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Personally, I despise looters, the people who take advantage of a crisis or a disaster to steal, and pillage what's not rightfully theirs. But the reality is a harsh one. And no matter how well you plan, eventually, there will be something you need. Perhaps you overlooked it in your preparations, or an accident and some unforeseen circumstances mean you're about to leave your bug out and venture into the world to scavenge what you need.

Start with a game plan

The key to a successful resource run is your game plan. Identify exactly what you need, and head to a location that is most likely to have it. There's no point hoping to find winter gear in a grocery store, and likewise, you're probably not going to find prescription medicine in a restaurant. My advice, is to plan ahead as much as possible.

Because you're essentially going out into the world to steal. Walking out the door in the middle of the day, trying to break into a location that's not your own could get you in some very serious trouble, not to mention the people you come across who may decide to follow you home, rob you for the gear you've got, or perhaps something even more sinister.

Mapping out locations

What you can do today is to identify your targets. One of my daily rituals is a morning jog, and while a good way to stay fit there's another motive. I use my run as a way to scout locations, escape routes, and learn the ins-and-outs of my neighbourhood.

Once I get home, I've got a binder that covers my local neighbourhood in detail, including print outs from Google Maps marked with everything I've discovered. Perhaps it's a walkway that's not listed on a map, or a new store that's sprung up. That way I've always got a working "road map" of routes and potential targets.

Here's what you should look out for:

  • Office buildings and abandoned businesses. The bigger the better, as you're likely to find general first aid gear, as well as whatever stores are in their kitchen.
  • Government buildings. In addition to first aid and kitchen supplies, most federal buildings have solar panels installed, and don't forget to check the janitor's closet.
  • Large distribution centers. Forget the supermarket that's been stripped bare, head out to the packing and distribution centers where supplies are ready in bulk.
  • Local churches and charities. If they're big on community service you'll find not only tins of food, but perhaps even marquees and other outdoor entertaining gear.
  • Self-storage facilities. You won't find food here, but it's worth opening a few if you're looking for sports and winter gear that usually gets stored.
  • Boats moored at the marina. Most boat owners will store their fishing gear, rations and communication equipment, and sometimes even a firearm on their boats.
  • Mechanics and auto-repair shops. The most likely place you'll find whatever it is you're looking for to get your car running again.
  • Schools, universities, hospitals, public buildings. Any large institutional building should be on your radar for food supplies, clothing and even knowledge (libraries).
  • Pawn shops. I love pawn shops for variety, where you'll find everything from guns and ammo to radios and more. Just be prepared, they're usually heavily fortified.

You'll notice that I'm not planning on targeting homes, or people's cars, or anything like that. Not only is it inherently dangerous (you're much more likely to find people at home than riding out the crisis in their place of employment), if I'm at my absolute last resort and I do have to scavenge, I don't want to be taking it from someone who may need it.

Scout out the location

Before you walk in to a potentially deadly situation, it's a smart idea to case the location. There could be people inside, they could be armed. There're a thousand things that could go wrong if you jump the gun on this one. So slow down. Take the time (at least a couple of hours, and it's better if you check on a couple of different days), to see what's what. My advice, only ever head into what's obviously an abandoned location. Safety comes first.

Be prepared for a night strike

Once you've got an idea of the place you want to target, and the route you'll take to get there (with two or three different escape routes home), I'd recommend going in at night. You can use the cover of darkness to conceal your approach, and timing it in the latest possible hours (after 2 or 3am), will ensure most people are already sleeping.

Remember though, moving quietly at night is difficult, and you may not be as fast. And don't forget to allocate enough time to get yourself (and your scavenged supplies) home again before the sun comes up and you're a sitting duck.

The tool's you'll need

Being prepared with the right tools will make a supply run that much more efficient, as a locked or barricaded door can be broken through.

Consider packing tools like a small pry bar, gloves, a lock-picking kit, and perhaps even a set of bolt cutters. Red-light headlamps will help you to see without spotlighting your presence, and don't forget a large backpack to carry your supplies home. Oh, and of course, your firearm, pepper spray, and anything else you need to protect yourself.

Get home safe

Finally, once you've got what you came for, it's time to get out. Be as quiet and methodical as possible, and avoid bringing any undue attention to yourself. Don't head directly home, just in case you're followed. You don't want to lead anyone to your home and your family.

The smart move is to choose a waypoint, a location where you have the upper hand, and can sit and wait, watching closely to ensure you're still completely alone. Only once you're sure the coast is clear, head home with your new-found supplies.

Scavenging in a crisis could very well be the ticket that helps your family survive just a little longer, but you need to do it the right way. Be smart, plan in advance, scout ahead, and know exactly what you're going to do once you get in, to get out fast and get home safe.

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