The Importance of OPSEC in Your Survival Plans

Nobody knows the exact figure, but preppers account for only one to two percent of our population. Putting that in perspective, if you were to start looking around your neighborhood, trying to find another prepper, you’d have to investigate somewhere between 50 and 100 houses, before finding one other family that believes enough in being prepared for a disaster to actually do something about it.

Put another way, that means that somewhere between 50 and 100 of the families living around you are going to be in serious trouble, if a disaster happens. After three days they won’t have any food in the house, will be out of water and will be starting to get desperate. Grocery stores, which only stock three days worth of food will be empty, looters will be trying to get what they want, people will be begging on the streets and some will even go so far as to resort to violence, in order to get food for their families.

That’s just after three days. From there, things will just get worse, as people become more and more desperate. You can pretty much count on people knocking on your door, looking for food and water, on the off chance that you have some. If they already know that you have food in your house, there will be a whole lot more of them showing up.

While some of the people who show up at your door will be random people who will be going door to door, seeing what they can find, you can also count on friends, neighbors and family members who know that you are prepared. They’ll probably be the first ones to show up, and they’ll be the hardest to turn away. Turning away someone you don’t know is one thing; turning away someone you love is a whole different ball game.

That’s why it’s so important to keep your preparations a secret. The more people who know that you are prepared for a disaster, the more who will come knocking on your door. Keeping such a secret is called OPSEC, a military acronym for “operational security” which applies perfectly to our needs.

In the military, OPSEC is about keeping the enemy from knowing your plans and capabilities. The big difference there is that the enemy is actively seeking that information. You have the advantage that other than nosy friends and neighbors, you’re unlikely to run across people who are actively seeking to find out if you are prepping. Rather, it will be the casual curiosity of friends and neighbors that you must protect from.

For our purposes, OPSEC can be broken down into two general areas: those things we do to hide our preparations, and those things we do in the wake of a disaster to hide the fact that we’re better off than everyone else. Let’s take a look at both.

OPSEC While Prepping

We’ve got to face it, many of the things that we do as preppers would arouse the curiosity of anyone who sees them. So the key is to not let them see what we are doing. There are a number of simple measures we can take, which will make it easier to hide what we are doing.

  • When buying large quantities of food or other supplies, don’t unload them with your vehicle parked in the driveway; rather, pull it into the garage or backyard to unload, where it is out of sight.
  • If you are receiving deliveries of supplies, you are better off receiving a number of small deliveries, rather than one large one. We all receive small deliveries, from buying online. But few people receive a couple of pallets loaded with food buckets.
  • Store your stockpile where it can’t be seen. If you have a basement, that’s an ideal location. If you’re using a room as a pantry, keep the door closed.
  • Water is hard to hide, especially the huge amount needed for survival. But you can hide it in plain site by installing an above-ground swimming pool in your backyard.
  • Any measures you take to make your home more defendable should be hidden. If they can’t be hidden, make them decorative to hide their true purpose. A hedge works just as well as a fence to keep people out of your yard, especially if you use a thorny bush, and it doesn’t look like a defensive perimeter.
  • Don’t be obvious about your guns, unless you live in an area where others are obvious about theirs. If you live in Texas, for example, you can always talk about carrying concealed or hunting, because others do so too. But you can’t do that in New York or California.

Always assume that someone is going to see what you are doing. So you want to make what you are doing as uninteresting as possible, preferably looking like something normal. That way, it won’t attract attention.

Deception as Part of OPSEC

There are times when you can’t hide what you are doing. In those cases, it is best to make your neighbors think that you have another reason for doing it. I mentioned using a swimming pool to store water a moment ago, that’s the kind of deception I’m talking about.

As a retired engineer, I’ve let my neighbors and friends know that I like to tinker. So, when they see me putting up a wind turbine or putting solar panels on my roof, they just chalk it up to more tinkering. I even talk about those projects, not from a prepping standpoint, but as experiments.

Another way I’ve used deception is to explain things like the water tank on my back porch. This 250 gallon tank is a little hard to hide. So I’ve told my neighbors that it’s there for my garden. I mix chemicals in the tank for watering my garden, helping me to fertilize the garden and water it at the same time.

OPSEC During a Disaster

The harder part of OPSEC is what you need to do in the wake of a disaster. Everyone is going to be on the lookout for people who are better off than they are, hoping to get something from them. So you have to hide the fact that you are better off.

  • Be careful about food smells while cooking. Hungry people are more attuned to that than we normally are. So be very aware of what sorts of smells are wafting out from your fire pit.
  • Light is a definite giveaway that you are better off than anyone else. If you are going to use any sort of lighting at night, be sure to use strict light discipline and blackout curtains over the windows. If anyone has to go outside, extinguish the lights before opening the door.
  • People will be dirty, due to a lack of water. So don’t allow yourself to appear overly clean. A little dirt on your clothing and face will help you blend in. Wearing a hat can hide the fact that your hair is clean.
  • People will also be losing weight, due to the lack of food; so the worst thing you can do is be chubby. Unless you are already thin, put yourself on a very restrictive diet, so that you lose weight also. That will be better for your health anyway and help your supplies last longer.
  • The world will be much quieter than it is now, due to the lack of activity. So if you are using radios, televisions or other electronics, keep the volume low or use headphones so that your neighbors don’t hear it.

Some things can’t be hidden, like a garden or animals. You’ll need to protect these. If you have them before the disaster hits, they will at least seem normal to your neighbors. But if you have never had a garden before, and plant one after the disaster strikes, that will stand out to your neighbors.

Children and OPSEC

Children can’t keep a secret, no matter what; especially small children. So you’ll need to hide what you’re doing from your own children as well. Don’t talk about prepping, building a stockpile or surviving a disaster in front of them. They’re much too likely to repeat that to someone else.

At the same time, there are a lot of things that children just take for granted, thinking that they are normal. If you have a room full of food in your house and don’t talk about it like it is something special, they’ll think that everyone has a room full of food in their house too. So it won’t be a “secret” and probably won’t be mentioned to anyone else.

Deception works well with kids too. The same swimming pool idea will hide your water stockpile from your own children, just as it will from others. You can also be deceptive about training them in survival skills, teaching them as camping skills. They don’t have to know you have an ulterior motive in teaching them those things.

As your children get older, you can trust them with more knowledge about what you are doing. That’s good, because they will notice more anyway. But even teens have trouble keeping things a secret, so be careful about how much detail they know about your survival plans.