Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
The military term OPSEC, which stands for “Operational Security”, is something that applies directly to prepping. In the military, it’s all about keeping enemies from knowing your capability.
Considerable effort on the part of intelligence agencies goes into figuring out what weapons other countries have, what those weapons systems are capable of, how big many soldiers or sailors are in the other country’s military, and just how well trained they are at all levels. About as much effort goes into hiding that information; that’s the OPSEC part.
For us in the prepper movement, the idea is pretty much the same. While the people in our community might not be trying to find out what we have today, should a disaster happen and they find themselves hungry and lacking in supplies, you can be sure that they will be working hard to find out what you and I have and how they can get their hands on it.
You can’t even count on your friends and neighbors in that time. How many times have you heard someone say, “If a disaster happens, I’ll just go to your house?” Are you ready to receive them? Do you have enough food for those families? When you tell them “No” are they going to stick a gun in your nose to get what you have?
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Friendships are fragile things in the face of crisis. Both Germany and Japan were enemies during World War II; but now they are both allies. On the other hand, Russia was an ally, but is now appearing more and more to be an enemy. Granted, they were an ally of necessity and not of friendship; but that relationship didn’t last long once the war was over. How long do you really think your friendships will last when people are starving?
OPSEC can be broken down into two general categories for us in the prepping community. There’s the OPSEC we need to practice now, as we prepare for a disaster; and there’s the OPSEC we will need to practice after a disaster strikes, to keep our relative affluence a secret.
In reality, OPSEC should start the very first day that any of us start prepping. More than anything, we need to hide what we’re doing from those around us, especially friends and neighbors, as those are the people who usually see what we are doing.
Prepping includes so many different aspects that it can be difficult to hide our actions. But some things are easier to hide then others. Stockpiling should be the easiest to hide; but in order to do so, we’ve got to make sure we don’t have a truck stopping by our house and dropping off four pallets of food. If you’re going to make any major food purchases, do so in smaller chunks, bringing them into the home like normal groceries.
But what if you get a deal and have a truckload of food? Then be stealthy about how you bring it into the house. If you can, drive the truck into the garage or backyard and unload it there. Wait until nightfall if necessary to hide the unloading from the nosy neighbor who likes to look over the fence.
Once that food is in the house, it needs to be hidden so that friends and family coming to visit won’t see it. That’s fairly easy to do if you have a basement to store it in; but it can be a real challenge in a home without a basement.
We ended up hiding food under the staircase, behind furniture, covering stacks of cases of food with tablecloths so that they looked like tables, and putting food under the beds. Every home has a lot of good hiding places for food, if we take the time to look for them.
Other things aren’t as easy to hide as food is. Rainwater capture, gardening, solar power, wind turbines and a huge stack of firewood are all things that every neighbor will see. The best you can do for those things is to give another reason for them all.
Tell them you’re growing a garden because you don’t like GMOs and your rainwater capture is to provide water for that garden. Wind and solar power can be explained away as trying to save money on your energy bills.
I used to be an engineer and I’m a woodworker, so my neighbors are used to me tinkering with things and hearing the sounds of power tools coming from my garage at all times. They all think I’m a bit eccentric, so they’re not surprised when I put up a new “experimental” wind turbine or a homemade solar hot water heater. Because I have a ready excuse for those items, they never broach the subject of why it is there.
Watch What You Say
Keep in mind that your friends and family are going to be the hardest people to hide things from. Not only are those people in your home, but you talk with them regularly. It’s easy to let slip what you’re doing, especially if you want to talk them into doing it too.
You’ve got to watch out and if you do broach the subject, trying to get them into prepping, make sure you let them know you’re not building a stockpile that’s big enough for their family too.
Once a disaster strikes, the rules of OPSEC change as well. No longer are you concerned about people seeing you bring extra food and toilet paper into the house, now you’re concerned about them seeing you use those items.
Things that were normal just a day earlier will suddenly be obvious signs that you have food, electricity, heat and other things as well. The people around you will be attuned to smells like never before. Anything will arouse their suspicion.
Cooking in a Post-Disaster World
People’s sense of smell will be very acute in a post-disaster world, especially if they’re going hungry. This means that they’ll easily smell anything you’re cooking. That’s probably especially true if you’re cooking food on the grille.
If you’ve got a fire going in the fireplace, they’re going to smell that too. But that fire might work to help mask the smell of cooking food, especially if you cook over the fireplace. If you have to cook something before you can eat it, try not to use any spices as that will make the food much easier to smell.
You may have to put yourself on a strict diet in the wake of a disaster, especially if it looks like it’s going to become a long-term survival situation. People around you will be starving, losing weight, and dying. If you manage to stay nice and plump, they’ll know you have food, even if they can’t smell it cooking. Losing weight is much better than losing your life to desperate people.
Trash is an easy giveaway that you have food and other essential supplies. With no trash service, your trash might build up rapidly, while the trash of your neighbors doesn’t. People who are watching might decide to take a quiet look in your trash, just to see what you have.
The easy solution for this is to bury your trash. This will require a lot of digging, so you may want to get some kind of trash compactor so the holes don’t need to be so big. Two five-gallon buckets can compact trash very well. Just put some trash in one bucket, put the other bucket inside the first one, and press down with your hands or feet.
It’s probably safe to assume that the sanitary sewer system will be out, as the power to run the pumps will be out as well. With that being the case, the only way we’re going to be able to get rid of waste water is to dump it out on the ground. But if there’s a steady stream of water going down the gutter from your home, people will get suspicious.
The solution to this is something we need to be doing anyway; grey water recycling. Most cleaning activities can be done with grey water, reusing the same water for more than one thing. Then, rather than allowing it to go down the gutter, use that water to keep your garden moist.
Another thing that will easily give away that you are better off is if they can see light coming out around the edges of your windows. Whether that is electric light or from candles, it will quickly set you apart from everyone else. Even those who have candles in their homes will probably have used those candles up in a week.
The solution here is to use blackout curtains over the windows of any room where you have light. Blackout curtains can be easily made at home out of thick, dark fabric. They need to be larger than the regular curtains so that they cover the area around the window. They’ll also need to be hung with some sort of way to stick the edges of the curtain to the wall, like Velcro.
Chances are that you’re not going to be running your television and watching movies or playing music; but what if you were? That would be a sure indicator to those watching you that you have electricity, a true luxury in a time when nobody else has it. but like other things, that can be hidden by just keeping the sound volume low.
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