There are a lot of things that differ between preppers who live in rural, suburban or urban areas.
Often it is how you prep, why you prep and your lifestyle as a prepper.
Aside from all that there are few things that every prepper needs to take into consideration when prepping and too often they don’t.
One thing is the fact that most people will either live near a prison or in close proximity to one.
There are some preppers who actually live in a town where the prison was erected first and the town was built later; that the main sources of employment are the prison, law enforcement and the court system.
In the United States there are 1,800 state and federal prisons, 3,200 county jails as well as 2,000 juvenile detention facilities that hold over 2,404,618 prisoners.
There are many serving time for minor offenses or who are awaiting trial for crimes they have been accused of, but even more are being held after being convicted of the most gruesome crimes imaginable.
In Philadelphia there are 5 facilities that hold adults until trial, 1 that holds individuals who have been convicted and are serving minor crimes in what is known as a community-custody facility, 2 juvenile detention facilities and 1 federal detention facility.
On any given day, there are over 7,000 males, 800 females and over 7,000 juveniles being held in these facilities.
These are all for the purposes of holding someone until trial, but you can also end up serving your sentence there if it’s under 24 months.
After being convicted, an inmate in Pennsylvania will be shipped off to one of the 27 state prisons or 9 federal facilities to serve their time.
Most people think that once someone is arrested and placed in jail because either bail isn’t an option or they have been sentenced the streets will be a little safer, but that isn’t necessarily the case.
In Philadelphia every day over 500 inmates throughout the city are put on a bus or van and taken downtown for court and at the end of every day about one hundred are released from the jails which five out of the six are located in the Holmesburg section of Northeast Philly to prevent overcrowding.
These arrestees are given provisions to get on public transportation which stops right in front of the jails, but many opt to walk through residential neighborhoods to get to the main elevated train stop which is either the Frankford Terminal or the Erie-Torresdale Station el stop.
These stops are not located a couple of blocks away but anywhere from 20-30 long city blocks away.
On the first Friday of every month the Philadelphia Prison System tests their emergency alert system.
An emergency alert system is also sometimes referred to as a civil defense siren and is used to alert residents of approaching danger such as tornadoes or, in this case, a prison escape.
Through Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management’s (OEM) ReadyPhiladelphia program, they alert residents through various ways such as social media (Facebook, Google and Twitter) or through cell phones and email accounts of the testing.
If the sirens signal during a period when they aren’t being tested means that there has actually been an escape.
There are a couple of problems with this.
In Northeast Philadelphia, where the jails are and where the sirens are tested from can only be heard if you’re living directly near the prison which for a majority of these jails this isn’t a reality.
Most of Philadelphia’s jails are located on a wide strip called State Road and it’s inhabited with prisons, a water treatment plant, a Department of Sanitation dump site and privately-owned businesses as well as the police and fire academies.
So although these businesses probably hear the sirens, the residents may not especially since the area is heavily congested with car traffic and is in close proximity to the 95 highway.
Although it is a general consensus that prisons operate on their own water, gas and electrical systems with back-up generators, would they actually work during an emergency?
It’s not like the prisons have their own utility companies because they don’t.
These jails are all adequately staffed by guards at all hours, but if an emergency hits would that be the case?
How would correctional officers get into work especially if all communication devices are down and prison administrators can’t reach them?
Would those officers still in the jails stay on their posts or would they walk away as was the case with New Orleans’ law enforcement officers once Hurricane Katrina hit?
Is correctional staff considered to be emergency personnel?
They can be as they’re considered to be part of law enforcement.
The legal definition of emergency personnel is “personnel responsible for mitigation activities in a medical emergency, fire emergency, hazardous material emergency, or natural disaster.”
To be honest, very little is known about what Philadelphia’s prisons will do in case of an actual emergency because administrators feel that releasing sensitive information to the public could actually create a potential security risk thus placing staff in danger.
Yes, they expect you to blindly trust them.
So what are your alternatives besides trusting that the city government (which you shouldn’t)?
You can move, but that only will remove you from a direct threat; that the actual threat will still exist because inmates have legs and are very astute at getting around without the use of public transportation or a vehicle.
There are things that you can do to assure your safety.
1. Acknowledge the fact that if an emergency happens and the city loses all power, the prisons will lose it as well.
Accept the fact that any generators that work may only function in certain areas of the jail such as the hospital area, the kitchen, etc and if they work throughout the entire prison, they may only work for a specific period of time.
2. Observe the prisons and get a feel for a normal day.
Prisons try to adhere to a strict type of conformity as much as they can. Meals are served at the same time every day as is any yard time, times when inmates are locked in their cells, visiting hours, and so on.
If you can, park yourself outside the prison and take note of what a normal day feels like.
Memorize visiting hours which you can find on the specific prison’s website.
Understand that there are usually three shifts for correctional officers: morning (7-3 or 8-4), evening (3-11 or 4-12) and overnight (11-7 or 12-8). Most officers will arrive for their shifts early (between 15-30 minutes).
Some of the normal every day activities at a prison include: delivery trucks, van transport either bringing new inmates in or taking them to and from court, visitors, police or federal agents coming to the prison, and the release of inmates (usually in the afternoon).
If no visitors are coming to the prison it means that the facility is on lock-down; that there was an incident that possibly could affect the security and all inmates are confined to their cells.
During a lock-down you may also notice more correctional officers coming in and that could indicate a possible inmate uprising or riot.
After you educate and memorize the normality of the facility, it will be easier for you take note if something is not normal.
During a riot, for example, there will be fire trucks, busloads of correctional officers from other prisons, and ambulances as well as city officials and the media arriving. This is not a normal situation.
3. Learn about the facility close to your home.
Just because your local or state Department of Corrections may not be willing to disclose information regarding the structure or procedures of their facilities doesn’t mean you can’t do any sleuthing on your own.
It’s pretty easy, in fact.
There are basically two types of correctional facilities.
The first one is the older types that were built between the 1700s-1800s. These prisons are usually controlled by keys and many of them are in bad shape as is the case with Philadelphia’s House of Corrections which is still open and the now closed Holmesburg Prison.
There are some gates that operate on electricity, but most of the prison doesn’t.
The second type of prison is those who have been built beginning in the 1970s-1980s.
These prisons are almost entirely operated through electricity although there are keys that can be used.
On any normal day, the first type of prison is more easier to break out of although even that’s not that easy due to the daily function of keeping count of inmates and the way these routines are constructed; that there is very little time where inmates are free to be on their own and even then they are constantly under surveillance.
Still, inmates, for lack of anything better to do are always looking for a way to escape or a weakness in the prison’s daily routine. They are always vigilant and always paying attention.
You can also learn what type of inmate a prison has in their custody.
Years ago, everyone was thrown into the same facility.
Now days certain prisons hold certain inmates depending on the crimes they have either been accused or convicted of and what their needs are.
You can find out about each facility individually either through your state or city’s corrections websites or, if you really have to, through wikipedia.com.
4. It’s always helpful to pay attention.
If you live or work in an area long enough you eventually develop a good feeling about that environment.
In a big city it is not unusual to see the same people frequent the exact places that you do or to even pass them on the street.
They will look like they belong in the area by their manner of dress and behavior.
If an inmate has escaped from a holding facility, they won’t blend in especially if they have been locked up for a period of time.
The longer someone is confined and used to the structure of prison life, the more institutionalized they become. They’ll be uncomfortable walking in crowds because while they were locked up they walked in straight lines and will constantly be looking around; they will exhibit paranoid behavior.
Their mannerisms will be off as will their clothing.
Any businesses you go into usual have the same vibe every day. You probably also know when their peak hours are; when they’ll be the busiest.
In the city, most people know that traffic –both pedestrian and vehicular-is going to be heaviest during the two rush hour periods: 6-9 AM and 3-7 PM.
The first of the month –from the 1 through to the 4 is also hectic because that’s when people get their retirement and disability checks which mean that banks as well as stores are going to be crowded.
In Philadelphia the 12 of every month is when most people get their food stamps which means the grocery stores and Wal-Mart are going to be extraordinarily busy.
These are all normal events that people are used to.
Once you can establish what is normal, seeing anything abnormal is easier.
Most people also know what is normal in their neighborhoods.
Trash day, kids coming from home to school and back again, mail delivery, occasionally arguing over parking spots, an old lady scrubbing down her steps, and cars speeding down the street while blasting horrible music are normal when you live in the inner city.
For residents who live in the Mayfair or Holmesburg sections of Philadelphia, handfuls of inmates who have just been released from the county jails on State Road walking up either Frankford or Torresdale Avenues are normal occurrences.
If they deter onto another smaller street than this is not normal; it is out of the ordinary and something you should take note of or even watch them as they walk past.
There are also neighborhood groups who have pages on Facebook that will report something strange or out of the ordinary that they witnessed.
If you haven’t already, it would be smart to join those pages.
Even if you have lived on the same block and in the same house all of your life, you still have to remain vigilant as if you have just moved in.
5. Take stock of your perimeter.
As a prepper a lot of what you’ll discover that you have to do includes repetition.
You will find that you will have to do things like rotating and using foods in order to replace them before they go bad, check your water supplies or going over whatever plans you and your family have made for the approaching emergency.
Another one is to constantly check your security and the vulnerability of your property.
This includes outside.
People of the criminal mindset are experts at spotting an opportunity to get into your property or to take what you have.
This is regardless of whether there is a state of emergency; it is a fact of life.
If someone wants something bad enough they’ll find a way to get it.
This goes for people in general and not just criminals.
Just don’t make it easy for them. The harder they have to work, the more likely that they will move on to the next person or property.
At least once every three months you should be looking at the outside perimeter of your house.
If you have a front yard with bushes or trees make sure that they are trimmed and don’t obscure your sight to the street or the sidewalk.
Remove anything that someone can use to gain access to your home such as trash cans with lids, large plastic doll houses, ladders, patio furniture or large gas grills.
A seasoned criminal can use those items to climb on top of a roof overhang or a deck to gain entrance to the second floor.
Make sure that your front and back door as well as all the windows are secure with working locks.
Take special care to inspect any windows or doors that lead into the basement because those are the ones that are easily accessible.
If you don’t have storm windows or screens in place you may want to invest in them as well because they will provide an additional barrier between a malefactor and your home.
You should also have a well-built storm door that locks from the inside as well as the outside.
If someone is trying to gain access to your property through a window, having to break or remove either a storm window or screen and a window can deter them. The same is true for storm doors.
It is important to understand that criminals or escapees are trying not to get caught and tend to be opportunists.
In many row houses in Philadelphia as well as other big cities, the back doors are usually the most vulnerable and are easily kicked in.
You may want to consider replacing that door with a steel door as well as a storm door.
Always check the frames around the doors and windows as well because if they’re rotting or broken they will render any security of the windows and doors useless.
If you live in an apartment building make sure that the hallways are well lit and your door has a peephole so you can observe the activity in the hallway. Any windows or sliding doors should also be secured with locks.
You can also purchase door and window jambs at your local hardware store or if you have some sturdy metal rods or thick pieces of wood, you can use them as well.
Once an emergency strikes anything that you felt was safe is off the table.
The point is that it doesn’t take an emergency for things to not be what they seem.
Every day random acts of violence occur in America’s correctional facilities and 95% of them never get reported.
The public never hears about an inmate’s plans to escape being uncovered or their security systems malfunctioning.
When considering the hordes of people that will be out scavenging because they failed to prep, there will also be the criminal factor that won’t necessarily be a threat because they didn’t prep.
In fact, criminals-both free and incarcerated-prep every day to figure out what they have to do in order to get what they want by any means necessary.
By educating yourself about the realities of this human element as well as all aspects of law enforcement will help you stay two steps ahead of anyone who seeks to do you harm.
Number of prisons/detention facilities: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/01/06/the-u-s-has-more-…
Philadelphia County: http://www.phila.gov/PRISONS/Pages/default.aspx
Emergency personnel: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/15/2223e