Tradecraft: Looting for Survival

(TFC) – If you’re hoping this article will tell you how to knock over your local retailer during a riot, you’re in wrong place. Ok, so you didn’t take the advice of our Tradecraft series. You didn’t prepare, and now something has happened. Earthquake, hurricane, fire, civil unrest, zombie invasion, whatever. Things went bad. So now what?

Looting. After every major incident, the topic is debated. People discuss the legality and morality of it. Do you know what all of those people debating it have in common? They survived or they weren’t there. So this article will avoid the morality and legality of the practice. Instead, we will focus on how to properly loot for survival.

We’re going to assume since you didn’t prepare, you probably didn’t see the writing on the wall when the incident first started. Grocery store shelves are empty.

You still need to obtain all of the things listed in our other articles. So where can you find them in unusual places which were probably overlooked? Assume each location has already been looted.

Gas Stations: Before you ever get inside, there’s probably a ready supply of drinkable water. The bags of ice either already have or will soon turn to water. People probably didn’t take the bags of ice during the initial looting. In the bathrooms, there might be a vending machine on the wall. Either you’ve discovered a lifetime supply of condoms or you might find single dose medicine. There’s also low-grade toilet paper. It can be used for its intended purpose; or as tinder for a fire, beefing up insulation in jackets if it’s cold, or if the place appears clean you could chance using it for gauze. You probably won’t need to use the toilet paper for medical purposes because almost every gas station has an OSHA-approved first aid kit in the back room. It’s probably better than anything they had on their shelves anyway. There’s also going to be a toolkit for minor repairs somewhere. Maybe there’s a water cooler. Check the areas where the food is prepared. There are probably hot dog buns and coffee filters. Anytime you see coffee filters, grab them. They have hundreds of uses. It’s probably a lost cause, but check the walk-in cooler as well. There might be some unpopular drinks left or maybe even a box of hot dogs.

Big Box Stores: Wal-Marts, Kmarts, and so on are prime targets for looting after a disaster. They have everything you need, but again we’re assuming the stores have already been looted. Stores of this size have a large amount of needed supplies in addition to the inventory. Backrooms in these types of places typically have products not put on the shelves yet. You might have to dig through some boxes, but you’ll find things you need. Just like many of the other locations we’ll discuss, they have first aid kits for employees. They also have hand tools for maintenance. There’s probably a water cooler somewhere. Lockers in the back area may have meds. The break rooms undoubtedly have food and drinks. It’s worth walking the aisles of the stores, looting is very rarely thorough.

Pharmacies: Pharmacies are an oddity, in most cases when people loot them, they’re looking for specific narcotics. They also tend to be torched afterward. If you find one standing shortly after an inciting incident, you need to check it out.`The actual pharmacy is probably a gold mine. Other than that, it’s just like a big box store.

Office buildings: Almost every office building of any type has vending machines, snack bars, and so on. Inside most individual offices there are some snacks and maybe a fridge. There will certainly be bottled water or a water cooler. Any building with a waiting room is likely to have a water fountain or vending machines.

Vehicles: Cars are everywhere. Depending on the level of catastrophe and the length of time you expect to be in need, there are some things you need to know about vehicles. Vehicles are likely to have supplies you need. Almost every vehicle has assorted junk inside. That junk can be a lifesaver: lighters, pocket knives, first aid kits, tarps, rope, medications, maps, GPS device, a cell phone, clothing, tools, maybe even a firearm and ammo. Many of the items may be stored in the trunk. If you can’t pick a lock, you can typically access the trunk by cutting through the back seats. Remember that any truck with a locked box in the bed is worth investigating. Once you’ve looted the contents of the vehicle, it’s time to look at the vehicle itself. The battery can be used to power just about anything, the mirrors can be used for signaling, the wires can be used as rope, and so on. The gasoline in vehicles is always going to be valuable. Getting it out requires siphoning or draining. Siphoning is preferable but if you can’t, you can always crawl under the car and unscrew the plug at the fuel filter. There are a lot of ways to get the fuel out. Take half an hour and look through YouTube to familiarize yourself. Siphoning isn’t as easy as it used to be.

Obtaining a vehicle is probably going to be easier than you might imagine. Most people don’t go to work during a disaster. If you needed a vehicle under normal circumstances where would you go? A car lot. It works during a disaster too. The keys are right inside the building. Another option is long-term storage at the airport, although you’ll have to hot wire or rekey a vehicle from there.

Pet Stores: Probably not something high on most people’s “places to loot” lists, and one of the few retail establishments you can expect to be relatively untouched. Fish antibiotics, batteries, chain, and of course dog food. Sounds gross, right? In many pet stores, you’ll find “human grade” dog food. It’s not the best, but it’ll keep you alive. In most large pet stores, there’s a veterinarian’s office. That means there’s a whole selection of medical implements. Everything from anesthetic and antibiotics to gauze and surgical tools. Also, don’t be a jerk. Let the animals out.

Restaurants: Maybe you’ll get lucky and find some large canned foods or there will be food in the walk-in coolers out freezers. Certainly, there will be knives, large industrial trash bags (useful for shelters), a first aid kit, tool kit, and cleansers.

Construction sites: Construction sites are more valuable than you might imagine. Beyond the actual construction supplies and tools that might be laying around, there is almost always a collection of items you’ll need. Radios, water, first aid kits, and snacks are almost always on site. There may also be paper maps of the city.

Remember in desperate survival situations, it isn’t what you find, it’s what you can make out of what you find. Everything probably has some use.