Site Selection Jun 15,2017

Shelter ( Building Permanent Structures )

Site Selection


I just wanted to take a minute to talk about one of the most important things you do in life – buy a home:  do you think about site selection?  A lot of places come with a lot of inherent risk.  If you live on the Gulf Coast, it is likely you are going to see a hurricane at some point.  You live in Tornado Alley – well, you can figure that one out.  Buy a house in a flood plain along the Mississippi or the Missouri Rivers (well, any flood plain of any river basin) and there is a probability that at some point, your home might get flooded out. 

You can prep an evacuation out of the area (bug out!) and you can buy insurance (at various rates, some affordable…).  As of this writing the folks beneath the Orville Dam in California have been evacuated from their homes in the event the dam may break.  If it doesn’t fail, they will return home, no harm no foul.  If it does, let’s hope they have insurance and can begin the process of rebuilding (or relocating).  But they are in a bug out scenario right now. 

Hint:  If a certain type of insurance is prohibitively expensive in your area, it is probably because that type of event is expected in your area.  You might want to reconsider the location, if you have that option.  My home is on the bluff side of the Mississippi River – pretty much the whole state of Arkansas would have to flood before I would have to worry about the river cresting over my lot. 

There is a dam in Iraq near Mosul that has some structural issues (water soluble gypsum at the base) that require constant maintenance to prevent underpinning the dam.  Combined with security issues that prevented maintenance when ISIS seized the area, there is a risk of the dam failing and the resulting flood could wipe out cities with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants and by the time the flood waters reach Baghdad with a population of six million, the river water would rise 16 feet and inundate much of the city.  Called the most dangerous dam in the world by the Army Corp of Engineers, it highlights a risk inherent at any dam – what happens if the structure fails?

You don’t camp in a flash flood area, you probably shouldn’t build or buy a home in a flood plain or in a valley below a dam if you can avoid it.

There are many weather driven events that place people in a survivor situation:  high winds, tornadoes, ice storms, blizzards, floods, avalanches and hurricanes.  These can be very localized or grow into regional sized events.  Secondary effects such as power outages, forest fires, downstream flooding or civil unrest (rioting and looting) can result. In most cases even in events that affect a large area – the government will attempt to restore order and resources from other areas can be mobilized to move into the area to restore power and other services. Prepping in this case is a waiting game – waiting for a return to normal.

We saw this after Hurricane Katrina and (name your hurricane here).  The issue is that the government is not always the most efficient agency in facilitating a return to normal life in the wake of a hurricane.  Think of the mess in the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina.  And I recall several articles about the red tape and bureaucratic nightmares people encountered trying to rebuild their homes after Hurricane Sandy.  Takeaway for preppers is you don’t want to be reliant on the government in a disaster response or for disaster recovery.

So let’s think about a few steps you should be taking when you select your home (or your bug out safe haven).

► Home owner’s insurance – any notable exceptions to coverage or expensive riders to an otherwise mundane policy?  Those indicate a potential risk that you might want to factor into your decision to buy or build in that area.

► If you are in an area that might be evacuated – what do the evacuation routes look like?  Are you generally ahead of the mob or behind the mob once an evacuation has been called (where is the highest population density and which way are they going?)  What are your personal decision points to bug out before the roads get congested and potentially prohibit evacuation? 

► if you have to ride out the crisis, what steps can you take to mitigate the risk to you and your loved ones?  Do you have a basement or cellar for tornadoes?  Can you build a dyke against a flood?  Can you protect your home from the high winds of a hurricane?  Do you have sufficient food and water for the duration of the storm and the recovery period afterwards?  Do you have alternate means of heat, power, and/or cooking during that period?  In each case, you need to analyze what risks are likely at your location and see how you can best prepare to meet those specific challenges. 

► What if?  What if the area impacted by the crisis grows beyond regional to national or continental?  If there is no easy way to mobilize assets from one area to help rebuild another area, your crisis might go on for quite some time.  And this is where you have to be planning for your own survival.  I just finished reading One Second After – a fictionalized novel about a post EMP strike America.  It reminded me a lot of Niven and Pournelle’s 1977 novel Lucifer’s Hammer about a post meteor strike American with a lot of the same effects (screening refuges for usable skills, mobs of well-armed cannibals rampaging through the country and a big battle to defeat them).  Location location location played a role in when services could be restored in an area – of course it wouldn’t make a good story if the crisis was over in a week.

So using our four phase template:



► look at the layout of your proposed location, what natural disasters are the most likely at that location?

► Review what reasonable steps you can take to mitigate the risk

► Install whatever facilities are necessary



► Decision to bug out or ride out the storm

► Tornado – move to a covered area or low ground

► Flood – dyke your high area or evacuate

► Hurricane – board up the house, evacuate the area

► Blizzard – final prep for being snowed in



► Triggers to evacuate ahead of the mob

► or Riding the storm out (assuming you did not evacuate out of the affected area)



► Repair damage, rebuild, restock


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