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  • Mike L

Operational Security

Operational Security or OpSec is another term bandied about in prepping circles. The term has its origins in the Vietnam War, and it deals with keeping sensitive and critical information closely guarded and safe from enemies. In the context of prepping, OpSec simply means that you do not reveal the full extent of your preps to others. You can extend that to say that you don’t even mention that you have preps! Doing so potentially places you at extreme risk when SHTF or during a lesser magnitude, though still significant event.

There are two schools of thought on this one. One dictates that you maintain a high level of secrecy, sharing information and resources only with family and trusted allies. Sharing with others creates a stronger, better prepared, and more resilient community. The other school of thought advocates keeping quiet and sharing neither information nor resources with anyone. Let’s unpack the merits and disadvantages of each course of action.

To Share

As a species, we’re the most social of all animals on earth and we need each other. We’re willing to sacrifice ourselves to ensure the continued well-being of others, especially family. The obvious benefit of sharing this information and precious resources is you’re keeping those you love safe. There’s no scenario in which I’m safe and comfortable while my family is at risk or struggling that works for me. I would move heaven and earth to ensure their safety, security, and comfort. Billions of others feel the same way and would act in a similar manner. We will come back to this because it’s instructive.

Some people find it morally repugnant to the point of being unconscionable to withhold help from others in times of crisis, especially when you’re able to do so and, doing so doesn’t place you in danger. I’m going to go off on a tangent but it’s relevant to the discussion. For a time, my mother lived in NYC. I was there for a visit, and we had just left a Chinese restaurant. I was carrying my leftovers to be finished later. En route to the subway, a homeless man approached us and asked for money. He was respectful and maintained a reasonable distance from us as he spoke. I was on alert and quickly sized him up, but I was not overly concerned.

I told him no. Not to be deterred, he motioned to the bag I was carrying and stated that he’d take my leftovers. I was surprised at how quickly he pivoted but I was unmoved. Again, I denied his request for help. Still pleasant and nonthreatening, he chided me for not helping him. My mother whispered to me that in NYC, street etiquette dictates that you give money or food, if you have it. I handed over the leftovers. He thanked me and went on his way. I never forgot that interaction and it forever changed how I interact with the homeless. Moreover, it illustrated to me the simple decency in helping others.

So, back to the business at hand. The choice is yours to make and you must quickly weigh lots of factors to reach a decision. If you’re able to and doing so neither endangers nor diminishes your position, your course of action is clear.

To Not Share

Some in the prepping community feel that helping others invites them to return later to ask for additional help or for a purpose more sinister. The risk here is two-fold: 1) they know where you live and 2) they know you probably have food. The willingness to help others is either in your DNA or it’s not. You can argue ad nauseum, the pros and cons of helping and not helping others. Whatever you decide to do, be comfortable with that decision and move on.

A minute ago, I mentioned moving heaven and earth for the sake of your family’s well-being. If you know where to find help when it’s desperately needed, are you willing to accept no, knowing full well that your life or that of your family hangs in the balance? It’s a given that in the aftermath of an earthquake or hurricane, access to resources in that immediate area will be severely limited. In such a situation, many make the decision to take what they need from wherever they find it. Obviously, no one wants to see others suffer but, placing yourself in harm’s way is not a viable option.

Regardless of how you warn off visitors or those looking for help, know that they may come back with a friend or five. It’s just as likely that they never return. In every situation, you’re doing a quick scene size-up and basing your decision on the information and emotions you’re experiencing at that minute. Avoiding a confrontation is paramount and no one wants to escalate the situation by injuring another or being injured. Again, you have the right to refuse to help others. My advice is to discuss this with the family or your group well in advance. Weigh the pros and cons and decide how you want to respond. As with other aspects of prepping, practice delivering your response. If you lack conviction and decisiveness at a critical moment, things will quickly go poorly for you.

In my LTP, I have food that I plan to give to others or would be willing to barter for something in return. I’m addressing the issue now as a means of ensuring that I respond appropriately to my situation when the time comes. I’m making the decision in normal times while my situation is stable to aid others on a limited basis. I’d make a different decision if my circumstances were different but, the important thing is that I’m formulating a strategy early. I strongly advise you to do the same. In the end, you will do only what your conscience allows you to do.

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