Many people spend a lot of money and go to a great deal of trouble preparing for emergencies from local disasters all the way to The End Of The World As We Know It. Stockpiling arms, ammunition, medical supplies, alternative energy and assorted supplies are all good ideas if done for the right reasons, in the right places, and in the proper way. But very little attention is given to the one skill that you will eventually need to stay alive in an extended crisis situation. Scavenging.
To begin with, lets define our terms. Scavenging and looting are not the same thing. Please refer to my article. Scavenging or Looting. Which Is It? for an explanation of the difference between the two.
Scavenging will be an important skill you will need to survive regardless of how long the disaster lasts. Eventually your supplies are going to run out, and you need to start scavenging before they do to prolong their use. No article this length can cover all aspects of it, but I want you to start considering the subject seriously and to give you some ideas to start. In the initial aftermath of a disaster, looters will have cleaned out a lot of the usable items from the target locations I list below. But they will probably not get all of the good stuff you are looking for. Initial looters will concentrate on luxury goods and totally useless item such as electronics and other goodies. It will only be a little later that people will start scavenging really useful items: Food, water, clothing, firearms ammunition, fuel, camping supplies, etc. And even then, they are going to overlook a lot.
The first thing to keep in mind is to have a defensive mindset. When you select a target area to scavenge, observe it closely. You won’t be the only one scavenging, and people will begin using deadly force to take or keep what they want. If you are alone, observe the area carefully and move in slowly. If you are in a group, send in a scout. That’s where having portable radios comes in handy.
Every person in your scavenging group should be armed. They should also have rucksacks and bags to carry items in. Tools such as bolt cutters, wire clippers, knives, crowbars, flashlights and multi tools should be brought long. You should have work gloves also. Rehearse what you are going to do and insure that every member of your party knows their part exactly. Have rallying points in case the operation goes South. Plan your route in, and if possible, take a different route out.
Just because the world might have ended as you know it, it still exists and everything in it still exists. Perhaps in altered forms. A lot of usable stuff can be reconfigured, along with the intact items you may find. Here are some prime locations you should look at:
Distribution Centers: Your local K-mart may get cleaned out quickly, but that out of the way plain looking warehouse that supplied it may not. Don’t forget to check the parked trailers of semi-trucks. They may be loaded with goodies.
Hospitals and Pharmacies: Looters may have cleaned out all of the narcotics, but you are looking for anti-biotics and other useful medical items. Hospitals will have quantities of clothing items also.
Self Storage Facilities: This could be time-consuming going through each container, but you could possibly hit a gold mine of useful items.
Fire Stations: You could find tools, fuel and first aid supplies.
Gas Stations: With grid down, you still might be able to harvest fuel from the underground tanks with a hand pump.
Government Buildings: Many will have emergency supplies stored and may have been overlooked by looters.
Factories: You can find tools, possibly fuel, and perhaps canned food in the cafeteria storage area.
Cars: There are going to be thousands of abandoned vehicles sitting around. Check the glove boxes and trunks.
Homes: If you are sure they are abandoned by their occupiers, go through them thoroughly. Looters will have taken the obvious, but look for the overlooked items.