One Word … SUSTAINABILITY
Can the suburban prepper sustain themselves through a long-term SHTF scenario? I do not think so.
What do I mean by sustainability? The ability to produce items needed to survive a long-term full-on grid down SHTF survival scenario. The ability to grow food and find and purify water are the most critical and most difficult to overcome. It is my opinion that unless you have sufficient land (more than the standard suburban plot which is usually filled with swimming pools and decking) you will not be able to grow sufficient food to support your family. It is my opinion that because most suburban homes are on city water they will eventually lose water service thereby cutting off their water supply.
Food: Due to our lot sizes it is highly unlikely that a suburban dweller will be able to grow enough food to feed his family and at the same time store enough to get through the winter. Suburban lots are usually filled with fun things like pools, decks, non-productive landscaping and lawn. Even if you have a large lot, as soon as the city water dries up so will your irrigation and there will be no more water for growing. Hunting or foraging for food is going to be difficult at first and impossible a few weeks or even days after the balloon goes up. All of those people who have no food besides what is in their pantries are going to be scoping out rats, pigeons and anything else near by. Forget large game even if you have open space. The security risks are just too high.
Sustainability is definitely a issue where the outlanders (that is what I am calling those who live out in the boonies on their ranches) have us beat. They have sufficient land and resources to be able to last, theoretically, indefinitely.
Water: Suburban water supply is a fantastic thing in good times. We turn on the facet and whoosh, there is clean (hopefully) free-flowing water. AAAHHH, the nectar of the gods! All we have to do is make sure our water bill is paid and that is it. No well maintenance or repairs. Just flowing water. But once the grid goes down and the water stops, where are we going to get it? You should have a supply of water on hand. 2 gallons per day per person (so the saying goes) but you can get away with 1 gallon per person solely for drinking. If you have a 5 person household you are going to need a absolute minimum of 5 gallons per day. If you have a lot of dehydrated/freeze dried food then you will need more for food prep. I would recommend at least a month of stored water for your family. The way I do it is with 55 gallon drums that are stabilized with either chlorine or another commercial water storage stabilizer. The best deal I can find on the barrels is at Quake Kare. Be careful of pricing these barrels, the shipping is OFTEN more than the barrel. When the barrels are this big be sure to add in a pump. You can supplement these large barrels with smaller 1 gallon drinking water from the store. A couple of these behind the garage are going to come in very handy! Unfortunately after a month you are in deep trouble. Your only option is foraging for water in creeks, neighbors’ pools or streams. This again presents a security risk as you are traveling about let alone hauling water is a total bear!
How to Overcome:
Food Storage: Simply store enough food for a year/two years or whatever time period you think you are going to need it. You can’t store enough food for the rest of your life so you better pick a reasonable number and hope for the best.
Water foraging: As I mentioned above you can always forage for water. This is more likely to work than foraging for food as water is usually in plentiful supply. If you are well organized you should be able to send out a party to retrieve water. One or two to haul the water and others for security / lookouts. You will have to do this almost everyday as water is heavy and you will not be able to haul large amounts.
Supplement food stores with hunting and growing: The suburban prepper can alleviate some of the burden of storing food by supplementing their stored food with hunting/gathering and/or growing. You may be able to find a deer or turkey in some open land by your suburban dwelling but I wouldn’t count on it. As I mentioned before, the wildlife is going to get cleaned out pretty fast after a SHTF event. There are good chances that you will still be able to forage from plants or wild berry bushes. In my area blackberries are like weeds and they can be found on the road side. You can also get creative with planting to provide you and your family with fruit and vegetable. Try weaving fruits like strawberries or tomatoes into your landscaping. The irrigation is already there so it should be pretty easy. Strawberries are good because they are constantly bearing fruit. Plant a few fruit trees in the back instead of palm trees or whatever floats your boat. Fruit trees can be pretty hardy once they are mature and will hopefully be able to last without irrigation.
Rain catchment: You can easily setup a rain catchment system for your home. However, if you live is a dry climate there is a good chance that there will not be enough rain to get you through the dry times of summer. You will also need to have enough storage for all of that water for the dry times. You will need enough storage for at least 6 months. At two gallons a day that is 360 gallons of storage capacity PER PERSON. For a family of five that is 1,800 gallons!!! That is a lot!
So it looks like Suburbanites are at a serious disadvantage for long-term SHTFevents. But we knew that anyway. Chances are if there is an event that shuts us down for more than a month or two there is global caos anyway and almost no one will survive. If there event is less than a month (more likely weeks) then the government and other areas around you will zoom in to help out. Bottom line: Do the best you can, can as prepared as you can and there is a 99.99% chance you and your family will be just fine!