Sunday, March 23, 2008

Bugging, Part II: My Tin Hat

A few weeks ago, my older spawn presented me with my very own tinfoil hat.

Okay, I do spend a fair amount of time preparing myself and my family to survive under less-than-ideal circumstances. That's because I believe that the future, whatever it looks like, will belong to those who prepare -- not out of unchecked cynicism, but with a firm grip on the risks present in today's world.

Some among us are obsessed with Red Dawn scenarios,
SHTF, TEOTWAWKI and the like. I don't (and won't) belittle those folks -- in fact, I've learned a lot from their approach to preparedness. I've just attacked it a bit differently.

The Mindset
Everyday life has a set of rules and resources dictated by personal obligations and societal norms. My fundamental responsibility is to function and prosper in that context.

For me, preparation happens within the context of everyday life, not at its expense -- that is, I don't live each day as if it's TEOTWAWKI, but I know what I need to do to prepare and survive.

I live my life, taking advantage of its opportunities, neither paranoid nor naive.

The Lay of the Land
It's tempting (and typical) to begin the preparedness process with a shopping list and an evacuation route, ignoring what I believe is the first and most important step: assessing risk.

So, with the invaluable aid of
Google and Microsoft Streets & Trips, I've plotted relevant risks, hazards and resources.

What could possibly threaten my peaceful rural-suburban home in the Midwest? In terms of natural hazards:
  • Tsunami: No risk.
  • Hurricane: No risk.
  • Wildfire: Negligible risk.
  • Earthquake: Negligible risk.
  • Landslide: No risk.
  • Tornado: Moderate risk.
  • Flood: Moderate risk in the surrounding area; negligible risk to my home.
That list is obvious and straightforward. Now, what man-made characteristics could pose a risk?
  • Rail: Two active freight lines pass through the 10-mile radius around my home, running a total of 42 miles in length, with one coming as close as 1.25 miles and the other 2 miles away. Also, there's a major rail yard 10 miles WNW.
  • Airports: A major airport lies 10 miles NW, and another is 10 miles WSW; the latter is the preferred arrival-and-departure point for high-ranking government officials and other dignitaries, since it shares facilities with an Air National Guard base. There's also a small airport 10 miles SE.
  • Power plants, nuclear: None within 150 miles.
  • Power plants, coal: One, 15 miles WSW.
  • Utility transmission, electricity: One 345kV+ high-tension run passes within 1.5 miles.
  • Utility transmission, natural gas: One large transmission line passes within a half-mile of my home; a major pipeline passes 45 miles SE.
  • Municipal water supplies: Three well-sites within 5 miles; five water-storage towers within 5 miles.
  • Biohazards: A sewage-treatment facility 0.5mi N.
  • Radiation hazards: None within 25 miles; numerous nuclear pharmacies and two NRC-regulated sites within 35 miles.
  • Military: An Air National Guard base 10 miles WSW, and a major national-defense supply depot 10 miles NW. Numerous bases, installations and armories within 50 miles.
  • Other: After a local televangelist recently called for the destruction of Islam, his statements appeared widely in the Arab media. His church's two large facilities are 1.5 miles and 3.5 miles NW of my home.
I'm willing to bet that most of my neighbors are largely unaware of what surrounds us. Most people either don't care or don't take the time to find out.

For example, there's a major NSA listening post nestled deep in the West Virginia mountains, and yet most of the locals (like most Americans) remain blissfully ignorant -- a common mistake and, in my opinion, a dangerous one. I do my best to avoid making it.

Finally, I've identified various emergency-assistance resources in close proximity to my home, keeping in mind that some of these services (or all of them) may be unavailable in an emergency situation:
  • Tornado sirens: Two within 5 miles, with the closest 1.5 miles away.
  • Fire/EMS: Five stations within 5 miles, with the closest 2 miles' travel.
  • Law enforcement: Four stations within 5 miles, with the closest 2 miles' travel.
  • Medical: The closest hospital is 10 miles' travel; there are two urgent-care clinics, three medical-arts facilities and at least six pharmacies within 5 miles.
  • Food & provisions: Within a 5-mile radius are three large groceries, five mass-merchandisers and ten convenience stores. There are three produce farms within 10 miles.
  • Defense: Three mass-merchandisers, both within 5 miles, sell ammunition; there are three FFL retailers within 10 miles, with the closest 5 miles away.
  • Fuel: More than a dozen gas stations and five propane stations within 5 miles.
All of this information, taken together and especially in the face of a present danger, helps form the basis for every preparedness-and-survival decision that follows.

Bugging, Part I: Securing the Castle
Bugging, Part III: In or Out?
Bugging, Part IV: The Right Stuff