out against the zombie hordes in our mountain redoubts. However, let’s look at the reality.
First, the die off. In the event of a sudden loss of power, say an EMP or solar flare, then the catastrophic loss of life from airliner crashes, vehicle crashes, and the resulting fires will be staggering and police and fire/EMS services will quickly become overwhelmed. The next couple of days will give the government a reprieve to try to get a handle on the new disaster as people sit in shock at their new reality. As people slowly realize that that they are 2 days into their 2-5 days of food reserves, they will venture out in what few vehicles they can find that work or they will walk. Their first stop will be the ATM to get some cash or they will head to the stores and gas stations with their credit and debit cards. They will quickly realize that the machines and pumps are down with no internet, phone, or electrical service. At this point, the incipient panic starts to bubble forth.
The next stop will be the grocery stores. There will be a run on bottled water, milk, bread, and Twinkies. Quickly stores will turn into pandemonium as people vie for limited resources and police are unable to respond as fights break out and injuries mount. One look at the average Black Friday fights over an Elmo toy tells us that people will die in the produce aisles over a can of peaches. Finally, broken and stripped, stores will shut down or be burned down by rioters.
We are now into days 3-5 of the Brave New World. The air is smoky, the houses are dark and people are scared. There are bodies in the local stores and still in crashed vehicles that government services are unable to remove due to a shrinking workforce as more and more people stay home. Now we start noticing a problem at the pharmacies. America is one of the most medicated nations in history. We have pills for anything. We are a pharmaceutically dependent nation whose happiness is tied to a brown pill bottle. People on anti-depressants will be upping their dosage to cope with the situations. People hooked on their pain meds will start worrying about their supply. Insulin dependent diabetics will start to desperately worry about the lack of refrigeration for their insulin. Psychologically impaired individuals will start to run out and their balance will start to off kilter.
Pharmacies, clinics, doctor offices, and even dentist and veterinary offices will see a surge in customer violence, break-ins, robberies, and eventually deaths as the medical supplies run short. People dependent upon oxygen will not get refills and people dependent upon electrical life support will simply die. The death toll is rising. Home invasions will rise in suburbia by people looking for meds and food. Unreported murder victims will simply lie dead, undiscovered in their shattered homes.
By days 7-10, the death toll is innumerable and the emergency response forces are less than 60% of where they were a week prior, even with National Guard augmentation. If it is late spring, summer, or early fall, then the bodies of the dead will quickly be noticeable from the stench of their decomposition. In New Orlean and in Northern Iraq, one of our biggest threats were feral dogs. We shot them on site because they were attacking us due to their hunger. Household pets will escape the homes of their dead owners and quickly become feral.
As week two progresses, the lack of water pressure and sewage systems will become a problem than cannot be ignored en masse any longer. The majority of the population left has no clue about public health sanitation. Human waste will become public waste in short order. Trash will pile up and attract disease vectors like rats and raccoons. People will be going to FEMA and local government shelters in droves. These shelters will quickly be overwhelmed and overflow.
The cities, the ones that escaped the riots of the previous week, will fall victim to riots and unrestrained gang warfare. Whole city blocks will be consumed by fire. The people left behind will be besieged by the violence and fires. Untold numbers will die.
The next big die-off will come from disease. Cholera, dysentery, typhoid, and a host of others will sweep the concentrated population centers as sanitation systems break down. Influenza will attack the weakened immune systems of the initial survivors and the virulence of the strains will be horrific. The air will reek of burning flesh as dead human bodies are burned throughout the nation.
The next die-off comes from contaminated food and water as people get desperate to eat anything and water stores become contaminated from dead bodies and haz mat spillages. By the time the second month begins, it will be a rare family that is untouched by the death of a loved one or close friend.
I have seen the beginnings of this during Katrina. I have seen the advanced stages of this in Honduras and Iraq. We depend upon our government service infrastructure to such an extent that we will be unable to cope in the near term with the loss of them. The only solution is to anticipate the loss of these systems.
If you are like me and live in a suburban area with a low probability of being able to bug out, then you need to take precautions. I have some burn barrels. These will become my trash and waste burners. I have shovels to bury what waste I cannot burn. I need to get a better water storage and filter plan together. I need to stockpile essential medical supplies to a greater extent than I have now. I need to up my food stockpiles, as well.
I need to keep my bicycles in good working order to save on gasoline. I need to get creative at rainwater run-off collection and I need to hone my situational awareness to be better able to defend against the human threats to my family. I need to increase my gardening efforts to use my yard productively. Most of all, I need to create alternatives for my family to fall back on in any contingency.