SHTFPlan has an excellent post on "10 Things We Can Learn From Egypt..." and the current situation there. I want to go over my thoughts about those 10 points here.
1. There will be a general break down in law and order. Law enforcement will not be policing your neighborhood. This will likely lead to a community response and vigilante groups setting up neighborhood security details. The law and justice will be determined by those walking your streets with sticks and guns, so be sure to mind your P’s and Q’s.Bet on this one--they don't call it "The Thin Blue Line" for nothing. There are not enough police and police auxiliaries in any jurisdiction to handle this sort of thing if it's very widespread. If it stays limited, yes, but not if it's every big city and most of the middle-sized ones. The situation will be exacerbated by officers (quantity unknown) who decide that their higher duty is to their families and decide not to show up to the riots.
Also bear in mind that those "community response and vigilante groups" may not have anyone's best interest in mind but their own. If you're a part of one, even if, as a group, it has the best intentions, you may be mistaken for rioters and looters. Or you may run into folks who, in effect, want your job. If you find it necessary to take part in one of these organizations, be cautious and stick to a very local area.
2. Food and water will become scarce. The average American has about three days worth of food in their home, and likely very little water, as most are dependent on their local city for this essential commodity. As with any major disaster, like hurricanes or earthquakes, panicked people will immediately make a run for the grocery store, either before or at the onset of crisis, looking to acquire any non-perishable goods. They’ll buy everything they can in one trip, which leaves less food for the next guy. Our just-in-time inventory management systems ensure that there will be no reserves in the back of the grocery store, so once the store shelves are cleared, it will be a while before they are restocked.This one has been discussed to death. Look at the news stories for the current storm in the Midwest US and you can see this one's little brother. In a full-on panic, the last place I'd want to be is near anything retail. Stock up now and restrain the impulse to make that "one last trip". Be ready for weeks to months before that restocking truck shows up.
3. Looting will be rampant. Until all of the food, water, diapers and HDTV’s have been cleared from store shelves, looters will be breaking into retail businesses in search of goods. In Egypt, most of the population is not armed. In the U.S., however, it’s a different story and the general rule on looters is: shoot them. Regardless of whether you are trying to acquire food for your baby or a free Xbox, you will be considered a looter if you enter a private business.This goes hand-in-hand with #2. In a time of true panic, you do not want to be near a retail outlet. You want to be at home with your heavily armed family gathered about you, watching it on TV for as long as the power stays on.
4. If the rioting and looting gets bad enough, expect full deployment by the military. As we are currently seeing in Egypt, and like we saw in New Orleans during the Hurricane Katrina saga, government is prepared to restore order by whatever means are available. There will be heavily armed soldiers, tanks and unmanned aerial vehicles patrolling your city.Well, maybe. Years of the "peace dividend" have left our military a fraction of the size it once was. Constant deployments have left it somewhat "tired" and a good portion of it far from home. Any sort of call-up of the National Guard and various reserve elements will be difficult to impossible in these conditions, with the added problems of people unable to get the word and some deciding not to show up for the muster. While there may be a strong military presence near the various bases and in centers of power (such as Washington, DC and various state capitals), I would not look for any widespread help from the military for a long while. More's the pity.
5. When rocks start getting thrown, Molotov cocktails start exploding, and citizens take it upon themselves to shoot at military and law enforcement personnel, soldiers will fire back - and the firing will be indiscriminate, just like we’ve seen in Egypt and during the Iranian riots of 2009. One report out of Egypt indicates that President Mubarak of Egypt has issued shoot-to-kill orders giving the military authority to open fire on anyone it deems a threat.It won't be deliberately indiscriminate, but it'll work out that way despite anyone's best efforts. Once out of the barrel, bullets have no brains. If you should find yourself away from your home and shooting starts, get out of the area as quickly as possible, and keep going until you can't hear the gunshots any longer. And then get your butt home, where you should have been anyway.
6. Hospitals will run out of basic medical supplies. We saw this in Haiti and we’re seeing it in Cairo. As the injured and wounded stack up, medical personnel will be overwhelmed. Basic medicines like hydrogen peroxide and antibiotics will disappear, and minor injuries may lead to amputation or death in a matter of days if supplies are not restocked. As more dead bodies stack up, this could potentially lead to widespread outbreaks of disease like it did in Haiti.This is an inevitable effect of our just-in-time world. After retail outlets, I think the next place I wouldn't want to be is near a hospital or doctor's office. Opportunistic drug addicts will target them, the ill and injured will swamp them and the police will probably not be able to protect them for long. Get some emergency medical training and medical supplies appropriate to your level of training, perhaps even a bit above if you have a neighbor who happens to be a doctor (or a veterinarian). Be very careful not to get injured, and be careful to practice proper first aid on any injury, no matter how minor. Take all the safety precautions you can, because the medical help we take for granted now may be very far away indeed.
7. The internet will get shut down. Governments have realized that the internet is the communication medium of choice to organize protests and riots. When Iranians protested their Presidential elections in 2009, Twitter and other social networking sites were used to organize, as well as to broadcast pictures of the events in near real-time. This gives the government ample reason to shut down all digital means of communication, the most important being that government is unable to stop mass gatherings, nor are they able to control the news propaganda of the event itself. Egypt is the first country to have taken steps to completely shutdown everything from traditional internet connectivity via ISPs, as well as phone and text communications. Expect the same in your neck of the woods if and when it hits the fan.This may not be deliberate--it could be caused by infrastructure damage or prolonged power outages--but the effect would be the same. Have backup sources of news and information. Battery powered radios, 2-way radios and books are wonderful things. Also remember that because you have all that wonderful stuff you've downloaded off the Internet on your computer, you won't be able to get to it for long if the power stays off. Print it out and put it in binders.
8. Banks will be closed and ATM’s will be out of money. With no law enforcement, banks will be unable to operate. There will be no one to refill the cash in ATM’s, and it’s possible that even if they do have money you will not be able to withdraw it because problems with electronic processing will prevent it. Those who don’t have cash or barterable goods on them will be left with no way to transact.Banks and ATMs probably rate up there with retail outlets and hospitals as places to avoid in a panic. Keeps some cash at home if at all possible. It will be good for a while at least.
As far as barter, I don't know that I would barter with anyone in the early phases of a breakdown. You don't know yet what your goods are really worth or you may wish later that you'd kept that extra blanket (or whatever). But the worst thing is that, by bartering, you have let people know that you have not only extra, but that you have "stuff" in the first place, setting yourself up as a potential target for those less prepared. For the early and perhaps mid-phases of a breakdown, I would suggest trying to look like all the rest of those scared folks who only had 3 days of food, little water and no cash.
I would be equally cautious in dispensing charity. Unless you have some Incredible Underground Storehouse, the need, even in your immediate area, will be far in excess of what you can cope with. Providing any charity at all may lead to a yard full of folks, all of whom demand your help. Desperate people will do increasingly desperate things as it gets worse, and you don't want them doing them to you. Again, look poor.
9. The real value of gold and silver against most other assets will rise. Though only anecdotal reports exist at this time from the streets of Egypt, it’s clear that anytime governmental, economic or social instability hits a particular region, the value of these precious metals rises. The 2010 riots in Greece prove this point, as the price of gold on the street rose to a reported $1700 per ounce, even while gold in global commodity exchanges was trading at $1100. When there are no open banks or working ATM’s, precious metals will become the de facto reserve currency on the ground.In the long run, yes, but in the early going, maybe not. It all depends on if it looks like normalcy will be resumed in days-to-weeks. If it does, any increase will likely be short term, and precious metals are just one more thing to defend. You can't eat them, either.
In a long-term breakdown, then things such as "junk silver" may well become the currency of choice, although we don't know that for certain. Yes, you should have some set aside, but not until you have nearly everything else to survive for an extended period.
10. The ‘important’ people will probably get the heck out of Dodge. If you’ve got money and power, you’re going to be fast-tracked out of the region. President Mubarak’s sons quickly fled Egypt when the riots broke out. In Tunisia, the President’s wife made a beeline for the nearest international destination - with a ton of gold in tow. While the elite will have access to evacuate a disintegrating regional riot or collapse, everyday folks will likely be stranded. Expect that wherever you are when it hits the fan is where you’ll stay, so be sure to be stocked up on the essentials.This is another one to bet on. Also, you do not want to be near any location where they wind up. They are creatures of privilege, and they will likely have enough heavily armed people with them to make sure they get it.
Overall, the SHTFPlan's done us all a favor pulling this together in a single place for us to read, consider and discuss. This might be one of those things you want to print out now and file away for future reference.