- Have an escape plan. You might need one now, but you cannot foretell the future.
- Carry your most basic gear on your person because survivors often separated from bags and packs.
- Create a Go Bag and stock it with what you’ll need to reach your destination. Be sure to include plenty of cash because it is a potent problem solver on the run.
- Cache a backup Go Bag and cash somewhere other than your residence.
- Survivalists tend to dismiss storage units as survival resources, but they can be indispensable when used properly.
- Preparing in advance saves time and prevents mistakes when it’s time to drop off the grid.
This is Part 2 of a three-part article on PERSEC/Privacy. Please click here for Part 1.
Survival in densely-populated areas is often an “us vs. them” proposition. If society just fractured on religious, ethnic or political lines and you aren’t a card-carrying member of the faction in control of the side of town you live on, your survival may depend on relocating someplace controlled by the faction you do belong to. In route, there may be large groups of heavily armed thugs stopping everyone and checking ID. Wrong tribe, religion, political affiliation, etc.? You get a bullet to the head … if you’re lucky. If not, they’re low on ammo and they use a machete or light you on fire. At times like these, it’s best to avoid traveling along lines of drift like roads and getting from A to B in one piece takes planning.
If the threat is chiefly of a legal nature, an emergency plan may involve dual-citizenship or an investor VISA in non-extradition country. It used to be that at the right time and place, it was not difficult to get in or out of the USA, but this has changed a great deal since 9-11. cross the border from Mexico to the USA.
Have an Escape Plan
You might not feel like you need bulletproof privacy or an escape plan today, but if you have lived in of several regions abroad or have travelled extensively outside places tourist frequent, you most likely already get it. What these folks understand is that no one knows what the future has instore for them and the USA is less than a dozen meals away from reverting to its third world roots.
In this context, I’m not referring to restraint escape and SERE tactics when I talk about an escape plan, although those skills and equipment certainly may be come in handy in this type of scenario, but I have already published articles on the subject. Such a plan is largely determined by who or what you need to escape from. The greater the reach they have and the more money they are willing to spend to find you, the more work it is to hide from them. Depending on the threat, you may only need to get to an embassy, church, safe house or neighborhood on the other side of town or you may need to drop off the grid and make your way to another continent.
Survival/Self-recovery Core Layer
In the context of the layered and modular approach to survival equipage, the following are items that can help you get away without a trace.
- Cash – A cashless society would mean the death of privacy. Dealing in cash is essential to maintaining privacy.
- Prepaid Bank Cards – Most airlines no longer accept cash and some merchants do not accept cash. This is especially common abroad.
- Restraint Escape Tools – In the event that you are restrained, a few simple tools will help you escape handcuffs, disposable restraints or if tied up.
- Carry Concealed – Carry a concealed firearm in permissive environments but understand that in non-permissive environments firearms can turn a catch and release into a jail sentence and a thorough background search.
- Reversible Clothing – Give you the ability to change your appearance in an instant and adapt from covert to over camouflage when transitioning between wild and built environments.
- Faraday Bag Pocket – Drop your phone inside and it can no longer communicate with cell towers or vice versa.
- Bandanas & Handkerchiefs – Useful to wipe down payphones, as IFF, to hide or obscure your face and too many other uses to list.
- Dust Mask – In some environments, a medical or dust mask and hat is an easy way to conceal your identity from facial recognition that also has plausible deniability.
- Sunglasses – Essential as eye protection against spall and other tiny fragments, sunglasses also help hide your identity and conceal your eye movements.
My next layer is my Go Bag.
- Portable Wealth – Individuals don’t generally have any reporting requirements buying small gold bars in the USA but selling a kilo (around USD$40K at the time of this writing) or more of gold does have a reporting requirement. If you are traveling internationally, it is typically in your best interest to declare anything and everything because it can be the difference between paying a small tax and going to prison. You don’t want to go from the frying pan into the fire.
- Lens Finder – Cameras are everywhere, but if you are aware of them, they are not difficult to avoid. For the time being, cameras incorporate lenses. Although this may eventually change, a lens finder can help you spot cameras, enabling you to then take steps to avoid them.
- Maps & Phone Directories – Especially in a pinch, telephone directories have maps and convenient lists of the locations of various resources.
- Balaclava – Useful to hide your face from cameras, but a bandana, dust or medical mask will do the same job. Facial recognition is a growing threat.
- Gloves – Gloves protect your hands, make you harder to ID from some angles and prevent you from leaving fingerprint evidence. Leather gloves soak up sweat and blood but they can be used to conceal black medical gloves.
Caches & Poor Man’s Safe Houses
“Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” applies to your escape plan too. Cache a spare Go Bag and basic Bugout Bag that can be made airline friendly by removing a few things. Provided you don’t run in the wake of an economic disaster or HEMP, most of what you really need to survive or start over can be purchased when you get where you are going or cached there. You cache should include plenty of cash.
Couch surfing, campgrounds, mom & pop bed & breakfasts, hostels, shelters, churches and classified ads for temporary rentals or roommates can be inexpensive places to crash that won’t know you from Adam, aren’t connected to you and either don’t require ID or can be convinced to forego it. Depending
Depending on how dire your circumstances are, the same place can sometimes be used for both purposes. Renting or even owning a room can be surprisingly inexpensive in some countries. It won’t be a five-star resort, but it will give you a place to hole up. How many people can say they have someplace to hole up in an emergency that is not easily tied to them?
With certain precautions, one option that shouldn’t be overlooked as a cache site is humble storage unit. Storage units are cheap. A 10’ x 20’ unit is large enough to store a vehicle (owned by a NM or WY LLC) and I have found them in the US for as little as $50/month, $60/month with electricity. Some survivalists dismiss them because they think they immediately looted at the outset of any disaster.There is little historical basis for this and if rented using a nominee and/or under an alternate name, they can offer great utility to survivalists in terms of privacy.
This type of unit makes it possible to store a vehicle out of site and while they certainly aren’t meant to be lived in, they are often used as workshop and a unit this size with electricity can be stocked with a cot, bedding, food, water, a chemical toilet, a fan and heater inexpensively. Just make sure no one sees you go in and not come out and you could hide out until whoever is looking for you figures you got away and is forced to relax their posture.
As for security, I have been able to find units within radio range of an apartment, which made it possible to install a battery-powered wireless security system that reported any intrusion to a base unit in an apartment with internet access, which enabled me to receive notification of intrusion anywhere in the world and coordinate a pre-planned response. Many smaller items that are important on the run can easily be concealed in larger but uninteresting objects or the roof trusses walls or doors of the unit itself. Items concealed in the latter manner may be retrievable even in the unit is emptied someday. Use quality locks and pay in advance to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Relationships of Trust
One of my most influential mentors taught me, “Trust is the one thing that changes everything.” Of all the assets that can aid in engineering an escape plan or hardening privacy is assistance from other people you can trust with your life. Understand though, that this sword cuts both ways. Trust the wrong person and few things will also get you caught quicker.
The right relationship can yield a ghost address, could help you “inherit” a PO box rented by a colleague who has left the USA for their home country or net you a nominee or designee. Don’t underestimate the power of relationships. On one stint overseas, I made friends with some Russian smugglers who crewed a massive container vessel. They could get me about anything I wanted, including off-the-grid transportation, very reasonably. I met up with them on their vessel in different ports over the years and let one of them come stay with me for a while, while the ship headed from the Gulf of Mexico to the West Coast by way of the Panama Canal and it was plain to see how such a relationship could benefit someone wanting an exit strategy.
Designees and Nominees
Ever wonder how celebrities hide their names from utility accounts, make purchases anonymously and clear the numerous other privacy hurdles encountered in life? One way is to enlist a trusted friend or hire a personal assistant to act a nominee or designee. The nominee or designee (depending on the circumstances) sets up accounts or conducts transactions in their own name and protects the privacy of their friend or client.
An automobile motoring a state route under a big, blue sky used to be the definition of freedom for generations Americans. ALPR (Automatic License Plate Recognition) systems have changed that. The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) obtained records from more than 200 agencies totaling more than 2.5 billion (yes, billion, that’s not a typo) license plate scans in 2016 & 2017 and that’s just from agencies contracting with Vigilant Solutions to share APLR data.
Pay cash for vehicles and register them under a New Mexico or Wyoming LLCs. A vehicle set aside for an exit strategy should be registered to a separate LLC and keep it in a storage unit in a municipality that does not use APLR. That way, you won’t build a useful travel pattern in APLR and if an ALPR system runs your plate, it will only tell them that the vehicle is registered to an LLC and give the address of the resident agent to contact.
Not all states require a front license plate and some others won’t pull you over for not having one since you could be from another state where it isn’t a requirement. Removing your front plate in states which that allow it will greatly reduce the number of times ALPRS scans your plates, especially in parking lots since it enables you to back your vehicle in, concealing the plate from the vehicle-mounted cameras by many tow truck and squad cars.
Preparation Buys Time and Prevents Mistakes
Running requires time and money. Imagine your trigger criteria were just met and you get up and leave, never to return. Would you need to pack? Withdraw money? Put your affairs in order? Arrange a vehicle or destination? While these things are simple to do now, they would slow you down or might even be possible after you need to run.
Preparation can also mitigate the need to commit crimes. Sure, if the world has truly gone sideways, there are times when commandeering a bicycle or a bus are necessary to save lives, but my curiosity about the subject and career as a survival writer and consultant have driven me to research countless prison escapes, kidnapping escapes and escape and evasion ordeals. One of few recurring themes is that committing crimes, even relatively minor ones, attracts unwanted attention.
If you want someone to take notice, steal from them. If you want them to proactively gather a mob and hunt you down, kill their pet dog or livestock or harm their family. From downed pilots, to prison escapees, things often go from bad to worse when they get hungry and they determine that stealing a little food is an acceptable risk. In movies, a single act of shoplifting or theft is often made to seem trivially easy but try to steal three meals a day for weeks and even professional thieves get caught, especially now that cameras are just everywhere.
Used wisely, a little money can feed you for a long time. As it dwindles, knowledge of wild edibles, fishing and hunting can help keep you fed. Before José Salvador Alvarenga became a fisherman, which would eventually culminate in an survival ordeal where he survived an incredible 438 days adrift at sea, he fled violence in El Salvador with only the clothes on his back and a small pack. He hunted and fished his way up the coast from El Salvador to Costa Azul, Mexico, crossing two international borders along the way. Once in Costa Azul, he pretended to be a Mexican citizen and started out sweeping porches until he worked his way up to captain of a small fishing boat. I have researched numerous instances where people have travel great distances on foot, living off the land or working to sustain themselves along the way.