Operations Security (OPSEC) is probably one of the most debated topics in the preparedness community. The main area of debate with OPSEC is about whether or not it is a good idea to be open about your preps and trying to talk to people outside of this community about preparedness.
Despite what other people might tell you, there is no “right” answer here. For some people OPSEC is a big deal, and maybe for a good reason, for others it’s not. Only you can decide what you’re comfortable sharing with others when it comes to prepping.
In today’s post I’m going to be sharing some of my thoughts about OPSEC and some of the realities about the importance of OPSEC in both normal life and in disaster scenarios.
The debate over OPSEC
The debate over OPSEC focuses mainly on whether or not it is a good idea to talk to people outside your home about preparedness. On one hand you have the side that is very concerned about talking to “outsiders” about preparedness because they are worried about becoming a “target” after a major disaster scenario.
On the other end of the spectrum there are people that feel OPSEC is nothing more than paranoia and that we’re doing a disservice to the preparedness community by NOT talking to anyone we possibly can about prepping.
First and foremost, like most issues that are hotly debated, there is no right and wrong answer because everyone’s situation is different.
Here’s my take on OPSEC:
OPSEC is a real concern, but my main OPSEC concerns are a lot more based in reality than SHTF fears. Most of the concerns people have with OPSEC and how they will become “targets” when the SHTF are in my opinion, are a little over the top. I suppose it is possible that in the extremely unlikely event of a widespread, SHTF, end of the world disaster that someone, somewhere could potentially remember your off-hand comment about stockpiling food, however the chances of this are so remotely low that it really doesn’t bother me personally.
That being said, there’s nothing wrong with being a little overly-protective of your preps if that makes you more comfortable. However, I don’t think it’s a good idea to never speak to anyone about preparedness period. In most long-lasting disasters in the past, having a group was a key component to survival, while being alone was extremely dangerous.
Although I talk about preparedness with anyone that will listen, I would never tell anyone outside my immediate family specifically how much food, water or other supplies I have on hand. There’s simply no reason to, and it’s better to be safe than sorry if there’s no benefit of sharing that information.
Personally, I think building networks of like-minded people is far more important than the extremely remote chance that someone could connect the dots about my food supplies if the world ends in disaster. The connections I’ve been blessed to make with like-minded people, both online and off was well worth the risk. In short, I’m ok with talking about prepping if there’s a chance I could make a new friend that feels the same way I do.
Real world OPSEC
Even though I definitely don’t agree with keeping a tight lid on your secret prepper identity I still think OPSEC is extremely important and is something that a lot of people both outside our community and in aren’t taking seriously. Below are some of my key areas of OPSEC in the real world.
- Financial OPSEC – When I was growing up, talking about money with people outside your family was taboo. Asking someone how much money they made was frowned upon and boasting of your success was an easy way to isolate yourself from the community. Today, more and more people feel the need to show off by bragging about money, driving ridiculously over-priced vehicles and more or less just letting anyone and everyone know how successful they are.
This is extremely dangerous. Real criminals research their targets, even if it’s as simple as seeing a guy in line at the store with a couple hundred dollar bills in his money clip or just memorizing someone’s debit card pin this could potentially lead to a very dangerous scenario.
This should also be a no-brainer, but a lot of people still don’t shred important documents before throwing them out. Identity theft is a real concern, and you shouldn’t be throwing anything out with personal information on it that hasn’t been shredded.
- Online OPSEC – I see so many people debating OPSEC online these days, and yet half the time when I go to the person’s profile on something like Facebook, it’s completely open for the whole world to see. It takes about 60 seconds to change your privacy settings on all social media sites to private. Numerous violent crimes and thefts have been committed simply because the victim posted too much personal information on social media and had their profiles set to open.
- Home security OPSEC – Having a fortified home is a key step in OPSEC. Simple things like security film for windows, sturdy locks and heavy duty doors can go a long way to making you feel more secure in and outside your home.
It’s also a really bad idea to “advertise” at your home. Things like NRA stickers or even those cutesy window stick figure decals for all the members of your household can tell a potential criminal a lot about you and your family. There’s no need to grandstand or send a message to everyone driving past your home, do not give criminals information that could be used against you.
Anyone that’s read this blog before knows that I don’t put a lot of stock into the “Post-Apocalyptic World” of prepping. That being said, the potential for a large-scale serious disaster scenario is very real and if we ever do end up in a situation like that, many things will change. Recently I’ve been reading a lot of the blog posts from Selco at www.SHTFschool.com. For those not familiar, Selco lived through over a year of a true SHTF disaster scenario in the Balkin Wars of the 1990’s. In many of his posts he describes some of the best OPSEC practices every day post-SHTF life. Here are just a few of them:
- In a post SHTF single individuals are much more likely to be targeted for violence or theft than a group or even 2 people. In short, never go out alone.
- If you are required to barter for more resources, never conduct any transactions at your location, never bring a large amount of barter items with you at once and never make more than 1 or 2 transactions. People will be watching.
- If you do have to go anywhere on foot in a populated area, go at night. You’re less likely to be seen.
- Always be sure that you’re not being followed. Criminals do gather intel about their intended targets. If you do feel that you are being followed, do not go directly to your base location as the criminal may be following you to see if your location may have resources they can come back (in numbers) for.
It doesn’t matter which camp you’re in on the OPSEC debate. OPSEC is a real concern for this community; but with a little common sense and a splash of reality, OPSEC can be fairly easy to manage. One way or another, you should be comfortable with your level of operations security, and if you’re not…you should be doing something about it.
Thanks for visiting today everyone!