Is it time to run for the hills?
by Thomas Miller
The current state of the world is a concern to many people. My guess is that if you are reading this, you, too, are likely uncomfortable with the current environment in which we are living. Personally, I have always had some level of concern about the leadership in our government here in the United States.
As I write this, I have a greater concern than I have ever had before. This uneasy feeling, paired with conversations with friends and family, has me convinced that now is the time to make an escape plan.
When considering what my escape plan should consist of, I can’t shake the reoccurring feeling that part of my family’s plan needs to be having a place to go if things get bad where we are. I don’t have a specific place lined up already, but I have a few possibilities in mind.
All said, making the decision to relocate is extremely difficult. Dozens of factors will likely need to be mulled over when considering a move. Employment, a child’s education and the feelings of your family can all weigh heavily on the decision-making process when it comes to getting out of dodge.
To make it as simple as possible, we’ll look at finding a retreat as two steps: determining a geographic area and individual property evaluation.
Determining a geographic area
It is impossible to determine one specific area that is the safest place to be. However, it is very possible to locate an area that will be considerably safer when compared to others. Your level of commitment and the steps that you are willing to take will determine your level of safety.
Who will be part of the process?
If you are looking for a small space for just you or for your family and you, your search may be on a smaller scale than what I will outline below. In contrast, if your search needs to take into consideration the location of others who will use the property also (and for the purpose of this article), try to include as many points to consider as possible.
Where will it be?
When looking at a geographic area for your retreat area, first decide on a country in which to settle. I do not think that there is a better country than the United States. Period. If you are planning on using this location as a place to meet a group of other like-minded (at least I hope they are like-minded) individuals, this is the time to discover where everyone is located and identify the best areas to search. Typically, this will be areas that are centrally located to all parties or at least as centrally located as possible. It is never a good idea to choose a less desirable location to be completely centralized.
Secondary to the country, determine the locale that is most appealing to you. I do not worry so much about a particular city as I do the region.
If you choose to stay in the United States, consider the areas that vary from state to state like gun laws, taxes and natural resources. Another thing to consider is the ability of that particular state to govern and defend itself against any opposition. It may pay off to look at a little history here. Specifically, look for states that have not been heavily reliant on others (especially the federal government) to operate in the past.
I used the information that I could find from each state to evaluate things like crime (especially crimes per capita down to the county level), population density and specific threats in each county (natural disasters, nuclear fallout, etc.). My thought is to find a county that has little crime now, a low population density, etc., to have the best situation to live in during tougher times. If crime is bad in an area now, can you imagine how it will be when things start to break down?
Within a county there may be some areas that are better than others for personal reasons. But I think there needs to be a balance between safety and security in addition to access to needed goods and services. If you choose a remote location, consider what it would take to access vital goods and services if you don’t have transportation. I doubt Lowe’s will still be delivering if it hits the fan.
Comparing different geographic areas
OK, you might have an idea of what will work best for you by now. When ruling out one area over another, consider the following points to identify a safer location to live:
•Population density: The more people there are, the more potential there is for problems.
•Population composition: Are there specific, known groups that could provide more issues over the general population of most areas? This may be areas where extreme fringe groups exist or where extreme poverty in high concentrations may result in higher risk.
•Crime stats: Consider the number of felonies compared to misdemeanors, the amount of time between crimes, law enforcement officer-to-citizen ratio and even if the location is inherently riskier (border states, for example).
•Natural disasters: What are the historic disasters that have occurred in the area? Always make sure to check for floodplain information.
•Nuclear threat: How close are nuclear reactors to the property? Is it in a fallout zone?
•Water source, availability of groundwater and water quality: Where does the water for the property come from? Look for an area that provides its own water, as opposed to one that purchases its water. Is groundwater available in the event you wanted to drill a well? Does activity like fracking potentially threaten the water quality?
•Politics: Go where there are like minds.
•Economy: Look at local information about the percentage of the population who fall into risk areas like the following: food insecurity, food stamp participation, poverty rate and welfare participation (as a percentage of total personal income).
•Energy availability (solar and wind): Is it feasible to provide off-grid energy to the property?
•Distance to/availability of goods and services: Look not only at where services and goods are in relation to the property, but if they are even available.
Individual property evaluation
I think the best land on which to ride out a tough time is land that is somewhat secluded. I don’t like the idea of being in the middle of a populated area when things are not going well. When doing my comparisons, I started trying to narrow down properties at the county level with consideration given to cities in the county as a discriminator between two locations that are similar, mostly trying to avoid areas that have cities with populations over 50,000.
The specific areas of consideration that I gave to individual properties included:
•Cost of property: Set a budget and get the most for your money. I like to look at what the price per acre is.
•Additional property costs: Are there additional expenses to owning the property. Things to look at are taxes, private mortgage insurance (PMI) and any other fees.
•Homeowners association/covenants, conditions and restrictions: Don’t choose a property where someone else can tell you how to live on it! Just don’t do it. Always avoid homeowners associations. Check the property for covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&R). There are properties where you will be restricted to doing certain things that are common to self-reliance, like having livestock or digging a pond on your own property.
•Size: The more the merrier, I say; but make sure you consider your limitations. Don’t get a property that is smaller than you need or so big that you cannot keep an eye on all of it. Look at information like the amount of space needed for livestock as a guide. Ensure that you consider the potential for future expansion.
•Natural water source: Is there a source of natural water on the property? Look for a year-round source instead of one that is seasonal, if you can.
•Dead-end road: I like the idea of a property that is on the end of a dead-end road. This is ideal for security purposes.
•Neighbors: Find out who owns the neighboring properties and what they plan to do with their property: Who are they (private or corporate owner) and what is their proximity to you?
•Unusable space on property: Is there space that can’t be used (ravines, etc.)?
•Zoning: Find out what the property is zoned as and whether that zoning will impact your desired use for the property.
•Adjacent to highway or city: Property that is directly adjacent to cities or highways (even just highly trafficked roads) is something that should be avoided.
•Minimum of two points of entry/exit: Don’t get trapped. Make sure there are at least two ways to get on and off your property.
•Deeded access: Ideally, you would get a property that does not share access with someone else.
•Buildings on property: Having structures already put together and on the property will give you a head start. If there is a house, is it livable? Is the square footage enough or even too much? Are there utility buildings already in place and are they salvageable? If you would like to expand in the future, how many areas can be used? Are any of them already cleared?
•Visibility from the road: Properties that have buildings visible from the road are more likely to gain the attention of others.
•Roads on property: It is necessary to move about your property. If roads and trails are already present, it will save you time, money and effort.
•Available utilities: Unless you are set on being completely off-grid, public utilities can make life much easier. Check for the availability of electricity, natural gas, water and sewer. Also, see if the property already has a propane tank or septic tank installed (if you need these, it will save you a lot of money if they are already there).
•Independent power: Is there a system in place that provides power independently of other systems? Will it work year-round? If not, can you put one in?
•Independent water: Is a well already in place? Will it provide water year-round at a minimum yield of 5 gallons or more a minute?
•Independent heat source: Can you generate your own heat if needed?
•Basement or storm shelter: Having a place to ride out a storm or even hide is a bonus.
•Back-up power: Is there a generator system for back-up power? Can one be installed? Is it powered by fuel or solar?
•Property rights: Always maintain as many rights as possible to your own property. Specifically, look at water and mineral rights and check to see if the property has any easements.
•Fencing: Is any of the property already fenced? This can be a big money-saver.
•Required permits: Are specific permits needed to make improvements or repairs to the property? Look for the following: building (minimum size requirement?), plumbing, electrical, mechanical, deck, fence, septic tank, roads, ponds, demolition, burning
•Ability to do specific activities on property (shooting, hunting, burning, etc.)
•Emergency services: What is available (fire, police, EMS)? Are they full time or volunteer?
•What is your ability to cultivate revenue-producing goods on the property (timber, crops, livestock, food products, etc.)?
•What space is available for production of goods?
•How long is the growing season?
•Soil composition: Is the soil compatible with growing healthy crops? If not, what needs to be done to change this?
•Availability of irrigation: Will you be able to easily provide water to any crops or livestock?
•Types of hunting available: If you can hunt on the property, what types of game are there? How many food plots are available? Can food plots be expanded? Will you have to leave the property to hunt?
•Types of fishing available: Is fishing available in a pond, river, etc.? What type of fish are they? Will you have to leave your property to fish?
•Is property a likely target for criminal activity (theft, vandalism, squatters, etc.)?
•Exposure: A home with a southern exposure offers great benefit over a home that does not. This can be true of other buildings, like a greenhouse, too.
•Evacuation routes: I think that a minimum of three evacuation routes away from the property is necessary. Think about it this way: If you had to leave your property, would you have a way to get away, even if your main route were closed or blocked?
•Potential or planned future development: Avoid properties that could be taken via eminent domain or that is in the path of, or potential to be in, future development. Even look to see where local towns are being expanded and whether that expansion will eventually meet up with your property.
Wow! That is a ton of information to consider. I found that it literally takes hours, along with the cooperation of a real estate agent who knows exactly what you are looking for, to find a small list of good possibilities.
If you take nothing else away from this article, please seriously consider the fact that you need to develop and refine your escape plan now. I feel confident saying that things are not on track to get any better. Worst-case scenario, you will end up with a ton of valuable information. But I don’t think you will end up feeling like there is not purpose at all in developing an escape plan, including where you will go if you have to get out of Dodge!
Good luck. Prepare diligently. Make plans for your future safety.