Arizona preppers face a myriad of challenges living in their state. There are ways to mitigate the challenges if you plan ahead, however. This article should help preppers living in the state to think about their personal preparedness strategy and create a SHTF plan that can meet their needs.
NOTE: Do you live in Arizona? You know your state, so let us know in the comments section how this article can be improved. What did we miss? What did we get right?
Table of Contents
Arizona Overview – Prepper’s Perspective
Arizona is also known as the “Grand Canyon State” or the “Copper State.” Names owing to the world-famous geological feature which attracted 6 million visitors in 2019, and to the state’s abundance of copper as a natural resource, which accounts for 66% of the nation’s copper production. With many recreational and vocational opportunities, Arizona is an attractive option for those that want to live a self-sufficient lifestyle.
With 3928 mountain peaks, Arizona offers varied and spectacular terrain for sports and outdoors enthusiasts. Arizona is also home to several of the world’s “sky islands”, which are mountains surrounded by valleys that feature wide-ranging eco-systems and diverse animal and plant life. 85% of the state’s land comprises national forests, national parks, and wilderness areas. This allows for many bug out locations to be scouted while recreating in the Grand Canyon State.
The Aravaipa Canyon, Sonoran Desert, and Vermillion Cliffs are just a few places that have limitless opportunities for someone looking to escape a societal crisis. However, large swaths of unpopulated land also bring about higher probabilities of fires developing before they can be detected and controlled.
It’s the 6th largest state in the US and the 14th most populous. Which, bodes well for the prepper. Just barely in the top third in terms of population, but is one of the largest states that presents a degree of safety from the ills brought about by a high population density. It does demand certain attention to be paid to personal protection given the proximity to large population centers that may take a fancy to Arizona’s vacant land during the next disruption in society.
Arizona has temperate winters, with temperatures ranging from 40 to 75 °F. It would be the ideal state to raise crops, but the thing is, it hardly ever rains. Which explains perfectly why most of Arizona is desert or semi-desert. Arizona has brutally hot summers, with temperatures regularly exceeding 100 °F. The record average high of the state, 116 °F was set in 1950 with some places in the state getting as high as 124 °F.
However, be warned, that some areas in Arizona, around Flagstaff and Prescott, can get cold with temperatures falling below freezing in the winter months. The state’s lowest average temp was 66 °F. Combined with the high winds and lack of heating material, this can be a serious challenge if not planned for appropriately. It is crucial that the prepper take into account the wild temperature swings when selecting bugout locations, building structures, and storing goods.
Lack of rainfall can be both a blessing and a curse. While the average number of severe storms per year is only four with very few tornados, drought becomes a concern. Not only does this lack of water pose a challenge for someone in terms of basic sustenance, but the concentration of water in particular places also poses a severe security concern. Gaining control of and holding this key terrain will provide those possessing it with an asymmetric advantage over those that are left, quite literally, in the dust. Mitigating this will be crucial for the Arizona prepper.
Food and Water
At the time of writing, Arizona is facing a water shortage. This follows a 22-year drought. Water throughout the state is scarce, and very often the groundwater quality is poor due to high mineral content. Arizona gets 36% of its water from the Colorado River, a statistic that indicates its low water availability in areas not adjacent to the river.
Despite the dry climate, Arizona does well agriculturally. They rank third in the nation for vegetable production, and Yuma in Arizona is the winter lettuce capital of the world. Cattle and calves are the top agricultural product of Arizona by revenue.
This bodes well for the prepper but also highlights the complex nature of growing your own food in Arizona. While Arizona can clearly sustain gardens and livestock to feed your family, the preparation and planning for a bug-out scenario must be done well in advance. The worst-case scenario is to be searching for how to grow a garden in the Sonoran desert when the internet is down and people are scrambling for water due to a societal breakdown.
The good news is there are plenty of resources available on gardening in the dusty valleys and plateaus of the Grand Canyon State. The Arizona Master Gardners publish a how-to guide to help people fend for themselves in the unique challenges that Arizona presents to someone attempting to grow food from its dry soil.
From a political point of view, the state is split quite equally between Republicans and Democrats. The Washington Post wrote that Arizona broke down into four political districts the Red West, Red East, Purple Phoenix, and Blue Tucson. The more rule parts of the state are typically conservative while the more densely populated areas are typically liberal. As time progresses Arizona tends to gravitate toward the ends of the political spectrum leaving the political center as barren as the state’s deserts.
This does not bode well for the state’s political stability in the future. With increasing political polarity that is constantly enflamed by national media and political rhetoric, Phoenix is likely to become more and more unstable as time goes on. This was highlighted during the George Floyd riots of 2020. Protests lasted for five weeks and resulted in constant clashes between rioters and police after a statewide curfew was ordered.
During the 2020 election, the state voted for the democratic candidates, Biden & Harris. The governor of the state, Doug Ducey, is, however, a Republican. This further highlighted the divided nature of the state and predicts an uncertain political future. While there is little that a prepper can do to bridge the political divide, there is much that can be done to get ready for the next major upheaval that is sure to come.
Arizona is the 14th most populous state and has a population of around 7.2 million people. As people continue to migrate around the United States, Arizona’s population is expected to increase another 13% over the coming decade. For the prepper, this can mean that resources will become more and more constrained over the coming years. Simultaneously, there is likely to be more and more people filtering into the ample wilderness the state has to offer.
Phoenix, the 5th largest city in the US has an estimated population of around 1,680,992 and is located within the 10th largest metropolitan area in the nation, with an estimated population of 4,948,203. This means that almost two-thirds of the state’s population lives in and around Phoenix.
As the state continues to grow, Phoenix is likely to grow at a higher rate than the rural lands that surround it. As the state continues this trend, it is likely that resources, primarily water, will be redirected from the rural areas to feed the growing population center. This is likely to further add to heightened political tensions.
Arizona is one of the most diverse states in the nation, ranking as the tenth most diverse state. 31% of the population is Hispanic and 54% is white. These two make up the largest ethnic blocks. 4,5% of the population is black and 3,6% are American Indian/Alaska Native.
Arizona has a southern border with Mexico that spans 370 miles. This border presents a serious challenge to Homeland Security and to the state itself. Governor Ducey even signed a border security bill to address the issue. In his new release he stated:
As I sign this bill today, we are taking an additional action to do the job Washington, D.C. refuses to. More action is needed from the federal government, but with these targeted investments Arizona is putting the safety of our state and nation first.https://azgovernor.gov/governor/news/2022/06/governor-ducey-signs-most-meaningful-border-security-legislation-state-history
The legislation included money for a border fence, sheriff compensation, jails, emergency operation facilities, and more.
Residents of Arizona, particularly those along the border, should be mindful of this challenge particularly in a large, multi-national crisis that could see even more migrants fleeing north to escape civil unrest, climate change, or any other issue.
Arizona Natural Disasters
Arizona has the tenth highest violent crime rate of any state in the US. It routinely exceeds the national average for rapes, murders, aggravated assaults, and robberies. As would be expected, the most dangerous areas of the state are concentrated in the population centers that run down its center. Tucson, Phoenix, and Meadview county (just outside Las Vegas) lead the state in its violent crime. For the prepper, this is especially important information as it highlights where the fissures in society are. The first cracks of a societal meltdown will be in the areas where antisocial behavior is normalized.
A lesser threat is posed by dust storms, with monsoon rains and flooding happening from time to time. These storms threaten the state through the summer and are a product of high winds coming from the Pacific coast. Mostly, they just produce a darkened sky and degraded visibility. However, when especially powerful they have been known to roll cars and have tornado-like effects in the worst-case scenarios. Luckily, they do not last long and can be weathered with just a little preparation.
The most common natural disasters to hit Arizona are extreme heat and wildfires. Seeing as there’s not a lot of rainfall in this area, this makes sense. Each year fires routinely devastate the state and pose a serious threat to the citizens and property. It is vital for someone living off the grid, in a bug-out situation or not, prepared to be engulfed in the eventual fire. By subdividing the areas surrounding a home or bug-out location into zones and preparing those zones in accordance with the NFPA’s wildfire preparedness guide, the highest likelihood of survival can be achieved.
Research shows that the most likely way homes are destroyed during a wildfire is from the ignition created by falling embers onto the roof. A common practice is to place sprinklers or drip lines on the roof during times of probable ignition. However, it is not advised for a variety of reasons. Instead, it is far better to harden your structure against fire by creating defensible space, managing local vegetation, and placing appropriate barriers to ember entry on your home’s openings.
1) Tropical Storm Norma (1970) – Up to 7” of rain hit Arizona over Labor Day weekend, causing flash floods that resulted in the death of 23 people throughout the state. It’s the deadliest storm to ever have hit Arizona. The storm system developed off the western coast of Mexico and preceded north. Once it crossed back into the mainland it wreaked havoc and destruction for all in its path. Triage of the event revealed that one of the primary causes of death was the lack of awareness of just how bad things were going to get. The authorities knew that doom was pending, but due to the remote nature of Arizona, getting the word out proved to be a challenge.
Today, this can be easily mitigated by having a weather radio closely at hand and in every vehicle. Flash flood-prone areas should also be avoided during times of heavy rain. Many of the Norma victims were operating automobiles in the Tonto Creek area and were simply drowned in their cars.
2) The Rodeo Chodeski Fire (2002) – Consuming almost half a million acres, this fire cost $20 million to the state of Arizona. Though no deaths were reported, over 730 square miles of Arizona were burned when an enterprising young man set a fire he hoped to put out as a way to get hired as a wildland firefighter. Instead, he failed and several communities were evacuated before they burned to the ground. Given Arizona’s increasing population, political polarity, and propensity for large fires, this scenario is likely to be repeated at some point. Fire preparedness is crucial in vehicles, homes, and potential bug-out locations.
3) The Wallow Fire (2011) – The largest recorded wildfire in Arizona, this burned almost half a million acres down to the ground before it was finally contained. It was originated by two individuals camping that let their campfire get away from them. Proper evacuation procedures and hardened structures in the area of the fire prevented a catastrophic loss of life and property. In the end only four large commercial buildings and 32 residences were destroyed. While this is quite the bill to pay in restitution, it could have been far worse. This fire, if nothing else, is a testament to the power of simply preparing for the worst-case scenario before it comes to you.
4) Yarnell Hill Fire – While it only hit 13 square miles, this fire resulted in the deaths of 19 firefighters who gave their lives attempting to control it. The fire began when lightning struck dry grass in the middle of summer. It took twelve days to get under control and is a cautionary tale of how deadly fire can be.
The hazards that are unique to Arizona are fires, dust storms, and the rare flash flood. Fortunately, these are fairly easy to mitigate provided the proper preparations have been taken. The threat from fires can be minimized by simply keeping combustibles away from your home and doing what is needed to harden it appropriately. The dust storms pose little threat provided you aren’t driving or if you are, pulling over and waiting it out. Flash floods are not that dangerous so long as you don’t occupy flood zones during a time when they may arise.
Winters and summers in Arizona can be quite challenging. Yet, building a home to withstand the one will help with the other. Properly insulating your home will help you keep the heat in during the wintertime and vice versa.
Arizona presents challenges to the hobby farmer who wants to grow their own food. It can be done, but training needs to be acquired. Caring for a garden in the desert is difficult, but not impossible.
The long southern border with Mexico also presents a unique challenge to Arizona that most other states do not have to face.
Arizona Preppers – Strategies
Many of the challenges that are likely to befall an Arizona prepper are likely not full bug out scenarios. Natural disasters are typically overcome in a matter of weeks at most. This demands a prepper to be ready to dig in and wait for the hard times to pass. In order to do that, there are a few things that need to be done before the cataclysmic event strikes.
Know Where to Get Water
The single most important thing for Arizona preppers is knowing where to get water. During a crisis, water will quickly become the currency of the day. Knowing where to get it will be crucial to staying alive no matter what the crisis is. Luckily, the forward-looking prepper can access large databases of maps from the Bureau of Land Management that show where water can be found.
It would behoove a prepper to familiarize themselves with these maps and visit these watering sites before a bug-out situation befalls them. This sort of knowledge, experience, and practice will greatly aid the prepper when needing to gather water in the future.
Harden Your Home
One of the most prevalent hazards of living in Arizona is the constant threat of fires consuming your home. House fires as a result of wildfires are often the source of many lost lives every fire season. A prepper’s first step is to prevent their home from catching on fire along with the rest of the landscape. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways and the methodology of fireproofing a home can be fairly in-depth and robust. The most important thing to do is to make sure the particular fire hazards of your home are addressed in accordance with the recommended precautions.
Learn How to Garden
Arizona presents many challenges to living a bountiful life and has for centuries. Luckily, just like our ancestors, we can overcome them with the proper attitude, determination, and how-to knowledge. Of these challenges, getting food to grow when the grocery store has been picked clean by the unprepared is one of the most daunting.
Spending time learning how to grow food in desert soil with a limited amount of water will be crucial when society begins to shut down. Spending time learning these ancient skills will undoubtedly prevent hunger and starvation when there is no food to be had.
Bugging out may likely be the best option for a prolonged crisis. With the potential for societal breakdown, riots, or an extended border crisis, having a planned bug out location is absolutely crucial. While bugging out always presents challenges, doing it in Arizona presents some unique ones of its own. Therefore, the prepper needs to be ready when society is not.
All Arizona preppers should have a detailed map of their state. This is essential for grid-down travel and navigations. The DeLorme Atlas and Gazetteer is used and loved by many.
Cache What You Will Need
Having a plan to get out is essential to survival. Part of that plan should always be multiple routes to prepared bugout locations. Along these routes, it is essential to place food, but more importantly water, along the way. The likelihood that being able to find water naturally will be challenged due to the increased need for water by the unprepared masses. These caches should be sufficient enough to survive the journey to your bugout location plus a few days. Having your own cache that is buried or tucked away along the route will ensure that you don’t dehydrate.
Get Off The Beaten Path
One of the best things about bugging out in Arizona is that the terrain is conducive to off-road travel. When society begins to break down and everyone clogs the roads, knowing how to get to your bug-out location without using any sort of road is vital. Familiarizing yourself with routes along forest roads, trails, or simply by going cross country is vital to survival when bugging out. With the large populations in Phoenix and Tucson that are likely to be unprepared for such an event, crossing the desert without the use of roads will be essential.
Get a Dirt Bike
Dirt bikes are a favorite of law enforcement, drug smugglers, and adventurers in Arizona. It is for good reason too as dirt bikes are uniquely suited to crossing the desert. With a small footprint, they are highly maneuverable and consume very little gas.
These two attributes make a dirt bike the best possible option for bug out vehicles. Moving at highway speeds on pavement, but still being able to bob and weave through rocks and shrubs, a dirt bike is a ticket to bugging out successfully.
This article just scratches the surface of what Arizona preppers need to know. The following links could held educate you more on prepping in the state.
- Arizona Survivalist Board (archived topics, but not very active)
- Prepper Groups-Arizona (very active form, great way to connect with likeminded people)
- Arizona Primitive Skills School (courses available in survival in the Arizona backcountry)
- Arizona Prepper Meetup Group (fairly active way to connect with likeminded people)
- Ancient Pathways Primitive Skills School (courses available about survival in Arizona)
- Southwest Survival (bushcraft school set in the Arizona desert)
- Revis Mountain (self-reliance school set in Arizona)
- FEMA Professional Series Programs (recommended by the Arizona Department of Emergency Management)
- Bureau of Land Management Maps (BLM maps show water locations)
- Harden Your Home Against Wildfire (Cal Fire recommendations on how to keep your home safe from wildfire)