Murphy’s Laws for Preparedness

Fergus Mason
By Fergus Mason April 18, 2017 09:02

Murphy’s Laws for Preparedness

In Military planning and preparedness in general there’s nothing as dependable as “Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.” That’s Murphy’s Law at its most basic.

However, as well as being reliable, Murphy’s Law is also amazingly flexible. You can adapt it to suit any situation, and apply the general principles to detailed problems. It works especially well when you’re thinking about a SHTF scenario. In this situation, a whole load of stuff has gone wrong already; everything else is just waiting for a chance to join in.

Just to remind you that every bad situation can still get a whole lot worse, here are Murphy’s Laws for all your main post-collapse priorities.


No guns = No rights

When society collapses the law goes with it, and democracy only works if everyone’s prepared to accept losing. If the losing side have all the guns they might not see why they should accept losing.

Related: Are You Prepared for the Biggest Social Unrest of Our Modern Times?

Some of your preparation is only useful if you failed to prepare

It’s great that you know how to light a fire by rubbing two sticks together – but it would be even better if you’d packed more matches, and stored them in a waterproof container. Knowing fallback techniques is always useful, but they are fallbacks – not your top priority.

If it has circuits, EMP will happen to it

In the 1970s an EMP attack would have been a pain. Now it would be a disaster. We rely on electronics more than any previous generation, and that makes us more vulnerable. Even your washing machine will die when the power surge hits. Have lower-tech fallbacks for all essential devices.

You can pay with gold – if anyone’s selling

Don’t base too many of your post-TEOTWAWKI plans on buying stuff with gold coins. You might find that the people who have the food and ammo you want would prefer to have food and ammo than shiny metal. Gold has no inherent value – just what we assign to it. You can’t eat gold, after all. You can eat food. Which would you rather have?

If you can’t protect it, it’s not yours

The people who beat their swords into plowshares always end up plowing for the people who didn’t. And if you have food but no guns, you’ll be hungry – or dead – when someone with guns but no food turns up.


Your 30-day food supply isn’t.

Beware pre-packed emergency food that claims to deliver a 30-day supply. That’s based on minimum daily calorie requirements. In an actual SHFT situation you’ll need a lot more energy. So that “30 day” supply is probably good for about two weeks.

Related: 10 Long Shelf-Life Canned Foods Every Prepper Should Consider Stockpiling

Meals Ready to Eat aren’t

You can eat MREs with no preparation at all – just rip the bag open and dig into that cold goop with a spoon. The problem is, after a few days starving to death will start to look pretty tempting. They’re much better heated.

Use by dates are guidance, not rules

The date on the can doesn’t matter much. Don’t look at what year your beans were supposed to expire – check to see if they’re a funny color and smell off. If a can is well looked after and still sealed, its contents will stay good for years.

Related: Debunking Expiration Dates – What You Need to Know

Hungry friends are not friends

It doesn’t matter how well you get on with your neighbors. If you have food and they don’t, they’ll try to take it from you. That doesn’t make them bad people – but it does make them a threat to your carefully prepared supplies.

There is no dog food. There is only food.

We know, getting stuck in to that tin of Pedigree Choice is not an appealing option. But what if the alternative is hunger? Dog food is high in protein and fats. Thoroughly cooked, and with some seasonings and vegetables, it will keep you alive. Not happy, but alive.


Your store of water is too small

Any store of water is too small. It doesn’t matter how carefully you’ve calculated how much you’re going to need – your actual consumption will be higher. A store of water is vital to get you through the initial crisis, but you need to have a plan to process more.

Your safe well isn’t

Well water is generally pretty safe. It’s naturally filtered as it percolates from the surface down into the aquifer your well draws it from. That filtering isn’t fool-proof though. Some contaminants can get through – and the water can even pick up more from the rock of the aquifer. Filter and purify well water.

Water will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no water

Bartering is going to be an essential skill after the SHTF, but some things are just too important to rely on trading for them. Water is the #1 example. If it’s in short supply nobody is going to let you have some of theirs, no matter what you offer them for it.

Related: 25 Skills You Can Trade After SHTF

We’re one EMP away from a third-world water supply

You know how, in large parts of Africa and Asia, water is unsafe and riddled with bacteria and parasites? Welcome to America three days after society collapses. When the treatment plants shut down and refugees are using the land as their restroom, our water will be just as filthy.

Every river has a dead sheep just upstream from where you’re standing

If you don’t live in a sheep-raising area, don’t worry; the gods of disorder will supply a dead deer, cow or dog instead. The water might be sweet and crystal-clear, but something has died in it. Drink that water without filtering or boiling and you might be next.

Related: How to Build a Water Purification System in 10 Minutes


Renewable energy isn’t

Solar panels, wind turbines and waterwheels will all generate electricity for you – and the energy sources they draw on are renewable. Unfortunately, the equipment itself isn’t. If your photo-voltaic cells get damaged you’re not going to be able to make replacements. Even a wind turbine is more complex than it looks. Stockpile spares.

Related: How to Build Your Own Solar Panels

You don’t have enough wood stockpiled

Oh, your woodpile completely surrounds the house and you have to go in and out through a hole in the roof? It doesn’t matter; you still don’t have enough. One cold snap and the rate you burn fuel will rocket. Take every chance to collect more, even if you already have tons. Here’s how to store and stack firewood the right way.

Green wood – nature’s advertising

If you burn green wood you’ll send up a smoke signal telling everyone where you are. This is another reason to have a huge stockpile; you can burn the seasoned stuff while the green wood you just cut dries out.

Electricity is a luxury. Yes, really.

Even if you have a generator and plenty fuel for it, you can’t rely on having electricity 24/7. What if a large group of hungry urban marauders moves into your area? Do you want your lit-up windows showing them where valuable supplies can be found?

If it’s obsolete and works, it’s not obsolete

A rusty old wood-burning stove salvaged from the town dump is nowhere near as good as a modern gas range – until the gas company is swept away by mass disorder. If it needs a supply of energy you can’t provide yourself, it won’t e working after the SHTF.

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Fergus Mason
By Fergus Mason April 18, 2017 09:02
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  1. Todd April 18, 12:50

    That was a great article!!!

    Reply to this comment
    • Rod Scott April 18, 13:22

      Sure, everybody who reads it will feel that way, but can YOU help anybody with something that you know, and maybe they don’t, go on Todd have a shot.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Rod Scott April 18, 13:06

    Being prepared is not buying a book or following one experts advice, it has to be a more conglomerate approach, you must be thinking about the disasters that have never happened in your area, about neighbors that think prepping is a waste of time and money, but will be on your doorstep when the SHTF, don’t tell anyone outside your family what you are doing to make your family safe, and don’t tell your family if they don’t want to be prepared, all your hard work will be undone, if down at the beauty parlor your wife tells all her friends that you have filled the garage with food and the basement with fuel, sure she will regret her mistake when all of her friends husbands want to look after their families, and come to visit en-mass. This article has lots of tips, and lots of links, you should print them all, and keep it safe, read it when you need it, burn it when you have to, and bathroom tissue when things get really rough … sorry about that pun

    Reply to this comment
  3. Farmer April 18, 14:25

    MREs may be convenient, but your body will pay the price if you use them for more than an occasional meal. High fat calories and minimal fiber promote digestion problems.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck April 18, 15:16

      In the kind of situation described in this article, any kind of edible product will be most welcome. If it makes you constipated or gives you loose bowels, you will welcome that over not having anything to eat at all. All the folks who turn up their noses at cans with lining, moldy bread or cheese will be thrilled to find a chunk of moldy cheese to gnaw on. Read about the government induced famine that swept Ukraine after the communists took over. The accounts are chilling.

      Reply to this comment
  4. left coast chuck April 18, 15:31

    I would like to sound a warning about one item mentioned in the article, namely the “Thirty Day Supply of Food.” Don’t be fooled by the number of “packages” that the supply contains. What is important is that you look at the total calorie count that the “30-day supply” has. The average U.S. male with moderate activity needs 2500 calories per day. I don’t know the calorie count of MREs but C-rations supplied between 3500 to 4000 calories per day, depending upon the mix in the ration. There is one “30 Days Supply” that is sold by a great many vendors that totals out at about 800 calories per day. Everything I have read about the Japanese POWs and the inmates of the Nazi concentration camps has indicated that they were fed a diet that contained about 1200 calories per day. We all know how well that worked for those unfortunate folks. Now, how do you think you would look after a short while on 800 calories per day? An executive with the company that packages the food has stated in a letter, “Well, you are supposed to supplement those rations with other food such as bread, desert, milk.” I submit that when I buy a “30 day supply of food,” I anticipate that the food contained in that ration supply will provide all my dietary needs for 30 days. I don’t anticipate that I will have to dig dandelions to supplement it. If I have 30 complete MREs meal packages, I will have enough food for 30 days and can probably stretch it out a little further if necessary. For emphasis I will use all caps: WITH ANY EMERGENCY FOOD YOU ARE CONTEMPLATING BUYING, CHECK THE TOTAL CALORIES THAT ARE CONTAINED IN THE PACKAGE BEING OFFERED. DIVIDE THAT BY THE NUMBER OF DAYS IT IS SUPPOSED TO COVER. THAT IS THE NUMBER OF CALORIES FOR THAT TIME PERIOD. IF IT ISN’T CLOSE TO 2500 CALORIES PER DAY, YOU ARE GOING TO BE HUNGRY. 800 calories for three days won’t make you starve to death, but diminished calories results in diminished energy, diminished clear thinking. If you are bugging out, walking 20 to 30 miles per day with a pack in an EOTW situation, you are going to be functioning at a greatly diminished physical and mental capacity on 800 calories per day.

    Reply to this comment
    • Minute of Angle April 18, 20:50

      To clarify your comments…30 MRE’s are 30 meals, not 30 days worth. In line with what you were saying, you’ll need at least 90 MRE’s for 30 days to have an adequate calorie count. That’s one person. They are dense calories, but each bag is only one meal. Different from the old C-Rats that came in cases of cans, and you picked up a can of this and can of that.

      Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck April 18, 22:22

        Poor wording choice on my part due to my having been too old to consume MREs while in the service. With C-rats, one box was a day’s worth of meals and that’s what I was thinking of. Thirty boxes would be a month’s worth of food averaging between 3500 and 4000 calories per day if everything in the box were consumed. In the field one was issued a box a day for the whole day. You got the next box in the stack. Then you traded around to get what you liked and try to pass off what you didn’t. I assumed MREs came in the same configuration and you got a box of MREs per day, that they didn’t pass them out three times a day.

        Reply to this comment
        • Chris in Ky June 5, 02:56

          MREs average 1250 per meal, 2 per day should do it for 2500 calories.

          When I was in the service we got 2 hots and an MRE for lunch when in the field. So we were getting probably 3500-4000 calories a day,plus what ever else you took with you.

          Reply to this comment
  5. CCTer April 18, 18:39

    This article was good start to make people think. The reality is there is no one perfect solution for all situations. You needs and preps will differ depending on many factors (ie…whether you live in the city or country). We all should have back up plans to the back up plans to the back ups. Left Coast is correct about calories. If all youre doing is holding up, you need less calories than the person expending more through work.

    Reply to this comment
  6. left coast chuck April 18, 20:36

    If you want to see how many calories per day you need depending upon how active you are, go to and it will figure it out for you. At 1,000 calories per day I will lose 2#s per week with moderate activity — not that I couldn’t stand that for a short period of time. At concentration camp food intake I would lost 1.5 #s per week. With heavy exercise I would lose a lot more.

    Reply to this comment
  7. SteveNC April 19, 03:33

    One thing I know for Certain: if SHTF I’m going to be trying to assist in rectifying the Crisis.
    I personally believe that just because the gv’s fallen; that doesn’t mean that America’s Morals and Values have!

    Reply to this comment
    • Rod Scott April 19, 08:44

      When it happens, America will go the same way as did England, France, Spain and others, there would of been people in these countries that thought they may be able to get their country back on top again, but that never happened, China will be the one that raises from the ashes, and will be topdog for 60 to 80 years, then the same thing will happen to them, only to be followed by some other insignificant country, maybe Australia or some country in Africa that will take on the mantel of “king of the world”, and so the cycle continues..

      Reply to this comment
  8. Ben Leucking April 20, 00:32

    “You can pay with gold – if anyone’s selling…”
    Thanks for bringing this up. If you have a xx day supply of food for your family and there is no evidence of imminent recovery, why would you be willing to diminish your food supply? You would, in effect, be trading away your chances for survival for something that has no present survival value.

    I can understand bartering services that enhance mutual survival, such as security, construction of defenses, radio communication, etc. Under the right circumstances of trust I might barter my ammo with a known individual, but with the expectation that the resulting game food will be shared. I am more open to sharing water from my well but that would not be an open ended arrangement; especially if I don’t know or trust the individual. In other words, my family comes first…

    Reply to this comment
  9. Ben Leucking April 20, 00:54

    “If it has circuits, EMP will happen to it”
    Another thought…
    A total grid failure means that the entire national banking system would fail. There would be no access to credit cards, your checking or saving accounts and ATM cash. It also means that, for retired people, your regular deposits from Social Security, retirement funds, etc. would immediately cease. Regardless of your age or financial status, if you do not maintain a reserve supply of ready cash, you are probably in very deep yogurt.
    My belief (and I could be wrong) is that U.S. currency will maintain a value as long as people have confidence that the country and economy will eventually be restored. If you don’t have access to cash, then you will be forced into a long term state of bartering for survival.

    Reply to this comment
  10. left coast chuck April 20, 01:43

    I believe you are right, Ben. The real question is how long that confidence will remain. If government buries itself in some cave in Colorado for several months, then the U.S. paper money will have some value — as fire starter and as toilet paper. If the government takes immediate steps to reinstate national communications and makes valiant efforts to alleviate some of the problems, even if it is just in major metro areas, confidence will remain and U.S. currency will retain value. I believe as preppers we should make an effort to store cash as well as other supplies. Immediately after an event cash will have value until people realize that we are back in the early 18th century without the life skills folks had those days. You are absolutely right, anything that is electronic will disappear. You 500K stock portfolio will cease to exist, even if the companies issuing the stock remain in business. The days of having stock certificates in one’s strongbox are long gone. I don’t know if any company is issuing stock certificates these days except, perhaps, small, closely held corporations. I’ll check with my daughter who is a financial planner and post her answer. EBT cards, social security direct deposit will disappear. Your credit cards won’t buy anything. The upside is that your credit card debt will disappear too. Also your house mortgage. If your house burns to the ground, too bad, your insurance disappeared when the grid went down. Any company whose product is electronic will disappear. Say goodby to Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Linked-In, dating sites, e-mail, texting — that’s one of the reasons why an EMP or CME would have such devastating effect on the U.S. economy. As recently as 30 years ago, there wouldn’t be as much disruption. Many functions were still performed manually. Except for a very few installations, computers could only talk to each other if they were hardwired to each other.

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck May 9, 00:34

      Well, I just got a letter from the company handling my retirement account. They will issue stock certificates for a significant fee. Depending upon how much the certificate is worth, the fee is anywhere from $500 down to as low as $25. My take is that not many folks will be opting for stock certificates at $500 a pop. Besides, if it is $100,000 worth of Microsoft, the day after an EMP its best use would be to start a fire.

      Reply to this comment
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