The Fallacy Of Surviving In Place

Updated for 2024

Written by Kenneth D. Nunn

–Surviving in Place–

The question is can you and your family survive in place? Now let's look at the facts.

First of all, let's make sure we are on the same page and understand what is meant by “Surviving in Place.”

At the Preparing to Survive website, Facebook, and books our definition for the phrase “Surviving in Place” is as follows:

Surviving in Place: Voluntarily choosing to survive a catastrophic event in one's home or in a bunker in close proximity to one's home. This would be a situation where a family stockpiles food, water, and other supplies along with firearms and ammunition. They are assuming they can survive long term or at least until the situation returns to normal.

  For personal or localized disasters surviving in place is a great concept. In the right situation your home storage can be a life saver, there is little doubt about this. In case of a personal crisis for instance, as an example you lose your job, have an illness or financial failure, something of that nature. Having food storage to fall back on will be great. Another example would be a localized natural disaster such as a fire, earthquake, hurricane, tornado or a flood. Having home food and water storage could prevent you and your family from facing an even worse crisis. That is unless the disaster destroys your supplies, or you are unable to get to them.

  Getting to your supplies in most cases is going to be the problem. In the event of any of these disasters, the areas affected will most often be evacuated. Sometimes this can be for a long period of time. Even if and when you are allowed back to your property chances are your supplies will have been destroyed.

  In case of a national Catastrophic Event man-made or natural, surviving in place simply will not work. In all probability with a national Catastrophic Event you would be facing a long-term survival situation. In a long-term survival situation surviving in place and living in your home storage is a concept that simply can't work. This concept is great for certain short-term survival situations. Everyone should practice it, but for long-term survival it simply cannot work. One of the main reasons it will not work is because everyone is not practicing it.

  One thing for sure in the immediate aftermath of an event the two biggest dangers we will face will be our fellow man and disease. These dangers will be a constant threat for at least six months and very likely much longer. These are the reasons we have chosen to get “Out of Harm's Way”. These are the two things that you cannot fight.

  There are two reasons disease will rapidly spread throughout populated areas making surviving in place is a concept that can't work in a national Catastrophic Event.

  • Sewage
  • Water


  You are probably surprised to see sewage listed as number one. In a Catastrophic Event sewage is the root of all evil. There are three things that the body requires, it has to have water, it has to have food, and it has to expel bodily waste. One of the most dangerous substances on this earth is human excrement. By dangerous I mean it in the sense that it is highly infectious.

  Throughout human history one of the leading causes of death is from disease spread in human feces. As a matter of fact, there are probably more people dying today from diseases resulting from oral feces contact than any other reason. Raw sewage is the reason the death toll is so high in underdeveloped countries. Raw sewage or human and animal excrement are the carriers of the foodborne and waterborne diseases that are killing thousands of people.

  Having said this, I would like to make one point clear. These foodborne and waterborne diseases are usually not fatal to a healthy person. As a matter of fact, the CDC lists almost all of these diseases as being self-limiting. A healthy person who contracts one of these diseases will have diarrhea for four to six days and then be over it. The trouble begins when an unhealthy, undernourished person contracts one of these diseases, especially if they are very young or very old.

  Now, think what will happen if we have some type of national Catastrophic Event where we lose all or part of the power grid. Without electricity there will be no water pumped to your house. Without water you cannot flush the toilet. People will still have to use the toilet. So, what will be the answer? Most will get a bucket and use this. Now the question is where will the waste be dumped? Some people may dig a hole in their backyard and dump the waste; however, this will only work short term. The first rainfall will simply wash this waste into the drain ditches which drain into local streams. Then what about the people, without a yard, living in cities, or apartments?

  I know, some Folks that plan on surviving in place have these port-a-potty type toilets that use plastic bags. You use the toilet and then dispose of the bag. I usually get a blank stare when I ask where you dispose of the bag. You end up with the same problem. How will sewage from hospitals and nursing homes be disposed of? Before long sewage will be dumped at the curb, it will have to be, it is inevitable. Along with the sewage trash and garbage will begin to pile up on the street curbs. This garbage will attract rats... millions of rats.

  Once it is dumped in the curb where does it go, straight to the rivers and streams. This will eliminate any chance of using this water for drinking water. This is what has happened and is happening in the underdeveloped countries today. These people are forced into using these contaminated rivers and streams running through populated areas as a source of water; they have no choice. The same as people in the United States will have no choice. This will be especially true in large populated areas, which would include a large percent of the population. Unless you live in a remote area you will be forced to live in unsanitary conditions.

  Without a city supply of water, the citizens will be forced to use any water source they can find. These may be streams, rivers, lakes or ponds. In populated areas this will be deadly. This will start a domino effect, the more people that get food or waterborne disease the more it spreads. To add to the problem by this time many people will be weak from hunger and may have contracted other diseases.

  Without sanitary sewage disposal it is inevitable that in a short period of time, foodborne and waterborne diseases outbreaks will begin to appear. These outbreaks along with people's immune systems being weak from malnutrition will lead to many deaths.

  Once this begins, conditions will only worsen. Without any authority it will be only a matter of time before bodies will be left where they lay. Again, this will start in the cities. Rats will become a major problem. Without sewage disposal, with garbage piling up, and with corpses left where they fall rats will multiply by the millions. In a short time, plague will break out. The results will be thousands more dying, causing a domino effect. With nothing to stop the spread, the plague will stop only when there are no more victims. Paints a bleak picture doesn't it?

  So what are your options? Get you and your family “Out of Harm's Way”.


  If you have chosen to survive in place, you will be unable to store an adequate water supply. Your only option will be to chemically treat raw water from some source in a populated area, if there is one. This is a fact. If you are in a populated area, you will for sure not have a safe supply of water.

  Most experts agree that a person will require a minimum of three gallons of water per day. This is for drinking, cooking and sanitary needs. For a family of four this calculates out to be; 12 gallons per day; 84 gallons a week or 360 gallons a month. If you are storing water in 55 gallon drums then for a family of four that would require 6.5 drums of water per month or 19.5 drums for three months supply. That will require a lot of storage space.

  I know you're probably thinking you wouldn't need that much potable water, which may be true. However, when we have an event you will not have municipal water, this means you will have to have water stored not only to drink but also for washing and other uses. So, even if you conserve and cut in half that is a lot of water to keep stored. Remember this amount of water is just for three months and four people. Now carry that out to six months or a year. Just think a year's supply of water for a family of four would require 78 55 gallon barrels of water.

  It is obvious in a long-term survival situation it will be impossible to store enough water to last you and your family or Group.

  Now your other option will be to get raw water from a stream or river running through a populated area. That is if there happens to be one close. In most populated areas the best you will be able to do will be a canal, ditch or park pond. Would you really want to give this water to your family, even after treating it? Especially after the condition thing will be in after a few weeks.

  If you are surviving in place and all of the power is out you will have no city water supply. With no water supply to flush the toilet. You will be unable to use any raw water source. All natural sources of water in the area will become contaminated by sewage run off in a very short period of time. This is a fact. There will be no alternate supply of water.

–Hospitals, Nursing Homes, Mental Institutions–

  Now consider hospitals, nursing homes, and mental institutions. Consider the millions in these facilities. These facilities simply cannot function without electricity, water, food and staff. These facilities will cease to function almost immediately. The staff will have family that needs them plus the staff will see the futility in staying. As cruel as it seems, patients will simply be left to fend for themselves. What are the opinions? Sure some staff will stay and try to care for the patients but they will soon see the futility of their efforts. There will be thousands of mentally ill people put on the streets.

–Prisons, Jails–

  Now consider the jails, and prisons. The facilities will have to be emptied. There will be no choice, there will be no one to operate these facilities, there will be no way to operate without electricity, water or food. Millions will have to be released. Many of these will be hardened criminals, murderers, rapist, thieves, and addicts.


  When a Catastrophic Event occurs, there will be numerous dangers and obstacles you must overcome. First of all, of course the more pressing problems will be hysteria, food, water, and shelter. The other equally as dangerous problem will be your fellow man.

  One thing for sure is once the initial shock of an event is over the two biggest and most immediate dangers we will face will be our fellow man and disease. These dangers will be a constant threat for a long period of time. These are the reasons we have chosen to get “Out of Harm's Way”. Disease and anarchy are the two things that you cannot fight.

  As for anarchy you will be vastly outnumbered and outgunned. Just consider the number of people whose only means of surviving will be in forming gangs. Think of the number of homeless present in society today. Now couple that with the thousands and in larger populated areas tens of thousands of people will be left stranded in a strange city and in some cases country. These will be people who were caught in a strange city on a business trip, traveling through on vacation, waiting on flights at the airport, trapped at train stations and bus stations. Those traveling in cars will be stranded with a vehicle that will not operate. Many of those will consist of families.

  The people who are trapped in an unfamiliar city with no food, shelter or friends will be mad, scared and panicked. Many will be in shock, despondent. If it happens to be a family traveling, then they will be even more desperate.

  Now consider the people who live in the city or area. How many of these folks are going to have food and supplies? These people, much like the strangers trapped in a strange city will be forced to live by whatever means they can, looting and stealing. Stop for a moment and think

  What will these people do? What are their options? The only option they have will be to band together. They have nothing, so their only option will be to loot and get what they want. They will have to become predators in order to survive. They will have no choice. There will be no one or no organization to help them, no Red Cross, no Salvation Army and no City, State or Federal Government agencies to help them.

  The only choice these people will have is to join with others like themselves. These will be some of your most dangerous advisories. These are the people who will loot, steel and eventually kill. They will be searching for firearms.

  If you are in or near a town or city of any size, then there will be hundreds if not thousands of people forced to join gangs. These people will first meet wherever they are forced to seek shelter during the event. Once the immediate danger is over these stranded and homeless people will begin to congregate on the streets, in parks, wherever in convenience. In any group such as these will be leaders who will soon emerge and take command. These leaders will point out the advantage of their numbers. These people will be mad at society, they will want revenge.

  Gangs will begin by taking over apartment complexes, then entire neighborhoods, then cities and spread from there. There will be no authorities, nothing to stop them. The inevitable result of this is anarchy.

  At first it will start with looting. Initially their targets will be hospitals, pharmacies, and liquor stores. They will want the drugs and liquor. This has been proven time and again. Stores will be ransacked, windows broken; everything not usable will be destroyed, looters will feed on the moment, mob mentality will rule.

  The police and other authorities will quickly become overwhelmed and abandoned their post, they will have no choice, they will be outnumbered and outgunned, have no communication, no transportation and no hope of help on the way. This has happened before with small localized disasters and will happen again. Many with their drug supply cut off will begin to break into drug stores and hospitals taking what drugs they want. This will go on for the first few days, maybe even a week.

  Then these gang members will start to get hungry, there will be no food, no potable water, stores will have run out of supplies. These will begin to get desperate; they will be panicked and mad at everyone except the people they have connected with.

  These scenarios seem a little drastic to you? Think about it; think what has happened in the past.

  There were Gangs and looting almost immediately after the recent hurricanes. Just spend a few minutes thinking about what will happen in the large cities when there is no electricity, no food or clean water, and no communication? Think what will happen when there is no authority. This will also spread to the smaller cities and towns, it will just take a little longer.

  You will not be able to fight these gangs. You will be out-numbered and out-gunned. As things get out of hand the police will leave town. The National Guard and Armed Forces will be used to protect the government. That is the few that will be willing to serve following an event, most will leave and go to protect their families. You, your family, and your Group will be left to take care of yourselves. Think what your city, town and neighborhood will be like after a few days or weeks of this. Is this something you want to put your family through?

  The obvious question is what we can do to protect ourselves from these gangs. The fact is if you have chosen to survive in place and you are in a populated location then you can't protect yourself or your family. You will simply be overrun by gangs. When you look at the situation you will be faced with, it quickly becomes obvious you cannot protect your family from these gangs. You will simply be overrun, there will be many more of the bad Guys than good Guys. The only way you and your family can survive long term after an event is to have prepared in advance. You must have selected an isolated location, an evacuation point where you have cached supplies. You must leave the populated area and make your way to your evacuation point as soon as possible. Evacuate to a safe point and wait for these gangs to consume themselves. This may take six months or six years, but they will eventually kill themselves off.

  Sounds radical, think this scenario is impossible? Who knows, you want to bet your family's lives against it?


  I don't believe the people of the world, especially people of the United States will be able to survive what our Grandparents survived during the Depression.

  When the Great Depression hit in 1929 the United States and the world was a rural society. People had high morals. Most lived on a farm or at least raised a garden. Most had livestock to butcher. There were few people that didn't raise chickens. Almost everyone preserved at least some of the food they raised. Many preserved all their food. Most knew how to hunt and fish, providing a large part of their food. Many made most of their clothing, even their quilts and blankets. Although many had them they could live without automobiles, telephones, and electricity. Most family members lived in close proximity to one another. They helped each other by working together. Everyone knew and could trust their neighbors, they didn't mind helping and working with them. In other words, people were pretty well self-subsisting.

  Today we live in a completely different world. Today we live in a dog eat dog world where everyone is out for their own good. Morals are about as low as they can go and still be a civilized country. The vast majority of people now live in an urban society. There are very few that could be self-sustaining. How many people do you know that grow a garden? I know a lot of folks in the country continue to raise gardens. However, in reality this would be a very small part of the population. How many people living in populated areas know how to hunt and fish? How many people would know how to preserve food, make their own clothing, or butcher their own meat?

  You may be surprised to learn that according to the government, most cities and urban areas have only a three day supply of food and water. This includes food as well as water stored in warehouses as well as on store shelves.

  How would most people react if the supermarket shelves were empty? How would most people react if they had to do without an automobile, electricity, telephone, or even a T.V. not to mention a computer? How many of your neighbors do you know by name, how many do you know really well? What about your extended family do they live close? What will be the reaction of most people when there isn't any gas for their car? What will be the reaction of most people when their cell phone is not working? What will be the reaction of most people when there is no electricity?

  Many of us have watched movies such as "Escape from New York" or other movies about anarchy in populated areas. I actually think conditions will, in a lot of ways, be worse than these movies portray. The one thing these movies fail to show is food. Where will these gangs get food? Supermarket shelves would be bare in a matter of days in the event of a national Catastrophic Event. There will be no trucks arriving with new supplies, for that matter there will be no new supplies being shipped or grown.

  Now consider this, in all actuality recent disasters such Hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes. Although bad, they were relatively small events when you consider what can happen in a national Catastrophic Event. These hurricanes affected only a small part of the country. What is going to happen if we have a nationwide event that affects the whole country?

  In the case of a nationwide Catastrophic Event it is my belief that the only way home storage and surviving in place could work is if everyone is practicing it. You know as well as I do that this will never be the case. So, I repeat, it is my contention that home storage and surviving in place will not work.

  My reasoning behind this statement is simple; people will do anything to get food and water for themselves and especially for their family. If I have a horde of food and water and your family is going without, one way or another you will get some of my food and water. I may give you food and water or you may take it, one way or the other you will get food and water for you family, that is as long as there is food and water available.

  Let's be realistic, there are probably no more than three or four people in your neighborhood that have adequate home storage. By adequate I mean enough to last their family even three months or more. Now let's suppose there are 250 people in your neighborhood. If you started doling out food and water you would have to give food and water to everyone, you couldn't pick and choose. How long would your supply last then, a month or so, let's look at this and figure it out. First, it may surprise you how fast people are going to get desperate. Most people have only two or three days' supply of real food in their homes. Of course, most will have a good supply of what I would call snack foods; peanut butter, chips, candy, cookies, and etc. These could sustain a family a few more days. After that there will be no food available. Let us be generous and say it is a couple weeks before people begin to really get nervous, desperate and scared. People will know you have food and water stored, believe me they will know.

  Now these people with hungry kids start coming around asking for food and water. Suppose you start doling out food and water. Before long word is out that you are handing out food and water, then there is a line from your door. Figuring a couple weeks before people get desperate, your food and water storage will last no more than two or three weeks. People will be at your door until you are out of food and water. At this point not only will your neighbors be out of food and water, but now you and your family will be without food and water. To be realistic it would be difficult controlling people that come to you for food and water. Some will try and take it all. How far are you willing to go in order to protect your family's food supply?

  Now let us assume you decide that you are not going to give anyone food. You are going to take care of your family. Sooner or later, if the neighbors don't already know it, they will figure out you have food and water. What then, you know they will be coming and asking for food, and then as they get more desperate they will start demanding food and water. What then, are you going to be willing to kill to keep your food and water? It will come to that; it is the basic instinct of survival.

  Still think surviving in place will work? Then let's look at it another way. Suppose you have a garden in your backyard full of ripe vegetables. Now let's suppose your neighbors don't have a garden but have three or four kids. Their kids and wives are going hungry. What do you suppose your neighbors are going to do, let their kids starve? What would you do if it was you without food for your kids and your neighbor had food? I'll tell you what will happen, your neighbors will get together and come and get all of your food.

  Having come to the inevitable conclusion that sooner or later you will have to kill to protect your food and water supply, are you willing to do this? I don't know about you, but I would kill if forced to kill in order to protect my family. Having said this, I will do everything I can to keep from having to kill, especially someone trying to get food for their family. In their place I would undoubtedly do the same thing.

  History supports what you have just read. When people are starving they will do anything for food. In a starving situation people have been forced to eat cats, dogs, bugs and yes, there are cases where people have even turned to cannibalism in order to survive. Do you really think that your starving neighbors and especially marauding gangs are going to leave you alone? There is no way they won’t know you have food. You want to be able to fight them off, there will be dozens if not hundreds of them and only one or two, or maybe even five or six of you. It is a losing situation.

Copyright © 2024 Kenneth D. Nunn

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