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Special Agent Survival Tactics

In my article “9 Special Agent Secrets for Street Survival” I described some places where you can scrounge up needed supplies if caught in a crisis situation. I promised that I would expand on each of the suggested places in this article that’s what I am going to do.

If you are not a “prepper” and you find yourself having to survive after some disastrous event you probably won’t have a stock pile of supplies, and even if you’ve been prepping for years, it’s still possible you might need a few things. Even if you have stockpiled some items you may have forgotten some, or not realized you were lacking something until you were. There are many situations that might come up during a crisis, and you might have to scavenge for supplies after the shit hits the fan.

Now let me be clear here, scavenging is not looting. Let’s look at Hurricane Katrina as an example. When we watched television and the internet, we saw videos of people running down the street with arms full of jewelry and electronics and other stuff they would not need to survive. They were looting, plain and simple. They were just taking advantage of a bad situation.

In my mind, scavenging is completely different. After a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, scavengers only search for things they really need to survive and only take things that have been discarded or are unlikely to be missed. You could find yourself in a situation where you have to take food or medicine that will be missed, but I believe this is justified if you are trying to survive.

Some people will say that stealing is stealing no matter the circumstances, but in my opinion, you have to do what you need to do to survive. If you want to send someone some money later to pay for the things you took, then do so if that makes you feel better.

But for now, make it out alive.

So, with that said, here is my advice on how to scavenge to survive after the SHTF.

First: Scout Out the Area

If you discover an area where you want to search, don’t just charge in, check it out first. There may be bad guys already there or an owner waiting with a gun. You don’t want to run up against either. Use some binoculars to watch the area for a few hours first. I might sound paranoid, but I have some firsthand accounts of people in Iraq and Afghanistan who became very dangerous when they were trying to protect their property, and there were no police around to keep them in check. The last thing you want is to get robbed or possibly killed while scavenging for supplies.

If you find that the area is compromised or not worth the trouble, then leave and go find another area. When you survey the area, look for any obstacles that might make your scavenging difficult. You are looking for fences with barbed wire, guard dogs, high walls, ditches, streams, people with guns, etc. Not only will these things make it difficult for you to get in, but they might also make it too difficult or dangerous to carry out your supplies once you find them.

If you are in a natural disaster, check to see if the buildings you are targeting have been damaged by things such as flooding or earthquake. You don’t want the stairs you’re climbing to collapse or a ceiling to fall on your head while searching.

If you have a map, search for ways in and out of the area you want to search. Plan your route carefully, and know alternate routes in case your main route gets cut off.

As an agent, we never go into a bottleneck situation with only one way in and out. You must weigh the costs versus the benefits and the risks versus the rewards before searching an area. Is the item you are searching for really necessary for your survival, or is it just something that would make you a little more comfortable?

Second: Plan

Once you know where you want to go and what you are looking for, you have to plan out how you are going to get it. You are likely to be alone so be very careful. If you get hurt, there will be no one to assist you. Also, remember that you are more likely to be robbed or attacked if you are alone. Make sure you take the tools you are likely to need while you are scavenging, such as bags, cordage, lock picks, cutting tools, a hammer, pliers, whatever.

If you plan to search several areas, you’ll have to decide the order in which to search them. I recommend that you begin further out and work your way back to wherever you are camping out so you don’t waste energy carrying supplies farther out instead of picking them up as you return. If you see something you need, just make a note to get it on your way back. Hopefully it will still be there. Hide it if you have to.

Where to Search

Basically, you can search pretty much anywhere, but I am going to recommend some potential target spots and tell you what you might expect to find in each of them.

  1. Automotive Shops – Now I bet you probably did not think of this one. If you need a car part, they you have a better chance of finding the part you need in an automotive shop or garage.
  2. Cars – I am going to put cars here for two reasons. First, if you did not find what you needed at the auto shop, you might find it on an abandoned vehicle of your same make and model. Next, you can find some real goodies inside cars. You should check the glove compartment, under the seats, and in the trunk for snacks, tools, and other useful items. Parts of the car itself might prove useful, too. The mirrors could be used for signaling or checking around corners, the wiring can be used for cordage, you can sleep on the car seats and use the battery for power if you need to.
  3. Churches – I know what you are saying right now: Derek are you recommending I steal from a church. Well, if you are trying to survive, then yes! And I hope that others are thinking they would never steal from a church so I can get what I need. Churches might have canned food in the kitchen and tools that could come in handy.
  4. Distribution Centers – Most people are probably going to hit grocery stores first, so you should have a little time to hit warehouses before they get there. Even if they have already been hit, there may be a few things that were overlooked. Also, check the semi-trailers that might be parked in the lot, there might still be items in them. You may find non-perishable foods and other supplies still inside them.
  5. Dumpsters – As a special agent I have done lots of dumpster diving in my day. I was not doing it for scavenging purposes and it wasn’t fun. As a matter of fact, it was damn nasty, but you will be surprised by some of the stuff you can find in dumpsters.
  6. Fire stations – You may find food, supplies, and clothing. As you probably already know, firefighters often sleep and prepare food in fire stations. Plus, the fire engine has a tank with hundreds of gallons of water. It will need to be filtered, though.
  7. Gas Stations – These will probably be picked clean, but you never know. It’s worth a look.
  8. Government Buildings – Most federal installations have commercial grade solar panels. You may also find backup lighting and emergency supplies and a lot of other stuff in government buildings. Just be careful as they may be guarded.
  9. Grocery Stores – These will probably be picked clean, too, but you may find food in less obvious places such as under shelves, behind displays, and beneath cash registers. Also check the bathrooms, the offices, the stock room, and the loading dock.
  10. Hospitals – Obviously these should have lots of food, clothes, and medical supplies. Check every single closet and every single drawer to see what you can find. It would be very helpful if you run across some antibiotics or pain killers.
  11. Houses – Check everywhere: rooms, garage, basement, attic, backyard, storage sheds, the garden if there is one, etc. The water heater has up to 70 gallons of drinking water. Better yet, look for houses with swimming pools. Also keep an eye out for metal mailboxes. You can take these and turn them into wood stoves in which to prepare your food items.
  12. Manufacturing Facilities – These may have fuel, batteries, tools, first aid supplies, and all kinds of useful items you could use for survival.
  13. Marinas – Check abandoned boats. They usually have supplies like emergency rations, communication equipment, fishing equipment, and possibly guns.
  14. Office Buildings – Check break rooms for vending machines and check desks for snacks and small tools. There should be fire extinguishers in most rooms and cleaning supplies in the janitor’s closet.
  15. Pawn Shops – If you’re lucky you’ll find weapons, ammo, and other useful items in a pawn shop. You might even find some working electronics such as walkie-talkies or a ham radio.
  16. Pet Stores – If your pets are still okay, a pet store might make it possible for you to keep feeding them without giving up any of your own food. You could also eat it yourself if you REALLY have to, but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you’re very desperate. There are no FDA regulations on pet food and it could make you sick if you eat too much.
  17. Restaurants – These will probably be empty, but check anyway. There may be a few cans or bags of food that were overlooked. Anything that was in the freezer will probably have spoiled already if power has gone out.
  18. Retail Stores – See “Grocery Stores” above. Consider grabbing some non-electric entertainment such as books, cards, board games, sports equipment, etc.
  19. Schools – There’s a lot to be found in schools: tools, fire extinguishers, first aid kits, cleaning supplies, and possibly food in the cafeteria. If you have time and can get them open, you might want to check the lockers as well. There may be some snacks with a long shelf life in them.
  20. Self-storage Facilities – It might be worth your effort If you have time to pry open all of them. You probably won’t find any food or perishable items, but there’s a chance you’ll find some clothes or useful gear and equipment.
  21. Surplus stores – if you have one of these around you might strike gold as it would probably have everything you can think of for survival needs. If you know of one in the area, get there early.

While this list gives you 21 places to search, I could easily give you 100. There is no limit to possible search areas when it comes to trying to survive. Just be cautious about where you search and above all else, stay safe.

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