You wake up one day and you find out one way or another that World War 3 has started, civil war has broken out, or the power grid has been knocked out. Your entire life as you know it has been turned upside down. No more stability, no more weekends, no more grocery stores, no more modern luxury. Luckily, you have prepared yourself and are able to adapt to the situation much better than most. Instead of crying and crawling into a fetal position, you immediately begin your survival.

Upon having a few days or a week go by, you bear witness to what has predictably happened once the populace realizes their lives are no longer the same. Stores have been looted everywhere, people have been killed in riots, the government has come in with soldiers and military equipment to try and contain the mass hysteria that has befallen your country. Martial law is declared, and already, predatory groups of bad people have been reportedly been going around pillaging places at will.

Assessing the Area

A radar probably wouldn’t help in an apocalypse

Gather as much information on your area that you can in the most discreet way possible. Know who is closest to you, know who is who, know who you can potentially work with, and who are potential threats. Know what routes people travel on and know what alliances there are. Getting a good read on an area will go a long way to increasing your tactical advantage. If you live in an area that is close to some people, you can either try to remain isolated, or try to find people to work with in rebuilding a sense of civilization.

Isolation

This would be perfect

It is wise to stay away from everyone that you can, because the more people know about you, the bigger target you become. Assuming that you have made the necessary preparations, you shouldn’t have any need of venturing far from the homestead. If you do have to go out to get supplies and risk getting seen, then best do it as sneakily as possible. Your area assessment should have covered the times when people are most active and what the most travelled places are. This may take a while, because reconaissance is not about gathering data from one short period of time. you will have to monitor a certain radius for weeks or even months before you decide to make a move. When choosing isolation, being naive about what is going on around you is just as bad as living in a city. Always be gathering information. Knowledge is power.

Collaboration

Based on your assessment, you may come to the conclusion that there is an individual or group of individuals who are trying to survive just like you. They aren’t into raiding or devolving into base animal instincts. If you have determined that the threat level is minimal, then perhaps surviving as a group will benfit you greater than being alone.

Survival as a group has its advantages. You have greater protection against external threats, you have more hands at doing work, and you have more human capital to scavenge materials. The only disadvantages are the rationing of food and water, and group dynamics/relationships. If you can manage to get plentiful supplies for your sustenance, and be able to work effectively with others without creating any inner tensions, then your group will go a long way to surviving long term.

Defense

A hardy group of warriors is what every community needs

Not preparing to defend what is yours will spell disater for you and your group that you may have. Guns and bullets are just as important as food and water. Depending on the marksmanship skills of those in your group, you may or may not have to train people how to shoot. You might get lucky, and have a former marine or police officer in your group, or you might get horribly unlucky and get stuck with a bunch of vegans that can’t touch a gun. Whatever the case may be, everyone in your group needs to be prepared to shoot someone who is threatening your lives.

Aside from shooting, set up firing positions in various places that are concealed and protected by cover. You want anyone who is coming to atttack you to be at a disadvantage. Don’t set up guard towers that can be seen far away. You want to be able to see the enemy before they see you. The enemy should not know where shots are coming from, and they should not be in any position to take effective cover from your shots. They are coming into your territory, and your territory should be extremely dangerous for them if they decide to attack.

Finally, minimize your weak spots. Think like an invader; how would you go about attacking your settlement? What would you do if you were trying to be sneaky? What would you do if you’re trying to harass from afar? Identifying all tactical options that an invading group would employ is the best way to maximize your strengths. If you have too many weak points, or your weak points cannot be diminished, then move on to a better location. There’s no use trying to address weaknesses if your settlement is at the bottom of a large ravine.

Economics

Maybe you’ve come upon another group that is non-hostile. You can’t assimilate, but you can trade with each other. In a world without fiat currency, barter systems and other forms of exchange will have to exist. Systems like this have existed long before the invention of paper and coin. Deals and arrangements can be made.

When the time comes that you will have to trade, you will have to employ dealmaking skills that will both put you in a strong negotiating position, and give you fair exchanges.

First, find out what the other group values. If they are very low in water, and your settlement is right next to a creek, use their deficit to your benefit by giving them what you have in surplus. Keeping with the water example, if you can deliver water in large drums to them, they will be greatful, and be willing to give you something that you need or want.

Second, never appear desperate. If your settlement is on the brink of famine, and you make it known that your tribe will starve if a deal is not made, then that opens the floodgates to the other group settling a terrible deal for you, and may just end up using it as a tool of control to get you to do what they want. Always go into negotiations with confidence and good frame. Never let your guard down, even in the presence of a perceived benevolent group.

Third, always be willing to declare what is up for trade. Bullets are a great currency in the apocalypse. Say that your group wants medicine, and the other group wants food. You might think that trading food for meds is a good idea. It might not be, because maybe winter is on the horizon, and you only have enough food to feed just your group for the winter. Yet, you do have a ton of bullets. Knowing this, go into the negotiation with the intent to trade the bullets for meds, verses giving up your food supplies. Create a need for them that they haven’t thought of before these negotiations. If they already have bullets, either sell it harder, or find a different need. Always try and come out strong. If they won’t budge, then either come to a fair compromise, or both go home empty handed.

Fourth, never create a hostile enemy. If they are desperate for food and will starve without your exchange, don’t be so quick to take advantage of that. In other words, if they are starving, don’t send them back without food. The last thing you want is the group attacking your settlement because they would die otherwise. Your bartering skills are essential in both keeping the peace, and keeping your group in good standing. Don’t get so cocky that you think the other group won’t believe that you are taking them for a ride. The goal is maintaining peace. They have to think all deals are fair to them, even if you know they aren’t.

Conclusion

When all hell breaks loose, you better be sure that you have prepared enough to satisfy your needs. It will be a whole new world out there. It will be harsh, dangerous, and uncertain. Dealing with your own needs is simple enough, but throw other people into the equation, and you have an entirely different dynamic.