Scavenging for Survival After SHTF

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Scavenging for Survival After SHTF

Looting, scavenging, call it what you will. When the SHTF, you might need to do a little scavenging. Scavenging after SHTF carries significant stigma, invoking your most dreaded nightmares. During man-made or natural disasters (including war), scavenging is a common occurrence.  Practicing subscribers to usCrow and other various prepper or survival websites are more prepared than others. However, even the most faithful survivalist will need to scavenge.

There are several reasons to scavenge. In the short-term you might need parts for your shelter, vehicles, equipment and etc… In the long-term you will deplete your two-year food/water/supply storage. If you don’t have a renewable food and water source as pointed out in CMF Contributor Black’s Victory Gardens article… Either way, get ready to scavenge.

This guide will attempt to explain the basic parameters for scavenging on an operational level. Instead of aimlessly wandering out to find day old tacos, you will approach scavenging with a strategic mindset. The human condition will never change. When the shit hits the fan, you damn well better know the whole of humanity will revert to the laws of nature and natural selection.

Scavenging-after-SandyWhile survival groups are safely hunkered down in their various BOLs (bug out locations), looters will be hard at work clearing out the shelves. We’ve seen it time and time again. The unprepared will go into panic mode in the presence of disaster. That panic will lead to a frenzy, sending the most legitimate and ‘stand up’ people into desperation mode. That desperate frenzy will not only cause mass casualties, but it will also leave factories, grocery/department stores, farms, and etc completely bare.

Not only will looting leave stores bare, but it will turn any suburban center into a complete wasteland (if said suburban centers weren’t wiped out in the initial disaster). It takes one disrespectful asshole to ignite a plague of destruction. A present day example of looting and destruction can be seen in; any Occupy protest, post game celebrations, natural disasters and etc…

The Threat of Scavenging

Scavenging will most likely require your survival group to visit highways, population centers, government facilities, farms and other various installations. Evaluate each mission. Prior to a scavenging operation send a scout out equipped with a direct line of communication to your base of operations. Scouts should be fully versed in travelling through hostile territories, preventing a hostile force from tracking your scout back to your base. Service members who were snipers in the military are ideal for scouts. They are well-trained, well-disciplined, and an essential element of your survival group.

Scouts should survey the target area from a safe distance using standard surveillance techniques to avoid detection. Such evaluations should consider; hostile occupying force, environmental risk (chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and natural conditions), variables, and operational costs. Operational costs include; distance, weather conditions, force elimination. By establishing operational costs the scout can report to the commander of the survival group outlining how much food, water, fuel, required equipment, force needed, and munitions the scavenging operation will cost. At which time the commander can make the call.

If it’s not worth it, it’s not worth it! Should your commander make the decision to carry out the operation, those assigned to carry out the task must be well versed in combat theater and tactical operations. Scavenging like all other ops must maintain command, control, communications and intelligence.  In addition, MOPP Standards should be applied for all operations.

Where to Scavenge after SHTF

Your scavenging target shouldn’t be some random location like Wal-Mart; your target should fit your need. Going to a random location with no direction would likely force your group into a shitty situation. Aimlessly moving from one location to the next is strictly prohibited. It’s prohibited because it will tire your group while exposing them to the human and natural threats in theater.

Scavenging operations should not only have a specific target, but two backup targets should be established (when applicable). The following are examples of scavenging needs versus targets;

  • Automotive Parts – Logic would dictate the last place looted would be automotive shops. I don’t see a Mad Max scenario happening because most of today’s generation can’t even change a tire. In the absence of an automotive shop you will need to scavenge from nearby abandoned vehicles. Luckily a part replacement scavenge op will most likely only need a three-man team; two assisting cover operators and a mechanical engineer. Note: in all usCrow articles we highly stress the need for a mechanic in your survival group.
  • Renewable Power – Again, this could easily be considered a low-risk op with a three-man team. Excellent locations include federal installations. Federal installations are equipped with commercial grade solar panels. Such locations include; power-substations, federal office buildings, freeway lighting and etc.
  • Fuel – Fuel can be scavenged from abandoned vehicles by siphoning the gas out of abandoned tankers (if operable take the tanker), cars/trucks, convenience store fuel holds, and etc. You will need a vehicle to transport the fuel when applicable and a four man team to acquire it.
  • Ammunition – Had you taken our advice you’d be reloading your own ammo. Even then, you could possibly run out of ammo. This means you will have to take on a high-risk op. Ammo will be a hard thing to come by and in the event of scavenging for ammo you will need a five man team. Five are required not only for adequate force but for adequate manpower. Ammo is heavy! Such targets include; military bases, law enforcement vehicles and stations, gun stores, and dead bodies.
  • Food and Water – Food and water will be extremely hard to come by when scavenging (food more so than water in most locations). Think unconventionally. For food, target wholesale distribution warehouses. You will have to establish these locations prior to disaster because they are not easily identified. In addition to distribution centers, food can be acquired from; abandoned homes, tractor trailers, grain mills, farms and etc. Read the usCrow SHTF Water Source Guide for potential water scavenging locations.
  • Niceties and Necessities – Niceties and necessities include various items that make survival much more tolerable. Necessities include; birth control, prophylactics, Lysol, bleach, soaps detergents, and etc. Niceties include; entertainment, board games, toys for the kids, electronics and etc. Birth control is priority. Pregnancy after SHTF will not be easy. However, if a member of your group becomes pregnant, that child is not only the mother’s responsibility, but the entire group’s. Children take priority over all. The acquisition of these items should not take precedent over the safety of the group. These items can be acquired from several locations, you just have to be smart.

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About Administrator Ryan

Administrator Ryan has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Emergency Administration and Management from the University of Kentucky, and has been the primary handler for since it's founding. Professional background includes over a decade's experience in survival and preparedness, graphic design, computer programming, website coding, and asset management. Personal background in mountaineering, climbing, rappelling, combat training, and big game hunting.

11 thoughts on “Scavenging for Survival After SHTF

  1. I’m late to this conversation, but scavenging for food must include hunting. When it comes to hunting, please don’t assume that you must use your precious gunpowder ammo. An excellent investment pre-SHTF is a good-quality BB gun and/or pellet gun. You can buy massive amounts of BBs and pellets very cheap.
    Also, when the SHTF a wise move would be to immediately trap (alive and uninjured) squirrels, rabbits etc. for breeding purposes. One male per cage with several females is required; two or more males in the same cage will fight.

  2. I work at a convenience store and space for storage is limited. Even if the shelves are empty, as well as the back room, there will be things over looked because no one looked behind the magazine shelf to see that the bottom looks solid, but it’s hollow and is usually used to store cigarettes, condoms, batteries, etc. Look everywhere, because you would be amazed at the places you can store things under, behind, on top of, or inside of. Also look in the change, most employees don’t even bother to check coin dates, so you will find pre-1965 silver coins mixed in with modern sandwiched metal coins. Even the big stores will have things hidden in weird places, so employees won’t have to go all the way to the back for a popular item for a customer. Also soda machines are built extremely well in the front and sides, but less so in the back and top. An empty vending machine isn’t as empty as it looks, the people who fill them don’t want to lug more than they need to and keep a box filled with chips, candy, nuts, and over the counter medicine, tampons, and condoms (for those machines that carry them). Also bars sometimes have cigarette machines and again a hidden box of cigarettes which are great for bartering. Also larger the bar, the more storage rooms for alcohol, coffer for designated drivers, both salt and sugar for margaritas, olives, pickles, and (in the case of gay bars and swingers clubs) a large supply of both male and female (yes, they do make them) condoms. As for stocking up before hand on condoms, just go to a drag show with your wife at the closest gay bar and handful of condoms in your pocket here and there and some in her purse will fill up a shopping bag in no time (Trust me, I’m a drag queen and I’ve seen it happening while on stage). As for after everything crashes, Drag Queens are hoarders and you would be surprised at what they have back stage. I have seen swords (real and theatrical), axes (same as before), knives, pepper spray, stun guns, tazers, brass knuckles, baseball bats, (Note: some fans are a bit over zealous sometimes and it doesn’t hurt to have a few toys to remind them it’s just a show.) sewing kits, fabric including denim and high quality leather (Drag Kings, women preforming as men, so don’t worry it’s not all pink and purple and shiny, in fact some of it will be camouflage.) sewing machines, leather working tools (Women’s shoes and leather clothing sometimes need to be adjusted to fit a man) fabric and super glue ( and a lot of other sewing needs for repairing clothing.) MRE’s ( there are a lot of ex-military that use to come out after they got out.) and of course lots of DUCT TAPE ( No, I do not do what your thinking, but the ones who do back flips and the splits on stage do.) Also because most gay bars tend to be closer to police stations and fire stations these day, they might have a better chance of surviving, especially since some try to avoid drawing to much attention to themselves. Also do not dismiss any drag queen or gay couples you come across after everything crashes, there are a lot of gay people who are nurses, military, martial artists, fire fighters, doctors, and police, who have also had a lifetime of discrimination to teach them to be survivors. Some of us might be flamboyant, but when the SHTF we already have the experience of knowing how to cope with it on our own. Thank you, and as I always say to my friends who are also preparing, ‘Give me a life worth living, the liberty to be who I am, and the freedom to live my life as I see fit.’

  3. I suggest that groups try to have someone in their group that has some medical training. Even the most basic nurse has had some training in all aspects of nursing even if it is not their specialty. They may not remember every detail (example: childbirth) but I bet they know enough to safely help birth a baby in an uncomplicated birth. You are right that infant and mother mortality will be high, think third world country. Birth Control is great, but there will always be people who don’t use it, think pregnancy won’t happen to them, or just will think they are going to die anyway….why bother.

  4. Jerry you are free to disagree with the need for Birth Control. I would like to politely offer a rebuttal. SHTF is going to turn the clock back a good 100 years. It will be very Steam Punk I guess is what I am saying. Infant morality and death due to child birth is going to be serious problem. I was 9lbs 11 ounces. Without access to a surgeon my mother would have died in child birth. So it’s not a simple black and white solution. We do not know what will happen. But BC should be available is certain circumstances regardless if we agree with it. Especially if say a girl is raped because all of a sudden there is no law and order. It happens a lot now with law and order…

  5. i disagree regarding birth control. when the SHTF people will be dieing literally by the tens of millions; it has been estimated that, based upon the severity of the major collapse, and it’s after effects, we’re looking at a 75-90+% population decrease in the US. meanwhile our enemies in china and the islamic world will continue to outnumber us and increase the margin between our populations.

    this means that we will need to start repopulating ASAP! it is better to plan for childbirth with both training and supplies(after all, that’s what prepping and survivalism is all about, right?) rather than to plan to decrease our population even further, thus leaving us even further up shit creek sans paddle than we will be already.

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  7. I prefer to think of the assignment as Barter or Buy. Please remember a lot of businesses are family owned and are more likely to be aggressively defended.
    Before hand do a recon. of all the stores and businesses within a 1 mi. radius of your location if urban and a larger radius if rural. You should map out everything within that area. Then get out your yellow pages, because it gives you a comprehensive listing of everything. Go methodically through all of it and think about what they have and what you might need.
    You may never have been to the ethnic store in the strip mall but they have 20lb. bags of rice, noodles, dried fruit, beans and more. An electrical or plumbing contractor will have supplies and tools. Auto junk yard will have parts. There is food in office supply stores. The dollar stores have food,water, tools, gloves etc.. The liquidator outlet has tarps, tools, food, juice and more. Auction houses quite often have tools. Look, See, Think .
    Have a look at all your supplies and then do a list of three places you can go to get replacements. For your list have business names, addresses and maps. Add information to your supply binder and a copy on a UBS stick.
    Birth control : Diaphragms last a long time unused but they need to be fitted and purchased before and used with a spermicide that will have a expiration date. For condoms and BCP also think about Drs. offices, Planned parenthood, any health clinic, and public health office. Planned parenthood and public health will give away condoms for free, but you may have to make a lot of trips if you want to stockpile.

  8. Good source of food is edible weeds. Would be a good investment to learn the local edible foliage and see what can be scavenged close by or within a designated area.

    Of course, the best investment for food would to start buying and growing it yourself now.

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