Retreat Security Category

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


I just wanted to take a moment to comment on the "Staying Warm In An LP/OP" article by M.E. As I read it, I was chuckling and nodding my head. He hit the nail on the head with several of his observations. The recommendations for staying warm are dead on, and the suggestion about using two personnel to man an OP/LP is tried and true. After 23 years in the Army, I know that staying warm is a two-edged sword. If you stay warm enough, the tendency is to drift off to sleep. If you are too cold, your concentration becomes focused on simply staying warm. There is a fine line for the sole sentry to walk in this regard. This is a situation we mitigate by mandating two sentries for the same post, or limiting the amount of time a single sentry stands watch to around two hours. Anyway, without running off down a rabbit hole, I just wanted to say, "good article." - WB, LTC

Friday, March 28, 2014

I have been working for several years on building a security camera system. I have finally found a camera that I really like. Previously, I had tried a number of things that did not work very well:

  • Old-fashioned NTSC cameras with coax to a PCI video card resulted in terrible video quality, no matter how much money was spent.
  • Webcams of various types offered pretty good video quality but were limited by the length of the USB cable.
  • The Toshiba IK-WB02A IP network camera were too much money for not very good quality imaging. I bought several of these at about $100 to $150 and liked them at first, but in the end, the 640x480 resolution was just not good enough.
  • The Panasonic WV-SP305 1.3MP IP network camera had decent video quality, but the price was around $400. The camera I have was purchased by my office as an evaluation item and then turned over to me when the decision was made to go with similar resolution Axis M1113 cameras at about $450 each. The price for both of these is more than I could really afford in setting up something at my house.

So, while I am not in the security system business, I have spent a considerable amount of time and money studying the subject. What had really puzzled me was the differential between the ordinary consumer photo cameras, which had low prices and good quality, versus the security world, where low quality and high prices were the rule. I reasoned that since these were much the same inside, eventually someone would repackage the parts into what I wanted. So I kept looking on eBay for an inexpensive camera with good quality.

AOTE Camera from China

Six months ago, I found a seller on eBay who was offering 5MP cameras for around $150. There was no information about this AOTE brand anywhere on the Internet, but still the package was tempting and I ordered one. It arrived in about 15 days from China and was well packaged.

Below is the eBay link to one of the cameras. There are lots of different models. These mostly differ in the housing and how many LED lights are attached. The cameras inside are comprised of a small stack of 1.5 inch square circuit boards that actually take up very little room in the housing. By adding another layer to the board stack, you can get additional features, such as Power over Ethernet (POE) option. Alternatively, you can get different CCD sensor options on the front board layer. There are also various lens that can be selected.

The following link is for one version with the camera options that I liked:

The box contained the camera, a CD Rom disk, a power supply, and a sheet of paper with some brief instructions. I do not normally use the Windows operating system. Instead, all of the computers around my house run various flavors of Linux. I used the Linux Wine program to install the supplied software. It ran somewhat but not too well. I dumped the .EXE file using the Strings program and was able to locate some URLs in the code. With this information, I was able to stream video from the camera using the VLC program as the client.

Encouraged, I ordered another and then later another, as money allowed. I now own three of these cameras.


I was able to puzzle out the Open Network Video Interface Forum (ONVIF) specifications and use this application programming interface (API). The ONVIF protocol was developed by a number of the leading security camera companies. As more and more Internet Protocol (IP) cameras were developed, the various models would have divergent features and interfaces. This was troubling to systems integrators who had to combine the various devices into a functioning security system.

So the purpose of the ONVIF specification was to define an interface that could be used to query the camera and have the camera respond with its specifications. ONVIF uses the Extensible Markup Language (XML) syntax in Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) format. This can seem on the surface to be a little intimidating, but in the end I was able to invoke the API from the command line using the CURL program. So, for example, here is the command to get the device profiles by sending the contents of a pre-written file with the SOAP XML as the contents.

$ cat getProfiles.xml 
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?> 
<soap:Envelope xmlns:soap="" 

$ curl --data @getProfiles.xml |xmllint --pretty 1 -

... Lots of XML output ...

It looks a little complicated, but it's not too bad as compared to some things, like say gardening or animal husbandry, for instance.

In the end, what I discovered is that to access the camera, you had to first invoke this GetProfiles function. This returned a profile name.

Then using the profile name, it was possible to use the GetStreamURI and GetSnapshotURI functions to obtain the URLs at which the camera would respond with either a Real Time Streaming Protocol (RTSP) video stream or a JPEG image snapshot. These are as follows:


The other key piece of information was the size of the image. This was found in the profile information and was as follows:

<tt:Bounds height="1920" width="2592" y="0" x="0"/>

This is a BIG image.

Image Quality

As far a image quality goes, it is pretty good. There is a little jitter and noise when streaming h.264 video, but this may just be inherent in the compression process. Due to the large amount of data being sent around for video, it may overwhelm some networks. Ethernet switches and routers will drop packets if overloaded.

The way h264 video works is that it will send a full video frame called the I-Frame. Then, for a period of time, there will only be sent incremental changes. If you drop an I-Frame, this is bad and causes a blank screen for a while until the next I-Frame. Is this the fault of the camera? Not really. It is just the way h264 video works. You just need to be aware of this possibility and make sure that your network design is sufficient for the amount of data. There is also a noticeable lag due to the time requirement associated with video compression.

The JPEG still-frame images are excellent. The quality is about what you would get in a typical photo camera, and it turns out that the recording and motion detection software I use only needs single JPEG frames.

The night vision capability is also quite good. As you transition from day to night, the camera will automatically adjust. Be aware that while the image will be in color during the day, at night there is not enough light. The camera will compensate and only produce a black-and-white image. The built-in LED light sources help. They do produce some heat, and I have noticed little heat vortex distortions when streaming. These give the appearance of little bugs flying around the camera. If night vision is a prime consideration, then it might be good to purchase independent light sources and mount them away from the camera to isolate the heat.

By doing illumination, you are not being stealthy. The cameras themselves have a noticeable, visible to the naked eye, dull red glow from the LEDs. The generated light would certainly be visible to someone with the proper equipment, such as a night vision scope. Since I am in a city/suburban environment, the location of my house is no secret. I just count this effect towards deterrence.

By the way, during this several month educational exercise, I did have to run the manufacturer-supplied Windows program in a Windows 7 environment. It was the only way I could figure out, at the time, to get network settings right and to configure the camera for 5MP. For the longest time, the camera was at the default resolution of 1080p, and I thought it looked great and then noticed that I was an idiot and needed to bump up the resolution to the maximum. It looks even better now.

One reason I still use Windows for configuring the cameras is that after running WireShark and examining the message traffic, I discovered that a separate, undocumented protocol was being used to port 8091 for camera configuration. These messages are XML, and I was able to see what was being done, but by the time I had done this, the cameras were configured, and I went on to the problem of how to do recording. Just do not waste any time in the ONVIF specs studying the ONVIF commands related to configuration. It appears that in this case, these commands are not used. The Windows program issues no ONVIF messages.

Recording Video and Detecting Motion Events

For doing recording and motion detection, I like the Linux package entitled Motion.

I had started out using the ZoneMinder package but found that it did not reliably detect motion events. Lots of people like ZoneMinder. I could never get the settings adjusted right.

With Motion, the initial configuration looks a little more complicated, but, for me, the results were better in the end. Motion just grabs JPEG frames, and you end up with a directory with files. Very simple.

When motion is detected, Motion will create a movie from the video frames. You can choose the movie format. I like mpeg4 (avi).

Here is the Motion config file for one of the cameras with all the junk stripped out.

width 2048
height 1536
text_left Backdoor
target_dir /ramdisk/motion/garage
webcam_port 0
on_picture_save /usr/local/motion-extras/
on_movie_end /usr/local/motion-extras/

Wiring and POE

Anyway, I have Motion running, and I am now working on stringing Ethernet cables through the attic and crawl spaces. The cameras I ordered have the POE feature. This means that you do not have to run two sets of cables for both signal and power. This in my mind is a great convenience. I luckily had a POE switch that would supply the required power.

It is also possible to use power injectors that go in-line on the Ethernet cable. You need to be a little careful using power injectors to not connect power to devices that do not expect it. Smoke may result.

You do know that all electronics run on smoke? If you let the smoke out, they stop working. (Engineer joke. ha ha)

The nice thing about the POE switches is that they implement the full POE protocol, which will ask the device first if it wants power and only turn on the power if the device responds.

So far, no smoke for me.

Network Security

A word or two about network security. It is, in general, a bad idea to have little computers on the inside of your network when you can not be sure of the functioning of these devices.

Cameras are in fact, little computers.

In the process of examining these devices, I noticed that by default, they would send a User Datagram Protocol (UDP) handshake every second or so to an IP address in China.

Whether this was some setting that I did not turn off correctly (there are a lot of features in the configuration) or if perhaps this might be something more sinister, it must be considered that computers with unrestricted access to the outside world are a security risk.

One answer might be to subnet and to isolate the IP cameras with a firewall. The firewall could then block the traffic.

However, in my case, I was able to think of something simpler. My server has two Ethernet ports.

What I am doing is to put the cameras on the second port and then make sure that port forwarding in the server is turned off. In this way, the server can access the cameras and also receive their responses, but the cameras have no path to the outside or even to the other computers on my network.

If the bandwidth of the Ethernet were to become a problem, I could install a multi-port Ethernet card and isolate the cameras, so that there would only be one camera per cable.

Motivations and Benefits

Hopefully, the hints supplied above are enough to get you started. These represent the conclusions I have reached, after making a number of false starts and mistakes. Of course, as I play with these things, I will probably learn additional things. Still, it seemed important to communicate a little of this information right now.

Affordable cameras like this are something new and are kind of a game-changing technology. I have read some recent posts talking about how to stay warm on cold nights in a perimeter listening post. Imagine instead that you install a bunch of cameras and watch the perimeter from the sofa inside the warm house and have a loud alarm go off to wake you up if motion is detected. Ha ha.

Others are worried about the trend in America for more police. The justification for more police is tied to a reaction to fear. Fear comes from a lack of knowledge. Cameras provide a record of past events and, thus, increase knowledge. More knowledge means less fear and less need for police.

If something goes missing, see who took it and solve the problem immediately. In just about all of the cases where I have lost stuff over the years, it has been some drug-using member of the family, extended family, or one of their friends. The problem has always been that you could not exactly say who took the stuff. A camera recording would solve this uncertainty problem.

Another thing that would make sense is for neighbors to pool their cameras. By interconnecting the cameras, you would have a much greater coverage area with more angles of vision.

More importantly, the recording function would be distributed and there would be no single point that an attacker could hit to destroy the evidence.

It would be very hard to collect all of the copies of a recording, and the attacker could never be sure that they had gotten all of them. That little detail would be a powerful deterrence factor.

The idea of a security system is an easy one for people to grasp. It should be relatively easy to sell this idea to friends and neighbors and perhaps get them working together on the common security.


To conclude, here is a funny story about security. Last week, this guy and his girlfriend show up asking to buy an old trailer that was sitting in my yard. He is the derelict uncle of one of my grandsons. He had lost his job and had no where to stay.

Fine. I'm happy to help. Take the trailer, just tell me where you want it moved. A few days go by and I hear nothing from him. Weird.

Then one morning, one of my daughters, who was keeping some stuff in the trailer went out to get something and heard a noise. She screamed, and two heads popped up from under a blanket. It was this guy and his girlfriend camping out in the trailer in my yard.

What? We all know the end is coming, and the homeless will be advancing upon us. I was just surprised to see it start in my yard...last week.

Needless to say, I, the video guy, got some kidding from my family about how great my wonderful electronics were. I got busy and made some improvements. Things are working much better now, but no security system works if you don't look at it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Regarding the comments on the Dual Ring Village.

Thank you for the comments and criticisms.

Objections noted:

  • Monolithic structures susceptible to urban fires.
  • Fire breaks missing.
  • Obsolete fixed fortification.
  • Susceptible to bombardment, siege.

These may be true. However, the outstanding features and functions of a dual ring village are not constrained to that of a defensive fortification against a military force.

Engineering benefits

The curved walls are self supporting, stronger than equivalent flat walls, and thus outperform rectilinear structures of the equivalent volume and surface area. The dividing walls further strengthen the inner and outer curved walls. The enclosed spaces are more energy efficient, having only two or three exposed surfaces, out of six faces. Massive barrier walls can resist side forces that would otherwise crush contemporary construction. In addition, such thick walls would provide protection from gamma radiation.

Consider the following natural disasters that might have been abated or dismissed if the locals were dwelling within five-story, monolithic, dual ring villages, fire resistant, constructed with massive barrier walls, and watertight gateways.

  • Hurricanes, with storm surge, flying debris;
  • Tornadoes, high wind and flying debris;
  • Flooding, ice dams, rainfall, tsunamis;
  • Mudslides;
  • Blizzards, snowstorms, with high drifts;
  • Forest fires;
  • Earthquake, meteor shockwave;
  • Vermin, insects, mold, mildew, pests, pestilence; and
  • Weather extremes (hot or bitter cold).

The solitary gated and fortified DRV may not stop a modern military force, but one does not leave one's door unlocked and windows open because a determined burglar won't be stopped by such feeble attempts at home security.

The intrinsic security aspects of a DRV with single gateways into each ring do offer a measure of protection against opportunistic predators, as well as providing enhanced security for children playing in the central park. (The gateway to the inner park could be 180 degrees from the main ring gateway, impeding any attempt at a snatch and run.)

Furthermore, the DRV can be part of a larger community composed of multiple DRVs clustered together. In that situation, a post-SHTF gang of MZBs would not be able to lay siege or attack all the DRVs without suffering significant losses. And the loss of one DRV would not spell doom for the others.

The same point can be said for a flood. A single breach of a levee might doom a traditional community. But a cluster of DRVs would not be at risk, if engulfed in flood waters. (In fact, with a little foresight, a drop down dock may be available to permit boats to tie up.)

The concept of layered defense is not new, and there's plenty of archaeological evidence that walled compounds within walled cities was commonplace, to reduce the risk from intruders and predators.

In summation, the DRV might not be a Cheyenne mountain of defense, but it can be a wise precaution against natural disasters as well as man made disasters.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Hugh, recently B.B. wrote asking for readers' input on how a listening post/observation post (LP/OP) occupant can stay warm during extremely cold weather. His letter, and your reply, generated some self-reflection as I begin retirement in a few months after a 30+ year Army career, which spanned both active duty and National Guard service. During that time I served on active duty as an artillery forward observer to both Infantry and Armor companies and was branched Infantry for most of my National Guard service.

I suspect that B.B. will find that his biggest problem will not be one of staying warm, but it will rather be one of staying awake. I have been constantly amazed over my three decades, while watching both my soldiers and those of other units as well as those of other countries that I have served with, at how misused and misunderstood the monitoring of sleep is. People are hard-wired to sleep at night and be up during the day. More importantly, to be functional they need a minimal amount of sleep. Put them in a situation outside their normal routine, and their body will shut down. The bottom-line is: Don't make shifts too long because sleep is a double-edged weapon. They will be worthless the next day, either for driving, security, or doing simple farm work.

Let's start with B.B.'s initial question, keeping in mind that most people will utilize LP/OPs in two settings: Permanent and temporary, with temporary being what most would think of as patrol bases. Let's deal with the patrol base, or temporary halt, LP/OP. You simply can't put a person out in the dark for a long length of time and expect them to function well the next day. You have to balance a number of things, including exactly how cold it is, how exposed to the wind the location is, and how many people are available for duty. In reasonably temperate temperatures with a limited number of people, I think two hours is the absolute limit you should have someone on duty. They will need to function the next day and any longer will degrade their mental and physical abilities. In really cold weather one option is to put him in a chair inside a sleeping bag. If he wears a pair of sneakers (or even moccasins), it will help keep the bag clean, yet allow him to maintain mobility and the ability to quickly fight back. We never did this in the military; however, many of my friends do this on the deer stand, especially those with children hunting for the first time. The children stay warm, thus don't take an immediate dislike to hunting, yet it remains a simple thing to unzip the bag enough to shoot. Interestingly, the German army has a sleeping bag, still available at Army surplus stores, that has a quick opening slit in the back designed for you to put your feet out and run. It even has arm sleeves and a hood so you can fight from it. I have had one for about 20 years. While it is not the warmest bag I own, it will keep you comfortable enough for an hour or two in the harshest weather. Be sure the chair isn't metal or it will sap the warmth right out of everything it touches. We would take pieces of thick carpet and put on the floor of our tracked vehicles, otherwise in winter the cold metal would quickly turn your feet into blocks of ice.

We have a saying in the Army, "Soldiers don't do what you expect; they do what you inspect." There is no higher calling than standing guard over your buddies while they are asleep and defenseless. Yet, soldiers are also human and will succumb to things like discomfort due to cold and sleepiness. That is why close supervision is paramount. Rarely will a single LP be able to cover your entire area, thus a radio watch or sergeant of the guard to manage the entire perimeter is important. When you first stop at a location, do a thorough analysis of the location. The goal is to have as few LP/OPs as possible, while still maintaining security. I remember once, as a young Lieutenant, waking up late (after daylight) because a sentry had gotten tired of waiting on his replacement and simply gone back to sleep. When my very irate platoon sergeant looked into it, he found that our SOP needed a little tweaking. It called for only one LP/OP, which was to rotate every hour. We had enough soldiers that you only had to stand guard at night once every couple of days, insuring you got a reasonable amount of sleep. The problem, however, arose when the outgoing sentry would wake his replacement, who would need a few minutes to get dressed and ready. Many times, since they were both junior soldiers and there was no "adult" to insure prompt compliance, they would lay back down "for a few minutes to get their thoughts together." Needless to say, they would go back to sleep, generating a return visit by the outgoing sentry. Over the course of the night we found each tour got progressively longer, until some of the sentries had pulled double their allotted time in a single night watch. My platoon sergeant's answer, after a thorough reaming out by the first sergeant, was to confiscate one sleeping bag from the collective platoon, meaning that the outgoing sentry couldn't get warm until he got in the sleeping bag of the soldier who replaced him. Although we were in Germany at the time, it wasn't winter. So, although it did get chilly at night it wasn't dangerously cold. The first time someone was slow in getting up they were quickly reminded by a boot to get up so the outgoing guy could crawl in. Perhaps it was not the most hygienic of answers, but it worked. Remember, this was during peacetime maneuvers whose purpose was primarily to ensure we got up on time the next morning, as well as to keep thieves (yes, the military has them) from coming in and stealing anything they could find. During TEOTWAWKI you will probably not want to trust your life or the lives of your family to a single point of failure. Later in my career, after three mobilizations, we never used only one person. The Romans realized the importance of this and made it a death penalty for any sentries who fell asleep. The sentence was carried out immediately (the same day) and by his own unit, who were the very people he was charged with guarding. Obviously, you aren't going to do this to a family member or close friend, but it does show the importance of putting extra thought into it. Another answer, had we needed more than one guard, would have been to add a radio watch or sergeant of the guard. Their job is to be sure everyone stays awake, are focused, and to stay in touch with your higher element. During Desert Storm, my unit was short-handed. Every night I took both the first and last radio watch. That allowed my platoon sergeant a bit more sleep and allowed me some quiet time to write out operation orders and do other paperwork. After several months in the desert, before the war even began, we were all pretty exhausted, but you have to maintain a balance of security with work performance. During TEOTWAWKI you are going to have a multitude of daily tasks, including dealing with food procurement, and will require a clear mind. The task is to balance the two. You just have to put some thought into it.

On another train-up for a mobilization, we solved the problem another way. We were not yet in an active war zone, so having only one sentry wasn't a life or death situation. I had one soldier, from the deep southern woods, who was terrified of the desert to the point he couldn't sleep at night. This was made worse by the fact that when we first got to Fort Irwin and hadn't become acclimated to the local conditions (one of which was the local coyote population), he has a late night visitor. He had eaten his dinner and put his paper plate down beside his head before laying down to sleep. He woke about an hour later and opened his eyes only to see a coyote eating his leftovers from about 12 inches away. He woke the whole platoon up screaming and wouldn't leave the top of his tracked vehicle at night for the entire time we were at Fort Irwin. Every night my platoon sergeant gave him a pair of night observation devices with fresh batteries, and he stood watch over us until morning. He took countless catnaps during the day and somehow continued to function for the three months we were there. Once again, a solution that isn't really optimal, but you have to find solutions that fix your unique situation.

Optimally, your LP/OP will hunker down in total silence and hear anyone approaching from a long distance. Sometimes, however, they will be required to move around, once again perhaps if you don't have enough people. This is not really a good idea as it makes you much more visible but is necessary at times. . If you don't have enough people to have a radio watch designee, the LP/OP may have to wake up their replacement. A special note about safety: During the peacetime in the Army, we always lost more soldiers to accidents than any other thing. We were always careful where we parked the vehicles, especially the tanks and tracked vehicles that required cranking several times at night to maintain battery charge, especially if the radios were running. If possible, you don't move a vehicle, even a few feet, at night for fear of crushing someone. This happened several times to neighboring units while I was stationed in Germany. The same will be a concern in TEOTWAWKI. Night vehicular traffic will be dangerous from both an ambush and blackout driving considerations. When you laager up (camp in a defensive encirclement), it might be a good idea to park with an eye on not only safe, easy, movement in the dark if you have to move, but also in such a way that it facilitates the sentry in locating someone in the dark when noise discipline is paramount. One friend of mine had rivets welded to the right side of his track, to which he snapped his pup tent. That way everyone always knew where to find him.

LP/OPs for more permanent locations, such as I believe B.B. is talking about, have additional concerns. One is that it will be very difficult to completely camouflage your LP/OP. In snowy conditions, there is really no way around the obvious path through the snow to and from the location. The less you move back and forth the less obvious it will be, but there is no way to make it completely hidden in snow. One option is to dig it in so he can move around at least a little to stay warm. Although not a cold weather concern, we got around this in Iraq by draping camo nets over our guard towers. The Iraqis knew what and where they were, but couldn't tell if or when they were occupied, much the way deer can't tell if an enclosed deer stand has a hunter in it. While not all a retreat's LP/OP locations can be from an elevated building, it is worth the effort to strategically locate your positions in such a way that the occupant can move around some to stay warm, but not in such a way as to give away that someone is actually in it. You also need to stay away from taking coffee to it. Not only do smells carry at night, but the added heat makes it easier to pick up if the bad guys have a thermal imaging device. I never realized this until one of the tankers I was supporting invited me into his tank after dark to scan the local area with his thermals. It was amazing to go from pitch black darkness to actually being able to tell small details, including someone who was obviously drinking coffee from a canteen cup and another who was urinating off the top of his tank. If we were near a German town, you could even tell which cars had people in them, even if the motor was not on, due to the glow through the windows. It was amazing the difference the devices made.

Not all aids have to be high tech. If the LP/OP is at ground level, take a dog with you. Not only can they be used as a large, warming device (just ask any duck/goose hunter), they are much more likely to detect something out of the ordinary. I know that during my year in Iraq many of our nighttime raids on suspected insurgent hideouts were ruined by common untrained dogs giving the warning something wasn't right.

In closing, I see the answer to B.B.'s question as not a simple technological fix. Rather, it is a matter of balancing multiple ideas: proper location of the LP/OP itself, the amount of time each person spends in it, risk in its being detected versus facilitating the job of providing early warning, and, yes, whatever tricks you need to use to stay warm.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Dear Hugh,

Regarding Heating Concern in LP/OP, as a long-time member of the military with extensive deployment, outdoor, and survival experience, here is my humble response to the reader's query on keeping warm in an LP/OP. LP/OPs come in all shapes, sizes, and budgets. I've typically seen LP/OPs in three levels: hasty, intermediate, and advanced. Regardless of which one is manned, they all share two traits-- clear fields of fire/observation and keeping the soldier alert. Having frozen my backside off more than I have wished and as it addresses your question head on, I will focus on the latter.

Exposure to the elements is what you want to avoid the most. The Army uses a simple acronym for cold weather: C.O.L.D. In regards to your clothing, it stands for: keep it Clean, avoid Overheating, dress in loose Layers, and keep it Dry. Here then are the three levels of positions.

  1. A hastily dug fighting position with overhead cover. These are obviously temporary, but even one built with sandbags and a roof quickly gets drafty, muddy, dirty, and cold (or very buggy in the warmer months). In the military, you would see these only around Tactical Operations Centers that were conducting operations at one of the various Training Centers (National Training Center, etc) or around non-mechanized artillery firing batteries. Field Manual (FM) 21-75 discusses construction of these (and for the purists out there, yes a hasty is just a "ranger grave" and a "deliberate" is by the book, but come on, even the deliberate is just a really well dug hole, possibly with a roof). These should not be your redoubt standard unless you are far behind the power curve or putting in a more advanced position is unfeasible due to OPSEC. We would have to rotate people fairly rapidly (about once an hour) to avoid fatigue, frostbite, chillblain, et cetera.
  2. The “budget” fighting position. You can build a two-person budget position for under a hundred dollars plus the time and sweat it takes to construct. These are typically wood reinforced. I prefer pallets for the floor and sides and two by fours with a sheet of plywood for the roof. The trick for heat here is threefold. First, be diligent on eliminating leaks (from rain) and drafts. Second, put survival (emergency) blankets on the sides (as long as you can't see the shiny reflection from the outside of the LP/OP). As a tip, use staples to secure it, but put a piece of duct tape (or 100 mph tape) wherever you staple as a way to avoid rips. I love my survival blanket; it really works. Third, always occupy with a buddy. There is an old Harvard study that showed people could withstand having their legs in ice water twice as long if they had a friend with them. The friend didn't even need to say anything, just their mere presence helped with the elements. With my soldiers, we typically used MRE boxes, plywood, and wood scraps that came with our ammo or concertina wire deliveries. You can watch the documentary Restrepo for a visual understanding of this (and the previous) type of LP/OP/fighting position.
  3. The Redoubt baseline. Here you can go from a couple hundred bucks to thousands, but why blow your money? Your standard should be a concrete reinforced LP/OP. However, here is the trick: bury the entire thing minus the door/hatch. You don't want a bunch of pillboxes that scream "prepper" strewn about your property. If you completely bury these, they can serve as caches or storage areas until TEOTWAWKI. After that event, you simply dig out the observation/firing holes. I think it's best to have clear sliding plexiglass instead of open holes so you can conserve heat as much as possible. You could always go all out with pig iron "shutters" or something else more elaborate (and expensive). The added bonus of a concrete structure is that you can route electricity for a heating source. You can do the same with some PVC piping to the wooden structure above, but your heat loss is greater. A second heating option is installing a small ceramic rocket stove.

So, the short answer is: If you want to stay warm, build a nice LP/OP! - C.E.

o o o

Hi Hugh,

This is actually more of a response to one of your responses (the one from E.B.). I wanted to second his suggestion of ski goggles to help keep your face/eyes warm, but I have a slight modification to suggest. I was a ski racer from age 8 up until age 22. I've used every tint known to man in multiple goggle styles. Rather than clear goggles, I highly suggest yellow-tinted goggles. The yellow tint (which is not a common color) are the ONLY ones that allow you to see contrast in the snow during flat-light conditions. They also, to a small extent, amplify low-light conditions. Once I tried a set given to me by a sponsor, I could never go back to any other tint/clear again. Thanks, - J.M.

o o o


Hello and welcome. Um, I'm no expert, but I can say from experience that nothing is better then having heat in your shelter. LP/OP are usually changed out every 2-3 hours, right? Why not simply bring it with you? Spending a whole night out in 10-degree weather in an unheated shelter isn't going to be easy or fun, and it isn't necessary. Bring heat with you.

You'd need a wood/coal stove and several 2-quart buckets with a few cantaloupe-sized rocks in them, for each person on guard.

Why wouldn't they just do something like this? Let's figure you have a house in the center of your plans, and each LP/OP is a spoke with the house being the central hub. Inside the hub you're going to have a wood stove, right? Make it part of the SOP to have the guard bring out a metal bucket that has heated rocks in it. You'd need twice the buckets with rocks (and no stream stones, please, as they might explode). At the start of each shift, they carry their hot bucket to the LP/OP along with their other items they need to take for completing their tasks. The stones don't need to get red hot, yet will produce heat for a few hours.

When they come back in from being on guard, the bucket goes back on top of the stove. They would also add fuel to the fire at this point. This idea gives someone the same practical setup as a heating pad. Also, I would totally bring a wool blanket. With the bucket at my feet, I'd drape the blanket over you to keep you warm for a few hours. I'd hope that the LP/OP would have a place to sit. I'd wrap myself in the wool blanket, putting my feet right on that bucket with the heat in it. If you get sleepy, drink more water, get up and move around, or open your warm clothing to get chilled. Don't get so warm you actually fall asleep, ever. Hourly radio checks is probably a really good idea also, as most people really struggle from about 3am to 5am.

While out hunting a few years back, I experimented with using charcoal briquets in a metal bucket. It's not ok to use these in an enclosed space due to CO2, and you will likely want some kind of a grate for the ash, but they would be ok in a hunting blind or LP/OP (as long your not worried about the smell traveling and giving away your position). With the hot rocks, you don't have any worry about heating smells traveling. Charcoal is pretty stinky.

Metal buckets are easy to find. A quick search turns up buckets online for $4 for 2 quart buckets that would work for this application. You might be able to find them cheaper at local auctions. - Fitzy

Friday, February 14, 2014


In response to the letter on Wednesday Feb. 5th regarding "Heating Concern in LP/OP", I submit my thoughts.

Indeed, those of us in Northern climates should be very concerned with keeping warm in a LP/OP during the winter months. When in the LP/OP, we typically have to stay put. Wandering off or doing laps around the property could allow those who would do your group harm to enter your property unannounced. The other important point is that an effective person in a LP/OP is also quiet. Having the upper hand in a tactical situation could very well hinge on the LP/OP giving his/her group advanced warning and/or striking against attackers who are not aware of the LP/OP. Even simple activities such as jogging in place or doing some jumping-jacks can create noise that can be heard from afar.

So we have established that an effective individual in a LP/OP assignment will for the most part be sitting or standing with minimal movement for an extended period of time. As was mentioned in HJL's response, sitting still in a cold spot is something that hunters have done for many years and you could likely learn some great ideas from hunters in your region. Plains hunters may be fighting windchill while mountainous areas may be hampered by annual snowfall that's measured in feet, not inches. Whatever your surroundings are, take some time to find out what is going to work best for you in your local area.

Wind makes a massive difference in the "am I warm enough" calculation. Any exposed skin is going to get cold right away in subzero temps. Frostbite can set in within a matter of minutes. Look at your current LP/OP or where you are planning to build it. Does it offer a natural barrier against the cold? I'm a big fan of dugout LP/OP positions. Not only do they block wind, they provide natural protection from small arms and tend to blend in better with surroundings than an outbuilding will. Trees, bushes and other natural materials can also block the wind. Just be sure to design the layout in a way that vision won't be blocked while in the LP/OP. In extreme situations, ski goggles will keep blowing snow out of your eyes and help keep your face warm. You should opt for clear lenses and not the heavily tinted versions that only work well in daylight. A natural roof of sod, pine boughs or logs over the LP/OP will not only keep out snow and wind, it will also hide your position better.

 Ideally, you should have a base layer that wicks away moisture, an insulating layer on top of the base layer and an outer layer that is water and wind proof. I'll be diving into each one of these in greater detail.

Base layer:
 We have a saying up here - "cotton is rotten". Cotton may be comfortable but it's terrible when it comes to keeping you warm and dry. To be the absolute warmest, you should be covered from head to toe in some sort of a performance fabric that keeps you warm and wicks away moisture. Thinking you can build your layers by starting with cotton undies and socks, denim jeans and a cotton t-shirt is foolish at best and dangerous at worst. Everyone in your group should have a base layer set. Many of these fabrics have particular wash and dry requirements in order to maintain their performance so be sure to read the labels and instruct whomever does the laundry at your home to follow directions. Thinsulate is a name brand from 3M that you're likely familiar with that's great to have in your outdoor items but pay close attention to the amount and type of Thinsulate.

Insulating layer:
 Ditch the jeans, sweatshirts and cotton-based flannels in favor of fleece and wool. Take the time to tuck in undershirts and other items so that you can retain the most heat. You want items that give you flexibility and movement. You will also want items that will be comfortable if you need to start removing items. For example, a loose-knit wool sweater will likely let in too much wind to be comfortable if you remove your jacket.

Outer layer:
 You're going to want either a full snowsuit or a quality jacket and snow pants combo. Snowsuits keep out more air but are often harder to move about in and make it difficult to remove layers. There have been many times where I have removed my jacket but kept everything else on. This allows me to cool down when I get too warm but keep the heat in my extremities. Try sitting in a snowbank with your outer layer for 30 minutes. Do your outer layers remain dry or are they starting to take on water? If your outer layer is taking on a bunch of water after a short period, imagine what will happen when you have to be outside for hours on end or hike for miles in knee-deep snow.

 There's going to be some debate here but my favorite so far are my Sorel Glacier boots which are no longer made. Sorel does however make similar boots of the same caliber. I've found boots to be like sleeping bags. If the manufacturer says they are good down to "X degrees", add 30 to that number. So if the manufacturer says their boots are good to 0 degrees, it means they are good to 30 degrees. I say this because we are planning on being sedentary in the LP/OP. You may be able to tolerate cooler temps if you were active but not in the situation we are discussing here. Wool socks are a must have to keep your feet dry and warm.

 I'm a big fan of a balaclava which will keep your head warm and also cover your neck. Add a stocking cap or mask on top of that and you'll stay warm, especially if it contains Thinsulate or a similar material. Note that this arrangement is going to limit your hearing. You can look at ways to cut holes for your ears, use listening devices or other methods to improve hearing but keep in mind that any attackers are likely facing the same challenges. This is where having quality visual tools such as spotting scopes, nightvision, etc will pay off in spades. When temps permit, a stocking cap with exposed ears will keep you the warmest while still allowing you to hear.

 Thinsulate or a similar material is a must as a base layer. Whether you choose, mittens or gloves, be sure you can operate all of your tools such as communication devices, spotting scopes, firearms, etc. I have seen some military surplus gloves out there that offered quick access to a shooter's fingers. While I liked their design, I felt they need more insulation. Perhaps you could use layering to make them work for you. Mittens will always keep you warmer because they keep your fingers together to share the heat. Northerners already know this but transplants from the South might not be thinking of this point. One of my favorite setups for hands is Thinsulate gloves inside of wool gloves that are placed inside leather mittens that have a cuff which reaches my forearm. We called them "choppers" where I grew up. Treat the leather choppers with some mink oil to waterproof them and your hands will never feel the wind.

Other items:
 Hand warmer packets are popular with hunters and can be found for very little money. Just be sure to follow directions to avoid burns or irritation. A quick way to warm yourself when cold is to drink warm liquids. If it's meal time, have some warm soup. If you are drinking water, warm it up. Stock up on tea bags if you need flavored water. Alcohol may give a temporary reprieve from the cold but it actually works against you when you're trying to keep warm so avoid it. Just like sleeping on the ground makes you colder, so too will laying in the snow. Use foam, straw bales, pine boughs, old couch cushions, etc to insulate yourself from the cold ground. If you have a chair in your LP/OP, a pillow will do wonders when compared to a cold seat (not to mention the comfort aspect). Don't overlook having a few military surplus wool blankets to put over yourself. A pair of waterproof gaiters will keep the snow out of your boots when going through the deep stuff. Have a plan for drying wet gear between assignments. Hang a drying line near a heat source and use it regularly. Wet gear is uncomfortable and only makes you colder.

Get creative:
 Can you have a small woodstove, kerosene or electric heater next to you? Would your barn make a good LP/OP? The livestock will help keep you warm. Place some hot rocks in your gloves or pockets (be careful not to burn yourself). Rice bag heating pads can be made in about 5 minutes using instructions found online and will retain their heat for a very long time. If you can get electricity out to your LP/OP, an electric heating pad or electric blanket will add to your warmth.

A few closing points. Buy quality gear. I know many of us are on a budget but the cheap stuff just doesn't keep you warm or last through several seasons - "buy nice or buy it twice". Many deals can be found on Craigslist, eBay, etc. We found winter gear for our daughter a couple years ago that I know cost the seller over $200 when new. We paid $20 for the set when the seller's daughter outgrew the items. Also worth mentioning; right now, many retailers have their winter items on clearance. Just today, I purchased two Thinsulate stocking caps for $2 each. Lastly, be sure to test out your gear. Put it all on and go sit outside in the dark for a few hours in cold temps. It'll be boring but I'd rather see someone be bored for a few hours now than suffer endlessly through a cold winter (or a few winters!) in a grid-down situation because they failed to test their gear.

When it gets dangerously cold outside, group members should be checking in on one another regularly to ensure everyone is safe and warm. Keeping warm isn't just a comfort item; hypothermia and frostbite have real consequences and become grave when no doctors or hospitals are available. Stay safe and keep warm my friends. - E.B.

o o o


I've spent my fair share of time in a fox hole and on nasty weather operations. You must adapt to the climate and accept that there is no bad weather, just bad clothing. A good attitude makes a big difference when the chips are down. Make the investment in quality clothing, especially for your feet. If you have a well made LP/OP, you might get away with some nice to have items to keep one warm without compromising your presence. It depends on your individual setup. Not all LP/OP's have to be totally concealed and without comforts to be useful. You can have an LP/OP that is also meant to be abandoned as soon as possible, when trouble arrives. You then fall back to your secondary and better concealed location that doesn't have the comforts. The greater the weather challenge the more often you change out your sentry. If an LP/OP is exposed to the elements, I found in that you have to rely on military grade cold weather gear and always have the thick poncho available which keeps just about everything out. Wool is excellent because it'll keep you warm even if you get wet. A good German Shepherd Dog will save the day regardless of the weather. Two would be better. Save one from the shelter and give him some basic training and they'll reward you countless times. Get him a dog jacket too. I got several on sale for my rescues. While you might be distracted because you are messing around with your clothing or dozing off a little in unfriendly weather, he won't. Army or Ranger Surplus stores have the kind of clothing I mentioned. - F.

o o o


My plan for this has four parts.

  1. have a chair that swivels or rotates. A used QUIET office chair would be great. I use a padded swivel boat seat mounted on a small bench made from a short width of 2" x12" lumber that is only 16" wide. The height is set so your seat sit flat on the ground. This allows rotating 360" degrees and tilting backwards a bit. This greatly aides movement of the feet and legs and keeps the blood flowing. I have successfully sat on one of these for 5 hours at a time deer hunting.
  2. Have a good supply of your favorite hot beverage in a QUALITY vacuum (“Thermos”) bottle that will keep it steaming hot during your watch. A good high-protein snack every hour also helps to keep your energy flowing. I prefer a smoked sausage sandwich. I keep it warm by carrying it inside my inner shirt so it is warm.
  3. Along with Hugh's multilayer clothing I also keep at least one thick wool or polyester blanket to cover my legs and boots as I cool down. A neck gaiter is a must to prevent losing heat through the major arteries in your neck. This will lower your resistance to cold by another 20 degrees. Ski instructors say that if you are cold, cover your neck and head. If you are too warm, uncover it.
  4. The last item is an amazing "technology" discovered in previous centuries-- the hot water bottle. One of these inside your coat is an amazing thing. They come in different sizes, from “extra large” clear down to the “baby” hot water bottles. Take a coupling in a small “ice chest”. It works for heat also. Take a few to last through your watch. Or have some one bring you some during your watch.

Stay warm/Stay awake. - MER

Thursday, February 13, 2014


Regarding the letter about the heating concern in your LP/OP, don't forget that any heat source will cause the position to show up on IR or thermal scopes. For that reason, insulation (PAC boots and layers of coats, sweaters, and long johns) is better than heat sources. If you must use a heat source, string a thermally-reflective tarp over your position and camouflage it with snow. In essence you create a snow cave with the front open. While it will still show on IR, it won't be human-shaped. Snow is extremely good as an insulator and as such masks heat sources. Don't forget a scrap of closed-cell foam to sit on, if you don't have a stool and carpet scraps to stand on. - H.D.


Welcome Hugh,

I wish you great success filling big boots!

Staying comfortably warm and cooking meals undetected was an issue faced by the resistance during WWII. That era was credited with development of "smoke burning" wood heat, although there are reports of Native Americans on the plains using similar methods by digging air control channels into the ground to avoid detection while cooking a meal.

My own personal backpack solution is a small TLUD style twig burning stove-- a 12 ounce stainless thermos with some holes punched in it. In modern designs like this, the fire eventually goes into charcoal-burning mode, at which time it is like the old catalytic heaters and throws low, useful heat for many hours longer than it provided heat on a flame. Carbon monoxide is a risk in char-burning mode, but as long as your nose is in the fresh brisk air, it is nice to have a way to warm feet and hands over long periods of low activity while remaining as undetectable as possible. I can shield candle-type flame with a scrap can, body, tarp, or surroundings until char burning mode is reached at which time there is no visible flame. A drain from a sink is screwed on as a support base to allow airflow into the 12 oz former thermos (now a heater). If it breaks off, you will have to use sticks or stones to raise the base up off the ground. Check out a night run video using this stove. - Doug B.



In reading the letter about staying warm in an LP/OP in the frigid cold, I wanted to offer a couple of ideas I hope will help:

  • Exothermic Crystallization in the form of reusable hand warmers. You can find these online and they will stay warm for about 45 minutes to an hour. These work by snapping (flexing like the side of a washing machine) the small metal disc inside of them. The snapping will start an exothermic reaction in the clear liquid (usually sodium acetate), which will turn opaque as the reaction occurs. They heat up much faster (in about 5 seconds) than the air-activated iron version and will be about 120-130⁰F. After they have been used, you simply drop them into a pot of boiling water, and they will return to their original clear liquid state. I have these, and they do work, but for a short time.
  • Disposable hand warmers (air-iron reaction) heaters. They're not the best, and are not reusable.
  • I have used the Zippo Pocket hand warmer as well, but if I am really trying to stay out of site, you have to consider smell as well. It does have the same burning zippo scent that the lighters have.
  • A trick I have used when sleeping outside is to fill a GOOD quality water bottle with boiling water and slip it inside of a wool sock and then put it in my sleeping bag. This has provided hours of warmth.
  • A trick that mountain men used to use, and it works well if you do it right, is to heat rocks in a fire, and then burry them under about 12" of dirt. Then, put your ground cloth right on top and you will stay warm. This has the drawback of needing a fire at some point, but it does keep you warm. You could use the same theory as the old bed warmers to fill something with hot rocks that you can keep near for warmth. Do NOT use sandstone or river rock, since they may explode due to air pockets or steam build up.
  • Rocket stoves, when built right (and they are easy to build) will burn very clean, provide heat, and not produce smoke, but they will have some (not much) smoke scent. They can heat a large area.
  • In the military we used empty .50 BMG ammo cans to make a stove. We would attach a pipe adapter to the top of one, add legs to the bottom, and cut a door into the front to feed the fire. These will heat a small area very quickly, but they will have a smoke stack exiting somewhere that you would have to deal with.
  • Remember that drinking warm beverages will warm your core and help keep you warm.
  • As far as insulation you need to be sure to insulate yourself from the ground at least as much as you are insulating yourself from the air. Without enough insulation, you will be heating mother Earth with your body, which will not work too well for you.
  • Remember that wool will insulate and keep you warm, even when wet, so use it in your layering. Fleece will also help but doesn't insulate as much when wet.

Good luck! - Brad M.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Dear Hugh,

As we remain in a long lasting frigid winter in northern Ohio, I question how anyone could maintain long term diligence in a listening/observation post that is partially open to the elements. I struggle with ways to provide a heat source without compromising a tactical location. I have read survival blog for many years, but have not seen this important concern addressed. Perhaps you will find this a notable concern, and I request this be forwarded to the masses to solicit ideas for solutions. Thanks for your consideration. - B.B.

HJL Replies: I've never served in the military, but I'm sure those readers who have can shed some light here. It seems to me that being in an LP/OP is not that different that sitting in a duck blind. I have spent many a cold morning sitting in a hole in the ground with partial shelter on the sides. Sometimes we had overhead shelter and sometimes not. When the temperature would drop down to 0 degrees or below, I often wondered to myself why I was even there. Of course, there was humor too, making fun of the icicles growing of the end of each of our noses. We tried all the gadgets, from battery-powered socks to Coleman fuel-powered hand warmers. The battery powered socks worked, but they were a novelty that soon broke. The Zippo hand warmer worked well though. I used only one and would put it in my trigger hand pocket. If I started to lose feeling in that hand, I would remove the glove and shove that hand into the pocket to warm it up. I would also shift pockets if the other hand needed it as well. There are some general rules that you have to abide by to stay warm though. You will need more layers than you would otherwise, and they must be layers. Sitting in one position, you won't have the opportunity to move around and generate warmth. You must have enough layers on so that you stay warm sitting still. As the temperature fluctuates, you need to be able to peel layers off or put them back on so you don't sweat or freeze. You also have to stay off the cold ground. You need padded seats that won't collapse to become flush with the floor when you sit on them. You also need to get your boots off the ground when you can to help with cold feet. Blankets work well on multiple levels. They help keep you warm and they can break up your visual pattern. I also used mittens as well as glove liners. I had a pair that had a slit in the palm that would allow me to pull my hand out to use the shotgun.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Dear Sir:

I am writing to seek your advise and that of your readers. I live in a metropolitan area, in a nice “safe” suburb where “nothing ever happens”. I have recently become more active in preparing for crisis situations. I have also reevaluated my home security needs. I want to have immediate access to my handgun at night. At this point, if we had an intruder, I would have to get into my closet, open my safe, get my handgun and then try to successfully confront a threat. I have several small children, so leaving a loaded firearm in the nightstand is not an option. I believe that a Gunvault product may be my best bet for a handgun. Although it is not "instant" access, the time needed to enter the code is very short.

My question concerns shotguns. I would like to have instant access to my shotgun, but have the same speed and safety concerns. The gun safe is too slow, and the idea of having a loaded shotgun along the side of the bed just won't work either. I would like to mount it to the wall with a safety mount that covers the trigger. The only product I can find that would appear to fit the bill is called the Shotlock Solo Vault. I have never seen this product, or this type of product, evaluated or discussed on Survivalblog. Do any of your readers have experience with this product? I would appreciate any evaluations, thoughts, or recommendations that you could make that would help me find a product that can meet my needs. - M.C.

HJL Replies: I refuse to give in to political correctness on this issue. Gun safes, vaults and locks are for keeping the weapons that you are not using safe when you are not around. They are not for “working” weapons. Working weapons should be loaded and ready to go at all times, whether it is a shotgun leaned in a corner behind the front door or a pistol under your pillow, or anything in between. The only effective way of making a working weapon safe is to make sure that all who come into contact with it are educated and trained. That may mean that you have to be careful about who is in your house. It may also mean that, at times, you have no working weapon available. Small children are also capable of being trained. I have memories, from when I was only four or five years old, of working weapons in our household. I also trained my children. Before they could handle a weapon safely, they knew of the danger and had their curiosity satisfied by spending time with me and the weapon in use. Your weapon may be scary to your young child, but they can learn to respect it and stear clear of it until they are trained to become comfortable properly using one themselves. Any product that attempts to render a working weapon safe merely gives you a false sense of security and hinders your ability to access that weapon when you need it. As an EMT, I will attest to the reluctance of the mind to function well when you have been rudely awakened at 3:00AM. You owe it to yourself to simplify what you have to think about in a time of severe stress. I want ALL of my thinking to be toward the shoot/no shoot situation rather than fumbling with a combination that I may or may not remember under stress thus shrinking the time available to deal with the shoot/no shoot decision. Making the decision to have a working weapon for self defense is making a decision to change your lifestyle. I don't believe you can merely purchase a product that will allow you to live life as you did before you made the decision and expect to have the safety and security of a working weapon. As much as I hate to say this, you should also check with your local laws. They may attempt to regulate what you do in the confines of your own home and only you can make the decision to allow them to do that or not.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Dear Editor,

In Tactical Solutions for Preppers, by The Grunt I note "The Grunt" makes no analysis of his enemy. I think his tactical solutions are fine if facing a disorganized mob bent on looting. The proposed solutions are passive and do not address the patrolling that will be necessary if facing a more cunning enemy. If an active and sophisticated threat exists in your AO, an active defense/offense may be necessary. Also, I think early in TEOTWAWKI, the enemy will be our hyper-militarized law enforcement that has become a "hammer looking for a nail". The authorities may view professional attempts at defense as some sort of existential threat. Laying low and not drawing attention to your preps will be important early. - M. S. - Kuwait

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


First of all, welcome to the blog. I was impressed by your credentials and have enjoyed reading your comments these past few days. However, I do have a bone to pick. Gee, no grace period?

In the Friday, Jan. 24 issue of SurvivalBlog you said, "If our civilization reaches the point of collapse, the lawlessness will, by necessity, be relatively short lived." In a devastating collapse, I would expect a couple of waves of large-scale "die-offs" fairly early. I think that this is where your theory comes from.

However, to say that lawlessness would be short lived doesn't take into account the many scenarios where conflict between individuals, groups, quasi-governments, and remnants of government might develop. Perhaps there could even be some encroachment by other countries. Zones of control or fiefdoms are sure to be formed. Conflict between these entities, and within them, can be expected. In the same blog there was a reference to Mexican citizens rising up to reclaim their society from drug lords. It has taken decades of fear, oppression, and murder for them to finally have the wherewithal to do this. I applaud them. It could be that their success will be short lived, but hopefully not.

In the Middle East and in much of Africa, war zones are a way of life. We should not expect it to be different here. We might hope for short-term, but count on and plan for long-term. - Z.

HJL Replies: Thank you for the kind words and the feedback. It's always difficult to predict what the worst case scenario will be. It is entirely possible that, if a collapse of society occurs, extended periods of conflict could be encoutered. In the absolute worst case, we may face years of such conflict. However, the very spirit of patriots will not allow such evil to perpetuate like what we see on the African continent. Today, patriots are mostly still trying to affect change from within the system. Even though the government/elite have shown a propensity to throw the constitution to the wind when it suits them, patriots still believe in the Rule of Law. If society breaks down to the point where the Rule of Law no longer applies, they will work to replace the broken system with one that does work. I couldn't give a timetable on such an endevor because it simply depends on how broken the existing system turns out to be and how far society collapses in such a situation. I do agree with your statement that "We might hope for short-term, but ...(should) plan for long-term."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bugging out to a more defensible location, away from the big cities and the anarchy that will be taking place there, is what everyone talks about. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us do not own or have access to such a redoubt or refuge. Even if we have a place to go to, defending in place in our neighborhood may be the first thing we need to do before setting out on the road. For most of us, a neighborhood defense may be our best hope, especially if the roads are clogged with evacuees just trying to get away from the turmoil. We know that getting boxed in on the road is not good.

Regardless of where you live, the size or shape of your neighborhood, or how many of your neighbors are like-minded, MMC's advice and instruction comes from decades of proven Marine Corps doctrine on combat and survival. MMC is a U.S. Marine Corps recent retiree with a plethora of skill sets and experience. He has served in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan during his 20 years of service and spent years training Marines in the art of marksmanship as a Primary Marksmanship Instructor, Combat Marksmanship Instructor, and a Small Arms Weapons Expert Instructor. The planning and execution of these methods revolves around the key words: Defend, Reinforce, Attack, Withdraw, and Delay. This is a time tested method used by the Marine Corps when writing an Operations Order and can be used as a planning tool prior to the action of defending against the enemy threat and for considerations to going on the attack against a potential enemy threat. We will explain these points and show how you can apply them to your unique environment.

Your first step may be to print out a Google Earth satellite image of your neighborhood, with several different magnifications to show surrounding territory, the larger neighborhood, and down to two-block areas. County and municipal road maps will also be needed, as well as your state and adjoining ones. You can make a clear overlay of your neighborhood map to plot out defensive positions and other modifications. Whatever the cause of a "failure of civility" in America (economic collapse, infrastructure, or electromagnetic pulse), government will probably respond with martial law. Our military will be called up to help the overwhelmed civilian law enforcement agencies. They will concentrate on larger cities, protecting key businesses, utilities, medical facilities, and communications. The fiber of our military forces will eventually erode, since opposing American citizens would mean fighting their own people; thus, there will be desertions and resistance to government. Some estimate all forms of law enforcement will collapse within 90 days. Many will join opposition groups, and many will go home to defend their homes and families.

Defend: Protect what we hold dear-- family, home, neighborhood, water source, and food supply. Join with other neighbors and families who are equally dedicated to your overall cause. These are like-minded people who intend to protect their families and homes and survive the crisis. The goal is sustainability of what I have and what I cherish. The method is to control the fight. The primary defensive point will be a 360° perimeter around your defensive zone, with an emphasis being placed on the likely approach routes of vehicles and foot traffic. If you have a property that is adjacent to large bodies of water or other terrain features that form natural barriers, concentrate on a solid 180 degree perimeter from that feature. Your defensive zone will cover an area where you are able to engage intruders at the maximum effective range of your weapons, generally 500 meters. You can use terrain features that favor your engagement of the enemy and also limit their engagement of you. Use barbed or concertina wire to block between house areas and other avenues that might be available to the invaders. Trip wires connected to early warning devices, such as shotgun shell alarms and flares, will help alert defenders. Even trip wires attached to tin cans with rocks in them will cause a noise.

A secondary defensive point will be your first fallback fighting positions. The tertiary point is your home itself-- your headquarters. If you have a basement, it needs to be turned into a livable area to defend. It has only one way in, the stairwell, which would be a death trap for anyone coming down. Barring a fire, it is a secure area. It's important to present your tertiary point as a "hard" target, with prepared fighting positions and obvious planning for attacks.

The area beyond your primary position must be cleared to create a "no man's land" that will enable you to observe anyone approaching your area's defensive zone. Burn down empty houses and move people back into your key terrain. Knock down chimneys and cut down and burn trees and shrubs. You must create clear fields of fire, allowing invaders no cover and concealment. Eliminate the ability for the enemy to "bound" from point to point and advance on your positions.

Create wide fields of fire that will become wide-open killing fields. An area of burned-down houses will tell invaders that this area has already been picked clean, and there is nothing of value left. Houses that may be left standing should have the appearance of having been already looted. Break windows and spread small furniture and debris on the lawns. Be careful not to create what's known as Dead Zones; these are areas that cannot be engaged by direct fire weapons because of hard obstruction. Do not give signs of life beyond the burned out zone. Make it look as if it has been picked clean, but beware that you could be creating a defensive position for your enemy. Make improvements on your defensive positions daily by reevaluating, upgrading, and inspecting from the intruder's point of view as well as your own. Harden all positions by adding logs, sandbags, and boulders.

  • Key terrain is all ground and structural features of your immediate and extended neighborhoods. Keep your defense area small if you are a small group of people. The larger the group the more you can expand your defense.
    • Evaluate your immediate home structure. Choose which windows will be used as fire ports. The inside wall areas beneath and alongside the windows can be reinforced with sandbags. Purchase at least 100 sandbags. They can be filled with sand or dirt, not gravel. If shot, gravel can become a secondary projectile.
    • Evaluate your neighbors' homes for defensive positions inside and outside.
    • Survivability is fortifying everything from your primary position to your tertiary position and improving obstacles that you've placed.
  • Observation of fields of fire
    • Defensive positions, including windows, must allow overlapping fields of fire-- the left-to-right area in front of your weapon. This will create mutually-supporting coverage of defensive fire. Mark the left and right limits with stakes, spray paint, ribbons, or tape. Shooting beyond these limits will endanger your defenders with friendly fire.
    • This must be done for primary, secondary, and tertiary defensive positions, and everyone must be familiar with the limits.
  • Cover and concealment
    • For cover, use natural objects, such as trees, stumps, boulders, solid fences and walls, and buildings corners.
    • Supplementary fighting positions can be created by digging in. Create small "spider holes" for one person to fire from, larger two-person fighting positions, and trenches to hold several people. Throw and pack excavation dirt along the outward defensive edge or lay sandbags on the expected enemy approach side. The more dirt there is the better.
  • Avenue of approach
    • Put yourself in your enemy's mind. People, in general, are lazy and will pick the easiest path to or through your neighborhood.
    • Eliminate access points to your street so that there is only one avenue of approach or entry point by vehicles, and no easy paths for people on foot.
    • Topple trees to block roads and trails.
    • Use natural bends or curves in your one avenue of approach as choke points, where a vehicle must slow down. Create a serpentine blockade to prevent a vehicle from blasting through, using trees, boulders, steel spike (nail) boards, and vehicles.
    • Secure a regress path for your escape. Don't use roads or organized trails, and don't establish regular paths to caches; make yourself less vulnerable. Make your own overland route and use natural obstacles to discourage your enemy and/or allow defensive positions for yourself.
    • If the enemy approaches in a staggered column or other formation or uses hand and arm signals, it may indicate they have some military training, and may have more than average capabilities.


  • Move your personnel to the point of attack to repel invading force, while keeping flanks and rear covered.
  • Preposition ammunition for ease of resupply.
  • The key to reinforcement is being able to maintain your mobility for resupply, counter attack, casualty evacuation, and withdrawing, while denying your enemy the ability of counter-mobility towards your positions. Do not allow the enemy to be able to redeploy, flank, envelop (encircle), or fight from your rear.


"The best defense is a good offense," is a term used in football and in military theory. Put the attacker on the defense and upset their plans, creating fear, disorder, and confusion by your aggressive response. Time allows them to fortify and reorganize.

  • As soon as the enemy appears to be regrouping or the fighting lulls, attack. The ability to counterattack is pivotal.
  • Take cover or concealment and advance on the enemy. Rehearse and understand "support by fire" positions, with some firing while others are moving to engage. Keep the enemy fixed in location and head down, unable to return fire. "Massing fire" goes along with "support by fire", concentrating several weapons toward one point.
  • Gain fire superiority by massing fire toward a location. The key to remember on any type of attack is violence of action and fire superiority will win every time. Whoever has superiority is going to be able to maneuver toward the objective. Those who are being repressed with fire will die.


  • If faced with a powerful force that cannot be stopped or routed, you must withdraw to survive.
  • Pull back to your secondary positions first, and if the situation does not change, fall back to your tertiary-- "last stand" point.
  • If all else fails, you must abandon your home(s).
  • Successful withdrawal requires a delay or diversion to stall the enemy, such as exploding pre-placed liquid propane gas containers. Advanced planning for an orderly withdrawal is critical.
  • A pre-planned signal will initiate the withdrawal.


  • Allow your force time to retire to safer area. Lay down suppressing fire against the enemy to make them seek cover. This will prevent them from seeing the escape route and your departing forces.
  • The route of withdrawal must be pre-planned.
  • The lead element, noncombatants, are allowed time to reach an established safe zone and cache rally point 3.5 miles away. The covering force delays and bounds back 200 meters at a time with hasty positions.
  • Repeat this procedure until you reach your safe zone.
  • Conserve energy and resources as much as possible.

Throughout your planning and actions, be aware of the "OODA loop," conceived by USAF Col. John Boyd. The OODA loop is a process of decision-making, which occurs in a repeating cycle of observe-orient-decide-act. If you can mentally process this cycle faster than your enemy, you will be able to get "inside" the enemy's decision process and gain the advantage. This loop must be kept in continual operation during any combat situation.

  • Observe: Take in the raw information of the situation.
  • Orient: Pull from training and life experiences of similar events.
  • Decide: Choose what course of action you will take. Is it go or no-go?
  • Act: Make your move faster and before your opponent can figure out your actions.

By cycling this process faster than your enemy, you will obscure your intentions and seem "unpredictable" to your opposition.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

As a sound and forward thinking prepper you should already be on your way to some level of sustainability in the event of some kind of social breakdown.  The food, water, medical, and sanitation needs are boring, but important enough that without them-anything else doesn't really matter.  As readers of this blog I sincerely hope you've utilized the vast wealth of knowledge available here to develop your own systems of storage, rotation, and skills development.  So with all of that as a foundation, I pose a question.  With your family, your plans, and your supplies all depending on you for security-what do you next when whatever calamity strikes?

So many preppers, myself included, get caught up in the gear reviews.  Oh, its so easy to be swept away by the allure of product reviews or the exhilaration of arguing the merits of your favorite “survival” rifles and why all the rest should be used for decorative paperweights.  The bug out bags have become especially mainstream these days.  Its no longer the tin foil hat wearing crowd with three day bags and remote properties fully stocked and ready to go.  The bags, the gear, along with our food and water are easy to research and acquire.  What's proving difficult for many people is finding actual tactical common sense for defending our preps.

Lets pretend for a moment that some disaster has befallen our once great land.  Those with access to remote locations have already made it to their “bug out location.”  Those that are going to shelter in place have gathered their families and are worriedly wondering to do next.  I pray that scenario never comes to pass, but if it does, you will be far ahead of the herd.  With a little common sense,  a little planning, and a few inexpensive supplies it is quite easy to keep anything less than an infantry platoon away from you and the things important to you.
Whether a remote farmstead or a cute little suburb the first thing we need to do is grab our favorite beverage of choice and sit on our front porch for awhile.  The single most important foundation of a good defense plan is a thorough understanding and knowledge of the neighborhoods and adjacent properties next to ours.  People are like any other wild animal in that we almost always choose the easiest path to our objective.  In the Army we called these paths natural lines of drift, and with few exceptions our ability to read the terrain around us and identify the easiest routes of travel proved fatally catastrophic to the idiots trying to ruin our day.  The simple truth of the matter is that while sitting on our porches, and just a little help from our imaginations its quite easy to see which way trouble will come from.  Simply ask yourself this question.  If I was a bad guy and I wanted to get to this house, what would I do?  The human brain is surprisingly agile with matters such as these, and you will very swiftly become aware of the natural lines of drift leading to your property.
After we've done this exercise a time or ten, being careful to pay attention all sides of our property its an easy enough task to look at the google earth imaging for our areas of defense.  The way things look from the air is very often dramatically different from what we see on the ground.  For one, line of sight on ground level makes short distances feel longer than they are.  Looking at things from above will undoubtedly bring security concerns to light that would not seem relevant from ground level. 
So now we understand the terrain around us,  the obvious and natural access points to our homes, and the vulnerable and secure geographic features that we are dealing with.  Now its time for a basic tactical tutorial.  For those not familiar with combat, or those with a hollywood fueled perception of fighting there are a few very simple but very critical truths that are paramount to the success of a well planned defense.  First,  every fighting position needs to be over lapped or “covered” by another.  Meaning that the reachable distances from left to right of each fighting position should overlap at least one and preferably two other positions.  Your defense plan should be faced to the obvious vulnerabilities first, but placed in such a way that it provides 360 coverage.
Secondly,  Distance ALWAYS equals two things.  Time and safety.  The time aspect of this is quite simple.  The further away an enemy is from a target the longer it will take to achieve their objective.  The further away from your loved ones that you can engage a threat provides reaction time for your and your loved ones to initiate whatever pre arranged defense protocols you have established.  This in and of itself provides an added level of safety.  If you are trying to protect your family, and they are going to be in the home, than the defense should be started as far away from the house as is possible.  A good shot with an AR style rifle can ruin your day from five hundred meters in.  I am aware that it may not be possible to establish a perimeter at that distance, but that would be best.  I suggest possibly establishing a forward outpost at this distance if possible.  A forward placed rifle and a few well placed shots may well be all it takes to persuade someone that its better to go somewhere else. 
For the purposes of this article I will presume that the threats we are attempting to dissuade from entering our property are non governmental groups of loosely organized, lightly trained people who didn't clearly understand the precarious nature of our existence, and failed to prepare accordingly.  Therefore it is safe to assume that they will be armed in much the same ways that we are.  Probably some deer rifles,  a few AR or AK variants and a shotgun or two sprinkled in for good measure.  We should not be concerned with heavy automatic fire or anything resembling heavy weapons like mortars and such. 
With that in mind its important that after we identify where to place our defensive positions that we fortify them in such a way as to provide a reasonable level of survivability for those tasked with fighting from them.  I prefer the tried and true hole in the ground with a few sandbags for support.  Simply dig a small trench, maybe five feet long and armpit deep.  Place a double layer of sandbags all along the edges and that should be good enough for most small arms encounters.  Sandbags can be purchased for around forty five cents a bag and come unfilled and neatly stacked making storage an easy task.  I trust that we will all be able to tell when the time has come to bring them and a shovel out of storage and put to them use.
In many families it will be necessary to provide a safe room or mini bunker for non fighting loved ones.  This can be achieved by selecting an interior room of your residence and fortifying it with as many sandbags as is practical.  Obviously this is the reason for all of our other defense plans and should go without saying that special care and consideration should be given to its layout.  I think it most prudent to line the walls of the room with sandbags preferably two layers deep to at least waist height.  If you choose to add additional protective measures after this it would be a wise decision.  If you have a large group of people I might suggest an able bodied fighter to be posted to this room with a shotgun full of 00 buckshot and clear instructions on how to escape.
So,  we've planned a defensive grid consisting of multiple fighting positions facing natural lines of drift along our property.  We've procured sandbags and a shovel or two to be used after the poop hits the fan.  We have designated a hardened “safe room” for our loved ones.  Let's talk about how to function in a tactically sound manner while actually fighting an enemy.
The first and only rule to small arms fights is very simple.  Move or die.  This is especially true if outgunned or out manned, which is basically the same thing.  I can hear you saying “what the hell, this guy just told us to dig holes and use sandbags and fight there.”  Yes, the fighting positions should be manned and fought from, but if that's all you do a smart enemy will just sit tight, find some cover and pick you off when you show yourself.  In any small arms engagement the objective should be to kill or wound any attackers, or remove them from the battle space entirely.
This is accomplished by establishing a base of fire from your hardened positions, and a separate element flanking or maneuvering in such a way that your fire intersects with that of your static position.  Simply put, one group shoots and another group runs like hell around the attacker position and puts fire on them from another direction.  Even one person firing from behind an enemy while they are focused on what's firing at them from the front will suck the energy out of most untrained people.  
All modern warfare is essentially that simple.  Engage your enemy in more directions than he is willing to defend and they will have to retreat.  Plain and simple. With that said it should be inferred that you are not going to be able to do this alone.  You will need as many able bodied fighters as possible.  I pray you are in good standing with neighbors.  Not that they have to be preppers, because quite frankly that isn’t going to happen.  But if you know them, and do a little planning for them, when the time comes and their butts are on the line they will more than likely sign up for anything that resembles a path to safety for them and their families.
Planning goes a long way when it comes defense.  The more you put into it now, the less guesswork you will have when the stress is already high.  I would urge you all to print and secure in document protectors the aerial imagery of your area.  I would urge you to consider who will be tasked with what assignments, and with what weapons.  The smart move is to implement a night watch strategy.  That is when any group is at their weakest and most vulnerable.  I would think that a two hour rotating watch schedule would be the most convenient route for most groups.  Even during daylight hours it is a good idea to have at least one person dedicated to some sort of patrol route.
I am hoping that you have an adequate communication plan in place.  Once guns start going off having good communication is the difference between life and death.  With a good radio, and some pre planning your goals should be that each member of your team is well versed in retreat routes, flanking protocols, and feels comfortable making decisions for themselves.  In the Army we call them battle drills, but if you develop a short list of scenarios and train every member of your team to react the same way to each of those, than in the chaos of a gunfight you will all be well served. 
Leadership is critical once lives are on the line.  With that said, your goal should always be that any member of your team feels comfortable clearing weapons malfunctions on all weapons being used.  It is also important that everyone understands where to go, and what to do at the moment of truth.  Confusion and indecision get people killed, and loses fights.  The flip side is that the biggest difference between a ragtag mob and the navy seals is that each seal knows exactly what to do at all times.  Their brains don’t have to waste time considering options.  They just act, decisively.  They act with what's called violence of action.  They take the fight to enemy before the enemy has time to react and develop a plan.  In our situations most of this can be achieved with a good plan, and a clear understanding of each members responsibilities. 
Obviously, there are many many more variables to a well planned defense strategy.  This is merely the beginning or a template to be built upon.   A base of knowledge that can be customized and molded to fit you particular scenario.  I do not care to get into discussions of what guns are the best for this.  Take what you have, and develop a plan.  As long as you are prepared to act decisively even your grandpas deer gun will be good enough.
  I do not believe in violence as a means of survival, and am not advocating for that here.  However,  if things get bad than its a pretty safe bet that people will get bad just as quickly.  This information will put you in a position to protect the ones you love in a manner that is tactically sound. If the opportunity presents itself I hope to write more on this topic in the coming months because there are many methods of tightening a security plan that would be useful for our prepping community.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Imagine you and your family are asleep in your home and at 2am you hear a downstairs glass window breaking.  You hear voices laughing and cursing, saying that they are going to F-Up you and your family.  Based on the historical length of violent encounters, you know that this whole violent situation will likely be over in 1 to 3 minutes.

This is not a pleasant scenario, but I am setting the stage for you to do a mental exercise.  I will not give you solutions; rather you will.  As Gavin DeBecker describes in his must-read book, “The Gift of Fear” you already have within you much more knowledge than you might first think.  Join me as I lead you along a train of thought and as you consider my ideas, I ask that you challenge them, all of them; you are in charge.  From these ideas and your own, I challenge you to develop potential solutions.

Who Shall Protect Us? A professional team of warriors would be a good choice, perhaps a military Special Forces group, a team of private “security” contractors or perhaps your city’s SWAT team.  These men with their High Speed Low Drag (HSLD) gear, training and mentality would be an excellent choice.  They will happily respond if your situation warrants it; how close in distance and time do you think they are to your home?  Let’s assume they have just been executing search warrants and are all geared up, mobile and ready to go.  In another stroke of good luck, they are working only five minutes away from your home!  Yeah!  Let’s keep this as one of our options!

Another choice would be your local government law enforcement responders, a group of men and women that shoot an average of 200 qualification shots with their pistols each year, do not know what you or your family looks like, are not friends with your dog, have never been inside your home or studied its layout and are at least 2+ minutes away.  (Contact your local law enforcement agency and inquire about their average response time to emergencies, it is probably at least double what I assumed above.) 

Most of these nice folks have received between 20 and 160 hours of training on dealing with emergencies like yours, and 2% or so regularly practice martial arts, paintballing, shooting and tactical maneuvers; perhaps they will be the ones that respond.  These people will also collect evidence and write a report of what happened, including detailed descriptions of your family’s blood splatter patterns.  Consider how much time an average cop spends gathering evidence and writing reports compared to actively using their hands and tools to counter active and dynamic violence.  I do not aim to disparage cops, I do however suggest that we remove our romantic movie-based views of them and consider what their true capabilities are.

A third choice would be for you and your spouse to respond tactically to the situation.  What good can you do though?  You don’t have a police uniform or a star or shield to pin on your chest or access to criminal record checks.  You have not been to a 6-month police academy. What could you possibly do?  You are helpless, right?

Perhaps you are helpless, but I suggest that you are not.  I propose that if you and your spouse spend even an hour each week developing your skills, within one year, You will be the best of the three options above.  Depending on how much preparation you and yours are willing to do, this will require a lifestyle change. 

What kind of “training” can you do without a level 1-alpha security clearance?  What can you do to prepare?  Following are some suggestions, not all are necessary and the list can be as big as your imagination allows.  I suggest making all of these fun!  If you are having fun doing them, you are more likely to continue and will think of your training as fun recreation rather than a chore.

Take your spouse on a date to play paintball every few months!  Spending an hour learning from the school of hard balls to use concealment to observe and record in your subconscious your adversary’s movements and pre-motion indicators along with many other tactical skills will be of great value.

Take classes in hand-to-hand fighting.  It is prudent to evaluate your personality before beginning.  If you habitually start diets and don’t stick to them or join gyms on New Year’s Day with big plans for the year, then drop out by the end of January; perhaps you don’t have “ideal” self-discipline.  Yes, this is a weakness, and one that I share with you.  Until we fix this weakness, we should be realistic in our training.  Studying Taekwondo or Judo might not be the best option for a person lacking in discipline.  These take many years of dedicated study to turn one into a tough guy.  Mixed martial arts, boxing, and many other styles dispense with the “extras” and focus on fighting immediately.  Hiring a private tutor for a monthly or twice-monthly lesson who is an active or retired MMA fighter that is able to communicate well with you and your spouse and comprehends your goals might be an excellent option.  To be competent, you will absolutely need to practice on your own.

Watch some felony fights on YouTube and search for real street fighting videos.  These show how things really happen in a real fight.  Use these graphic and perhaps upsetting videos to make up your own scenarios, “What if I walk into a gas station and a drunk guy shoves me in my chest and I fly backwards and hit the store shelves, what could I do?”  If someone has your spouse in a headlock, what exactly would be a good way to respond?  Consider many scenarios and think about responses.

Learn the defensive tactics that cops and security personnel use.  If you have someone “proned out” at gunpoint and police are 20 minutes away, how should your spouse handcuff and search the man for weapons?  If you are alone and have someone proned out and police are nearby, should you approach them to handcuff them?  How do you put someone in a position of disadvantage to search them and handcuff them?

Investigate personal protection dogs.  Contact an expert like Ridgeback for advice on solutions for all budgets.  Dogs can serve not only as protectors in a fight, but more importantly can help prevent the fight from ever happening.

When you and your spouse dine out, select restaurants that allow you to “people watch.”  Come up with your own secret codes for evaluating people.  Perhaps “nice lady” means a person that a criminal would likely target for robbery, so when you see an affluent woman in furs with a thousand dollar purse walking with a slouch and ear buds in her ears you can say to your spouse, “She looks like a nice lady.”  Look for “victims” through the lens of a predator and look for predators with the lens of an astute observer.  Doing so will help you learn not to be a victim or appear to be potential one.

Read Terry Vaughan’s entertaining book on reading body language, “A Dad’s Guide to Screening Your Daughter’s Boyfriends.”  Read “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker and “On Killing” or “On Combat” by David Grossman.  Play poker with friends or at local tournaments, focusing on improving your ability to read the subtle "tells" of others.  This important skill set can help keep you safe.

Find local IDPA and USPA matches and compete frequently.  While the stress of a timer and a handful of observers does not exactly replicate the stress of a home invasion robbery, it is a good substitute.  Be humble at these matches and identify the nice folks that shoot well.  Ask them to watch you and give you tips.

Find a good shooting instructor and learn some basics of tactical shooting.  Be careful in selecting an instructor, of the more than 100,000 instructors in the US, few are “excellent.”  3 Hours of private instruction with Gabe Suarez, Clint Smith or another Top-25 Shooting Instructor will cost the same as a 40-hour class at a certificate-mill academy, but some believe that you get more bang for your buck.  Admittedly, I am biased, and do agree.  J

Use your local instructor for a 1 or 2 hour tune-up every few months, and if your budget allows, use your shooting instructor much like a personal trainer in a gym.  They will be able to guide you through great drills and help ensure that you are doing things properly.

Visit your local shooting range and practice shooting as much as possible.  Buy a Dillon reloading machine to make this practice much less expensive.  Set a goal of 500 or 1,000 or 4,000 rounds per month of practice. 

Dry practice at home!  You can practice the most important fundamentals without live ammo.  Your draw stroke, front sight focus and trigger press can be practiced safely thousands of times.  Many Top 25 instructors suggest that 90% of one’s practice be dry practice.

Take the NRA's Personal Protection Inside the Home and Personal Protection Outside the Home or other similar courses. 

Practice safety drills with your family.  Make this a fun exercise and include your children.  Make your practice age appropriate, but I suggest you push the envelope to make it as realistic as possible as you and your family play your, “Defending Our Castle” game.  Does everyone know where the safe room is?  Does everyone know the 4 keys to punch to call 911 on your cell phones?  What other tactics are appropriate to teach and practice?  Perhaps you might also play a game rehearsing roles of each family member if you witness a serious vehicle collision right in front of you or if your house catches fire.  It is important not to frighten your family into thinking that a violent threat is imminent.  

If you have a friend that is a cop, go over scenarios with them, keeping in mind that your goals are not identical.  Good cops will happily share tactics with you if you are a normal peaceful person.  If you have a friend that just returned from a war zone and has experience performing violent home invasions, ask them to help with your defensive plan.

Play a sport at least twice-monthly that requires fast reading of your opponent’s body movements.  Basketball, boxing, soccer and many other sports will help you not only in understanding and predicting body movements in others but are also a great way to stay fit.

Send a Christmas card to the patrol division of your local law enforcement station, they will probably put it on their bulletin board.  Have it include a picture of you and your family in front of your home with the caption, “Happy Holidays from the Doe family at 1234 Elm Street.”

Build a few gear bags or gear vests.  If you shoot one intruder and the other is being held at gunpoint by your spouse, do you have a way of securing the intruder with handcuffs, zip ties or duct tape?  Would a flashlight and maybe your old cell phone (charged) be handy?  (Remember, cell phones without active plans still work for 911.)  What else should be in the bag?  Pepper spray, an extra car key, a key to your neighbor’s house…?

Evaluate your neighbor’s mentality and coordinate with them appropriately.  If they have their heads buried deeply in the sand, at least hint that if anyone ever starts a neighborhood watch program, your family would enjoy being involved.  If they are more savvy and trusted, perhaps they would allow you to hide a laminated simple floor plan of your house in the middle of a magazine hidden on their property.  Might you do the same for them?  Might this be of use to a responding cop, “There is a floor plan of our house under the South end of the camper shell at 1254 Elm Street.”

Learn about use of force standards and relevant laws.  Recognize that you will be sued if you ever shoot someone, even if you were absolutely justified in doing so.  Recognize that it will cost tens of thousands of dollars for you to “win” and get rid of the ridiculous lawsuit.  Consider that you are not only morally better off, but also financially better off if you can solve problems peacefully without seriously harming anyone.

Multi-tasking practice is a great way to improve your skills.  Why not practice your draw stroke while sitting on the toilet, and perhaps throw a few punches and do a few parries.  Each time you walk through your house alone, pretend a bad guy is playing hide and seek and is hidden somewhere.  Use your imagination to develop drills, perhaps connecting them to tasks that you will do anyway.  Perhaps each time you urinate you practice American Kenpo inward and outward blocks five times.  While brushing your teeth with your strong hand, practice eye gouging moves with your weak hand.  What else?
I hope the above ideas have helped get your brain wheels get turning.  I hope you have already decided that some of the ideas are really dumb and are not right for you and yours.  I also hope some of the ideas will serve as a foundation on which you can improve and implement.  Every single idea has pros and cons, and it is up to you to weigh them.  I will make the bold and controversial suggestion that if you train better than cops and know your equipment, know your home and your family better than cops, that you are pretty darn capable!

Objections?  I promise that if you show this article to a police officer friend, they will advise that most of it is ridiculous and that you should not try to “play cop” and handcuff and search people; after all you are not as highly trained and practiced as they are, are you?  They will likely advise that you plan to call 911 and let the professionals do their job.

I will not argue with those that disagree, I was once a cop and would have taken their side knowing what I knew then.  I still recommend that one of your first steps in a violent emergency should be to call "911 SEND!"  My suggestion is not that you eliminate government law enforcement’s response, I only suggest that you prepare to handle the situation until the cops arrive.

About The Author: Shepard Humphries is a former Police Officer, having served in Investigations, Patrol and SWAT as a sniper team leader. Shepard resides in Jackson Hole, Wyoming where he operates several small businesses including an executive protection and security consultation firm and two firearms related businesses, the Jackson Hole Shooting Experience  and Counter Violence Institute. He provides shooting instruction, consultation and public speaking services in Jackson and elsewhere.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Today, I did a leader's recon (reconnaissance) of my small homestead.  While I was in the infantry, I would plan my future ground defense by walking the terrain with my small unit infantry leaders.  Today, I did the same, minus the team leaders.  Twenty years in the infantry, and now several years retired, and now I look at how I am going to protect my family and defend my rural homestead.  I feel that the day may be coming soon.  President Obama stated that our nation's deficit does not concern him.  This nation is on a mad printing spree, conjuring up money out of thin air to pay for our debts.  Any student of history knows that you cannot print your way to prosperity.  This will not end well.  Social upheaval is inevitable when you rapidly devalue your currency.  To prepare for this coming storm means analyzing and planning your home defenses, now, not during the storm.

Americans have been given some dubious advice by the gaffe prone Vice-President Joe Biden.  He advised armed citizens to confront burglars with a double barreled shotgun and to scare them away by firing two blasts up in the air outside their house.  The hardened and desperate marauder will not be deterred by noise.  Biden also advised us to shoot through the door to discourage home invaders.  Failing to properly identify your target as friend or foe can lead to tragedy.  By the time marauders are at the doorstep, it is too late, and you have quickly ran out of battle-space. 

During a prolonged and severe nationwide crisis, we will most likely see a total breakdown of society, with little or no law enforcement.  Local law enforcement will likely collapse, as they will choose to stay home and protect their own families (What are they going to be paid with anyway?  Worthless paper money?).  You are on your own.  You will have to be your own 911.  And I hope that you will be armed with something more substantial then a double-barrel shotgun.  Waiting for the bad guys to breach the front door at night or standing on your front porch, shotgun in hand, is not going to work.  You will need to deter, deceive, detect, deny, delay, and defend what you have, not through the front door, but within your neighborhood/homestead/farm in a coordinated, robust defense-in-depth.

We need to prepare for a total breakdown of society, called a Without Rule Of Law (WROL).  Marauders and the unprepared will not be dissuaded by harmless noise making shotgun blasts in the air.  They will be desperate, hungry, cunning, and they want what you have.  During the initial parts of the crisis, the clueless, careless, and unprepared will quickly be killed off.  It will be the homeowner who thinks he can scare off several armed thugs with his Joe Biden approved shotgun from his front porch.  Or it will be the lone wolf looter who helps himself to what is in the homesteader's kitchen in broad daylight.  Once they have been winnowed out, only the cunning and ruthless will be left on both sides.  We will need to have a strong, well planned defense to protect our family and homestead.  The following article has recommendations on what to do before and after WROL.  One caveat:  Some of the defensive and deadly force measures discussed here should only be used AFTER the collapse of law enforcement.  Until then, common sense and local laws apply!
Back to my leader's recon.  I would start by conducting an Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield or IPB
Enemy:  I would analyze the enemy or potential enemy by using local media and the neighborhood grapevine.  I would classify them and ask who will I be dealing with?  Refugees, opportunistic individuals, or organized gangs?  Size?  What is their typical COA (Course Of Action, in other words, how are they conducting their attacks on homesteads)?  What are they after (food or retributive change)?  Locations?  Equipment/Weapons?  Mobility?  When was they last seen?  What are their strengths?  Weaknesses?
Terrain:  Next, I drew a simple bird’s eye map of the homestead.  I drew the house, outbuildings, tree-lines, driveways, trails, creeks, and any other prominent terrain features.  One shortcut I use is Google Earth.  It allows you to view and print satellite imagery anywhere in the world.  Center in on your area, zoom in, and print it up. 
Analyze the terrain from a defensive point of view, and an offensive (the enemies) point of view.  Walk around and look for observation and fields of fire, cover and concealment, manmade and natural obstacles, key or decisive terrain, and avenues of approach.  The acronym for planning battle-space is OCOKA, which stands for:

  • Observation and Fields of Fire:  For my homestead, observation would be a second story window, open terrain, or a concealed position across the road to observe and provide an early warning.  Fields of fire are cleared open or semi-open areas that allow us see into and to engage the enemy with aimed rifle fire.  
  • Cover and Concealment:  Cover protects a person from direct rifle fire, concealment just conceals from said rifle fire.  Good cover is filled sandbags, tires filled with dirt, armor plating, large boulders, stone fences, or a dry ravine.  Concealment conceals, but it does not stop bullets.  It could leafy foliage, typical housing construction, or inside the standard family car.  Most rifle bullets will pass clean though a typical vinyl siding, plywood and gypsum board housing construction.  Note areas that you cannot see into, such as a ravine, heavy vegetation, houses, or behind a stone fence.  This is called dead space, and could be exploited by the enemy to move in closer to your defensive positions.  Outline, then hatch-mark the dead space areas on your map.
  • Obstacles (Manmade and natural):  For my area, it is sturdy gates, barbed wire fences and spike strips.  It could also be a swamp, brier-patch, forest, wide creeks, trenches, and logs across the road.  Anything to slow or have the enemy move away from your area, or move to an area where you can see him and engage with rifle fire.  Draw your obstacles on your map. 
  • Key or Decisive Terrain:  This is terrain that offers a tactical advantage to the attacker or defender.  For my area it is our house and outbuildings.  Lose the house to marauders; lose the food, water, and shelter.  Other key terrain may be a bridge, a hill, or water tower that looks down into your area or a ravine that comes right up to your defensive area.  Circle these areas on your map.
  • Avenues of Approach (Slow and high-speed):  Trails, open areas (slow), and roads (high-speed).  For us, it is the driveway and road.  Control both, and it will be easier for us to assess someone as hostile, friendly, or unknown.  Fail to control both, and they can quickly roll right up on top of us before we can alert everyone and mount a robust defense.  Again, draw this on your map. 

For defensive planning, use the 6 Ds.  They are:  Deter, Deceive, Detect, Delay, Deny, and Defend.

  • Deter:  “The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting” (Sun Tzu).  Some of the things we can do right now is to make our area as unwelcome as possible to criminals.  Set up motion sensor spot lights.  Use posted signs around the homestead to inform all that they are under camera surveillance, post beware of dog signs, electrical fencing, or that you have an alarm system.  You can buy weatherproof signs and window stickers on eBay.  During WROL, we plan on posting several hand-made signs up and down our country roads.  They will read: “Rule .357 In Effect”, “You Loot - We Shoot”, “Residents Only,” and “Armed Neighborhood Watch In Effect.”  The best battle that you can fight is the one you don't have to fight.  If you can convince the enemy to turn around and move on, then you can avoid the deadly confrontations. 
  • Deceive:  “All warfare is based on deception” and “Appear weak when you are strong and strong when you are weak” (Sun Tzu).  Use camouflage as part of your deception plan.  If they can't see it, they can't attack it.  If they don't know about it, they can't come up with a countermeasure.  Example:  What may look like a pile of brush may be a fighting position (fox hole).  Being low key and inconspicuous (going gray) should also be part of your plan.  If your neighbors don't have electricity, neither should you (at least outwardly).  That means blackout curtains, and limiting generator noises.  If your neighbors have been looted, throw some of your unused furniture out on the lawn.  Don't be eager to outwardly display all of your defensive measures.  Wait for the right moment, then utilize as needed for the maximum shock effect.  This will cause the enemy to re-think his plans and react to you. 
  • Detect:  Set up a communication plan with your neighbors.  If they see marauders in the area, have them alert you.  Plan for a well hidden LP/OP (Listening Post/Observation Post) just outside your perimeter along a likely avenue of approach.  Consider a home video surveillance system.  You can connect them to your laptop PC system to view and record events.  Some surveillance systems will give you an alarm if motion is detected.  Dakota Alert is another great wireless system that lets you know if there are intruders in your area.  This equipment all works as long as you have electricity and/or batteries.  Have a backup for your backup.  Binoculars and alert, barking dogs is one of several solutions.  Closer to home, you cannot clear all of the dense brush and undergrowth in a forest, but you can strategically clear lanes that allow you to look deep inside the forest. 
  • Delay/Deny:  Delay and Deny go hand in hand.  Denying the enemy access to an area also slows him down.  That gives you time to detect the enemy and go to full alert within your perimeter.  Logs or homemade spike strips across the driveway will force vehicles to slow and stop.  Fences and gates will delay the enemy.  Crisscrossing wire at random heights in open areas slows an attacker.  Consider spike and nail strips, broken glass, or barbed wire in dead space areas to deny the enemy the chance to use it.  Set up your defense in layers.  If he breaches one obstacle, make him have to contend with several more.  Use your man-made and natural obstacles to deter the enemy so that he gives up and goes elsewhere, or channelizes him into the battlefield of your choice, called a Kill Zone. 
  • Defend:  And finally, during WROL, and when all else fails, it is time to put well aimed rifle fire on those who would do you harm.  If you have shaped your battlefield with obstacles and have a planned defense, this will be at the place and time of your choosing. 

Scout areas for possible homestead 360º perimeter fighting positions.  Place your homestead in the center and then plan your circular defense.  Plan your fighting positions to cover likely avenues of approach.  Do not plan a linear defense, because a thinking enemy will just circle around and attack you from your unguarded rear flank (remember the Maginot Line?).
When planning ground level fighting positions (fox holes) and before you dig, the trick is to lie down on the ground and look at the terrain.  Why?  Because the terrain looks a lot different when you have dug down into the ground and just your head is poking up!  Look for areas that will offer cover and concealment to an enemy trying to attack your position.  Now looking downrange, each fighting position should have a left and right lateral limit.  This is the extreme left and right a rifleman can engage a target without firing on a friendly fighting position.  Stakes or sandbags can help limit the rifle traversing at night by creating a physical stop for the rifleman.  Create fields of fire that overlap with other nearby friendly position's fields of fire, so there are no gaps or blind spots that the enemy can exploit.  Each fighting position should mutually support each other by rifle fire.  That means the enemy cannot assault/attack one fighting position without drawing fire from nearby friendly fighting position (s).  

When planning the homestead defense, keep saying to yourself “Think Ambush.”  An ambush is a deadly attack on an unsuspecting enemy at close range from a concealed and covered defensive position.  The enemy has little time to react to your attack, because they never saw it coming.  They never realized that you saw them first, and that you were able to quietly alert your homestead.  They never saw the cleverly camouflaged fighting positions, they never suspected the obstacles were there to not only stop them, but to steer them into a lethal Kill Zone, with no escape. 
The last step in planning is to approach the proposed fighting position(s) from the enemy's side during the day and at night.  Try to think how the enemy will approach, view, and plan an attack on the defensive positions. 

When it comes time to dig my fighting positions, one of the first things I will do is cut down some of the many small fir trees that we have around the homestead.  I will then lay the cut trees on their side in front of the locations I plan on digging my fighting position.  This will camouflage the fighting position.  I will also scatter cut trees around the property to draw attention away from the real positions.  Have a plan to remove anything in front of the fighting position that might provide cover or concealment for the enemy.  You will not be able to clear an entire forest to deny cover and concealment, but make the effort to selectively clear fields of observation/fire without making it too obvious.

Using your IPB and OCOKA, draw a range card map.  It is a simple bird’s eye view of the defensive area and allows you to visualize your defenses.  Place the homestead in the center.  Now draw the location for each proposed fighting position, including their left and right lateral limits.  On your range card, each fighting position should look like a V, with the fighting position at the base.  Each leg of the V should have the distance to the closest dead space.  Include distances to tree-lines, avenues of approach or any other areas that the enemy may attack you from.  
My leader's recon also included an obstacle plan.  One of the obstacles includes a four strand barbed wire fence.  For some, it may be too early to start constructing defensive obstacles, like a razor wire gate (the neighbors will talk!).  But we need to start planning now.  Know where you are going to place everything, how long will it take to construct it, and start purchasing the necessary materials, like barbed wire and fence posts.  Plan and construct obstacles to channelize or force the enemy into an open area where you can destroy him in a Kill Zone.  ALL obstacles should be covered by rifle fire.  If you cannot maintain visual and rifle fire on an obstacle, the enemy will go around it, or try to breach it. 

Have defensive plans for the enemy's COA.  There should be at least two enemy COAs: Most likely and most dangerous.  Have a rehearsed plan for each enemy COA.  For me, the enemy's most likely COA when attacking my homestead is hey-diddle-diddle, right up the middle.  Right up the driveway.  Right into the closed gate, barbed wire fences, camouflaged fighting positions with alert defenders.  Most dangerous is hitting us from our lightly defended flank, coming in from the tree-line (dead space) that is dangerously close to our homestead.  We won't see them until they are right on top of us.  We will counteract with aggressive and random patrolling outside the defensive perimeter, a communication/warning plan with my neighbors, alert barking dogs, Dakota Alerts, and trip wires. 
While you are planning your defensive positions, don't stop there.  Consider:

  • A communication plan.  Primary: Radios - Alternate: Voice, Runner - No Comm: Hand & Arm Signals, Flashlight.
  • Continuously improving your defenses and obstacles. 
  • Making sure the camouflage matches the terrain. 
  • How would weather affect your defenses and defenders?  Rain, snow, heat, darkness?
  • Create and camouflage alternate positions that cover the same sector of fire. 
  • War-game and conduct rehearsals/drills (ensure all weapons are unloaded!).  Evaluate your defenders.   
  • Keep asking “What If??”  What if I was attacked from this direction?  What if the enemy used fire bombs or wire cutters? 
  • Discuss and implement clear rules of engagement (When to use or not to use deadly force).  Ask what is a “hostile act” during WROL?
  • Discuss and implement the use of force continuum.  Not every hostile act requires a deadly force reaction. 
  • Implement visual control measures.  Map and label all prominent terrain features.  Create check points.  Everyone should know the homestead cardinal directions (north, south, etc....).  Example:  “I have three armed unknowns, walking, vicinity check point 12 (Bear Creek Bridge) heading south”
  • If you have reports of nearby marauders, have a stand-to (100% alert, everyone armed and awake) at dusk and at dawn.  This is the ideal time to get attacked. 
  • Develop IA (Immediate Action) drills.  It is a rehearsed and automatic response to a likely enemy COA.  Example:  Visibly armed person(s) attempt to breach the gate/fencing; we will go to full alert and conduct X, Y, and Z.
  • Color code defensive postures and SOPs.  Example:  Threat Condition Red; 100% Alert, all positions manned, all adults/teens armed with a rifle, wearing load bearing vests, bug out bags at the ready.

My action plan is this:  At some point in the near future there will be a trigger event, like a bank holiday or food riots that will compel me to grab a shovel to start digging and building my up defensive positions.  Having planned my battle-space and laid in defensive building supplies, all I have to do is implement my plan.  When I have word of the approaching storm, this is one less thing to worry about. 

So prepare for the coming storm.  Walk the homestead, conduct a leader's recon, and plan your defensive battle-space.  TODAY.

Dear Jim,
I thought I would let you know about something interesting going on in the Gold Country of California. Some SurvivalBlog readers may be aware that the North San Juan Ridge, aka “The Ridge” is highly populated with homesteaders, [near Grass Valley, California,, in Nevada County.] Since the soil is poor, and there are many squatters or people on largely undeveloped land, few make sufficient money from growing food for themselves, so turned to growing [marijuana, commonly called] pot.
In the old days, pot was illegal and the Fed and State CAMP task force would survey and raid pot farms, which went on the news.
After pot got into a gray area of legality and growers aren’t required to display legal certification so half the raids have to walk away while the farmer laughs, the pot farmers work almost openly. Pot is growing all over the place now, not just on the ridge. There are pot plants downtown grass valley in people’s gardens, next to their corn.
There have been articles in the local newspaper about “Trimmers” coming into town to harvest “medical marijuana” in North San Juan Ridge. I saw many of them around, looking very smug. When the work was done, those paid well enough left town once more. Others have stayed on with new friends for planting and tending next year’s crop.
For the most part, things are quiet up there. However, there were several reported instances of “home invasion robberies” by trimmers breaking into pot farms to steal the prepared bricks of marijuana or the money tucked away for the year’s expenses after making their sales down in the cities. There’s a lot more money than there used to be, so there’s more violent crime occurring. And since North San Juan is not incorporated, there is a long wait from a 911 call to the Deputies showing up, and they also show up armed for bear and looking very grim. Apparently the farmers shoot back. Or try.
Picture if you will, California goes for full legalization of marijuana, for all users, no restrictions, claiming taxes blah blah blah. It already happened in Washington State and Colorado. It will likely happen in the PRK. What will the pot growers do when their carefully managed remote farms are forced to sell their dope for 10 cents on the dollar of the former price and the money just isn’t good enough to live on with all the land they can use? Desperation. And desperate people do desperate things.
In Kashmir in the Himalayas, marijuana farms which refined pot into hashish, hauled the product over the Khyber Pass by mule train until a road was built in the 1990’s. They found themselves not making enough money so they switched to opium poppies.
Who wants to bet that current pot farmers in the USA won’t switch to growing opium when pot becomes legal? Some renters in Truckee, California [at the eastern end of Nevada County] had their hashish catch fire. After a trip to the emergency room for 2nd degree burns, they got booked into county jail. And those are the ones who got caught. It is reasonable that pot farmers will start making hash to reduce bulk and increase selling price, if they have the market for it. But hash isn’t as consistent a money maker as heroin. Heroin is highly addictive, physically addictive. It suppresses the body’s natural endorphin production so when the opiates process out, everything starts to hurt, apparently. Given a few days, the endorphin glands work again, but many heroin junkies can’t stand to wait that long and will do anything to stay high, including lots of violent crime. In Portland Oregon, the arrests for heroin are the highest in the USA, and police officers end up defending themselves or civilians rather frequently. Apparently, the way to come down off a Speed (Meth) binge is to sleepand for that they take heroin. It’s a big problem in Modesto[California] too, or was back when they could still steal cars to pay for it. Maybe not now.
Law enforcement is planning how to deal with domestic opium and already tracks heroin over-doses at the emergency room and arrests locally. So far it isn’t local product, but they fear that eventually, lowered price pot will mean the farmers will switch to tar opium or refine heroin for maximum markup. The farmers see themselves as homesteaders, living off the grid by their own rules, but mostly need soap and their clothes are full of holes and their vans are converted into living space. Impressive practical conversions that can still navigate the rutted gravel and dirt roads, and they deal with the sort of remote secret security problems and keep their OPSEC very close to the chest. They are however making and selling drugs. Upping the ante to heroin will be an all too easy next step. And the violence will increase.
If you have a neighbor growing pot, and see flashes of bright poppy flowers through the trees, give serious thought to your safety, and whether you want any involvement with that person when you hear shots fired at their place. You may even give some thought to a ballistic barrier between your home and theirs. Just to be safe. Sincerely, - InyoKern

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Howdy Captain,
Reading the other remarks about storing whiskey for barter made me chuckle, I've got a different take on this subject.

We're a dry household, always have been, just no need for that stuff. Life is pretty amazing when you're sober, why miss a minute of it under the influence of anything.

But, I've kept two bottles of Jack Daniels stored very prominently in our pantry for many years, and they're located in a place that makes them impossible to overlook.

We live in out in the sticks, and the idea is that if anyone breaks into the house while we are out, I want them to find the whiskey right away, and drink up. When I come home later that just might give me the edge I need!

Even when our kids were little they never touched that decoy whiskey, they knew what it was for!

Shoot straight, - Pistol Pedro in Colorado

If we are at a point in our lives where we are bartering, then supplies will have bottomed out. Alcohol withdrawal is not pretty and will lead it’s sufferer to really unwanted behaviors.
Being the neighborhood alcohol guy will be the same as a drug dealer on the corner today. While I see nothing wrong with trading with  uncle buck who has run out of his Saturday nightcap. Dealing with the public in general will lead to disaster.
Hope this finds you well. - G.B.


Captain. Rawles,
I gave up drinking decades ago but decided to keep a few cases of hootch in the preps for a number of reasons. I have a couple of cases of decent bourbon and scotch just in case it might help grease the wheels with someone I'm not on handshake terms with. I keep a case of Everclear which I can cut with water down to vodka strength, can use as a disinfectant and/or painkiller, burn for light, and which we started buying because my wife uses it in soap making.

I wouldn't offer a drunk a drink, but if others already have all the food, shelter, and security they think they need, my bottle might just be the thing they still want that will get me what I need. - Kevin in the Redoubt

Dear JWR;
I think it unnecessary to dip bottles of whiskey in paraffin or to worry about  the shelf life of unopened bottles.  My uncle, a career Air Force officer who was stationed at a USAF radar base in Canada in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when we maintained radar bases in the far north to give early warning of Soviet missile attack, brought back a large quantity of Canadian whiskey.  He gives me a bottle every Christmas.  The brand he has been giving me the last few years has a cork stopper rather than a screw top.  The tax stamp is dated 1952.  Even with the rather loose cork stopper there is no visible loss to evaporation and the whiskey is excellent after 61 years.  I think that with modern, hermetic screw tops, whiskey will last for hundreds of years with no deterioration.
Cordially, - Doug in Wisconsin


Okay, I read the letters on the whiskey for barter subject, and the one about vodka. Forget that. Buy grain alcohol. [JWR Adds: It is sold under the brand name Everclear, in two different proof grades-- 151 Proof and 190 Proof. The latter (95% alcohol by volume) is more difficult to find and may have to be special-ordered.] It will do anything vodka will do. It is 190 proof so it will work as booze, as a sterilizer in your first aid kit, a pain killer, and will start fires or burn by itself too. I buy stainless steel half-liter water bottles at the thrift store for about $2 each and use them to store the stuff - they won't break if they fall and won't leak unless somebody shoots a hole in them. Best part is it is price competitive to even cheap vodka or whisky, but more potent and more 'flexible'. - Rev. Dave   

Friday, November 29, 2013

Hello James,
While researching availability of a First Person Video controlled RC plane I have come across two viable contenders.  One is incredibly affordable (less than $400) and the other I'm awaiting pricing on.  These are ridiculously valuable tools to scout remote areas, perform surveillance/security, and get a lay of the land.

The first is the Spyhawk.  It is for sale at their web site or at Amazon.   On the controller is a small display and you can pilot the craft from that controller.  You can watch a good video here. The second is the Zephyr II. There are some people who have expanded it's range up to 27 miles.  For some exhilarating video of it flying through the mountains, urban areas, and downtown New York City, check out this Youtube channel

The mini-UAVs are massive force levelers, IMHO.  Imagine knowing the ground around you in a 27 mile radius as if you had walked every canyon, climbed every ridge, and mapped out every drainage.  Limitless possibilities!  Imagine scouting out your local town to see what is around you or what the easiest way out of town is.  Keep track of local herds of wildlife and predators.  In a grid down situation you could quickly and stealthily find out how the larger population centers are doing or if traveling down a road scan ahead for roadblocks and the like.  Where I live many people have summer homes and we've had suspicious vehicles driving by; what better tool than to follow them and get great video of them and their vehicle.  Need to drop a message to a friend; just fly over and drop a note by adding another servo.   Know of a drone doing surveillance?  Crash into it.  The possibilities are endless.

There are many, many criticisms to be had regarding these.  I'm sure soon we will see new regulation banning/licensing these (get one now!)  I'm sure there are a ton of ideas for how they can be modified.  One idea I have would be to control it via a cellular USB modem as it might be less susceptible to getting jammed.  Well I'm looking forward to other readers comments.  I know these have been mentioned here before but I've never seen such a readily available out of the box solution.  Incredible! - Michael H.

Here in Alaska, people often block incoming light with a single layer of aluminum foil.. the kind from the supermarket.  It is difficult to sleep here in summer when the sun never sleeps.  This same method would work to keep light in. 

light weight
easy to store

Regards, - Carol S.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hello Jim,
I've been following the window light blocking conversation with interest. The prospect of spending money and time for highly specialized fabrics or felts, for a highly specialized purpose, which may or may not be a future necessity, just doesn't feel affordable or practical to me. In comparison, I believe my simple, flexible, and inexpensive alternative approach has much to offer.

I've been stocking up on large Polar Fleece blankets, as a multi- purpose basic material, from my local thrift store, where I can often find a queen or king size for around $10. Two or three folded layers will block out any light as necessary. The fabric can also be used for clothing, for insulation, for padding, and for so much more. I prefer to think in terms of basic "building block" materials that can serve many functions, and this is one good example.

Keep up the great work! - J.S.

JWR Replies: Regardless of your solution, be sure to check your completed handiwork from outside your house on a dark night, first with your naked eye, and then with a starlight scope. Any small remaining light leaks (typically seen around the edges) can be remedied with black gaffer's tape.

Monday, November 25, 2013

In response to the recent article: Light Blocking Suggestions for Windows, I'd like to mention that another very low cost option for blacking out windows is a roll of roofing (tar) paper. It takes up very little space. It can also be used as expedient, water-resistant repair material.  - Pat O'C.

JWR Replies: Tar paper does indeed have many uses, but I'de recommend that you use it outside, rather than inside widows. Tar paper is notorious for outgassing. The distinctive tarry smell can linger for many months or even years in a confined space, so I would recommend never storing or using it inside a living space. It is also important to avoid using tar paper on the outer (exposed) layer of roofs that will be use for drinking water catchment.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mr. Rawles,
I've just listened to another interview you gave, and noted yet again that you consider light control of utmost importance.  I have several suggestions from the fabric store.  There is a material that really does work perfectly for light control at a reasonable cost (helped by the readily available Joann Fabric Store - also online - 50% off coupons): drapery lining material referred to as 'blackout' fabric.  A common brand of this fabric is Roc-Lon, if searching online for it. 

Another fabric I've worked with is the Warm Window insulated shade system ( and also carried at most Joann Fabric stores).  This system uses multiple layers of fabric which not only produces a blackout effect but also provides a vapor barrier and a nice layer of insulation for windows.  This fabric can be used to make something like a balloon shade, which can be raised and lowered according to need without removing/disassembling anything.  They look great, as this fabric is covered with an attractive fabric of your choice.  I've made these myself and they do work incredibly well.  This system (check the web site) recommends sewing magnetic tape into the outer edges of the shade and putting magnetic tape onto the edge of the window where the fabric should meet to form a seal.  I'm trying to think of something other than magnets as they may not last as long as you need them or be 'my-life-depends-on-it' strong.  The fabric is kind of expensive, but it doesn't scream 'prepper', looks good in any home, and adds insulation value to the window every single day.

Both these fabrics are ideal also for those who need total darkness to sleep or trying to sleep during daylight hours.  These fabrics are vastly superior to any other kind of blackout fabric attempts such as window quilts that just use multiple layers of heavy fabrics.

The Roc-Lon blackout fabric is light enough to be held up on the interior of a window casing by an el-cheapo tension cafe rod.  For those who would like to try this fabric but are not sewers I have used safety pins to fasten the top of the fabric to the tension rod (top and bottom rods can both be used - fold a bit of fabric around the rod then pin into place at roughly 3-5" intervals) and then removed/replaced each morning/night.  This would be an inexpensive way to test this fabric for yourself.

For those who don't sew, go to a fabric store to look at the fabric for yourself; then ask if the sales staff know of a local person who would make these up for you.  A local fabric shop likely has many, many business cards from local seamstresses who are experienced and looking for work.  Since it's not obviously 'prepper', there's no loss of OpSec.

Good luck to us all, - Lilia

Monday, November 18, 2013

I'm working on a security project here at the ranch. For it, I'm in need of a few web security cameras to cannibalize. I need the type that have a cluster or ring of infrared (IR) illumination LEDs. So if you have any spare cameras that no longer work (typically this happens because of rainwater intrusion) I would greatly appreciate it you would mail them to:

Jim Rawles
c/o P.O. Box 303
Moyie Springs, Idaho, 83845

I will be happy to reciprocate by sending you a like number of SurvivalBlog Archive DVDs.

Thanks! - J.W.R.

Friday, October 25, 2013

In this, the third installment of the chronicles of my preparedness journey (#1 The Secret Prepper and #2 Selecting a Retreat), I hope to share with you the improvements I have made in my retreat home.

I have found in the last couple of months that owning a second home is a monstrous headache.  If you only own one home just imagine everything that can go wrong and multiply it by a factor of two to the exponent of Murphy’s Law.  Or worse… my liquid asset value has fallen victim to the inverse square law: The amount of money I now have is inversely proportional to the square of the amount I remember spending.
Current $ Amount  = Original $ Amount x   Funds I remember spending2
                                                                       Funds I actually spent

Head hurting yet?  Me too.  Good thing I have a background in mathematics and some education in basic engineering.  I strongly recommend that if you plan on being self-sufficient, you learn the basic principles of engineering.  That and pick up some additional skills like carpentry, masonry or welding.  A great way to do this is to volunteer with charitable organizations that build or remodel homes.  If you play your cards right you’ll make a friend who’s in a trade and he’ll teach you.  But I digress…

With some hard work and good fortune, my retreat home will be my primary place of residence as well as my work location.  I can make any changes to the house that I feel will improve its safety and functionality, but if they are completely visible or unappealing the power of veto will be exercised by the C.F.O. (my wife).  That, and OPSEC will be compromised by said visibility.  With that in mind I started looking for what needed improving so that I could fit it into the renovations that had to be done.  I decided on tackling emergency power and security.

Emergency Power:

One of the things I have quickly learned is that power goes out somewhat regularly in the middle of nowhere.  There simply is no modern infrastructure and what power lines run to my home need to traverse dozens of yards of old trees to get from the road to my abode.  The result: Wind blows hard, lights flicker.  Wind gusts heavily, lights go out.  It’s rather annoying but at present only an inconvenience.  Come TEOTWAWKI it will be much worse since there may be no return to power for some time.  At this point I can’t afford to buy a PV power system so I thought about alternatives.

I had decided early on that I wanted to make an effort to utilize every form of alternative power I could.  Having a stream running through my property affords me the opportunity to build my own miniature hydroelectric power plant.  My biggest problem is that the stream on my property is located too far away to make a direct feed work.  That turned out to be an easy fix: a wheel barrel, elbow grease and some car batteries suit just fine.

Building my micro hydro-power plant:

I tried several variations on my generator, using materials like wood, plastic and metal.  I started with metal for the frame and quickly learned that I have no business whatsoever using welding equipment.  Know thyself, and know him well… lesson learned (ouch!).

Then, I tried to use PVC since it’s fairly inexpensive and easy to work with.  I worked up a great model, until I put it in the water and it floated away.  The frame and paddles were too light, and so I mixed in some wood and plexiglas.  The combination of PVC framing, wood paddles and plexiglas wheels seems to work well.  I also added some gravel into the bottom of the PVC framing for additional weight to counter the streams current. It’s only a few inches deep at the point where I’ve decided to place this but because it’s at the base of a drop the water really moves.

The design itself was fairly simple:

First I made two 18” high triangles with 3 inch PVC pipe.  At the bottom corners I used 60 degree elbows, at the top I used the same but modified it with a 1½” hole and inserted the plastic ring from a roll of scotch tape.  It was a tight fit, which I additionally secured with a thin coat of epoxy so it wouldn’t wear loose after I added the axle: A 1” wooden dowel.

I then built my water wheel, thinking of an old steamboat’s wheel.  I cut 2, 24” diameter circles out of ¼” Plexiglas and cut a hole in the center for the 1” dowel.  After, I cut a total of 19, 2’ long 1x4’s for the paddles and coated them liberally with water seal.  (One situation where being liberal is a good thing.)  The circumference of a 24” diameter circle being 75.4” [C=D (pi)], I added 19 paddles at 4” intervals, which works out to 76”, so one of the paddles is slightly off.  I screwed the paddles straight out protruding 1” past the circle, for only one side.

The circle with the paddles was laid flat with the open side up and the opposing circle was placed on top allowing me to fasten it to the paddles.  At this point I added the water wheel to the triangle frame by lying one half on a table and lining up the wheel to the hole at the top of the triangle.  I inserted the dowel allowing it to extend past the frame by several inches.  I then placed the opposing half of the frame on top and stood it upright.  It bears note that the dowel was a tight fit, and I needed remove it and sand it down a bit.  Then I added graphite lube (it’s just what I had handy, no other reason for the choice) to get it to turn.  I hand turned it several dozen times and all was well.

The dowel was secured on the outside (water facing) half of the frame by drilling a hole through it to allow me to add a locking cotter pin.  The opposite end of the dowel was similarly secured with a cotter pin, but additionally I afforded this side an extra 6 inches onto which I secured a bicycle wheels rim, also secured with a cotter pin on the outside.

I placed the waterwheel in my chosen area and above it fabricated a wooden platform (treated with water seal) that spanned the narrow section, securing it with heavy stones at the base of the legs.  I mounted the alternator atop that, with the wheel of the alternator exposed over the side directly above the bicycle wheel.  Then I used an alternator belt to connect the alternator to the waterwheel.  (I had previously used sandbags to redirect the water to make this easier)

From that point, I wired the positive and negative ends of the battery using wire I salvaged from an old car at a junkyard. The wire needed to be spliced with another set so that I could lay the battery on a platform on the side of the stream.  After testing the system I built a housing for the alternator and the battery.

What I found is that, while not optimal, this set-up works fairly well and generates enough power to re-charge the car battery in just a couple of hours in relation to how fast the stream is moving (depending on the rain).  I plan to build a new one as time permits with an extended dowel that will allow me to mount the alternator on the bank of the stream.

[JWR Adds: For any reasonably durability, I recommend a commercially-made microhydro Pelton Wheel.]

I am currently using this to power my CB radio and as a power source for an emergency water pump.  I have only 3 batteries at the time I write this and plan to buy more to build a battery array, once I find the “perfect” design.  I also intend to apply this to an old stationary bike for use indoors.


My future home/retreat location, though on a dead-end tertiary road, is far from un-assailable.  I imagine that if a refugee group managed to get as far north as I am, they’d be somewhat knowledgeable of wood lore.  They could stumble upon my location while hunting, or simply by trying random roads to see where they lead.

A road approach seems to me to be the most likely so I decided to address that first.  I have a paved driveway that extends to the road, but runs over a pipe that funnels water run-off from higher up the mountain.  That pipe needed replacing, and so I dug it out and left the ditch.  Across it I placed a large steel plate, the kind you would see a road construction crew using to cover a large hole in the road.  I bartered some manual labor for this.

The plate came complete with a ring attached to one end.  I plan to hook a steel cable to this and use my truck or quad to pull this plate into my driveway and off of the ditch when security seems like it may become an issue.  Then in the recently evacuated soil I will, when the time seems right, dig holes and transplant bushes from further back on my property.  I will also spread grass seed there and back it up with smaller transplanted trees.  This way I can close off my driveway with a barrier while simultaneously camouflaging it.

As for the possibility of approach from other directions, well…  there’s only so much I can do to prevent that beyond regular patrols.  I’ve also looked for locations where I might maximize the use of various boobytraps [for an absolute worst-case situation.]  I realized that if a person were to get close enough to my home to fire upon it, my “contact” security would need a measure of home hardening. 

In my first submission to SurvivalBlog I wrote about “The Portcullis”; a method of closing off and hardening large glass doors on the deck of my primary residence.  I have decided to utilize this method in the walls of my retreat home, which is a ranch.  I needed to re-sheet rock the interior walls, so after the demo was completed I added sub-flooring from floor to ceiling around the windows, and floor to a height of four feet everywhere else.  Before adding the subflooring I insulated the exterior walls and added a layer of construction grade plastic sheeting to compress the fiberglass roll just a bit.

Then, as I added the subflooring I filled the spaces between the studs behind it with gravel.  The sheet rock I used to finish the job was 1” thick.  The overall thickness of gravel was a scant 2” after somewhat compressing the insulation. Between the wood siding, the exterior insulation, the subflooring, the gravel and the 1” sheet rock I have more protection then I was previously afforded.  That and it’s invisible as well.  If signs point to imminent danger, my family and I can always fill our sandbags and stack them strategically around the windows, doors and other firing ports if needed.

That is all I have had the finances and time to handle as of now.  I hope that when cash becomes available I can make additional modifications.  For now, it’s just paint and Spackle.  Hopefully this can give those of you out there without brick homes some ideas on how to secure/harden your home.

A quick note on booby-trapping…

I feel that this is an integral part of any TEOTWAWKI security plan.  However, the use of such devices should be weighed against the risks posed by having them in place.  I have made the decision to pre-manufacture a variety of “gifts” for unwrapping should any aggressors come seeking to force my generosity.  These devices will be placed in pre-determined locations should that level of security become necessary.  Before placing any form of traps walk your perimeter and determine places where there are holes in your security that you may not have the ability or manpower to fill. 

Also consider how you would approach your retreat if you were ill intended.  What would you use for cover?  Well that’s a great spot for a trap.  Have a blind spot?  Well put one there too.  Just be sure you have these spots marked on a map before you put your added security measures physically in place.  It wouldn’t do to have to try to remember where they go when they suddenly become necessary.

My final note on security is related to walking the perimeter and mapping traps.  While you’re out there, you should also measure out the various distances of landmarks relative to your retreat.  Fill out a range cards for each window, door or gun-port and place it at the associated position you will be using.  It will save you the guesswork later on, and the time saving could also be life saving.

Until next time, keep in mind that a physical structure is not our only shelter:
2Samuel 22:3-4
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.  I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
Be ready My Friends, the clock is ticking.

Friday, October 11, 2013

When I was very young I would sometime spend rainy days at my grand-mother's house going through sporting goods catalogs and the Sears catalog making list of items that might be needed during disasters or emergencies. I have no idea why I am wired in such a way that I give a good amount of thought to being prepared. I am no longer a young boy but now I believe making such plans are more important than ever before. The economic situation in our country can only be described as terrifying to anyone who will take the blinders off and look. It is said that there is nothing new under the sun and if one looks back at other countries and civilizations that followed a similar path you can see the possible outcome. If one prepares for a disaster that never happens he is no worse off but if unprepared when disaster strikes there is no remedy. 

Each family's needs and security situation is different so there is no cookie cutter plan for being prepared. Use available learning tools and make your own plans. The reason I am writing this letter is to share some resources I have found. I am by no means prepared for all possible events. I am working on my own plans as I am able to. If we encourage each other and help each other than if a disaster ever does occur then we will all be better prepared. I will list some resources I have found that others might find useful.

1. Water
    I believe that the first item everyone should try to plan for is a source for safe drinking water. If a well is available consider installing a solar powered well pump. Since most of us don't have a well I strongly recommend Lifesaver brand water filters. The Lifesaver jerry can filter will make 20,000 liters of safe drinking water from most any source of fresh water. The lifesaver jerry cans are available at There are other good filters but try to plan for months, not days.

2. Food
   You gotta eat! For short term food storage we should all have a supply of canned goods and basics such as rice, beans, oats, pasta, and flour. Don't worry too much about storing these foods for long term. As they age just donate them and replace them. One of the best resources for food storage is the Latter Day Saints food facilities. We are lucky to have one of these nearby in Slidell, Louisiana. The Mormons encourage their members to be prepared and set up regional facilities to pack food items for long term storage. Dry food items sealed in #10 cans can have a shelf life as long as 20 years. This facility is at this time open to people that are not associated the the LDS. The LDS web site has a great deal of information about disaster planning and food storage.
Storing food will feed you during most conceivable emergencies. We should also plan for an unconceivable emergency that doesn't last days or weeks but instead last months or years. We should all have on hand a good supply of heirloom non-hybrid seeds for gardens. Using heirloom non-hybrid seeds allows you to save seeds from your gardens for future gardens. Most hybrid or modified vegetables do not reproduce well naturally. Emergency seed packs are available at many sources. Here are a couple,, item wx2-222028. Type in emergency seeds on and you will many choices. Keep in mind that you will also need to keep fertilizer on hand. As you use the stored fertilizer replace it. You do have hand tools for gardening don't you?

3. Warmth and cooking
   We are lucky to live in an area with mild winters but we still need to plan on heat sources to keep warm. For short term generators or even simply extra blankets will suffice. For long term situations we will all end up burning wood in some form or fashion. Make sure you have hand tools such as ax, splitter, and saw. For cooking most of us have camp stoves or grills that we have used after hurricanes. But what if the fuel for these becomes unavailable or so expensive it might as well be unavailable. Buying some type of wood stove or making a jet cooker now and storing it will give you peace of mind. You can look up plans for home-made wood cookers on you-tube and on several prepper web-sites. I will list some helpful sites at the end of the letter. The Dollar Tree store sells candles that are about 8 or 9 inches tall in a glass jar that will burn for about 80 hours each. The candles cost $1 each. The stores are often out but you can order them by the case from their web site and pick the candles up at the store. You should have a at least couple of dozen of these candles.

4. Shelter
    This is a difficult topic because this is one area that everyone will have different needs and desires. Most everyone would want to stay in their present location but there are several items to consider. You must be in a secure location and be able to defend yourself at that location. Having a weapon is not enough. You need to consider what is required to set security watches and defendable perimeters. Some people might think that they will not resort to violence to defend their shelter and there supplies. When unprepared people decide to take what you and yours need to survive most people will fight. Your location must have a reliable water source. Many people will find it necessary to join with other friends or family members for support and security. These topics should be discussed with others before there is an emergency at hand. If people decide to plan on joining up together than it would be wise to preposition supplies at the planned location. It is also wise to have a back-up plan in case the planned location is not useable for some reason.

5. Medical supplies
    Most of us end up taking some type of daily meds as we get older. There is only so much of these meds that we can obtain and hold. However there are sources for other medical items that we all need from time to time. Many people that are called preppers these days have been buying antibiotics from vet supply resources. is one I have used. The antibiotics are usually labeled for use in aquariums or for animals. The antibiotics are exactly the same as the ones you receive from Wal-Mart or Medco. I have documentation from doctors that state that the meds are the same and that the shelf life if stored out of intense heat is measured in years in most cases. There is talk that the government wants to stop the internet sales of vet medicines because people are buying them for human use so I would get a supply as soon as you can. We should all have several types of antibiotics and other medical supplies. There are sites that describe which antibiotics are best used for different medical ailments. You should have basic first aid supplies for stopping blood loss from major injuries. Keep QuickClot or Celox packets to stop major bleeding. Israeli pressure bandages and tourniquets are must have items. Steri-strips and sutures are also needed. Also alcohol and Betadine needs to be on hand. Have a supply of forceps and other tools. Buy a good supply of otc medicines, especially imodium, tylenol, and ibuprofen.

6. Power
    As you can tell from this letter we are discussing long term emergencies instead of a couple of days without power after a storm. It would be prudent for us to look at solar power systems to provide some electrical power. This would not only allow you to have a couple of lights but could also power a communication device to talk to people on guard duty or could power radios for communication. We should all definitely have a good supply of rechargeable batteries and a solar recharging device. The more batteries you can obtain now the better. Remember that the day after the emergency is too late to find batteries, radios, or solar devices. If you decide to look into setting up a solar power system you will need deep cycle batteries. The better the deep cycle battery is the more expensive it is and none of them are cheap. A very good book to have on hand is The 12 Volt Bible, it is available on Amazon.

7. Transportation
    We should not only have at least one bicycle but it should be maintained. We should keep spare tires, tubes, and tire patches for the bike. It would be great to have an extra chain. Don't overlook having a hand powered pump

8. Clothing
    Buy a few pairs of jeans and other sturdy clothes and store them in a vacuum bag to protect them from moths. On there is available Guide Gear brand jeans. You can get them with or without a double layer of cloth on the front of the legs for extra durability.

9. Security
  This is too large a topic to cover in a letter. The most important thing to say is to learn and plan. There are many books available to order or borrow. Everyone learned a few months ago how quickly ammunition can disappear from store shelves. We should all have a couple of good weapons and plenty of ammunition. There is no such thing as enough ammunition. In a real long term emergency ammunition will become the preferred barter item. Ammo will become the basic currency along with pre '64 silver coins if we ever experience a real long term disruption. A couple of weapons and a good supply of ammunition are required but from there a person is only limited by his own resources. In a true long term disruption the man with a night vision device will be much more secure than those without. These devices are very expensive for good 3rd. generation models. At least get good night sights such as Trijicon brand night sites for your primary weapon. Trijicon night sights for an AR-15 cost less than $100 and will be invaluable if you ever need them. You won't be very effective if you cannot see your sights. A similar item is body armor. It seems like a complete waste of money in normal times but would be worth everything if it saves you from being shot. I will share some information from books I have read. It sounds basic but you must know the difference between cover and concealment. Concealment can prevent someone from seeing you but cover can stop rounds headed your way, don't confuse the two. In times of trouble a weapon is useless in a safe. During a real time of trouble you should be armed at all times.

Trying to be prepared is a project that never ends. All we can do is the best we can but even that will be more than the majority of people. I will list some items we should stock up on and a few books that can be helpful. I should say that these books should be acquired in paper form and not on an e-reader.
| Stock up items for your own use and for barter: bug spray, storage food, ammo, water filters, jeans, t-shirts, batteries, pre-1965 silver coins, otc medicines, skin lotion, towels, blankets, fertilizer, seeds, food grade pails with lids (find a restaurant that will give you mayo and dressing pails), hand gardening tools and wood cutting tools, toothbrushes, 1st aid supplies, candles, reading glasses, bike tires and tubes, tire patches, multi-vitamins, matches, baking soda, sugar, vinegar, propane (propane will store long term), bleach (dry pool tablets store well but must be pure bleach), bar soap, surgical mask, latex or vinyl gloves.

The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery
How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It by James Wesley Rawles
Where There Is No Doctor: A Village Health Care Handbook by David Werner
Where There Is No Dentist by Murray Dickson
Wilderness Medicine Beyond First Aid By William W. Forgey M.D.
Emergency War Surgery (NATO Handbook:- Third United States Revision, 2004) by Dr. Martin Fackler, et al.
Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills, Third Edition by Abigail R. Gehring
When There Is No Doctor: Preventative and Emergency Healthcare by Gerard S. Doyle,
Patriots: A Novel of Survival in the Coming Collapse by James Wesley Rawles (a great novel but it is full of useful information)
Ranger Handbook an Army field manual. (There are many other useful books and military field manuals).
Useful web sites:,,, night vision sales food storage wood gas stove raising fish at home raising fish at home, aquaponics Vet Supply Vet supply Centers for Disease Control Medical info First aid training Sportsman's Guide Northern Tool military surplus equipment Natchez Shooter Supply Brigade Quartermasters Armslist MS. classified firearms sales and trade. wilderness first aid ammo search tool Israeli Tactical gear ammo sales gun parts and magazines ammo sales ammo sales night sights medical supplies raising chickens prepping info general homesteading info general homesteading info pre-1965 silver coins

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Forgive me if this has been addressed, but what do you think is the best way to hide livestock from looters if/when the shtf?  it is no secret that we have animals.  Our property is such that the only clearings for pasture are near our house, which is in plain sight of our quiet country road.  From the street, you can see our house, a coop, a pen, an old tin barn, an outbuilding, a goat pasture, free ranging chickens and turkeys, etc.  We read that a privacy fence up front at the street would be a bad idea, as people can peep through the cracks, while the fence obstructs the view from the inside. Just locking our animals in coops/barns at night (or around the clock) wouldn't leave much of a mystery.  I haven't been able to find much info on the web about this topic.  one person was considering a hole in the ground to keep chickens out of view, but comments didn't support this idea.   another suggested bringing animals into your house!  Since half of our property is wooded we were considering building a hiding place there for our animals and some supplies, perhaps with a few moveable pens to allow forage.  Would it be wiser to hide in the woods with the animals, or stay put at the house and guard the perimeter?  Thanks for your advice.  - Lori R.

JWR Replies: There is essentially no foolproof way to conceal your livestock from looters and rustlers.

I'll begin with a bit of family history: In my late wife's family, there is an oft-repeated story of hiding their horses from "requisitioning" by the Union Army, during the Civil War. (They then lived in Ohio, well inside Union territory.) Whenever Union troops would pass through town, they would hide their horses in their timbered "Back 20," which was their wood lot. This ruse worked up until 1864, when a Union Cavalry unit passed through. One of the sergeants inspected the family's barn, and the distinctive sight of horse manure alongside the cow manure was unmistakable. They were "compensated" just $10 per horse, including the father's prized saddle horse, that was worth at least ten times that sum.

There are a few things that you can do:

1.) Keep your livestock quiet. Keep only cows and hens. (No bulls, no peacocks, and no roosters!)

2.) Position your livestock an poultry sheds behind foliage and behind buildings, so that they cannot be seen from any public roads.

3.) Keep your neighbors well-supplied with eggs, milk, meat, and butter, partly in exchange for them keeping mum about the existence of your livestock.

4.) Organize a Neighborhood Watch on Steroids.

5.) Having both a watch dog and a reliable intrusion detection system (such as a Dakota Alert) will be essential. (The Chinese-made driveway alarms are unreliable junk, and should be avoided.)

6.) Recognize that if your stealth and camouflage measures fail then it will probably come down to force--or the perception of the willingness to use force--that will deter looters.

Monday, September 30, 2013

I heard you in your recent interview on the SGT Report podcast talking about [the need for] interior blackout material [to stop light from escaping windows when the power grid is down.]    What is the name of the material and tape and where can I purchase it? Thanks, Paul Z.

JWR Replies:

You will find the information you need in these archived discussions in SurvivalBlog. Also see this theatrical supply company, and specifically this blackout fabric and this blackout tape.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. For the preparedness minded individual, this old cliche couldn't be more important.

In my primary profession in the insurance industry, I observe on a regular basis all sorts of damage that happens to people's homes. Today, there are ample available supplies to repair damage, contractors to complete repairs, and insurance coverage to help cover the costs. Tomorrow, we may not be so lucky.

This is where our "ounce of prevention" comes into play. Whether you are preparing to live through a short-term event, a natural disaster, a grid-down event, or a long term TEOTWAWKI event, you've likely put a significant amount of thought and resources towards the location at which you plan to weather the storm.

Obviously, a catastrophic loss to your primary retreat or bug-in location after the event for which you've prepared would be devastating. Perhaps even life threatening.

But inevitably, someone's home will burn down or be struck by a tornado the day before, or the day of, a TEOTWAWKI event. You can be as prepared as you want for tomorrow, but if this happens to you, all your planning is for naught. You could be faced with the loss of your food supplies, water purification abilities, home heating systems, cooking equipment, or any other number of things that you have stored away for your long-term preparedness.

Fortunately, a vast majority of damage that can happen to a dwelling can be easily prevented.  Below, I'll cover a few of the more common property losses that I see and how they can be prevented through a combination of material selection and diligent preventative maintenance, leaving you with a more secure and functional long term retreat.

1. Fire Prevention - Fires are catastrophic no matter when they happen, but if you find yourself in a situation with no fire department to respond, they will be even more so. Even a small fire inside your retreat or bug-in location can cause extensive smoke damage and can render your dwelling uninhabitable. Here are some steps you can take and habits you can incorporate into your daily life to prevent fires.    

A. Perform a visual inspection of your home's exterior (2x per year)- Keep trees and other combustible items away from your home. A wildfire needs fuel leading up to your home in order to burn your home, so move firewood, tree limbs, propane tanks, and anything else you see at least 50 feet from your home. If you're in a fire prone area, aim for 100 feet at a bare minimum.

B. Inspect for gas leaks (4x per year)- In many areas, for those of you with natural gas, your gas company will come out and check your home for gas leaks for free. Their meters can detect even minor leaks that might go unnoticed by your nose. If this service is available, use it once per year. You can also use a simple soap and water solution to check fittings to your gas-burning appliances on your own.

C. Install fire extinguishers and inspect (1x per year) - Have a fire extinguisher easily accessible near any potential fire hazard in your dwelling. The kitchen, garage, and utility room are obvious locations, as well as near any solid fuel burning stoves. Check their pressure gauges annually and replace or recharge them when they get low or pass their expiration date. If you purchase new fire extinguishers to replace expired ones, keep the expired ones in a safe location in your house as backups. They may still work with reduced effectiveness, and if they are your only means of fire protection, you'll be glad to have the extra ammo.

D. Inspect and clean chimney (2x per year) - If you burn wood, it is important to clean your chimney regularly. Twice per year if you heat exclusively with wood, once per year if wood is supplemental heat only. I like to clean mine at the end of the wood burning season, sometime around mid to late April, then give a visual inspection in the fall before it's time to fire up the stove to make sure that my chimney hasn't become home for any wildlife.

E. Install lightning rods and inspect (2x per year) - A direct lightning strike can start a fire, destroy electronics, and scare the Schumer out of you when it happens in the middle of the night. Ask me how I know. Lightning rods are installed along the roof of your dwelling to take the brunt of the strike rather than your home. The electricity is directed along a series of wires and down into the ground. Twice annually, inspect the rods, wires, and grounding mechanism for any damage.

2.Wind Damage Prevention - A heavy gust of wind can damage the most heavily fortified properties. A tornado, hurricane, or cyclone can destroy everything in its path, and little can be done to stop it. There have been great advances in hurricane resistant building methods, but I am not well versed in them. For the sake of this writing, I'm going to focus on prevention of damage from the less than building-leveling winds.
A. Install high quality roofing materials - Simply said, the cheaper the shingle, the quicker the damage. Basic "three tab" style shingles are made to protect your home from rain, but do not stand up well to wind. When selecting roofing material, go with the sturdiest that your budget allows. Clay tiles, metal roofing, and 50+ year shingles will not only last longer, but will resist damage from strong winds, keeping your home protected and dry.
A. Brace gables - At the ends of your home, the gable of your roof (think the triangles leading up to the peak) are one of the most vulnerable parts of your home in a wind storm. I once saw a home that had the entire gable sucked right out and left lying on the ground next to the house by a tornado that passed almost a mile from said home. Upon closer inspection, the gable had only been attached to the home with a few nails around the edges. If your roof has gables (as opposed to a hip, gambrel, flat, or mansard style roof), get up in your attic and look how well they're attached. A few simple 2x4's nailed to the gable and back to the roof trusses or the home's framing can hold them in place instead of having your home exposed to the elements.
B. Visually inspect trees and limbs and remove any near your home (1x per year) - Does your home have large trees near it? In a wind storm, any limbs hanging near your dwelling may be broken off and fall on your roof causing damage. Large trees near the structure can also break, uproot, or split and fall on your home. Walk around, find potential culprits and trim them up or turn them into firewood.

3 . Water Damage Prevention - More damage is done to homes by water than almost any other peril. Penetration from outside water is commonly thought of, but the majority of damage comes from the water already inside your home. The damage from water can range from an inconvenient puddle to warped floor boards, to mold or an all out interior flood, so it pays to maintain the water systems inside your home.
A. Inspect the exterior envelope of your home (1x per year) - Take a detailed look at the exterior of your home to identify potential problem areas. Pay special attention to corners, windows, and seams. Apply caulking wherever necessary and touch up any chipped or peeling paint, no matter how insignificant. Inspect your roof for damage, missing shingles, missing flashing, or deterioration of any rubber boots protecting the places where vent pipes extrude from the  roof surface and repair or replace as necessary.
B. Inspect any exposed water lines (2x per year) - Do you have exposed water supply or drain lines in your basement or crawlspace or under any sinks or toilets? Perform a visual inspection to identify any drips or leaks and repair as necessary. Pay special attention to couplings, elbows, and fittings, as these are where almost all leaks originate. Also pay special attention to any lines supplying water to a filter in your refrigerator or an ice maker in your freezer. These lines are often installed by the individual who delivers the appliance and shoddy installations cause a significant number of water losses each year.
C. Replace water supply lines (Every other year) - Every plumbing fixture or appliance in your home has a supply line hooked to it. In many homes, these lines are a rubber or vinyl hose with plastic fittings that connect to a shut off valve on one end and the fixture on the other end. These hoses are under water pressure 24 hours per day, and if one of them bursts, there will be an unrestricted flow of water into your home until you stop it. Replace these lines every other year to minimize the risk of a blowout. Don't forget the clothes washing machine, toilets, and the dishwasher. If you have metal supply lines that connect your fixtures to your main water line, shut off the water and remove them every other year to inspect for deterioration or corrosion. Replace these lines when they show any sign of weakness, or every 5 years.
D. Maintain hot water heater (1x per year) - Your water heater's holding tank is a valuable source of clean water for your family should you lose your water supply. If you have a 50 gallon tank, this would supply one gallon of water per family member per day for almost 2 weeks for a family of four. It also has the capability of spilling 50 gallons of scalding hot water all over anything near it if it fails. It pays to keep this valuable appliance well maintained. Determine how to drain and flush your particular model and do so annually. When performing this flush, also inspect the anode rod in your heater and replace it if necessary. These rods divert corrosive action away from the tank walls and extends the life of your water heater. If you have softened water, this will greatly reduce the lifespan of your anode rod, and of your water heater if the rod is not regularly inspected and replaced when corroded. These rods are inexpensive and valuable to an important appliance in your home.
E. Install and maintain a sump pump - A sump pump is installed in a plastic basket below your home's lowest level. It provides a "path of least resistance" for subterranean water. The water enters the basket rather than coming up through your foundation. When the water reaches a certain level, it trips a float switch and pumps the water outside your home (maybe into a rain barrel?). If you're in a water-prone area, you may already have one of these. My main home is near water and has a high water table, so a sump pump is essential to a dry basement. Therefore, in my sump basket, I have a second pump that is powered by a deep cycle 12 volt battery. The battery will run the pump for about 8 hours and is kept charged by an attached charger. I have a second battery stored for it as well, with a portable solar charger, so one can be charging while the other is powering the backup pump. Twice per year, I open up the lid to the basket and fill it with water to visually inspect both pumps as they empty the water outside.
F. Prevent water damage from ice dams (Whenever necessary) - Ice dams happen in cold climates when hot air from inside your home or retained heat from the environment heats up the roofing surface, melting fresh snow that falls on your roof. The melted snow runs down to the roof's edge where it re-freezes. Ice dams can be prevented by installing electrical heat tape along the bottom edge of the roof.  In a grid down situation, a roof rake can be used to keep the bottom 2-3 feet of roofing area clear of snow to prevent ice build up. The roof rake is a flat piece of metal attached to a long pole, which allows you to stand on the ground and scrape down massive piles of snow right on top of your head and down the back of your coat. Again...ask me how I know.

4. Water/Sewer Backup Prevention - Human excrement runs downhill. Unless something stops it from running downhill. Then human excrement runs uphill, often right into the lowest level of the homes of some unfortunate souls. This stinks, both literally and figuratively, and would quickly render a dwelling uninhabitable in the absence of insurance coverage and professional cleanup crews. Here are some ways to prevent this excrement-y situation.
A. Install a backwater valve and gate valve - These relatively simple mechanical devices can stop any back flow by making your sewer line a "one-way street".  The backwater valve will allow your wastewater and excrement to flow out of your home freely, but will instantly plug if any pressure comes from the other direction. The gate valve is a failsafe mechanism, allowing you to manually close off your sewer line, preventing any inflow or outflow. Hopefully it goes without saying that once your system is stopped, you will not be able to use any interior drains. Time to dig a latrine.
B. Maintain your septic system (12x per year) - If you are in the country and on a septic system, in addition to regular pumping, keep a supply of Rid-X or a similar product on hand and use it monthly. These products with enzymes and bacteria help to break down human waste, keeping your septic tank drained and in good working order so it's there for you when you need it.
C. Maintain your main sewer line (1x per year or less) - It is always wise to know where your sewer line runs. If you are connected to a municipal system, you can find where your line leaves your house by locating the cleanout, a large threaded cap made of brass or PVC, in your basement or lowest level. The cleanout will likely be near the street side of your home (possibly underneath carpeting or other flooring). This line will run straight out from your home to the street from this point. Remove any trees that are near this line and grind out or kill off the stumps to avoid tree roots penetrating the line. There are commercial products available to kill tree roots in a main line, but it's preferable to remove the problem completely. If it's been a while since you had this main line cleaned, hire a plumber to clean it out, and ask how clogged it was. If it was in good shape, you'll probably be okay every few years, but if there were problems, you'll want to have this done annually. As much as possible, avoid putting any type of grease, oil, coffee grounds, egg shells or animal fat down your drain. Also avoid flushing items like diapers, tampons, cleaning wipes or paper towels down your toilets to prevent clogs.

5. Hail Damage Prevention - Hail smaller than the size of golf balls rarely does damage to property. Hail larger than golf balls can quickly destroy large amounts of property. While most of this damage would be cosmetic in nature, there are some steps you can take to prevent problems that will require your time that could be spent on more important things.
A . Install high quality roofing materials - Metal roofing, or impact resistant shingles are more cost-effective now than they've ever been. A standard asphalt shingle has a life expectancy of 20-30 years in perfect conditions, but most struggle to last even this long. Metal roofing can last a lifetime and resist damage from an ice attack by the cloud monsters.
B . Avoid vinyl siding - Hail can destroy vinyl siding in a matter of minutes, leaving your home exposed to the elements. Any other variety of siding may be damaged by hail, but the damage would be cosmetic in nature.

6. Theft Prevention - Entire volumes have been written about retreat security, and I don't intend to recapitulate all of that information here. However, there are some simple things that you can do to your home to make stealing your stuff more of a challenge than stealing someone else's stuff. I strongly believe in the concept of layered security. Any one of these suggestions alone don't deter a good thief, but all of them together make your home a real pain in the neck compared to easier targets.
A. Trim hedges and bushes near doors and windows (1x per year) - Thieves lurk and hide. Don't give them anywhere near a potential entry point to spend time unnoticed.     

B. Visually inspect your home from a thief's eyes (2x per year minimum) - This can be a daily thought process, but at least twice per year, take the time to look at your house like a burglar would. Can you see valuable items, food storage, water filtering equipment, a safe, or any other enticing items through outside windows? You can install blinds or shades in windows, but they only work if they're closed all the time. Make your home look as boring as possible for anyone who might look in.    

C. Install motion lights and test (12x per year) - Are there dark areas around your home or retreat? Motion lights can make your home less of a target by shedding light on the shadows in which creeps lurk. Be careful though, that these have a switch or other mechanism allowing you to shut them off if you need the privacy or anonymity that darkness can provide. My motion lights are all installed on a single electrical circuit. One breaker shuts them all down instantly. Test these motion lights monthly to make sure they pick up motion in the areas you desire and that bulbs are in working order. Re-aim motion sensors and bulbs as necessary.
D . Install alarm sirens and test system (12x per year) - A home security system by itself is no deterrent to most thieves. A good one will be gone with what they want before the cops arrive. A desperate thief doesn't care. I prefer wireless systems to the traditional wired system connected to a phone line, because the thief can't just cut a phone line before they break in. Wireless systems can be self installed, run on grid power or solar rechargeable batteries, and can communicate with a monitoring service via cell signal. In a grid down situation, this system can still provide value by alerting you to intrusion with door and window sensors and motion sensors.    

E. Avoid common hiding places for valuables - Everyone puts cash in the freezer, a gun in the nightstand drawer, tapes stuff under drawers, puts things under mattresses, and right inside the entrance to an attic. How many people put an extra fake drain pipe under the sink or a fake light switch on a wall covering an electrical box with hidden valuables? Get creative.     

F. Get a good safe and bolt it to the floor - Sturdy Safe makes my favorite safe with the best fire protection that I've found for the money. Get the biggest one you can afford or fit into your dwelling and bolt it to the floor, then build walls around it, shelves in front of it, and bolt it to the floor. Obscure it however possible and install a motion sensor from your security system near it to alert you if an intruder finds it.

6. Infestation Prevention - Bugs, mice, and other vermin are another destructive force that can turn your bug-in location into a location you want to bug out of. I keep a hefty supply of pesticides and insecticides in my storage (both the chemical variety and the organic variety)for this reason. Every area of the country will have different risks here, so know yours. I spoke above about the importance of doing a thorough inspection of your home's exterior. This practice will also aid in pest prevention by finding and sealing passageways that allow pests in your home.
A. Treat your exterior (4x per year) - Applying a pesticide to the areas around the perimeter of your dwelling can keep pests from invading your space. It's better to keep them out than to deal with them when they're in. Find a product that works on your local bugs and keep enough on hand to continue treating your location if it becomes unavailable.
B . Set mouse traps - I've yet to see a mouse at my retreat. I still have a dozen traps set inside and outside and check them regularly. I have a beautiful wife who is very helpful and supportive of our preparedness, but if mice are living in our retreat, that support is gone.
C . Inspect and remove habitat near your dwelling (4x per year) - Do you have a wood pile against your house? Long grass near the foundation? Keeping the barrier around your home clean and de-cluttered keeps your home from being easy habitat, or providing easy passage inside.

This might all seem like an enormous undertaking, but when living in the situation for which you are preparing, a well maintained retreat is vital to your survival. Some of these recommendations are easy and inexpensive now. They may become impossible repairs someday, because the supplies are unavailable. The better condition your retreat or bug-in location are in when the event happens, the longer you can count on it to provide you shelter and security.

I recommend implementing a preventative maintenance calendar, on which you schedule different inspections and loss prevention items. On it, you can also include other regular necessary tasks around your retreat or plan for the upcoming year's activities or purchases.

I thank God for all of the knowledge and experience so freely shared on this blog. Remember brothers and sisters, that all things work for the good of those who love God. Trust Him and follow in the footsteps of Christ and you will survive, on Earth for as long as He wills, and in forever in eternity with him.

Psalm 23
1 The LORD is my shepherd,
  I shall not want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures;
  He leads me beside quiet waters.

3 He restores my soul;
  He guides me in the paths of righteousness
  For His name's sake.

4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
  I fear no evil, for You are with me;
  Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
  You have anointed my head with oil;
  My cup overflows.

6 Surely goodness and loving kindness will follow me all the days of my life,
  And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I'd like to discuss some planning concerns for when the world really starts to unravel that you might have overlooked:

Quite a few authors write about situations which probably only constitute a partial collapse of society as we know it. Such situations include those where there still exists some semblance of trade or even transportation of some goods. Perhaps some vestige of government is even functioning. What if a disaster happens and we are left with even less than that.

At the risk of being criticized for being too much of a pessimist, I would suggest that a thoughtful prepper should consider planning to survive a really serious collapse of society. (TEOTWAWKI.)

First of all, without the constant assistance of society and a modern economy, most of the people in the world would die; after making a desperate effort to hold onto life  . This is not news to many but some of the ramifications of this might be. The untreated human waste caused by the unprepared  is an obvious problem. Feces carries disease and the lowly fly is a prolific carrier of many these serious diseases. Flies also like carrion and an unburied carcass is a health hazard too .  I am not a biologist but a simple study of the reproduction rate of house flies and a prediction of the biomass available to post-SHTF flies shows a good possibility of clouds of voracious flies settling on any potential food source, at least until the supply of available food drops to support a sustainable number of these pests. Luckily, the fly’s range is limited.  Certain areas may have an increase in the mosquito population and those insects are a vector for other diseases.  I would suggest fly masks for animals, bug suits for all individuals in the group and insecticide as well as plenty of bug screen for your structures, should not be overlooked. I believe fly repellent collars can be purchased for dogs.  Populations of other animals could become a threat as well. There is the already written about concern with packs of feral dogs . Could there be a potential threat to your bee hive(s) ? If you are keeping or sheltering bees to help with your crop pollination and provide honey, they may need to be protected and even fed over a particularly lengthy cold period.  Perhaps you have food storage that could be protected from rodents by a cat. Local animal predators , emboldened perhaps by reduced hunting and more scarce prey , could become a more substantial threat to livestock.  I would suggest that traditional means for dealing with some of these threats should be considered.   Use your judgment and knowledge about your area to discern other potential biological threats to your retreat which may not be obvious to the casual thinker.

Likewise, one sometimes reads how prepper groups might post a member outside the retreat to discourage refugees or potential attackers by acting sick or insane on the approach to the retreat. Won’t this just advertise that a person with these disabilities can somehow survive in this area; this at a time when groups of healthy and sane people are desperately looting anyone and anything they can find just to survive ?  What if your human scarecrow  is captured ? I would submit that hostage taking is an ancient practice that still goes on in much of the world today and care should be taken to avoid , or at least reduce ,this serious threat. 

If you are presented with enemies in a collapse situation, they are likely to be more desperate than most of us can imagine but clever and creative. In a really serious collapse, they are also likely to be ruthless. Without going into extensive detail, a study of raiding in more primitive societies should go a long way to assessing and preparing for  the general threat to any given group at a particular location. The notion that , in a serious collapse situation, simply defeating a raiding party  will stop the threat, even from that group, may be naive. Unless the particular threat to your retreat is seriously degraded, you are likely to have continued conflict from local raiders. When they are repulsed by you, where will they go to regroup ? Proximity to other people in your area must be  factored into your defense plan.  You might consider some flexibility in your defense plan to include some of your neighbors , if that is what your immediate area warrants. With some help they could contribute to the security of your area. In any event, you must deny any  foe a convenient base of operation if not a ready supply of hostages , forced labor or supplies.   For that matter, if you have the means, you might even consider stockpiling a few supplies for some of your neighbors now, or set your food production up to yield a sizeable surplus for this purpose. Relief from fundamental want may  be appreciated by your neighbors and foster cooperation among like- minded people . Necessity will encourage cooperation but a prepared group can not count on having neighbors that are equally ready for a collapse of society. Of course, especially with local interaction ,care must be taken to maintain (and periodically change) your code system and keep the essential aspects of your retreat security confidential. You may even wish to include some deception in the circumstances surrounding your charity and local support so information gained from these interactions is not exploited against you or your group at a later time.   The level of local cooperation you should participate in is a matter that will demand shrewdness and a discerning mind.

The often lamented lack of personal responsibility that exists in our society has not generally helped us select the most talented or principled  leadership. After the crisis passes, it may not be a just and competent leadership that emerges.  Incompetent leadership is nothing new to the human species, but there will be little, if any room for error in these potentially dire circumstances. I would suggest that a simple rule should be followed.. Position yourself so that you are not forced to suffer the consequences of another person’s mistakes. Little reminder need be mentioned about protecting independence. Perhaps a combination of usefulness to the community and strong security may help to protect your individual independence and the independence of your group. Also, if you are a good leader you may be exposed to danger so you might want to consider leadership succession in case something unfortunate happens. Likewise, cross training your group in your available skill sets is wise.

Remember, in a serious collapse you may be faced with an enemy that is altogether willing to accept casualties and the value most of us  now place on human life may quickly evaporate. It bears mentioning that there are large numbers of veterans with combat experience and it is possible that at least a few of them will end up arrayed against you and your group. It is worth noting that a small number of preppers think that stealing private property in these circumstances is only justifiable foraging.  Plan and train accordingly. 

 Spiritual guidance will be particularly helpful in maintaining the right balance of  independence and cooperation. When the crisis subsides, the threats to personal independence and safety may change. Reconstituting society after a catastrophic event will likely contain its own problems and there is no reason to believe evil will not be present then. 

A few survival scenarios entail an extended winter. (Such as nuclear winter, supervolcano eruption, asteroid strike etc. ) These possibilities are particularly challenging . The four horsemen of the apocalypse, war, famine, disease, and pestilence are thought to come together ; one tending to bring the others. This has often been true historically and there is no reason to discount that possibility in a survival situation. A year without summer would cause severe world wide food shortages and a longer cold period would cause extensive famine and conflict in many places in the world. Laying in a supply of food for people and animals to last through such a time is a daunting task.

It is worthy of the effort of anyone who believes that such a calamity  is more than possible.  Along with those items, cold weather gear, snow shoes, skis and sleds, as well as an extended supply of fire wood would be advised.. Such a winter could be worse than anything seen by modern humans and cause a complete break down of human society. It could be so catastrophic that the risk of large scale raiding is reduced because such groups would not be able to keep fighters in the field in such harsh conditions . Some regions have hunters who are well versed in field craft. Snipers are dangerous; take steps to deal with that threat.  Beware of smaller groups that can operate in such adverse conditions and be able to match their ability to move and fight in a frigid environment.

In these conflict situations you have the advantage of being able to prepare your ground. Map out avenues of approach to your defended area and be careful not to ignore anything that could overlook your location or provide an attacker with cover. Deny any potential enemy the use of these tactical  areas , if at all possible.  The advantage of surprise has been sought by armies from the earliest recorded time. Surprising a would be attacker will damage enemy morale. Take steps to reduce a possible marauder numerical advantage. Exhausting and harassing enemy movement is useful if you have the means to accomplish this with some degree of safety. Do not ignore intelligence gathering measures. Take steps to identify friend from foe. Include steps to identify neighbor from foe. You may not be the only self reliant group trying to defend itself in your locality.  If possible, engage would be attackers away from your retreat. You may even need the capability of pursuing a defeated foe to discourage subsequent incursions by the same or a related enemy.  There is no substitute for knowing your area intimately.

Your enemy may need to forage for food and supplies and that is a weakness that can be exploited. You may be able to starve him out of your area or he may have to divide his forces to canvass your area thoroughly and thereby give you the opportunity to defeat parts of his divided force. Traditionally raiders were slowed  when they  weighed themselves down with booty. This presents opportunity for ambush.  Defeat can be a learning  experience so be careful not to try the same tactic twice on a surviving enemy force.  

The best plan would include provision for later in the aftermath of disaster. After the thaw, watch out for the flies.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

I wanted offer some praise to J.J.S. and is thorough submission titled Heating with Wood 101. I'm following his lead and wanted to offer your readers some additional ideas on wood processing with some stealth after TSHTF. Running a 50cc chainsaw and a 34-ton log splitter is all fine and dandy when there's no one around meaning to do you any harm but its completely inappropriate in a TEOTWAWKI situation. If you are lucky enough to have a renewable energy source its advisable to switch to electrical tools because they are so quiet. Either of the big box stores carry electric chainsaws and electric, 5-ton log splitters at reasonable prices. I've also found that they have a semi-professional grade chain sharpener that'll make the teeth on your chain look like a mirror when sharpened. While the 5 ton splitter isn't going to split 3 foot diameter pine trees like a gas one will, it will go through the same wood once you quarter it with a maul. Just add a bit of oil to the maul on the splitter and it'll do just fine. Here are quick links to the three products I recommend:

Regards, - Gilpin Guy

JWR Replies: I appreciate your advice, but the brands that you mentioned are mostly made in mainland China. (See my many admonitions about China's laogui prison factories.)

The WORX brand tools and their batteries are all made in China. One alternative: I have a Makita 14-inch electric chain saw, and I've been quite happy with it. To the best of my knowledge, those are still made in Japan.

The Task Force brand tools (a house brand of Lowe's) are also imported. Many of those come from China. An American-made alternative that is more powerful (16-tons of force) is produced by Ramsplitter. As electric splitters go, these are fast and powerful. Another American-made electric splitter is the 10-ton dual-action splitter made by DR. Unlike a typical gas engine splitter, most electric splitters cannot be heard from more than a short distance away.

The Buffalo Tools brand products are made in China. An excellent American-made alternative is made by Silvey. Unlike the cheap imported chain grinders, these cut a precision square notch.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Back in 1979 I found myself in facing a hurricane by the name of Frederic. It had Mobile, Alabama in its cross-hairs. The category three hurricane made landfall on September 12. I did not take the warnings seriously and unfortunately there was little to no preparation made on my part. I barely had a quarter of a tank of gas in my car. I did not have a battery operated radio or a flashlight. There was some non perishable food in my pantry and a small amount of food in the fridge. I was basically like most folks, ill prepared and not taking the warnings seriously.

When hurricane Frederic finally made landfall it did not take long for the power to go off. The winds were fierce and seemed relentless throughout the night. It was pretty eerie. There really wasn't much you could do except wait for it to end. The winds were estimated to be anywhere from 111 to 130 mph. Power lines and trees were down all over the city making some roads impassable. Most of the stores had been emptied out prior to the storm. Then whatever food was left had become spoiled in the stores that did not have back up generators. Back in 1979 that was probably most of the stores. I personally had never experienced power outages on this scale. I did not anticipate the power at my home was going to be out for 22 days. The entire city looked as if a nuclear bomb had exploded. Trees were on cars and houses; debris was scattered everywhere. A curfew was imposed by  the national guard because of homes and businesses being broken into. It took several days for assistance to arrive with emergency items. And even then there were very long lines for ice and canned goods that was distributed by the national guard. Arguments broke out as people were feeling tired and frustrated. It was also hot and humid. So I avoided going because I did not want to stand in the hot sun for hours and then finding out the supplies ice or food items were exhausted.

Each night was the same in my house-dark, hot and humid. It was difficult to sleep. I did have a natural gas water heater and fortunately the gas service was never turned off. So I did not have to take cold showers although that may have helped cool me down. For a few days my neighbors shared what perishable food they had and there were several nightly cookouts until the food ran out. Afterwards I realized that I had made so many stupid mistakes. It was an extremely miserable time that I will never forget. I made a promise to myself to never get caught in that situation again. This could have been avoided with some minimal preparation. It takes a little effort  here and there to prepare.
Since Frederic I have gone through several hurricanes - most notably Ivan and Katrina. I feel I have learned some valuable lessons.

I consider myself more or less an amateur prepper. And I really mean an amateur. I don't worry about the apocalypse but more about the possibility of lengthy power outages because of hurricanes.
My motto is “Hope for the best but prepare for the worst”. From what I have read over and over is that ordinary people can emotionally break down in just a matter of days. Within a week they can get desperate and then there are those who will take from you what they do not have and if necessary they will take it by force. It could even be your neighbor.

So don’t brag about how you are preparing or what you possess and the post it for all to see on the Internet. Don’t make your supplies common knowledge. Its best to maintain silence. The dangers are not only from ordinary people who under normal conditions are law abiding citizens. There is also the criminal element already established out there and they will become emboldened in a disaster. They will not hesitate to take with force what they want and will often gather together in small or large groups.

Most of you reading this are probably like me and have a budget to consider. All of my items have been purchased slowly and I have not gone on a frenzied shopping spree. I would love to but that is not economically feasible for me. So I just started with the basics and went slowly from there. Its amazing how quickly you can accumulate your emergency inventory.

The first thing I focus on  is having an adequate supply of water. I know that water is extremely important so I keep three six gallon water jugs along with five collapsible one gallon water jugs. One of the first things I do once there is the potential for a hurricane entering the gulf of Mexico is fill up my water containers. If the storm misses I water my plants so nothing is wasted. I try to keep a minimum of six cases of bottled water on hand and rotate them. Fortunately there have not been any issues in the past regarding water contamination but just too be on the safe side I keep several life-straw water filters and a couple of bottles of polar pure water treatment. I also fill up both bathtubs and all of my sinks. Recently I discovered a nearby water stream within easy walking distance from my home. That was a great find. Remember folks water is extremely important. You can go longer without eating than you can without drinking water.

Food is my next priority. I try to keep my pantry stocked with at least a month of food such as canned goods, peanut butter, crackers, rice, beans, granola bars and dehydrated foods. I also have several #10 cans of freeze dried foods. I have not had to use any of the freeze dried foods so far and I am glad they have a 25-30 year shelf life. They can be expensive to purchase so I always look for price drops and free shipping.
The next priority is obtaining fuel for my cars and generator. As a good practice measure I always keep my gas tank topped off especially when it is at the halfway mark. You never know when you are going to get stuck in a traffic jam. In my area it is extremely important the minute a storm gets close to the Gulf of Mexico to head to the nearest gas station and not only top off your car but also fill up your gas cans. If you wait to see if your area is in the five day cone it will be too late. When that happens everyone panics and heads to the gas station. Then the stations start running out of gas. Then there are some who will only accept cash. So its good to keep some cash on hand for the unforeseen emergencies. I keep several five gallon gas cans and fill them up at the early stages of a potential tropical storm.
If the storm doesn't materialize I just put the gas back in my cars. Additionally I have a small generator to keep my refrigerator running for at least two to three days.

Its prudent to have a supply of AA, AAA, C, D, and 9 volt VDC batteries. I also have several battery/solar powered radios. I keep a wind up watch in my emergency prep pack. Recently I discovered a new product by a company called WakaWaka. Yes it is a funny name. The product is a solar powered light with a phone charger. It works well. You can  charge them with 8 hours of sunlight or with a micro USB charger. My kindle charger will charge it. The solar light has several settings of brightness and even includes an SOS flashing light. I have used this to fully charge my iPhone and in less than two hours with plenty of power left for a light you can use to read by. On the lowest light setting it is estimated to last 100+ hours.

I started making an inventory of my emergency items and this way you can see what you have or what you need to replenish. I keep my items in a backpack and a rolling canvas bag. The items are duct tape, Para-cord with various lengths, a snakebite kit, hatchet, 15" knife, 18" machete, hiking shoes, solar link radio, binoculars, first aid kit, machete, manual can opener, rain ponchos, tarp, wet fire starting tinder, blast match fire starter, soap, toilet paper, spork eating utensil, haululite ketalist tea kettle, outdoor 10" fry pan, siphon pump, emergency tent, emergency blankets, nine volt battery with steel wool-you can easily start a fire with these two items, and various camping cookware. I have learned it takes some practice to master using the fire starters. I try to practice at least once a month starting a fire and either boiling water or cooking on my ember-lit stove. The ember-lit stove is really amazing. Its very light and packs up compactly. It only requires twigs and small branches for fuel.

I also have a charcoal grill as a back up to our gas stove. I have a camp stove coffee maker so I can start my mornings with my caffeine fix. It's good to learn how to use your emergency equipment when there is no emergency rather than to wait until there is one. I keep a baggie by the dryer and put the dryer lint in it. Using a fire starter just place some dryer lint under the twigs and it doesn't take much of a spark to get started. And on windy days I take a toilet tissue holder and put the lint inside and you can easily get a fire started this way.
All of my important papers are kept in a fireproof/ waterproof safe. I learned about storing items the hard way. I had a fireproof safe and discovered that you must also make sure is waterproof. I lost several documents because of this oversight.

I keep my ammunition stored in watertight ammo cans. I have collected a number of flashlights and lanterns over the years. I keep small flashlights and lanterns throughout my home and garage. That way there is always light easily within reach. I have a corded phone stored in my emergency kit as I have had problems with spotty cell phone usage during and after hurricanes. For some reason land-line phones have always worked.
An alarm company representative made some suggestions regarding safety in the home. He recommended hinging my doors so they open outward making it difficult for hurricane force  winds or humans to force the doors inward. Although my front door does open inward I brace it at night with a buddy bar. That prevents someone from kicking the door in with one swift kick. With the buddy bar it takes a number of kicks and of course a lot of noise so you are not caught so quickly off guard. I also have shutters on every inside window for privacy and it also helps keep cooling costs down and limits what outsiders can see at night if you have lights on.
Because of a recommendation from a local contractor I decided to use spray foam in my attic instead of the traditional cellulose insulation. Even in the hottest month my attic is never more than 84 degrees. When the power is out my home should not heat up like most houses.

I recently installed a battery-operated wireless detector alerting me if anyone walks up my driveway to the back of my home.
Anyway these are some steps I have taken and I hope this has been a helpful read for you. All of my purchases have taken me years to accumulate what I currently have. There is still much work to do. But instead of thinking of what I did not have and get overwhelmed I simply started with small steps.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The 'information' provided to you by Jennifer is false.  Please consider these:
The Pit Bull (a combination of four breeds: American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American bulldog and any other pure bred or mixed breed dog that is a combination of these dogs) has it's reputation as a dangerous breed for a reason.  Since 1851 there has not been any decade in which pit bulls did not account for at least 50% of dog related human fatalities.  For the past 30 years pit bulls have account for 65% of human maulings and deaths, fairly consistently, even though pit bulls account for less than 5% of the US dog population.
The pit bull advocacy movement, of which Jennifer is surely a part, is a well funded lobbying group which has overrun the ASPCA and Humane Society with people who ignore the facts of this breed.  Here is a more accurate fact statement.
Pit bull myths
Pit bull 'personality'
The ATTS test
"Pit bulls are not a risk to children":   The actuarial risk of a child being killed by a pit bull in the same house is approximately equal to a child being killed in a house with a loaded firearm; even though 50 million houses have firearms and only 3 million houses have pit bulls. 
You are clearly an intelligent man and if you take a little time and look at the links I've provided with the opinions of doctors in canine behavior and veterinary medicine, and actual real statistics I know you will see the tricks Jennifer is trying to pull.  Pit Bull owners and breeders are notorious for 'fudging the truth about their dogs, especially to themselves.

Regards, - Kathryn D.

James Wesley:
Readers should be aware that some states (like mine) now have laws on the books that could get you charged with a felony. If your Pitbull injures someone enough to require hospitalization, you could be charged. In my mind not worth the trouble with other breeds being off the radar. - Debra B.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I'm a chronic worrier. However, over the years, I've learned (at least I think I have) to put my worries in some sort of priority. Like most Americans, I worry about making ends meet each month - there usually is more month, than there is money - we try our best to work around it, with our limited funds. Whenever I hear a noise under the hood of my car, I start to worry, and make an appointment with my mechanic to check it out - more often than not, it's nothing that needs immediate attention. The "Check Engine" light on my wife's car drives me mad - whatever it is, the mechanic can't figure it out.
I used to worry about the End Of The World stuff - however, I've long since put that in the back of my mind. Any more, as I mentioned, I try to prioritize my worries - if that is even possible. I don't have money to build an underground bunker, that will survive a nuke attack, and even if I did, I'd probably worry that I wouldn't be near it when the flag went up. Having lived many years in Chicago - before I wised-up and moved from there in 1979 - I worried about break-ins - and for good reason - I shot a burglar who broke into my house once. These days, I don't have those worries, as I have a pack of German Shepherds protecting my homestead, and I live in a rural area - not as many worries about break-ins these days - although they do happen, even in rural communities.
So, as you can see, I worry about many things, but try to prepare myself and my family, as best I can, for some things that I have a little control over - like having a food reserve - just in case! We are prepared, as best we can be, on our limited budget, for a lot of contingencies - and I don't worry about things I have no control over, or things I can't prepare for - like an EMP attack. I'm sure most SurvivalBlog readers know that EMP stands for Electromagnetic Pulse, and that is a super-charge of electrical power that can knock out a power grid - in a large area - as in the entire USA, if a nuke bomb is exploded in just the right area above the earth. This is something I have no control, and I honestly don't know what I could do, on my budget, to fully prepare for such an event.
I was fascinated to hear about the new EMP Locking System offered by Cannon Gun Safes. I know a lot of gun owners, especially in big cities, who have more than a few firearms, wisely store them in some type of gun safe - and I'm not talking about those little cheap gun cabinets, that only make it easy for someone to carry off all your guns at once - I'm talking about real gun vaults - that weight 500-700 pounds empty! It would take a profession safe cracker to get into one of these gun vaults - so it is logical that many folks, who have a lot of firearms, keep them safely stored in these safes - a good idea, to an extent!
Many of the big gun safes these days come with an electronic keypad combination - which means, they are connected to a battery - an electrical device (battery) - for easy-opening of the safe. I have to admit, the electronic locking systems are much faster than the old-style dial combination locks - I know a little something about these things, as I once took a locksmithing course - so I'm familiar with various locks. I think a lot of folks like the electronic locks because I've seen many gun owners trying to open their gun safes with the dial locks, and more often than not, the first time, they miss aligning the numbers on the dial, and have to start all over again.
Cannon Gun Safes, has been around a long, long time, and they have some of the best gun vaults on the market in my humble opinion. However, someone decided to think outside the box, and I always like that, and came up with an idea that allows owners of some of their gun safes (not all have this feature) that have electronic combinations on them, to be opened using a dial, in the event of an EMP attack, and the electronics in the combination can't be opened. To be honest, I don't think anyone knows the full effect of am EMP attack - as to what will be knocked out and what won't, or for that matter, how long electronic devices won't work - or if they will be permanently disabled.
I don't own a Cannon Gun Safe - wish I did! However, if I did, I'd select a model with the new EMP Locking System - just in case, an EMP attack knocked out the electronic lock. The kind folks at Cannon sent me a sample of their new EMP Locking System to test - "no" they didn't send me a complete gun safe, just the locking system, that I could examine and play with. I also showed it to some other gun owners who have gun safes, and they found it very easy to learn, and thought it was an outstanding idea - and asked if Cannon will be providing this on all their gun safes in the future - the answer is probably not.
One of the advantages of the electronic locking systems, is the ease of opening your gun safe every day - only takes a very few seconds to punch in the combination and your safe is unlocked - great when you are opening your gun safe everyday. I can appreciate electronic locks - just tap in the number and you're ready to open the safe for immediate access. However, what if there was an EMP attack, and it knocked out your electronic keypad? I guess you'd have to find a locksmith who could open your safe - and they are few and far between, who have this skill (I don't) or get a cutting torch out and hope you can cut the hinges or lock and get access to your firearms that way - neither is a quick or easy answer to this problem, especially if you need your guns ASAP!
From the Press Release from Cannon: "The long-term advantage of the mechanical lock is that is is impervious to power outages. In the event of an EMP or any disaster that prevents the owner from getting new batteries or the electronic lock - the manual dial on the EMP Lock will still provide access to the contents inside." So if there is an EMP attack, and your electronic lock is fried, or the battery that operates it is dead, you can still use the dial on the lock to open your gun safe. I think this is an outstanding idea, and one to be copied by many gun safe makers in the future.
One thing worth mentioning is that, Cannon is the only safe company to offer a lifetime, hassle-free, zero cost warranty on their safes. If a customer's safe is ever damaged due to fire, natural floods, burglary, etc., Cannon will cover all costs including locksmithing, freight, parts, etc., to repair or replace your safe - even if you are not the original owner! How's that for a no-nonsense warranty?
So, if you are in the market for a new gun safe, take a close look at the Cannon; Armory, Cannon and Commander safes being made in 2013, that offer the EMP Locking System - I think it would be a worthy investment, just in case you are a worrier like I am - this is one less worry you'll have - you can still access your locked firearms, in the event of an EMP attack, that will leave other gun owners scratching their heads, as to how they are going to get their electronically locked gun safes open. Have peace of mind! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Hello. As an American Pit Bull Terrier (APBT) owner, I felt compelled to address the inaccurate information in the post titled, The K9 Question. Since the reputation of the ‘pit bull’ type dog has been shredded by the media and various myths, I ask that the information be corrected.
The post states; “On the other hand, if children are not necessarily a consideration and your needs are for a one purpose guard dog you might decide on one of the BULL TERRIER breeds commonly referred to as Pit Bulls.  They are easy to find.  Every dog shelter is overflowing with them because they can be difficult to train for the novice due to their stubborn, bull headedness.  But for the right individual they can be a loyal and fearless companion.”
There are several mistakes in this paragraph. First of all, the generic term ‘pitbull’ commonly refers to two breeds, the American Pitbull Terrier, and the American Staffordshire Terrier. The Bull Terrier and American Bulldog often get mistaken for ‘pitbulls’ but are separate breeds with separate temperament types and working skills.
Next, the American Pitbull Terrier is not a risk to children, any more than any other breed. The ‘pitbull’ temperament is friendly and loving to humans, although they may be aggressive to other dogs. A properly socialized ‘pitbull’ is friendly, outgoing, and does not make a good guard dog.  I think mine would give away the television for a pat on the head, she loves everyone. According to temperament testing done by the American Temperament Testing Society, American Pitbull Terriers pass with at a rate of 86.4%, while Golden Retrievers passed at a rate of 85.2%, and German Shepherds at 84.8%.
Finally, they are no harder to train than any other breed, and many APBTs are Canine Good Citizens,  serving as therapy dogs, drug detection dogs, and are world class dog athletes. They are a high energy breed that needs owners who are committed to proper training, socialization, exercise, and the restoration of the breed’s reputation. It is my opinion that the only value an APBT would have as a guard dog is based solely on the misrepresentation of the breed in the media and the myths associated with the breed. If you are looking for a true guard dog please consider getting a guardian breed like a German Shepard and do not get an APBT.
Here are a few links to back up my information:

Thank you for your time. Sincerely, - Jennifer L.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

We won’t be talking about the family dog here. The family dog, to most households is quite often an undisputed, full-fledged member of the family.  In some cases “Fufu” or “Spot” is treated better than some family members. Those privileged pooches will, of course, figure into these family’s doomsday scenarios and allowances will, undoubtedly, be provided for the little darlings.                                                                                   

In this article we will be discussing working dogs.  It is some Preppers’ misguided belief that acquiring a big, mean, muscle-bound ball of fur with flashing yellow teeth, straining at the end of a chain, could be an advantage in their favorite post-SHTF world.

Many Preppers either have acquired or are considering acquiring a dog for the specific purpose of employing it as  a watchdog or four-legged protector of their doomstead.  With the right balance of dog and Prepper it can be a match made in Heaven.  But if the match does not work or the training is flawed it can turn out to be just the opposite and the animal you hoped would have your back when the chips are down can be more detrimental to you and your family’s survival than the worst gang of marauding scoundrels you can imagine!  You don’t need enemies on both sides of your perimeter wire.  

It all boils down to training.  Without proper training and development of the pooch’s raw talent you cannot be confident as to what resource you will have at your disposal when you call on him to do his thing.  A well-disciplined dog can guard your wire, flush game, provide security, lift your family’s spirits, and (or) keep you warm at night.  The main thing that you must determine from the get-go is just what you will be expecting out of your pooch…what his “job” will be.  Training a dog requires just as much, or more, training of the handler.  If you do not know what you are doing how can you expect the dog to know what you want from him?

In decades past, training disciplines involved intimidation, punishment, and, in some cases, brutalizing the animal to garner the desired results.  Thank Christ we have come a long way since then.  Although some trainers still employ those age-old techniques most enlightened handlers in the professional training arena now-a-days approach the task of dog training from the “positive reinforcement and reward” side of the docket.  Dogs are like children.  If they are having fun they will work hard for you all day long.  Just don’t let them suspect that what they are doing is work.

A good dog is highly instinctive and can see 20 times better than you can at night.  He can smell or hear an intruder long before you can even imagine someone is there.  He can fight fearlessly in advance of your patrol.  He can be the best d**n point man you could hope for.   He can sniff out explosives, or, unfortunately, the bodies of your loved-ones if it comes to that.  And he will do it all for a “Scooby snack” or a couple of minutes of shared time with you and a tennis ball.  The term “man’s best friend” most literally applies, be it a lovable mutt or a well-trained working dog.
Here is where training the trainer comes into play.  The dog only has to understand what you want from him and your expectations must never waver or deviate.  Confusing or conflicting signals can return you to square one in your training regimen.  Consistency is the key.


Obviously, the younger the dog you choose the better, and do your homework.  Picking up a  rescue dog from your local animal shelter is a commendable, charitable gesture…and similar to playing an expensive game of Russian roulette with your time and hard earned money. 

Again, you have to determine what traits you want in your dog and what his job will be.  You may choose to  go with one of the smaller, feisty breeds.  If all you want is an early warning system you may choose a little yapper to alert you to trespassers or intruders.  They are easier on your stores of food and water and take up less space.

However, here we are interested in one of the more substantial breeds…dogs with predisposed traits that are specific to the breed.  The most appealing breeds for the end of civilization as we know it, are the hard working, herding breeds.

If you are looking for number one on our list and the number one desired breed by police and military around the world, the dog that ranks highest in every category is the GERMAN SHEPHERD.  Loyal and courageous, a German Shepherd will not back down in any situation, they are for the most part totally fearless.  They are intelligent and thus easy to train and anxious to please.  They are a great guard dog but in addition they are great with kids and will lay down their lives to protect their master if called on to do so.  Once the German Shepherd bonds with its owner and the owner’s family that bond is for life.  However the Shepherd needs a lot of exercise and can get bored and destructive if left alone or unattended. You cannot go wrong choosing a German Shepherd.

On the other hand, if children are not necessarily a consideration and your needs are for a one purpose guard dog you might decide on one of the BULL TERRIER breeds commonly referred to as Pit Bulls.  They are easy to find.  Every dog shelter is overflowing with them because they can be difficult to train for the novice due to their stubborn, bull headedness.  But for the right individual they can be a loyal and fearless companion.

Other breeds that require consideration…

BELGIAN MALINOIS;  Less known than the German Shepherd but in the same category Malinois are intelligent, highly-charged and obedient.  Easy to train and excellent watchdogs, a favorite of police, military, and homeland security.  They are also good with children as long as the children understand that they are herding dogs and might tend to practice their herding skills on them.  In addition they are a ball of energy and without a measure of attention can relieve their boredom by digging holes and destroying your hovel.

ROTTWEILER;  An excellent watch dog and guard dog.   Intelligent, easy to train, their reputation alone is a deterrent.  They are loyal and trustworthy and can also be good with children.

MASTIFF;  They are huge and present an intimidating presence at the door of your shelter.  They are not that easy to train due mostly to their laid-back and docile disposition.  They are excellent with children and once bonded with the family are highly protective. 

DOBERMAN PINSCHER;  Exceedingly intelligent, they may be a handful simply because they are often smarter than their trainer and being so they require a firm assertive “pack leader”.  If you establish
yourself in that role early they can be loving and excellent guard dogs.  But Dobermans are not for everyone.

Any of these or a dozen other breeds or mixes of these breeds will give you excellent service in the field when the inevitable collapse occurs and will stand by your side in the tough days to come.  Properly trained, they can save your family and those dearest to you.  What more can you ask?         


The first few days are very important. It is the time in which you to begin to create the bond that you will enjoy with your dog for the rest of your dog’s life.  Share as much time as you can with your dog just getting to know each other.  Petting, brushing, nail trimming, anything that requires hands-on participation on your part will go a long way in establishing that bond.  You should perform health checks on your dog from nose to tail daily.  These inspections can catch possible medical issues before they become serious.

Pick a quiet place, even if it is just your living room or kitchen and walk your dog around on a leash.  No commands or expectations, that will come later. 

Any food or needs that the dog has must be addressed by you personally.  Feed your dog by hand.  Everything your dog eats should come from you and you alone so that your dog begins to realize that you are, and will be from then on, his only connection with food and anything else he might need.  The goal is to get the dog dependent on you so that your dog identifies you with what he/she needs to survive.  Your dog at this point needs very few things in life; food, water, and your attention.  With these necessities coming directly from you a lifelong bond is inevitably established.

Do not attempt any command training or break the bond you have been trying to establish for the first few days.  This will be conditioning that will pay off when you enter the next phase of training.


If the following sounds repetitious welcome to the world of dog training.  You must endure daily, mind-numbing sessions of repetition with persistence and patience your mantra.  Though tedious you must keep the training fresh and fun for the dog so he does not lose interest.  Bear in mind that your goal for training is your end game.  Dogs  learn constantly, whether you are aware of it or not, both good and bad behavioral responses.  You must establish clear goals by using positive reinforcement initially to shape the pooch’s behavior.

With each lesson learned your dog will become more enthusiastic at the progress he has made and you will find, in turn, that the same will apply to you.  There is nothing more gratifying than that “light bulb” moment when your pooch “Gets it”.  What a joy for you as well as Fido. 

Never punish a dog unless you are  100% sure that the dog knows what you expected of him, why he is being punished, and that his acting up or failing to respond to your commands was a no-no.  Just because he performed the activity correctly a few times does not mean he is sufficiently imprinted with the command that you should expect a positive result every single time.

Never give a command to your dog unless you are willing and ready to reward or punish your him for his response.  Again, consistency.  Do your research and understand classic conditioning and positive reinforcement techniques.  Remember, in the world of dog training, as every other arena of life, experts abound and opinions on training dogs are like elbows, everybody has their own.  It is, unfortunately, up to you to sort out what you are comfortable with and what best applies to you and your own dog.

It is best to use commands or verbal queues in a language other than the one your dog hears around him and that you and your family use constantly in your everyday life.  Example, if English is your native tongue, give your commands in German, Dutch, or perhaps French insuring those commands do not become lost in the “white noise” of normal, daily conversation. Without commands earmarked specifically for your dog the pooch may become confused or ignore you all together unable to sort out your commands from your family’s everyday babble.


With the previous accomplished you can begin to proof your dog’s training by walking him on a lead until he is comfortable with you.  Then move your pooch’s training to a variety of different locations involving distractions your dog will have to learn to face in his daily routine.  Your dog will not be
working in a vacuum.  He must become accustomed to the hustle and bustle of everyday life and
still stay on mission despite those distractions.


When proofing behaviors learned in these different environments you should only work on one of the following at a time, difficulty, distance, duration and distraction.  For example if you want to teach your dog to “stay” longer (duration), ease up on the other three “Ds”.  Concentrate on one discipline at a time keeping the distraction level to a minimum.  You may want to return to the kitchen his safe, familiar environment, until he begins to respond in a positive manner regarding the lesson at hand.  Concentrating on one “D” at a time.

During this time you need to move closer than normal and start with an easier command in the beginning.  Give your dog a “lay down” command instead of a “stand” command.  With the “lay down” command your dog will be more stable than with the “stand command” and the dog won’t have a tendency to creep towards you in his excitement. 

Once your dog understands a sufficient number of queued behaviors introduce some real life scenarios.  Dogs, for the most part, associate very well and the time spent will be invaluable. 


Even after “the Event”, we all know is coming with the certainty of a run-a-way freight train, an unsocialized dog can give you a measure of grief that will only complicate an already stressed out existence and will be an  unnecessary contaminant to your daily struggle.  You cannot have your dog tearing up the neighbor’s dog or worse, eating his children.  That’s just not being a  good neighbor in any sense of the word.  Some people use “socialization”, our expert prefers the word neutralization instead because you will want your dog to pay strict attention to you and your commands exclusively and view at the world through your eyes and your eyes only.  Your dog must focus on you first and view other dogs, people, or any number of distractions as if they are a tree in their environment until you tell the dog differently.

Considering bite work, our expert recommends attending one of the many protection sport clubs, such as Schutzhund, French Ring, Mondio Ring, Belgian Ring and the like.  These protection sport clubs have very experienced decoys/helpers who, for minimal fee, will assist you in training your dog in the necessary bite work scenarios.  Our expert tends to discourage the use of so called protection trainers that many of you might have become aware of.  Any doofus can hang out a shingle as an “expert” dog trainer.  You need to really do your homework.  If they are not willing to give you a list of half a dozen satisfied customers, steer clear.  Your pocket book will thank you.

Remember a poor trainer can do irreversible damage to your dog’s development if he does not know what he is doing.  A good portion of these protection dog training “experts” are only in it for the money and decades behind the sport club individuals who are more likely in the business for the love of the work. 

Note:  You can start you puppies out with drag rags but be careful and discontinue all bite training when the puppy is teething.


This can be tricky.  Do not try to “bully” your pooch by simply staking him out and  bombarding him with gunfire thinking he will eventually become immune to the noise. 

The natural instincts of any living creature is to run away and avoid stressful or dangerous situations.  Loud noises equal a threat so your dog will naturally avoid gunfire.  Remember, a dog’s hearing is more acute than a human’s.  Loud noises hurt their ears far more than they do yours and yet you use ear protection.  Never giving a second thought to your dog’s hearing is amateurish and stupid.  In other words, a bad idea.

Get a second individual to take a weapon a good distance away from the dog to discharge it.  Then over a matter of time slowly move closer.  Rewarding him with a snack for each positive reaction.  When your dog emotes signs that the gunfire is beginning to stress him out, end the session for the day.  We use food rather than a toy to determine if the dog is stressed because the dog will, often,  still play with the toy when stressed taking out his anxiety on the toy.  A dog, however, will more likely refuse to eat if stressed.  An excellent indicator of his mental condition at the time.

Familiarizing your pooch with loud noises, his baptism by fire, should not be rushed.  You probably go to the gun range on a regular basis to hone your own skills.  Park a distance away, then move closer each time, do not rush it.  Soon your pooch will be able to initiate  your commands, in spite of distracting gunfire.  This will be essential in a post-apocalyptic world.  You cannot expect your dog to fearlessly charge a gun-wielding intruder if he has never been exposed to the shocking reality of a discharging firearm.


So you see, you are not going to be able to go out and buy a dog, stick him on a chain at your compound entrance, totally ignore him, and expect him to perform like a champ…it  ain’t gonna happen, Spunky!

Having a highly trained security dog can be a blessing when this house of cards comes tumbling down around us.  But an untrained animal devouring your time and your resources is a burden you do not need.  If you are incapable of training your animal there are qualified training centers where professional dog trainers can do the job for you.  But you must understand, hiring out does not come cheap.  And when you get your dog back from the facility you should not consider him trained, period.

I recommend that if you employ a professional to accompany you and your dog and participate in the training.  The professional’s advice can help you smooth out your pooch’s rough edges.  This will help you with sustainment activities and continue to build your knowledge base to trouble shoot any possible problems.  Your dog is not a finished product like a new car fresh off the showroom floor, all shiny and new.  Training and reinforcing the training your dog has already received is essential for the entire time that you expect your pooch to deliver imprinted responses to given situations.
If the foregoing has not deterred you from moving forward with your dream of having a tough-as-nails first responder in a fur coat standing loyally by your side…have at it.  It can be the best or perhaps the worse decision of your life!  The outcome is up to you.
Our expert sums it up this way,  “If all you have is a big stupid animal eating up your food, drinking your water (and, make no mistake a big dog requires a lot of water), and contributing nothing to your family’s survival, you may as well have a cow.  They taste better when the time comes that you have to eat them.”

Very special thanks to an expert in the field, MSG Torrin J. Lomax (U.S. Special Forces, retired), dog trainer/handler extraordinaire!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

I have a question that maybe you or the readers and contributors of Survivalblog can help on:

Relocation of residence from one State to another (for example in my case - from New Hampshire to South Carolina) - and transport of ammunition and smokeless reloading powder and primers.

The commercial Moving Companies, or using the "PODS" self-packed units all seem to prohibit their transporting any "Hazardous" materials such as reloading powder and primers, and Ammunition.

My Question is in regards to the best way to get a somewhat substantial collection and accumulation  of Ammunition moved InterState ?  We're probably talking several thousand pounds, such as multiple cases of "spam cans" of 7.62x45 and other calibers.

I originally thought I could rent a "PODS" transport/storage unit, get it delivered to my house, and pack it myself, so that no one but I know the POD contents. However, reading the rules of the PODS agreement, this type of material does not appear to be allowed.

What is the Solution to get a large quantity of Ammo moved to the new residence. Selling it and purchasing new replacement after the move is out of the question in these days and times, as the lack of availability and price or replacement is out of the question.

Rent a U-Haul truck or Trailer and pack it myself and  transport myself ?  
Invest in a Truck that can haul a trailer and haul it myself this way , in probably multiple trips ?

Are there any laws to be concerned with driving a vehicle through States like New York and New Jersey with a load of this type ?

Any thoughts you may have on this problem will be appreciated ! Thanks, - "HikerLT"

JWR Replies: I'm sure that some readers will want to chime in, but in essence the only safe and secure way to transport your ammo is to transport it yourself, with a rental truck.When transport valuables, if the distance requires an overnight stay, I always pick a small "mom and pop" one -storey motel and ask for a room where I can back the truck up directly outside the motel room's window. Also, see the SurvivalBlog archives about the merits of high security "hockey puck"padlocks.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Hello James,
I read your blog every day and enjoy finding information that is useful. Recently a posting discussed the use of the 5.56 mm NATO bullet and its poor performance in penetrating automobiles.
I took notice of this information about the penetrating power or lack of penetrating power of the 5.56 in relation to single and double barriers.

We moved onto our five acres of land nine years ago. One of the first building projects was to have a contractor installed tornado shelter set in the ground. Then over the next two years I added a 16’x20’x50” high system of concrete walls around the opening to the tornado shelter. I added baffled entrances and a sturdy roof. The concrete walls are 7 inches thick on the bottom and taper to 5 inches at the top.
I designed this kind of wall to get the greatest thickness on the bottom where any residual radioactive might collect on the ground.

On top of the concrete walls is a 24” tall wooden wall with screened openings 7” along the three sides away from the embankment. The insides of these walls are stacked with bricks to increase the personal protection factor (PFC) against radiation and perhaps the penetration of bullets, slugs and shot.

We have electricity and water in the bunker. The roof has survived a single impact of large hail that we measured at 3.25 inches in diameter. Thankfully we had this hail only fall for 30 seconds and it was spread out widely on the property. One of these large hail stones penetrated completely through our house roof. But I had sheeted the roof of the bunker with 3/4 inch plywood. We call this structure our "Weather Bunker."
I have proceeded to attempt to harden it against weather and other possibilities. The south side of the weather bunker is protected by setting 9 to 11 foot tall discarded electric line poles along the roof edge. They average 8 to 11 inches thick and extend up to the roof ridge in height. I get these discarded poles from the local electric company. The north side and part of the east side are protected by a row of railroad timbers set on end creating a wall. These are for breaking the wind and protecting the shingles on the roof. However they do present an initial barrier for bullets, slugs and shot before coming to the concrete wall. We have a 350 gallon water tank on the north side that sets outside. This barrier protects it from visual observation and perhaps from penetration from light firearms.
The weakest part of the structure are the two doors made of 2x4’s and 5/8” plywood.
Recently we replaced our heat pump and the contractor left the old unit. During the disassembly I discovered that the outside was made up of two louvered rectangular units curved around to encase the unit. They laid out nearly flat when removed. They are good heavy steel units. After measuring I mounted these plates on the outside of the two doors. I now have a louvered steel plate plus two layers of 5/8” plywood on my doors. We will be visiting the contractor who did the installation looking for two more from discarded units for the inside of the doors.
As I read this article about penetration of the 5.56mm NATO I realized that the addition of these louvered plates was the correct thing to do.
We are both 72 years of age. Unless there are some really severe mitigating circumstances we will not be leaving this place if all hell breaks loose. This place is our lifeboat. But we are surrounded by hundreds of acres of range land. Some of which is very rough hilly land covered in sandhill plum brush, sages brush and some shinnery oak. The larger draws support a surprising growth of larger trees.

We have developed rally points close and far. Under certain conditions if we were forced to take to the land we have an environmental set of conditions in which we could hide. We have one ATV to use for transport locally in the rough land. As a last resort we have two pneumatic four tired garden carts that could be pulled. If the situation deteriorates we plan to buy another ATV of some sort quickly.
We have had to adjust our outlook recently. My wife had a mild non-debilitating heart attack last year. She is back to normal now. I appear to be recovering from Leukemia after diagnosis in January. Time will tell us how our health is and time will mark the requirements for our survival.
My thesis for this note is this: you should consider these louvered air conditioner plates as additional potential barriers for doors, windows and walls. They should be available if you can find the contractor who has a junk yard full of old units.
Secondly consider using railroad ties or discarded electric line poles for barriers around your retreat or home. Don’t forget to put a barrier around your outdoor privy area. Nobody wants to get shot with their pants down.

From the red hills of western Oklahoma and America’s most secret redoubt. - Joe C.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Todd Savage of Survival Retreat Consulting is developing two secure storage projects in the American Redoubt--one in north Idaho and one in Northwestern Montana. The facilities will give private members access to several storage options to store their preparedness gear until they can relocate. The undisclosed locations will feature various sizes of climate controlled vaults and safe rooms, featuring underground bunker construction and redundant security features. These facility can eliminate a prepper's quandary: having all their crucial preps stored in one location with no ability to move it to their safe haven quickly.

A retrofitted facility should be available for occupancy in September of 2013 and a larger newly-constructed facility should be available for storage in August of 2014. These facilities will be bonded. For security reasons, the exact locations of the facilities will only be revealed to clients once they have signed a contract. These high end security and climate-controlled units will cost more monthly than typical commercial storage spaces. (Which are typically not climate controlled and offer only marginal security in locations that are widely known to the public.)

If you have interest in short or long term secure storage options for some of your gear, then please contact Todd Savage through his web site. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

I recently ordered and read the book Resistance to Tyranny: A Primer. This book was published in the last few years, and therefore is quite modern and an excellent companion to Total Resistance by Major H. Von Dach. As a primer, it provides a general overview of the topic, with listed resources for further research. It has many lessons that I believe would be applicable to a TEOTWAWAKI situation.

God Bless, - Andrew M.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

I will be writing a series of articles for SurvivalBlog that focus on prepping aspects, but with a military mindset. I will say first and foremost that I am not the definitive expert on these subjects, though I do have a wealth of experience that I would like to share. First, I am an Infantryman by trade. I have served in Iraq during the surge and also Afghanistan. I have been a Rifle Team Leader and Squad Leader in combat. . Additionally, I spent 3 years as the opposing force applying guerilla tactics against units who were deploying overseas to combat. I have seen when good doctrine and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) work perfectly and also when they have not. One of the defining characteristics of war is chaos. TTPs are the counterweight to this chaos. From the moment combat begins, plans often become obsolete, communications fail, Soldiers become casualties, and units fragment. The result can be devastating. I have served in Light Infantry and Airborne Infantry Units. So my views and opinions will be with that mentality. There are other types of Infantry Units that choose to skin the cat differently. It doesn’t make them wrong just a different flavor of soda.

The first topic I will write about is some factors to plan for when bugging out. From reading these and other forums a lot of people seem to have the same plan to one degree or another; through on a bug out bag and start walking. Sadly, most of those people will find themselves dead. So I will discuss several military doctrines and TTPs that will aid them in this endeavor. Any bug out must be planned out thoroughly and elaborately, this doesn’t mean that your plan must be elaborate, but that you must cover all the angles. There are six planning or assessment factors that can save your life. In the Infantry world everything we do is based on the acronym METT-TC and without knowing it all of us use this tool hundreds of times a day, just not in this deliberate thought process. METT-TC stands for Mission, Enemy, Terrain, Troops, Time, and Civilians. Some or all of these play key factors in operations and planning. You must begin to think of your bug out as an operation, not just a stroll from one place to another. I will elaborate and explain each factor:

Mission, this is what I am planning or currently doing or my desired end state.  This will dictate a large majority of your initial actions based off of what your mission is. It is critical that all members of your party understand the mission to the lowest level and also what each member’s piece of the mission is. The reason for this is should something happen to a member of your party someone else will have to fill in on that role and they must know what that role is. A term we use in the military is two down, one up. This means I will know the job one echelon above me and two below me. It is also a good idea to know the job to the left and right of you. This mean that when you look to the left and right of you, you should know the job of the person you see and that they should know the same. As stated above, my mission will dictate most of my principle actions if I am bugging out. For instance, if I am bugging out it is implied that I want to try to remain hidden until I can get out of built up or urban areas as much as possible. For example, its hit the fan and I need to get to from point A (an unsafe location) to point (my bug in location or link up point with family or friends). So if I come across a group of people I will shy away from them and try to stay out of eyesight, smell, and hearing distance of them.

Enemy, this should be considered everyone that you come across. In a bug out situation there are the haves and the have not’s. You have and should consider that they do not and want what you have. The general rule of thumb is that for every one enemy I encounter, I want to have three friendly personnel. So if I come across two people I would want to have five other people with me. This will give me the odds that I want so that it will deter them from trying anything and if it should become hostile I can either disarm them or have enough fire power that I can put on them so that they cannot shoot back at me without being killed. This ratio of 3:1 can change based off several factors. Such as: weapon systems, improvements made to their fighting position and finally, the training and expertise of both your group and theirs.

Terrain is one of the most important factors, so much so that it gets it own acronym of factors that you should plan according to. That acronym is OAKOC. This stands for obstacles, avenues of approach, key and decisive terrain, observation and fields of fire, cover and concealment.

  • Obstacles- These will limit your mobility with regards to your mission. These obstacles can be natural or main made.  These may include ravines, gaps, or ditches over 3-meters wide; tree stumps and large rocks over 18-inches high; forests with trees 8 inches or greater in diameter and with less than 4 meters between trees; and manmade obstacles such as towns or cities.
  • Avenues of approach- An avenue of approach is a route leading to an objective or key terrain. Put plainly, it’s a path that might lead people to you or you to people. You should also consider how large of a group can travel on these and also if it is accessible to vehicles. These may also be lines of drift which are paths that are natural or formed by animals. These should be avoided because if you were to come across someone if would most likely be on one of these.
  • Key and decisive terrain- Are terrain that affords a marked advantage to the combatant who seizes, retains, or controls it. Simply put it is terrain that I can use to ones advantage such as a hill top to look at others below them, or it can even be a bridge that I can use to control who gets to cross a river. Or if they should want to use it to attack them as others cross. They will be channelized on the bridge and limited in the space that they can maneuver. The bridge then becomes key terrain because it gives them an advantage over their opposition.
  • Observation and fields of fire- You should analyze areas surrounding key terrain, objectives, avenues of approach, and obstacles to determine if they provide clear observation and fields of fire for both friendly and enemy forces. This means that I should be concerned with being able to see the other people from my key terrain, avenues of approach and more specifically not only that I can see them but can I shoot at them from that location if need be.
  • Cover and Concealment- Cover is protection from being shot at, this can be sand bags or trees over 8” in diameter. Concrete blocks such as ones used in building can be used but only if they are filled with cement. A standard concrete block will do little to nothing to stop a bullet. Concealment is protection from observation but not from bullets.  Such as foliage, camouflage patterns, terrain. Cover can be concealment but concealment cannot be cover.

Troops are the next planning or assessment factor. This is solely concerned with the troops that you have with you and questions like: What kind of training for they have? How physically fit are they? How confident are you in their ability to complete a task? And do you even have enough of them to complete your task? This is all about knowing your men or women in your group and being able to honestly consider their capabilities. Just going to a range and shooting at a target 25 meters away does not mean that they will be able to shoot, move and communicate or that they have the proficiency to defend against hungry and crazed people who want to take what you have.

Time is the amount of time you have to accomplish your task, in bugging out this may be one of the most critical factors. Have you bugged out in time? Also it is used in planning considerations such as how long it will take you to bug out to your location. How much food and water should you bring? What time of the day will you travel? Night time travel will greatly slow down the time it takes for you to negotiate more difficult terrain.

 Civilians will be a harder factor to assess for, this because there will be so many. Especially, in an urban environment. Needless to say since there could possibly be so many of them it would be in your best interest to stay away from them and consider them hostile until you can determine otherwise.

This was just a brief overview of one aspect to military planning. It only brushes the surface but I hope that it will give you a different perspective to your bugging out plans.  You must be methodical and calculated in your plans. Know where to assume some risk and where to control it.

Part 2 of this article will be on principles to use when planning your actual bug out movement. After that I plan to discuss more tactically-based topics that I have learned from combat and training.

Hi Jim,
To follow up on this discussion, another good publication to study guerilla and counter-guerilla warfare is the book Total Resistance by Major H. Von Dach.

Although the publication was written in the 1960s and concerns Swiss plans for dealing with a Soviet invasion, I believe it has quite a bit of information that is directly useful, or which could be easily updated, for use in today's world. I'm not sure that the English-language version is still in print, but used copies can be found. - J.B. and Co.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

James Wesley,
A few days ago I called a local businessman about doing some work on our water well pump.  I also asked him his advice about the possibility of later installing a manual water pump along with the electric pump.  He then began to tell me that he was at that very moment installing a manual pump for another person.  His words though were “for one of these preppers.”  He said, “I guess he’s worried about a zombie attack or something.”  This short interaction made me think about a few things that I would like to pass on.

1.  That man had no business telling me what someone else wanted on their property, especially in the way he did. 
I see it as a lack of integrity to categorize in a negative way a paying customer to a person you are talking to on the phone (that he had never met before).  When you do business with someone regarding your preparation for the future, take their integrity into account. 

2.  While this “prepper” should have remained anonymous and unmentioned to me, his downfall was obviously that he told too much about himself to the ‘well man.” 
We all like to make small talk.  Be careful though of telling too much about yourself to others, especially strangers you will only see once or twice.  After I heard what he said about the “prepper,” I just told him that I wanted one because when electric goes out occasionally it would be nice to have access to water.  Even that’s more than he really needed to know.

3.  This man who is a “prepper” is now thought of negatively by the “well man.”
Is it right that the “well man” now has judged the “prepper” for what he prepares for? No, it is not.  But it doesn’t change the facts.  I do not believe in being a man pleaser by any means; but also, much can said about saying as little as possible about yourself.  For instance - Proverbs 17:28Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”  Is the “well man” wrong? – yes.  Will that ever occur to him? – No.

4.  If the “well man” told me about the prepper, who else has he told?
In small communities, word spreads fast.  And yes, men gossip just as much as women, if not more.

5.  When times get tough, the “well man” will remember the “prepper.”
Even though the “well man” thinks preppers are crazy, where do you think he will go when his wife and kids are hungry, dirty, and tired?  Will he come in kindness?  Will he come to take in survival?  We can only speculate.  But he will remember the “prepper.”

Prepping has become cool and trendy for many.  They like to show off what they have and what they know.  That may be fine if they don’t know where to find you, but not if they do.  This makes me think of 2 Kings 20:12-18.  Here, King Hezekiah was proud and showed all of his kingdom to representatives from Babylon.  He did not give God the glory for it.  The prophet Isaiah told him that all would be lost to the Babylonians one day.  Be careful who you take into your confidence. 

Another analogy comes to mind which is far less spiritual or Biblical.  In the old “Muppet Movie,” as Kermit The Frog and Fozzie are traveling to Hollywood they stop at the old church and meet the band.  When they leave and ask Doc if he wants to come along, he declines, but adds “Maybe some day when you're rich and famous, we'll show up and exploit your wealth.”  Many people will make no preparations and simply expect someone else to take care of them (Red Cross, FEMA, neighbors, preppers, etc).  They will let you put in the time, money, and sweat and then want to jump in when you are sitting pretty.

As stated before on this blog, be careful what, who, and how much you tell.  It may come back to bite you one day.  In a final word, I am not saying you should not share or help others in need.  What I am saying is, don’t create problems for yourself.  Be careful of loose lips!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

CPT Rawles,
To follow up on the recent letter son Guerilla warfare:

1.   The most important thing to the success of the insurgent is the support of the people (the fish swims in the sea). The insurgent must maintain support/legitimacy.  Discipline when dealing with the people is paramount.
2.   The insurgent always chooses the location of the fight.

3.   The insurgent never fights when he knows he will lose.  The insurgent wins by surviving.

4.   Advance/retreat; rest/harass; retreat/advance - read Mao.

5.   The insurgent seeks to make the enemy overreact against the people.

6.   In the early phases of the insurgency the best source of supplies and weapons may be the enemy.  Overreaction by the enemy inflames the people.

- Mark S., in Germany

The post on "studying" Guerilla War tactics brought to mind a subject that I have been considering for some time.
Like many, my training and experience was many years ago. Though my body has grown slightly less than optimal my spirit and mind are what they once were and more as an added measure of wisdom has been granted to me.
The question I have been pondering is to ask, what role to those of us who have reached the age of reason have to play in a possible future resistance? We are not able to handle the physical challenges efficiently yet have the experience and knowledge stored that would assist the success of such endeavors.

I have read Max Velocity's book and many other books, articles and posts over the last few years. Many of those in the marketplace of ideas appear to me to be the products of armchair warriors who never heard a shot fired in anger but who have strong opinions and fair writing skills. Max Velocity is not one of the armchair variety. I can not specifically nail down why I know this but can only say that when you know you know.

I believe however, that even from some of these armchair folks, things of value can be gleaned and I will not detract from their efforts except for the few who would upon implementation of their advice get a lot of good people killed without value. I'll leave the details to another time, though I suspect that you and many others with actual experience in the storm see them for what they are as well.

My conclusions are based on observations of history. Old men may not be able to run twenty miles and fight or evade an enemy force in a northern plains winter but we still have value to a potential resistance. In Southeast Asia and many other conflicts in time and about the world it was the old men who provided the philosophical foundation of a resistance. Without coherent reasons as an underlayment, a movement will wither and die. The problem to avoid is a philosophy that compromises true value for the sake of expedience and experiments with the lives of young men. Those who take this role need to be people who have lived what they speak of.

Old men and women provided the Intelligence network for much of the Viet Cong's network. Shop and stall keepers in the cities and towns and the village elders and headmen out in the bush provided the eyes and ears of the guerilla fighters. Men with experience in combat will know what information is useful and how to transmit it. They will be very likely able to set up the networks required. Many good men and their families were executed by the Viet Cong because they would not fill this function for them, instead they worked with our forces. Tragic as this is, it is a good lesson in the value of information networks run by old men and women.

Wounded can be sent to outlying farms to be cared for by the elderly as well as active troops scattered to farms as labourers disguising their true nature. Food supplies and caches of equipment can be concealed and managed by old men and women in cities as well as on the farms. A lot of fighters in African conflicts survived on food and equipment cached by villagers out in the bush. There are many ingenious ways of doing this. Young fighters need food & medical supplies as much as they need ammo.

I think that one of the most valuable assets that old war horses bring is tactical knowledge and training. Knowing how to approach an enemy, how to engage and how to escape and evade afterwards is paramount to success. Young men's eagerness can often lead them into the jaws of a trap or violate the principals that keep a population on the side of insurgents. Old men teach and moderate this tendency in the young.

Like many, I see dark days and see the handwriting on the wall. There is a storm coming. Don't write off an old man because he walks with a cane and takes a long time to pass water. What he carries in his head and his heart is as valuable as a weapon and as useful as a well stocked medical kit. - George in the Upper Midwest


James Wesley;
Another good book on this topic about the originators of guerilla warfare on this continent fighting a standing army is Apache Tactics 1830-86,  by Robert Watt

The author concludes with several reasons the Apache tribes eventually failed in their efforts.
1)  Attrition due to small numbers
2)  Weapons and ammunition supply
3)  Eventual army adoption of guerilla tactics and use of Apache scouts.

...all of which are reversed to the benefit of a patriot counter-revolutionary effort in our present situation. - S.P.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Dear Captain Rawles,
I would like to thank Al H. for his letter on the importance of studying Guerrilla Warfare tactics and also for his mention of one of my book, Contact!: A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival

There were two purposes in writing 'Contact': firstly, to pass on tactical self-defense information to aid the survival of law abiding prepper folks in a post-SHTF situation. The second was to give information on how to tactically fight a resistance campaign, although at the time I left some of the reasons for the tactics a little unsaid. Its all in there, from the tactical side of a resistance fight.

I would also like to make your readers aware that I recently opened up my tactical training site in West Virginia. I have begun running weekend courses and more information can be found on my web site here and testimonials and AARs from recent training can be found here. I hope this shows Al H. that some are stepping up to the training plate.

I am providing West Virginia and East Cast based training, and John Mosby, also known as Mountain Guerrilla, is based in the Idaho/American Redoubt area.

I also publish information and free tactical training articles on my blog.

I also have a novel available, titled Patriot Dawn: The Resistance Rises. The book was designed to 'bring to life' the tactics in 'Contact' and it describes what an insurgency might, or could, look like. It may be an eye opener for some. The book has a newly redesigned cover which is currently showing on the Kindle version on Amazon, not the paperback, as catches up. As well as the tactics, the role of the auxiliary is portrayed around the general setting of a resistance campaign.

I hope this helps. Live Free, Die Hard. - Max Velocity


Hello James,
I just wanted to write a brief response to Al H.'s Studying Guerrilla Warfare Tactics. Responding or replying to anything of this nature is not generally something I would do in the name of anonymity. However, I would like people out there to know that most of what Al says is true, but I, and many others, have and will continue to be preparing for and studying mobile guerrilla operations, including but not limited to recruiting, training, setting up communications, auxiliary and hit and run operations. With the hopes that these skills will never be needed, I and others that I have met, have received preliminary training in person from ex-military who are the experts, in mobile guerrilla operations, hit and run tactics, and force multipliers. There are many like-minded people out there; I believe they just don't broadcast. With the preliminary training that I had received in the past, I then had the option to continue studying/training on my own (in small groups) or forget what I had learned.
Again, I believe most of what Al has said to be true, but there are more of us out there than people think. Sincerely and Gratefully, - S., RN


You've mentioned it many times in your blog, but the foundational training for both regular and irregular warfare is marksmanship training! And you've also made many mentions of the [Project] Appleseed shoots [organized by the RWVA]. I can't think of more cost-effective way to instruct Citizen Soldiers than to do a few weekends of Appleseed shoots and an Appleseed boot camp. Only then, after you have laid down that important groundwork, go on to take yourself some top-notch training from an outfit like Gunsite, if you can afford it. Train, train, and train some more! With My Best Wishes, - Gandy D. (Warrior, semi-ret'd.)

JWR Replies: I concur. Knowledge conquers fear, and fearless warriors conquer tyrants.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dear Mr. Rawles,
So few understand insurgency and its intricacies that if the SHTF there would be no leaders in the towns and cities to teach the people who would become the auxiliary, the underground, and the guerilla units what they need to know to be successful that we would have an "epic fail" from the very start.  Insurgency is more than picking up a weapon and shooting, in fact that is a small part of insurgency.  
Most people can't even define insurgency, and that includes the so called experts in survival.  The fault doesn't lie with the people, the fault lies with all of the professionals, the teachers, the web sites, and the blogs that are supposed to be teaching the people what they need to know to survive in a post event society.  If people don't understand insurgency they will die and all the prepping will have been for nothing.
I always recommend two books for people to "begin" learning the tactics and strategies of insurgency:

Along with these books you should read a tactical manual such as Contact!: A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival by Max Velocity, and a general SHTF preparation book like "How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It" by James Rawles.  These books will get people started but you professionals need to start teaching this material in seminars, and courses, and online courses.  

If the people don't understand how to run an insurgency it will be over before it begins!  If the people were aware of the importance of insurgency they would be ready, willing, and able to learn and master these skills.  Right now they just don't know that they don't know.   So who will step up and fill this void?  Who will put together the regional and traveling teams, and the on line courses necessary to teach this most important subject?

Yours Truly, - Al H.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Waking up to the sudden realization that my safe, comfortable world as I have always known it to be was not the result of watching any “end of the world” movies or documentaries, or from reading something about it or from a friend convincing me.  I feel it was a gift, a freebie wake-up call from the heavenly powers that be.   I can’t help but think that I am supposed to be a survivor… least long enough to keep my children alive and healthy until they are grown and can then survive without my assistance.  My husband on the other hand, has been given no such gift.  He is in denial of anything going askew with the easy way of life he’s always known.  I have tried in vain to convince him of a very dire economic future.  Having information from very reputable sources placed in front of him does no good as he ignores it or explains how it’s all wrong.  I feel though, that on some level he is aware but is afraid to acknowledge the reality of it.  I fully understand that a highly unpredictable future can be too much for some people to stomach - but it’s a future, I feel in my bones is going to be encountered.  Nonetheless, it’s a difficult situation for a marriage to be in whether the one who has awakened is the husband or the wife.  But, I would bet my home-made rain barrels that it’s definitely tougher to be the wife, or female significant other who is the enlightened one.  Men for centuries have usually had the final “say-so” in most situations and our society still predominantly leans that way.  As strong and independent a person as I think I am, I still find it hard to go against my husband’s wishes.  When he comes home from work and sees the box or two of preps that have been delivered and sitting on the kitchen floor, or knows that I’ve made another run to the Thrift Store and scored more wool sweaters and blankets for the girls, I acutely feel pain when he winces or shakes his head in an “I give up!” manner.    Our marriage is still a good one, but because of my prepping it has a few dings, dents and rust spots that I wish were not there.  And let me state it clearly right now, that although my husband is still asleep as far as the reasons for prepping go, he has been one of my best life supporters, and has done more for me than anyone else could.  He has always been there for me when I was going through (and currently am) some of the worst life decisions a person has to make.  For all of those reasons and more, I will forever be loyal to him and will not allow myself to wallow in self-pity for more than a couple of minutes just because he and I are not on the same page about prepping.  My hope in writing this piece is that I can bring to light some areas of prepping that are not often thought about, plus show my empathy and understanding for those preppers who don’t have the support of their significant other.
My "awakening" just happened, out of the blue.  One day I was blissfully unaware of any potential economic, political, environmental or other such trouble, just happily skipping through life and the very next day I was aware.  Boom!  Just like that.  My day of “catastrophic awakening” was in early December, 2009.  Now in early 2013, I feel I am far better prepared than most in my middle class neighborhood, but still not where I need to be to feel really good about it.  I am coming to the conclusion that that place of comfort is unattainable.  It’s been quite an adventure, and a process from which I get little rest.  If I’m not actively doing some sort of prepping activity I’m thinking about prepping.  I closely watch the economy to see if I need to hurry my prepping up or can I wait until the credit card flips before using it again.  Though I still very much enjoy life, and participate in non-prepping activities with my friends and family, I can’t help but miss the days of blissful ignorance when I was totally unaware of impending DOOM.    I must continually read, study, buy, make, plan, think, save, and use my  imagination in anticipation of various disastrous scenarios  and prepare for them for all of us…….alone.  My husband’s only contribution is paying for most of it.  He complains frequently and loudly and I ache frequently and strongly.  Buying extra food and all the hundreds of necessary items on a tight budget is a work of art in itself.  I think only a woman can truly understand the logistics of it all.  If it were just he and I, I might not even try to prep.  But I have kids…… and that changes everything.

Another heavenly gift I was given was the desire to never become pregnant.  That didn’t mean I never wanted children, I most certainly did.  I simply never felt the need to have my genetic code replicate itself in the form of human that was half me, and half somebody else.  Even back when I could still get pregnant I felt an inkling of a looming, foreboding future. My environmental courses while attending the college didn’t help me culture a positive attitude about our world.  Why should I bring more people into an already “overly-burdened with humans and their endless problems” planet?  Adoption was the answer for me.  I won’t bring any more people in but I will be more than happy to raise those already here.  So after completing grueling reams of paperwork, background checks, intrusive home studies, and a “wait and hold-your-breath” for acceptance from a certified adoption agency, we were finally off to China to adopt the most precious two baby girls in the world!  I am determined that these two kids will not only survive life, but will have the best chance at the best life that I, and the “heavenly-gifter” (God), is willing, to provide.   I’m sure I share this deep, primitive instinctual drive with many mothers across the globe to protect their offspring even to the point of death.   Fathers, no doubt, are also deeply driven to protect their children, but my experience is from a mother’s perspective.   I’ve read many blogs about the perfect prepping relationship and living situation.  Sometimes when I start reading one of those blogs and realizing it’s another “preppers heaven” situation, I stop reading and look for something else that I can use.  I sometimes find myself having fleeting feelings of jealously mixed with a tad of resentment towards those “blessed” preppers who have it so good.  But in the final analysis, I’m really happy for them and can only imagine what it’s like to have someone to readily discuss world events, prepping needs, scenarios, to practice skills with and to have the same desires and needs concerning getting ready for an eminent catastrophe of some sort.  I don’t have that.  And, I’m probably never going to get that.  But what I have is enough…..I was given the gift of waking up and the means to prepare for the future and that is all I can ask for.  I am very grateful.  We are all exactly where we are supposed to be though I sometimes have to remind myself of that.  I’m here where God wants me to be and here is where I’m staying until God says it’s time to move.

So here’s our family situation.  The four of us are suburbanites living in a two story brick house with an unfinished basement.  And it’s the basement that may be our sanctuary.  It’s dimly lit, cold, cluttered, and just plain dirty but I pretty much enjoy being there.  It’s where I feel my prepping call the strongest, and where I can readily see the fruits of my prepping labor.  I feel a little bit closer to my Higher Power when I’m in the basement.  I receive more spiritual encouragement being there than anyplace else.  And I need that encouragement since I find it nowhere else except on my favorite survival web sites (Survival Blog my most favorite) and other blogs from my fellow internet preppers and friends.    I look around the basement and notice the windows and French doors and see all the work I still have to do to make them as secure as possible from break-ins.  I study various ways of protection but all are more than I can afford.  So, I must think, ponder, mull over and dream about effective ways of providing very inexpensive home security.  I feel that sometimes I’ve been guided to the right places at the right times.  I was at Lowe’s when they were selling “imperfect” lumber at 90% off and loaded my husband’s pick-up truck with it, and unloaded it alone when I got it home.  It took me two trips to get it all.   So now I have plenty of lumber of various lengths and sizes.  I bought four (4), metal zinc 6 and 3/8” bar holder brackets and have bolted them to the wall studs ,two on each side of the French doors and rammed two (2), 2x4’s through them directly across the doors.  I realize that all one needs to do to easily enter the basement via the French doors is to break the one of the many glass panes, slide the board out of the brackets and proceed to kick the door in or bump the dead bolt.  To prevent this I have screwed two (2), 2 and ½” screws deeply into the exposed wall studs next to the end of each 2x4 board.  I can pull outwards on the end of the boards to release them over the heads of the screws to slide them out of the brackets, but I can only do this if I’m already in the basement at the inside of the doors.  I was surprised at how well this worked!  Someone on the outside would have a hard time trying to slide the boards out of the brackets due to the stud screws stopping them.  I know I can’t keep them out, but I sure can slow them down some.   Hopefully long enough for me to grab my shotgun!

All sorts of projects are in the works and a few have been completed.  My rain barrel project was at first very intimidating but I persevered and now have three (3) of the plastic blue 55 gallon water barrels daisy-chained together and collecting off of one downspout.  And they are nicely hidden behind the huge cedar tree I took as a seedling from my grandmother’s yard several years ago.  I had read many different plans by many different people on how to make rain barrels but none of them really made clear sense to me.  So I ended up taking a little from this plan, and a little from that plan and created my own plan along the way.  The jigsaw I bought my husband for his birthday several years ago finally got used to saw the tops off of each barrel.  And I had to make a lot of trips to the hardware store and think and ponder as I stood in the PVC section playing with all the different parts and connections trying to figure out something that would work.  (The guys working at the hardware store got used to seeing me drop by nearly every day and are still interested in all of my various projects.) Then I had to decide on the best hose to use (radiator hose) to connect my barrels together, and solve a dozen or more other small but very important details.  I had some minor leaks of course at first.  After taking the barrels apart and trying rubber vs. metal washers, and with a little swearing they finally held water-tight and have been for water-tight about three years now.  They even survived a couple of hard freezes with thick ice on the top. 

Water is so extremely important.  It’s the most important thing to have, in my opinion, after shelter.  I should build more rain barrels, and I will, but only after some other things are done first.   I must admit that I’m very proud of myself for building these all by myself.  It was kind of a hard chore but a necessary one.  Hubby was surprised I did it but I wasn’t!  When I’m in the basement I also see the many 2 liter water bottles that I’ve spent hours washing and filling up with tap water just in case of a water shortage.  I used some of the lumber I got at Lowe's to make separate shelves for my canned food and home-bottled water.  I have to keep as much on the cheap as possible so I bought  masonry concrete blocks for a little over one dollar each  and made shelves using some of that lumber.  I’m tall, 5’10”, and the top shelf is at head level.  Canned food and bottled water weigh a lot so these shelves have to be strong.   They are great to see what I have in order to keep them off the floor and to rotate in and out. 

Still, so many other skills needed to be mastered… still seems overwhelming at times.   I often find myself thinking back to the days when I was a young girl and staying with my grandmother out in the country.   She was a real country woman who could have taught me a lot of self-survival skills.  I watched her work in her huge garden, then canning the vegetables she grew.  She even made her own soap from wood ash and lard out in the yard.  I just took it all for granted…….but at least I still have the memories.   My grandmother would be proud of me now.  I’ve learned to pressure can, garden, dehydrate veggies and fruit, sew, (build rain barrels!), make soap (but not yet out of wood ash and lard) and am still working my way up the learning curve.  I need to learn how to quilt, make pottery, hunt (dread that but will if I have too), fish for real – not pleasure fishing, and a ton of other skills.  I also think about skills I need to have in case we need to find a new community to live in.  I want to be found useful enough for us to be allowed into a safe situation.  I’m a music teacher by trade, and even have a Reiki II level training in healing.  I’m always trying to improve myself to become more useful by way of skills.    Women are naturally useful in many ways but those who only have training in artificial human-made vocations such as law and economics may be in for an extra hard time if they don’t get practical training in everyday life skills.   Same of course, goes for men.

Though I speak of possible future community acceptance, right now bugging out is not a viable option for us.   Being a woman, I see things perhaps, somewhat differently from most men.  Instead of focusing on BOLs, BOVs, guns, and ammo to a great extent, I prepare for life right here, where we are in our suburban neighborhood.  All of our lives are here, everyone we know and love is nearby.  To “bugout” is not realistic for us, at least at this point in time, so I am preparing for life right here.   I’ve read many pros and cons about bugging out, and feel leaving would definitely not be in our best interest.  If we had a place to go to maybe we would bug out.  But for us to hit the road when all hell breaks loose with nowhere to go would do us no particular good.  My plan is, as a woman who is doing this without any input or advice from her husband, is to stay put for as long as we can.  Danger lurks greater out there for women and children than for men.  I think about situations that probably few men think about.  Most of them probably aren’t overly worried about getting raped, though it may cross their minds concerning the women in their family.  I especially fear something bad happening to my girls such as getting raped, or murdered or both.  Women have deep fears rarely expressed, even to each other.   By far most of our fears relate to our children’s welfare and all the dangers involved.  And all of these fears can happen right at home too.  I feel my ability to protect is far superior from behind walls with a loaded shotgun than walking out in the open with my kids at my side and all I can carry on my back.  Such exposure I cannot tolerate.  Also, I have to have faith in something greater than myself that we will be alright.  If I do the footwork (prepping) I can leave the results of my prepping to God.  I didn’t wake up suddenly with a desire to prep for no good reason.  Nor did anyone else who is preparing for disaster whether it be small, great, or somewhere in between.  Those of us who have awoken have done so for reasons that may exist far beyond our immediate ability to grasp them.  Who knows what the Universe has in store for us, but hopefully very wonderful things!  If preppers are fortunate to be living with others of like mind, then their jobs are much easier and much more enjoyable. However, not all of us live in such a good situation and have to carefully balance prepping duties and marriage duties ever so carefully.  Some of us face outright hostility, and others, like me, endure mostly silent scorn.  And this hostility, whether overt or covert, can cause some irrational feelings to be felt.  On rare occasion, I have found myself actually wishing the economy would suddenly crash, or that a CME would race towards earth causing destruction of our electrical grid, or even a pandemic to occur just to prove to my husband that I was right!   But that kind of thinking is crazy, and I know it’s just my ego.  At least I realize it when it happens and can see it for what it’s worth.  I’m only human……we’re all only human and so I don’t berate myself about having such thoughts.  I guess if God, or whatever our personal Higher Power is, wanted everyone to have help from our spouses or significant others, then we all would have their help.   This is definitely my solo learning journey. 

Prepping is now a way of life for me.  It’s something that I have come to enjoy for the most part, despite having to do a lot of it in secret.  It’s futile to discuss world economic or political situations, or anything that might lead to reasons why I prep.   He and I just aren’t on the same page and attempts to discuss differing points of view always lead to bad feelings in the both of us.  Also, I can’t share even little things like my great news about all the wonderful clothes I bought for next to nothing at my favorite thrift store, in larger and larger sizes for the girls as they grow. Or about the nearly brand new Timberland boots I scored for only 4 dollars at Goodwill!  I bring home my items in secret and store them away in secret without telling anyone.  I check all my favorite web sites everyday for bargains on the things I feel are necessary.  The headlamps, two for the price of one, the large spools of dirt cheap sewing thread, the solar battery chargers and rechargeable batteries, the manual floor sweepers, the survival books, the oil lamps, ceramic water filters, the heirloom vegetable seeds and more – all ordered off the internet in secret.  The other items such as soap, OTC medicines, antibiotics, toothpaste, toothbrushes, boxes of salt, lamp oil, wicks, propane tanks, candles galore, ammo, slingshots and replacement bands, bicycle tires and tubes, toilet paper, tools, etc…. are all secretly stashed away in the bowels of the basement.  Some special items that I have purchased I feel are very important and would like to list them here.  These are spring-loaded rat traps, fly strips, essential oils, flea control, colloidal silver generator, distilled water, canning jar lids, self-clumping kitty litter by the 40 lb. buckets (the empty plastic buckets can be used for other purposes), fire extinguishers, several rolls of 12 ml. window film and tubes of clear latex caulk.  I feel these items are especially important.  Flies and rodents will be a BIG problem if garbage is allowed to accumulate and ugh, I hate to say it, but if dead bodies are inside and outside of houses the flies will be super thick.  Flea outbreaks will also be a bad problem if SHTF and will be carriers of disease.  I want to keep my pets as flea-free as possible for as long as possible so I buy extra of those small tubes of flea control that you squirt on their backs.  Also, in the last month I was able to purchase a rocket stove and thermal cooker which should save a lot on fuel.  I am very concerned about hygiene if the grid goes down and I plan on using the kitty litter in makeshift 5 gallon toilet buckets, if we can’t flush toilets or there is no water.  Having plenty of pre-packaged adult washcloths, gallons of hand sanitizer gel and other cleaning supplies is extremely important.  If you manage to survive the first round of SHTF trials and tribulations, you certainly do not want to succumb to any diseases afterwards due to unsanitary hygiene.  I bought a lot of these items from Sam’s Club and many others I ordered from

I have placed the window film on all the lower level windows and all the basement windows (finally finished that since I started writing this piece!) and carefully caulked the edges with clear latex caulk to give them added strength for resistance to break-ins.  Security is always first and foremost in my mind.  I even tried out my home-made water purifying system on myself to make sure it worked.  I took some really nasty rainwater out of one of my barrels and ran it through my ceramic filtering system (I leak tested it first), then added a little bleach, stirred and let it sit for a while.  I poured myself a tall glassful of the filtered water and chug-a-lugged it down.  I got sort of scared for a moment, but the deed had been done and now I just had to wait and see if I got sick or not.  I am happy to report that I did not have any problems whatsoever!
Another thing I have done to try and protect my two girls is to buy larger sized boys clothing at the thrift stores.  I have even gone so far as to buy boys underwear to complete the desired look.  I plan on turning my girls into “boys”….at least temporarily.  If the situation gets bad enough, I will cut their hair short, and dress them as boys.  Boys get sexually attacked too, but not as often as girls.  I will even turn myself temporarily into a man.  I guess my husband will just have to deal with it for a while. (LOL.)  At least he’s aware of that possibility so it won’t come as a total shock should it happen.  If women don’t look like easy targets, then they won’t be as prone to attack.  And temporarily looking like a man is a small price to pay for safety.  At least that’s how I see it.  I also practice with my 12 gauge shot gun.  I don’t get to shoot it as much as I would like, but I try to keep reinforcing muscle memory by using the fake metal shells I bought from the gun store.  Quick loading and racking practice…..over and over. 

As well as acquiring the physical preps to keep us healthy and happy for the duration, I have also been buying rolls of mercury dimes when I could afford too.  I don’t have many, but even with all the careful planning and scenario predicting, I will not think of everything.  I’ll need some way to buy those items I overlooked, if they can still be bought.  Barter is always possible, but I don’t spend any money on items to use for barter.  I know some people do, but I simply can’t spare it and really hope to not have to barter, at least not much.   Luckily I bought a boat load of .22 caliber rounds some months back so if that becomes currency I good to go.

And lest I forget, I want to tell you about some signs I have downloaded from the internet, printed out and laminated for future use, if necessary.   You can easily find, “BEWARE OF DOG”, the Gadsden flag symbol, and various bright orange and black infectious diseases warning labels all free and downloadable from the internet.  Of course you can create your own signs as you see fit.  I have made several “LOOTERS WILL BE SHOT” signs in various sizes and have all these signs nicely laminated and stored in a folder to pull out and attach to the doors and windows as needed.  I even made extra signs for the neighbors to use.  This is another step towards home security to warn and hopefully thwart off anyone who may be having thoughts of annoying me and my family in any way.  Also, having the signs in Spanish might not be a bad idea either.   Get these made now in case there is no electricity later to use your computer and printer.

Since I have been continuously prepping since late 2009, I have accomplished a lot bit by bit over the months and years.  I feel mostly alright about the preps, but I will always worry about security.  I think about what will happen to my neighbors who show no indications of any knowledge of what catastrophe(s) is/are coming down their pike in the near future.  Will they be prepared or will I have to make those hard decisions about sharing my preps and endure all the heart-ache involved in that?  Should I try to approach my neighbors and talk about disaster preparedness and get an idea on where they stand without divulging too much information about my situation?   Opsec is so critical to me.  I want too talk with them very badly and will most likely do so but I must be very careful with my words.....this is an area that will take much prayer and guidance before any discussions with my neighbors occur.  Having neighbors on board however, is a prep item that is better than anything else.  I am dreading the approach, but as calamity gets closer and closer I really must talk with them.  And if they feel nothing is bad is ever going to happen, then at least I will know better how to deal with them later should they come knocking on my door asking for some of my preps.

For women who especially are having a difficult time doing what they know is the right thing to do, while keeping the waters calm at home is in the very least, a challenge for which a gold medal should be awarded.  Ending a relationship that otherwise is very good, is a terrible loss.  In the initial months of my prepping I was concerned that our marriage might end, but after nearly 4 years I suppose we’re still solid.  I know that God put me and my husband together for very good reasons.   I have absolutely no doubt about that.   And my husband was born and raised in the country and knows a lot about hunting, fishing and those skills of which I am at a loss, so he most definitely will be very helpful when the time comes.  He will shine as a protector and warrior, as that will be his heavenly gift from God. 

I hope I have helped someone by writing all of this.  I am forever grateful for all the wisdom and good advice I have been freely given by those who contribute to this site and to the many other sites I have read and enjoyed.  I just wanted to try and give back as best I could.  God bless everyone and thank-you!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hi James,
   I just want to pass on a "good job" referral.  I was having difficulty with my Optolyth spotting scope's coarse focus ring.  It was almost frozen; very hard to turn.  There are several companies in Britain that work on optics, but I wanted to find someone here in the USA, and eventually located Cory Suddarth's company,  Cory is a Navy-trained optical man with 38 years' experience working with all types of optics.  Located in Henryetta, Oklahoma, he offers very affordable service for practically any make or model binocular or scope.  Families are now finding WWII binoculars in their grandfather's possessions when they pass away. (I just lost my father-in-law, who was a Corpsman on Iwo Jima), and want to keep them functional.  Cory can completely refurbish old optics, including dismantling [and cleaning] the prisms and re-gluing the lenses to like-new condition.  Even the exteriors are renewed.  Truly fine work.  Check his site and contact him for further info and estimates. - D.A., DVM

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Dear Mr. Rawles,
A young friend recommended "Patriots" to me a month ago and, since that time, I've consumed it's two sequels and "How to Survive..."  I was pleased to see that I have followed most if not all of your recommendations without having known them - my endless frustration in life has been to never had an original thought.  In re-reading "Surviving...", the lighting, alarm and camera chapters, I note that you reference motion detector operated lighting, Dakota Alert MURS systems and webcams but not an alarm system as such.

Back in 2008, as moving day to The American Redoubt was close at hand, I suddenly panicked thinking, "What about security for my U-Haul full of "stuff"?" (By "stuff", I mean valuable items that the movers wouldn't handle or those which I did not want them to handle.) Since my move was to include at least 3 nights in low-end motels, the kind that allow dogs, my concerns increased exponentially.  In a sweat, I started web-searching like mad for some sort of portable alarm system that would signal me in my room without alerting or annoying others should the trailer be tampered with.  What I found was a remarkable system, the Tattletale.

The system is designed primarily for contractors who must leave storage units, materials and equipment scattered about remote locations.  The alarm signal is conveyed to a "central station" via the national cell phone network but does not use any single service provider or cell phone number, etc; the central station then alerts you and/or any others you may designate by whatever means you designate.  The alarm signal itself is sent via some sort of cell phone system "side band" that you, with your knowledge of arcane radio mumbo-jumbo, will understand.

The transmitter unit is portable, includes an integral motion detection unit and has battery backup which is good for extended periods.  Furthermore, numerous other devices can be added to this unit, wirelessly, such as additional motion detectors, smoke/fire detectors and locking devices which can be used to secure equipment or outbuildings, etc.

This system will be rendered unusable post-TEOTWAWKI, of course, but is an excellent system till then.  I used my system for more than two years and never had a false alarm.

Thank you for expanding my horizons and especially for scaring the pants off a lot of complacent but otherwise sentient beings and getting them off the dime - a 90% silver dime, that is.

All the best, - Sam

P.S.: The funny part of the story, though I'm loathe to tell it, is that my system arrived on the day of the move so I was not able to figure it out until I arrived in Montana and could finally sit down, focus and follow through.  To use one of your favorite phrases, "needless to say", I spent several very nervous nights on the road.  Three years ago, I built my retreat: a dugout ("earth sheltered home" to liberal greenies), 3/4th of a mile off the county road, out of sight behind a butte, at the end of a road closely monitored by friends. Therefore, I put my Tattletale contract on hold and have yet to re-install it.  S. 

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Like most of you I have been preparing for the bad times to come. I have made plans with food stores, water, guns and ammo, etc. In my desire for knowledge and to be as prepared as possible I've read anything I can get my hands on and I surf the Internet nightly, I also have an impressive library. I have gleaned what I could from all this and fortified where I can. My major concern now lies is in how to protect my family and supplies that I have worked so hard and diligently on, along with personal sacrifice to lay up, from others. The problems are two fold, first the men in the black suits and secondly are our friends and neighbors who have scoffed at our ideas of being prepared for so long and who's plans are solely to allow the government to come to their rescue and take care of them in their hour of need. I have made preparations to hide what I have stored from the men in the black suits. But if any refugees have a hint you have food stored, or even the perception of possible food this becomes a problem. What can we do about the unprepared who are hungry and will come in force to kill you then take what you have once you are dead? Even if my supplies are hidden refugees still pose a real threat if they believe you have food.

I am a proponent of "bugging in". This is my best bet for sustainable survival. After the great Society Ending Event (SEE) begins and after the lights go out my plans spring into action. I won't implement my plans every time the power goes out! Within the first three to four days, after enough time for reality and permanency to set in, then my implementation begins. I then plan on making my house look abandoned and already looted to the potential looter walking by on the street. We have all seen houses that have the look we are discussing. This house is abandoned and has nothing of importance left inside, so why would anyone want to go in that place and waste their time looking for food? I want them to think..."Someone has already beat me too this one, let's look at another house down the street". This is the look I am trying to achieve. Perception in everything.

After Hurricane Katrina, when search and rescue went from house to house looking for survivors they devised a system to let other searchers know this house had in fact already been searched. A large X was painted on the house close to the front door. In the top section is listed the number of people living in your home. In the section to the right would be the number of sick removed, while the bottom section would show the number of dead found. I would put a 1 in the bottom section while the rest of the family are listed in the sick column. This will probably not mean a whole lot to those passing by other than some official person has already been there.

Next take old pallets and break them apart, then board up the windows and doors on the outside. Do this in an uneven and hurried fashion. Do not use all the same type or size lumber. The idea is to make it look as if this was done in a hurry and with supplies on hand, you don't want a look of pre-planning in your efforts. The purpose is to act as if some official person was wanting to seal this house in a hurry and move on to the next one. The reason to do the outside and not the inside is mainly so looters walking by can see this, and secondly if I do the inside and some one tries to open the door they will hit something solid. To the looter this is a red flashing arrow pointing at my house indicating I have food and other supplies.

Inside you will need to cover the windows with black sheets or black plastic, then cover them with plywood and secure to the inside wall to completely block the light. If Mr Looter is brave enough to look through the slats all they will see is darkness. Cover all the windows and doors both inside and out. This will allow family movement inside with light and such without being visible outside. This is a pain in the daytime due to the loss of ambient light but extremely necessary at night. Note: This goes without saying but...This will offer protection from people looking in and seeing if any one is home, it offers very little protection from noise inside being heard outside. This will negate any effort to appear abandoned if I'm making a lot of noise inside. Lastly on the front door slap a bio-hazard quarantine sign. This is the cherry on top! These can be found on the Internet and be printed for now and saved for later use. Now your house has a look of a medical disaster like the deadly new bird flu - H7N9. Perception is everything.

Lets take it up one more level, if there is no power I will have no need of my television. Throw this in the front yard and even shoot a hole through the screen or at least bust it up some (you don't have any need for this any more). Throw trash in the yard and make your house look as if it has already been looted before the house was quarantined. Another idea is If you have more than 1 vehicle take one and bust out the driver side window, destroy the steering column, and empty out the glove box. This has the look of someone trying to steal your car or looking for food. All this combined together makes the house look less desirable to looters and what they are looking for, I don't believe you can go over board. If you have the time take some flat black spray paint and spray around the tops of windows and door ways to make it look like smoke escaping from the inside making it appear there was a fire inside. Perception is everything.

To the casual refugee walking by, or even the more observant looter, this house has the appearance of having already been looted, or someone possibly even died in this house from some disease. Why would anyone want to waste their time there when the neighbors house looks untouched and loaded with possible food and supplies. The average looter will be in a hurry and not willing to spend any more time than is necessary taking a closer look. Remember perception is everything.

If someone is still determined on getting inside your home after all the work you have done to make it look as uninviting as possible go to your back up plan. In a closet in the master bedroom ( if it is on the first level and you don't have a concrete slab floor) remove the carpet and cut a hole in the floor. This will lead under the house. This will provide a place to safely hide from looters, provided you remain quiet. If you are inside your home don't be fooled by the movies and believe sheetrock walls will stop a bullet. [Unless your house has thick masonry walls,] there is no safe place in your home to hide if those outside are shooting at you inside your house. The prudent looter should be concerned about conserving their ammo but we are talking about hungry, desperate people. When people are under great stress they will do unpredictable things. [Unless it is burned,] hiding under the house will provide a safe place to hide and emerge later, alive.

Getting my plywood cut for each window ahead of time and having my pallets stacked behind the shed now will have me prepared for my deception once the great SEE begins. A note that is obvious but still needs to be said, this work will need to be completed under the cover of darkness. This ruse will have little effect if others are watching you complete the work. A little prep work on your part can make your home safer and appear less desirable for the enviable refugees and possible looters. Perception is everything.
Keep safe. In His Service. - W.K.R. in Kansas

JWR's Comments: Psychologically, there is a fine line between making a house look undesirable and a making it look like "fair game." Be careful about the impression that you make.

In my estimation, creating large and convincing-looking Quarantine warning signs is probably a good use of your time and money. If your signs are worded carefully, then they could give anyone except a semantics expert the impression that the Quarantine is to keep people away from sick people inside, rather than to keep sick people out. (When the goal is the latter, rather than the former.) These signs would need to use official looking typography and biohazard emblems, substituting the words "QUARANTINE AREA." As W.K.R. mentioned, these are even available commercially. If you live in a Mexican border state, then the sign could include, for redundancy: "Medida de sanidad poner en cuarentena", or more simply: Zona De Cuarentena." But I must caution that you will first need to research your State's regulations of what would constitute impersonating a government official, before creating any signs. (These laws vary widely, from state to state. In Texas, for example, their law is written quite broadly and inclusively. Contrast that with Iowa's terse statute.) There is also a Federal statute, but that seems to center around wearing a uniform or carrying a badge or credentials. If you word a quarantine declaration sign carefully, choose the correct type font, and include biohazard symbols, but omit using any words like "by order of ______ (an agency of government)" or the name or initials of any agency, then you will most likely still be legal. (You can probably vaguely use the words "It is declared"--with no agency named--but again you need to research your own state's laws.) As the property owner and head of a household, you can of course "declare" a private quarantine. Just don't impersonate a government official, in doing so! And if there is a doctor in your retreat group, the wording on the sign could truthfully end with something like: "Joe Smith, MD."

It is also wise to research your state's laws on "No Trespassing" signs. Creating various signs was discussed in TMM Forums, a few years back. And some useful links to printable signs were included in a Backwoods Home Forum thread.

One more thought: Don't overlook the human sense of smell, which triggers deep psychological reactions. Depending on the circumstances, simply leaving a large animal gut pile to rot (hidden under some loosely-piled leaves or straw) in your front yard could do much more to deter invaders than anything else. But this would of course only be appropriate if you don't have neighbors who live close-by!

The bottom line: Fear is a stronger motivator than disinterest or indifference.

Friday, May 10, 2013

A few comments on Mountain Man Virgil's letter titled "Be Prepared to Fortify." I would like to offer a few alternatives to his plan to "hide security measures in your garage until you need them." I am assuming that he is referring to items such as barbed wire and sand bags. There are many things one can do which offer very good security and still blend in with the neighborhood. Large decorative rocks, strategically placed or large treated logs as garden or flower beds can offer excellent cover and concealment. Large livestock water tanks of metal or heavy plastic can be painted to make them "cute" additions to the landscape. When filled with sand and dirt make great garden boxes and ballistic protection. Fox holes can be incorporated into landscaping along with hedges of thorned bushes to keep intruders out of certain areas. Small ponds may also serve to limit movement in certain areas . I'm afraid that if you leave your security hidden until needed, you may not have time to deploy them if things start to unravel quickly. Good luck. - Montana Prepper

Monday, May 6, 2013

One thing I often hear from folks who live in the suburbs is, “Oh man, you’re so lucky, you can totally take your mountain cabin and make it an armed fortress.” 

That’s not exactly true.  While I do have a retreat in a rural area, I do still also have neighbors up there.  We are on acre+ lots, so there is space.  But if I started stringing barbed wire and digging a moat, it would raise a few eyebrows.  Not only might I get a visit from the DHS (or the People’s Republic of California equivalent), but my neighbors would have advanced notice that I was stocked up when it all hit the fan. 

So what I’ve done is gathered all the materials for that time when fortification will be necessary, and just have it in sheds or stacked discreetly on parts of the property. 

Then when the flag goes up, our first few days will be spent erecting the fence and stringing it with barbed wire, setting up the noise-making trip wires on the upper back side, setting up my solar-powered motion sensor lights, etc. 

You folks who live in a suburban neighborhood can do the same.  Just figure out what defenses you have in mind, get the stuff, and keep it in your garage until the balloon goes up.    

I feel bad for anyone who has to make a go of it in a suburb, but you gotta do what you gotta do, I guess.  Plus, be grateful it isn’t an urban area.  Probably your best bet would be to figure out how you could close off a set area (cul-de-sac or both ends of a street), and get enough material to do the whole area.  The plus side there is you’ll have instant allies and people to work with.  The down side could be that after a few weeks and hunger starts to set in, they may say, “Hey, if he had all the security equipment ready to go, he probably also stashed away food.”  One way to help throw them off the scent would be to now buy clothes from Goodwill that are a little too big for you, so they hang slack like everyone else will be wearing.  Another way, if you could afford it, is have extra food for them, too. 

Or perhaps a way to go would be to make an encampment of all the properties that touch yours, and leave it at that.  Anyone beyond that would be an outsider. 

I know there is a lot to think about on that, and I don’t envy you that task.  But I’ll close with the original point of this note, and that is to say you can hide security measures in your garage until you need them.  Good luck, get prepared and stay safe.  - Mountain Man Virgil

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Mr Rawles, thank you for the service you provide.

A comment on the dual ring village concept. If it is advanced as a defense tactic, I would urge remembering that the walled-town versus siegecraft dynamic is thousands of years old, and the survival of walled towns and cities is only possible if they are:

1. Provisioned to last longer than the besieging force, which is of course free to forage and be resupplied
2. Fireproof
3. Relieved by a friendly force from outside.

They are also utterly obsolete since the development of artillery bombardment, still more so since the airplane and missile. Sad but true.

IMHO, safety today must rely on:

1. Invisibility or insignificance to possible enemy
2. Effective surveillance of a wide perimeter
3. mobile defense force to engage potential enemy at a distance

War is not only Hell, but quite expensive!

Thanks again! - Ben F.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A good friend who has own three acres at the end of my dead end road rented two 40 foot-long shipping containers eight years ago, paying $250 a month for the pair, and filled them completely up with stuff that he moved from Ohio.  I recently built a two-storey barn for him. When we opened the containers, which had been sealed for eight years [to shift the contents to the new barn] we found that holes had rusted through the top of the containers and everything inside of them was totally ruined.  Nothing inside was salvageable.  He is depressed and heartbroken. He had spent $24,000 in rent but yet he had to haul everything to the dump.  So if you use shipping containers make sure they stay sound and waterproof. - Jim W.

JWR Replies: Over the years I have heard from many readers about issues with Continental Express (CONEX) containers. While they have their advantages, there are substantial risks involving moisture--both rain leaks and condensation. It is essential that the contents of CONEXes be stacked on horizontal pallets and that no boxes are allowed to contact the walls or ceilings, which could be damp with condensation.

When buying, or renting a CONEX, I recommend that you get CONEXes made from Corten (or "Cor-Ten" steel. This is a weathering steel with a specially formulated metallurgy that will last many years longer than standard steel if comparable gauge.

Regular inspection (inside and out) is a must. In most temperate climates, moisture absorbers (such as DampRid tubs) must be replaced frequently, or continuous power must be supplied to several GoldenRod or Everdry electric dehumidifiers.

The other risk that I often hear mentioned is security. It is not unusual for CONEXes to be pillaged by burglars. Even the very best padlocks will not stand up to attacks from cutting torches or abrasive cutoff wheels. And if the locks themselves are not attacked, then it is often the hasp loops or other door hardware to that are attacked. The bottom line is that there is NO sure substitute to having a watchful eye on your property. So in the case of absentee landowners, you need neighbors who you can trust.

The archives of SurvivalBlog have many articles about CONEXes and their many uses. And for anyone who is toying with the idea of burying a CONEX, we have posted many warnings about the potential for CONEXes to collapse. (They are designed to take heavy weight only on their corners.)

Coincidentally, the editor of Prepper Resources recently posted a good summary guest article that was written by one of the owners of

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

I've often wondered what the "typical" home-invasion victim's house looks like.  Does it have high fences; does it sit perched on a hill with a beautiful view; are BMWs seen entering & leaving?  Perhaps.  I wonder if home invaders (or burglars, for that matter) even bother with modest homes that have 20-year-old cars parked in front?  Probably not so much.

What I'm saying is that, even if you have the means to live well, part of OPSEC should probably include maintaining the appearance of being a low-value target.  Making your home into an obvious fortress will naturally cause those with malign intentions to think, "Wow, now this is the place to hit!"  Perhaps that will keep you from living your idea of the "good life," but if that's truly your philosophy, you should probably re-think that anyway.

Regards, - Geoff B.

Monday, April 15, 2013

[JWR's Introductory Note: I'm presenting this book excerpt as a guest post. His book is available at]

The prospect looms of an economic collapse caused by the enormous sovereign debt of the United States and moves by China, Russia, Brazil and others to dump the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency. If they succeed, America will be dethroned from its position as the middle-man in world financial affairs and the dollar will begin to reflect America’s true financial position. In short, America will become the new Zimbabwe.

This devaluation will create massive disruptions in domestic economic activity, banking, public services and food distribution. In turn, the lack of purchasing power will cause rioting, looting, arson and mob violence. After that, expect armed gangs and the end to the world as we know it. What we don’t know is how soon, how long, or how generalized, the disruption is likely to be.

A few years ago, I wrote a book about home invasion prevention, called just that: Home Invasion Prevention. It was based on more than two years of research and interviews with gun owners, police, and security experts. I was thinking about normal society in peaceful times, but a lot of the advice in the book still makes sense in the apocalyptic scenario I’ve just sketched.

So what I’m about to say is aimed at the period between the start of the economic crisis and the point you bug out of town in the middle of the night with a backpack and a 9mm.

Home security is really composed of two elements; symbolic protection and physical protection. It’s because Canadians and Americans don’t discriminate between these two concepts they’re continually surprised at burglaries, robberies and home invasions when they occur.

Symbolic protection is made up of objects and procedures that speak to the ownership of a piece of property, or a dwelling on that property, and which say or imply, that this ownership should be respected. Physical protection is made up of objects or procedures which prevent or deter entry onto that property or into that dwelling. Let’s look at some examples.

Remember the kind of low picket fence surrounding suburban front yards in movies from the 1950s? The fence would rise from a height of two feet to gate posts about three feet high on which a swinging gate would be latched. To enter a home, you would have to walk along the sidewalk until you reached the gate, then unlatch the gate and walk up to the front door. Once there you would use the bell and wait for the door to be answered.

This is an example of symbolic protection. The fence is not physically stopping you from stepping over and onto the lawn, but symbolically asking you not to do so. The gate doesn’t stop you from entering the yard, but symbolically reminds you that you are going onto private property. And the door bell is not just to call the resident inside, but also to force you to wait for the resident to open the door. It’s all symbolism. You could, if you wished, have stepped over the fence, ignored the bell and (this was the 50s after all) opened the door.

Consider, on the other hand, a traditional home in North Africa. It presents a smooth, solid wall on four sides, broken only by a small and sturdy entrance onto the street. The entrance door leads through the house to an iron gate which blocks access to an inner courtyard. From the courtyard you can see an external staircase that goes up to the flat roof of the rooms surrounding the courtyard. This roof runs around the house and is bordered by a wall about chest height with a rounded edge.

Here we have an example of physical protection. The lack of external windows means an invader would have to scale a 15 foot wall to gain access. The rounded edge of the wall would prevent a grappling hook from getting a purchase and, in any event, a night watchman, stationed on the upper level, would immediately be aware of an assault. Down on the ground, the narrow door would prevent a large group of men from attacking the door altogether, while the inner gate would allow the residents to fight back against an armed attack. The upper level would also provide a firing point to defend all four quarters of the house.

The basic difference between the two concepts is that in the mid-century American setting, the homeowner expects other members of society to understand and respect the written and unwritten rules governing private property. The North African, on the other hand, expects raiders will ignore the rules and that, as a result, he will have to fight to enforce his rights.

Canada and the United States, at the start of the 21st Century, present a mixed picture between these two extremes, less socially uniform than  fifty years ago, but not as lawless as, say, modern Afghanistan. This means that while most North Americans respect the social and legal norms regarding property rights, a significant minority does not. This, in turn, means that relying exclusively on symbolic protection is no longer sufficient for home security.
Some people reading this will say they have never been the victim of a home invasion and they never expect to be in the future. I sincerely hope they’re right. However, it’s universally the case that actual victims of home invasions, if they survive, express exactly the same sentiments. They say they had never been victims in the past and they are amazed and astonished to have been targeted this time.

The key question you face as a homeowner is deciding how far you wish to go along the physical protection route before your security measures become oppressive or even obsessive. While you consider this, consider your front door. You will be surprised when I tell you that a front door locked with a consumer-grade deadbolt is more symbolic than practical. The same goes for typical window locks and sliding door latches. All of these can be smashed or jimmied open, in seconds.

If you want to provide real physical security, you will have to do more.
Home invasions invariably fall into one of five types, with the first three being by far the most common.

  • Force
    In this scenario, the home invader approaches the front or side door and simply kicks the door in. A well-aimed kick just below or above the door knob will break open most doors, even those with a properly installed deadbolt. This approach can take place day or night.
  • Deception
    The home invader approaches the front door and poses as someone needing assistance, wanting to use the phone, or go to the bathroom. He, or she, may say they're doing a survey, have a parcel for you to sign for or may tell you a tree branch has fallen on your car. There are any number of reasonable excuses that can be used to get you to open your door. Once open, the invader or her accomplices, push the door in. This type of invasion usually takes place during the day or early evening.
  • Stealth
    This is a more traditional approach where a home invasion starts much like a burglary. The assailant uses a lock pick or pry bar to defeat a door or window lock, slips into the house and surprises the homeowner in another room. Again, like invasion by force, this can take place at any time, but is most frightening at night.
  • Garage
    Invaders first drive around a neighbourhood looking for a house with a garage door open, or a homeowner in a garage with the door open. They then come back, drive up the driveway, get out and assault the individual in his own garage. With him under control, they close the garage door and continue the assault inside.
  • Abduction
    This is extremely rare, but has occurred in both Canada and the United States. The home invaders first carjack an individual and force him (or her) to drive home. Once they get there, the home invasion proceeds in the same way as a Garage type invasion.

Clearly these are five very different techniques, but a defence is possible for each one. I’ll sketch out the responses.

  • Force
    Defeating the force method of entry involves hardening the exterior of your home. This means security film and deadbolts on the windows, an anti-kick strip on the doors, cross-door reinforcement, double deadbolts and reinforced hinges.
  • Deception

The key to beating the deception form of attack is a security doorstop. This device, which you can make yourself or purchase commercially, acts as an invisible barrier after you open the door. The assailant has no idea the door is braced and will then make his move.

  • Stealth

Dealing with a stealth attack is similar to preventing a burglary; external hardening. However, our wrinkle on this is another device you don’t hear much about, an internal security gate. Even after you harden your home, you have to assume a clever and persistent home invader will find a way to defeat a window or door somewhere in the house. An internal security gate gives you time to collect your thoughts and take other actions as necessary.

  • Garage

Because homeowners don't expect to be assaulted on their own property and in their own garage, and because the neighbours don't see, or hear, anything amiss, this kind of invasion is one of the easiest for home invaders to pull off. The short answer to the problem is to keep your garage door down and locked.

  • Car

A very few home invasions start with a carjacking blocks or even miles from the home. You need to create a response plan now, before it happens.

There was one phrase in the last group of points you may have passed over without taking it in; an internal security gate.

You need to put a steel gate attached to steel plates attached to wall studs in a position between the public part of your home and the private part. Usually it should be at the start of the hallway to the bedrooms. The gate needs to have a push-button mechanical lock on one side accessible to the other.

The point of the gate is to set up your home invaders. Because you have your gun in your bedroom, you can retrieve it, load it and get into position at your bedroom door while the home invaders try to get through the gate to attack you. If they do, you can open fire knowing the range down to the inch.  It’s polite to have a solid wall at the other end of your hall so overshoots don’t exit your house and injure neighbors or passers-by.

As I said earlier, this advice is adapted from my book, Home Invasion Prevention, available from as a paperback or eBook. Good luck to you, and to me; we’ll need it, no matter how well we plan things.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

James Wesley:
A thought about securely storing valuables:

Have several hidden storage areas/caches with the bulk of your valuables and some smaller “bait” caches.  If ever overwhelmed by thieves or the government, give up the smaller stashes to satisfy the varmints.  In the case of registered firearms, a government grab will expect to find all the registered weapons and some associated ammo so it is imperative to acquire (legally) never registered weapons and ammo for the long term if you do not already have “free” weapons.
Of course in the case of thieves, the best option is vigorous self-defense.

Thanks much for SurvivalBlog. - Ed, The Lone Prepper

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

We have had cash on hand since Y2K, which became 9/11 cash, then 2008 crash cash. I agree with the author to be careful, because depositing/withdrawing or spending large amounts of cash can trigger a report to the authorities due to the Patriot Act, or cause other problems.

My own example is: In 2008 I withdrew $7,500 and closed an account at a failing bank. This money sat "under the mattress" so to speak, until just  a few months ago when I decided to purchase a small second home, using this cash as part of the down payment. I had about $5,000 left of the cash and put it in my current bank account so the mortgage company could "see" the money to be used for the down payment. (The teller indicated that $10,000 was the reportable level.)

However, since my cash deposit was within three months of its planned use for the down payment, the mortgage company would not let me use it!  All funds must be completely trackable, not cash, due to the Patriot Act. Even though I had banking records documenting my old bank closure and withdrawal, they would not accept this money in down payment. I was forced to obtain a money gift (completely documented as to the bank it came from,etc.) from a relative to get approved for my mortgage.

I don't know what would happen if I tried to buy a vehicle from a dealer with cash over $10,000 - it likely would be reportable.

Cash purchases, even smaller amounts, are becoming more restricted in Europe. And the Cyprus great depositor rip-off  increases the risks of banking your money. Credit card purchases are set to be mined and monitored by the US government, I have read. We are between a rock and a hard place.  

Here is some of what I have done for financial preparedness:

1. Transferred all of my IRA in 2009 from a big institution to a Self-Directed IRA (Unless you are very savvy, you must get a custodian - Entrust is a well-known one.) This enabled me to put my IRA into rental real estate, with an associated small bank account to receive rents and pay for expenses. I have chosen not to have precious metals in this IRA, because you cannot have custody. There are many other investments you can make through a self-directed IRA.

2. Junk silver. I do not trust that any recent purchases of gold will not be reported and later confiscated ala FDR in 1931.

3. Small amounts of money in my bank account, and small amounts of cash secured outside of the bank.

4. Purchase tangibles when I can. Next purchase is a truck. I have a whole list of things such as water storage, to spend any extra money on. Nothing is going to get cheaper in the future. I am a physician, so when I can I am also stocking up on medications.

Thank you for your great blog. - Colorado Doc

Mr. Rawles,
The other day I visited my local bank. I asked what the rate was for a certificate of Deposit (CD) or their various interest-bearing [passbook or checking] accounts. I was told the best rate they offered was .7% (Seven-tenths of one percent!)   That surprised me. Then it got me to thinking: What is the advantage of keeping my currency in the bank?  There, it is subject to being stolen by an identity thief or withdrawn from my account using fraudulent means. It is also within reach of the government (Think: Cyprus.)  If, for some reason, the bank fails my currency will be tied up for months as the FDIC pays the claim. So I reasoned it would serve me best if I withdrew my currency and kept it hidden on my property. I have a retreat of 80 acres that we now live full time on. I have over 850 [1-ounce] Silver Eagles and I may buy more. I don't feel comfortable putting all my eggs in one basket.  What do you think of my reasoning? - Tim P. in Oklahoma

JWR Replies: Your reasoning is sound. I recommend that folks keep just the minimum that they need in the bank for their monthly expenses. Cash and precious metals kept at home should be in a fire-resistant box that is hidden in a well-camouflaged wall or floor cache, or better yet in a concealed vault room.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hello Jim,
You have had a couple of good articles about having dogs for retreat/home protection recently. I couldn't agree more that dogs are a wonderful resource in many ways. I have two German Shepherds who keep my farm and home safe from humans and predators.  There are a couple points I would like to add.

First of all, not all dogs will fight to protect their pack. I had a German Shepherd several years ago who would try to hide behind me if there was danger. He was a complete coward, in spite of his attack training. When picking a protective dog, a person should size up the personalities of both parents, if possible. If the parents are rather laid back and unprotective, the puppies will probably grow up with a similar temperament. I have noticed that two dogs seem to be four times as good for protection, but they are also more difficult to control.

And once you have a protective dog, it is important to recognize that the dog doesn't always know when not to bite. A dog bite can be a death sentence without antibiotics, as infection is almost a guarantee. If your dog accidentally perceives someone to be a threat and bites him, there are numerous bad things that can happen to the you, dog, and the victim. My dogs are very protective and aggressive. I have to "protect" them from being in situations where they could get themselves in trouble. Although they are definitely my buddies, I have to handle them more like weapons than pets.

And lastly, dogs are not bullet proof. If there are desperate people who want to raid your retreat, do not believe they will hesitate to shoot your dog. In this situation, the dog will need to be protected too.  - Hobby Farmer

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Regarding the recent post "Dealing With Mentally Unbalanced Trespasser, I'd like to begin with a relevant Bible passage, Matthew 25:31-45, King James Version (KJV):

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

Having dealt, one-on-one with many folks like the "Mentally Unbalanced Trespasser" in many positions over the years, I offer some insight.

1.  We naturally fear the unknown.  Jesus invites us to engage that fear and recognize that "unknown one" as him.  Easier said than done.

2.  Here's the "done" part.  Offer the stranger food.  If he ignores you or refuses, offer it again.  How many times would you offer Jesus food if he initially regarded you with suspicion?  "Hey brother, have a cookie."  "Would you like some water or lemonade?"  I have seen people who you might think were crazed from bath salts or meth (a diagnosis best left to the pros) relax and engage with me.  A little kindness calls the fellow to "wake from the trance" and perhaps remember he is one of God's children.  Of course, we have to remember that he is one of God's children first.  Of course, you can wear a sidearm as you offer the cookie.

3.  Hearthkeeper notes,  "The man went with the officers with no struggle thank goodness and we then gave our statements."  Note especially the words "with no struggle".  Peace officers are more and more being trained to calmly offer help to people "in the trance" (Drunk, drugged, possessed, or whatever.) When you approach the stranger with kindness, as if you are addressing Jesus, you are preparing for a time when there may be no 911.  Take turns, as part of your prepper practice,  play the role of the stranger and of the one offering kindness.  As we used to say in the Marine Corps, 'Practice makes prepared."   

4.  I'll quote Hearthkeeper once more,  "We pressed charges for trespassing simply because the man otherwise would have been let go to terrorize some other family."  Based on the description of his behavior, the stranger was simply pulling on the chicken wire and threatening no one.  We human beings often claim, in our fear, that someone has "terrorized" us.  This serves to detract from out power to respond to a situation.  In tactical situations, the better we can describe what is going on without ascribing power or intent to the other, the more effective is our response.  I'll paraphrase Mother Theresa here, "Our challenge is to show kindness to Our Lord in all his repellent disguises."

5.  I am in no way suggesting you become a bleeding-heart liberal.  I simply invite you, if you choose Jesus, to heed his words.  Certainly, you can keep the option of violent response ready in your hip pocket--or holster. - Dancing Marine

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Should you shelter-in-place or move to a retreat?  Lots of pros and cons about this, and most of it depends upon strength in numbers.  Obviously, the more remote and inaccessible your castle is, the harder it will be for intruders to discover or invade.  But I’m 65, and I don’t own any remote property.  My house sits on a very defendable cul-de-sac, essentially surrounded on three sides by water – my “moat.”  I could pull stakes and move to a national park or wildlife preserve, but it would be a simple campsite with tent and no walls, and I would need several families to go with me for security.
When our civilization collapses, which seems inevitable with our current insane government, I plan to do all the right things to ensure my home and area are secure.  There will be perimeter alarms and felled trees for roadblocks, trip wires and night vision.  But one thing that people overlook may be the very best alarm system ever known to man.  A dog.  But, better yet, two dogs.

I’ve been a veterinarian for over 30 years, and I’ve owned, seen and worked with a lot of dogs, including military working dogs and police dogs.  Recently I accompanied an incredible Labrador retriever, “Buster,” in search of World War II Missing In Action (MIA) Marines and soldiers.  Buster can sniff out bones that have been buried up to 100 years ago, detecting the miniscule amounts of aromatic organic compounds still leaching up through the soil from what’s left of the body.  Incredible, but just an example of “superhuman” abilities of dogs’ senses that include hearing, sight, and, perhaps, a sixth sense or even seventh and eighth senses.
We’ve just adopted two 5-month-old female German shepherd littermates into our household.  Or, as they would see it, our “pack.”  Although people try to treat pets as human members of their families, the dog will always consider the family a pack, with an alpha male leader, and alpha female head of the female members of the pack, and a definite peck-order of all. 
Detect fear, evil, danger, “something wrong”
The stories about military working dogs (MWD) and other extraordinary dog-related events are endless.  Dogs have been used by military units since Roman times and before.  Soldiers and Marines who served in canine units during World War I and II, Vietnam, and more recent conflicts tell about being alerted of the enemy long before approaching an ambush.  Some tell about doubting the dog, that the handler couldn’t see or detect anything wrong, but the dog was always right.   The handlers learned that no matter what, you always trust the dog’s judgment.  If not an ambush, then it was a trip wire, mine, dead enemy soldier, or something wrong. Nothing yet has been invented that can do a better job.
Regarding a sixth sense, I’ve heard stories about cat owners who have a group of people over to their homes, and if there is one person in the group who doesn’t like cats, the cat will find that person and focus on them!  Unexplainable.  Then I’ve heard mothers say their child brought home some friends from school and the dog growled at one of the kids when introduced.  I’d trust the dog, that there’s something to be cautious of about that one child.  Always trust the dog.
On Alert 24/7
In a home or retreat, it would be ideal to have a “dog door” so that the dog(s) can come and go as they feel the need.  We have a fenced yard and our dogs can go in and out of our heated garage, where they stay when we aren’t home.  I prefer that they be with us always, but I do have to go to work.  This brings up another issue:  separation anxiety.
Dogs are pack animals, and now you and your human family are the pack.  With just one dog, when you leave them alone to go to work, some dogs become stressed.  “Where are you?  Are you coming back?  Why did you leave me?  I’ve got to find you!  I’ve got to find you NOW!”  You come home to the door frame chewed up, with scratches all over the door (the one you left by).  Or there is other destruction due to frustration and anxiety; general freaking out.
I don’t think animals other than man have a concept of time.  They truly live for the moment, and don’t understand, “I’ll be back in an hour.”  Alpha (the pack leader) must be kept track of in case he/she needs me.  “Where’s Alpha?”  “I’ve got to find him/her!”  There have been medications to help with separation anxiety, but who wants to have their pet on meds all the time?  I usually advise obedience school and another dog for companionship (part of the pack is still here), or at least a cat friend.  Dogs aren’t fooled by leaving the television on, even if you run “Lassie” on it.  Sometimes this is more of a puppy thing than with an adult dog, but all dogs (and cats) seem to have a “fuller life,” and are more content with another dog to relate to.  I say, “Cats speak French and dogs speak German, so the same species is always better.”
Since dogs don’t understand time, they are “on guard” 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  They probably don’t know what day it is, either.  They learn the sound of your car coming down the street and are at the door to greet you.  Common sounds, scents, and sights are recorded as “normal,” and everything else becomes suspect and in need of investigation.
Don’t need to be attack trained/naturally protective

Attack training would be a plus, but I’m a firm believer that all dogs need to go through at least level one obedience training.  That includes learning to, “Heal” (on and off leash), and unhesitatingly respond to the commands, “Sit,” “Stay,” “Come,” and “Down.”  Remember, these are COMMANDS, not requests.  If you have to repeat the command more than once, the dog needs more training (generally that means more assertiveness or “alpha-ness” from you).  In a bad situation, this may mean the dog’s life or yours if they do not respond immediately.  I’m always impressed by a dog with good manners.
Try to find a dog training club near you.  We have a local volunteer organization that offers basic and advanced courses at reasonable prices ($90 for 8 weeks/8 one-hour sessions).  Be involved in the training yourself, don’t give your dog to someone to train for you.  The dog will learn to obey the trainer very well, but who are you?  The trainer should be teaching you how to train the dog, not doing it for you.
Dogs are naturally protective of the pack, and will fight to the death to protect any and all pack members.  That doesn’t need to be taught.  Dogs seem to have the ability to detect evil/danger/threat, either through a sixth sense or from pheromones given off by the subject.  Pheromones are invisible clues that most animals live by.  A dog can walk out to the patio, sniff the air a couple times, and know that there are three dogs upwind; one a female (estrogen/progesterone), one a male (testosterone), and one “not right” (neutered).  Like the story of the male moth that can find the female moth on a tree miles upwind, they pick up on the ever-expanding “plume” of scent from the source.  By staying within that plume and moving toward increasing strength, the animal or insect can locate their quarry.
On patrol or translocating
When traveling, dogs tend to enjoy the trailblazing part; they like to run on ahead.  They are your “point” when patrolling or moving out.  Again, two dogs afford twice the sensory strength and can scan better than one.  Dogs can be trained to “alert” by lying down or freezing on point.  Down would be better, if you have to fire over them.  More training beyond the level one obedience will give you better control and more options.  In any situation, dogs are tremendous “force multipliers,” extending your eyes and ears well beyond human capacities.  Most sensible people also fear big dogs, and some ethnicities abhor them.  Because of this, dogs are sometimes shot first.  You don’t want this to happen, but it will put you on maximum alert and make you more than willing for payback.

Long before there were pet foods in bags and boxes on the grocer’s shelves, pets ate what we ate, or the scraps.  In general, if there is a balanced meal for us, the dogs can eat the same foods.  Commercial dog foods contain enough fat to go rancid if not kept in oxygen-low or vacuum storage.  Preservatives help delay spoilage, but all foods eventually degrade.  Certainly the dog will hunt on its own and eat wild game, as well as vegetation.  Eating a whole rabbit provides meat protein, some fat, calcium from the bones, and vitamins from the liver and organs.  But they are also eating everything the rabbit ate in the previous 24 hours, providing other vitamins and some roughage.
There are numerous dog food recipes online today to make your own balanced diet, but realize that all the ingredients may not be available in a future situation.  Share your vitamins and what you are eating, and the group will probably survive.  I won’t mention eating your dog in a survival situation!

Keep your dog’s vaccinations current.  Nine-way “distemper” shots are good for a year or more.  Rabies vaccine is good for one year the first time given, then should be boosted every three years thereafter.  Some states don’t recognize a 3-year rabies shot, but that doesn’t mean it won’t last that long.  Lyme disease (Borrellia) vaccine is also available, as is kennel cough (tracheobronchitis - Bordetella).  The nine-way shot includes canine distemper, hepatitis/adenovirus-2, parvovirus, parainfluenza, coronavirus, and four types of Leptospirosis vaccine. 
Post-collapse it will be hard enough to find human vaccines, let alone veterinary ones, so keeping your dogs away from other stray dogs will be important, too.  Some of these diseases are more deadly for puppies under a year old than adult dogs, such as parvo and kennel cough.  Mature dogs that have had several annual vaccinations should be well protected for years beyond their due dates, but anything is possible.
Flea/tick/heartworm/intestinal worm control

Many of the preventive products for dogs have very long shelf lives, and some have no expiration date.  In general, medicines and preventive products are good for at least five years beyond their expiry dates.  Mosquitoes carry heart worms, so basically all dogs are susceptible to infection.  The infection takes about three years to debilitate and kill a dog, but it is easily prevented with monthly heartworm medicine that you can stock up on and rotate annually.  Many heartworm preventives also contain intestinal worm medicine to kill roundworms and hookworms as well every month. 
Flea control is necessary to keep your abode from getting polluted with fleas, and monthly liquid applicators do a great job of keeping these bugs down.  Be sure to get high quality (98+% control) flea products from your vet, rather than over-the-counter look-alikes that are about 50% effective.  Some flea products also control ticks, but there are some very effective tick collars available that do an even better job.
Not From Pet Stores
I’ve been battling the puppy mill-pet store connection for more than two decades.  I didn’t know what puppy mills were when I graduated from vet school, but learned about them when I worked for a humane organization.  Pet stores (and now enterprising individuals who set up a puppy sale web site) buy puppies directly from the puppy mill breeder, or through a “broker,” who cleans up the puppy, vaccinates, de-worms them, and creates a “pedigree” of sorts.  The broker generally has the puppy for two or three days, then they are shipped out to the pet store.  The pet store pays $25 to $50 for the puppy (some breeds are more), then adds a zero or two to the price and has them on sale the next day.  People who say they, “rescued the puppy from the pet store,” are simply perpetuating this industry and creating an open pet store cage for a replacement puppy to take their place.
Not all puppy mill puppies turn out to be “lemons,” but quite a few have problems from inbreeding and neglect.  Realize that puppy mills (intense breeding facilities, dogs kept in “rabbit hutch” confinement, no vet care, minimal overhead investment) are the only consistent source of puppies for pet stores.  No matter what the pet store owner or staff tell you, the puppies are coming from mills.  One pet store chain was proud to proclaim, “We do not buy from puppy mills.”  That was a legally true statement, because they bought from a broker, not directly from the puppy mill. 
Puppy mill dogs are more likely to have genetic problems due to inbreeding.  When a mother dog is no longer producing sizeable litters, a female puppy is often kept to replace her.  When she comes into heat, she’s bred back to (guess who?) her father dog.  The pedigree is fudged, and business continues.  Congenital defects include bad hips, trick knees (patellar luxation), eye problems, epilepsy, and other issues not immediately detectable.  Ear mites, Demodectic mange, intestinal parasites, eye infections, lack of socialization, and exposure to distemper and parvo viruses are also common.  If the puppy is exposed to a virus, then vaccinated the same day, it’s virtually a race to see which wins.  Incubation time for the virus and the time it takes for a puppy to develop immunity against it are about the same, so it’s a gamble.  Also, if you take into account that many of the mother dogs are unvaccinated or behind in their vaccination schedule (overhead, remember), then the puppy lacks adequate maternal immunities.
Today you can find hundreds of online web sites that sell puppies, but the situation is the same; they buy from brokers or directly from mills, and only have the puppies for a few days to weeks before they are sold.  It’s all smoke and mirrors on the web site.
Here are some red flags to help prevent a puppy mill purchase:
1.    The mother dog is not on the premises (don’t believe, “She’s at a show” or some other excuse).
2.    There are a bunch of different breeds for sale by the same person.
3.    They’ll “meet you halfway” to complete the transaction (that’s because they don’t want you to see their facility or lack of one - all a sham).
4.    If registered, it is not through the American Kennel Club (AKC).  There are many “registration” companies out there that provide phony “papers.”
5.    The comment that “She was rescued from a puppy mill.”  That usually means she was bought at an auction or directly from the mill owner.  The source is the same.
People are making six-figure incomes by selling puppy mill puppies.  That’s why they do it, not for love of dogs.  Some will offer a lower price for cash, because they don’t claim the cash to the Internal Revenue Service.  So you are picking up some of their tax burden as well.  You are generally better off adopting a dog from a humane shelter or dog pound than buying one from a pet store or web site. 

Choice of Breed
If you want a particular breed, check with local kennel clubs about reputable breeders in your area.  You may have to drive a few hours to visit a breeder, but it will be due diligence.  Don’t be in a hurry to get a puppy.  Sometimes the breeder won’t have any puppies available just then, but have a litter or two on the way and you can put a down payment on one or get first choice.  It will be worth the wait to get a sound dog from a reliable breeder.
Breed rescue organizations should not be overlooked.  We’ve adopted three Dobermans from a rescue source that places adult dogs from various situations.  One of ours came from a home where the young son developed extreme allergies to the dog.  He turned out to be the best one ever.  Google “rescue” and the breed you’re looking for, and you might find a great match in your area.
Recommended breeds (personal choices): German Shepherd/German shepherd crosses, Belgian Malinois, Akita, Border Collie, and Doberman
Now, I know some of you are going to say they had a Jack Russell that was incredible, or a Staffordshire terrier that could hear a leaf turn over in the yard, but there are reasons why the military and police forces choose certain breeds.  Size is intimidating, and with size comes strength.  Herding breeds are more conscious of their surroundings and are always scanning the horizon and listening for clues.  Some breeds seem to be easier to teach than others (Irish setters come to mind at the slower end of that scale).  There are always exceptions to the rule, such as an occasional Lab that makes the cut, or beagles for airport sniffing, but the best overall dog, in my opinion, would be a shepherd or shepherd cross.  The smartest/sharpest/most alert dog I ever owned was a 65-pound German shepherd cross (3/4 shepherd by appearance).  She was $20 at a farm home with a hand-lettered sign out front. 
No reason to reinvent the wheel here.  Pick a breed that’s now being used for security work.  I’ve had several shepherd crosses over the years, three Akitas, and four Doberman pinschers.  Also a collie and a couple dachshunds.  Never owned a malinois or border collie, but I’ve worked on quite a few, and I totally respect the malinois.  The border collies are just high-energy, super-alert dogs that are anxious to work and anxious to please you.  I take care of a family of champion Rhodesian Ridgebacks, which are sight hounds, and they are very alert, fast, and powerful, but they’re going to cost you more.  Remember, you should get two.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Dear Mr Rawles,
We are looking for a good security system for our land. Animals and IR alerts aside, we are now in the market for a good multiple camera system. As the area is heavily wooded and vast, cables are out of the question. We would like purchase something that requires little maintenance, in order to prevent continuous activity in the area; blackout technology is a must. We were wondering if you or other SurvivalBlog readers have any recommendations? Thank you for your time, and May God Bless you and yours. - Mary B.

JWR Replies: These days, wireless web cameras with audio pickup and IR lights are inexpensive. I recommend buying several inside your house. (Outdoor webcams are also available but note that these are not completely weatherproof, so to cover outdoor areas such as porches they should be placed under the protection of eaves. And by placing them in faux birdhouses or clustering them with floodlight fixtures they won't attract much notice.)

Just be sure to locate the computer that these cameras feed in a hidden room, in a wall cache, or completely off site. Otherwise, if burglars steal your computer, they will take with them the evidence that you would need to get them convicted.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

In Hearthkeeper's account of the man arrested for trespassing while attacking a chicken run, she mentions that they had decided to “press charges” as it seemed the cops were aware of the guy, but nobody else had wanted to press charges.  Her rationale was that now he would get some kind of evaluation in jail.
Well, he probably won't.
I don’t work in a jail environment anymore, but when I did it wasn’t that long ago.   What they did was well-intentioned and the right thing to do, but let’s point something out...
Under every state law I’ve ever seen, a person who appears to be unable to care for themselves can be taken into custody for their own safety if the arresting officer witnesses the person acting in a manner that would lead the officer to believe so.
Let’s examine the facts as we know them.
1.  The man acted out in front of the cops
2.  The homeowner wanted charges pressed
3.  The cops indicated that they had had prior contacts with the guy but nobody wanted to press charges.
So, it begs the question, why didn’t the cops simply use their power of detention for the man’s safety?  I’ll tell you why.  They would have gotten counseled for wasting taxpayer’s money and leaving their beat unnecessarily.   Depending on your jurisdiction and accessibility, the average time a cop will spend just processing someone “for their own good” is from 1.5 to 3 hours.  Why?  Because he needs to be medically cleared first.  That means the cops have to take him somewhere where a doctor can evaluate his medical condition, the guy might actually need intervention medically and the “crazy behavior” might not just be mental illness.   So, I take him into custody – and then I call the jail to ask them if they have a room for the guy (since I’m arresting him for a purported mental state, he cannot (by most state law) be housed with other inmates until he’s evaluated.  This means solitary confinement in most cases, and it means he has to be under observation 24/7 some jails set up for this by putting the person in a cell with a big window that jailers can look through, some use video cameras – but in all cases this means special treatment and you have to call the jail to see if them have the right facility.   Next step – you think he’s whacko?  Are you a doctor?  You can’t know, so, again – before involuntarily committing someone you have to have a doctor sign off on it, the jail nurse doesn’t count.  Remember your reason for arresting him was for his mental state not that he trespassed (nobody pressed charges, remember?)  In most jurisdictions this is a policy issue not a legal one, policy is set to help deal with legal issues in a fair and proper manner.  Mentally ill people are not “prisoners” in the legal sense of the word, they will have no judicial review of their case unless they are held longer than the state mandate.  Anywhere they are held, they will be held alone – and that’s resource intensive – you will have to get permission from someone to do this.  So, that’s the purported reason for why a cop might not arrest someone “for their own good”.  The biggest reason is cost.  Once you’ve undertaken to seek treatment for this person, guess who foots the bill?  The Sheriff or city that employs you.  So, there’s the Emergency Room (ER) visit for evaluation... The bill will come to your department, since once the guy is in your custody you are responsible for any medical care he may need, your status as a peace officer makes this seem easy.  Your employer, however, may not see eye to eye with you on the matter.  In many cases it will be impossible for you to do what’s right because you will need to watch commander’s specific permission,  many times you’ll summon the paramedics to let them “evaluate” the guy, and they will ask the guy if he wants to be treated – if he says yes, you’re off the hook – because once he’s in their care your hands are clean.   
While you’ve been doing the right thing by this crazed citizen, your entire beat has been doing without you, officers who work alongside you have been doing dangerous things alone because they have no backup, in some cases calls may not be answered because policy may dictate two officers responding (like with a domestic violence case) so it’s entirely possible that some wife out there is getting whacked around for a lot longer than she should be, all because you had to do the “right thing” and tie yourself up for three hours.   Let’s also hope you’re not pushed beyond your end of shift, because overtime isn’t something your supervisors like – you might need approval for that. 
But let’s assume we follow this guy’s course after he gets a ride to the jail.
He gets booked, just cursorily medically evaluated (if he’s cooperative), and since it’s simple trespass (a very low quality misdemeanor) after processing he’ll be given a summons and released, usually within the first eight hours.  Then he’s back on the street.  It can be quicker if the jail staff decides he’s no real danger and they’re overpopulated (a constant problem) and he could get released without four hours.  Now he’s back on the street, and he’s received no medical intervention – because he’s no longer under your control, the jail staff now makes the decision and remember, you didn’t bring him in for mental evaluation, right?  They absolutely will not try to create a bigger thing out of it, they’ll process the trespass and release him if no bail is called for – and even IF bail is set, it’s almost always a release upon personal recognizance (so you become your own bondsman).   I would estimate that there’s less than a ten percent chance that the jail staff will go out of their way to find this guy treatment, commonly in a setting like a jail a mentally ill person will become quiescent and not exhibit any of the behaviors that you found crazy, they’re sorta in a “happy place” and don’t feel very stressed – which in many cases will just make them quiet and non-threatening. 
How an arrest is conducted and the reasons for it are many and complex, it all boils down to dollars and cents, you’d like to think a cop is a caretaker for your community – but he’s not and there are probably policies in place to keep him/her from becoming one, because it creates liability and big medical bills for the jurisdiction in question.  
Let’s not forget that now they’re witnesses/victims and they’ll have to go to court to testify – unless he takes a plea bargain.  But guess how many times that happens to someone who’s mentally ill?  It’s actually about 50/50, compared to the 95 percent plus of normal people who just take whatever is offered in way of punishment for a minor crime like trespassing.    True story.  Local hotel did a local homeless shelter a favor by taking in one of their “overflow” people for a night for free.  Well, the guy orders a couple hundred dollars worth of room service, and when he leaves refuses to pay.  Arrest (defrauding an innkeeper) and it’s revealed he’s a heavily addicted bipolar heroin addict.   Hotel staff gets subpoena’d.  Hotel staff shows to court.  Defendant is supposed to get his meds in the morning, but since he’s getting transported to court he misses his morning pill and the judge continues the case because the guy isn’t in the right mental state.  This happens five times over a period of three months.  Each time the judge sends a note to the sheriff about getting this guy his pill before ending him to court.  The reason?  You must be able to understand the judicial proceedings and participate in your own defense – this is not a competency hearing, you have no court assigned guardian.  Finally seven months later the guys gets his pill, says, “yes I understand” takes a plea deal and it’s over.  But in the meantime five staff from the hotel have taken six half-days off to appear in court because they are subpoena’d to do so.  You should be ready for this if you’re going to “press charges” it can happen.  It will happen. 
But let’s get another thing clear, I can’t speak for other states, but here’s what I’d need to arrest someone in my state.  The person would have have to enter into a property without permission and then refuse to leave when asked to do so.  If they jumped a six foot fence to do so, and the fence was locked, then they don’t get the “leave or else” thing, they can be arrested without being given the opportunity to leave.  What do I mean?   I mean that the cops showed up at another place under the same conditions, they should have been able to arrest him without the other parties “pressing charges” they witnessed his uninvited presence in someone’s back yard – they didn’t need to – but used a convenient out to stay in service “citizen declines complaint” and they move on hoping the guy wanders into someone else's jurisdiction.
Liability for prisoners is becoming a very big headache for most communities.  Putting someone in jail and keeping them there can create liabilities that get a city sued, most cities that have jails routinely pay out a couple million a year for petty complaints for mistreatment or bad conditions as the cost of doing business, we don’t hear about it because there is no access to the information within a court system, and all settlements become confidential.   Sheriff’s have a different problem, they’re elected and responsible for their own budget, reducing costs is a big thing – and if you don’t have the $5,000 per patient for a 3 day mental evaluation, you’re going to put a stopper in the possibility that your deputies do this. 
There is no good way to deal with mentally ill people who become violent, in many cases they don’t even know they’re breaking the law – having to shoot one would be something too horrible to contemplate.  My advice for anybody investigating an intruder outside of your home (but still on your property) would be to not do it alone, ever.   If you do decide to do it you need to do it from a far enough distance that you can retreat behind a locked barrier – bad guys can move fast, for most people this should just be their doorway with the screen closed and a loud voice.   

It’s not a matter of you having the right to defend yourself or your property, it’s a matter of never knowing if you’re willing to be killed or kill someone in an unknown situation like that described.  I’m pretty certain they’re glad they didn’t have to hurt the guy, and that the husband didn’t get hurt – I’ve committed so many stupid-brave acts in my lifetime I know exactly how it happens, and never judge someone for doing it – but if you can plan for it better, it’s always best to never do it alone and never get within running and grabbing distance of someone like that.  What the police have is civil immunity for their official acts and even if it does lose them their jobs, individual cops generally don’t have to pay money for what they do – we do not have civil liability, any act we commit against someone may get us sued, because as you all know – lawyers need to eat too, and sometimes it’s just not convenient to put on the roller skates and snag the bumper on a speeding ambulance. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The biggest weakness in preparedness planning is not a forgotten survival item, or too few cartridges.  The invisible weakness is lack of real time experience   It's one thing to say your going to raise your own food, and maybe you have all the seeds and tools to do it stored away.  But if you have never actually planted a huge garden and tried to live off it your first year is going to be full of failures (see: learning opportunities) that could be potentially deadly in real survival time.  The same goes for every aspect of survival and emergency situation response.  Personally I have always wondered how I would react in a real SHTF situation.  Would I freeze?  React too slowly?  Freak out?

Police agencies recommend that you think out potential dangerous situations frequently and plan how you would react.  Such as an intruder in your house, or someone trying to break through the door.  This helps when you actually are confronted by the situation.  My husband and I have talked about what we would do, and even discussed it to a certain extent with out daughter who is 15 so she can be safe and help keep her younger siblings safe while we deal with the situation.  She often complained about it because we have always lived in the country or in small rural towns.  I have tried to tell her that drugs are still just as much a problem in these kind of communities, but like most people, she thought that if you live in a small community is must be safer.  Most people do not realize that while the population is small, the statistical drug abuse rates and alcohol rates are as high or higher than large cities.

As a woman moreover, my concern is how I would react and effectively defend myself against a man coming onto my property or into my home and threatening me and my children while I'm alone.  I am a home-maker so I am alone with the children most of every day.  This is one reason I keep firearms as protection.  Guns have been called The Great Equalizer and for women this is especially true.  I know that when it comes to a confrontation with a man I am not going to win.  Men are bigger and stronger and no Politically Correct foolishness is going to change that fact.  My father stressed that women should know how to handle guns and carry one because violent crimes against woman are common.  He taught his daughters how to use all styles of firearms with proficiency and safety so while I wish that I lived in the world of puppies and rainbows I see the necessity to posses guns.

Yesterday morning started out just like normal.  I was making breakfast for my four children and drinking a cup of coffee.  Everything was fine and dandy when suddenly my four year old son said "Mommy a man just walked through our side yard!"  I was surprised and concerned since it was 7:00 in the morning and nobody should be in our yard.  I called to my husband, who was luckily still home.  If it had been 15 minutes later he would have been gone.  I told my husband what our four year old had said and after asking which way the man had gone, which was towards the back yard, he went out to take a look.

While all this was happening our amazing guard dog golden retriever was snoring gently in corner!  My husband first looked out that back window and sure enough a man was out at our chicken run.  He let me know that and then walked out to talk to the man.  Almost instantly he was back in the house.

"Lock the doors and call 911, he said, this guys is off his rocker"  The man was at that time trying to pull down our chicken fence and when my husband asked him what he was doing he said "This is a mirror and it must come down".  He had no slurred speech and was walking just fine but my husband said the way he looked was extremely creepy.  The man was obviously on some sort of drugs or in the grips of a psychotic episode.  

My first thought was bath salts or spice, as both of those have been in the news allot.  People in the grips of these drugs are extremely dangerous as it can cause violent psychosis to the point where they strip off their clothes and attack people.  There have been constant and increasing reports across the country of people on these drugs not just attacking but also trying to eat other people!  They do not respond to pain and have unnatural strength.

Needless to say neither my husband or I wanted to get into a physical altercation with this man.  My husband monitored him through a window while I immediately got the children upstairs and into a secure room.  Our back door is very unsecure, I could probably break through it with one kick so I was concerned what would happen if this man tried to come in.  I also considered that this man may be armed and wanted my children as far away from flying bullets with as many walls between them as possible.  This took about 20 seconds and then I was calling 911.  I felt no fear or panic, just an eerie calm with very clear thinking.  Every thought of mine was to  keep my children safe and remove the threat from my family.  As soon as I got to the phone my husband went and got the pump action shotgun loaded with slugs.  He stood by the window and continued to watch the man and report what he was doing so I could then tell the 911 operator.  

After trying to rip down the fence the man was now hitting his head repeatedly against it.  I told the operator to warn the responding officers that the man appeared to be hallucinating.  Now my husband told me the man was shaking and twitching and had again switched to trying to tear the fence down.  

Within four minutes of the initial 911 call the officers were on our property, which is one of the great things about living in a small town.  As soon as they arrived and had engaged in conversation with the man my husband went and put the shotgun away.  No need to get into an uncomfortable discussion on our firearms.

The man went with the officers with no struggle thank goodness and we then gave our statements.  Apparently the man had been causing trouble all night but since the previous people had not wanted to press charges he was allowed to walk.  We pressed charges for trespassing simply because the man otherwise would have been let go to terrorize some other family.  In jail he would be evaluated and not let go till he sobered up off of whatever he had taken.

All in all I think we handled the situation just right with only a few mistakes.  The first mistake was my husband going out and confronting the man without any defensive weapons.  Due to the fact that people hyped up on street drugs are often impervious to pain and display extreme strength this could have been really bad if the guy had gone after my husband.  My husband is very physically fit and strong.  He also is pretty confident on handling dangerous situations, but if taken by the element of surprise he could have been overpowered before he could react.  I of course would have gotten the shotgun immediately and dealt with the situation but my husband would have been injured.

Also I should have been armed as well.  That way if the guy had gotten through my husband and the shotgun he wouldn't have gotten through me.

The after-effects of this incident were what you would expect.  There was much soothing needed for my children, and we had to explain why the man was acting the way he did.  That night both me and my husband had a hard time sleeping.  Also my husband came up and hugged me right after the police left.  We had been having an ongoing marital debate about locked doors.  I always keep the doors double locked even though we live in a small town and this annoyed my husband when he would come home at night.  My statement every night was the same.  "I don't want anyone able to just walk into my house!" to which he would then blow off as unnecessary paranoia.

After this incident however he told me that if he ever gave me trouble about the locked doors again I was to punch him in the face!

During this whole incident I certainly felt concerned, but not panicked   The main reason for this was because both my husband and I are armed and know how to use them.  This man was not getting into our house.  This gave me a real calmness.  I cannot imagine what I would have felt like if we had not been armed and had to rely on nothing more than a locked door to protect us.  I have been teased often by anti gun family members about my penchant for carrying defence weapons.  But as I have heard stated many times before you don't need a gun until you really need a gun.  And then if you don't have one you are screwed.

What really disturbed me was what would have happened if one of my children had gone outside to feed the animals like they usually do while that man was out there.  They would have tried talking to him not realizing he was unbalanced.

I definitely recommend planning out what you would do in situations like these. It is so important to think out your priorities and who does what in a crises.  From our previous discussions it helped us spring to action and not panic.

As a last note we are this very weekend re-enforcing our back door so that it will take more than a hard tug to get through it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Dear Editor:
Congratulations to TJ and family for getting connected with a great dog. I love German Shepherds!

Allow me to offer a couple of additions to the concept of survivalists utilizing guard dogs.

Food; When you ask people my grandparents age how they fed dogs “back in the day” you are likely to get the answer “the dogs ate table scraps” or the dogs ran around and found their own food. In a survival scenario there aren’t going to be any scraps nor is there going to be much to “forage.” Therefore if bringing a dog on to the team is your plan then you need to ensure you will be able to feed them. “Dog preps” if you will.

Vaccinations;  In addition to food preps it is a good idea to have a years worth of de-wormer on hand. How often you de-worm depends on the environment the dogs are in. Meaning in the suburbs once or twice a year should suffice however if they are around livestock they should probably be de-wormed every three to four months.

In a Schumer scenario rabies and “rabid” dogs will likely be rampant.  Have your dogs vaccinated with a three year rabies shot every year
Breeds;  The author mentions “watch” dogs versus “guard” dogs and there is a third category frequently referred to as “working guard dogs”. Working guard dogs sometimes referred to as “livestock protection dogs” do just that.  The litmus test amongst goat and sheep people of what breeds qualify as working guard dogs is breeds that can kill a cougar and run off a pack of wolves.  Much as I love German Sheppard’s and agree that “dobies” and Rottweiler’s can make excellent guard dogs, they are, on balance, no match for a cougar or wolf.

There are a good number of breeds used around the world as working guard dogs most of them are in the extra large breed category (German Sheppard’s are a large breed dog). The two most common working guard dogs are The Great Pyrenees’ and the Anatolian Shepherd.  The Great Pyrenees is an awesome breed but we opted for the Anatolians for two reasons. First where we live (within the American Redoubt) gets very hot in the summer and we felt that their thick bodies and long hair would not do well in such heat. Secondly the Anatolians have more of an “edge” towards people protection so they can function as both a guard dog and a working guard dog. These are very independent and head strong animals so don’t expect to teach them to attack on command but they are highly intelligent and fiercely protective so you don’t have to.  They are a 6,000 year old breed of dog from the Anatolian region of Turkey. In fact I was looking at some of the maps in my Bible and you can read about the area called "Anatolia" in the days of Moses.  With 6,000 years of breeding a “guard” dogs they know what to do instinctively.

The AKC web site states that the Anatolian is “a working guard dog without equal”.  However these dogs need space and are not for the uninitiated dog handler.  You can love these dogs up and play fetch with them etc but they are not pets. They do not go to the dog park ever, we have the veterinarians come to us or if they have to go to the clinic they go in through a side door directly to the exam room. These dogs are not to view any person or animal who is not part of the “pack” as anything but outsiders who need to be chased off.

Lastly any survivalists who decide to employ dogs should have a perimeter fence. That is your line in the sand and keeps your dogs from running away which helps insure their safety.

There are many great dogs and breeds out there and the German Shepherd may well be the best fit for TJ and family but I wanted to throw these ideas out there as a compliment to his article. - Peter P.

I read the recent post about guard dogs with interest, as I'm a new owner.  I agree with most of the points submitted.  A guard dog can be a 'heightened sensor' so you can rest as well a fierce opponent of aggression toward you and your family.  I have owned mine for a year and to be truthful never had an interest in dogs beforehand.  Even though I am a prepper, and practice stocking up on the 5 Gs (Gold, Guns, Ground, Gas, and Grub  - a Robert Kiyosaki-ism) I never gave considerable thought to a guard dog. 

Recently a friend of mine was very generous in that he gave me a puppy.  The breed was Black Russian Terrier and was shipped to me from the Ukraine.  As stated, I never had an interest but felt compelled to accept this gift if for nothing else that show appreciation for the immense generosity.  After being around this dog I quickly grew attached.  I also saw just how intelligent and quick to learn this breed is.  Even though I have limited knowledge of dog training, I could teach him basic commands in a few hours or no more than a day.   He is big and strong - tops out at about 130 lbs.   He doesn't slobber and doesn't shed.  I had him house broke in a few days and now he guards my family while I am away on business.  After saying this I guess I was a bit disappointed that this breed wasn't even listed in Caesars Top 10.  It's possible that it wasn't listed simply because of rarity and many Americans never heard of it (my vet included).  Even so there are several kennels in the USA that raise these unique canines and I would encourage those in the market to research them before making a purchase.  I would also encourage them to study the breed.  It's beginnings were founded in the Soviet army.  It was a highly classified project to make the perfect working dog/Guard dog.  Roughly 20 breeds were mixed together to produce what is now a Black Russian Terrier.  Such dogs as the Giant Schnauzer, Rottweiler, Newfoundland, Yorkshire Terrier etc were mixed together in an attempt to make a working dog that was durable in the diverse  terrain and climatic conditions of Russia.  My friend showed in various Ukrainian competitions it almost always outperformed the German Shepard.   And I personally watched them in attack drills - seeing them perform immediately on command.   

The only breed that was close was the Belgian Malinois.  I have also seen where the breed is used to pull small carts which could be useful if you had some walking to do.  Of course there are pros and cons to everything, and with me the maintenance of it's fur is the big drawback.  Keeping him groomed properly is a continual task that I usually do every 90 days.  And monthly I brush him out.  Other than fur maintenance, I find nothing negative and would recommend him along side the 10 submitted - and feel confident to say he could even outperform them.  In a TEOTWAWKI situation he would be a force multiplier. - S.K.

I enjoyed the posting by TJ about getting a dog to help out with protection during the long emergency, especially when you are "out of options".  There were many relevant points made, and I congratulate the writer's decision to add a protection dog to his limited preparation supplies.  That said, in my opinion, no dog will replace the necessity for other forms of self defense and home security.  More importantly, it is not as simple as it may takes a great deal of repetitive training to keep those dog-skills finely honed.  The addition of a dog to your mix is an augmentation, and a good one, if you have the right dog.  Chances are that even with zero background and training, a dog who has had the right exposure will come through for you.  A good chance exists that in the event of an attack upon your home, your dog may unfortunately be the first casualty, but in the meantime, we all have an inherent fear of getting bitten, and even a small dog's aggressive bark when we least expect it, can make us jump out of our skin.  I would also not recommend a "junk yard dog" that never gets the benefits of human interaction or controls.  The risks far outweigh the benefits...unless of course you actually have a junk yard.

I am a  former K-9 handler with a medium-sized Sheriff's Department in California prior to my retirement;  I was blessed to have lived and trained with the Danish Police, the source for my k-9 partner, "Sheik" (pronounced "Shike").  We worked night patrol and trained hard, for 5 + years, until I promoted out of the unit.  We lived together in my bachelor years, and became very close buddies.  We handled many high-risk situations together, from crimes in progress to felony car stops, and I miss him, to this day.  My only complaint?  That dog never wrote one report or testified in court even one time!. 

Needless to say, I have many fond memories.   His nickname among our squad was "John Wayne" because he was such a hard charger.  If he could talk he would say that I was a knucklehead and a pain to work with, but I had never been loved by an animal more.

It took a while before I was competent, and even longer to become really good at being a handler;  that came only after I learned from Sheik, and learned how to read him.  One of the enduring traits of Shepherds is that they are very loyal and forgiving.  I also witnessed and played the decoy or "bad guy"(taking bites or being a hidden suspect for the dog to find) for lots of K-9 teams, from departments all over, including the Danish Police.  I saw lots of dogs and lots of handlers, in all stages of training.  Most of the teams here in the states had dogs that were "Shutzhund".  More on that later.  Compared to the Europeans, who have been at it much longer, Americans were in the infant stages of understanding how dogs tick, and utilizing them  to their full capacity.  Our military has a much better grasp than the civilian/LE world, but of course the mission is entirely different.   I will also note that there are scientific studies going on now that are opening up whole new realms of understanding about man's best friend, and how he got to be so.

 A word about the mission.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with having an "alarm dog", even a sissy-pooch, who will notify you whenever anything goes bump in the night.  Know that you will have many false alarms, but he is just doing his job, and to the dog, a possum intruder, a butterfly intruder, and a man intruder are equally suspicious, and worthy of sounding off with an alarm.

Most if not all dogs are naturally suspicious, and protective, of their territory, whether that is the car, or your yard, some more than others.  Keeping your dog kenneled, or confined to your fenced yard, will make that suspicion grow.   He will become extremely suspicious of anything that makes a move or a sound on your property, which he views as his own.   I am a fan of kenneling, because it helped to protect my dog from the outside world, not the other way around.  Encouraging him to "watch him" when the moment presents itself will also help him in knowing what you want from him.  The right dog desires to please you! While his senses will be heightened outdoors, if the dog lives in your bedroom, frankly, his alarm will be too late coming, his sense of smell will be less sharp, and his sense of natural suspicion will be short, he will get lazy!

 In no case, ever, should the animal be allowed to wander the neighborhood.  That is a death sentence for him, not freedom.  Remember that dogs are pack creatures, their DNA is identical to wolves.  Don't let those floppy ears, wagging tail and soulful eyes fool you...they are pack animals (and you  must become the pack leader!)  Capitalize on the keen sense of smell that the dog is blessed with and that has proven itself time and time again, the acute hearing, his instincts to identify and neutralize dangers, and his physical fighting attributes, to your advantage.

On breeds.  Naturally I am biased toward Shepherds (the term "German" Shepherd is not used in Denmark, where they are known as Shaeferhunds, or "Shepherd dogs").  Of the 250 dog teams in the country at that time, there were only two that were not Shepherds, a pretty good indicator that the Danes did their homework on which breed would be best suited.  With respect to my Rottie-owning friends out there, just be aware, that Rottweilers require special handling, because they are stubborn!  One very major factor is the physical characteristics.  Shepherds have great endurance, and are able to withstand harsh climates.  Like some other breeds, there is an undercoat that acts as an insulator.  In my area, the short haired breeds are probably not the wisest choice for an outdoor dog.  A down side to having a Shepherd is that in certain parts of the country, they can be mistaken for a wolf or coyote, at a distance.

Nor does the dog have to be huge. One of the best working dogs I ever witnessed was a female Shepherd no more than 50 pounds...but you did not want to be on the receiving end when she hit you from six feet out on the run (and you will not outrun most dogs);  the "decoy" would hit the deck like a sack of potatoes, and without protection, would have been out of the fight, period.   The same holds true for the Belgian Malinois;   wirey, fast, and tough, now a leading figure for our military's combat needs.

Larger dogs have more physical problems, and of course can be expensive to feed as well.  They die sooner, and invariably suffer from joint and bone problems.  Never allow your dog to jump into car windows, crawl around on ladders in the air, jump over limbo sticks, all for the sake of "trials" that have nothing to do with the real world.  This will shorten the life of your dog and/or subject him to injury;  all of that pounding on the joints and tissues are not good for the animal, just like it is for us.  Yes, I did open the car door for Sheik, and no, I never competed in trials.  We would have received poor scores, undoubtedly, but I was more interested in the patrol dog attributes than what some judge determined to be the perfect "heel".  I would put my dog up against any other, any day.  We were actually one of the few teams who were always asked to do the "call off" drill during public relations "demos".  Why? because I had every confidence that the dog would call off in the midst of a full-on attack, even on a decoy without protective gear.  But it took training.

All of that said, folks will make up their minds on which dog to choose, much like firearms and motor oil, so let's move on.

Shutzhund dogs are impressive!  Just keep one thing in mind.  Shutzhund is more or less a sport, or competition, that tests obedience, scent work, and aggression, mainly.  It takes place on flat ground, usually a soccer field or similar setting, and is entertaining, as well.  Anyone would find it thrilling to watch.  Not to say that Shutzhund dogs will not "transition" to law enforcement or protection work, believe me, I have seen some fantastic dogs with a Shutzhund background.  But not always.  Put the dog and handler in a real world setting, on rural ground or an urban environment, like the roof of a department store as my memory serves me, or a pier jutting out into the ocean, and all of a sudden it is not the trial, or competition setting.  Stress enters in, and if the dog has what is known as "trained courage", and his heart is really not in the real world, you may have a problem if this is your sole source of protection.

I remember testing, and then rejecting, a police donation from a couple whose dog had a lineage to be proud of, and a high ranking in the dog show world and Shutzhund arena.  A beautiful animal with perfect conformation.  However, once away from his handler, on his own and early on in the test, the dog showed signs of extreme stress, i.e. diarrhea, straining to escape, etc.  I shut the test down immediately to avoid trauma, but at the owner's requests, brought the dog back a few days later for another round of different tests.  Unfortunately, when the handler was absent, the dog freaked out, clearly unable to handle a threat coming his way.  Perhaps his training was too harsh in the early phases, who knows.  The couple were miffed and bewildered at the same time, but could not but accept that their (expensive) prized animal was not even close to Rin-Tin-Tin status.  He was, undoubtedly, a great alarm dog, and a loving pet, and a dynamite show dog.

Some dogs are actually what is termed "sleeve happy", which can be attributed to misdirected training or just a dogs' obsession for the happens when a decoy can simply slip out of protective garb when the dog is hanging on during a bite, and run off, leaving the dog to wrestle with his prize, having torn the suspect's "arm" off.  Or "ball happy";  he loves to retrieve so much that he will leave the bad guy on his own, in order to go chase a thrown ball or other object.  These examples beg the will the dog perform under stress, multiple assailants, gunfire, around a female in heat, or offered food?  These are all things that must be included in training routines, constantly, so that the dog is always thinking.  Do you have the time, energy, or expertise to really tackle that?  If not, then settle for a giving, energetic, forgiving, and loving dog that also has protective traits, and suspicions of what he senses.  In other words, a good alarm dog.  That training is a lot less intense, and you have a good tool in your arsenal.

You will find that most "dog people" readily admit that they do not have all of the answers or pretend to have the correct fix for a problem each and every time.  The "dog whisperer", Caesar Millan, gets it.  He knows that the dog has a prey drive and other natural instincts, that he wants to interact with his human master, that he wants to have a job in the order of things, and above all, that the dog owner/trainer must be the pack leader in order to be successful.  Until our canine friends learn how to talk in order to tell us where we go wrong, then we will never be sure, at least this side of Heaven.  

Bottom line?  Choose the right dog for your mission, at least give it your best shot.  Do not pick up a freebie with "issues" and expect to change the animal to your liking.  You will, through love and patience, bring a traumatized dog "back to life", but you will not turn that dog into the hero that you may be seeking.  Dogs are much like children, they react negatively to trauma, but unlike children, they do not learn how to cope  as they mature.  Trauma has a huge negative impact on the dog's life, throughout his life.

So what would be characteristics to look for?

Besides the obvious health issues, look for a natural inquisitive nature.  Which pup chases the toy tied onto the fishing line, which one actually grabs it, and the ultimate, will he give it up to you when you ask him for it?  This is the classic retrieve, which in the form of a game will tell you a lot about the dog.  It goes against his grain to give it to you, but if he is willing to do that, this is a major plus...the desire to please, to make friends, to share his new-found bounty when he doesn't have to.
Test him with like models, just never demand at this stage, or frighten him.  Know this:  the dog who will not retrieve will usually not meet your demands of him.

Look for the leader of the litter, one who displays confidence.  Size is not the issue here.  How many times have we seen a Chihuahua-sized dog rule the roost in a group of dogs?  We hear, "he doesn't know how little he is".  This guy is the alpha, and dogs respect the leader.

Does he react with curiosity to noise, like some pebbles inside of a tin can that you have rolled into his world.  Does he chase it, poke it with his nose, bite it, bark at it, or, does he run away to the safety of the litter, never to return to that vile thing that makes a strange noise.  Does he show no ambition to check it out?  The ideal youngster is the one who cautiously approaches, perhaps barks, and grabs it!  This is a trait of courage, and overcoming his prey.

I personally like a pup that is mouthy, a big mouth.  Usually these are happy fellows.  This usually ties into that trait we seek, the alpha, the fighter jock, the confident one who wants the world to know that he his there and does not intimidate easily, that the world is his kingdom.  Dogs that bark on command are a huge plus, and keep in mind that once this command is mastered, and he knows exactly what it means to follow it, it is far easier to then teach him "Silence!" when the time for silence is appropriate.  

As previously stated, size is not necessarily the number one aspect of why you should choose a particular dog.  As Americans, we love everything big...big cars, big guns, big horses, you name it.  Just remember, the bigger the dog, the more problems you must deal with, not to mention that the larger dog is usually slower, and agility suffers as well... just as in the human world.  Picture that nimble Border Collie vs. a tank like a Mastiff, moving that herd around.  On the other hand, if you have ever wandered into a sheep pasture being guarded by a Newfoundland or similar livestock protection dog, you quickly realize this guy's capabilities, and will, to crush you like a rodent.

Male or female?  The facts are, that males are usually chosen for their fighting spirit rather than the females for their nurturing spirit, in the world of K-9.  That said, I have broken up my share of dog fights (a dangerous pastime that also gets real tiresome) to know that one usually does not suffer the same fate when handling the ladies.  Ditto for cat chasing, peeing on everything in sight, and other knucklehead things that, okay, males do.  Sheik, bless his heart, even went out of his way to drink from another dog's water bowl on the training field, and then, with a look on his face as if to say, "...bring it dude",  he peed in it.  The choice is yours, but just know that many of the same attributes are there for males and females alike, but with less aggression for the females who do not have the testosterone that the males do.  

A word on nutrition.  We have a 16 year old Dachshund, with Cushing's Disease, which is in essence a benign cyst on the pituitary gland.   Her weight ballooned, and with her severe diabetes-like symptoms,  I was preparing myself to say good-bye to this beloved little pet.  A friend told us about "Honest Kitchen" food, which is dehydrated, all natural, organic, USA-made dog food.  It comes in varieties depending on needs, and is easily prepared in small batches ahead of time.  It completely turned our little girl around.  The Cushing's has taken it's toll, and she has little muscle left now, but she is pain free, and for being the age that she is, gets around, at least for now.  We were blessed to have been given the gift of having her around for a little while longer.   The vet was amazed at how quickly she got back to her 8 pound ideal weight.  So I highly recommend it, and will keep it in my larder from now on as a nutritional, and tasty, protein-rich main source of dog food.  I read where it is actually approved for use by humans...if you were so inclined of course.  The poops, normally a messy and smelly chore, come out quite different with this food, easy to pick up and with far less unpleasantries, I am supposing due to the high fiber content and all natural ingredients.  Even in the case of occasional indoor "accidents", it just picks right up with no stains, smears, or intense odor.

At a cost of $50 or so for a 10 lb box, at first glance this stuff sounds unaffordable for most of us.  Keep in mind, however, that it is dehydrated, so in adding water, it is equal in duration to a big bag of high quality kibble.  It would be a great food for a working security dog.

Don't forget one final aspect of all of this: People who have dogs have a happier and more adventurous life, with less stress.  They live longer, and just enjoy their existence more.  Dogs are even taken into nursing homes and cancer wards, with fantastic results.  These animals can be our companions, our friends, and can make our tasks a bit easier.  In a world where chaos and social unrest are the rule of the day, I would say that owning and caring for animals, especially a good dog,  just might put a smile on your face.  As one pastor put it, the "Goodness" and "Mercy" mentioned in the Psalms, that follow us all the days of our life, are just the names of our four-legged pals. - L.R.D.

Friday, March 15, 2013

We came late to the prepping party.  We didn’t own any guns.  We lived paycheck to paycheck in a suburban area.  We couldn’t afford to buy property in Idaho, while it’s still a dream.  We have slowly stocked up on short term and long term food and water, bought heirloom seeds and learned to garden, loaded up on firewood for two huge fireplaces for cooking and warmth, but that’s about it.  Recently our son, honorably discharged from the Armed Services, came home to start his life as a civilian.  He owned a 9mm and promptly proceeded to purchase a .22 handgun for ma and pa.  The problem was, we couldn’t find any ammo, anywhere.  We are a long way from being prepared, but better off than most people we know.  We decided to get a guard dog.  The difference between a guard dog and a watchdog is the guard dog is trained to protect the family using aggression, while the watchdog will alert the family by barking and making a fuss (with not much to back it up).  Our Brittany Spaniel is a good watchdog.  She barks at every new sound, when she needs to outside, and when she thinks it’s time to eat.  I think she trains us.

After searching for the right dog, we stumbled upon good fortune.  An acquaintance, a breeder and trainer, was looking to place her prized purebred German Shepherds trained in Schutzhund (google it or youtube it) with good families for personal reasons.  Schutzhund trained dogs learn to control their drive and learn to obey the owner even when very excited.  We gratefully met the dogs and selected a lovely 5 yr old gal who had won awards in self-defense, provided puppies over the years, and who was ready to relax with a good family.  If you didn’t know this gorgeous animal, she would scare the daylights out of you if you met her in a dark ally.  Our experience with her so far, is that she is obedient, playful, loving, and loyal.  She bonded quickly with our small family, including our existing family dog.  Our Brittany Spaniel was quite put out with the very big Shepherd invading her space, but the Shepherd helped her along by being respectful and careful.  They now can eat and nap in close proximity to one another.  It only took 48 hours for the dogs to come to terms with one another.

Our goal is to ensure our new dog doesn’t forget her good training and we have some planned exercises with her former owner to learn the Schutzhund commands and routines.  It is amazing that you don’t need to collar or leash this dog.  She responds immediately to voice commands and hand motions.  One afternoon she decided to explore the neighbor’s backyard (we have very low fences between yards).  With one firm call of her name, she turned around immediately and raced back to me, almost apologetically.  Impressive.  I’m not sure my Brittany Spaniel would have been so obedient.  She would have played hide and seek for a while first.

Schutzhund training includes tracking, obedience, and protection.  The most important part to understand about protection is that the dog has been trained to attack upon command, but more importantly to quit the attack by command.  The bite force of a German Shepherd, depending upon size and ferocity, is quite strong as compared to other dogs.  However, this is not an out of control attack dog.  This is a dog that works on command and quits working on command.  She only barks if confronted with a threatening situation.  She hasn’t made a peep since we’ve had her.  We are learning the German commands, but were assured by the trainer that she is very smart and will adapt quickly to our version of the commands without a problem.  This gave us a great sense of confidence. 

Some people believe that getting an aggressive-tempered guard dog is the right way to go, but how do you know that dog will not attack one of your
sweet grandchildren, the mail carrier, or a neighbor walking his or her dog?  One of my daughters is terribly afraid of German Shepherds having been bit by the neighbor’s Shepherd when she was a young teenager.  That dog took a huge bit out of her thigh, requiring a trip to emergency and many stitches.  She still has scars and is terrified.  The dog was not teased or threatened in any way; it just decided to attack for no good reason while the children were playing in the front yard.

One of the web sites I found that provided good information on what type of dog to get for personal protection was Cesar's.  Cesar listed the top 10 dogs in this order from best to least protection dogs:

1.       Bullmastiff – very big dogs
2.       Doberman Pinscher – need room, very fast, very smart
3.       Rottweiler – big, loyal
4.       Komodor – needs socialization to become a family pet
5.       Puli – very active and love to bark
6.       Giant Schnauzer – requires strict training
7.       German Shepherd – calm, smart, reacts quickly to threats
8.       Rhodesian Ridgeback – strict training required
9.       Kuvasz – very territorial
10.   Staffordshire Terrier – requires strict training and socialization

You can do your own research and talk to other dog owners.  Our choice was to find a highly trained and skilled German Shepherd for family loving and protection since we didn’t have the fortitude or experience to train one from puppyhood.  Every family is different and has different needs.  We wanted to snuggle by the fireside with our protection animal, as well as expect her to attack an intruder.  Purebred Shutzhund trained shepherds can cost into the thousands of dollars.  We were graced with a great deal by a loving trainer after searching for months online for the right dog, so I don’t suspect you will find the same kind of deal.  However, selecting a guard dog should be part of your preparation plans. 

Should SHTF, home invasions are expected to commence by the have-nots. The CCW By State web site provides home invasion statistics for 2011.  According to the web site:

“…1 in 5 homes in the US will be broken into or experience some sort of home invasion – in other words, more than 2,000,000 U.S. families!”  Other statistics cited: 8,000 home invasions occur every day in North America, 720 forcible rapes occur every day (that’s 1 every 2 minutes), 1,440 robberies occur every day (1 every minute), 4,320 violent crimes per day (1 every second), 2,468 grave assaults per day (1 every 35 seconds), 8,640 burglaries per day (1 every 10 seconds), and 28,800 property crimes (1 every 3 seconds)."

You may live in a low crime area, as we do, but should SHTF expect the aforementioned statistics to skyrocket.  These statistics cover all of North America, but just think about it.  I confessed to my husband that I had slept better than I had in a long time, since we brought the Shepherd home.  She hears what I cannot and is alert even while resting.  We all need our sleep to remain alert and make good decisions.

While you, like us, wait out the ammunition shortage, think about investing in a guard dog.  I would rather have our dog scare off would be intruders prior to using what little ammunition we have and save those bullets for worst-case scenarios.  Do your research and understand your family needs.  Understand your own limitations in regards to breeding, raising, and training a guard dog.  It is a huge commitment.  Don’t think you can go to the pound and pick up a Doberman or Pit Bull (which are plentiful at the pound) and hope for protection.  The dog may turn on you, your family members, or neighbors if not properly trained and socialized.  And the neighbors will sue.  You don’t want to stick out as the one house in the neighborhood everyone is afraid to walk by and be subject to a police visit for suspicion of having an aggressive and dangerous dog.  We made the choice to invest in a mature, fully trained animal rather than go it alone.  Good luck and good hunting.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord of hosts: Behold, the days are coming when all that is in your house, and that which your fathers have stored up till this day, shall be carried to Babylon. Nothing shall be left, says the Lord. And some of your own sons, who will come from you, whom you will father, shall be taken away, and they shall be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
Isaiah 39:5-7

God’s word to Hezekiah, king of Judah, through the prophet Isaiah immediately followed a dramatic sequence of events that twice should have led to Hezekiah’s death, but ends with his miraculous healing and a visit by Babylonian envoys bearing gifts and congratulations. Hezekiah welcomed these envoys gladly and, for some reason, decided to show them “his treasure house, the silver, the gold, the spices, the precious oil, his whole armory, all that was found in his storehouses. There was nothing in his house or in all his realm that Hezekiah did not show them.” Isaiah was not aware of the envoys or their grand tour, and upon discovering their presence began questioning the king about them and what they had seen. The king’s confession prompted Isaiah’s prophecy above, and so it was that some 100 years later the first wave of Babylonian invaders began to deport Jews from their Judean homeland into what became known as the Babylonian captivity.

My theological beliefs hold that God is sovereign in all things, and He used Hezekiah’s actions and the subsequent Babylonian invasion to ultimately point the Jewish people back to Him. I also believe Paul in his second letter to Timothy when he said “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16). It follows then that the Bible is replete with great examples of how we should live our lives daily, not just in a spiritual sense, but in a very practical sense. God used Hezekiah’s mistake as part of His ultimate plan of redemption, but that does not take away from the fact that Hezekiah made a very grave error in judgment by laying open all the possessions and capabilities of his kingdom to foreign visitors, ultimately making and giving justification to their later invasion.

So what lessons do you and I stand to learn from Hezekiah’s actions? Any student of history, and certainly any frequent reader of SurvivalBlog, should be intimately familiar with the concept, application, and importance of Operations Security (OPSEC). However, being familiar with OPSEC and putting it into practice are two very different topics. Today we face the same danger that Hezekiah faced. Relatively speaking, things are good for many of us in this day and age. We lead busy, active lives and while we know dangers exist, our busy lives have a way of lulling us to sleep and coaxing us to take our guard down because total chaos has been averted for yet another day. Just as you should not wait for a disaster to begin making use of your preparations and training, you should not wait to begin practicing OPSEC in your daily lives.

Where do you start? Any writing on OPSEC that tries to address the entire concept in a few short pages is being overly general and probably not very useful. With that in mind, I will try to focus on one specific aspect of OPSEC: the role of critical information in maintaining essential secrecy.

Let’s begin with two definitions:
Critical information is that information that is either 1) important to you successfully
achieving your objective or mission (i.e. your route to your retreat WTSHTF) or 2) information which may be of use to an actual or potential adversary (i.e. the fact that you have a deep larder when Wal-mart’s shelves are empty and never being restocked).
Essential secrecy is actually a condition that is achieved by denying critical information to actual or potential adversaries, through the combined means of traditional security (physical boundaries, guards, etc.) and OPSEC.

As preparedness-minded people, our goal is to maintain some type of essential secrecy. Note that there is a difference between maintaining essential secrecy and being paranoid. If you treat everyone in your life as a potential adversary, then you already have little hope of surviving, much less thriving, through TEOTWAWKI. This is where the often understated importance of community comes into play. It is a subject that I feel we do not emphasize often enough, but nevertheless, it is not the topic of this article.

We achieve and maintain our essential secrecy by protecting our critical information. In DoD parlance, it would be incorrect to refer to your critical information as “secrets,” but for our practical purposes it is fundamentally the same thing as few of us have a tiered system of classifying documents. To practice OPSEC is to keep your secrets secret. One of the first and most important steps in the OPSEC process is to identify information about you and your capabilities, activities, limitations (including vulnerabilities), and intentions (CALI) that you consider to be critical in nature. What is critical, you ask? Naturally, it depends.

Immediately, the size and location of your larder, the grid coordinates to your retreat, and your bug out route may come to mind. Yes, these are very important capabilities and activities, but do not stop there. Go back to the CALI acronym above. We like to focus on positives - the fact that we have made preparations and plans. Equally as critical to the things that we have done are the things we have yet to do - our limitations and vulnerabilities.

As you begin to formulate in your mind what information you would classify as critical, it is good to set a few parameters. First, you should initially limit your list to ten items. Over time and as your OPSEC practices improve, this list can expand. Trying to prioritize pieces of information in importance can become cumbersome, which brings us to the second point, prioritization. To those in your immediate circle who are like-minded and cooperatively preparing with you, your critical information will be common knowledge. However, as new members are brought into the fold, the extent of their knowledge of your preparation should be based on your critical information list and revealed incrementally as deemed appropriate by their proven level of commitment and upon approval of the primary members of your group. Next, the critical information list should be physical in form and its content and importance known by all in your group, with the understanding that its existence highlights the importance of keeping it secret from those outside. Why keep a hard copy? To serve as a reminder of what is at stake. If you cannot protect that document, what makes you think you can protect your family during a disaster? Finally, your critical information list is a living, breathing document. As your level of preparedness changes, so too should your critical information change. You should reexamine and update your critical information list quarterly, ideally at the conclusion of a rehearsal or training event (you are rehearsing and training for WTSHTF, right?).

The ability to protect your critical information is a result of the total process of OPSEC, rather than a few simple, one-time steps that will lead you down a mythical yellow brick road to essential secrecy. The fight to protect yourself is ongoing and ever-changing. This process only begins with identifying your critical information. In order to protect that, you must analyze threats against you, analyze your own vulnerabilities, assess the inherent risks, and implement measures to counter each of these areas. Each of these steps in the process have been the subject of countless pages of analysis and policy implementation, but for all the various means of implementing OPSEC, the first step will always be to identify your critical information. Without knowing your most important secrets, what use is it to plan painstaking measures to protect them?

To conclude, let’s go back to our analogy using King Hezekiah. We see that he exercised absolutely no discernment when it came to protecting the critical information and CALI of the Kingdom of Judah from his Babylonian guests. The foolishness of his actions, however, was all too clear to Isaiah when he learned of what had transpired, and God revealed to him the prophecy of what was to come for the people of Israel in the future as a result of these acts.

Now think about your own experience in taking steps to be prepared for the unforeseen. Whether you are preparing for a complete economic meltdown, an infrastructure-crippling CME event, or next year’s hurricane season, there are certainly things that are better left unsaid, especially to those who do not bother to reign in their own tongues or some who would undoubtedly turn to barbaric behavior as a result of their own failure to prepare. Perhaps you have even made an error in judgment of another’s character and trusted them with information that you now regret. Now is the time to begin systematically structuring your OPSEC plan so that it is an inherent, organic part of your preparedness plan, rather than a simple buzzword in your prepping vocabulary that you use on occasion. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” so spend this weekend identifying your critical information and start taking steps to protect it. Do not let the wisdom of the Bible as portrayed in Hezekiah’s mistake slip by unheeded.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Operational Security (OPSEC) has been around since the first Stone Age battles were fought. In an effort to provide the element of surprise and in order to keep what one had only those that need to know where told. I have always considered my friends and/or people I associate with and of what I considered similar moral fortitude worthy of my trust when it came to discussion of prepping. However I have recently discovered that not everyone is of the same mindset.

First a little back ground on me. I moved out at 18 and went on to higher education like many. I worked part time retail jobs and went to school then I was in a motorcycle accident and couldn’t get thing back on track. I joined the U.S. Army and served 2-1/2 years as an Airborne Infantryman (11B1P) and unit Armorer. After an Honorable medical discharge, I moved home and after two months living with mom and dad and not being able to find a job. I worked in the retail firearms industry for some very big names for more than eight years. I then followed my dream of a career in Law Enforcement where I have been for the last five years.

This is not your typical OPSEC that we are talking about. You know where you don’t let the boxes from your favorite long term storage company or the new big screen television stick out of the trash can. This is OPSEC regarding people you invite into your home. Whether they are family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, business professionals you deal with on a regular basis people you share common hobbies with and that may seem to have the same ethical way of thinking. The people who given the opportunity do the right thing do the right thing in our non-state of emergency day to day life. They buy the homeless person a burger, help the little old lady put the gallon of milk in her car, are in a job that is for the benefit of society, they may be Doctors, Law Enforcement, Military, or Fire Fighters. You know the types people who help people in their day to day lives.

I was recently told by an individual that I held to a higher standard than most people in the community, that he and another person on my list of Friends that I thought were like minded and trusted confidants were Prepping. You can imagine the joy these two individuals are well respected in the community that I participate in and many of my friends participate in. The first is a Sales representative for an international firearms company (Mr. Gun) and the other is a Successful business owner (Mr. Business). Names withheld for OPSEC and they are after all still friends, however they may never know what hides behind door number 1 at my house or where my family and I will end up if the Schumer does Hit the Fan.

As I’m sitting in the office of Mr. Business and we are discussing our two biggest common interest shooting sports and guns. He drops the bomb that he and Mr. Gun are Prepping for when “The Stuff Hits The Fan.” At this point I’m thinking alright I have just added two very important people to my pool of resources and possibly to my group should anything happen. I may also point out that both are in my opinion and in the opinion of many exceptional well trained, practiced, and experienced with engaging multiple threats at close distance with a handgun. Mr. Gun is also very capable with a rifle and shotgun at distance. Then he says those dreaded words “we are making notes of people we know who are Prepping and we will just go to their place and take what we need.”  I had to use every ounce of strength in my person to keep my jaw from hitting the floor and letting my secret be known. These two have told me that if I ever need anything just ask and if they could they would. In fact Mr. Gun loaned me $50 no questions asked which was paid back after my lunch break. We worked together for more than years. Chances are they have a good idea what I have for defense and my capabilities.

"Wow!", right? Here we have two respected individuals that I have known for over 12 years talking about just taking what they need/want from their own friends. Then my mind goes into overdrive what have I told them, what do they know, what if they come to my house will my kids just open the door for them. Heck my kids call Mr. Business “Uncle.” How do I tell them not to tell them what we have or what we are doing to Prepare. I now have to figure out a way to tell my family that some of the trusted people in our lives are not to be trusted when TSHTF and that we really don’t know who these people are. I also now have to figure a way to have my kids go about as nothing has changed when we are around these two individuals.

Sounds like just a bad day right? Well it gets worse I’m at work later the same week and talking with one of my partners we are discussing firearms, as they pertain to our current profession and which ones we like. He starts talking about the television show Preppers and how he thinks it’s a good idea so he’s trying to stalk up on ammo but with the current state of things it’s difficult. Again I start to get that happy felling of finding another like-minded person. Then the conversation from earlier that week flashes to the front of my mind. So I tell him I have about 400 rounds of this so I can practice for re-qualification later this year and 100 rounds of that just to have around and a few .22 LR around. I seriously down played the amount on purpose trying to feel the waters. Then he comes out and says he just wants enough so he can go take more ammo and food from other people he knows that are stalking up. What did I just hear this is a guy I work with, a guy I trust my life with on a daily basis. I think to myself maybe I didn’t hear him correctly so I asked if he had any food set aside like they do in the show. The answer I was hoping for did not come he just stated that he would eat what he had and when that ran out just go and take it for people who told him they were prepping or those that he thought may have extra. He was adamant that he would take it by force if need be. At this point I am about to fall out of my chair here is a person who is supposed to uphold the law talking about taking other peoples life for food.

While discussing how my inventory was going and that I am close to a goal anther co-worker entered the area we were working in and started asking questions because we were looking at some new tactical gear for our personal use luckily the gear could have been for work also. I was fending off the probing questions with great flair.  Here is how the conversation went and a few example questions from that day:

Question 1: Are you guys preppers? Answer 1. I Look at my partner with the OPSEC look and ask in reply: "What is that?"

Question 2: "You know like the television show 'Preppers' on National Geographic." My reply: "Never heard of it. I will have to check it out."

Question 3: :"Do you have any food stored? My reply: "I went to the store last night and bought steak for dinner is that what you mean?

Question 4: "No. You know, like stored water? My reply: "I have a 10,000 gallon swimming pool, will that work"?

"Yes that should be good."

Needless to say I felt bad about misleading hi. He sounds genuine but with my recent let down of learning that close personal friends and having no real way other than sarcasm and a poor attempt at wit to try and weed out the true prepper from the fisherman looking for the next Honey Hole to add to his list of house to hit when things get bad. I may get back with him and do some probing of my own. He has no skills that are of benefit to me or my group but that won’t stop me from making an ally.

I am now stuck with the dilemma of how to weed out the people who seem to be of the same mindset from the people who are of the same mindset. The question of how to let my kids know that it’s ok to trust Mr. and Mrs. Soandso right now but when things go south they are not to be trusted ways heavy on me and I have yet to do it. Telling them that they only want our food and don’t care how we survive after they take it is going to be difficult.

The fishers need to be turned be careful in how you approached this. Take time, pray, and talk to others that it will effect if these people come knocking when TSHTF. If you don’t think you can turn them don’t give them a reason to come to your door.

Thought for the day. They may be lifelong friends but are they friends for a long life? Be careful divulging to people you trust they may just be the ones coming to take what you have when the chips are down and TSHTF. If they want your help, help. Be cautious when the probing questions start get good information take some time turn it around and ask them questions make it seem as if they just planted the prepper seed, when the time is right and your sure OPSEC is good let them in to your little secret.

As always stay alert and Prepare for the Worst and Pray for the Best.

Friday, February 22, 2013

When was the last time you pulled an all-nighter? I’m not talking about coming home at 2am on New Years. I’m talking about staying awake and alert, for an entire evening, before sundown to after sun up. Has it been a few years, or maybe never? With all this excitement about “bugging out” and prepping, there’s a lot of talk about security and self defense, but I have yet to read an in depth article about the practical application of watches. Kind of boring maybe, but in a TEOTWAWKI, scenario keeping a watch is essential, so let’s dissect it in detail. First, the watchman.

The watchman is the first line of defense for the entire community, be it a small family or a Rawlesian 20+ acre Ranch in the Redoubt. One must be ready to respond to any threat or emergency immediately on contact. This is not a chore, it is a duty. The difference is that you can listen to your MP3s while you do the dishes, but you should not even be whistling while on watch. Consider this, while you were whistling Dixie, you didn’t notice the obvious rustling in the bushes an hour ago; that was a scouting party from a group of camp raiding, cannibals down the road. Now a full assault is minutes away and you will be completely off guard, and so will everyone else in your camp. Had your tune not obstructed your hearing you could have sounded the alarm and either moved camp, or mobilized the rest of the fighters and been ready. Most of you reading this don’t have to be convinced that this scenario sounds funny, but is not outside the realm of reality for a society who allows stampede deaths on Black Friday for sales on pairs of socks, and this is all pre-starving feral masses! This is a serious position, and must be treated as life or death because it is! You must be responsible for getting proper rest in between watches, personal hygiene, and relaxing during your down time. You are responsible for keeping your mind clear and ready; all of these elements can affect your ability to keep the camp safe, so again, take it seriously!

Every watchman needs equipment. You can have 1 designated set that every watchman uses, and they should all be accountable for it, i.e. a checklist inside a bag that everyone reviews before assuming the watch. Especially when resources are scarce. Here’s a short list to consider:

- Weapon: Lethal or non-lethal, or preferably one of each. A pistol is good, and a rifle is excellent. A large can of 18% pepper spray can dissuade animals or disperse a gathering crowd, but even a big sharp stick is better than nothing.

- Foul weather gear: A poncho, wool cap (there’s a reason it’s called a watch cap), gloves, etc. Keep it simple.

- Communications devise: To stay in contact with other watches or base camp. At random hourly intervals every watch should check in. Random is the key; you don’t want to give away your system to an enemy. This could lead to predicted watch paths and holes in security. Just remember you never know who might be listening. This devise could be a radio, but another kind of signal devise can work also, i.e. a bird call or whistle where a known code is used, 1blast all secure, 2 blasts need assistance, 3 blasts wake up the camp the hordes are descending upon us!

- A good flashlight, notebook and pen, First Aid Kit, and a multi-tool. This is just a basic kit, but a well equipped watch is a ready watch. Every watch needs to consider their own needs beyond the basics i.e. an extra jacket or sunscreen.

Now for watch rotation, the concept is simple, take a 24 hr day and divide it into parts. Assign each part to a qualified body and execute! This gets more complicated in practice. An average man cannot be an EFFECTIVE watch for longer than 6-8 hrs maximum, and less than that at night. You can’t afford to run your watches so hard that they become ineffective; and fairness is a crucial element in these acronym scenarios. So, let’s take a 3 family bugged out scenario, with 4 able watchmen between them, and create a watch bill.

We have John, Jacob, Hiemmer, and Schmidt. John is the unofficial leader of the pack, and Jacob is his son. Hiemmer and Schmidt are best friends from college, and unimportantly Hiemmer is the only female watchman. It’s Monday and John says he’ll take the first watch, so here’s what it looks like:

6am-12pm John

12pm-6pm Jacob

6pm-12am Hiemmer

12am-6am Schmidt

Easy enough right? Since John’s the leader, he should never have to pull an all-nighter, and since Jacob is the youngest he can’t be expected to stay up during the night, it’s too big a responsibility! See how this doesn’t quite even out? John gets to be with his family every night while the buddies battle to stay awake. This erodes unit cohesion over time, and a short time at that. So let’s try it again, this time with shorter evening watches to ensure watch effectiveness and every able watch considered equal or otherwise unsuitable.

6am-12pm John

12pm-6pm Jacob

6pm-10pm Hiemmer

10pm-2am Schmidt

2am-6am John

6am-12pm Jacob

12pm-6pm Hiemmer

6pm-10pm Schmidt

10pm-2am John

2am-6am Jacob

And so on. Now you see the thought process and what a real rotation looks like. This would be a sweet set up really, imagine having less or more watchmen though and you can see how tough or easy this could become! Draft one up for practice; use 2-4 hr night watches and 6- 8 hr day watches to figure out how they all mesh. Now let’s delve into the worst case scenario, 1 man and his little family, as we move onto our last discussion: the craft of the all-nighter.

An all-nighter will test you, whether you have or haven’t planned it. Yet how often do we get to prepare for a full on nuclear fallout family bug out? Probably 1 out of 100, but that’s why we prep, practice, and stay sharp. Yet this isn’t something I hear a lot practicing, and it is, just like everything else, a perishable skill. So I’m proposing we correct this, next weekend or within the month, take the opportunity to plan and practice an all-nighter. I’m not saying a full on bug out, not initially anyway (you’re doing that 2-3x a year anyway right?), but just stay up, all night into morning. Watch the sun come up and an hour or so later, get in bed. Let’s try to do it 2-3x a year, and maybe somewhere down the line we’ll combine the bug out and the all-nighter. This is a more realistic scenario anyway, I can’t imagine gathering my family and bug out pals, fighting our way out of the cities, making it to our bug out locale and then we all sleep like babies. Have a plan, have a watch bill, and practice. There are a few things you can do to help you through the night, here’s a few I’ve learned over my time in the military, law enforcement and security contracting:

- Drink water: H20 will curb your sleepiness more than you think. I’ve drunk coffee for hours and head bobbed the entire time. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t drink caffeine, because you definitely can (should?), but staying hydrated will keep you more alert than dehydration. Also, if you have to urinate often  your even more awake (note that each situation is different and frequent urination might not be your friend.  In this case ensure you are properly hydrated but not overly so). 

- Stay uncomfortable: Think of it as setting yourself up for success. If you put on a nice thick coat, hat, and prop your feet up you might as well be in bed and you WILL fall asleep. Is it fun being cold, or standing rather than leaning, or doing push-ups? Not exactly, but that’s the point. Don’t let yourself relax, remember, this is life or death for the whole camp. Stay alert by wearing a thinner jacket, or taking your hat off when you feel sleepy, doing a few push-ups or jumping jacks. Stay moving and keep the mind alert!

- Scenario role play: Use your weary thoughts in a productive way to picture a dire scenario. What was that in the shadows? It was a raider scout, and he’s collecting information about your camp. Stealthily defend your people from the evil cannibals! Seems silly, but so does dry firing and reloading your pistol, and if you aren’t dry firing your pistol bi-weekly I kind of hope you don’t carry it. It and you become a liability rather than an asset, and the same goes for the watchman. Do this and time will pass more quickly, and this is a good thing in the all-nighter.

- Make it fun but not too fun: For the practice all-nighter stand small watches and break them up with something fun you like to do. Play an instrument, or a video game. Do something to keep your mind active then go back to “watch mode”. Even watch during the acronym can be fun, kind of like how the most important game of the season is fun. Always remember to de-stress after watch, clear minds are more capable.

The watchmen have a crucial task ahead of them, but with proper planning and willingness, families in the acronym world will sleep well knowing someone’s got their eyes looking out. (This article was written entirely from midnight to 7:30 am, and later edited for excessive crazy babble.)

Friday, February 8, 2013

I am not an RC aircraft enthusiast, but I am a pilot and an engineer, and have a few comments regarding the article "Helicopter and Fixed Wing Drones for Retreat Security", but Long Jim.

I suggest folks consider fixed wing aircraft rather than helicopters for this mission for a number of reasons:

1. Helicopters have more moving parts, and therefore more places for a critical failure to occur that would take the aircraft out of action. This makes them less reliable (or requires higher maintenance for same level of reliability.)

2. The main advantage of a helicopter - the ability to hover - makes them an easier target.

3. Helicopters tend to be noisier than fixed wing aircraft.

4. The learning curve to fly a helicopter is steeper and more error prone. You can get around this a bit with RC helicopters by adding electronics, but this adds expense, more places for failure, and reduces the useful load of your aircraft.

In general, I would suggest the following:

1. Go with a fixed wing design, preferably something similar to "free flight" models, as these require little to no active management. This means less sophisticated electronics (less expensive, less weight) and reduces complexity.

2. Go with electric motors rather than glow plug fuel. It's quieter, and the on board power can be used for multiple purposes.

3. Put the cameras/instruments in an external pod slung under the fuselage. This way, you are not constrained by the shape of the fuselage, and can shift the mount point to keep the center of gravity just forward of the center of lift.

4. Get your ham radio license. If you use ham radio to control the aircraft and receive the live TV signal, you can legally use more power to do it, and potentially give the aircraft much greater range.

5. Look for a camera which produces MPEG-4 data, and consider using the 1.2 Ghz ham band for the down link. Check for bandwidth compliance.

6. Consider adding a microphone to the instrument package. Hearing gunshots or vehicle noises could be useful.

- B. In the High Desert

Thursday, February 7, 2013

I recently stopped by our local farmers market, and while ambling along with a fresh home-made fig newton, I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw what one vendor offered.

There amongst the crafts, and farm produce, was an enterprising fellow standing behind a table with a large three rotor drone helicopter. Marketed as the “Draganflyer” it has 3 dual sets of rotors stacked in pairs atop each other.

It was equipped with a gyroscope-stabilized digital video, and still camera, set-up. He was contracting with folks to fly his drone over their property and take very detailed pictures of their homes. He then sold them DVDs, or large crisp pictures suitable for framing. Which, by the way, he also offered to provide, so one could proudly display the photographs in the parlor to ones guests.

This drone was surely on par with those that the film industry uses for fly-over views in production. It was the largest one I’ve seen. The fellow was charging up to seventy-five dollars for the service, plus twenty dollars and up for big 24”x 24” or so color prints. He was so busy answering questions, and signing people up that I didn’t get a chance to ask him any technical questions, or get additional info on his setup.

The development of small drones, both fixed wing, and  rotor-craft has virtually exploded in the past few years. Companies are springing up all over offering these easy to fly platforms for film,  and surveillance, some designed for covert, as well as conventional operations. Like the many newer small arms manufacturers who, with their own input from their combat experiences, flooded the battle-rifle market niche’ with variations of M4s, and calibers such as 6.8, and  .50 caliber Beowulf, one looking for a drone to supplement their LP/OP has a lot of choices. The range of choices, thankfully, include so many options, that one on a limited budget, all the way up to a prepper who isn’t constrained by price can pick the drone that will be of best use in his particular area of operation (AO) when TSHTF.

 The U.S. military has clearly been pushing the limits, and using every new state-of-the-art technological breakthrough available in surveillance devices since we began the war on terror. Their un-manned drones have steadily gotten larger and larger, and went from being eyes-only camera platforms, to now being armed-to-the-teeth with virtually every missile that can be fixed to an aircrafts under-carriages.

Going in the opposite direction, the military now supplies ground units a variety of  hand-launched fixed wing RC aircraft on the squad level for special operators to use as they gather recon on the battlefield. Like the “Falcon UAV”. which I saw being demonstrated on a recent episode on the Military Channel. These are small, virtually indestructible, carbon composite aircraft that are easily deployed out of a pack by one or two soldiers.

Coupled with hardened military field lap-tops and satellite links, forward recon teams can collect, and pass on, an amazing amount of real-time information, inconceivable to reconnaissance units of even a few years ago.

A quick Google research trip came up with an unbelievable number of companies offering three, four, six, and even EIGHT engined rotor craft, like the  “Hexacopter”  and the “Octocopter” .

I couldn’t guess how much money and man-hours these guys used up, in trying to outdo each other by adding on engines, and other upgrades.

These companies clearly have some tech-savvy R&D guys, who have incorporated not only the gyro-stabilized mounting systems for cameras, but have utilized software that has taken the actual flight controls to another level. The copters in even the moderately priced end of the cost spectrum have auto-pilot, built-in GPS systems, and ground sensing features. The auto-pilot and ground-sensing features allow an operator to hover the craft for many minutes, with almost no effort. Some have thermal, and/or I.R. imaging systems, and even F.L.I.R. capabilities.  Most of the drones use a LiPo battery pack, and flight times, usually depend on how much extra software and systems are drawing power aside from the motors, varies, but is usually around fifteen to twenty minutes per full charge.

Some, like the Parrot Quadracopter 4 rotor RC offering, are controlled by WiFi, and a free downloadable APP allows one to use an I-pod, I-phone or other smart device to fly the copter. This device sells on the lower end of the cost spectrum, approximately $300 USD. The others mentioned in this article are upwards of $1000 USD, and more depending on features. These machines, for the most part, are way easier to control and fly than most of the run-of-the-mill hobby/toy RC mini-helicopters one sees in Wally World-type stores.

Now I know that laying out, or budgeting, an extra five hundred to a thousand dollars might be pushing it for some of us, but I firmly believe that these RC helicopters equipped with camera capabilities are well worth the investment. Imagine a scenario where you and others in your neighborhood “bug in”, and you are faced with multiple points of entry into your subdivision via roads. You’d have to have several OP/LP’s, manned by 2-3 persons, rotating on three eight hour shifts to cover each 24 hour period. Unless you had blocked off, or made impassable, most of those ingress/egress points, that’s a lot of manpower dedicated to advance warning and perimeter protection. With a single drone, or even two or more in rotation, one person could have the helicopter or fixed wing drone hover, or circle, virtually undetected, giving a 360 degree view of the entire neighborhood. That’s a big savings, in terms of manpower hours, and supplies in not having to keep the checkpoints and OP/LP’s manned every moment of every day.

For those who plan to bug out into the wilderness, or to a primary or secondary location, especially in a heavily timbered or forested area, a high-flying set of eyes seems ideal. Combined with the possibility that there is only you and your spouse and maybe children, or just another   few couples for security, I would think that the drones would be a God-send.

If you take the time to watch the flight videos, or have had the opportunity to see close-up just how quiet these things are, you will surely appreciate their quiet-running capabilities. I have seen these being operated from the distance of half a football field away, and wouldn’t have given it a minutes notice. In an “hunker-down” situation, if there’s roving bands of bad-guys, they most certainly will approach in vehicles, and then these drones are virtually silent.

The other clear benefit to employing drones to keep watch, is that even if the device is
spotted, and even engaged and disabled, it’s much better than risking losing a member of your team, or family. Machines are expendable, and replaceable, while people clearly are not.

A much better scenario would be to be sitting snuggly in a central command area equipped with CCTV monitors, powered perhaps by a genset, or re-chargeable solar/battery banks. Or even streaming into your laptop, I-phone or I-pad, regardless of your location relevant to the drones area of observation. As to the possibility of someone actually firing on, and taking out one of these drones, I would say that an adversary would have to be a pretty good shot, if not a military-grade marksman in order to hit and disable the craft. I’d also think, that with the ability to see the bad-guys from a long way off, or at least a distance, you’d have sufficient time to exfiltrate the drone if it came to maintaining OPSEC or remaining undetected. If you took the additional measure of deploying an LP/OP a distance from your main AO, then that would give those in the primary camp a good amount of fore-warning to prevent being located and overrun. 

 This brings up another point. That being  that the drones are only as good, as the users ability to keep them powered up. There are many options available to pair the drones with solar or conventional on-grid, or off-grid recharging set-ups. One can purchase extra battery packs, and along with that, extra spare replacement parts in kit form, in case of damage to the wings, rotors, frame or other hardware or software on the units.

If you follow this link from RC Helicopter Fun, the author, using a Parrot, proceeds to give a thorough tutorial for employing that specific device, while the site also answers many of the questions a beginner may have.

My plan is to pick up a couple of the less expensive multi-rotor helicopter units, along with spare batteries, and a solar charging array. I don’t know if our plan to “bug-in” in our neighborhood will suffice when TEOTWAWKI happens, or if we’ll have to go to “Plan B” and bug out in our mobile configuration, either way, having an “eye in the sky” looking out for our security regardless of the situation, is safer, easier solution for us.

Hi Jim and Readers,
My Dakota Alert works great, as long as I can keep the batteries fresh, I find that they really use the current up fast.
I did paint the outside of my "bird nest" box with paint that looks like bark and green leaf color that I purchased in the paint department at Wal-Mart. It really helps camouflage the box, and when hanging it on a tree, most people never notice it.
As for protecting the antenna, I covered it with 1/2 inch black adhesive-lined shrink tubing available from Mouser Electronics. By shrinking it on the antenna is more resistant to  moisture, and it covers the shiny antenna and gives it better concealment.

I have also adapted and camouflaged another 2 meter band yagi antenna so that when the SHTF I can place the unit much further down the road and yet still hear the signal in my receiver. - Dave in Oregon

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dear Mr. Rawles, 

Greetings! I have enjoyed your blog site.  I noticed you have mentioned several times your use of Dakota Alert systems for your ranch.
This is why I am writing. I would like you input and thoughts.
I was viewing some customer comments on Amazon from those who had purchased the units.  Some complained about rust-out due to moisture (rain) after a few months. 
I then followed this up with an e-mail to Dakota Alert manufacturer. 
Bryon Pedersen of Dakota Alert responded by stating that most of the moisture issues have been resolved-except for moisture seepage into the antenna of the MURS system If the antenna is not attached properly.  Bryon stated that they cannot correct the flaw completely, but are happy to replace any item under warrantee.
I am in New England and face downpours and freezing winters.  I really could use this early warning technology-but do not wish to buy stuff that will fail within 12 months.
Also, heck, I can also make the “bird house” used to hide the detector unit-seems simple enough of a design.
I am asking you and other preppers their options as I want to keep my family safe in the face of SHTF or other intrusions.
Can you provide any updates on the use of this system?
Have you had similar problems?
Have you been able to overcome some of these problems?
Have you found alternative systems such as the Chamberlain CWA2000 Wireless Motion Alert a good substitute?
I would appreciate any or all thoughts.
Best wishes, - L.F.R.

JWR Replies: We have used a Dakota Alert for several years here at the Rawles Ranch. We live in a wet climate where we have snow for two to four months each winter and rain can be expected in any other month of the year. We have had not moisture problems with our Dakota Alert, which is mounted in one of their wooden "bird house" discreet hide/shelters. I think that the bird house keeps most of the moisture away from the black plastic case. This can be improved if you used a coat of RTV silicone around the antenna, to form a gasket for the portion of the antenna that passes through the hole in the top of the bird house. That will greatly reduce or eliminate having water drip down the antenna and get to the antenna base.

The only problem that we've had with our Dakota Alert is false alarms. In one instance this was caused by a spider that was repeatedly trying to spin a web directly in front of the IR sensor. If you find false alarms annoying, you can always always substitute an inductive loop to bury in your driveway. That way, not even deer will set off the alarm--only vehicles.

One last bit of advice: DO NOT but the junky Dakota Alert clones that are made in Mainland China, such as the Chamberlain. I've had numerous bad reports about their reliability and longevity.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Captain Rawles:
I've been enjoying and learning valuable information from your books and your blog, and thought I'd share some of my expertise in hope of helping others to prepare.
If, like me, you've been slowly adding more security to your bug-in location or retreat, you've been adding perimeter defenses such as fencing, detectors, etc. in order to prevent people and/or vehicles from easily gaining access to your property.  If you have more funds than I do, then you've probably installed harder defenses, such as bollards, ditches, and maybe even concertina wire.  These measures will stop most vehicular threats, and oh, sure -- nothing is going to stop indirect fire (mortars, artillery) or attack from the air, but there is a much simpler way to gain access that we all need to be aware of:   heavy equipment.
Having worked in construction for many years. I, like thousands of others, have acquired and collected keys to most types of heavy equipment, to include bulldozers, front end loaders, and excavators.  Bottom line is, there are too many keys out there, and unlike most vehicles, most manufacturers use just one key for all their equipment,  A good example is Caterpillar who for at least thirty years has used the exact same key for all their various types of earthmoving machines.  This makes it all the easier for someone to "borrow" or steal one, and if TSHTF, there will be a lot of equipment sitting around at abandoned quarries and job sites.
While much as been written about the threat of gangs or other marauders using stolen APCs or other armored vehicles, it would be much easier to use heavy equipment to attack your place.  Here's one scenario:
A group steals a medium sized front end loader and welds thick steel plates surrounding the cab.  They fill the tires with foam (some machines already have solid-filled tires) and head for lucrative targets.  Most loaders will go down the road at 25 mph, so there's no need to bother with a transport truck.  They approach your see them coming and open fire...the machine doesn't stop because the engine is in the rear and hard to hit.  Most likely, they just go right through your gate.  The stoutest locks and hinges will be no match for a 15 to 20 ton behemoth.  If for whatever reason your gate looks like it might be too much trouble, they will gain access at some other point.  Ditches can simply be filled in, bollards can be dug out of the ground or covered with a mound of dirt, same with fences or other obstacles.  So how do you stop it?
First, try shooting the tires, hopefully more than just one.  There's a good chance they're not filled and will rapidly deflate.  It won't get far with flat tires.  If that doesn't work, try flanking it and pour as many high-powered rounds as you can into the engine compartment.  Even if all you can cause is a coolant or oil leak, it won't get very far.  If you have tracer rounds, you could go for the fuel tank.  Most newer loaders have it under the engine, some older ones have it on the left side of the cab.
The other method is to burn it.  The center of the machine has many rubber hydraulic hoses and will usually be covered in oil and grease.  A few Molotov cocktails should do the trick, but consider that the machine will be accompanied by armed men on foot, who will have to be taken out first.  Except for the tires, the same would apply for tracked machines. 
Hope this helps.  Keep prepping! - B.B.D.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I had the same problem that Matt in the Evergreen State did with my doors.  I inherited a house from my family here in The Tar Heel State and after my recent marriage, my wife and I decided to make it our home for a few years.  It was a typical warbaby house, built in the 1940s and remodeled a time or two.  It has a mix of plaster/paneling/drywall walls, a handful of fireplaces, and lots and lots of glass windows and doors.  In fact, when I moved in all someone would have to do to take a stroll through the house was break a small pane on the door and reach through to turn the lock.  Since then, I have been replacing locks with double-sided deadbolts and replacing doors.  My front door was mostly glass pane with floor-to-ceiling windows on each side, like Matt's.  I replaced the door, left the glass in the windows, and took half-inch plywood, cut to fit, and screwed a piece in on both the inside and outside of the glass.  On the outside, I covered it with vinyl siding to match the exterior of the house, and on the inside I covered it with drywall so I could paint it to match the room color.  Presto, not a piece of glass anywhere around the door someone could break through.  I have left all of the windows untouched, but keep a stash of plywood handy in the barn so I could cover them quickly if need be.

Thanks for all you do. - A.

Monday, December 24, 2012

After the Sandy Hook tragedy I got thinking of my own personal security . From limited information in the press the perpetrator came though the window because the doors were locked . After  sending a few rounds through the tempered glass , the glass pulverized and he simply stepped though and started his killing spree . Question , where was the window located ? If it was a side-light to the door then it would be a double paned tempered glass window . Question, if it was a side-light window why no laminated wire mesh? That would have slowed him down trying to bust out the mesh . Was it a standard school window with all it's double paned shards of glass. As you can see so many questions and no answers yet. 

We are a nation of glass . We use glass in our homes ,schools, hospital, offices, but just how secure is glass? Safety glass is not security glass , the very nature of tempered glass makes it poor for security . I just installed two security doors but right next to the doors is floor to ceiling glass, now what do I do. Below is a link to a video of a fellow walking through 15 panes of tempered glass in little over one second each.  As a nation we need a low cost solution to this glass problem.  - Matt in the Evergreen State

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I have nearly thirty years of law enforcement experience. That experience was gained as a local police officer, a deputy Sheriff and finally as a state trooper.  The last decade or so of my trooper career was spent as a crime scene investigator for a state police agency.  I only tell you this for you, the reader to weigh the opinions and statements that will follow.  This experience serves as my only true “skill” as I’m a terrible carpenter, plumber, cook, welder, gardener or nurse!  What follows is my small contribution to the “how to” lessons for a prepper that are contained within this blog.
Law enforcement experience has shaped my preparations.  I always had a “storm kit” ready as I lived in an area that is prone to summer tornadoes and severe winter storms.  But after working a security and anti-looting detail in a city of 35,000 people that had been devastated by a tornado, I rethought my preparations and increased the food, water and medical supplies that it contained.  I saw first hand that rescue, recovery and a return to normalcy takes time. In addition, after 9/11, we were required by our agency to keep water and emergency rations in our patrol vehicles.

Even so-called routine occurrences such as a traffic crash can take on survival tones if it occurs in a remote area or during a blizzard.  I once helped search for an elderly woman that simply ran off a road and moved down a steep embankment into a grove of trees. All she had with her was a cell phone but after phoning the police, but she couldn’t tell them where she was. She only knew that she was somewhere between two towns that were twenty miles apart.  We had difficulty using the phone company to triangulate her position so we drove in the area with our sirens on until she heard us and advised the dispatcher.  That was a decidedly low tech solution to an everyday problem.

The woman was not physically able to leave the car and it was winter.  If she had not been able to call for help, she might have succumbed to hypothermia before anyone discovered her car.  What would happen if this same situation was after TEOTWAWKI?

While as a police officer, I was always conscience of security matters in and around my home and my focus was anti-crime.  In other words, I prepared as best I could against a burglary or a home invasion scenario.  It is only within the last few years that I have given considerable thought to major civil unrest due to an economic situation, the likes of which most of us have never seen.  Another prime concern is a grid down scenario for an extended period of time. Both of these threats seem to become more real each day.

Within the last five years or so, many things have changed globally, nationally, locally and within my own family.  I took a friend’s recommendation and read Patriots and it changed me deeply. I have shifted my thoughts and energies to serious preparations that I would not have even thought of before.

Another significant personal change was my retirement.  I was lucky to be able to retire early and moved to a retreat area that due to OPSEC will remain unnamed.  My wife and I built a home with an eye toward growing older and the changing social landscape.  I began making personal choices for my family’s safety in the long term.

First, our house appears to be “normal” and does not attract undue attention. No heavy duty gates or fencing or anything unusual.  A closer inspection does reveal a heavy gauge metal roof and fiber cement siding for some fire protection (we live in the woods). A looping perimeter lane provides a three hundred sixty-degree firebreak around the house.  Hose bibs and hoses are found on all sides to provide some water for minor firefighting. Rain water collection barrels are also present.

The house is situated on a commanding hill (always take the high ground) with a large, cleared area between the house and the dead-end road we live off of.  A gravel drive is the only way into the property.  Ever try to sneak up on someone surrounded by gravel?  I’ve also installed some “force multipliers” such as driveway alarms to cover different routes and a house alarm system.  A whole-house generator was permanently installed and is fueled by a large, underground propane tank.

Another force multiplier is a dog.  Don’t be so worried about which breed, you only need to be made aware of noise or movement you can’t readily detect.  About any healthy, trained dog will do. Few people are willing to have a “guard” dog but any dog can be a “watch” dog, they just need to let you know that something requires your attention.  A dog is a cheap, reliable security system.

Our home armory consists of twelve gauge pump shotguns, identical service rifles and forty caliber semiautomatic pistols.  Others have their own opinions, but I have chosen these weapons for performance, reliability, simplicity, parts and ammunition availability.  I have sold fancier and more expensive guns to purchase these choices.

Any cop will tell you that a 12 gauge pump shotgun is an awesome attention getter and a truly devastating weapon at 50 yards or less. Buy a couple and get a variety of shot shells for everything from hunting to home defense.  Two and four-legged squirrels have fallen to this time-tested weapon!

As for service or patrol rifles, I’ve opted for .223 as I can rarely see farther than 200 yards in our hilly and wooded environment. There is no real need for a long range rifle in my region.   In addition, I can throw plenty of .223 downrange if needed. This choice would change if I lived on the Great Plains or in the middle of a flat cornfield.

I will not argue about a .45 Model 1911 being a good combat pistol.  I just like a .40 to have a few more high velocity rounds available that also do a tremendous job of creating a huge wound channel. I’ve attended many, many autopsies and base my choice upon that experience.  I also remember my department’s transition to a Glock sidearm and seeing all the shooters on the range line shooting consistently better groups with the well-fitted Glock. Whatever firearms you decide upon, you MUST be familiar with the weapon, how it functions, how to clean it and how to shoot it.  Post-TEOTWAWKI, you will also have to know how to fix it.

Political winds blow in different directions.  Buy ammunition. Buy extra magazines for the guns you now have. Do it now. Read this paragraph again!

Of our preps, water, food and fuel take the most space, time and effort.  We have endeavored to stock for a year but are you ever really done?  I used the LDS web site as a baseline for our food preps.  We are to the point now that we only purchase more supplies if it’s a bargain that we can’t pass up.

We have bug-out-bags stocked and ready but given our situation, we will probably “bug in.”  We can go mobile if we need to however and I have stocked our vehicles with “get home” bags as well. No one knows where they might be at a crucial time.  If you live in an area that does not allow concealed carry or vehicle carry of a loaded firearm, consider pepper spray or other alternatives.  Be innovative, how about a can of foaming wasp spray? It’s legal to have in a car, it sprays several feet and administered at an attacker’s face, would give him pause to reconsider his plan and time for you to escape.

Mental preparedness is the most important. You must know that there are people among us that are just simply evil.  Most folks are securely insulated from crime and it’s ugliness.  My guess is that the tougher things get, the more evil will become apparent to us. I cannot overemphasize the cruelty that some among us possess.  We must be prepared to deal with viciousness and violence in a most extreme manner. Ever wonder what will happen when prisons cease to pay their correctional officers? Governmental units may stop paying law enforcement entirely, placing us on our own in confronting crime and criminals.

While stockpiling food, water, ammunition and precious metals are important, perhaps it is time to communicate with your family about security and their response to attempted attacks.  Spend some quality time learning about the firearms that you have and practice using them at a range environment with an emphasis on safe handling.  Please, no accidents now or especially after TSHTF.

Like fire safety drills, conduct intruder drills if the front door is breached, or the rear door, or the dining room window. What should you do if you arrive home to obvious signs of a burglary? At least run some scenarios in your head and use the phrase; “What if?”

Lastly, lets briefly discuss communication.  In my experience, communications are usually the weak link of any operation.  If anything can go wrong, it will be with some aspect of communication.  This can be low tech such as not repeating exactly what is to be relayed to someone else or high tech like a hand-held radio not working and thereby isolating its operator from receiving or transmitting any further information.

Our special response team had a series of hand signals to fall back on if our radio communications went south.  Our patrol officers had verbal cues to alert other officers to a dangerous situation without being overt.  My point is to develop a communications plan that certainly includes some sort of radio communication for distance and backed up with additional visual signals to relay vital information to others in your family or group.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

I am a law enforcement officer by trade. The area I work, as more and more areas often do nowadays, has an unfortunate problem with Meth. Most often, Meth is carried in 1.5”x1.5” plastic baggies that are usually folded up. As you can imagine, people get awfully desperate when trying to hide them.  As you can also imagine, a large portion of my time is spent trying to find them. If you imagine something about the size of a postage stamp or SD card that will give you a pretty good idea of the size we are dealing with. I also have investigated countless burglary calls, so have seen firsthand not only the patterns that thieves follow when searching for loot, but the patterns people follow when hiding things. I also happen to be a prepper, so in addition to needing to find stuff in my job, I understand the need for discreet storage in my personal life. I will approach this article from two ways: First, I’ll go over some of the more imaginative places I’ve seen things hidden, and hopefully share some tips and tricks that will open up more storage/hiding places for you. Second, I’ll go over some steps and methods to help you find things if you are the one looking. The better you get at finding things, the better you get at hiding them. Whether it’s hiding something quickly on your person or finding something on someone you are searching, or creating a long term cache, I hope this helps open up some new avenues to you.

Part 1- Hiding things-
So what are you hiding? I agree with JWR whole-heartedly that it is a lot harder for people to steal (or seize) what they cannot find.  Gold/silver, guns, ammo, USB drives, documents, etc. Anything of value to you.  Maybe you just need more room for your food storage.  Hiding places are truly only limited by your imagination. Shape, Shine, Shadow, Silhouette etc still apply when hiding objects as well as yourself.  This article will mainly focus on hiding areas and compartments.  So let’s begin…

ON YOUR PERSON: From the bottom up, let’s start with the shoes. Many of the new skate style shoes have a thick tongue. This tongue can be cut (along a seam) and items inserted in this. In addition the insole can be removed and items placed beneath. On crocs or even sandals, the sole can be split, filled, and glued back. On regular shoes, the sole (think where the air pocket on Nike’s is) can usually be cut and hollowed out. The heel of a shoe tends to have a lot of padding, and this provides some area to work with.  Shoes can be bought with both tongue and heel hiding places already constructed.

Obviously, anything can be tucked into a sock. For pants, the bottom cuff of pants can store items. You can also fold the cuff internally and sew or Velcro shut. Hidden pockets can be sewn anywhere on pants.  Seams are good places for these, as the thickness of the material will provide support and break up any imprint of the item, and if being patted down, the hard seam may hide the object from touch.  The edges of cargo pockets are also viable options, as well as the flap of the pocket. Most pocket flaps are double thickness, and can be opened, filled, and resealed easily. If you are doing this, make sure the objects are silenced and cant jangle against one another. Hidden storage belts are very common, and easily missed during a quick pat down.  Likewise with the back of a belt buckle or one with a removable object on the front. The same hiding places for pants also apply to shirts, with the addition of under or inside of a collar or thicker sewn in tag. For hats, inside of the sweat band, or tucked into a slit in the underside of the bill. Foam front hats can be altered in this way as well.  Belts also do not just need to be for holding your pants up.  You can tuck a gun into a belt that is worn up closer to chest level (up to your arm pits) on your body in a pinch, or have a knife taped to your inner thigh or upper hamstring area. Both the Keltec P3AT and the Ruger  LCP have available belt clips for them. The clip extends higher than the back of the pistol, so all that appears in a pocket is a clip that looks like a knife.

BICYCLES: Obviously, tires can be used as storage places.  The frames on bikes are hollow, and can be accessed from the seat, handle bar, or even crank area on some brands. Seat stems quickly remove and provide hollow storage, especially on newer bikes with quick adjust seats. You can tape items to the underside of the seat. Or buy a seat cover and keep items between the cover and the seat. On bicycles with straight grips, you can make a thin lit in the flat distal end of the rubber grip. Items can be inserted, and the hole is self-closing. Bicycle helmets are also options, with both padding that can be removed and foam to work with. Bicycles are also stolen, so be sure to guard against this and keep this in mind when using them to store items..

VEHICLES: A whole book could be written on this, and smugglers are coming up with some pretty ingenious methods. Cars are stolen, so I don’t advocate storing long term items in them (IE Guns), but there may come a time and place. Every vehicle is different. Anything with padding can be stuffed, and any dead space can be taken advantage of.  I strongly encourage you to look through your vehicle, both inside and out, top and bottom. After market tube bumpers can be filled with items. Stock  bumpers can have things tucked inside. Speakers can be removed. Again, tires can be filled. In the engine compartment, you can remove the air filter or fuse box. Or install a false fuse box. With all of the aftermarket items inside of cars now, it’s hard to tell what is stock and what is not (think about the K and N cold air filters). Get some large radiator hose and attach it to random spots in the engine compartment for some pretty secret storage. Anything that has to be bolted down is highly unlikely to be unbolted during a search, and provides a good starting point. Engines also have a lot of undercarriage armoring or protection that can be removed and used. Wheel wells usually have some storage space, and most vehicles have body panels that provide a lot of room to work with. Under a dash board, you can access vents as well as a lot of empty space. Door panels can be removed, as well as seat cushions (or slit and stuffed.)  In the glove box, there is an area under the box on the door, as well as below the dash if you remove the glove box/door fully. If you have a sunroof, the area between the glass piece and the interior padding can store things. In the console area, you can remove the plastic housing. Most ashtrays remove to empty, and provide access to a dead space behind them. The soft boot on a parking brake or manual transmission can be removed and filled. Airbags can be removed.  Dome lights can be removed and have the headliner accessed. The actual trunk portion that lifts up provides a lot of room, as do most light housing areas. Under any carpet in the vehicle.  Behind a license plate. Under a truck bed liner. Under a false floor in a tool box in the bed. Between the tool box and bed.  People can go so far as to install a smaller gas tank with a hidden compartment in the unused space.  In general, the more you can return the appearance to standard, the better. If you slit a seat, install Velcro or stitch it back up. If you lift the carpet, glue it back down. Do not leave pry marks on the dash board or door panels. Old vehicles are somewhat easier to work with, as they do a better job of disguising things as minor wear and tear.  If you have a rundown vehicle in the yard, you have more options. Park it on a buried 55 gallon drum. Remove the valve covers, hide things there, and replace them.  If the vehicle is not running, any hoses can be filled.  You can remove the wheels from a car, jack it up, put stuff where the gas tank was, then lower it down.  Let your imagination guide you.  Anything in the engine compartment will get hot and dirty.

THE YARD: With anything stored outside, be sure to weatherproof your container. Underground storage areas are very difficult to find, especially if you conceal them well. Metal detectors are becoming more commonplace, so be mindful of this. If it is a long term cache, leave it. Don’t check it every month and leave telltale signs or a path in the grass or freshly dug dirt. If you are concerned about metal detectors, place some old pipe fittings in the dirt above your cache and below the ground level. Fence tubing can be used. If building a wall, you can fill a cinder block with goods for long term storage. If you need easier access, remove a specific cap piece on top of the wall. Like wise with a 4x4 fence post.  These can be drilled nearly hollow then capped with a decorative piece.  Bird houses can be filled, or built with a false floor.  If building a raised bed garden, filled PVC tubes can be laid in the bottom. How many times have you seen people searching/looting a house dig up a garden? On a deck or play structure, any number of compartments can be fitted to the cross beams of the flooring. Don’t overlook a child’s sandbox. If you build your own, it is very simple to simply install a double floor for your goods, then fill with sand.  Old cars (see above), garden hose rolls (the roller), decorative yard art or sculptures, junked appliances, again let your imagination guide you. You can remove a brick from a wall, construct a fake brick out of floral foam that can be hollowed out, and paint to match your wall. Buy an outdoor speaker rock, and remove the guts. Hide something under your wood pile.  Be creative. Think like a kid again. Ask your kids where they would hide things.

HOME EXTERIOR: This is one of my favorites. Most people overlook the exterior of a home for any worthwhile goods. People know that spare keys are under mats, plants, etc, by the front door. On a patio/porch cover, if you have exposed beams, install new paneling pieces in the space between them. If you use spacers, you can still have exposed beams and hide the appearance of your cache. If you have a flat patio cover, you can hide a great number of items on top of it, against the roof. Have you ever looked behind the bird blocks on your roof? There is space there as well. Look at all of the pipes, vents, chimneys, etc, coming off of your roof. It would be very simple to construct a false vent pipe, sand to fit, paint to match, and no one would be the wiser.  Likewise with the random cable, phone, sprinkler controller boxes on houses now. How many does your house have? If you can’t name the number, someone looting won’t know either.  Buy an extra, set it up, and store away!
You can also landscape for success here too. Plants that drop a ton of leaves can hide a lot of ground work, and if you do bury something in a garden, it’s a great spot for your cactus collection.  Hide something inside your dog house when you build it. Or your chicken coop.
HOME INTERIOR: This is where it gets interesting.  Most burglaries I have seen people go through all of the usual hiding places. Drawers, cabinets, closets, nightstands, mattresses, under beds, behind pictures on the wall, book case. If something can get pushed over, its going to. So don’t hide things there. Let’s get wiser.
Let’s start with the laundry room. Do your cabinets go all the way to the ceiling? If not, consider a fascia piece and Velcro or screws to hold it in place. Now, they look like they go to the ceiling and you have a lot of storage. The same with a toe kick piece on the bottom of cabinets. Remove it, and reattach with Velcro, magnets, or screws.  Most cabinets also have an overhang on the bottom and top. You can fit a flush (horizontal) top or bottom and have a lot of storage. On washing machines and dryers, especially older models, there is a lot of dead space that can be accessed by removing the paneling. Obviously, be careful of what you are storing there, and the machine’s effects on it and its effect on the machine.  How many hoses and vents come off of your washer and dryer? Would a looter notice an extra 6” vent piece on the back of your dryer?  Do you use powdered laundry detergent? You can hide a lot in the bottom of a five gallon bucket of powder or large box of tide.  Same thing with bleach. Empty a bleach container, wash, dry, and fill with goods. Store in the back behind a couple other full bottles of bleach.

THE KITCHEN:  How many decorative containers do you have on the cabinets in your kitchen? Try putting food storage in them. How about under your stove?  How about in the warming drawer? What about the vent above your stove?  Remove the fascia piece on the bottom of your dishwasher? Do your cabinets have dead space around corners?  Do your counters have an overhanging lip? Could you flush mount a thin veneer under them? Some of the more amazing hiding places I have seen constructed involved water filters. One was a screw in water filter in the fridge that was hollowed out.  The other was an under the sink water filter, again, that was just the shell and had been hollowed out.  It is easy to overlook these, and if the power and water is off, its easy to excuse them not working. It Is also easy to install an extra piece or two of PVC pipe under a sink that are going nowhere. Unless you take the time to look, most will not notice an extra pipe.  How many chemicals do you keep under your sink? Can you store something in your ajax container?  How about where you store all of your plastic bags?  Be careful of hiding things in food (IE bottom of rice bucket.) Depending on how bad things are and who is doing the looting, that may be what people are looking for.  How about your pantry?  What about installing a 2 inch shelf above the door jam on the inside? How many times have you seen the wall above your closet door from the inside? Exactly….that is what makes it a great place to hide things. Depending on how small the pantry is and how high your ceiling is, you can go so far as to install a false ceiling. Because the lighting is usually different or non existent in the pantry/closet, false ceiling are a lot harder to pick out. Put a 2x4 so the 4” side is vertical on either short edge of the ceiling. Cut a piece of plywood to fit, and screw into the 2x4. 3.5” of storage space will fit most guns. Paint and texture to match. This works very well for a long term cache, when you can tape/caulk the seams, etc, and just leave it alone.  How about a decorative backsplash behind a sink or stove? Can you use one to hide a between the studs cache in the wall?  How about the inside of chandelier glass? Or screw in light covers? Add lots of dead bugs to hide any shadows cast.  How about where your ceiling fan attached to the ceiling? Or your smoke alarm? If you take them out, you have access to a lot of space under your ceiling insulation, and can put back a functioning item to hide your entrance point.  How about the dishes you have stacked up? How many coins could you tape to the bottom of your plates?

Moving on to the living room/dining room…Couches make great, but obvious places to hide things. But how about a lamp base? How about a curtain rod? How about sewn into the fold on the bottom of a curtain? Can you install a false bottom on your dining chairs? How about your dining room table? Coffee table? Are there angled support pieces in the corners?  If you do store stuff in a chair, be sure to pad the contents to keep them quiet, and do it to all of the chairs so it looks factory. How about speakers?  When looking at furniture, try to figure out where the dead space is.

Then, figure out how you can build a compartment to take advantage of it. Indoor plants are great too.  A nalgene bottle will hold a lot, and is waterproof enough to put in the bottom of a plant pot and leave under a plant and soil.

File cabinets are usually opened up, gone through, and tipped over. Most drawers are not removed. If you do remove the bottom drawer, you have some pretty good space below the drawer. An even better spot is secured to the inside of the top (above the top drawer) if the item is small enough.

Beds are common places to hide things, usually under them or in the mattress. So be different. Hollow out a bed post or leg if you have a wooden bed. Install a second piece of wood to the back of your head board to create a spot.  Dressers drawers will get pulled out and dumped out. If you must hide in a dresser, build a spot above the top drawers on the inside of the top, or to the side of the edge drawers. Take advantage of your dead space.  For bookcases, most have with a decorative fascia on the top shelf or below the bottom shelf. Don’t just hide things there. Screw a sheet of board onto it to really secure it.

Bathrooms are great too. Does your bathroom have two sinks? Use one and convert the plumbing in the other to storage. Tampon/Pad boxes are good for hiding things. How about a spare trash can with opened feminine products on top? Have a shower or bath you don’t use? What can you fit in the drain? What about in the faucet/water fixture. How about that costco sized bottle that used to have shampoo in it? What about your shower or bath itself? Do you have a seat in your shower? How about the entire frame of your bath? All of this is dead space waiting to be used. What can you attach to string or wire and put down the toilet? What about fitting things in the float ball in the toilet tank? Is there a brick in your toilet tank? Can you hollow out the bottom of the brick?
What about the closet? People look behind clothes hanging in closets. People don’t look in the pockets of clothes hanging in the closet. Or pinned under the collar of a jacket. Do you have shelves in the closet? Under the bottom shelf, up against the wall is a good place. Closets are great places to remove the base board and create a cache. You can attach it back with Velcro or magnets, but screws work better.  If your closet is wider than the door, can you build a partition against one wall? Again, if you take the time to finish it right, the lighting and presence of things in the closet will help to hide it.  Will 4” of wall space missing stand out amongst old clothes and Christmas decorations?

Attics make great places too. Under insulation is always a great option. If you have spray in insulation, it is very hard to make it look untampered with. Roll insulation is easier. With the amount of venting going around, is the searcher really going to confirm where each duct is going to? Consider adding a false duct for storage.  Bury one end in the insulation somewhere, and have the other go off into a dark corner.  Get to a corner of the attic, and screw a sheet of plywood between (not to the beams, but between) two beams to create a compartment against the roof. Basements are great places also. Think of structural dead space, and choose the nastiest, darkest corner you have. Put a cardboard box of water damaged magazines in front of it.

For true cache type hiding places, you need to think construction.  Install a new shower with a seat and take advantage of the dead space. When framing a wall, door, or window, put an extra few 2x4’s on the base plate. Drill out a space big enough for coins, USB drives, etc. Understand these are not going to be accessed easily. When installing flooring, think about a floor safe. I helped a friend build an addition onto his house. When pouring the foundation, we sank a tube safe in the concrete. It got filled, covered with Thinset, and tiled over.  Do you have a bay window? Build a seat to fill in the angle, but have the seat lift for storage. You can frame out a rectangular storage area under the hinged seat, but will still have the triangular areas on either end the are accessed by taking the whole thing apart.  Have an interior wall where insulation doesn’t matter? Replace the drywall with plywood on either side and have a great storage area between the studs. Any electrical outlet, surround sound speaker, phone jack, cable hook up is a great access point. Or install a few fake ones. Newer houses have drain access points on opposite walls from the plumbing, and these make excellent spots also.

In the garage, make things look boring. No one goes through a bin of old newspapers. Or looks in the bottom of a bucket of rusty bolts.  Or looks under the salt pellets in a water softener. Or looks under the wooden shelves you built to see the double plywood layer with storage space between.  Or dumps out the 5 gallon bucket of off color paint on clearance at home depot to find the Nalgene bottle in the bottom of it. Most commercial metal shelves have a lip on the bottom front, and you can store things under them.
One last thing is your safe. I assume you have one, it is bolted down, and kept locked. Better yet, you have a cheap throw down safe in your closet and the real one in a hidden room.  What about storing stuff under the carpet in your safe? Or on the inside edge of the lip in the front frame piece around the door, on the sides and top? If the safe is bolted to the concrete, did you put a cache in the wall it is up against? How about in the ground under it?

Another option is hollow core doors. The top can be removed, and lots of things stored inside. How about inside the decorative crown molding on the ceiling?
There is a thought that you can build armor to defeat any bullet, and can build a bullet to defeat any armor. Hiding things is like this. Someone can find any hiding spot you have given enough time and effort.  You want to make it as boring and horrible a process for them that they stop well before they find what they are looking for. If you have something hidden in the yard, put the trash can with the dog poop by it. And get a skunk to spray it. And plant a cactus by it. Make someone searching take one look at it and mentally give up before they start. People often look IN things, but rarely look AT the thing itself. Take advantage of this. People also look in places where they themselves hide things, and you can learn a lot by watching someone search. If you alter something, repair it as close to original as you can. Or alter everything the same way. Once you hide something, LEAVE IT THERE. Every time you check on it, you are creating an opportunity to leave a trail or alter something that will make it show.  Maybe today is the day your hand is dirty and will leave a hand print, or you will break a branch on the plant.  Maybe you will be in a hurry and not put things back right.

Part 2 Finding things-
Let’s start with a little on human behavior. Police are not trained to find criminals. We are trained to look for patterns, and notice when something breaks a pattern, or follows one we have already recognized. When I stop a car and the driver instantly lights up a cigarette and starts puffing away like a steam engine going uphill, I instantly think of two options. One, the person has been drinking and is trying to hide the smell of alcohol. Two, the person has a warrant, and is trying to get in a last bit of nicotine before jail. This is just from watching people over a long period of time. Next time you are carrying a gun, pay attention to how often you subconsciously touch it. When you get out of your car, when you go into a business, when you stand up, or sit down. Some people want to keep their drugs as close to them as they can. Others will do their best to stay as far away from them as they can (IE drugs are in the car, and they meet you at the trunk of the car when you stop them they are out their door so fast.) People are creatures of habit. People also tend to be lazy by nature. These two things come in handy when looking for things. When hiding things, people tend to want somewhere quickly accessible, and within reach.  When searching, people tend to get lazy, and look where they would hide things. You must be methodical and systematic. Don’t be afraid to take a break during a search for something if you find you are losing focus.

SEARCHING A PERSON:  So you are manning your LP/OP and you contact someone. In the course of the contact, they need to be searched. First, have a minimum of two people to search anyone. Safety and awareness are paramount. While one is doing the tactile portion, the second should be looking at the person’s body language, etc. A third and fourth person would ideally be providing cover.  The safest way is to have the person undress, and to go through their belongings inch by inch. This is not always possible. First, look at the person. Do you see any obvious bulges, or unevenness anywhere?  Have them interlock their fingers on the back of their head, with their pinkies up. Grasp their hands, and pull them backwards, so they are off balance. If you have the manpower, have one person hold them like this and have another search them. To search, you must touch everywhere, with enough time and pressure. You are looking and feeling or anything out of the ordinary. Go Slow. You are looking for a handcuff key under a seam of their pants or something of the like (In the academy, we were taught to look for a handcuff key. It’s the smallest thing that can kill you. Spend time with your spouse hiding a hand cuff key and trying to find it. Truly believe the person has a handcuff key or a mini SD card on them every time you search. Actively search. DO NOT GO THROUGH THE MOTIONS) IF ANYTHING FEELS OR LOOKS DIFFERENT, INVESTIGATE FURTHER! Did something crinkle? Did it not bend how it should? Go all the way up the inner thigh. Check inside the waist band. When going through clothes/shoes away from the person, look over and touch every inch. Look at the seams. Look at the thread used, the stitch pattern. Bend the item in your fingers. Take the insoles out of the shoes. Compare the two in weight.  Compare the two or the left and right side in feel.  Look at the belt buckle. Look at the belt. Look inside the hat. GO SLOW.  They sell handcuff key zipper pulls, as well as paracord bracelet clips that have them in them. VERIFY EVERYTHING, AND DO NOT ASSUME.
When searching a car, a good place to start is to sit in the driver’s seat.  Remember, people are lazy. What can you reach? Where do your hands go to when you reach under the seat?  To the visor? Under the passenger seat? Account for the dead space in the car. Look in all of the places mentioned above. Turn the wipers on. Turn the AC and heat on. Does it all work? Is the head liner loose? Are their pry marks on the door paneling? On the Dash board? Is the ashtray full or was it recently emptied? Is the CD holder full of CD’s? Look in the trunk. Look where the spare goes. Look in the actual trunk portion of the car that lifts up.

For the purpose of this article, searching means after the fact, when any gunplay is done, and you have ample time on your hands. This does not pertain to any area that is not fully secured and under your control.

As mentioned , you can see that is is nearly impossible to search every rock tree and bush. So you play the odds. Try to look, listen, and feel. Look for patterns of travel. Look for dead grass, or trimmed bushes. Look for disturbed dirt. Look for loose bricks. Look for missing cobwebs.  Listen for footsteps that sound different, or for the section of fence that sounds hollow. Or sounds dull if everything else sounds hollow.  Feel for the floral foam brick, or the loose capstone.  Divide the yard into a grid. Go through methodically and systematically. DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING, VERIFY EVERYTHING. Open the lawnbird control panel on the house. Turn the sprinklers on. Turn the hose on.

Inside of the house, account for every inch of space. Look for things that don’t fit, are not original, or were recently or frequently moved. Look for grooves and wear patterns in paint. Listen. Knock on walls, Knock on floors. Get out a stethoscope. Feel the wall texture. Turn on the sinks. Feel the pipes below while the sink is on. Is water draining where it should? Feel the ductwork with the AC or heat on.  Is air moving? If not, VERIFY why not. Do not assume.  Imagine objects are made of 1” cubes. You need to verify what each cube is or is not either by touch or sight. By both if possible. Think of a book case. This means everything within the edges of that book case is on a 1” grid. The books. The space behind the books. The shelves. Under the shelves. The wall behind it and the floor under it.  Open each book, not just one or two. When looking at containers of things, do the same thing. 1“ cubes. You can’t verify them all by looking at it from the outside. Dump them out if need be.  The person playing mouse went to great lengths to make everything as boring as possible, as disgusting as possible. They forgot to flush the toilet intentionally. They clean all their fish in the same pile for a reason.  Coincidences do not exist when you are searching for something. Get out a tape measure. Measure the ceiling height. Measure the wall length. If something doesn’t ad up, VERIFY it. Account for all structural dead space both in the house and in the objects in them.

Be mindful also of what people are searching for and what looters need. Right now, the bottom of a bucket of rice may be a good spot to hide a few coins. Food theft has not started yet. Likewise, a computer printer that may be stolen is not a wise place to hide said coins. But six months post-crunch, when the printer is a paper weight because the grid has been down and rice is as valuable as gold, the priorities for hiding places may be reversed.

I hope this article helps open up some new thoughts for you on hiding places, and finding them. When you look at your house from a different perspective, you will find limitless storage. And the better you get at finding things, the better you will be at hiding things. Search objects, not just in them.  If you are the deer hunter, look for deer from the moment you open your eyes in the morning, not just when you are in your tree stand in the woods.  If you are the deer, don’t just hide in the woods. Hide in the bushes by the front window of the hunters house, where he will pass you by before he even realizes he should be looking for you.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How do you balance the secrecy needed when prepping with letting your friends and relatives know that you are a prepper and encouraging them to become one too? Because when SHTF, you want your loved ones to be safe too. Wouldn’t it be wrong to prep in secret and not afford your favorite people the opportunity to prep like you? I know it is not wise to advertise to non-preppers that you are a prepper. But I did it anyway. I just wanted to start a conversation about prepping with my best friend. I was excited about prepping and I wanted her to start prepping too. I wanted to know she would be ok in an extreme situation. And let’s face it; I wanted to brag a little bit too. And that pride, that hubris, can get you and your family killed.

This conundrum was recently brought into sharp focus for me when I was telling my best friend about the new five gallon buckets and bulk grains I had recently secured. I was so proud of myself. Her reply was not “Where did you get the supplies from?” or “How much did it cost – I’ve been saving up and I’d like to get some grains too”. Her response was “If anything ever happens, I know where we’re going”. She meant her family would come here. I was literally stunned into silence. Because I let her know I had secured provisions for my family and about my preparations in her mind I was now responsible for her family too. Rather than plan for her own family’s safety and food security, she let me know her plan was to come here and try to claim a portion of my provisions. How did I feel about this? Would I really turn away my best friend and her husband? Would it depend on the situation or was it just a resounding no? I had screwed up royally. Not only did I fail to inspire her to prep, I jeopardized my family’s food security so I could show off. After she left I realized I had a lot of thinking to do.

And this line of thought, this failure to prepare, it’s not unique to her, and it’s certainly nothing new. People all around our country would rather rely on the government to take care of them, or burden their friends and family who are prepared, than prepare for themselves. Just look at the aftermath of any major natural disaster and you can see that outlook on life manifested. Not only will you have the Golden Hoard to deal with at The End of the World as We Know it (TEOTWAWKI), but some of that hoard will know you personally and will be headed directly to your home. So the bottom line is, are you prepared for that aspect of TEOTWAWKI? Do you have the extra provisions to take these people in? Or would you have to turn them away, with brute force if necessary?

The conversation with my friend made me realize I had talked a lot about prepping and specifically about my family’s preparations to a couple of people. I was trying to help encourage them to prep too. But in the process I had made myself very vulnerable to the people I cared most about. And what would I do if SHTF and they started showing up expecting food, water and shelter? Could our little home and provisions stock pile really stretch to accommodate more people? I didn’t think it was even adequate enough for my family yet, let alone for two or three more people. And if my best friend were coming here wouldn’t she want to bring her sister and her sister’s husband and their son too? What about the grandmother with medical needs that lives with them? Now the hoard in my head was getting bigger and bigger. And what would we do? My best friend comes over every week on Friday to watch television and catch up with me. Her sister’s family are our friends too. Could we shoot these people if that’s what it came down to? We have barbecued with them, been to their weddings, to their parties, their Sunday night dinners. Don’t we owe them something; shouldn’t we help them in an emergency? And wouldn’t they feel that way too?

I decided to make any progress in this thought process, emotion had to tone down and logic needed to be cranked up. What advice would I give to someone else? What if these weren’t people I knew – what if they were random strangers? Well, the ultimate goal is taking care of your family first. But if you have extra provisions or a bountiful crop from the garden, then wouldn’t you want to give them away to help others? That would be nice and it seems like the right thing to do, but it could also be dangerous in a post-TEOTWAWKI world. If you get to be known as the place people can go for a handout, you will soon have more hands than goods to put in them, and that leads to trouble. When the shops run out of food, people often break things and tear up the shops, fighting with one another to grasp at the last few provisions left. Shortly after that comes riots and looting. What do you think they would do to your home? If they don’t respect someone else’s store, why would your home be any different? And in a survival situation people lose a lot of their rationality and morals. Just because you have spent a lot of time with someone, and they are your friend, it does not mean they will not put themselves and their families first. In fact, you should expect them to. And this is the part of it you have got to wrap your head around: no matter how excited you get about prepping and the little stockpile you are amassing, keep your mouth shut about the items you have got! I could have easily told my friend I had picked up a little extra grain and asked her if she did any prepping yet. The recent storm in New York would have been a perfect reason to bring it up. Telling her specifics about the quantities was foolish and could be something that really comes back to haunt me later in life. I was proud of myself for what I was accomplishing, but broadcasting exactly what I was doing could drive people right to my front door in an emergency. Possibly more people than we could afford to help.

My husband and I talked about it and decided we could take in her and her husband in an emergency. He would make a great addition to our security team and she could help with the chores and the baby. The only problem would be what happens if she brings her sister and her sister’s husband and their son too? Could they be a helpful addition to our group? He knows about plumbing, but would there be enough resources to go around? With that number of people we could try to requisition more food and water, but that now takes our home from defensive to offensive, and I am not sure we want that. But that may be where my big mouth has landed me. My friend may be guilty of the folly of failure to prep, but I am guilty of the folly of hubris and letting it run away with my mouth, to the point that I made have inadvertently put my family in danger.

Be smart and keep the particulars to yourself when encouraging others to prep. Answer your friend’s and family’s questions on how to prep, but never reveal exactly what you have. If they ask something innocuous like “Well how much wheat do you have stored?” Always answer with something like “Well it’s recommended you have…” or “In the books I’ve read they say…”. Refer people to web sites and books they can get advice from so they can decide how much to store based on good data, not just by what you have stashed. And it is okay to tell your friends and family why you won’t give out specifics. Explain you aren’t trying to be rude, it’s just not something preppers do. If they really start prepping for themselves, they’ll get it, and they won’t be mad about it. Only get into more detail with other people who are actively prepping who will be in your post-TEOTWAWKI group and even then I wouldn’t tell every little thing. To those in your group you might indicate you have so many months worth of supplies, or more than so many pounds of something, but I wouldn’t list out every amount of everything you have. It is always wise to keep a little something back, especially the specific quantities and locations of your supplies. You want to encourage your friends and family to prep, but be sensible in the way you do it – you do not want to end up jeopardizing your family’s safety and food security by telling the whole world what you have squirreled away. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The rustling came again from the back of the shotgun-style apartment. Was it squirrels? We had a few of the little gray buggers living in the trees around us and they made quite a racket. I assured my wife via text that a squirrel wouldn’t come through our window screens.

She got up and looked into our bedroom just to make sure and saw a head and back sticking through about half way onto our bed. Letting out a blood curdling yell, she screamed and ran towards the window as the perp backpedaled out and ran off down the alley. Slamming the window, she called me at work, had me call 911, and waited for the police who quickly arrived on the scene. Everything worked out well in this case. The guy, homeless, was arrested within half an hour and booked on an outstanding bench warrant and for burglary. He plead guilty and did time for misdemeanor trespass.

We live in St. Louis, a city known for crime, and at the time lived in an area which is well on its way to gentrification. Still, on the edges things were a bit spotty. Case in point our apartment where across the alley stood what we later found out was a house central to the local heroin trafficking market. Over in our ground-floor apartment, we didn’t know that. All we could tell is that it was pretty busy with high school age looking kids most days.

The week of the robbery, we were moving in having just gotten married and hauled my wife’s stuff in from out of state. We had boxes all over the place and they were still there the week after the honeymoon. We also didn’t fully realize that our landlord had left the master keys to our apartment building on the front porch the week I was gone to the wedding; someone had already been inside to case the joint and steal my Glock.

It was the perfect setup for a burglary or robbery. Our apartment was at the end of the road by a busy intersection and was beside the major footpath connecting our road with the alley and the road behind it. Many folks walked that path daily to cut the corner and some would stop and sit in the chairs in our back yard enjoying the shade. It was hot, above the century mark for most of the previous month, and everyone had their windows open…especially those of us trying to move. Out back, we had a pile of boxes stacked in and around the dumpster. The inside of the house was such a mess that I wasn’t even sure if my gun had gone missing. And, worst of all, our land lord, experiencing the early stages of Alzheimer’s left the keys out for the taking.

There are so many things that went wrong which set us up so well to be the target of Maurice that day. Each one is something that is small in itself, but when added up, can in the blink of the result in horrible things. Everyone survived that day and although traumatized, my wife and I have come away better for it, I believe. The important thing is that our experiences be used as a lesson for others. Being newlyweds and just starting off in a new city in a cheap apartment is no excuse to allow your safety or alertness to be compromised.

Situational awareness, or the act (or art?) of being alert to your surroundings in a way that allows you to react appropriately is not one of the sexy parts of prepping. However, it is one of the most important. It is a skill that needs to be both practiced and utilized daily. Situational awareness can be seen on numerous levels of time scales. In our case, we were moving into a new apartment and we needed to practice both short term and long term situational awareness. This article will examine both of these in detail providing some general ideas on how to better prepare yourself. Each situation is different and every second changes your individual needs. Use this as a guide and build up your own system depending on what your life requires. Remember to keep alert for any need to change your system. Don’t wait for a failure to revamp; you might not get the chance.

Long-term Situational Awareness
Long-term situational awareness deals with things that are not an immediate threat. In these days of collapsing culture and declines in neighborliness it is even more important to know your neighborhood and those who live near you. Our neighborhood had an online email list as well as regular meetings. We utilized these fairly well and we knew that there was a crime spree in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, there was not enough data before the week of our robbery for even a map-geek like myself to pinpoint the source of our problems. Interestingly, within a few weeks of our break-in, the crime spree focused around a few blocks of us and the correlation was painfully obvious, even to a casual observer. Find out, preferably before you select a place to live, where the problem areas are. Get updated on the neighborhood situation before you even move. The same applies to areas where you work or often frequent. Prior planning is a good thing.

Once you’re in place, keep an eye out on neighborhood traffic. We probably could have spotted people who didn’t belong if we had been more attentive. I should have especially noticed that people walking by our windows had an easy way to look inside and make sure to make that impossible for them and also to deny them access to the chairs in our yard. With them being moved often, I did not think anything of it when one of them was moved under our bedroom window just hours later to be used to vault up into our life.
Most importantly, don’t let your awareness get displaced by something like moving. When you are moving, you are perhaps at your most vulnerable. Trips to and from the moving van provides anyone around a perfect view of everything you are moving and a good idea about where you are putting things, even if all of your blinds are shut. With doors open and air conditioners useless, windows being open in such heat are very tempting. However, this just adds to your advertisement power!

Short-Term Situational Awareness

Short-term, or immediate, situational awareness, is what most people think of when they hear the term. This is not paranoia, it is remaining alert for any potential threats and mounting your guard accordingly. In his book Combatives for Street Survival, Kelly McCann discusses the effects of a surprise attack on the victim: loss of fine motor skills, shaking, tunnel vision, rapid heart rate, etc. These responses make dealing with any threat more difficult, which is why Kelly stresses the importance of seeing the attacker before any attack can happen. As McCann notes, many times just making it clear that you are aware is enough to deter an attack. This is where your short-term situational awareness comes into play.
There have been many systems developed to help people logically process one’s situational awareness in a systematic way. Jeff Cooper’s color code, which he introduced in his classic Principles Of Personal Defense is an easy system to use in today’s world of TSA rainbow threat levels. Cooper’s color code is in essence a categorizing of a person’s mental state (roughly alertness/preparedness) given their ability to respond to various potential threats. The code is as follows:

  • White: You are walking down the street with ear buds in, music on, looking down to text. Basically, you are blissfully unaware of anything going on around you and you are in total denial that anything bad may happen to you. Stress, tiredness, and intoxication all help push you towards this level.
  • Yellow: Often described as “relaxed alert,” this is the level where one should strive to be at even the “safest” times. There is no observed or suspected threat, but you are alert to your surroundings and are minimizing distractions.
  • Orange: At level orange, you are on alert. You have spotted a potential threat and are ensuring that the source of this potential threat has your attention. At this point, should the potential threat become a real threat you move to level Red. Should the potential threat show that it is not a threat, you will return to level yellow. For example, you are walking along and a dog starts growling at you. Were it to charge you, threat level red comes into play. Were you to notice that it is chained and behind a solid fence, threat level yellow may be your choice.
  • Red: The potential threat is now a threat. Actions must be taken to nullify that threat. “Fight of flight” is in play and it is likely that things will get ugly.

Col. Cooper’s system does not directly translate into a system for situational awareness, rather it alerts you to the most important element of surviving a threat- your mental state. No matter how good of a shot you are or how “tacticool” your carry weapon is, if you are caught by a mugger at level white awareness…well, you’ve got a big hole to dig out of at best. Evaluation of your mental state using Cooper’s system (or another that you prefer) should become second nature. It should be a process that runs quietly in the background allowing you to focus more on potential threats and how to deal with them.
Using the example of our break in, let’s walk through how this works using the clarity of hindsight to see what should have happened. Given the presence of known criminals and a drug house, my alert level should have been at a level yellow when my wife and I left the house that morning. Walking to the car, I should have been scanning the house for broken basement windows, “self-walking furniture,” moved plants, loitering strangers, etc. I would have noticed that a chair was placed under our back window and gotten suspicious and moved it, thus denying entry to our windows.

To this day, I do not know where our robber was, but I suspect that he could see us getting in the car and driving off, but couldn’t see that my wife re-entered the house a short time afterwards having walked back from a coffee shop. This means he was somewhere in back of the house (where our cars were). Could I have noticed him? Maybe. Perhaps he was inside the drug house? Regardless, lines of sight work both ways, if he could see us, we could have seen him.

Let’s say I had spotted him standing watching us behind the drug house in the alley as we drove out. He posed no direct threat to us, but he was out of place. I’d be moving my mental state to orange. Driving back around the block and calling the cops in the process giving them his description would likely have sufficed in this case, he had a bench warrant outstanding and wouldn’t have stuck around long if the police showed up. With the potential threat gone, I would return back to yellow.

While looking for potential threats is a topic that would never be completely covered no matter how much ink is spent on it, there are some key points to remember. First, your situation is unique. Much of situational awareness is intuition and gut feeling. If it feels wrong, don’t. It’s much better to be wrong and leave a non-threatening situation needlessly than it is to go against your gut and wind up dead.

Secondly, if you see someone who doesn’t seem to have a reason to be some place, be careful. McCann demonstrates this by using the example of a guy standing in the middle of the parking lot just looking around with no keys out. What’s he doing there? Most people who lose their cars have their keys out and this guy doesn’t even look too confused. This rule can be expanded in any number of ways. Another example: unless you’re a kid playing hide and seek, most people don’t have a very good reason to be hiding behind bushes. Trust your gut and use common sense.

Third, be on the look out for bottlenecks and cover. Most of us do not daily have to worry about armed ambushes. However, criminals like to take advantage of situations which make their job of jumping you easier. The old “dark alley” adage applies here. So does the “don’t be foolish, trust your gut” theory.

Lastly, be aware of how you present yourself. People at level white are obvious to spot (for a fun exercise, go out on the street and count how many people you see who are clearly at level white) and make great targets for crooks. It’s also very easy to make it clear that you are not at white. Why take a hard target when there are so many easy fish out there? That’s the crook mentality. Most of the time, they would prefer not to have to work…that’s why they’re involved in crime in the first place! Walk with purpose. Don’t have your arms full if you don’t have to. Don’t be distracted. Make it clear you’re not a tourist (even if you are). Give off an air of confidence and alertness. It is always better to avoid a confrontation than to have to win one the hard way. This one simple step almost certainly is the one thing that keeps more people safe than anything else.

Situational awareness is clearly a subject about which much has been written and all of us could improve each day of our lives. It is a skill which is improved with exercise and one on which there are many views out there. I don’t feel that any view is mutually exclusive of the others. In this article I have presented Cooper’s color-based system of mental states because it is easy to remember and makes sense to me. There are certainly others. The US Government uses a system known as TEDD (Time, Environment, Distance and Demeanor) which is discussed in an article at STRATFOR: “Threats, Situational Awareness and Perspective.” There is also Col. John Boyd's OODA (observe, orient, decide, act) loop. For further information on this topic, I would recommend, in addition to the works already mentioned the following sources:

Home defense is about more than a shotgun or that security system and decal. It is a part of our lives that requires active participation on our part. With the lingering depressed economy, raging drug problem, and criminals with no respect for life, it is a sad fact that we must face this reality. Best of all, these key steps to home defense are free; it only takes a few seconds and alertness. So, for those readers who live in urban areas especially, take some time to reassess your security strategy. Do not let yourselves grow complacent, even if you have a security system. Let our lessons learned the hard way be an example to get you thinking so that something similar doesn’t happen to you. Oh, and if your landlord starts leaving keys out, move.

About the Author: B.D. lives with his beautiful new bride in St. Louis where they are expecting their first child in May.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

There are many varying opinions on what makes a prepper prepared. After listening to my contemporaries for some time, and giving their opinions due credence, I always find myself arriving at the same conclusion. I know that food, water and shelter are staples for not only prepping, but also normal everyday life. I understand the importance of self-reliance and sustainability. Topics like alternative energy sources, shelves stocked with supplies, ponds teaming with fish, underground hideouts, rainwater collection, and so on all make clear sense to me. I’ve found that the term SHTF seems to be frequently taken out of context and often misused. I must draw a line in the sand at the notion I’ve found of some people rationalizing how a couple thousand rounds of .22LR in a backpack can make a Ruger 10/22 a serviceable "combat" weapon. While storable food and water are both mission critical, it is apparent to me that arming yourself with the proper weapons, training, and equipment is the most essential part of prepping. I am certainly not regarded as a subject matter expert, or an authority in prepping, but I have been part of an invasion force. I am a combat veteran, a sharpshooter and machine gun expert. I have priceless real world experience and training that many of you will never attain. It seems that time is running out, that is why I have chosen to share my own personal insights.
In an economic collapse, the loss of utilities will be a disruption to your daily life. A collapse such as this could unleash waves of armed criminals, rioters, and looters looking for easy targets and a free meal. The events unfolding on the East Coast following hurricane Sandy are a good reminder of this. The worst case scenario is losing your food and water stores and the creature comforts of your dwelling. Even if you plan to hunker down, situations change and what used to be relative safety can become certain death. Your storable food, water supply, and shelter may all be compromised in an instant by an armed adversary. Far easier is it to disengage a hostile force carrying your weapon and as much ammo as possible, than to carry your food and water supply. The last thing you want is to get shot in the back running away with water jugs. In combat, I have never run to grab MREs when our perimeter was being probed. However, I have never passed up the opportunity to procure extra magazines when an insurgent was in the wire or when I was heading out on a mission. When my convoy was hit with IEDs, my thoughts were not ‘where are the cases of water?‘. That’s something- having no regard for water in the desert. When your life is in immediate danger and you are protecting your loved ones, you will not have regard for it either.

Undoubtedly the .22 LR is a handy piece of kit. Accuracy, affordability, utility, and a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ammunition are very persuasive arguments for any firearms enthusiast that can’t leave a gun store without a new piece. For many preppers, it is impossible for this venerable platform to evade your interest or collection. Limit your .22 LR rifles use to the role of plinking practice and acquiring small game. If this is your go to weapon in a SHTF scenario, you may want to revise your strategy. Here’s why…

I grew up and lived for the most of my life in a large urban center located in FEMA Zone 5. On any given New Year’s Eve, an assortment of automatic gunfire is rampant. Police officers are admittedly ordered back to the precinct for their own safety. It is likely that most, if not all of those weapons are illegal and possessed by individuals under weapons disabilities. Whether legal or not, those same weapons could show up at your door during a collapse. Another aspect to consider is the proliferation of armed criminals who possess bullet resistant vests. Combine the two and you have quite the formidable adversary. To dismiss this threat is suicidal. If well-armed, armor clad men show up at your door with sinister plans for you and your family, you don’t want to find yourself gripping a .22 LR, period. You don’t want to find yourself outmanned and outgunned. Your stockpile of ammo is of no value to you and your family if you are outmatched by the bad guys.

Whether you anticipate bugging in or bugging out in a TEOTWAWKI scenario, you may not be able to avoid a physical confrontation or fire fight. It is of my opinion to always bring enough gun. Take into consideration that you will have no say in who your enemy is or when they will assault you. Unless your survival group is actively scouting the ‘enemy’, which is offensive in nature (subject outside the scope of this article), you will not be able to predict the nature of your enemy’s weapons, armor, equipment, or level of training.


Your training is the cornerstone of all things survival. It is the umbrella that protects all of your other life sustaining preparations. No matter how bad the situation gets, nothing is a SHTF scenario until you are literally fighting for your life. An armed force on force encounter is nothing short of combat. You need to be intuitive, decisive, and deliberately lethal. Your mindset must allow you to freely dispatch your foes, one target at a time, effortlessly transitioning to the next target of opportunity without fixating on a previous target that is no longer a threat. Be prepared to cause serious debilitating injury and take human life.

Regardless of which weapon system or caliber you invest in, it is completely useless if you cannot effectively place rounds on target. It is an utmost priority that you become proficient in marksmanship. For beginners, I recommend acquiring some basic training. Books, videos, and courses have become quite prolific:,, and Military manuals are also a wealth of knowledge. Any book you find authored by the late Col. Jeff Cooper should be a no-brainer purchase. Another great place to look for help is the programming on the Outdoor Network and Sportsman Channel. You should find those channels to be very informative, as they demonstrate a multitude of realistic training drills, tips from the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, expert advice from the nation’s most prestigious firearms training institutes and top national competitors. Study land warfare manuals (MOUT), scouting, land navigation, camouflage, etc. ‘Train hard, fight easy’ was the saying. Well, no fight is easy, but it is certainly better to sweat in training than to bleed in combat. An important aspect of training is that it gives you a realistic sense of your group’s overall mission capabilities. It will help identify your group’s weaknesses and strengths, create discipline, and help build confidence amongst the team members. Establish a chain of command. I recommend the most experienced person in regard to a specific task take charge in those activities. Otherwise, with no leadership your group may fail to react to a threat in a timely manner. This will compromise the mission of your survival. Unit cohesion is a prescript for any organization to perform the duties in which it was designed. Training will allow you to identify the strongest shooters in your group. These individuals should be appointed the role of designated marksman. At the same time it will allow your proficient shooters to coach the others and get them up to speed. Consistently training in small unit tactics will enable your group to move with precision and drastically reduce the risk of fratricide.

Never become complacent. Complacency can get you dead in a hurry. Never take short cuts in training; it will undermine the intended purpose of training in the first place. I am reminded of a story about police training. A SWAT team attending a training session zeroed their weapons to a range in which they would ‘like’ to fight. They were only expecting to engage hostiles in close proximity and this led them to believe they had no reason to train and zero to the maximum effective range of their weapons. I assume this dangerous habit might have been acquired by becoming complacent after numerous house search warrants. The argument (excuse) they presented was that it would be difficult to remember the different points of aim (POA) and points of impact (POI) at different ranges, especially under the stress of combat. Shortly thereafter training was interrupted. They were called out and responded to an incident, in which they found themselves in a field with an armed suspect at a range of 100 yards. They were unable to safely engage the target. Luckily for them he was apprehended and nobody lost their lives. After that close call, they changed their training doctrine. Had the event been more severe and the team been unable to carry out their mission, they certainly would have come under intense scrutiny, or worse. Their own complacency sabotaged their mission capabilities, and it could have cost innocent lives, or widowed their own wives.

Police officers have superior training compared to average citizens (including CCW holders). It is noteworthy however, that police shooting statistics show they aren’t very accurate. Data suggests police accuracy to be in the neighborhood of 17% or so. Remember the Empire State Building police shooting in New York City not long ago? Bystanders were needlessly injured by the barrage of police gunfire. Perhaps some of you will recollect the shootout between Ohio State Troopers and the Kehoe brothers in 1997, where the exchange of gunfire took place at a distance of ten feet. The result was nobody being shot. Well, when the SHTF and you get an adrenaline dump, you’re going lose fine motor skills. If you think you’re going to be able to do any better than police with inferior training you’re dead wrong. You will be half as good in real life as you are on the range, and that’s being optimistic. The bad guys aren’t going to stand there like the targets of a static range, and you had better be moving too. What’s worse is they are trying to put bullets in you. 

When you’re on the farm post-TEOTWAWKI, don’t mope around in condition white with your head attached to your third point of contact. Keep your head on a swivel. If your rifle is not within arms-reach, you don’t have a rifle. When you find yourself completing mundane tasks, pulling long hours of perimeter guard duty or gate guard, your mind has a tendency to wander. You must overcome this tendency and remain focused at all times. It only takes a moment for the uneventful day to day grind to erupt into chaos. While serving in Iraq in 2003 as a member of the 101st Airborne Division, boredom would set in quite often. An order would come down and off we’d go pulling convoy security again. It beat guard duty and guard duty beat handling prisoners of war. The surroundings became familiar, as did the flow of local people. Even the ambushes at a bustling nearby intersection began to seem commonplace. I remember a group of insurgents randomly firing small arms and disappearing before someone could get a bead on those SOBs. As it turned out, that proved to be a poor career choice for those individuals. Sniper rounds often found their way into the airfield in Mosul and a man I know caught one of them. He was lucky, it only shattered his femur, and he was able to keep the limb. IEDs happen and there is no warning. Two of my brethren are very blessed to be alive; especially considering one sustained a shattered shoulder and multiple fractured vertebrae. They both suffered traumatic brain injuries (TBIs). I have also had my share of close calls and near misses. I have seen firsthand the damage military small arms can inflict. These kinds of things happen fast and you need to ‘stay alert, stay alive’. Familiarity breeds comfort. Being comfortable in your surroundings gives a false sense of security. Complacency is a mass murderer.

Your inner circle should only consist of a small and limited number of deeply trusted individuals. You must actively attempt to make additions to your small group based on experience, specialties, and high value skills. Your training will bridge the gap between fear and mission effectiveness. Force multipliers must be identified and properly employed to gain every advantage for your well-trained dedicated force of do-good patriots. If you have never seen firsthand the barbarism of combat, you cannot fully appreciate the suffering it induces. Your survival completely depends on your ability to wage asymmetrical warfare against your enemy. Your ability to promptly overwhelm an enemy with firepower, decimate his ranks, disappear, and live to fight another day will be the key to your survival. None of this can be accomplished hiding in your basement, or foolishly engaging a superior fighting force with sub-par weapons and laughable training. Get real and get in gear. Shoot until it becomes second nature, then shoot some more. Make sure the personnel in your force are cross trained in each other’s skill sets and equipment to an effective degree. Everybody in the group must be familiar with all weapon systems that are deployable in your arsenal. Get the training you need. Keep shooting and prepare for the worst. Choose not to be a statistic, but rather the exception.


Procurement of weapons and ammunition far exceeds the purchase of other seemingly important items. You will have to make choices that are tedious and might push the limits of your financial situation. It is a difficult proposition, but when your life is hanging in the balance spare no expense.  In a real life SHTF situation the only important thing is firepower. It is the only thing. You must absolutely overwhelm the enemy with superior firepower.

In close quarters the 12 gauge is arguably king. However, as effective as it is, if you step out into the street where ranges easily exceed 100 meters, you may quickly find yourself outgunned. Yes, that also includes your slug gun. Your .22LR will fit thousands of rounds in a backpack, yes. However, if this is your weapon of choice, then your plan will inevitably fail. If you can show me a military that fields a .22LR, I can show you a defeated army. Nations around the world have sought out solutions to maximize the number of rounds their soldiers can carry while considering weight limitations. It is not an accident that they haven’t arrived at the .22LR. You are depending on your weapon to keep you alive. Select your weapon’s chambering wisely, and make sure it has enough horse power to do its job of protecting you effectively.  Think in terms of maximizing your capabilities in any scenario. If I only could own one weapon (not recommended), it would be a carbine. Generally speaking, it easily transitions from close quarters to medium, to moderately long range offering far more security than a shotgun. Be aware of your specific weapon’s limitations and capabilities. Understand its intended purpose and keep it assigned only to tasks in which it excels, if possible. An M4 is not an M16 for all intents and purposes. While the M4 is more suitable and controllable in close quarters, your maximum effective range on a point target is limited by its shorter barrel. With the M16, you extend your effective range at the cost of cumbersome handling in confined spaces. If you anticipate longer range encounters in your area of operation you may opt for a different weapon system altogether.

In recent combat in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters have been utilizing .30 caliber weapons to engage our troops at ranges of ,1000+ meters, well outside the effective range of the 5.56x45mm NATO cartridge of the M16 family of weapons our soldiers carry. Those engagements have prompted the United States military to take another look at the fielding of .30 rifles. Don’t just buy a firearm because of its CDI (chicks dig it) factor. Purchase them according to your threat assessment and the unique demands of your specific environment and situation. A firearm vetted at failing in cold weather environments is a poor choice for a defensive roll if you spend 4-5 months out of the year shoveling snow. Those climates are more demanding of you and your weapon. It is important to learn how to maintain your weapon in such environments.

Handguns are highly utilitarian, as your long gun is unlikely to accompany you to the store, to and from work, or anywhere else you are likely to end up. Choice of caliber is up to you, but the bigger the hole, the more bleeding it will cause, and the larger diameter bullet is more likely to hit a vital structure causing greater tissue damage. In context, your handgun should only be used as a back-up weapon, or to fight your way to a long gun in a SHTF scenario.

Keep spare parts on hand for parts that are likely to break with hard use of your weapons. Consider enrolling in a gunsmith course to personally enrich yourself, and to pass on acquired knowledge to your group members, because somebody has to keep those weapons serviceable. Keep your weapons properly lubricated and well maintained. Take care of it today, and your weapon will take care of you when you need it most. Your group should select weapons chambered in readily available calibers. Yes, the HK7 is one cool PDW if you can get one, but how do you plan to feed it? Proprietary ammunition has its niche, but the difficulty in amassing ammunition for them is too great a burden to bear. Limiting your overall ammunition requirements simplifies logistics for your group. It is also likely that your group will be able to barter with or for common ammunition more readily than the fancy stuff that only you have a need for.

Force Multipliers

Once you have become the master of your weapon, you need to keep training, and train harder. The addition of force multipliers to the equation is in order. Red dots, holographic reflex sights, magnifiers, and medium range scopes manufactured by EOTech, Aimpoint, and Trijicon to name a few are excellent choices. Magpul also supplies a number of gizmos for your shooting pleasure. Their PMAGs have become an industry standard and are stocked exclusively in my collection. Lasers are also a welcomed addition to my tiny arsenal, as they serve two purposes. The first is target acquisition. The second is the red dot that it produces on a target is universally recognized and has the intimidation factor that has caused assaulters to stand down in the past. I currently use and recommend Crimson Trace and Insight Technologies lasers. Trijicon also manufactures the tritium night sights that have made their way onto my service pistols. The ability to see your sights in any lighting condition is obviously advantageous. The life span for green and yellow sights is 12 years. Orange sights putter out after five years.

Edged weapons are also important. A hearty blade like the iconic Ka-Bar has numerous applications. You can find great deals on Ka-Bar knives at Combat tomahawks are well suited to the task as well. I recommend picking up a ’hawk’ from the folks at RMJ Tactical Their products have been used extensively overseas and are credited with taking out the trash and keeping our boys safe. They are designed to pierce a Kevlar helmet, which is a pretty nice feature if your proximity to an assaulter momentarily takes your long gun out of the fight. I recall this story airing on television. A bright reliable flashlight should already be part of your daily routine. Surefire is the apex predator in that arena. I have carried several of them on deployment and highly recommend their products. Night vision devices are an absolute must, as they allow the viewer to see in near total darkness without breaking light discipline and giving away their position.

Buyer beware! Simply attaching as many accessories as your rails will accommodate makes you no more a sharpshooter than purchasing a scalpel makes you a surgeon. Likewise, stockpiling ammunition and owning several weapons does not make you a soldier, sorry fellas. They are tools to use in conjunction with, not a supplement to, skill. Keep in mind, every additional piece of kit demands more training. You will have to work hard and train intensely to develop your skill sets.

Regardless of your chosen weapon platform- high capacity magazines, magazine couplers, drum magazines or beta mags should always find their way into your home. Surplus ammo is fine if your chosen weapons will put up with it. I have found that old steel cased ammo, even the moderately rusted kind, still allows my weapon to run like a sewing machine. While not an ideal scenario, it’s better to know that now than to find out otherwise when my life is on the line. The relevancy here is that more ammo allows for extended fighting periods (horse power included). That means I don’t have to cringe if I blow through a mag or four laying down suppressive fire. This may be unlikely, but I‘m planning to win in any scenario. Because surplus is cheaper, you can acquire a whole lot more for the money. You will need a way to carry all of your gear. Load bearing equipment goes hand in hand with weaponry, so be sure to choose quality gear that is able to handle your mission critical load out.

It is important to consider force multipliers when defending against the aforementioned rogue criminal elements. Several companies offer bump fire stocks on the market for weapons such as the AR, the infamous AK series, and even the Saiga 12 gauge and others ( and These stocks increase your standard semi auto weapons cyclic rate to mimic full auto fire. More specifically, around 900 rounds per minute with the AR platform. It will spit out an entire 30 round magazine in under 2.5 seconds! While the criminal hordes have select fire weapons illegally, we have the option to purchase these stocks for mere hundreds of dollars and all approved by the BATF with no tax stamp or waiting period. Your assaulters may not know the difference, or care. But they will know somebody on the other side of the door or down the hall is not to be trifled with.

I believe in fighting fire with fire. This ideal extends to the use of body armor. With so many options available to the consumer, bullet resistant vests are everywhere and can be had for reasonable prices if you look in the right places. And why not? The criminals waste no time acquiring these items to use against you. Make educated purchases as the vest’s bullet resistance degrades over time and with everyday use. Surplus Kevlar helmets are pretty much everywhere as well. There are many more force multipliers than mentioned here, but I believe I have outlined a practical foundation for you to be well prepared and well protected. The people aiming to harm you will be well prepared. It’s up to you to determine the level of threat you face, and how best to protect your family. We’re definitely not talking about the run of the mill home invasion that is seemingly innocuous by comparison.

Being geared up for combat is an intelligent approach to protecting yourselves against the inherent risks of outsiders when TEOTWAWKI arrives. It is the only way to stay alive when the SHTF. Your goal should be to emulate law enforcement and military training, tactics and arms. These brave people risk their lives every day and know very well how to protect themselves. If you are well armed and trained, you have a degree of sustainability. Your weapon can produce food. Your food and water supply cannot protect or defend you when engaged by enemy forces. Your mind is the most dangerous weapon you possess. It is up to you to hone the mind and prepare it to keep you safe. “Safety is something that happens between your ears, not something you hold in your hands” - Col. Jeff Cooper. The weapons are simply an extension of your mind. All excuses will fall silent when the brass meets the grass. There cannot be enough emphasis placed on proper equipment and training. In the end, it is all you have to fall back on.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

As the Halloween season came and went, I had to accompany my  boys to the seasonal Halloween store that opens up for about 2 months in some obscure, rented building. My trip with them looked at masks, costumes and an aisle or two dedicated to make-up supplies as well. I passed by the face paint, the hair coloring and the fangs, but then my eyes spied a series of tubes containing “blood”, and then small bottles of it and even a couple of very large containers all containing the bright red, sticky, usually non-toxic theatrical blood. Being a prepper at heart, my mind usually runs items I see through a mental rubric for deciding if something has any “prepper value” for my survival or my ability to barter. Through this mental maze, there exists a matrix of questions that falls under personal defense and tactics. Could theatrical blood have any tactical value to my survival situation? Yes, I think it could. Knowing that the day after Halloween the products would be 50% off helped make it all the more affordable.

My first idea was for first aid training. My sons have practiced bandaging a large wound, pressure points and even splinting a compound fracture of the humerus or femur. All of these events were practiced clean in a very unrealistic setting where they were told to “imagine” the wound that they were working on. The addition of the fake blood would add a note of realism to the scene. The nice clean area they were bandaging gets transformed into a gooey, sticky red mess with sand, leaves and other debris from the ground worked in. As preppers, first aid could include puncture wounds, gunshots or even an accident caused by broken glass or twisted metal after a natural disaster are not farfetched at all and should be considered. Some theatrical blood, suitably applied could up the realism of the simulation by a notch or two. Emergency first aid may not give someone the time to go put on latex gloves and they may have to get the blood of a family member on them. Would they be squeamish about this?  Now is a good time to work through that. Other damages can be simulated as well. Step on an old nail and it goes right into the bottom of your foot? Cut into a finger while using a knife or hatchet? The addition of the fake blood just adds one more level of realism to the training procedures.  Beware though! Some brands of this kind of fake blood mixture warn that they can permanently stain clothing and fabric so keep that in mind when you decide what clothing you want to practice in or you may have an unexplainable red stain on your new set of Multicams  (or whatever type of clothing you practice in). It’s a good idea to do this outside to avoid any kind of stain on the carpet inside of your home that cannot easily be removed.

Secondly, I believe that theatrical blood could be used tactically. I am well aware that as preppers we might face all kinds of opposition from those who lack the foresight to set aside money and time to stock up on needed items and prepare for the worst beforehand. Basically, we want to get out to a spot, set-up a base or a retreat and just be left alone by everybody else. The truth is, the hills will eventually be swarming with all the unprepared who have some kind of notion that to survive they must flee the city and miraculously find everything they need out in the woods. These folks may have only one tactic available to them and that would be to try to take what I have worked so hard for away from me and my family. They may come at me with guns (perhaps the only plan that they have for survival) or they may have numbers on their side. They may have the advantage of better or more firepower than I can muster or a much bigger defense force than what I have available, so any advantage I have could be a lifesaver. I can imagine scenarios where I could use the theatrical blood to appear severely wounded, diseased or even dead. Situations similar to ones I have seen in Enemy at the Gates and The Road depict a desperate scenario where these ways may be the only way to be spared being shot at or harmed by marauders. If temporarily being taken prisoner or being put under guard by someone as the rest of the horde searches through your meager supplies (the rest are cached, right?), how much threat would you pose to them if you already had a horrible gut injury or a bleeding head wound? Would they pay you as much attention as they would if you were perfectly fine and uninjured? They may not even worry about you running off or suddenly rising up against your guard and overpowering him to make a getaway. Coughing up “blood” could convince a group that you are ravaged by some kind of biological malady that they don’t want any part of. A false “blood” trail could lead a tracking team expecting wounded or dying prey directly into a well-planned ambush.

These are the tactics of deception that can be employed by the disadvantaged defender. Some might take offense at these ideas and say that these kind of tactics are not very warrior-like but I would reply that when the chips are down, it’s life or death and fate has left you little choice between living another day or getting yourself killed by some half-wit who wants your can of Spam, a little deception could easily save your life, your family’s and maybe even your supplies too. - Art X.

JWR Replies: Theatrical blood is indeed useful for training moulage, but I would be reluctant to try most of your mentioned "tactical" uses, other than as a last resort. As much as possible, I advise that you keep your encounters with strangers at far shouting distance, rather than "improv theater" distance. There is always the risk that someone who is otherwise moral and upright might choose to "put them out of their misery" with a shot to the chest or head. But your mileage may vary.

Also, keep in mind that most people know that real blood dries to a brown color (because the iron in blood oxidizes), while fake blood dries to a fairly bright red.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Dear Editor:
Although land, sea, and aerial [unmanned vehicles] are available, for the purpose of survival ‘hobbyist’ surveillance from an aerial vehicle is the best option.  A land or sea based homemade ‘drone’ would have to be large to navigate even moderate terrain or choppy water and the larger the vehicle is the more costly, dangerous and obvious it is.  Aerial ‘drones’ on the other hand can be much smaller and unobtrusive.   When we refer to drones, what we are really speaking of just a radio controlled vehicle with perhaps some fancy telemetry.   Aerial drones come in two basic flavors, fixed wing and multi-copter.   I have experience building both as well as automated lawnmowers and snowplows. 

Fixed wing

A fixed wing UAV is really a radio control airplane.  There are thousands of models available, from palm sized to nearly full scale.  Power can come from a battery or even a small scale jet turbine.  The best format for a drone would be an inexpensive expanded foam model.  These foams can withstand full speed impacts with the ground with really no damage other than a broken propeller (trust me I know).   Skillfully built and operated, the fixed wing drone could stay aloft for hours and several thousand feet up.  Operation is nearly silent when at altitude.


A multi-copter is just a helicopter with more than one rotor.  A Chinook is an example of a full scale multi-copter.  Multi-copters come in several formats, having from 3 to 12 motors on arms extending from the center. Kits are commercially available, or a good multi-copter can be scratch built at home.  Design can be very robust if proper materials are selected.  The strongest units are made from carbon fiber or aluminum, with motors oriented for redundancy.   My multi-copter is about 4 feet across, weighs 6 pounds, and can lift a 4 pound payload.  These are very versatile.  I can follow a car, land on a roof, even fly to my front window and look inside the house.  Multi-copter electronics are much more expensive than their fixed wing counterparts.  Careful consideration must be paid to electronics protection.

This is a bit of a catch all term and can best be divided into stabilization and flight control.  For a fixed wing vehicle, stabilization can be done inexpensively with hobby gyros.  This will automatically correct the flight to straight and level after any deviation.  Flying is much more simple.  Flight control is added on top of stabilization.  Generally flight control is via GPS radios with waypoints programmed via a computer.   You end up with a radio controlled airplane that once launched will fly, to a point(s) and circle, take video, etc. and fly back.  Video feed is also possible, but even a cheap video camera will record nicely from the air.

For multi-copters stabilization is absolutely necessary.  Humans can not control anything this complex alone.  For a multi-copter  the stabilization essentially compiles  normal inputs, from a radio or flight controller,  along with gyro and accelerometer data from the vehicle.  The stabilization computer then calculates the desired speed for each motor.  Multi-copter stabilization is very effective.  I can literally shove my x8 multi-copter in flight and it simply autocorrects back to its original position and heading.    Multi-copter flight control is very similar to fixed wind control, via GPS waypoints, although ultrasonic range finders can be used indoors.   The stabilization in my multi-copter is capable of controlled flight in 25+ mph winds.
Please keep in mind that there are FAA and FCC rules governing radio control aircraft, drones and video downlink radios.

After months of tinkering, crashing and spending probably thousands of dollars, you will have a drone that will fly in a stable manner.  You will be able to control it with your radio and maybe you invested enough for a flight controller and video down link.  What do you do with this new toy?
Due to payload and range restrictions, an aerial drone is not suited for really anything other than surveillance/reconnaissance.  Honestly, in a survival scenario, my multi-copter in not even on the bug out list.  That is not to say that these things are useless to a prepper though.   I have video of my house and neighborhood.  I can easily fly above and look down undetected.  If I wanted to, I could peer into window on a high rise.  Whether bugging in, or at a retreat a bird’s eye view of your environment is very much a force multiplier, although I sometimes think a camera on a $10 kite with a long sting is an equivalent option. Regards, - Rockhound

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Why should tyrannical, oppressive governments have all the fun with advanced technology?  How many of you reading this knew that for about $1,000 (about the cost of a good AR-15) that you could buy all the parts you needed to build your own drones?  Did you know that there are cutting edge companies that are even selling “all in one” kits to make your own drones?  Everyone is well-aware that drones have become a force-multiplier on the battle field.  They grant a lone ground force the ability of a degree of air-superiority, even if that superiority is only that of surveillance and the ability to see through the fog of war to a certain extent.  Imagine the implications this can have on the safety and security of your homestead?  Not to mention what a fun hobby this could be!

This essay is written to serve as an introduction to everyone about the possibilities of civilian drone technology.  You will need to do technical research on your own.  Please note, what you choose to do with your drone is your own business.  Make sure that you obey all local, state and federal laws regarding this technology.

What do you need to get started?
Head on over to  This is a great web site that was created with the sole purpose of investigating the world of drone technology and how it can be utilized by the average civilian.  It has a great community to help you with all your questions.  According to the web site's editors, here is a list of what you will need to start your own DIY drones project. 

  1.  You will need a vehicle. there are instructions showing how to incorporate planes, helicopters, land-based and even water based vehicles into your drone system.
  2. You will need an autopilot.  Autopilots are computer boards that control the mechanical functions of your drones.  You will need this item if you want to be able to program your drones to be autonomous and function on its own.  Autopilots typically include mission planning software to program your drones.
  3. You will need a computer or laptop.  Most of us already posses one that can serve the purpose.
  4. An optional payload system.  This could be anything from recording cameras, video transmission equipment, radio duplexers, to a message in a bottle.  More on this later.

It’s as simple as that.  The macro-components listed above are simple to gather and can be done under $1,000 (excluding computer).   This is enough to get you started in the world of drones’s.  Let’s take a look at highly suggested support equipment.  If you are really broke, take a look at AirHogs.  I know, they are toys for kids.  But how valuable could this simple “toy” be as a force multiplier?  I wouldn’t stake my life on them, but they could really make a big difference.

  1. Off-grid power source.  drones’s need electricity to run.  They don’t use much, so a big system isn’t necessary.  Ideally you would want a system that could allow you to re-charge your drones within one day.  A great no-fuss, all-in-one system is Goal Zero’s Escape 150 Solar Kit.  A system like this could be exclusively used to support your drones and isn’t too hard on the pocket book.  An alternative is a Biolite Homestove  (if you can get your hands on one) is another great option, as you can tend to your cooking duties while charging electrical systems.
  2. Spare batteries.   Spare batteries for your drones and all support equipment are highly recommended.  Batteries will wear out with constant use. 
  3. Spare autopilot.  Your autopilot is the brain of your drones.  If you only have one and it dies, your drones has become useless.
  4. Spare parts for your vehicle.  Consider the parts that might break the most.  Ailerons, rudders, rotors/propellers, wheels, chassis, suspension, etc.  Stock up on a few extras plus additional materials that could be substituted for broken parts.  Model airplane wood, glue, plastics, metals, paints (for camouflage).
  5. Spare payload parts of your choice.

It is highly recommended that any primary and spare parts for your drones be stored in some sort of Faraday cage when not in use.

So, now you’ve got your own homemade, DIY drone/drones.  What next?  How can it be useful?  The possibilities are endless, but here are some uses that might interest Survivalblog readers.  There are three main categories of use than a drone could function in; surveillance, communication, delivery/transport.  While examining these three categories, please keep in mind that drones’s can come in land, sea or air based systems.  Conduct some critical thinking exercises to see which system could serve your unique situation best in your environment.  These are just a few possibilities, I’m sure you can think of more!  Keep in mind, the mission planning software that you get for your autopilot will often come with the ability to program your drone to the below tasks.


Static Observation

Imagine for a moment that you require the ability to observe a field a view from a higher elevation or vantage point.  A quad copter type drones could be suited very well for this task since it is capable in functioning in a hover mode.  Imagine your field of view from an altitude 100’ above your ground-based observation post?

Roving Patrol
Programming your drones or drone to conduct a patrol on a pre-designated route can potentially save you man power.  If your homestead is under-staffed, you may be able to send out patrols to survey your area of operations without sacrificing critical staff at your base location.

If there is something in particular you would like to get a closer look at, you can send out a drones to have a closer inspection without putting personnel in harm’s way.  Let’s say you are in a vehicle convoy and are coming up on a blind curve.  Wouldn’t it be great to send out a drones to reconnoiter the curve to determine if it is safe/free of an ambush?  Anything that is dangerous that you don’t want to get close to is perfect for a recon mission.


Homing Pigeon
Imagine that you are out on a patrol and need a way to discretely send a message to someone?  If you had a drones that was preprogrammed to head to a designated GPS location, you could then send the drones on it’s mission to deliver a written message, flash drive, or other small object.

Aerial Repeater
UHF/VHF handheld radios suffer from the unfortunate consequence of being line of sight (LOS) radios only.  Depending on the terrain, this could limit radio communication on these frequencies to just a few miles.  Repeaters provide the ability to extend the range of these frequencies by basically putting a radio on a big-tall tower (or other high elevation) that re-transmits a signal.  The problem is, you can’t always build a tower in a remote location.
Here’s a solution.  If you have access to a duplexer, it could be installed on a UAV.  By flying the UAV at an extreme altitude in a holding pattern, you could potentially extend the range of a UHF/VHF radio network up to 50-60 miles.  Think that could be useful?  The drawback to this usage is that a fairly large UAV will be required in order to carry the heavy payload a duplexed repeater system.


This is an all-encompassing category and the possibilities here are endless.  The limitations of this category are base solely on the cargo capacity, in both weight and volume, of the particular vehicle you intend on using.  The larger the vehicle you intend to use, the more cargo capacity.  Keep in mind to, that the vehicle does not necessarily have to land in order to make the delivery (if you are using a UAV).  A package of MREs could be dropped via parachute eliminating the need for the UAV to land.  It can simply be programmed to fly out, make the drop and fly back. Use your noggin to think about this one.  They sky is the limit (pun intended).

Advantages and Disadvantages of Drones

In addition to the aforementioned advantages and uses, please consider the following.

  1. Drones can function autonomously.  This requires an autopilot and uses GPS to navigate.
  2. Drones can function manually, in the same manner that an RC hobbyist controls his vehicle.  By attaching a camera the “pilot” can fly in 1st person.
  3. Drones in autopilot mode can be deployed at night.
  4. If a drone gets damaged or destroyed, that’s better than a human being injured or killed.
  5. Drones can be programmed to function in fleets as a unit, or individually.


  1. Drones require a support system.  See above.
  2. Drones can be hacked or spoofed.  Whether in manual or autopilot mode, drones are sending and receiving radio frequencies.  These frequencies could potentially be hacked into with devices like these.
  3. If you plan on making repairs or advanced modifications to drones you will most likely require extra spare parts and materials in addition to an understanding of aerodynamics, electronics, and radio frequency communication.
  4. Drones are almost impossible to operate in bad weather.
  5. Drones are not a tool to base your life on, but they can be a boon when working as designed.

JWR Adds: Drones are also fragile, so you would need to store many spare drones and parts to make your DIY drone capability viable in the long term.

Payload Considerations
Here are some considerations for payload.

  1. Video recording camera (requires download and analysis at a later time).
  2. Video streaming camera (requires radio frequency transmission system).
  3. Night vision for above devices.
  4. Thermal vision for above devices.
  5. Supply delivery system (such as parachute drop cargo bay).
  6. Radio relays such as repeaters/duplexers.
  7. What else can be carried?  Put your thinking cap on!

I hope the above information has sparked some interest into the potential uses for such great technology.  Remember to obey all laws when operating such technology.  It’s your responsibility to know the law so that you don’t do anything illegal. Enjoy your new hobby!

Monday, October 22, 2012

When the power goes out, the lights go out - simple as that! Many people will then reach for a flashlight, only to find, that the batteries are dead, or dying - assuming they can even find a flashlight at night, when the power goes off. I have to admit, in my younger and dumber days, I fell victim to this many times. Living in a rural area, especially during the winter months, our power goes out several times due to trees falling over on power lines. Last time, we were without power for several days, in the winter when a huge snow storm knocked down hundreds of trees onto power lines. We have electric heat, too - but we keep a kerosene heater on-hand, and it really heats our house nicely - thank you!
Look, let's be brutally honest here, old-style D-cell flashlights, that cost a buck or two just don't cut it any longer - they don't through much light, and they aren't very durable, unless you go to some of the better "police" flashlights, even those aren't as good as they should be. Over the past half dozen years or so, technology has really gone wild when it comes to small flashlights, that throw a tremendous amount of light, using nothing more than A, AA or AAA batteries - which are still fairly inexpensive. When my wife and I were first married in 1979, I worked two full-time security jobs, one of which was, patrolling around the wooded areas around Trojan Nuclear Power Plant (now dismantled and gone) all night long, with a K-9 companion. I carried a "lantern" style flashlight, the ones that take those big and expensive rectangular 6 Volt batteries - that only lasted an hour or two. Needless to say, it didn't throw a good amount of light, and I was buying batteries several times a week - and it was big and bulky to carry and handle. I would have paid anything to have had one of the new hi-tech flashlights that are available today.
Leatherman Products recently purchased a company called LED Lenser which is producing some very affordable, hi-tech, super-bright, small flashlights. I received three samples for test and evaluation for this article, and I'm totally impressed with them all. Up first is the LED Lenser M7. is only 5.39" long and weighs a mere 6.81-oz, and runs on 4 AAA batteries. We're talking a little flashlight that throws as much as 220 lumens (with a boost to 235-lumens), at a distant of 650-feet. Living out in the country, I had ample opportunity to test the brightness of all the LED Lenser flashlight samples sent to me, and I'm here to tell you that, the M7 does as advertised - I can easily light-up the distance of two football fields. Power time for the M7 at 220 lumens is 1-hour, however, there is another setting on it that gives you 30-lumens that will last for 11-hours. Yes, you read that right eleven hours - and that will easily last you all night long in your dark home at night when the power goes out.
The LED Lenser also has Rapid Focus which allows you to go from reading to searching by using the thumb on your holding hand to simply slide the bezel away from you (pushing forward) in one seamless movement.  Many flashlights you have to use two hands to adjust the focus, assuming you have the feature on your flashlight. I could easily light-up my entire front yard by focusing out, instead of focusing in, for a tighter light. The M7 is made out of aircraft grade black anodized aluminum for a lifetime of rough use, too. The M7 also has what is called "Smart Light Technology" and this gives your 8 different sight functions, including a strobe for blinding and disorienting someone who might be a threat to you - and this works as well in daylight as it does in the dark, too. Ok, I have to admit it, but I did have to go to the instructions that came with the M7 to figure it all out...I was playing around with this light, and it kept doing "different" functions for me, and I couldn't figure out what I did wrong. You don't need a PhD to figure it out, but you really need to read the instructions and practice.
One more feature I'd like to mention is the Advanced Focus System is the patented combination of reflector and lens to create a light system that provides both a focus beam for long-range and a homogenous split-beam for u-close reading - easier to see than explain, but it's one of those "gee, why did I think of that" things. Also the M7 comes with 4 AAA batteries (nice) and a polymer clip-on "holster" that allows you to carry the M7 on your belt or pants. There's a small lanyard ring on the butt of the flashlight, right next to the push-button on/on button. You can also lock the flashlight head so as to not move it from long-distance to up-close reading. I really like the M7, it will get the job done if you are in law enforcement or a home owner who needs to see what went "bump" in the night. While not really designed as a non-lethal weapon per se, it will easily temporarily blind an attacker with the bright 220 lumens that it emits - giving you time to escape or find a weapon with which to defend yourself with. Full-retail on the M7 is $100. Yes, that is a little bit spendy, but I've had other hi-tech flashlights, that easily cost more than twice this amount, that didn't have the features the M7's a best-buy in my book for a flashlight that has so much to offer.
Next up is the P7  that is only 5.24" long, and weighs in at 6.77oz, and it also takes 4 AAA batteries (included). Now, the P7 doesn't have all the same features as the M7 does, it doesn't have 8 different functions, and you may not need all those functions. However, you do get 175-lumens, with a power boost up to 210-lumens for a one hour run time. Or you can power down to 27-lumens for 13-hours, if you don't need a super-bright light all the time. The P7 also has the Advanced Focus System as well as the Rapid Focus, plus the Dynamic switch that Pros want to switch at lightening speed and adjust brightness equally fast. This baby would make a great flashlight for around the camp fire, walking the dog in low-light or whatever chores you have that require added light. At only $60 full-retail, its worth checking out.
The last LED Lenser I received was the P3 AFS P  - and this little power house is my favorite of the samples I received. The P3 is small, really small at only 3.66" long, and it weighs a mere 1.48-oz. We're talking small, very small! The P3 has 75-lumens, and a one hour run time on a single AAA battery. Yes, one hour at 75-lumens with one AAA battery! And, believe me, this is a lot of light in a little package. The end of my driveway is about 80-feet from my front door, and I could easily light-up that area, as well as across the road to the mailboxes, and onto my neighbors pasture with this little light. Again, it is made out of aircraft grad black anodized aluminum, and it has the Rapid Focus feature as well as the Advanced Focus System. It comes with a battery, and a small Nylon carry pouch that you can slide onto your belt and have this little baby with you all the time. There is also a key ring attached, so you can add your house and car keys to it. There is also a pocket/clothing clip, if you want to carry it attached to your pants or shirt pocket.
Without a doubt, the P3 is a keeper, and anyone and everyone can benefit by having one of these itty-bitty flashlights on their person, in a purse or any place. You will have a hour of light in an emergency, and we're talking 75-lumens of light, not 15-20 lumens that the average 2-D Cell flashlights give out - that don't throw the light very far, and they don't last very long. And, it really isn't a problem to carry a spare AAA battery in a coat pocket, either. Full-retail on the P3 is only $40.00 and this one is the best-buy of the three I tested, in my humble opinion, and I like the fact that it is soooooo small and handy, you can have it with you all the time, even clipped to a shirt pocket or pants pocket.
Back to my days patrolling around Trojan Nuclear Power plant...I couldn't tell you the number of times I had to use a flashlight to light-up an area when I heard something go bump in the night, or when the interior guard company could call on the radio and report an alarm went off on the fence surrounding the plant. I worked for a different company than the one providing security inside the plant. There were usually two of us patrolling around the outside of the plant - usually in wooded areas. We worked from sundown until sun-up - we're talking a long shift, walking all night long with a K-9 partner, with no back-up other than our K-9 partner or the other officer - and it might take them 20-minutes to reach me if there was a problem. One of the biggest "problems" we had was the head of security at the plant, he was always "testing" us, to see if he could sneak into the plant. That never happened, we caught him every time, and would hold him on the ground with our K-9 partner barking and on high alert, until our other human partner could assist. I would have loved to have had one of these LED Lenser flashlights back then. It would have been much easier holding someone at gunpoint, with a smaller, hi-tech and super-bright flashlight, than with an old "lantern" style flashlight. I could have seen a lot farther in the dark with a super-bright flashlight, too. And just think of the money I could have saved by buying AAA batteries over the old big rectangular flashlight batteries.
On more than one occasion, I shinned by flashlight on a momma black bear that roamed the woods where we patrolled - and she had a cub with her. So, we were always on alert for the momma black bear and her cub. The LED Lenser flashlight shinned into her eyes might have given her cause to roam some other area. In short order, I started carrying a Remington Model 740 .30-06 semi-auto rifle, as a back-up to my .38 Special revolver after my first encounter with the momma black bear. We also had packs of feral dogs that caused us a lot of problems - again, a super-bright flashlight, like one of the LED Lensers would have been nice to have on-hand. A good flashlight can make all the difference in the world!
Look, if you're still using a dollar 2 D-cell flashlight from the dollar store, get rid of it - simple as that. Get yourself a hi-tech flashlight, that throws a lot of light, is light-weight and will give you a lifetime of service. Your life and the life of a loved one might just depend on a really good flashlight. When I hear something go bump in the night, or one of my German Shepherds starts barking, the first thing I reach for is a flashlight - then a firearm, before I go investigating in the dark. A person can't hide from the bright light emitted by the LED Lenser - even the small P3 with the 75-lumens. Once you go hi-tech flashlight, you'll wonder why it took you so long. You can pay a LOT more for a hi-tech flashlight than the LED Lenser line-up has to offer - by why pay more? Check out the complete line-up of LED Lenser flashlights on their web page, and I'm betting good money, you'll find more than one you've simply gotta have. BTW, all LED Lenser flashlights are also waterproof, too! - SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor Pat Cascio

Friday, September 28, 2012

You stocked supplies with plenty of beans, bullets, and Band-Aids.  You have backup plans to your backup plans and know your family can survive months without any contact from the outside world.  You are ready for just about any cataclysmic event, should one happen.  But are you really ready for the most important decision of your life and the life of your family members?  How far would you go to protect your life and the life of a family member? 

Preparing for disaster doesn’t necessarily mean you prepare for armed combat, but practically, disasters create an environment where the aggressor takes all from those unable to maintain control of their possessions.  Those that have not prepared and find themselves with nothing to lose will do whatever it takes to survive, even robbing, stealing, or killing others to take their supplies.   In a time where laws cannot be enforced, the primal law of the land is king, for whoever is stronger than another, owns that which he can take by force.  This not only includes your supplies and food, but also your family members.

Some people refuse to consider preparing for the possibility of horrific violence that may be placed upon their family members.  By rationalizing fear with excuses of “we’ll be too far away from the city for this to happen”, or “I’ll just shoot whoever tries”, will only increase the odds of failure should you or your family face threats of death and  violence.  The first step of surviving a violent encounter is accepting that it can happen no matter your preparation or denial of the possibility.

As you read this, you are now preparing yourself to defend against this potential violence.  After you read this article, you need to rise from your chair and make plans to save your life and the life of your family members by following two simple rules; (1) Physically prepare to fight for your life and (2) Mentally prepare to take a life.    Unless you have experience in the military or law enforcement, you need to do a lot more than convince yourself that the solution of “I will just shoot them” is all you need to do.    Easy in theory, but in practice, not so much.

The easy part is preparing now for physically defending your family in the future.  This does not mean purchasing an armory of weapons and a ton of ammunition; although if you can do this, you’ll be the envy of many and possibly the focus of a government investigation.   You also do not need to spend years earning a black belt in martial arts.   You do need to know what constitutes a weapon and how to employ it.  This includes items specifically designed as weapons, such as a shotgun or handgun.  It also includes items not specifically designed with a self-defense purpose, but can be effective improvised weapons.  Something as innocuous as a rolled up magazine used as an impact weapon or a power cord of a lamp used as a garrote can be considered improvised weapons and not under the control of any law as weapons.

If you have chosen to not be around firearms, nor touch them, or even teach your children how to be safe around firearms, then you really need to know how to use a wide range of firearms.  Those that regularly carry and practice with firearms are comfortable with their firearms, in the loading, field stripping, and cleaning of the weapons.   The more varied types of weapons used the more versatile ability in using different types of firearms.  Someone without firearms experience may one day have to bear arms and use that weapon immediately, or face certain death.  If you cannot even find the safety of a firearm, load it, or fire it accurately, the weapon is useless in the defense of your family.  At a bare minimum, without even purchasing a firearm, classes exist where you can learn the operation of revolvers, handguns, rifles, and shotguns.  By at least knowing how firearms operate, given a tragic scenario where you may have the good fortune to find a weapon or take a weapon away from your attacker, you just might be able to use it effectively.  Before thinking this may be more than you want to take on, consider that the operation of all weapons is really quite similar in basics.  Learning how to operate one type of revolver will allow you to figure out another type when there are slight differences.   Remember, it’s not like Hollywood.  Firearms need to be loaded and re-loaded.  They jam.  And if you don’t aim or use an accurate pointing system, you will miss.  Just because you may not want to handle firearms does not mean your future attackers feel the same.

From now on, if you haven’t been doing so already, you will look at ‘things’ differently.  Walking into your office, you will see the lamp on your desk a little different.  As you look at the lamp, you ask yourself, “If I were to use this as an impact weapon, how would I hold it?”    Loose items on your desk will be looked at as if they were items of lethal force or at least a distraction when thrown at an attacker.  Your home will become an armory without firearms.  Anyone’s home can become an armory.  Beyond kitchen knives, any item can be used as an impact weapon, penetration weapon, as cover or concealment, or as a distraction thrown at an attacker.  Your basic training need only consist of thinking of how you would use these things, not actually trashing your home and office by practicing. 

After you learn the fundamentals of common firearms operation, where you can safely load and effectively shoot a wide range of firearms, you are still not ready.  Even after you look at everyday items as improvised weapons habitually, you are still not ready to defend your family against violent attackers.  There is the non-physical aspect of preparation; you need to prepare your mind for the potential violence and just as importantly, prepare for the psychological effect of the aftermath of violence.  The end of a violent encounter, doesn’t.  It continues for years and sometimes for a lifetime.

There are many facets of violent encounters that affect the outcome of the encounter, especially when your life is at stake.  During a life and death encounter, where one or more attackers may be intent on taking your possessions, your life, and maybe assaulting your family members, you will endure the highest stress, ever.  This stress will negatively affect your (1) physical ability to respond, your (2) mental capability to think, and your (3) coping measures for the aftermath.  You can lessen, but not eliminate, these negative effects with preparation.

The immediate physical effects that you will experience during a life and death encounter will affect your motor skills along with altering your audio and visual perception.  Your heart rate and breathing will increase and you may have uncontrollable trembling and potentially, a loss of bladder and bowel control.  You might experience tunnel vision, where your field of vision becomes restricted so narrowly, that you may only be able to see the attacker’s weapon.  Your audio senses might block out all noises or even intensify certain sounds.  Examples of this would be the person that saw the barrel of a .22 handgun look as large as a cannon barrel, or the noise of a .22 sounding like a cannon.

Seemingly easy tasks such as unsnapping a holster becomes more difficult with trembling hands and a loss of fine motor skills that require precise movements to find a snap or lever.  The passage of time may also feel distorted, in that everything moves quickly or in slow motion.   Although there are researchers that dispel the notion of slow motion, there are also many accounts of persons that distinctly remember thinking to themselves, “why is he moving so slowly?” during lethal force encounters. 

The physical reactions to a life and death situation are instinctive to the human body.  Increased blood flow through a rapid (higher than normal) heart rate, increased oxygen through rapid breathing, increase in gross motor skills, and perceptional changes in focus all contribute to life saving skills…if you are being chased by a lion and need to run fast without thinking. 
In our world of defending against human attackers, we need to maintain our dexterity in handling weapons, our control of bodily functions to fight, and our mind to think.  The only practical method of doing this is through self-induced practice.  Shooting competitions, as one example, condition the mind and body to automatically perform several key movements, with fluidity, under a time pressure to achieve a goal of accurate fire.  Practicing the manipulation of a weapon to the point that thinking is not needed to perform will check one box off of worry in a lethal force encounter.  

Scenario based training, such as with paintball guns or lasers, can also imprint a consistent response to a perceived threat through repetitive practice.    These practical training scenarios can reduce your reaction time and train your mind as to how people act and react.  As an example, continually reacting to a role that reaches for a weapon in a specific manner, such as reaching in his waistband, trains your mind that a certain movement implies a certain result.  Reaching into a waistband implies pulling out a weapon.  Training yourself for these small gestures gives you more time to identify the threat and react. 

Perfect practice makes perfect, and by training your body to arm itself automatically when a threat is perceived will allow your brain to focus on other important issues.  Some of these issues include identification of the threat and decisions on how to react, when to react, and if you need to react at all.  Maintaining control of your body and mind, as much as can be possible during this time, allows you the most effective means of defending yourself and family.  Knowing that you may be suffering from tunnel vision might be enough to calm yourself to expand your field of vision.  Knowing that the trembling you feel does not have to do with being afraid, but a normal reaction to a life and death experience allows you to concentrate on the more important issues facing you at the time. 

Although you cannot control the effects of an adrenaline dump, you can recognize the effects and control your reaction to them.  As long as your brain continues to think, you can reduce irrational decision making, or an uncontrolled fight/flight response.  You may also prevent your mind from simply freezing and not knowing what to do, other than hope for a divine rescue. 
One of the most effective means of training for lethal encounters is through visualization.  Simply visualizing a scenario and your correct response will give you positive results in the future, in similar situations.  If your work requires you to fly constantly, you can constantly visualize scenarios during flights and think of reactions to threats.  Over time, you’ll have a bank account of many responses to many types of threats should it ever happen (again).  Again, thinking is of utmost importance, as you need to be able to quickly identify if there is a threat and choose an option to deal with it, sometimes within a split second.

Another important consideration to prepare is that of the aftermath of a life and death encounter.  Regardless if you had no choice but to take a life or if the attack was prevented through other means, there are long lasting effects.  As each person is different, there are different reactions.  These reactions range from elation of surviving a lethal encounter to revulsion as to what transpired.  Regret, anger, aggressiveness, nightmares, loss of control of emotions, trouble concentrating, flashbacks, and just plain not feeling ‘right’ are effects of being a survivor (or winner) of a lethal force encounter.  Denying that these can happen to you may only make the effects that much worse.  This has nothing to do with being ‘tough’.

Some of these effects can be reduced or eliminated through the physical practice mentioned in this article and others reduced through visualizations, all of which need to happen BEFORE the incident.  After the incident, therapy and counseling will help cope with the negative effects.  By not preparing beforehand and certainly by not taking care of yourself afterward, you can expect the full effect of a post-traumatic stress disorder.   Those that have trained for their career in deadly force encounters, such as those in the military and law enforcement have an edge of training and experience.  They even may have an edge in delaying the after effects of deadly force encounters.  But, we are all human and suffer from the human condition.  Eventually, everyone, including the most experienced combat veteran, will experience these life changing effects, whether it be days after or decades later.

The intention of this article is not to convince anyone to avoid taking a life should that be the only recourse in protecting yourself and family.  The intention is to push you to prepare yourself now for that horrific event in the chance that it comes to your door or into your home.  It is also to help you to help your family member that may have to go through this to save your life as care and understanding does help.

So as you prepare with supplies, prepare for winning a lethal encounter.  As much as you try to avoid it, and as much as you hope that it may never happen, you just never know.  The odds of a lethal encounter are higher than you may imagine, even as you shop in a grocery store, fly on a plane, or stop at a traffic light.  Avoid that what you can; gain control of that which has gone out of control; and take comfort in your faith and family to support your traumatic experience should it ever come to that.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Know your environment - getting the maps ready now

In a world full of google, yahoo and portable navigators, the art of using maps kind of gets lost. In a SHTF situation, you will probably not have much of a technological tool kit for navigation, or planning. Knowing how to use maps from a tactical perspective then becomes critical skillet. Sand tables are not the most portable item to help identify and understand a terrain, but using plastic layers over a map can be very portable, and useful for viewing an environment. The layers I talk about below are a starting point, you can add whatever you want or remove those that are not important to you.

On a side note the Army has an excellent manual that contains instructions on mapping: Combined Arms Operations in Urban Terrain (ATTP 3-06.11/FM 3-06.11) don't let the title fool you, "Urban" to the Army is a settlement 2,500 people or more.

  • Using maps and clear plastic layers
    • Map Basics
      • Start with a basic terrain map of area; if you are in a rural or homestead area include one of nearest town. 
      • I recommend hard copies for all, but you can start using downloads from google/yahoo maps, and using the terrain and other options. This map should have both land elevations and man made structures on it.
      • Also available are software tools such as Visio, OmniGraff, and some near free diagram generating software programs, if you choose to create your own maps from a computer first.
      • Don't forget to think three dimensionally - subways, sewers, basements, high-rises etc.
      • When mapping out layers, it is key to have an index including category (layer name), location (grid, street, landmarks), common name, and supplemental information for that specific item documented and easily referenced.  Having a number next to the item on a map will also aid in the lookup.
      • Check colors for map layers against your chemical light sticks, or your red or blue flashlight filters - make sure you can read them at night [under a poncho].
      • Mark layered items with icons based on categories: triangle for first responder buildings, x'ed boxes for restaurants, etc.
      • Have a map protractor to help identify distance, and bearing 
    • Creating overlapping layers
    • Use clear plastic layers for each of the following to aid in area understanding. Using plastic layers allows for easy removal or adding, one onto of the other, to gain a better understanding of the environment, and to remove clutter from information that is not currently important. For neighborhood resources you might want to think about not using a corner to corner overlay, but for known locations this might not be a high risk.
      • Infrastructure layer - highway, streets, service roads, hiking paths, fire breaks, electric line easements, bridges, dams, main water pipes, electric power lines and sub stations, water towers and primary connection pipes, and local/state evacuation routes. 
      • Subterranean layer - If town, urban or congested: subterranean infrastructure such as water and drainage pipes, location of manhole covers, underground garages. If marking subterranean infrastructure and you do not know if two manhole covers are to the same pipes use a different line from known when mapping. 
      • Areas of Gravitation layer: these include any stationary location where you think people might congregate during a SHTF. Remember, in the world of google maps, many of these locations will have a street view. For high risk/high congregation areas you might want to include a side folder of street view images.
        • First Responder locations: local fire stations, police stations, hospitals and clinics, national guard posts
        • Food distribution centers:  supermarkets, restaurants and other stores
        • Fuel: public gas stations, public works fueling locations
        • Hardware and tools: Home Depot/Mom&Pop hardware stores, automotive shops, electrician shops, etc.
        • FEMA (possible and known): state fairgrounds,  sports centers, high schools, large fields, etc.
        • Population centers: apartment buildings, townhouses, high density neighborhoods, etc. 
      • Wild Game layer - location of game, type, time of day and time of year where spotted. Animals tend to move in cycles, so keeping note throughout the year is a great reference point. Don't just go by location during hunting season for post SHTF.
      • Environmental layer -  including time of year changes for common drought and flood locations, seasonal water holes, streams, marshes, and ponds. Also mark down farms, ranches, common hunting areas, etc. Also any area with a clearing of more that 100m square (potential helicopter landing site). If possible, note changes in background colors, locations of good concealment and at what time of year.
      • Neighborhood resources -see "Neighbors skills and immediate neighborhood resources" below.
      • Technology layer - using both google/yahoo maps and a car navigation system place the starting point on the major highways around your town, and see what routes it will take you to your local hospital, supermarket, and police station. If traffic stopped, how would you expect to continue on foot? These are bound to be hot roads and short cuts.
      • Keep blank layers - also non-permanent markers for use with the blank layers. 
      • Remember, when using a hard copy of a map on a table, you can use other items for mobile reference points, and adjust as they move.
    • Using maps to generate "hot zones."  
      • Depending on population you may choose to adjust the distances for red, orange and yellow zones, however I recommend using rifle ranges, likelihood of population congestion and probability of violence as the main lines of demarcation.  Remember, in a city and congested suburban, line of site dictates rifle range, not always ballistics.
        • Red Zone:  draw a circle around any object in the "areas of gravitation" layer. Depending on your environment, it should be around 700 meters to 1 mile. Do the same around highways, streets, and other areas of traffic out to 200 meters on both sides of the road. If roads have a line of site from them to any item in the areas of gravitation layer, mark those red too, out to 200meters on both sides of the shortcut. Remember, when people are walking, they will take shortcuts. 
        • Orange Zone: these are the areas that people start 'grouping' together on their way to or from an area of gravitation - easements where power lines are, should not be forgotten. Also any potential helicopter landing sites not covered in a area of gravitation layer. I map these out to 2 miles from any red zone. 
        • Yellow Zone: this is basically anything not covered in Red or Orange.
        • Personally, I color coordinate these areas based on Jeff Cooper color code, that way when planning movement, it is clear what alert level someone should be at.
    • Identify possible areas of interest and possible scouting routes
      • For areas where you might not have a choice, but to go to, it might be best to outline potential ingress/egress routes, ORP's, location for security halts, all within the context of "hot zones". At least in a pre-SHTF environment, you can print out pictures of possible routes ahead of time. Having a layer for each objective could be very useful. Most common areas to map out a scouting route are:
        • Hospitals/Clinics
        • Food distribution centers
        • hardware and tools
        • Fuel
        • High ground / observation points
        • Around your retreat


  • Neighbors skills and immediate neighborhood resources
  • Most of this is more applicable to suburban landscapes, however knowing ahead of time who has what experience will aid in any kind of SHTF organization. Each of these items and locations should be on a map layer. I really want to be clear on this though. The intent is to identify key people for skill set training and possible organization and consolidation of efforts.  
    • Identify neighbors skill sets
      • including location/address on map being marked.
        • Medical: nurse, doctor, dentist, veterinarian, pharmacist, health care workers 
        • Electrical 
        • Automotive
        • Engineer  
        • Green thumb; raise livestock; gardens - even just ornamental gardens.
        • Hunters/Fisherman  
        • Hikers, campers, those used to living without normal public services
        • Prior Service (ex and current military/law enforcement)
        • Armed to various degrees
        • Teachers 
        • Canning, and non-refrigerated food preservation skills
        • This list could just keep going on, but those are the main points
    • Identify neighborhood resources
      • Location of private/public wells, rivers and other water sources including pools
      • Location of common areas for cultivation
      • Natural food sources: fruit and nut trees, berries, etc.
      • Natural barriers for use in defense
      • Manmade barriers 


Collecting information post SHTF

Future "current" information is the one thing you can't stock up on. Deciding on when and where to collect information from your surrounding area, and what risk it is worth, is bound to be a major area for debate. OPs only let you know when someone is about to or has discovered where your group is. The only way to really avoid the "detection" is to put small teams out at a greater distance.  This also allows for possible flanking maneuvers, or spoiler attacks, beyond the immediate defensive location. It also requires an exceptional level of stealth, and perseverance. Far from complete, here are a few tips on scouting/ reconnaissance: 

  • Post SHTF Map updating considerations
    • When updating maps post-SHTF, mark any changes with a date/timestamp - even if it is on a notepad only. Historical changes may present a pattern over time that will be useful. 
    • For defining routes, keeping historical records becomes even more important. Over time you might loose track of previous routes and start creating a pattern of action that becomes easily predictable by the op-for.
    • Identify the following while planning a route: security stops, objective rally point, should the objective rally point (ORP) be compromised or team dispersed a fallback rally point, return path different from initial ingress, and extraction points if applicable (with redundant positions). Also, identify bearings/distance between different points. 
    • Document using a range card from an identified point. Each team member should do this once observing the objective. This allows for comparisons between different scouting trips, and changes during sleep cycles.
    • When scouting an area and observing people use the S.A.L.U.T.E. format:
      • S - Size - how many people
      • A - Activities - what they are doing - what direction are they moving? is a guard moving between two points and if so how often? etc.
      • L - Location - grid location or other reference points you are using
      • U - UNIT - if applicable, unit, uniform or other group identification
      • T - Time and date
      • E - Equipment - weapons, personal gear, and vehicles
  • Post SHTF Scouting Rules 
    • Never use goggles/scopes/binoculars with the people being observed between you and the sun - (always try and have the sun either directly above or behind you). Glare off of the glass may give away your position. Keeping at an angle or using a KillFlash can be good, but I wouldn't bet my life on it. Just be careful not so silhouette yourself.
    • Know your pace count: for slow movement, normal and fast walking
    • At night, try not to look directly at something being observed with the naked eye, there is a night blind spot that will interfere with looking at an object if you stare at it. Look at the objects sides and around it to see the object more clear.
    • Also at night, always give yourself at least 30min to get used to the lack of light before moving around.
    • If it looks good to you, it looks good to someone else too: a bush next to a thick tree is more likely to have someone behind it than a bush by its' self. Note that professionals understand this - so that could be a cat and mouse game.
    • Never observe from the crest of a high point, this will create a silhouette 
    • After identifying an objective to scout try and see if from a defensive viewpoint - where would you be worried about someone approaching? Where would you place the highest number of people in a defensive perimeter? What area would you think only a nut would try and move through? Then as long as it isn't a vast open field, be the nut.
    • Cary what you need, not necessarily what makes you comfortable - weight makes long walks harder, short runs much slower, and in time you will focus on your overloaded pack more than what is going on around you.
    • When scanning an area try and look deep into the shadows, scan very slow. Look for the slightest difference. Start with a rapid scan, for the obvious: left to right up to 100 meters deep then back to the left in a S formation. Then the same for the next 100 meters deep, and so on. Followed by a slow scan: same process but much more time is spent on each pass - looking for items out of place.
    • Always move from one position of cover and concealment  to another. Know your next position before you take your next step.
    • Always know where you are and how to get out. Egress should be planned with positions of defense along the way.
    • Always use camouflage from the immediate area. Don't rely on just generic patterns such as BDUs or Multicams  
    • Someone must always be awake and alert (three person minimal is best)
    • There is no downtime on a patrol
    • Birds will give you away: avoid nesting and perching birds
    • Know your rifle inside and out: know how to range with your glass and front site, know your drops for your ammo, have basic gunsmith skills at least for the rifles you own.
    • Know the military movement techniques and use them (bounding and traveling overwatch, ranger file, rolling egress, etc)
    • Develop good hand signal communication with your team
    • Crossing lines - i.e. leaving and returning to your location where friendlies are on watch, is one of the most dangerous tasks for a patrol, scout or otherwise. Practice this, and have a proper challenge and response with identified return routes known to both sides of the line (that change per patrol).  
    • There are two really big give-aways when scouting: sound and movement. Consider a deer. God didn't make them in a camouflage pattern yet can still be unnoticed with it's counter-shaded brown even against a green background. Chances are, you noticed it because a tail flicked or light reflected from it's eyes. Our eyes are designed to be attracted to movement more than from any other giveaway that is natural in color. Slow, graceful movement, and lack of sound are the two most critical methods of not being detected; it's even more important than camouflage and counter shading. 
    • No glass on a rifle used for scouting - flaps make target acquisition too slow, and glass reflects light. Use iron sights or [deeply hooded] binoculars. [JWR Adds: A Killflash sleeve requires no flap.]
    • Remember the time-honored Rules of Roger's Rangers.

One of the most important skills to master in any crisis scenario is situation analysis.  The preliminary situation analysis is a valuable tool in planning and preparing, while the on-scene analysis will help focus your planned response.

Developing a Preliminary Situation Analysis: Hard Factors

Hard factors are unlikely to vary much from crisis to crisis. Factors such as geography, climate, nearby population, and natural resources will be determined by your chosen location. The only way you can change hard factors is to move to another location. One of the advantages of the American Redoubt is  the set of hard factors the region embodies.

Example: Hard Factors in a Personal Crisis Plan

The planner lives in a rural county in west central Florida, USA.  Location is a safe distance from hazardous coastal weather threats and population centers.  Climate is sub-tropical, so winter heat is not an issue. Nearby population is mostly lower middle class, with large winter influx of snowbirds. Natural resources include ample water, fishing, wildlife for hunting, and sun for solar power. Other hard factors may include access roads (cul-de-sacs may discourage thieves looking for easy escape options), immediate neighbors, and neighborhood “image” (I personally believe that high-end  neighborhoods will be more likely targets for criminals.)

Seasonal and other Predictable Variables

Depending on the location, there may be seasonal or other  variables in hard factors.  In our example, seasonal weather isn’t a major issue, but the presence of snowbirds could be an important variable to consider. If snowbirds’ homes are vacant, they may be easier prey for looters in a crisis. If snowbirds are present, their age and conspicuous possessions may also make them an easy mark.

Soft Factors in a Personal Crisis Plan
Soft factors include factors that you control. Because you control them, you can identify weaknesses and bolster strengths. For example, a wheelchair ramp may indicate a physically weak target. A large dog  blocking the ramp can counter that. (Another large dog barking inside reinforces the image of strength) Compare one neighbor’s shiny new Hummer and professional landscaping  to  the tipped-over gas grill and rusty 10-year-old minivan across the street. Which home is the more likely target? In a crisis situation with civil unrest, you don’t want to be in the nicest house in the neighborhood.
Your basic preliminary situation analysis will give you a head start on the Crisis Situation.  It then becomes a simple matter of adding in crisis-specific factors and developing a tentative procedure for planned response. 

While many preppers anticipate armed hordes of vicious urbanites escaping cities in a social crisis, most experts believe that crisis transportation will be limited.  Your greatest threats are more likely to originate within a 20-mile radius of your home.

On-Scene Situation Analysis Factors

Definition of the situation is the first step in the on-scene analysis.  Factors include permanent damages, temporary damages you will need to resolve (roof leaking in hard rain), and temporary damages someone else needs to resolve (roof missing after tornado). Are you in the aftermath of a one-time occurrence (such as a major storm) or at the onset of a continuing crisis (such as a pandemic).  Potential resources include internal ( your prep storage), extended family or friends, neighborhood, community, state, and federal assistance.

Borrow a term from business and do a SWOT analysis–Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. Build on strengths; overcome weaknesses, be prepared to optimize opportunities, and be alert for potential threats.

A few years ago, Hurricane Charlie devastated our neighborhood. There were a lot of strangers around afterwards. While a few were looking to sell overpriced cleanup “services”, many were unpaid volunteers–luckier neighbors and off-duty LEOs offering a hand in clearing streets and fixing leaks.  It would have been a mistake to classify every stranger as a threat. 

Properly utilized, the situation analysis can help you deal rationally with a crisis situation. You may have noticed that I never mentioned guns or ammo or any of the dozens of expedient weapons we have on hand just in case some idiot manages to get past the dogs. One of the primary purposes of the situation analysis is to help you avoid confrontations whenever possible so you can devote your attention to overcoming the crisis.

Situation Analysis: Threat Demographics

While TEOTWAWKI may bring threats impossible to predict, other emergencies can be mitigated by recognizing threat factors.  There are three components of the Threat Demographic Analysis: history, local crime trends, and personal observation.

First, look at the history of crisis situations in your immediate area.  In the hurricane example, the overpriced cleanup scam artists were nearly always male, Caucasian, middle-aged strangers. Most had out-of-state tags and appearance ranged from scruffy homeless types to too-clean con-men types. They didn’t have business cards, local references, trade license or bonding information.

A second component of the threat demographic is local crime trends.  Most local newspapers print local crime statistics. Many local law enforcement web sites display photos of convicted criminals (may be a good idea for follow-up if a listed criminal is near your neighborhood).  Set aside qualms about “profiling” or “prejudice”. If 80% of the crimes in your community are being committed by Hispanic or African-American  males aged 18-25, then that factor should be considered in your threat assessment.

Finally, personal observation can go a long way in identifying potential threats.  A lot of law abiding people (and more than a few LEOs) know where criminal activity is concentrated in the community. Be aware of encroaching gang activity and suspicious situations.  Vacant foreclosed homes can quickly become “clubhouses” for illegal activity. 

Again, doing a preliminary demographic analysis of potential threat factors can help you respond quickly and effectively when TSHTF.       

A natural reaction at the onset of a crisis is panic. Reviewing your preliminary situation analysis and plugging in current facts helps you focus on proactively dealing with the crisis in the most effective way possible.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This subject is a much overlooked area in the survival community and sorely neglected. I hope that the following synopses of this crucial topic will inspire an invigorating awakening in this area that I feel is vital to our collective success, without which our endeavor could well be doomed.

Every country and every military around the world through the ages has employed codes, ciphers and signals as well as signets et cetera for security and authentication of messages. Sending messages via couriers, as well as during times of war and peacetime to prevent their opposition from learning their secrets and their plans. They are crucial to any groups survival and successful operations especially in matters of cover and concealment which is of utmost importance to the modern prepper/survivalist who wishes to successfully maintain operational OPSEC as well as communications security (COMSEC.)

Most apropos to the survivalist is the aspect of camp security or camp entry codes in the ares of individuals securely moving in and out of camp as well as moving securely between friendly camps as well as sending and receiving light or radio signals to members of ones own camp such as in the area of LP/OPs (listening post-observation post) and in communicating with other friendly camps to coordinate movements and plans as well as advise other of enemy actions including METT-C. and size activity location unit/uniform time and equipment (SALUTE) reports. Not to mention something as basic as your challenge and passwords.

Sadly, few have planned, employed or even consider training in the area of signal security by broadcasting encoded Morse messages  which is imperative to any group's survival in hostile territory, especially given this governments stated goals as well as those it consorts with! These  transmissions must be made carefully and remote from camp and kept very short...preferably in burst format which the receiver can then electronically slows down  to decode. This is only limited by your means and available equipment. You then establish an radio telephone operator (RTO) who would manage all frequencies, call signs master CEOIs, et cetera. Each member of the group should have a specialty, much like a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) while all members training in and being proficient in basic skills while having a working knowledge of all other in the event that person is lost.)

These signals not only encompass light and radio but human-- for instance a messenger who carries  a memorized message encoded or sends them via light or hand  signals or in the form of hand gestures to form near and far signals, again for the purposes of camp entry codes. Or he or she may be carrying hidden messages. Thee can include embedded distress signals therein in the event one is captured or compromised so that those within the camp can know that there has been a compromise. These signals/signs should be relatively simple while unique to that group but have alternate but subtle variations in the event one is being forced to do harm.

More sadly, we now live in a formerly free constitutional republic. The reality is we now live in a soviet style clandestine environment where we can only speak openly and freely to our most trusted friends and family weather face to face or on the phone or on a computer.

There are many forms of code/cipher that have been employed by all the various governments and their militaries. For instance in the 19th and 20th Centuries there was the Pigpen cipher, Play Fair (used by the Australians), and the rail fence cipher. These are just a step up from simple substitution codes, and only a bit more secure--they can be broken fairly easily. When I taught my church's and survival groups codes I would give them a breakdown of a few as here and then tell them that of course the best code is the code you conceive and employ yourself. I am not going to disclose the exact nature of our code of which I made copies and distributed. In that I have devised a combination of the military's brevity codes (which are pretty much unbreakable unless the source is known or there is repetition) as well as substitution codes embedded with Morse code, possibly in different languages common to a group.

We had a lot of fun breaking into groups and I would give them brief messages to encode and decode using just the angle head flashlight....of course informing them that once you know a form of Morse you can send it in many ways including light, radio dits and dahs and finger and motions as well as written cipher in that way. You are already familiar with certain subversives who employ such "close signals" for instance the Masons who use a variety of hands signals and shakes to identify one another and their condition as well as the dizzying array of miscreant gangs who use hand signals to ident one another and their misguided loyalties.

One brief aside: it is noteworthy to mention that as well the military are using infrared tabs on their ACUs so that from afar in their night vision scopes they can discern friend and foe. Something to bear in mind!

So I will begin with the Morse code aspect of the encryption, every country has their own and their is a international code which is very close to ours. I have created Morse in a few different languages and keep them in sort of a S1 CEOI format, so that if one code or messenger is known to be or thought to be captured or compromised then you just break into the next set. (Such as Spanish or French whatever you are familiar with or not at all. Now, after mastering your Morse code skills in sending and receiving which is best accomplished by learning them in rhythm. You then break them down to 3 character codes. You might for example take a foreign language dictionary and start at the first word in its columns and start designating every word or field appropriate word if you prefer a 3 letter designation. This can be done in an English dictionary but if so you will not want to do so alphabetically as it could then easily be deciphered if you do not then combine the traits of shift code (of which there are several). E.g., If you want to start left to right as is done here and everywhere west of can start at the beginning of the alphabet and skip say...three letters so that a becomes c. Or you could Start counting right to left as the original Bible does and shift that direction by a pre-designated number. You could choose this number by the day of the week, so if the code was sent on Sunday, and by the definition of the dictionary that is the 1st day of the week then it would be known to your group and allies to shift left by one. The shift could then or also be know to be shifted by a word or name. There is a near infinite series of alterations that a group could use to confound the enemy cryptologist (code breaker.) 

Okay, so starting again in your dictionary of choice-preferably a concise one that would easily fit in your ALICE pack or go bag but even better in your BDUs, and of course whomever you are sending or receiving from would have to have a duplicate set to decode from. If you choose in your system, you can start at the beginning starting with aaa and let's say hypothetically that the first word in your foreign language dictionary means about so aaa is the 3 letter morse code designation for about, then the next word in your dictionary would be designated aab and the next aac etc., etc.. Now obviously your names/call signs and other words particular to your group and objectives might not be in a or that then you would create your own addendum where you would assign all members of your group their own 3 letter designations as well as say particular weapons or names of enemies or other actions for the purposes of brevity rather than having to scroll through the dictionary to find a particular word which is peculiar to you and your groups actions. So a 6 word message might look like this:jeb ofn pje suc jeu bhe and you may transmit them together and it be known to break them up in triads as such, jebofnpjesucjeubhe and that message might mean in your code: for enemy has captured friendly forces rally3.

Now, as you see "rally3" is not one word, in fact any 3 letter brevity code can not only represent one word but a phrase or direction such as proceed north or reinforce at 1200 hrs for example. This is why brevity codes combined in morse code configured with alpha/numeric shift is so valuable a cipher.And as you see I am only giving you a pattern in which to create your own without compromising mine! Now...once you and your group establish a platform to create your own cipher you then complete what is called a CEOI or "communications electronic operating instructions" card and make copies for your people. These cards must be laminated to be made waterproof, all team leaders and above having detailed copies while the individuals only needing condensed versions.This will serve as a baseline for you to create and employ your system in such a way that the enemy even if they capture you cannot necessarily break your code. You do this as you create your own computer passwords. This is something that is familiar to your group or established but in a regimented fashion. You should then create a system in your CEOI wher all your members names/call signs are encoded as well as a basic group of commands such as camp entry/denial codes as well as protocol for how to deal with stress signals and challenge pass words, remember it is your prerogative for these codes to move left right or vice versa! Or even up and down etc.,. In that you can employ colors or animals as authentication codes for each day of the week which may change for each week of the creative!

We have covered signal security some in that those codes covered mostly some visual or radio signals now we can address some simple hand signals for CLOSE friend-or-foe or identification hand signals. Now...again...we have our established signals but for purposes of OpSec I will not give my examples. But again invite you to be creative and invent your own. As I alluded earlier as the decadent groups have their hand signals (which underlie their loyalties,) so do we. is for us to again be creative and establishing some group standards but also create alternatives in the inevitable event that one of our own is compromised and provide for that in the system!  In addition to employing hand signals for signaling and identification. I notice that everyone is sorely lacking in their hand signals for moving  as a unit or units in the field. This is underestimated as a prerequisite for successful movement and maneuvering bearing noise discipline in mind. Of course there are the pretty much standard hand signals for rally on me. Halt, danger I see...but what about formations such as traveling wedge formation and moving in bounds/bounding overwatch. There are standard signals for these as well that a leader should learn, master and impart to his or her group. But then what many may overlook is ammo count. When engaged or pinned down and the enemy is trying to outmaneuver your people need to be able to effectively communicate who has how much ammo. The team leader for instance using this signal could then decide who has suppressive fire abilities while another can take  well aimed shots to end the action. For this I use an extended hand with fingers straight out and rotate  90 degrees twice indicating an ammo count. The response from members should or could be  that of standard deaf signing numbers which all members should be savvy with anyway in indicating numbers.

Distant identification which is predicated upon environmental considerations, that is, how dense or sparse the vegetation is in your area of operations (A.O.) limiting visibility. So, if visibility of your observation post listening post (LP/OP) is a maximum of 100 yards, then that range should be considered your "long range signal." and perhaps then 50 yards would be your established "close range signal range." Now, at 100 yards small details of hand or arm motion may be confused so you want large pronounced movements that are not easily confused as your "challenge" arm signals. So you may want to employ a large circular movement mimicking the hands of a clock yet distinctive and these may again be tailored to the days of the week so that if an enemy observer is watching one day or so he may not easily determine what that long range signal is and counterfeit it to gain access to your camps mid range security threshold. So...let's say your challenge signal for Tuesday is palm out and one full circle outward or clockwise to the challengers perspective and the passwords long range signal response is the left arm beginning at the upward 12 o'clock position moving to the 180 degree downward then palm to center and across the chest. Permission is then granted to proceed to the close signal where closer observation can be made to positively ident the incoming party. When the incoming party advances to the close signal range,they are instructed to halt at which time the close hand signals are exchanged. This may be as simple as a particular hand sign as the gangs and Masons are notorious for, such as the deaf hand symbol for the 4th day of the week or the phase of the moon being between 1 and 5 or even a smaller arm signal recognized by the groups in that Area of operation which of course includes distress/"I am compromised" signals in which the camp would be alerted that an attack is imminent. They are then directed to advance to be recognized and asked the verbal challenge and password. If all signals are within code parameters and given a small degree of variance for error...up to the verbal challenge....then the incoming party may enter upon authorization of the s1 intelligence officer of the group, In other words. the person responsible for devising and maintain all codes/ciphers and challenge passwords which all teams including the foragers, hunters, water gatherers and security or LP/OP teams must be drilled on for camp security!

The foregoing dealt with daytime signals. The same would be true of night time operations except you would want to use a subdued light source such as the common angle head flashlight with filtered lenses. A red lens is optimal, blue under certain conditions but that is mostly just for map reading. Now I have devised ways of covering the lenses so that they are half and half, that is: half the lens is red and half blue and another is half purple being a combination of red and blue and the other a red hemisphere. I provided these for my group along with a camp entry code card sort of a mini CEOI. I also created these light signal cards for camp entry codes with my particular signaling devises in mind and distributed to critical members of my group. In this way when the situation goes hot and we invariably find ourselves struggling to rally to our pre-designated points etc..  We can then safely regroup at a future point without being compromised by those whose charge it is to pick up as they say in the military police field manuals distributed to the various defense force people for instance "stragglers."  

I also created similar waterproof cards demonstrating various hand and arm signals for this purpose...I sewed an extra pocket into my uniform to accommodate this information and waterproofed it inside and out as well. If you do not have angle head flashlights such as the GI issue, you can fashion you own favorite flashlight using red taillight repair tape. The Mini-MagLites are good and you can buy tail cap switch kits for them that allow you to tap out Morse code from the butt of the light. In my large angle head as well as the smaller ones I use rechargeable batteries. The D size rechargeables are immensely lighter. I use the solar powered battery charger to recharge them.

One last note on the use of brevity codes and your challenge and passwords. You can even use your 3 character brevity codes to designate a challenge and another for your password. Be creative have fun and get going cause the balloon is going up!

JWR Adds: As a former Army ASA SIGINTer with some cryptological experience I must warn readers that the foregoing simple ciphers are no match for any modern military or government intelligence organization. They would be able to fairly easily and quickly decrypt your signals, given a sample of sufficient length. However, it should work fine if your opponents don't have any greater sophistication than the average outlaw biker gang. Something as simple as a traditional Play Fair or Four Square code would likely confound them.

Some advice: Never re-use brevity codes. Change your codes frequently. Keep transmissions short and use the minimum power to get your signal through. And remember that even if you use strong encryption, most radio transmissions can be quickly located via radio direction finding.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

As a reformed "slip and fall" attorney, I would like to point out some issues related to dog ownership. I have defended homeowners and sued homeowners relating to dog bites.The article about the decision to pick a certain breed, Doberman Pincher, was well written and informative but I would like to add some additional points, too often overlooked, about dog ownership. For sure, I would check with my homeowner's insurance carrier to see if you have coverage for a dog bite, and secondly, if there are specific breed coverage exemptions. Often you will be unable to insure the risk of ownership for breeds such as Pit bulls, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Dobermans, etc. For me ownership of a breed that cannot be inured is a deal breaker. One quick way to jeopardize your retreat and possessions is to have a dog bite victim sue you, even if the "victim" was an uninvited "guest" or even an invited visitor for that matter. A small yapping dog will alert you just as well as a Pit bull. A couple/few midsize mutts (insurers will consider Pit bull mixes the same as a full blooded Pit bull) would work well. You can't earn a living breeding mutts but there some perfectly good breed choices that can be insured. Aside from the monetary levels of liability insurance coverage, the best feature of a policy is the contractual right to have the insurer hire an attorney/law firm to defend you. This all relates to basic asset protection and if you are considering buying/breeding a dog consider the ramifications of a dog bite. Also, before you move, check out the homestead protection level of the state you may move to.

The American Redoubt states vary in degree of asset protection via homestead exemptions. I won't be moving there, but Texas is real good in this regard. Idaho $100,000, Montana $250,000, Washington $125,000, Oregon $40,000 and Wyoming $20,000 (I'm not moving to Wyoming). There is a whole lot more to this. I have been on both sides, plaintiff/defendant, and have seen people lose most of their assets. This is one of the most overlooked areas of "survival." If you want a pack of Dogo Argentinos, a great defense/offense, make sure you are not going to lose the shirt off your back. Thanks and God Bless. - Attorney John M.


I believe Dale has hit on some great points for taking care of the dogs. But the type or breed is something I need to address, there is another breed of dog to consider, it was breed in China for one and only one purpose to be a temple guard dog of both the building and the Monks who were non-violent believers.  The Chow has a undeserved reputation of being a mean and aggressive animal, as a SPCA volunteer and a part time breeder of chows, its a false conclusion.  The chows in this country have been bred to eliminate those type of characteristics and temperament.  Having said that, a chow has a very high pack mentality as it relates to its family pack (human & critters)  I have a few over the years and those chows have been devoted to even the cats in our pack. 
A chow is interesting in that even though its a med to  large dog, it requires very little "space" its pad will suffice and can exist with a person very well thank you in a small apartment.  It not a high strung or hyper dog, it very seldom barks or growls, but as their nature and training intended when it does you need to investigate. They are great with small children and infants, they will want to be close and have a very social inclination. You do have to watch non-family members interacting with the pack members(your family members) even horsing around and playing will put them into attention mode.    In China as a temple guard they were very respected and with good reason, they fear nothing, including mountain lion, bear or even an automobiles, ( I lost one of my males to a late night visitor who decided to explore my fenced back yard with 3 chows on guard, my male chow was killed chasing this person out on a highway and was hit by a truck).  I acquired a small female chow from the SPCA after her owner turned her in to them because they were fearful of her because she would just stare at them and they were intimidated by it.  I had her in my life for almost 15 years and the only time she even turned into a Zombie killer was the day a neighbors male 110-pound or so Rottie strayed into our yard from its home a mile away with the intention of showing that it was the king of the hill to my 55-pound female Chow.  The neighbors were all fearful of this rottweiler as it had caused problems with the neighbors animals and the owner was proud that his dog had that reputation.   What ensued next made me a believer in a chows capability as a guard dog, the rottweiler attacked my chow and she went ballistic on that male dog, I was sure she was going to be seriously hurt or killed, but after what seemed to be minutes and before I could secure any type of a weapon the rottweiler all bloody and looked like the preverbal jigsaw puzzle with a few pieces missing, left for anywhere except where it was and into contact with this thing that ate its lunch.  

Chows have a secret weapon, which I came to understand gives it such an advantage in a fight with anything, it possesses a extremely thick double coat of long hair which in a battle protects it from a bigger an even more determined opponent, while the opponent bites nothing but hair the chow is using it massive teeth to rip and shred critters with short hair and thin hide.   The next day I received a visit from the owner of the rottweiler, who was attempting to recover some money for the vets bills from the 50 or so stitches it had incurred.  He tried to sell his story that my chows had attacked his dog, at which time I pointed out it was his dog who trespassed on my property and attacked my female chow (my other chows were with my wife at the time who was out of town)  and my chow was forced to defend herself.  He was in disbelief that my little dog had almost destroyed his  bigger and meaner Rottie, to be honest at the time I was in shock myself that she escape a major injury.   So the lesson is make your own evaluations and choose the dog(s) that fit your family and situation.  Take a look at a Chow that was breed for one thing and it does that one thing very well.  Happy trails, - John in Arizona

Friday, September 7, 2012

They can move faster than any man, their loyalty suggests an inborn canine bushido, their senses seem to border on the supernatural, and their situational awareness chart does not include condition white.  They are the creatures you want to sleep at your bedside, walk beside you, and watch your children.  While the choices available for study cover a broad range for the serious survivalist; and the options for raising animals include many worthwhile creatures, consider the canine as an early pick.  Long before we finished moving to our retreat I was already plotting the pros and cons of various parts of the property and outbuildings.  Too much woods for cows to graze, just enough grassy hills for goats, garden here, greenhouse there, new bridge over there.  The list of possible projects was, (and still is) a never ending source of satisfying improvements.  One of the earliest undertakings in our endeavors towards self-sufficiency was raising dogs.  The goal was to get far past the learning stage during the pre-collapse world and maintain a selection of working dogs in a normal society.  During a crisis, the dogs will be used for protection and barter. 

The first real choice that had to be made was in a specific breed of dog.  After much study I narrowed the selection down to three breeds; the German Shepherd, Doberman Pinscher, and American Bulldog.  All had key traits in common I found important for a survivalist dog owner.  All had a high level of intelligence, trainability, and protectiveness with the size, speed, and courage to back it up.  I considered each breed in light of how we would need to live together with our family in a long term collapse / worst case scenario.    The  German shepherd was the first of the three to be marked off the list for one reason: hair.  The German shepherd sheds once a year for 365 days in amounts that exceed all bounds of belief.  I wanted dogs that can stay by my side 24/7 but building an extra solar array just to power a vacuum lest we all drown in dog hair wasn’t going to happen.  Note that we live in Tennessee and rarely deal with bitter cold, in less mild climates I would’ve needed dogs with the German shepherd’s protective coat.  If dog hair is not an issue for your situation, that a German shepherd requires no ear trimming or tail docking makes them a stronger pick.    

I next looked into the American Bulldog (not to be confused with the more common English Bulldog), a breed once very popular in the deep South but became nearly extinct during WWII.  Despite my interest, I was unable to find breeders that I felt were trustworthy and had any puppies available within a reasonable distance.  My other concern was that they have a less well known reputation compared to the other two picks, in a barter economy I wanted a highly recognizable, commonly known breed.  Last of the top three first considered breeds was the Doberman Pinscher.  I was at first hesitant due to the need for a professional vet to trim the ears to get the Doberman “devil dog” look; but decided to pick function over form should TEOTWAWKI ensue.  A Doberman without cropped ears is readily identifiable, unlike the American Bulldog who gets a “what’s that?” response in many cases. 

I spent several months picking my first pair of dogs from separate bloodlines then training them with the help of an experienced dog handler/breeder.  The joy of living with such intelligent and graceful creatures I soon found to be a tremendous boon that transcends the planning and training of the more mundane aspects of survivalism.   Lessons learned along the way:    When one of you dogs eats an entire bath towel bed, you get to spend $1,700 at the vet.  When you quit using towels as beds and think straw is a good idea for a bed while they are in the kennel (such as when you are at work), its not.  It is a huge mess and can introduce mold, bugs, etc.  Dogs are not goats so save the straw for animals that produce cheese or steak.  A 2’x4’ outdoor panel secured over a 2”x4” frame will have plenty of give for a dog to be comfortable on.  Add a dog bed heater to the underside and your dog will snooze happily on it.  The inexpensive heaters stay about 110 degrees and draw about 40 Watts.  Use small slats of wood to keep the heater in contact with the underside of the flexible panel.       

When your female is in heat, the chain link fence dividers in the kennel will be ripped apart by your male, you will then have puppies earlier than you wanted.  When you make the chain link fence three layers thick to keep your male from ripping them apart and your female is in heat, your male will rip the door off of the kennel and you will then have puppies earlier than you wanted.  Light chain with carabineers securing the door in a “Z” pattern seems to work.       

Other than the aforementioned surprises, everything went exactly as planned; good thing we started learning sooner rather than during a crisis.  A 20’x 60’ concrete slab under a roof to the side of the workshop proved to be a perfect location for a dog lot.  I partitioned it off with commercial dog kennel panels, reinforced on each side with an extra layer of fence.  A brick at the corner of each interior kennel section makes it easy to hose things down (a big plus when one kennel is full of puppies). I added lots of insulation to the ceiling and enclosed the walls with OSB and thrift store windows.  New shingles ended some rainwater leaks.   During the first winter after setting up the dog lot, I used an electric space heater to keep the temperature above 55 degrees.  The power bill was unacceptable!  The second year I insulated the roof which was previously plywood and shingles and switched from straw to heated wooden beds.  I kept the space heater set at 45 degrees but it proved to be largely unnecessary.  A large sheltered dog lot will make life much easier.  Don’t skimp and just throw a tarp over some 6’x6’ chain link fence.  Your dogs need protection from weather and room to play.  A lone dog is a little lot will be miserable but several dogs with room to exercise will be more content when they need to be out from underfoot.  When there is company, or when we are cooking, and certainly when pressure canning; all dogs go out to the dog lot.    

Cost: Kennel and dog lot remodeling ran $2,000.  Each dog was about $1,000 after ear trimming, shots, etc.  Each dog consumes about 500 lbs. of dry dog food per year, their diet is supplemented with eggs from our chickens, leftover meat from supper, and the occasional canned food as a treat.  I use Black Gold brand dog food in the black bag from my local farm store.  This amounts to $250 per dog each year.  Dry food in the bag stores for about a year and a one year supply for two dogs will stack on two standard pallets without being so tall as to be a hassle.  

Puppies:  After we’d had a bit more than a year of training our adult dogs we started raising litters of puppies.  Since the dogs were an exercise in prepping from the start, the puppies were an extension of this.  The first litter was a learning experience but over time the puppies have paid for the initial investments.  The best idea on puppy for prepping came from my wife.  She was looking at our then current “to buy” list of gear and noticed several firearms.  “Not everyone has the money to buy an expensive purebred puppy, but some people might have some guns they would trade instead.”  Now any time we have puppies available, we let people know if the price is too high for them, we’ll consider “an old deer rifle or something” as part of the deal.  As a survivalist this has been a huge benefit.  For example, last litter I ended up with a H&K MP5A5 look-alike in .22 LR.  I took it to a gun show and swapped it for an AK for my wife.  From other puppies I kept a very nicely modified Mauser and a .243 Savage.  We live close to the border of another state so I do take care not to deal over state lines, not that I honestly suspect an alphabet agency is looking for dog breeders to make examples out of, but I feel it is only prudent to be above board.  So far I have found that most of my customers have previously owned Dobermans, and are either in law enforcement or military families.  The most satisfying puppies were the ones that have gone on to be therapy dogs for disabled veterans.  In a long term crisis, and even post crisis, I suspect there will always be a market in the barter economy for a recognizable working breed of dog.  Practicing up on breeding, training, and trading has had a high initial cost and been time intensive relative to our other prep work.  Pure “dog time” runs about 1-1½ hours a day during puppy raising months, when the puppies are sold or the next litter still on the way I focus more heavily on training the adults.   

Whatever breed you select, be sure to do plenty of homework before you purchase your first dog.  Know what health problems are common in that breed.  Find out what problems come from genetics and if the parents have been tested; don’t discover that at age five, your dog comes from a line of dogs with terrible joint problems.  Pick a line that dies after a very long life rather than one that falls apart and has to be put down young.  Get your property ready, be it dog lot, kennel, or crate for housebreaking inside.  Have collars and leashes ready with spares for the ones that get chewed up or lost.  Find out what brand of food the breeder you’re purchasing from uses and have a supply of that.  You can gradually switch over to a different brand but have plenty on hand before you get home.  AKC has plenty of good information on basic training and breed specifics that you will want to consider before getting your first dog.  If you desire to have your dog professionally trained for protection, expect the trainer to ask you to wait until your dog is 18 months old or more so that they have had time to finish developing properly strong bones and an adult temperament.    

Be good to your dogs, and before you hand over a puppy to their new master, look them in the eye and know that those brown orbs looking up at you are going to change someone’s life forever.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Digging fighting positions, trenches, and emplacing various obstacles take a great deal of time and effort.  The greatest danger in emplacing obstacles is not being thorough enough due to the difficulty involved.  Stringing out wire and actually driving the pickets into the ground not only gives you good practice as how to physically create the obstacle but also gives you an idea of the challenges you will face and how long it takes to put up 100 lineal meters of obstacle.

Triple-strand concertina wire obstacles consist of two rolls of concertina wire side-by-side on the bottom with one roll on top.  From the side, the obstacle resembles a pyramid.  I will be going through this obstacle and how to emplace it, because it is the most difficult of all wire obstacles to breach and much easier to emplace than a concrete, wood, or earth barrier.

Resources Needed

It is possible to emplace obstacles by yourself, but it ends up taking much more time alone than it would with a group of two or three people.  Concertina wire or razor wire tends to snag on itself, so it’s better to have one person on each end of the coil instead of letting one person struggle through stringing out wire on his own.  If you have another person willing to help, he can get ahead and lay out pickets every five paces or five meters and dropping coils of concertina wire every 20 meters. 

You need a pair of wire gloves for each person stringing wire.  Heavy-duty leather gloves will work, but since concertina wire has little nasty razors on it, it can cut up a pair of leather gloves pretty badly if you are not very careful.  If you are a novice or are planning on emplacing several hundred meters of concertina obstacles, you might want to get some reinforced wire handling gloves to protect yourself more adequately.  The military grade gloves are heavy-duty leather gauntlets with staples in the palms and underside of fingers to prevent the concertina wire from snagging the leather.  If you feel industrious, you might be able to improvise something like that with a pair of leather gloves and a heavy-duty plier-type industrial stapler with ¼” or 5/16” staples.   Otherwise, just hold onto the two handles on each end of the concertina coil and be careful to grab the wire between the barbs when you place it on the pickets, and you should do fine.  You will also need a pair of heavy-duty wire cutter pliers for each person stringing wire.

If you are able to get the military grade pickets with the built-in wire loops and the corkscrew bottoms, then that will make life somewhat easier on you in respect to tie-offs to the pickets.  However, using regular green steel "T-Post" agricultural fence pickets presents no problem whatsoever.  You would want to purchase T-Post or U-channel 2 ¼” x 2 ½” x 7’ tall pickets.  You can buy these at most big-box hardware stores or at a farm supply store.  Don’t forget to buy one or two post drivers as well.  If you have ever tried to drive a picket into the ground with a sledgehammer, it’s not fun!  I’ve seen soldiers nearly get into fistfights from the sledge head glancing off the picket and hitting his buddy’s hand instead.

The concertina wire itself is critically important.  Concertina wire is different than razor wire in that when it is expanded, it acts like a concertina or an accordion.  The wire itself is typically spring steel inside of a metal sheathing which has the barbs mechanically attached to it.  Since it is not just a single strand of wire, it is difficult to cut and in the concertina configuration, you must make four cuts to get through a single coil of wire.  If you are purchasing concertina wire, you want a medium sized blade on your wire and you will want to get it in manageable lengths of 20 meters or so.  Along with your concertina wire, you will need barbed wire for triple the length of obstacle you wish to emplace and you will need a roll of baling wire to make your ties from the concertina wire to the pickets.
Be sure to wear jeans, durable pants, or surplus BDU trousers when you string wire, since it will take bites out of your clothing if you are not careful.  Wear a long sleeve denim shirt or a surplus BDU blouse to protect your arms from nasty gashes.  If you are planning on taking down the obstacle later, the best way I have found to store concertina wire is by cutting ½” plywood to size and making a giant sandwich with the wire pancaked in the middle.  Concertina wire snags on everything including itself, and this method keeps all of the barbs between the two pieces of plywood.  And to transport using this method, just drill two pairs of holes on each side of the boards and tie the sandwich together with some parachute cord.  String the cord through the matching pairs of holes in a U-shape and you can make a handle on each side of the sandwich to make it much easier to carry. 

In summary, if you have a three member team emplacing 100 meters of triple-strand concertina wire, this is what you would need:
3 Pair Reinforced wire handling gloves
2 Post drivers
2 Pair of Wire cutter pliers
63 7’ U-channel pickets
15 Rolls of 20 meters of concertina wire
3 Rolls of 100 meters of barbed wire
2 Rolls of baling wire

General Guidance on Obstacle Emplacement
The first thing to keep in mind when emplacing and obstacle, is that it MUST be observable [by defenders]!  You can have the most formidable obstacle in the world, but if it is unobserved, the enemy also has all the time in the world to dismantle your beautiful obstacle without you ever noticing.  The terrain will dictate the routing of your obstacle.  For instance, if you were emplacing an obstacle over a ditch, you need to make sure you follow the contours of the ditch instead of going straight over it, creating a tunnel underneath your wire.  If the ditch were deep enough, you might lose visibility on your obstacle, so you might need to reroute it to get around that blind spot or what is otherwise called “dead space.”  If you can see someone breaching your obstacle, but you have no weapon that has a long enough range to stop them, your obstacle is too far from your position and is utterly useless. 
If you are emplacing an obstacle as a perimeter, you need not worry about where you start or end.  But if you are using an obstacle to slow an enemy avenue of approach, you must tie the start and end of the obstacle into a terrain feature.  If you are in rolling mountainous terrain, you might want to start the obstacle against a boulder and end it against a steep cliff.  Your obstacle does no good if the enemy can follow it and find an easy way around it. 

Which is precisely what an opposing force will do when they encounter your obstacle: try to find a way around it without having to breach it.  Keep that in mind and put yourself in the shoes of someone raiding your land or trying to loot your home.  The best obstacles channel your enemy where YOU want them to go.  And when the enemy finds that “easy way around” they run right into something else very unpleasant.  In general, you want to make it nearly impossible for an assaulting force to come straight at your position.  You want to force them to meander and zigzag through your maze of obstacles, meeting traps on the way and all the while being harassed by rifle or small arms fire.
If you are thorough in setting up your obstacle and consistently drive pickets deep and tie off your wire to the pickets, the enemy will have a very difficult time breaching it.  They are looking for that one spot where you ran into rocky ground and could not drive the pickets deep enough.  If you know where you had to fudge it, count on the enemy figuring that out too.  If you do need to emplace an obstacle across asphalt or concrete, you need to use steel posts with a bolt plate at the bottom, so that you can anchor it to the concrete or asphalt.   Generally speaking , try to avoid placing wire across concrete or asphalt if possible.  

Why Triple-Strand Concertina?

I commanded tanks during my time in the U.S. Army, and a tank can absolutely crush anything on the battlefield.  We had ammunition for bunker, buildings, and field fortifications.  So jersey barriers or earthworks were no big deal.  We had ammunition for shooting helicopters, trucks, troop carriers, other tanks, and dismounted infantry.  There were only four things that I knew of which could stop a tank: land mines, a really deep and wide ditch, a river, or a triple-strand concertina wire obstacle.  And since a tank is the most deadly threat possible, anything less doesn’t stand a chance.
You would think that a tank could punch right through a triple-strand concertina wire barrier, and it can.  It would crush the pickets like toothpicks and stretch the concertina wire until it snaps like a rubber band.  And then the nasty part begins.  The tank tracks pull the concertina wire inside the suspension, winding it around the drive sprocket, road wheels, and support rollers until the tank has a huge rat’s nest of wire tangled throughout the suspension, and it then throws a track.  A tank without track is a bunker. It is still a formidable threat, but tanks are much better at killing threats at a distance.  If you get close enough to a tank, particularly on the sides and directly behind it, there are blind spots where the crew cannot see you and you can assault the tank without receiving fire. 

Tankers know what happens to a tank when they try to breach concertina wire.  They know you can drive through single or even double strand if you are lucky, but that triple-strand barrier will mess up a tank’s suspension so badly, that it takes a crew hours to cut all of the wire out of the suspension and track by hand.  I know this, because it happened to me when we sucked up a roll of single-strand concertina wire lining a road on an airfield.  It took about three hours to cut it all out of the suspension.  We were working with our sister platoon on another airfield in Iraq, and one of the tanks actually wound the wire between the road wheels and behind the wheels on the road wheel arms, pushing the center guide of the track out of its notch between the pairs of road wheels.  When that tank commander rolled up to our tank line, you could hear the distinctive POP, POP, POP of a tank which is about to throw track.  He had not wanted to open the tank skirts and cut it out in the field due to how vulnerable he and his crew would have been to potential sniper fire.  Consequently though, he created a much nastier problem as described above.  My soldiers and I had feelings ranging from disgust to a healthy respect of what concertina wire could do to a tank’s suspension, and I venture to say most tracked vehicle operators share those notions.     

The only way that the U.S. Army trains to breach triple-strand concertina wire obstacles is with explosives.  You have to literally blow it up, because you cannot effectively cut a hole through the obstacle any other way.  A quick word on why I would not recommend just single or double-strand concertina wire obstacles.  All you need to breach a single-strand obstacle is to get a running start and jump over it!  All you need to breach a double-strand concertina obstacle is a piece of plywood that you flop down on top of the wire and walk right over it.  Neither of those methods would work on a triple-strand obstacle though due to its height and the amount of pickets and wire holding the obstacle together.

Obstacle Emplacement

You will need to lay out the first 20 meters of materials before you start.  Throw down three pickets and three rolls of concertina at your starting spot, walk five paces and keep dropping three pickets repeatedly until you get to 20 paces or roughly 20 meters.  The training manuals recommend that you use two small pickets for your lower coils and a long picket for the upper coil on your beginning and end of the obstacle, but I disagree with this method.  It makes it much easier to dismantle the obstacle at the beginning and end.  You want to drive your pickets about a foot down with all three in a straight line as if you were starting to string three parallel barbed wire fences, leaving about 2’ between each picket.  Look at the width of the roll and make sure you are not stretching the wire with your picket spacing but that it is taut when dropped onto the pickets.  Make sure your pickets have the U-channel facing the enemy and pry out your wire hooks a bit from the picket, so that you can more securely tie off your wire to the pickets with baling wire.

At this point, you can start stringing out your lower two rolls of concertina wire.  If you have standard military concertina, the coils will have two handles on each end.  And if the rolls do not, you might want to fashion a couple handles out of baling wire for each end of the coils.  Stringing wire goes more smoothly if one person stands in place and the other person walks backwards while you both shake the coil like a Slinky, so that the barbs release from each other.  String the coils outside of where you will drive your pickets down the line, so that you can more easily put the wire onto the pickets once they are in the ground. 

Come back to your first three pickets and place the end of the inner coil over the top of the inner and center picket.  Take the other coil of concertina toward the enemy and place the coil over the outer and center picket.  Now you cut a few 6” lengths of baling wire and tie the rear coil to the inner picket and center picket and the front coil to the center picket and the outer picket.  Put a couple of twists in your tie off and bend the ends down, so that it is difficult to pull apart without pliers or wire cutters. 

Go to your next three pickets on the ground and drive those into the ground with the same spacing as before.  Take the inner coil of concertina and place over the inner and center picket.  Take the outer coil of concertina and place over the center and outer picket.  Then tie off the concertina wire to the pickets.  This process repeats for the bottom two coils until you reach the end of your concertina wire rolls.  As you place the bottom two coils, go back to the starting point and attach barbed wire to the center picket about 12” off the ground.  Then you weave the barbed wire through the two coils of concertina to join them together by going along in front or behind the obstacle and pushing the small roll of barbed wire in and out between your two lower concertina rolls.  This is a pain, but it makes the two bottom coils very secure as one unit.  If the enemy tries to lift the outer coil, they will then be lifting the inner coil too and will not be able to slide under your obstacle.  This and tying off your wire to the pickets are those little things that make the difference between a formidable obstacle and something that can be bypassed in a matter of minutes.

You want to string the wire between each group of three pickets taut but not so tight that it stretches and looks misshapen.  If the wire is strung so loosely, that you can crawl underneath it by prying it up with a branch, you need to string it tighter.  Check your obstacle as you go.  Shake the pickets, jerk on the tie off points, and try to pry up the wire at the base.  If you find any weaknesses, adjust accordingly.  You might need to place your groups of pickets closer together if you have rolling terrain, or if it is easy to dig under your obstacle.

If you are putting up this obstacle in response to some crisis event, I would advise finishing the entire obstacle in double-strand concertina first and then going back to throw the last roll on top along the whole obstacle.  If you run out of time, it would be better to have a complete perimeter with double-strand than to have it half completed with triple-strand. 

Once you have completed the first section of 20 meters of double-strand, go back to the starting point and put your top roll of concertina onto the center picket.  Tie off the end of the top coil very securely to where the top of the roll meets the picket, because if someone tries to go over the top of your obstacle, this is going to be holding the weight of that log or other breaching material.  Tie off the bottom of the top coil to the middle picket as well.  Looking at it from the side, this top coil will be bisected by the pickets when you are done tying off the coil to the center pickets. String the top roll out to the next group of three pickets and secure the roll in the same way over the top of the center picket.  In the same way that you wove barbed wire between the two bottom coils, you will weave the wire between the top coil and the two bottom coils to join them.  This way, the enemy cannot try to pry their way through the middle of your obstacle by simply lifting your top coil of wire off the pickets and smashing the bottom two coils, making a tunnel to breach through it.  If you are using green U-channel pickets, it would be wise to string one more length of barbed wire to keep the top concertina roll taut by suspending it like a clothesline near the tops of the two center pickets.  Remember to wrap your barbed wire around the pickets a couple times to maintain tension as you continue to string it between the coils of concertina wire on both the lower coils and the upper coil.

When you get to the end of your first 20 meters of obstacle, you will need to start with new rolls of concertina wire.  You will notice that the ends of the concertina rolls have a convex and concave part to them.  You will have these two loops at the end of a roll, because of how the wire pattern stops.  In order to securely join the end of a roll to the beginning of a new roll, you need to place the bottom loop of the old roll over the picket then the bottom loop of the new roll over the picket.  Then you place the top loop of the old roll over the picket and then the top loop of the new roll over the picket.  You are alternating, so that you do not have one roll of wire sitting on top of another when it is placed on the picket.  Tie off both the old and new rolls to the same picket.  This will make a very sturdy continuation in your obstacle so that the enemy will not be able to exploit a weakness between your rolls of wire.  The barbed wire running through the rolls will also aid in reinforcing this transition.  Repeat this same procedure for the top roll later once you start stringing your top coil on the next 20 meters of obstacle, alternating putting the bottom loops and top loops of the old and new rolls of wire over the center picket.  Then join the rolls together with baling wire and tie both the end of the old roll and the start of the new roll off to the same center picket.

Continue this process for emplacing triple-stand concertina until you tie the end of your obstacle into a natural feature such as a boulder or cliff or you complete your perimeter.  Be sure that you tell everyone in your prepper group or family that you are putting up a concertina obstacle, because I have personally run into obstacles emplaced by soldiers during the daytime which I could not see at nighttime when I returned to the base and had to figure out where they put the entrance to the perimeter.  If you have created a 360 degree perimeter with your obstacle, depending on the size, you might have only one entrance or two if it is a larger perimeter.  Mark your entrances with a small handkerchief or a partially masked glow stick at night until everyone knows where they are. 

Your entrance should be directly opposite of the most likely avenue of approach by the enemy.  You should have the entrance at the backdoor of the property for tactical purposes.  If the road dead-ends at the front of your home or you have a driveway, you might need an entrance there for practical purposes but in cases of imminent attack, that entrance needs to be well sealed and the backdoor would become your primary entrance since it is the furthest away from the path of the enemy. 

Continuously Improving Your Position

Once you have completed emplacing an obstacle, you are never really done with it.  Over an extended period of time, obstacles need to be checked periodically and repaired as needed.   Obstacles and barriers should work together in concert in order to fortify your defensive plan.  As you continue to fortify, obstacles should be implemented in defensive rings around a position.  If we had just completed emplacing a triple-strand concertina wire perimeter around a homestead, we would continue fortifying by driving in pickets along the entrance to the property in preparation for a layered concertina wire roadblock.  We could also add tin cans or bells tied to the wire in order to hear if anyone was tampering with the obstacle at night.  We would add tanglefoot obstacles in front of our concertina, so that before they ever approached the main obstacle, the enemy would need to tiptoe through another obstacle.  If we had a long drive coming up to the house, we would emplace concrete jersey barriers, so that any vehicle would have to serpentine through the barriers toward the house without being able to accelerate.  Depending on the situation, threat, and terrain, there are numerous layers of defense which you may add to harden a position and make it very unpleasant for anyone attempting to harm those you care about.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

I thought I'd take a minute and recommend an Army Field Manual (FM) that I don't see referenced too often here. It's FM 7-92 ("The infantry reconnaissance platoon and squad; airborne, air assault, light infantry") with Chapter 9 for MOUT/urban operations. This version is a little hard to find, so here's the link.  Just don't ask why I had to go to to find it.

This version dates back to the late 1980s and early 1990s, so the emphasis less on mechanized reconnaissance, technology, and general eye candy - unlike a majority of the scout FMs in current publication. It covers water movement, tracking, dismounted infiltration, etc. It's also interesting to see the parallels between these older scout FMs and the newer six-man sniper teams. Having been in the scout platoon of the 187th Infantry Brigade, I'm sure that I'm a little biased, But from my perspective this is one of the most valuable FMs out there for WTSHTF.  Of course it should be read after the general infantry FMs, but the focus here is on small group operations, and helps to develop the skills needed to extend your area of influence well beyond your own personal camp-de-resistance.

Enjoy, - Robert in North Carolina

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dear JWR:
Recent concertina wire sales at are now coming with the following notice:

"All scrap under this contract requires mutilation by the buyer prior to removal if allowed at location or mutilation must be witnessed and certified by DOD personnel at buyers facility. Title to the material does not pass to the buyer until the scrap has been mutilated. Buyer agrees to allow USG personnel to witness destruction."

So much for cheap, domestic military surplus concertina wire. :-( - Mr. C.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

As a former Sergeant of Marines, terrorism awareness was second nature.  It was not until I transitioned to civilian life that I realized the average guy doesn’t have a clue what a “Hard Target” is.   A Hard Target is a target that presents the lowest probability of being destroyed or overtaken.  I am breaking it down to three basic sections: 1. You’re self, 2. you’re vehicle and 3. you’re Home.  To start you need to rethink your wardrobe.  You should purchase clothing that helps you blend in. This means no wild colors or clothes that sport expensive name brands or oversized logos. If you were going to steal a purse and two women walked by one with a $600 Coach brand and the other with a $25 one from Wal-Mart what would you choose. The same  applies to how you dress.  The second thing to consider is the colors and material. Earth tones are  best. They blend in with nature and don’t stand out on the street. If you choose to carry a handgun you should consider concealment when picking out clothing. Thinner shirts and lighter colors more easily display the outline of a firearm as well as tighter and smaller articles. You have to dress to conceal. This may mean going up a size in trousers and blouse.  If you are wearing shorts, flip flops and a tank top where are you going to hide your firearm?  Also everyone else that sees you knows that you most likely are not armed.

Predators prey on the weak and sick. Lions attack the slowest and oldest Zebras in the herd not the strong and fast ones. The same is true for the two legged variety or predator.                    

Next thing to think about is your vehicle. It should always be topped off with gas. I fill my truck up at a half tank so I always have at least that much gas. The type of vehicle should be taken into consideration as well. Driving a $50,000 foreign luxury car is not a good posture. It only shows off  to the criminal that you have money and at the very least a nice car to steal. A good American 4 door or Truck a few years old and well maintained will do just fine. They are common cars and blend well. Lightly tinted windows are good to keep gear out of sight as long as they are not so dark as to imply that there is something inside that you don’t want anyone to see. The interior should be clean with nothing in sight regardless of value. All GPS receivers, cell phones, chargers and electronics should be taken down and stowed out of sight every time you leave the vehicle. No bags of any kind should be visible. You want to give the impression of nothing being in the vehicle. All BOBs should be stowed in the trunk. Tool boxes that lock and are secured to the bed work well for Pickups. Even small change in a cup holder should be removed as I have heard from friends vehicles that their vehicles were burglarized over such trifling items.

Once you have your vehicle squared away you can move on to routine. You want to be as random as possible in your daily routine. This means not leaving at the same time every morning, taking different routes to and from work, not stopping at the same place  for coffee, gas etc. The more variables you create the harder you will be to track and the more difficult it will be to figure out your work/ school schedule. This will make it hard for anyone to determine when you will be out of the house or where and when you work.   While on the road, watch for any suspicious vehicles that may be following you.  When in doubt pull over and let them pass or make a U-turn. This will make it next to impossible for anything aside from a revolving tail to continue to follow. (A revolving tail is a police surveillance technique where multiple vehicles take turns following a vehicle while maintain radio contact to make the tail harder to spot.) Always be aware of your surroundings. If something feels shady or suspect it probably  is. A good tool is a pen and paper within reach in your car. Take down the make, model and plates or any suspicious vehicles you encounter. This will help you to determine if the vehicle is the same you saw the other day that was suspicious and help the police in an investigation should anything happen. Take note of any vehicles parked in your neighborhood that seem out of place and write down the plated, make color and description of the vehicle. This is to include contractor vehicles that may be doing repairs on your neighbors homes. Many contractors have drug habits and use their work to find easy targets to make easy money. They usually work while you are away at work and can very easily determining your routine. If they watch you leave every day at 0630 and return at 1700 they know the window they have to break into your property.

While at home there are several things you can do to become a hard target. First your house should never look as if no one is home. A simple light on a timer can do the trick. You should shred anything that goes in the trash with your name on it. This includes receipts and bills and even mail addressed to you. You would be surprised the information someone can gather from you just by going through your trash. All Doors in the house should have a locking mechanism that is only accessible from the inside and any door with a window or any glass should have a dead bolt with a key that can be removed and locked from the inside. A “Beware or Dog” is also a good deterrent even if you don’t have a dog. Remember the idea behind becoming a hard target is to make yourself and your property as undesirable to the criminal as possible. This will in turn lessen, not eliminate the risk of becoming a victim.

Sliding doors can be rendered next to impossible to open with a simple wooden dowel or 2x4. The same is true for regular doors that have a wall behind them. Placing a 2x4 between the door and wall will render the door inoperable even while unlocked. This is good for doors that are rarely used like back or porch doors. I place NRA stickers on key doors and windows around the house. Small enough that they are only visible from close up. Some may argue that this presents a risk as firearms are next to jewelry on the list for items commonly stolen during burglaries. I disagree with that assessment because I keep all my firearms locked in a 1,000 pound fire proof gun safe that is bolted to the floor and would require a torch or cutting tools to open with out the key or code. All jewelry in my home is stored in a safe.

Finally I want to touch on security while in the home. Don't assume that just because you are home you are not at risk for theft. Recent years have seen rise in home invasions. I keep my carry gun on me even when doing chores around the house or mowing the lawn or walking the property. Get to know your neighbors and their routines. Talk to them about neighborhood security and inform them when you will be out of town. Offer to look after their property when they are away and help them become hard targets as well. Over all be alert, be proactive and be safe. Remember complacency kills. God Bless and Semper Fidelis.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

We are never completely prepared, we either are unprepared, or prepared to some degree. So I want to review the past year and see what or how far I’ve come. For those new to the game, they can find it a bit overwhelming, and do little to nothing to prepare. Then there are those that are part time preppers and those that are full time preppers. I fall into the former, but a meeting with some friends 8 months ago re-ignited the drive it takes to prepare. So my one-year odyssey in review.

First order of business is get your family onboard, and perhaps those you want to include in a group, but foremost your family, and don’t just say tings are bad, show them some of the articles you have found on the dollar collapse, EMP, etc, the real reasons you feel the need to prepare, if they are with you it just got a lot easier.

Second get organized, what do you already have? This will save you a lot of money in the long run, as you are less likely to duplicate items.

Next is your plan to bug out, or stay in place. If you are bugging out do you have a location that you can cache some of your gear and foodstuffs, or are you going with what you can haul?  If that is the case, figure out what you can haul in one trip. There is no sense in buying 50 cases of MREs if you only car is a Geo Metro it won’t fit. If you do not have a specific location to bug-out to, I’d strongly urge to plan to stay in place and make the best of it.

Next if you are new to this, start small, plan for 3 days, then 10 days, then 30 days, then 3 months and so forth.
For me my retreat is where I live, I’m not in the American Redoubt, but in the Midwest. My property is in the country, and I’m about 15 miles from the nearest city, (population about 14,000) would I like a retreat further out? Yes, but it is not going to happen I simply can’t afford to move.

I’m an avid shooter, and already have arms, ammo, a lot of ammo, and all the gear that goes with it. I was a bit light in the Battle Rifle category so I sold a few handguns to purchase an M1 Garand (I already had about 2,000 rounds of .30-06 ammo, so it made sense) and an FN-FAL, I had planned on two PTR91s (HK91 clones) but the FAL came along at a price I couldn’t ignore, the seller wanted $650, and admitted the gun wouldn’t cycle. So when I inspected it I found the gas plug installed upside down, I offered $600 and he took it I went home and reinstalled the plug properly and it cycles fine. I also managed a trade of a 1911 for a used PTR91. HK magazines are currently selling at unbelievably low prices.

If you are new to this I’d suggest a 12 gauge pump shotgun to start, and there are a lot of affordable guns out there, even a .22 rifle, and a lot of ammo should be considered. I’ve studied criminal behavior and the majority will be looking for soft targets, and when the SHTF there will be plenty, usually no one stands around and asks what caliber is that?, when you drop the hammer.

Yes there is a lot of cool accessories out there, but paying more attention to the more mundane things in life will go a lot further in insuring your survival. Watch those big box stores for seasonal closeouts, do a lot of shopping, (not buying) keep notes and get the biggest bang for your buck you can. Of further note the biggest of the “Big Box” stores is now selling AR-15s in a lot of locations, at much lower prices than you’ll find at a regular gun shop. I have seen SIG-Sauer, Bushmaster, and Colt.
Remember that it is not the gun that wins the fight it is your training and willingness that win the fight.

 I have a propane fired generator, in the 10-Kw range, and a 500 gallon propane tank I put it in 5 years ago, after a two day outage and a the loss of a lot of food. You might see these advertised as “whole house” generators but that is really stretching it, you need to get around at least a 17Kw for an average size house. Of course any generator is likely only going to be good for a short period, for once the fuel is gone that’s it.

I am a self employed firearms instructor, so for me most weeks I have no idea what my income will be until class starts. Some weeks I make $125 before expenses, and some I can much more, so in 2011, I earned the princely sum of less than $10,000 before taxes. So my income is   less than half of the other individuals in my group.

If you have a known income, even small you can prep, I so often hear people saying they would like to, but can’t afford to, and that in a word is denial, and if you live in denial it will cost you when the time comes.

My last effort at full scale prepping had been in 1999 with the dire warnings of Y2K, which did not materialize. So after a meeting a year ago, I started my prepping with research, planning and organizing. The gathering begins after the first 3 steps are met, but not completed

Now once you organize things you already have, you start research, and this is vital, you can run helter-skelter and buy a bunch of stuff, but you may have more wants than needs when you are done. Focus on want you need, and if you have less you need to have intensified focus

 I first read Patriots, by James Rawles, then dug out my copy of the “How to Survive the End of the World as we Know it” by the same writer. I also went to the internet and checked a lot of the prepping web sites, making notes to links of free information. It ranged from Military manuals, the LDS Preparedness Manual to articles on how to milk goats.

I also referred to Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Think on this one. Have you thought this one through? Are you prepared in each category?
First Aid

While the research continues every day, I began planning...

I started making lists, and I began to shop, note I did not say buy, but shop I have a limited quirky income so I can’t afford to just throw money at things. In the planning stage you have to think things through, and play what if in your planning.

For instance water, 18 years ago my shallow well pump died, and for need of water I found a small pump I could attach to a cordless drill, attach a hose to each end of the pump and I could draw water, so if the grid is down how do I keep the drill charged?, which lead to a power pack and a small solar charger being added to the list.
The lists will grow every day; make at least a mental note of what you use every day, from toilet paper to food, and think how much of this will I need to get through uncertain times of unknown length? In the planning stage do not focus on any single category above; you have to address each category as you go. If you focus on food, and not security someone can take your food, and if you focus on security you can starve behind a well fortified wall.

The preparations have to be a multi-prong effort, and you need to give yourself some leeway if you are on a budget, that while in the pursuit of certain items, you run across a deal on something else you get it instead.  I’ve seen here on the internet some preppers that focus on one subject at a time, then move on to another chapter, this could lead to imbalance. I know one lady who has been solely focused on medical and first aid, and has spend a lot of her resources on items to fill those needs, I explained to her this is stuff you might need, but no matter what happens you will be hungry, If she had spent half of her money on food supplies she would still have enough to outfit an EMS team. Not real sure how good band aids taste, although she may be able to barter.
Also pay close attention to the mundane items like socks and Q-Tips. Yeah I know night vision and body armor is a lot more cool, but feeling like you have a bug in your ear and suffering foot rot is more likely to really happen. How about laundry? Check out some of the low cost items RVers use. Take a close look at what you consume and try to make sure those needs are met
Also for the budget minded think used instead of new

Bugging in or bugging out?  My plan is for staying put, and here is where the group will gather, so in that regard those coming here are bringing supplies here, so space is a problem, and I continue to work on getting more space to store buckets, bullets and Band-Aids
I’ve made a considerable investment in adjustable wire mesh shelving units, I did wait till they were on sale, and bought them as need arose but in the past 12 months bought  19 sets at $40 bucks a set. But it allows me access to items without un-stacking stuff to get the container on the bottom.
Also it pays to keep inventory of what you have, and not just what you want, it is easy to use excel  and simply update as you add items, once a month I print them out, and review them  looking for what I need to balance things out.
In all keeping organized with proper planning and research will help you stay focused on what you need to get done, rather than an aimless quest unsure of your destination.

So in a nutshell with less than $10,000 income, and cashing a useless IRA of less than $8,000 where am I, 12 months later? I have enough stored food to feed 8 for a year, (a mix of store bought, dehydrated, #10 cans and bulk) I have 200 feet of garden fencing the mix of garden tools rain barrels and heirloom seeds to start a garden, started a small raised bed garden with hybrid seeds, and will save the heirlooms, for later.

I have several rolls of barbed wire for security, a few hundred sandbags, and a truckload of sand I have some solar around 200 watts worth plus connections wiring controllers several 2 way radios, four Swedish field phones, a solar powered base station and a couple of emergency radios, I also have four portable power packs that I can plug into,
3 kerosene heaters and around 90 gallons of kerosene, a camping oven stove combo, and 2 camp stoves, 60 cans of propane.100 lbs of charcoal, Pressure canner and jars etc, a food saver and a dehydrator, cast iron cookware, meat grinder, grain mill about 200 lbs of medical supplies, and the training to use it all.
1000 batteries from AAA to D cell, half dozen sleeping bags, rope bungee straps, come-alongs axes 3 chainsaws one gas powered and 2 cordless Black and Decker, for a cordless tool by the time the batteries run down so do I and they are pretty quiet, and log chains, crow bars, bolt cutters, nails, boots to blades, packs, webbing, magazine pouches etc.

I even acquired about 80 ounces of silver, in pre-1965 coins, there was no sense in just leaving the money in the IRA, and stocking up on Nickels
I also invested in a small trailer; it made it a lot easier to haul a lot of the bulky items
It came in handy when I hauled in over a ton of compost, peat moss, and lumber for the raised bed gardening, also several hundred cement blocks, to build defensive fighting positions  

I’m planting evergreens and hedges to help hide the property; although with the recent drought we have had they will need to be replanted.  I’m 1,000 feet from the nearest road, and prefer to be hidden and just let those that use the road pass by, it does reduce are fields of fire somewhat, but will also lower the chances of having to use those fields of fire, which is better all the way around.
I think the key to getting what I needed was I spent a lot of time planning and looking and little time buying; I worked hard at finding the best deal for my money. So if you don’t have money, spend time.
I’m not as prepared as those in the novel "Patriots", but I’m way ahead of those in "Survivors."

Saturday, July 21, 2012

During my years in the military, I spent most of my time in the military intelligence field.  Though I was specifically trained in signals intelligence, I learned to utilize a number of sources in producing intelligence products for my command.  The tactics that I learned both in individual training as well as on-the-job are applicable to a number of applications, including preparing yourself and your family for emergency situations. 
In my years of reading “alternative” message boards and blog posts, I noticed that most people in the prepper community either live in a rural community or have a desire to relocate to one.  As someone who grew up in a rural area, I would highly recommend taking such an action, especially in the light of the threats we face from economic collapse, food shortages, rioting, and other calamities, both natural and man-made.  For some of us, however, we are unable to relocate from the area that we currently reside.

My family and I reside in a suburban area of a very large city in the United States.  Most likely, we will not be able to relocate from this area in the near term, so we attempt to make the best of our situation.  Part of our preparation includes the production of intelligence reports of our subdivision and local community.  Creating information such as threat reports is useful for any prepper, regardless of residence location, but is vital when the number of persons that are nearby increases.  Using my past experiences, these are some of the tactics that I adapted for use in creating such reports for my subdivision. 

Creating the Map
In my opinion, the first and most important step that a prepper can take in developing intelligence for his or her suburban area is mapping the local area.  Fortunately, maps are easy to find.  Because my subdivision is over 30 years old, there are fully developed key maps available for purchase.  I can also utilize online mapping and driving directions sites to not only create maps of the streets, but also overlay such things as satellite imagery, points of interest, and anything else that would be necessary for my preparations.  I would create a large, laminated copy of the local area and/or subdivision map and place it on a wall, desk, or other convenient area where it can be easily referenced and manipulated.  If there is space, I would create a variety of maps; for example,  one that featured only streets, one that included satellite imagery, and one that includes locations of stores and gas stations.  I would also create smaller laminated versions and keep them in my vehicles, bug-out bags, and purse or wallet.  Many of the tactics listed in this article will refer back to studying and manipulating the larger map.

Mapping Information
Once the maps are created, take time to study the aerial view of the area in depth.  Look for places of entry and exit of the subdivision and local area (by car, motorbike, foot, etc.)  Imagine where roadblocks can be placed should the authorities implement them.  Find different ways in which you could travel from and to your home.  Study potential choke-points where gangs can trap residents.  Note the locations of homes where you could stop by and/or drop your kids off if you were prevented from being at or going to your home.  For those that like to mark up documents, you can take a marker, either erasable or permanent, and make these notations right on the map.

Make an ingress and egress plan for your neighborhood.  Determine ways that you can get in and out of the subdivision without taking streets.  Take note of places where you could hide or find cover from attack.  Make note of these locations on the map. 

Take is checking the local police blotters and statistics for crime in the area.  When I managed a crime board during my employment at a university police department, I placed different colored pins in areas where crimes were suspected or committed.  Each pin represented a different classification of crime.  This allowed the staff to quickly ascertain the prevalence of certain crimes, locations where crime was highly probable, as well as trends that may have developed.  You can place pins, colored stickers, or even dots from colored markers on areas of the map to determine areas most likely to be hit by criminals when society begins to break down.   
It would also be important to note the locations of known sex offenders, felons, and former criminals on the map.  Sex offender information is often located on a state database at no charge; information for the others may not necessarily be available, or could come at a cost.  While a person who has served their time may never commit another offense during his or her lifetime again, it is best to at least know where potential danger could lurk during times of peril.

Some subdivisions contract with local police or security firms to provide patrols during certain periods of the day.  Look for patterns among the patrols as well as the patrollers and note them on the map if possible.  For example, in my subdivision, one officer spends most of his shift sitting in the same location every time he is on duty there.  Another officer takes the same route driving through the subdivision while he is on duty.  Make note of any significant changes that the officers take during patrol; this could indicate patrolling for specific reasons or persons.  Try to engage the officers from time to time; they can be a valuable source of information about the happenings around the area.

Learn the Location

Now, let’s step away from the map and now engage the subdivision and local environment in a different perspective.  Take time out to schedule regular walks, bike rides, etc. in and around the neighborhood.  If this is something you already do, take alternative paths or go during varying times during the day.  Here, you can practice taking the alternative ingress and egress routes you found on the map, as well as searching for places to hide or take cover.  Make note of the vehicles that are usually parked in driveways or along the street.  Learn to recognize familiar faces.  Note activities that seem to be out of the ordinary for your location.  For example, I learned, in my former neighborhood, that one home was used as a drug manufacturing lab.  Many of the teenagers in the neighborhood sold drugs for the dealer that ran the lab.  I learned to be careful when confronting the teens that would vandalize areas around my home (including the For Sale signs in our yard) knowing that they possessed more weapons and firepower than I did. 

Get detailed information on your subdivision.  Learn the number of homes that are in the subdivision.  For large subdivisions, learn how the different villages are configured.  Find out the demographics that are pertinent information to know (average ages of household adults, average number of children per household, etc.)  Make regular searches for your neighborhood on the internet .Take note of information on the neighborhood web site and/or bulletin board.  Keep local emergency numbers of note, including fire, police, utility companies, homeowner’s association, etc.

You can also learn valuable intelligence information from the windows of your residence.  Find the best vantage points in your home that allow you to look around the neighborhood.  This works best in multi-story homes.  Take time to note the “normal” condition of the homes, yards, and streets around you.  Binoculars or telescopes can help you view particular locations that could normally be inaccessible.  It would be best to have a privacy screen on your window that limits others from seeing your own activities while you watch theirs.

Know Your Neighbors

Get to know your neighbors   Start or join a neighborhood patrol.  Try to engage them as you make your way around the neighborhood during your walks or bike rides.  Begin discussions about local activities, being careful to avoid the impression that you are gathering information for intelligence products.  Gossipers are a wonderful resource for intelligence analysts; they always have a need to talk to others and feel special telling every minute detail about everyone else’s lives.  In my case, I had a neighbor whom I did not know come up to me in the yard and ask me some details about my child that my wife and I would rarely share with others.  After asking her further, I found that her source of information was from another neighbor who sometimes dropped by inside our home in order to use our telephone (and I think may have overheard a conversation I or my wife had on our cell phones.)  Needless to say, the phone has not been available to her since.
Take time to learn about your neighbors in the digital realm.  Checking local voter registration information and/or property tax rolls can often provide names and addresses of the people around you.  You can cross-check their information (names, addresses, telephone numbers, etc.) through search engines, criminal and sex-offender databases, and information collection sources (such a Pipl, LinkedIn, Zabasearch, etc.) Perhaps your state may catalog concealed weapon license holders.  Look for social networking sites where they may reveal more information about their lives (and the lives of those around them.)  Do not forget to check the social networks for their (and your) children, as well as their linked friends as well.  Some people with bad intentions have a tendency to broadcast this information through these methods.

Create the Intelligence Report

With several pieces of data collected on the subdivision, the prepper can now develop intelligence reports that can aid him or her in readying for emergency situations.  The thing about intelligence products is that it is tailored to the needs of the person requesting the information.  When I developed a number of reports during my military time, I usually made them to answer specific questions that were posed to me.  Some questions you may need answered could include:

  1. What are the most dangerous locations in my subdivision?
  2. What person(s) can I depend on during an emergency?  How can I get to him or her?
  3. Are there any persons to keep a lookout for during emergency situations?
  4. What are the various ways to get in and out of the neighborhood under stealth conditions?
  5. What can be seen inside of my home during the day?  At night? 
  6. How many direct lines of sight lead to my property?  How can I mitigate that situation?
  7. Is there something on my property that can attract “special” attention from others
  8. Do I have a property feature that is outside of the norm for my neighborhood?
  9. Do the police and/or security patrol near my home?  If not, how can I address that?
  10. What areas of the neighborhood give me the best vantage point for spotting outsiders?
  11. Who in the neighborhood may be armed? 
  12. Who in my neighborhood is trained in specific skills that can be useful for my needs?
  13. Are there other preppers that I can network with in my neighborhood?
  14. How is the power grid routed in my neighborhood?  Can certain portions lose power while others retain theirs? 
  15. What is the biggest potential threat to my subdivision?  What is the most likely threat?

Hopefully these suggestions can help preppers who, for one reason or another, enhance their readiness for surviving an emergency in suburban areas.  In a later post, I hope to include factors that can be used for those who may face emergencies while living in an urban area.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

We’ve read about it in books, watched it in movies, or seen it on the news: People joining together to defend their neighborhood.  The point of this article is to review the general details needed to correctly accomplish this difficult objective.  Successfully defending a neighborhood in a societal collapse is extremely difficult, and it’s not even close to being as easy as it is commonly portrayed.  As you read this, please remember the golden rule of security: it is like being pregnant…either you are or you’re not!  Being partially secured is not much better than being completely unsecured. 

Overview and Expectations

The first part of a neighborhood defensive plan is deciding the type and size of the opposing force.  The majority of potential threats will be related to your demographic location.  Are you located close to a prison or juvenile correction facility?  Are you on the outskirts of a major city that has a high population of gangs or slum areas?  What if your neighborhood is rural but suburbs are located in every cardinal direction? 

Next, how large or small of an area is going to be defended?  The manpower and resources required vary drastically depending on the size of the defended region.  Do you need to defend a single dead-end street, or must two square blocks be secured?  As the defended area enlarges, all other defensive requirements are greatly multiplied.

Finally, how long do you plan on defending the area?  Is it going to be for 12 hours, 2 weeks, 1 month, or 2 years?  The manpower and supplies required expand exponentially the longer the defensive plan.

Knowing Your Neighbors

Now that the decision has been made that a defensive plan must be created, the question needs to be asked: who will participate?  In modern society, we seem to have lost the connection between our neighbors that we had prior to the internet, iPads, cell phones, and other technology which insulates us from each other.  Today, most people have no idea who their neighbors are.  You need to get out and build relationships with the people that live in your area.  This enables you to determine who is reliable and like-minded, who to avoid, and even if you even have registered criminals living close.

The next step is more difficult:  how do you address your defensive strategy to the people you have determined may be “Okay?”  If you are direct, will it turn people away?  Should you start the idea by forming a neighborhood watch?  With the nation becoming the Nanny State, be careful how you approach this topic.

Most importantly, be careful about personal details discussed with acquaintances.  Remember to practice OPSEC (Operational Security).  You should not tell anyone except your most trusted confidants the details of your level of prepping, the supplies you’ve stored, or your defensive tools.  You should never refer to yourself as a “Prepper.”   A good saying to remember is:  “You cannot un-ring a bell,” meaning that once information is provided, it cannot be taken back.  Be friendly, be polite, but be vague about your personal preparations.

Be aware that as a result of your quest to find like-minded people, you are by default putting yourself in the leadership position of your group.  You need to think long and hard about this detail.  Is this a responsibility for which you’re prepared or should you pass this important role off to another person that would be a suitable leader?  If you decide to continue the role as leader, be prepared for the duties that follow.  You will be the person in charge that everyone looks to for answers.  Furthermore you will also be the person that fingers are pointed at for blame.  As Shakespeare says in “Henry IV, Part 1:” “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.”

Who To Select For What Position

Personalities are just as important to a position as the actual position.  Do you want someone manning a checkpoint who only asks “Will we get to shoot someone”?  On the other hand, do you want someone at a checkpoint that refuses the concept of ever being confrontational no matter what the situation is?  You are looking for someone the military refers to as a “quiet professional”.  For defensive positions, you want someone that has a calm temper, sound mind, and possesses logical thought and reasoning: definitely NOT the Rambo type. 

The other consideration is a difficult.  No matter what good intentions people have during table times, you do not know what they will do in hard times.  You cannot blame them, but when faced with danger, people might choose their family’s safety over their sense of duty.  Once you know your potential group members better, you will get an idea of who man their post and who will flee.   In my professional experience, I have found that the people that talk a good game are not always the ones that will stand up and fight.  On the other hand, in many cases the person you think will run away turns out to be the most reliable person on your team.

The Plan: What Is Needed

This section is not about tactical drills, fighting techniques, or weapons handling.  It’s a general discussion to provide a concise and realistic concept for creating your area security plan.

A perimeter must be established around the defended area.  Two perimeters will actually be created: An extended perimeter (EP) and an inner perimeter (IP).  
I have found that the best way to plan the perimeters is to print high resolution screen-prints of the area using Google Earth.  These screen-prints should include the surrounding regions and be printed on true photo quality paper which is then laminated.  In this way permanent markers can be used for planning and then the printouts can simply be cleaned with rubbing alcohol for reuse later.

First you must create the EP.  This is the defensive line that intercepts the first presence of a threat.  All points of entry must be secured (roads, paths, trails, etc.) by establishing barriers & defensive fighting positions.  These positions must not be visible from a distance.  Avoid being out in the open on a road, instead be off to the side and within cover.  When possible, remove anything outside the position that can be used as offensive cover.  Do not make it easy for the possible threat!  

An additional question to consider for preparing a position or check point is what type of barrier do you want to use?  Such items as cars or farm machinery can be used to make movable barriers should you want to keep the ability for friendly vehicles to pass.  Another important detail is the need for designated areas for bathrooms and locations for rest and sleep.  If possible, a good idea is to build a shelter to protect you from the elements.  People’s motivation and enthusiasm can quickly disappear when they are made miserable by the elements.           

Once the positions are set up and all points of entry are secure, observation post (OP) is required if you have the manpower for it.  This position should preferably be in an elevated location and forward of the OP to spot threats before they get to the defended area.  Simply put, they are the early warning system.  3 people staffing the OP are the minimum requirement.  After 1 hour, it is difficult for the average person to stay 100% alert in an observation position.  You need a rotation established to keep one person watching, one resting, and one “at the ready.” 

Creating range cards is the next step to establish sectors of fire.  The last thing you want to do is be in a position where you might have to engage and risk casualties via friendly fire, range cards can prevent this tragedy.  In addition to factoring in the skill of your team members, you must consider the geography.  If you are in an urban area, there will be houses and neighboring communities outside your perimeter.  Knowing the range of your weapon is part of this as well.  For example, a bullet from a firearm as small as a .22 LR travels up to 1.5 miles.  A 5.56 mm NATO round exceeds 3,000 meters.  Keep these details in mind when planning your sector of fire. 

Outfit each OP and checkpoint with the following minimum list of items:

  • PPE (Personal Protection Equipment: body armor, eye protection, etc.)
  • Form of communication and signal between OP and residences inside the IP
  • Defensive Tools
  • Appropriate manpower
  • Retreat route to IP (Primary & Secondary)
  • Optics
  • Food, water; stimulants
  • Runner between posts (reduces the need for a guard to be absent)
  • Lights

Pulling guard duty is extremely tiring.  Maintaining focus for extended periods of time becomes difficult and eventually staying awake is challenging as well.  Remember, you will be under a great deal of stress, and stress will wear you out just as fast as physical activity.  Stimulants are a good to have on hand, but there are good and bad stimulants.  Coffee and other liquid diuretics should be avoided.  They quickly cause urination, and since you should not urinate inside your position, you will be forced to leave your position which allows you to be seen and heard by the enemy.  Possible alternatives are caffeine gum or pills, natural vitamins, or similar.  In the past, as a Ranger, I found a method that sounds a little extreme but works.  Take a can of long cut snuff, add a capful of whiskey, and let it sit for a few days.  Insert the tobacco in your mouth and while the residue is on your fingers, rub your eyes.  Trust me, it is as unpleasant as it sounds, but it’s nowhere near as bad as being the person that fell asleep while on guard duty.    An important detail to factor in is the “crash” that happens after the substance wears off.  Remember, the more powerful the stimulant, the greater the crash.

The next step is to plan your IP.  The purpose of the IP is to provide the last line of defense in case the EP collapses.  In the center of it are your supplies and non-combatants.  People that are classified as non-combatants are: children, elderly, and those that are physically unable to actively defend the lines.  If you are fortunate to have medics or doctors in your group, keep them there as well.  Why risk the few people who are medically trained on the front line? 

The previously mentioned list and other details also apply to the IP.  The IP however has no defensive fallback plan.   If the EP collapses, and all positions retreat to the IP, you are in serious trouble.  At this point there are then two choices:  retreat if possible, or, re-enact The Alamo. 

Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
            Think of SOPs as your team’s play book.  SOP’s are living procedures and thus always evolve.  Some details will change over time and others will not.  It is important that everyone knows what the group SOPs are, and they should always be available for reference.  SOPs must thoroughly cover all operational aspects of your group, thus they require a great deal of time and thought to create.  Listed below is a simple starter list of topics:

    • Escalation of presence and force (amber, red, black)

At what point will it be decided that the neighborhood needs to get together?  Will you start by being low-profile and later have the appearance of a hard target?  How will the activation process be initiated?

    • Established combat load for guard force (for each threat level)

At the Amber level, do you want people to have assault style weapons slung over their shoulder?  At Red level, do you want people in tennis shoes with only a pistol in their waist band?

    • Dealing with noncombatants at checkpoints

How do you handle people that want to pass through?  What about people that want to enter?  What if they are people living in your neighborhood that do not want to take part in the defensive plan? 

    • Dealing with LEOs

What image do you want to give Law Enforcement Officers? (should they still be active) 

    • NEO Plan (Noncombatant Evacuation and Repatriation Operation)

If a retreat is something you see as being inevitable, how are you going to evacuate your children and elderly?  Where are they going?  What equipment and manpower will be needed for this?  At what point will this be needed before it is too late?

    • Roles and responsibilities

What roles will be needed in your plan?  What is expected of them?  Will people be cross trained with a certain level of standards for skill set?

    • ROE (rules of engagement)

At what level of force will you meet each threat?  Will it be able to be justified later in time?  Was it an equal level of force? 

    • Outline of leadership

This is needed!  Without it, there would be no organization within the group.  Who is in charge?  Who is next in command?  Who is in charge of the positions?  Who is in charge of the people within the IP? 

    • Dealing with prisoners and casualties

What will you do with people that might have to be detained?  Will they be treated humanely and have proper quarters to keep them?  What will you do with casualties (friendly and not friendly)?  What about their supplies?  What will done with their bodies? 

    • Escorts and convoys

If the situation dictates the need to lock an area down, but stores are still open with what few items they have left, how will personnel move their safely and back?  Will one small group go into the store while another guards the vehicles?  Will you take the same route back and forth?

    • Passwords and information security

Do you have a challenge and password made for the IP/OP?  What about a running password?  Are passwords put in code phrases or left with normal verbiage?

    • Situations Dictating Actions

At what point do you collapse the EP into the IP?  When will you start evacuation (if possible)? Under what conditions will a retreat be called?

Other Considerations
Another form of protection that is usually overlooked is CYA (cover your a**).  If all hell has broken loose, and you are forced to protect yourself and the people around you, you need to protect yourself for the possible future ahead.  What I mean is that when the environment stabilizes, you may be made to answer for your defensive actions.  What if you are accused of assaulting someone who walked up to your check point?  If lethal force was used, was it justified?  Can you remember the name of the officer who visited your EP?  These facts should all be documented in a logbook.  Any and every incident should be logged, no matter how large or small.  You want to be as descriptive as possible.  When you are writing this, imagine you are trying to tell a judge your side of the story, because you very well could be using this logbook to do just that!  Ensure dates, times, who was involved, what happened, what actions were taken, and how every means possible was used prior to any type of force are all recorded.  This should be written down as soon as possible while the information is still fresh in your mind.  Details are the key to an effective report.

Another serious consideration is that after you have the area secured, what happens to the families that live inside the established perimeter that do not want to be part of what’s going on?  Will you protect them should the need arise?  What if they have family members attempting to break into the perimeter?  Are you going to deny access?  These are very difficult questions to plan for and there is a fine line between doing the right thing and self-declaring martial law on your street. 

The last point to consider is not specifically related to the previous discussion.  It is about the image you present to others.  It is not just about the clothing you are wearing.  Nuances ranging from body language, physical approach towards someone, facial expressions, and your overall demeanor can greatly affect the tone of the interaction you have with other people.  You most likely will meet more people that are non-combatants then are threats.  Is the head-to-toe camouflage approach the one you want to give as a first impression?  By appearance alone, you made yourself a potential combatant to others.  What type of reaction do you think you will get from police if they see you in all the latest tactical gear with a military style rifle slung over your shoulder?  What about the mother with kids in hand that you encounter?  At this point in time, everyone will have at least some level of fear in them.  Anybody that says differently has never been in a threatening environment.  Why escalate the situation if not necessary?  There is a time and place for camouflage and other gear, but in most cases dressing in practical civilian clothing (like cargo pants and overly large shirt concealing items you might have on you), along with a friendly but cautious personality will be most effective.  Simply put, when it comes time to decide how you want to appear and act towards others, ask yourself how you would react if you came across someone who looked and acted just like “you?”  Personally, if I was approached by someone dressed like ninja, armed, and had an attitude…I will be reacting much differently than if they seemed approachable and wearing earth tone non-tactical clothing.


You need to think long and hard about the realistic possibility of accomplishing this objective.  Yes, in movies and books it seems easy to accomplish:  most of the time the “good guys” always win.  After reading this article you should realize that it is much more complex then it seems.

The amount of manpower, supplies, and equipment needed are extremely difficult to obtain for a long term defensive strategy.  To provide a real life example, while living in an unsecured area (Red Zone) in Iraq, we needed a guard force of over 100 men to protect a large house 24/7.  That sounds like a lot, but as mentioned previously, a position does not have a single person; a guard rotation is required.  In our case roughly 50 men per 12 hour shift were necessary for the EP and IP to view in all cardinal directions and to provide protection for the non-combatants. 

With that in mind, how many people will you need to guard a small section of your neighborhood?   Continuing with another personal example, I was part of a force that guarded an urban compound in Baghdad which covered a space roughly 1 by 2 city blocks.  To protect it in a high threat environment we needed 300 static guards (12.5 hour shifts 7 days a week), 9 Quick Response Teams (consisting of 6 men on each team), and enough gear, supplies, ammo, water, and food to sustain everybody.  This doesn’t even consider the resources and supplies needed to establish a secured perimeter.

Another factor that hinders the ability to guard a neighborhood is the group of people available.  You will probably find more people not interested than those that are interested.  The people you do find will be in various ages and physical shape, some might have military or police training, some will not.  It will probably be a “ragtag” group.  Many will like the idea of defending their territory, but will not or cannot plan or practice.  Chances are you will not be fortunate to find yourself living in a community of ex-commandos ready to take tackle this matter head on. 

In conclusion, the reality of defending a neighborhood is that it is not practical and is better left as a fantasy.  I’ve only touched on a very few factors to consider, and there are so many more factors working against you.  It will be nearly impossible for a group of citizens in various states of health, with little or no training, even if they are enthusiastic, to successfully defend a neighborhood.

Monday, July 16, 2012

I have been a soldier for all my adult life: infantry, special operations and as a civilian security contractor. More recently, I have got into prepping for the survival of my family. I have been working slowly at it, and reading and researching a lot of the publications and related blogs. Given my background, I have a head start in the security area, but many have huge head starts over me in the other desired and required skills that will be essential to survival. I have a lot to learn and a lot to catch up on. However, I would like to contribute my two cents worth where I can.

The more I read, the more I form the opinion that certainly not all, but perhaps “some” or “many” preppers out there are making the simple mistake of thinking that with the subject of security, they can simply “tick the box”. Preparing for the protection of your family cannot be simply taken care of by having guns; not in the same way that hunger can be taken care of by stocking food. It is simply not sufficient to exercise your right to bear arms and own guns, without being tactically proficient. Even for the good shots, that is not the same as being able to perform tactically. The kind of tactical challenges that you will face post-SHTF will be in a different league to, for example, confronting an intruder in the dead of night with your handgun or shotgun. Think marauding gangs of looters, going from house to house, raping and killing. Even if you have a remote retreat, you will need tactical know-how at some point. I also believe that there will not only be a need for family and friend units to protect themselves, but if the collapse is ongoing for some time there will be a need to create tactical teams to conduct necessary operations to protect your area of operations and retreat from whatever threats emerge.

Reading through forums and articles I see many of the same questions out there about what techniques to use, how to defend yourself, your loved ones and your home, and similar. I hope to answer these questions. Also, the book takes you from tactics for survival of yourself and your family, including vehicle movement and defending your home, through to small unit tactics. These small unit tactics require the training of tactical teams and would form the basis of a group that you would use to conduct operations post-SHTF to defend your location, compound or small town. This compendium of infantry, special operations and close protection tactics would also allow you to carry out an effective American Insurgency against invading enemies, foreign or domestic, into the post-SHTF vacuum.
As an example, as part of my career in the military and security, I spent five years serving as a security contractor in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This included working on contract for the US Government in Iraq, a year of which was based out of Fallujah, the rest variously based out of Baghdad and country-wide, and also two years working for the British Government in Helmand Province and Kabul, Afghanistan. These roles were operational security roles that included exposure to multiple training methods and operational schools of thought, as well as both high profile and low profile mobile operations across Iraq and Afghanistan. In my book, I have incorporated a lot of the techniques and experience that I learned in both high and low profile movement in these combat theatres into techniques that you can apply to moving your family and conducting any type of post-collapse vehicle movement.
If you find yourself packing up your family in a "get out of Dodge" situation, then there are a number of factors to consider. The number of vehicles and personnel in your convoy will have a knock on effect to tactical potential, which will is discussed in more detail. However, to introduce the concept here: one vehicle gives you limited load carrying ability and no redundancy. If you are a standard type family you likely have a couple of cars. Take both. If you have the ability to take three cars and have a driver and security in each, then take them because you will 1) spread out your personnel so that there is less risk with the destruction of one vehicle 2) increased redundancy if one vehicle breaks down or is immobilized 3) increased your tactical options, which we will cover in detail in the chapter on vehicle operations, and 4) greatly increased your load carrying ability, perhaps without having to use a trailer which will benefit mobility.
One of the big threats faced in Iraq and Afghanistan is the Improvised Explosive Device (IED). We hope that this will not be a primary threat in a WTSHTF situation in the Continental United States, and the manual does not concentrate on them for this reason, but they may either be used in a limited fashion by certain groups or become a widespread threat in an insurgency type situation if one develops, for whatever reason. Here are a few interest points on IEDs:
IEDs come in various sizes and the effectiveness of an IED depends on large part as a function of size and placement, as well as accurate targeting. IEDs can be connected in a “daisy chain” and usually placed to match the anticipated spacing of vehicles in convoys, to cause maximum damage. IEDs can be initiated in a number of ways:
• Command Wire (CWIED). A physical connection between the initiation point (Firing point (FP) and the CWIED itself (Contact Point)); the need for this connection can aid in detection of the device and the FP.
• Remote Control (RCIED). The RCIED is detonated remotely using any one of multiple options. It can be anything from a cell phone to a garage door opener. This increases the enemy’s options for placement and FP, without the need to be physically connected to the device. This can make it harder to detect the device.
Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED). Simply put, the IED is inside the vehicle. This type of IED will usually be remotely detonated, or can be on a timer (exception: see SVBIED, below). The VBIED allows for mobility and placement of large IEDs. However, they can be detected: a simple example can be a car that is packed with Home Made Explosives (HME) and therefore the suspension is weighed down, making the vehicle suspicious as it sits parked at its placement point.
Off-Route Mine: (A targeted IED capable of defeating armored vehicles)
• The off-route mine is very effective and can defeat many types of armor. It uses the “Monroe effect”(shaped charge) to create a molten jet of metal that will pierce armor, causing damaging effects inside the vehicle as it passes through. The Monroe effect places explosives in behind a metal cone or dish: on detonation, the cone inverts and melts into a stream of metal. This is the same effect used by a standard RPG, with the exception that an RPG detonates on contact with a vehicle, whereas the Explosively Formed Projectile goes off several feet away by the side of the road.
• The effect of the device can be devastating but usually limited in scope. It will pass through armor, and there have been multiple circumstances of these devices causing traumatic lower limb amputation of personnel in the driver and front passenger seats of vehicles, but personnel in other compartments being left unscathed.

Victim Operated Improvised Explosive Device (VOIED). This type of IED is detonated by the actions of the victim. In order to be effective the IED will usually target a location that is known to be used by coalition forces. VOIEDs can be anti-personnel or anti-vehicle. The type of location targeted would usually be somewhere that locals could avoid, but that forms a channel for military personnel or vehicles. These devices, or the corresponding safe routes, may also be marked, often in unusual ways, similar to the way that mines are often marked in the Balkans i.e. piles of rocks, sticks, cloth tied to markers etc.
About The Author: Max Velocity is the pen name of a former Special Forces soldier and private security contractor. He is the author of the nonfiction book Contact!: A Tactical Manual for Post Collapse Survival.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The article about OPSEC with utility workers reminded me of some of the deterrents listed in the book, Secrets of a Superthief by John MacLean. The author was a very successful thief until he violated one of his own rules and was caught. In his book he details what vulnerabilities he looked for in a victim, and how he performed his thefts. Chances are you have taken precautions but reading his book will real to you the
chinks in your armor. The book leaves you feeling vulnerable, and is a wake-up call to fortifying your defenses against theft or unlawful entry by undesirables.

The book is out of print and copies are snatched-up as soon as they become available on the secondary market. I highly recommend the book. - Rick B.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Hi Mr Rawles,
Another tactic used by house burglars is to break in to your car.  They will steal your garage door opener and your registration.  They clip them together for identification.  Then a few days later when your car is gone they drive up, open your garage door, enter, close the door and break in to your home.  Unseen, they can load up and leave.  We found this out when our car was broken into. They dumped the glove box for the paper work, and didn't take the radio.  Luckily they didn't find the garage door opener.  When we reported the crime the police filled us in on what was going on.  Now we keep the garage door openers with us.

Another trick on the garage door is to make a hole in the door, then reach in with a stiff wire [with a hook formed on the end] to pull the door's emergency release cord.  The easy fix for that is to cut the cord so there is no handle on the end.

Have a good day. - Karl G.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I want to warn and educate my fellow SurvivalBlog readers about a growing trend of people impersonating utility workers and other people in authority to gain entry to people’s homes.  My awareness of this was recently heightened when just such an attempt was made on my home against my wife. I was truly surprised, after all the talks we have had about security, just how unprepared she was for this situation.

Several days ago a man came to our door saying he needed to look at our gas meter. This man was driving a white pickup, which he had parked across the street, with an orange cone placed behind it. He was wearing a baseball hat, T-shirt, and cargo shorts with tennis shoes and was carrying some papers. He insisted that he had to come in and check the meter and the gas connections in the house. My wife informed him that there was no need as we had the gas removed from our house several years before.  This seemed to confuse him and he started to quiz my wife on when and how could she be sure. He said he still needed to check and kept placing his foot on the stoop as if he wanted to come in.  At this time a neighbor came out of their house and started to make a lot of noise to attract the workers attention and to let him know he was watching.

Now that the worker had a witness my wife said he seemed nervous and asked to check to see if there was a meter around back. He also asked if there was a dog or a gate.  My wife told him that he could check and he then went around the side of the house for a minute and then got in his truck and left.  She then messaged me at work to laugh at how stupid the natural gas person was since we did not have gas.

I realized this person was not with the gas company. I immediately called my wife back and told her to call the police right away and tell them what had happened. She also called the gas company and found out they had no one in the area. When speaking to the police operator they kept asking if the person who came to the door had on a red shirt indicating that this was not the first call they had received with this sort of attempt.

It is very interesting to note that with something as simple as an orange traffic cone and a piece of paper this fake worker was almost able to gain entry to my home and did not set off any alarms in my wife’s head. She had totally bought his story and was going along with it. I have no doubt that if this person had gained entry to my home a tragedy would have ensued afterwards. Gaining fast access to the interior of the home is the point to either case it for later robbery or to carry out some attack right then.  Another form of this scam is to trick the occupant of the house to follow the worker to the rear of the home and keep them busy in the back yard while a conspirator robs the interior of the home.

As preppers we spend a lot of time on OPSEC and not standing out and in this case it creates a chink in our armor. If this person had attempted an assault on my home it would have been over in short order, their slow approach allowed them to get a lot closer than they ever should have been able to. This person could not have found out I was an interesting target if they had checked my internet life or even observed my home for any period of time. They chose my home to attempt this simply because they drove by and saw my wife in the yard watering the garden, most likely, and the house did not stand out. They thought they had found an average suburban home to go after because that is what I wanted them to see. I had not realized that my front door represented, with just my wife present, such an obvious breach.

To clear this deficiency I have placed some subtle but necessary changes to the exterior. First is a simple beware of the dog sign. While I don’t actually have a dog, the fear of a dog is big demotivator to the type of person who wants to try these sorts of scams. They are looking for the easiest most readily available target they can find. Any sign that your house is not an easy plum to pluck and they will move on.
The second item is the addition of a camera at my front door. People who perpetuate these sorts of scams cannot stand to have themselves documented. The last thing they want is to show up on the evening news. Even a fake camera is a deterrent to them.  With the introduction of wireless cameras installing them around your house, with built in infrared abilities, can be accomplished for less than a $500 and be done in an afternoon. Exterior cameras are no longer the hugely bulky items they once were and have become common in neighborhoods on people’s homes. So while they do mark my house as being security conscious, they don’t stand out like a red flag that I am prepping.   The idea is to be just obvious enough scam artists and home invaders will steer clear of my home but not to stand out like a sore thumb.

I have upgraded my gates and my screen door. The exterior of my fences and gates are smooth and do not allow easy climbing and the gate latches tight from the inside and has no exterior latch. The Screen door has been swapped out for a locking screen door that is made of steel bars painted white to blend in. you can now open the door and have a grate between you and anyone at the door. Once again all carefully designed to blend in, but to make sure the right level of deterrent is presented so that the fake utility workers move on to easier targets.

The biggest changes are procedural. Having a standard way of dealing with visitors to the front door goes a long way in mitigating these dangers. To help SurvivalBlog readers with this threat I offer this Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for dealing with Utility workers when they present themselves. While I refer to utility workers I am also referring to any person who might appear at your door on any given day. Most criminals tend to stick with utility or alarm company workers, but even traveling missionaries should not be above suspicion. Criminals are looking to exploit the conditioned response in people with these roles so anything you might feel comfortable with is fair game to use against you.

  1. When anyone comes to your door do not open it for them right away. Observe them through the peep hole or the window. Ideally have a storm door, steel barred door, or other exterior barrier on your front door that is closed and secured to slow or stop any dash for sudden entry. You want to be able to close your door quickly on any attempted rush. A chain lock is a poor substitute for an exterior barrier unless very strongly attached to the frame and the door. You want to slow or stop the rush long enough to acquire a weapon and call for help.
  2. Ask the person at the door to step back from the door. Create a buffer between you and them before you open the door. Experience has shown that a legitimate door to door person will already do that as they are worried about dogs or other attacks coming from the door. Predators on the other hand will crowd the door as they are focused on getting inside.  This should be a clue as to the person’s intentions.
  3. If there is more than one person keeps both of them in sight and don’t allow them to split up or for them to split you up if you have more than one person with you.
  4. A legitimate utility worker or city worker will be wearing a uniform and have Identification with them. In most localities door to door vendors are also required to have ID. Ask for this ID. If they cannot present ID return inside of your home and call the police.
  5. If the person at your door does have ID have them wait while you check their ID. Call their office. Look up this number for yourself. Do not accept any number given to you by the person presenting the ID on a flyer or other printable material. Often these numbers are faked so that if you call them a co-conspirator at that number will vouch for them. By finding the number yourself you eliminate this chance and make it impossible for them to spoof the number.
  6. Do not give any information to the person at the door. Especially the number of people at home at the time. Also do not reveal any items such as weapons, alarms, or animals in the home. One of the major tricks for people casing homes to rob later is to pose as Alarm company technicians. They will offer a free security “check” to find out just how unsecure your home is and then use this information to rob you at a later date.
  7. Inspect their vehicles. Do they have the utility or other logos on them clearly marked? Are there tools in the vehicle? Legitimate workers are driving company vehicles and will be marked as such. Due to legal issues workers do not drive their own vehicles, especially city workers. They will have tools with them as their company won’t want them to have to make two trips to do work.  
  8. If the person is offering a service you might actually have use for schedule them to come back at another time of your choosing, preferably when more people will be around if you are alone. A legitimate business will return, a scam or stick up artist will not. Stick to your guns no matter how many limited time offers they dangle in front of you.
  9. Know your utility easements and where they run on your property. Do not allow workers into your backyard if all your easements are in the front.  You cannot stop a legitimate worker from reaching their proper easements but you can make them verify themselves. Have them bring the police or a supervisor to the scene before they start work.
  10. Take pictures. Take pictures of their vehicle and of the person. A person scoping out a house to rob will not come back if they know their now exists a link to the location. They are on your property or on a public right of way so you have a right to take pictures of them at any time.
  11. If the person is using the excuse of an emergency, such as a gas leak, to gain entry to your home demand that their police escort be present. In a real emergency of this nature they don’t send one guy with a traffic cone out to deal with it, there will be hundreds of responders to verify this person’s story.

Ultimately it boils down to the fact that, even if you called the person to your home, if you don’t feel comfortable ask them to leave or arm yourself and call the police. You have every right to question a person’s authority or right to be somewhere. Don’t let people push you around or try to bully you, Stand your ground.  It is far better to be perceived as rude and paranoid than to be perceived as an easy target.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

“A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”- General George S. Patton.

Every general would tell you that planning is necessary, but our perfectly laid plans never end up working the way we think in real life situations with a nearly infinite amount of variables.  As an Army officer, I found Patton’s quote to be very true.  Unless you have all the time in the world, you are not going to be able to create the perfect plan to cover every possible contingency.  But you can certainly prepare for the greatest threats.  In operational terms, we call these the “most dangerous” enemy course of action (COA) and the “most likely” enemy course of action.  The threat is what drives the basis of your overall plan.

To give an example of how these enemy courses of action would differ, consider a martial law situation.  For the average citizen, the most likely enemy course of action by the government would be setting up checkpoints, restricting travel, and enforcing a curfew.  As an aside, I was the airfield “pusher” (or the officer that pushes forces and resources from the main base to the objective) for a martial law scenario where we rehearsed locking down San Antonio on three separate occasions with a few hundred soldiers and associated equipment and supplies.  So these contingency plans are already in place by the government in case of a break down in social order.  And I should know, because before I was awakened to the reality of things, for a time I was an integral part of the very thing I am now preparing against.  In a martial law situation, the most dangerous enemy course of action would be aggressive raids into private homes, confiscation of stockpiles, weapons, and internment of anyone considered “dangerous” or “too patriotic” by the government.  It is important to consider both threats.  You plan mostly for the likely COA, but you have to be prepared for the most dangerous COA to a degree.  Now there might be some debate as to whether these COAs might be reversed, but that is for you to decide and requires that you stay informed and watch carefully how events unfold.

There are many types of rehearsals ranging from walking through a process on paper to actually executing your plan as close to real life as possible.  Your overall plan about whether to bug-in or bug-out should be simple enough for the children in your household to understand.  Ask your children questions about what we would do if the power went out, if water was not available, what to do if a stranger knocks on your front door, or what to do if a severe storm hits your area.  Ideally, you have the time to do the best rehearsals possible and make them as realistic as you can.  Some of the tactical types of rehearsals are limited in use, considering that you are likely in your home and are not sitting in on a tank, monitoring the radio, waiting to roll out on a mission.  But I will mention all types, because in some limited circumstances, they might apply.  The rehearsal types below are in order of preferable to least effective:

Full Rehearsal
- Tactically speaking, you would mount your vehicles and physically maneuver through the operation as if it were actually happening, talking through it on the radio as you go.  In rehearsing a bug-out situation, this would involve grabbing your bug-out bags and any other equipment you would need, jumping in the car, and driving your designated route to your predetermined bug-out location.  There you would secure the area and set up your camp.  It would be beneficial to stay a while and cook a meal and even sleep there for the night, using the bug-out scenario as a kind of camping trip. 

Key Leader Rehearsal
- In a tactical rehearsal for a company-sized operation, the company commander, first sergeant, executive officer, platoon leaders, and platoon sergeants would all get together and rehearse the mission.  The key leaders in turn must have smaller rehearsals with their respective units.  The key leaders also rehearse contingencies.  1st platoon is destroyed, and now 2nd platoon must become the main maneuver force.  This ensures that all key leaders understand the entire concept of the operation rather than just their part of it.  This type of rehearsal is usually done in conjunction with a terrain model rehearsal described below.  In a prep situation, this might be a rehearsal with you and your spouse or with the adults in your prepper group.  If you are fortunate enough to have connected with like-minded adults, it is important that you rehearse the division of labor that would take place if you were all in the same compound.  You do not want to wait until everyone arrives during an emergency to decide who is going to keep the generator functioning or who is responsible for providing medical care.  It is important to rehearse what might happen if you have to operate in a “degraded mode.”  Part of your group might not make it to the bug-out site or worse face internment.  If your medical specialist does not make it, someone else must be able to provide medical care.  In the Army, we accomplished this by having Combat Medics but also having Combat Lifesaver certified soldiers on each vehicle in case we were separated from the medics.  No one should be indispensable, because odds are you will need that person exactly when you cannot have them help you.  Cross-training on tasks is how you avoid having a gap in your skills sets as a group.

Terrain Model/Sandbox Rehearsal
- This type of rehearsal is one of my personal favorites when limited time is a factor.  In a time crunch, you could use your child’s sandbox for this or just use different items for terrain features in a cleared area.  The terrain model does not have to be to scale but it should show all of the key terrain features and be recognizable.  Conversely though, I have seen a group of four soldiers spend half a day preparing an excellent terrain model including grid lines from the map.  The better your model is, the better your rehearsal will go.  The key leaders or all soldiers in a smaller unit would take up their positions on this terrain model and then move like their vehicles would on the field.  You would be surprised how you actually remember better when you have to physically walk through the operation, and you notice where other adjacent units are, so you can orient yourself.  Mostly, this type of rehearsal would be used to show your bug-out route from your home and show how you would set up security in your location once you arrived.  Even rehearsing a bug-in scenario, you could make a model of your home and talk through how to protect it from roving gangs of looters, refugees, or a raid.

Map Rehearsal
- When time is of the essence, and you need to execute a hasty plan very soon after you formulate it, this type of rehearsal works well.  You lay out a map or make a sketch of one and walk through the concept of the plan.  This works as a suitable substitute to a terrain model rehearsal, provided that everyone can read a map.  A forest fire or even routine road construction might cause road closures and the need may arise for you to use your alternate route to your safe haven, and this type of rehearsal helps easily illustrate that contingency.  A bug-out location should have optimally two entry-egress routes.  You do not want to become trapped in your bug-out location or have only one way to travel there.  This type of rehearsal works well for contingency plans.  You might only have time to do a full rehearsal on your main travel route and do a map rehearsal of the alternate route later.

Computer Rehearsal
- It would be difficult to rehearse a bug-out or bug-in scenario with a computer, but computers allow us to rehearse skills that are expensive to rehearse in real life.  The Army utilizes expansive training centers with high-tech simulators, because even though it is expensive to operate simulators, it is much less expensive than running real vehicles through a field exercise.  A single tank platoon with four tanks can totally drain one fuel truck not to mention the cost of vehicle maintenance with turbine engines running around a quarter of a million dollars when brand new.  Call of Duty does not a warrior make, but hunting and tactical games can illustrate the importance of cover and concealment, shooting techniques, and tactical movement without having to pay the price for your mistakes in the real world.  Practicing with high caliber rifle ammunition is practically like shooting dollar bills out of your barrel.  Save the live fires for when your shooters are more proficient on marksmanship basics and will benefit more from the training.  Check out magazines like Armchair General for reviews on lifelike games that could be used for tactical training and developing strategic thinking.

Radio Rehearsal
- This is the worst type of rehearsal and should only be used if you have no time for anything else.  In fact, I have used this type of rehearsal just to say that we had “checked the block” if I ran out of time for a real rehearsal.  This particular rehearsal requires an emcee to walk through a scenario, and then the individuals respond over the radio describing their actions and reporting as if they were engaging the enemy.  It is useful for working out sequences and triggers for events, but there is zero visual component or physical component as with a terrain model rehearsal.  You might use this rehearsal to work out a phone tree or establish redundant contacts within your prepper group, but that is the only practical use it would provide.

Keys to Productive Rehearsals
- With all training, you want to make it as realistic as possible.  Rehearsals are the same way.  Go through all the details in a full rehearsal and pretend like it is the real thing.  If you take the rehearsal seriously, so will other people in your family and prepper group.  If you are going to bug-out, make sure everyone knows what they are grabbing if you have to leave the house in under five minutes.  Make sure everyone has a role to fulfill that fits into your larger plan.  If your son is supposed to grab the mobile stove and does not know where to find it, it is better to find that out now in a rehearsal instead of in real life.   If he is responsible for setting up the stove once you arrive to the bug-out site, make him do it.  Have him set it up in a safe location, start the fire (if he’s old enough), and then cook something on it.  Maybe he uses too few briquettes the first time, so he has to add more the next time around.  Everyone should be very familiar with the equipment they will be using.  An emergency is not the time to figure out how a stove works or if you are missing some part that you need.  Break out some of your survival food for realism, and so that everyone can get used to eating it.  I can tell you from experience, if you are used to eating only fresh foods and then have to immediately switch to a steady diet of Meals-Ready-to-Eat, you are going to have a very rough transition.  There is a reason why half of the Army walks around with Tabasco in their pockets while in the field.
Differing weather conditions can affect your speed and processes as well.  Do a rehearsal during the pleasant spring months, but also do one in the middle of a cold winter.   If you are bugging-out, it might take much longer to get to your site due to seasonal weather conditions.  You might even get stranded on the way there.  Hopefully, your bug-out location is closer than that.  Inevitably, it will be the worst weather conceivable when you have to bug-out.  In the Boy Scouts, we were frequently rained on during our camp outs.  It was very valuable in showing us how you need to bag everything to keep it dry and set up measures to keep mud out of your tents.  Do not cancel your rehearsal due to weather.  An emergency will not give you a rain check. 

Remember that the point of a rehearsal is to make sure that everyone understands the plan and their part of it and to practice your plan.   It also serves to find any weaknesses in the overall plan, which can be remedied before you have to do this in real life.  For those with children, if they have never been camping or are not what you would call outdoorsy, it could be a huge shock in a bug-out situation if they have to both adjust to the crisis situation and have to learn very quickly how to function in the wild.  Do not let them take their iPods, iPads, Smart Phones, and the rest of their gadgets with them in this scenario, since they are unlikely to work anyhow during the real emergency.  At most you might consider a handheld video game if you have a solar charger with extra batteries.  It might improve their morale during a bug-out scenario, but it also might serve as a terrible distraction.  It really depends on the child and whether they are playing a game for entertainment or as a vehicle for escapism.  Escapism is extremely dangerous during a survival scenario.  You want everyone to be focused on the task at hand but also have opportunities for fun interpersonal activities with family and group members such as card games. 

You may never want to touch your equipment or reserves until the real emergency, and even though it costs more money to have extras to rehearse with, it is crucial.  Not only does this allow you to practice with the equipment you will be using, it allows you to find any broken parts that you need to fix or to find substitutes that would work in a pinch.  You might have a suture kit in an aid bag, but you need to have that practice kit too, so that you can become good at it before you need to do it for real on an actual wound.

When a main battle tank is damaged, it is functioning in “degraded mode.”  The main gun might be disabled, the thermal sights blown to pieces, the radio is inoperative, or track thrown and unable to maneuver.  You learn to deal with each of these contingencies alone and together.  Do a mini-rehearsal at home sometime.  Try turning the power off for a few hours.  Turn off the main water supply and try to flush toilets on your tri-level home by lugging buckets of water up the stairs.  Maybe you will decide that everyone must use the one toilet closest to your water stores.  Operating in degraded mode will help you focus on certain aspects and work out the bugs in your plan without having to turn your home into a war zone.  In this way, you could have mini-rehearsals for a few hours without entirely disrupting regular routines.  Though an emergency is likely to do just that, so this method just provides another way to fit in some extra practice. 

As mentioned previously, the plan has to be simple enough that the slowest soldier or youngest child can grasp it.  Backbriefing is incredibly important.  If your children can walk you through the plan, then you know that they understand all of it and not just their small part of it.  Adults and children alike are hesitant to ask questions, because they think it will make them look stupid in front of a group.  I have had soldiers nod their heads at me when briefing them to only give me a blank stare ten minutes later when I asked them to walk me through the plan.   Everyone has to get it no matter how many times you must walk through it.  That gains you peace in knowing that you communicated effectively and were understood, and confidence that the plan does not depend on your personal orchestration of it because others will know what to do. 

It would be appropriate to end this article with a paraphrase from another great general, Helmut von Moltke:  “The plan never survives first contact with the enemy.”  Your plan and the rehearsals of that plan serve as a rallying point.  The plan is meant to focus everyone on the main objective even when everything is falling apart around you.  It is almost guaranteed, that things will not play out exactly as you predict, but when you have to overcome those obstacles you will always end up coming back to the main focus of your overall plan to survive and protect those you care about.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Mr. Rawles,
Recently a reader responded to a recent post titled 'Improving Your Shooting Skills Without Spending a Fortune on Ammo' and inquired whether or not it would be a good idea to shoot without eye and hearing protection in order to get a feel for 'real world' shooting conditions if subjected to such. You wisely responded that doing so is ill-advised.

I would like to make note that in a real world shooting experience a phenomenon known as 'Auditory Exclusion' often occurs. Auditory Exclusion is the lack of awareness of the loud report of firearms one would normally hear at the range when the firearm is being used in a real life situation. Readers can do a web search on the term for more information.
Hunters, police, and military all report this phenomenon. The very sound which leaves ones ears ringing at the practice line is neither heard at the time nor is there the after effect of ringing in the ears once the event is over.
I have personally experienced it numerous times, along with the total lack of awareness of recoil from a .30-'06 rifle when shooting a deer.
The same shot that kicks violently and would leave my ears ringing at the range without ear protection is totally un-felt and unheard.
There is no reason to not wear the appropriate Personal Protective Equipment at the practice line.
Thanks for SurvivalBlog, and may God keep you and yours. Cordially, - J.S.

To solve the SHTF hearing problem there are several products on the market that are small, lightweight, unobtrusive that let normal levels of noise in but block louder gun shop type noise.  My wife (a retired USAF Nurse Colonel with PhD in nursing) and I use Surefire’s Sonic Defender Plus EP4 Hearing Protectors.
As an NRA Pistol Firearms Instructor, I find these work very well BUT I always wear “double” ear protection when at the range.
( I have no financial interest in the SureFire Co other than helping their profits by all the money I have spent on their excellent line of personal and tactical lights)
Keep up the good work. Stay safe. - Hook

Friday, June 29, 2012

I am a retired IPSC, IDPA, Three Gun, Bowling pins, Trap, and Skeet competitive shooter. I have spent countless hours practicing in both dry fire and live fire sessions. I’ve competed at local, regional, and national levels. One of the most effective and the least costly methods I used for practice was dry firing [, also known as dry practice.] 

Dry firing is an excellent way to improve your marksmanship without expending expensive ammo. Don’t get me wrong there is nothing like live fire practice however dry fire drills can make live fire practice much more effective. The other benefit of dry fire is you don’t have to travel to the range to do it. You can do it at home. I used to dry fire in an unused office at work. My boss is open-minded!!

Dry firing in its simplest form is the repetitive activity of simulated firing of your gun by dropping the hammer on an empty chamber. At one time pulling the trigger on an empty chamber may have damaged a firearm. Not true with today firearms. I have dropped the hammer on the empty chamber of revolvers, auto pistols, shotguns, and rifles many thousands of times without problems. My IPSC guns have been dry fired too many times to count and still are 100 percent reliable. If you are worried about damage there are several types of dummy rounds (“Snap Caps”) on the market in many calibers that are designed to absorb the impact of the firing pin when the hammer is dropped. Snap caps also offer a good way to practice loading without handling live ammo.

Why dry fire? In my early days of competing in shooting sports I dry fired a half hour every night for more than a year. Dry fire practice did several things for my shooting ability.

  1. I became very familiar with the handling and feel of the firearms I was using to compete. In stressful situations familiarity helps prevent firearm operator error. Have you ever short stroked and jammed a pump shotgun? Can you clear a jamb under pressure without thinking?
  2. By switching the type of dry fire drills I was doing on a regular basis I built skill and familiarity in a variety of shooting situations. I’ll get into that more later on.
  3. I improved my ability to gain a proper sight picture quickly.
  4. My target to target transition improved greatly.
  5. My shooting confidence increased dramatically.
  6. I Built muscle memory, a key element to accurate and consistent shooting. Muscle memory also helps prevent operator error as mentioned in #1.
  7. My point shooting skills improved greatly. Point shooting is shooting by pointing the firearm in the direction of a target and not using the sights, typically a close quarters method. It takes some practice and muscle memory too point shoot effectively.

How to dry fire: Applies to Rifle, Pistol or shotgun shooting
First and foremost is safety. Is your gun unloaded? Check again! Remove all live ammunition from your dry fire practice room. Do not dry fire in a direction where people may be or where a bullet could go through creating a danger to someone. I always pointed toward the cement walls in my basement. When you are handling your firearm you should concentrate on a few of safety practices. 1. Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot. This is a good practice anytime you handle a firearm. 2. Don’t ever point the gun in an unsafe direction. Yes, I know you made sure it isn’t loaded, without checking again are you so confident that your firearm isn’t loaded that you’d point it at yourself and pull the trigger? (Please don’t) Why chance it!  3. Be aware of where the muzzle of your firearm is pointed at all times. Everyone reacts to stress differently, good gun handling habits help ensure you won’t accidentally shoot someone.  

Dry Fire drills: What you do and for how long is up to you. I usually practiced for about a half hour at a time. This gave me enough time to warm up and get enough repetitions to make the practice drills worth while. Any duration of time is better than none. Keep a record of the types of drills you practice so you can repeat the drills again later. Doing a drill once and never again has no value. The following is a list of basic drills that can be used by anyone and are general gun handling skill builders.

Dry fire drills:

  1. Draw and fire from a holster. Use the holster you plan on carrying. Wear a jacket over the holster and practice how you will move your jacket to gain access to your holstered firearm. If your drawing hand is injured and you can’t use it now what do you do?
  2. Draw and fire off a table, out of a drawer or door of a cabinet.
  3. Start with an empty gun, load and fire ….. Use snap caps! You won’t believe how long this can take if you don’t practice it or are under stress. Use snap caps not live rounds to simulate loading your magazines.
  4. Draw from under a chair or car seat. Mix it up you will never know when or where you may need to access your firearm.
  5. Don’t limit any practice to just pistol, work with your rifle or shotgun.
  6. One handed and both hands. What happens if you have a broken right hand (or left) can you shoot with the other hand? Can you shoot one handed? Always try to use both hands as your main foundation for grip on the firearm and practice one handed and weak handed alternatives.
  7. Reloading – Tactical and dropped magazine. A tactical reload is when the expended magazine from your firearm is retained in your control during a reload. In IPSC we always dropped expended magazines on the ground. IPSC is a game and not the best practice for real life self defense. Practice retaining the expended magazine as part of your reloads. The one round left in a retained magazine could save your life later not to mention you don’t want to leave a magazine behind if you don’t have to. Also practice accessing magazines from where you store them on your body. Magazine pouches? Pockets? I put a snap cap in each magazine for practicing reloads. This helps protect the feed lips of the magazine and in single stack pistols is helps guide the magazine into the magazine well just as live ammo would.
  8. Practice clearing jambs. You can use a snap cap to simulate a jammed firearm or treat the gun as if jammed and clear it by working the action of the gun as you would expect to in the case of a real jamb.
  9. Use small targets as aiming points. In the Mel Gibson's movie The Patriot the protagonist tells his sons to “Aim small, shoot small” when engaging a British patrol. What he meant was to pick a point of your target and aim at it, don’t aim at the whole target. The discipline of picking a point of aim a.k.a. “calling your shot” builds accuracy. If you practice this enough you will be able to aim at a target, shoot and without looking know where your bullets hit. It works!
  10. When using iron sights concentrate on seeing the front sight every time you pull the trigger. The biggest mistake many shooters make (besides jerking the trigger – more later) is pulling the trigger before they have a proper sight picture. If you see the front site when the gun goes off and have even close to proper sight alignment you will likely hit the target you are aiming at. I was working with one shooter who keep missing the target (in this case a deer) so after one of many missed shots I asked him what he saw just as he pulled the trigger, His response was blue sky! I told him then and kept reminding him all day to not pull the trigger unless he sees brown. He got the next deer he shot at. When asked he said he saw brown. If you don’t see the front site you will likely miss.

A note about Electronic Red Dot Sights: Red dots sights are a wonderful invention and can make shooting much easier. I strongly recommend learning to shoot properly and effectively with iron sites and not rely on red dots as your only sighting platform. Learning iron sights first will make you a better shooter and won’t leave you high and dry and guessing if your battery dies.   

  1. Trigger control. Of all shooting mechanics this is the hardest to learn and the most likely to make you miss what you are shooting at. Proper trigger pull is a combination of what part of your finger contacts the trigger and how you pull the trigger. I find that the centering the pad between the tip of my trigger finger and the first knuckle makes for the best finger position on the trigger. You want to be able to pull the trigger straight back toward the grip of the gun. Inserting your finger to far in the trigger guard causes the gun to move slightly because you are not pulling straight back on the trigger. A 1/16” shift in the gun can mean six inches or more on the target. When you pull the trigger you need to pull evenly from start to finish. The trigger should break unexpectedly, this is not the same as accidentally, squeeze, don’t jerk or yank the trigger. In other words pull slow and easy until the gun goes off. This takes some getting used to and will speed up with practice. If you practice this it is will become second nature and your shooting accuracy will improve greatly. One way to tell if your trigger pull is being done properly is to balance a coin on the barrel of the firearm you are using to dry fire and pull the trigger. The coin should stay put….yes even on a round barrel. You can practice this way if you like. If your gun is properly sited and your shots are consistently left, right, low or high of the point of aim there’s a good chance it is due to how you are pulling the trigger. If you are having this problem try different finger positions and or use the coin on the barrel to see if you are jerking the trigger. Stop and figure it out or you will install a bad habit and it will be hard to correct.
  2. Point shooting. One way to practice this is to look at the target, close your eyes then bring up your firearm and point it (eyes still closed) at the target. Open your eyes and look where your firearm is pointed. Is it on target? Developed muscle memory will put your point on target with out using the sights. Point shooting can be fast reaction shooting albeit not the most accurate.
  3. Shoot on the move. One thing that 10 years of IPSC taught me was how to shoot and walk (and sometime run) at the same time. Yes it can be done accurately however it takes a lot of practice. To do this you need to think of your upper body (roughly the waste or belt line and above) and below the waste as being on a swivel and independent of each other. Practice holding your sights on target while walking. Your lower body needs to work independent of your upper body to absorb the shock of foot falls and motion while keeping your upper body steady so as not to bounce your sights. It takes some practice and is easier than it sounds.

Bad practice makes for bad habits!
When you perform dry fire drills your focus should be on accuracy and consistency of movement for a given drill. In other words do the drill the say way every time. Do practice more than one type of drill on a regular basis. Doing the same drill every day, day after day will limit you and make other activities with a firearm feel awkward. Try to get comfortable doing many types of drills. Practice your drills in a way that best represents what conditions may occur in your situation. Having the ability to draw from a holster and hit a target in ¾ of a second probably doesn’t have a real life practical application unless of course you are planning a gun fight at the OK Corral. Pulling a gun from a drawer quickly and safely does.
Live Fire Practice:
Because ammo is very expensive I recommend having a plan worked out prior to going to the range to practice. More than any other type of practice it is easiest to practice bad habits while doing live fire drills. I pick two or three areas where I need practice and work on these exclusively. I also recommend setting a limit to how much ammo you will use during a given practice. I usually limited serious practice to 200 rounds. This may seem like a lot to some and not enough to others. I found that by the time I reached 200 rounds I was starting to tire out. Be aware of how your body is reacting. Fatigue may not be the same as feeling tired and might show up as diminished ability to accurately hit the target. When competing I was well conditioned for shooting and fired thousands of rounds annually and still would tire after a couple hundred rounds. Your fatigue point may be a lot fewer rounds or a lot more. Be aware of what your body is telling you. I guarantee that if you are tired you are wasting ammo and possibly practicing bad habits. Frequent trips to the range are better than long stays. Also take breaks between shooting drills, it will help you stay focused and get the most out of your ammo. Quality not quantity!  

A few things to try at the live fire range:
1. Shoot in low light conditions – do your sights work? What does the muzzle flash do to your vision? Low or no light adds a whole new dimension to shooting.
2. Try shooting with you rifle turned on its side. My AR hits 12” high and 12” right at 100 yards when I do this. When shot normally it is dead on.
3. Aim small, shoot small - Thanks, Mel!
4. Shoot your rifle or shotgun left handed (my left hand is my weak hand, I’m right handed) or right if you are a lefty. This is very awkward for most people.
5, Shoot pistol with your weak hand
6. Shoot pistols at longer ranges, 25 – 50 yards, doing so forces the need for good sight picture and trigger control if you want to hit anything. Aim small, shoot small.
7. Don’t just shoot .22 rimfire because it’s less expensive. If you don’t at least know what to expect from your centerfire rifle, pistol, and shotgun you are in for a surprise just when you don’t need it. Shoot at least a little of each when you live fire practice.

One final point on live fire practice; never practice without eye and ear protection. Using protection may not be real world if you have to defend yourself however not using it to practice has two dangers. 1. You could lose your eye sight and or damage your hearing. I know many IPSC shooters who have bullet fragments imbedded in various parts of their bodies from fragment bounce back. It can happen any time in any shooting situation. I’ve personally had cuts on my hands, face, and legs from fragment bounce back. I know of one guy who got hit square in the chest by a 12 gauge slug that bounced back off a steel target, fortunately it had lost most of its energy although it did bring him to his knees. Okay, enough war stories. Eyes and ear drums don’t grow back. Use protection! Finally, you can acquire a bad flinch, a bad habit built in when you shoot without ear protection. The flinch comes when you anticipate and react to the really loud and painful noise that you know will happen as soon as you pull the trigger. I was helping a shooter who was complaining that he couldn’t hit a thing with his 7mm Magnum deer rifle. I set him up at the range and told him to take a shot down range. He got set up and was getting ready to take aim when I stopped him. He wasn’t wearing any protection. I asked if he always practiced that way to which he responded yes. I had him put on glasses and ear muffs, his flinch went away immediately and he was back on target, not to mention happy that the problem wasn’t his rifle.


Gun reliability and maintenance:
A few years back I was shooting on the pistol range of a local gun club. I couldn’t help but notice the guy next to me take a shot with his Glock then bang the back of the slide on the loading bench then take another shot. Curiosity got the best of me so I asked him what he was doing. He explained that his gun kept jamming and wouldn’t go into battery (slide fully closed). On closer inspection the gun was so filthy and dry (no oil) that I was surprised it worked at all. Nice firearm, poor maintenance. Would you bet your life on a gun in that condition? A tight M1911 that dirty probably would have stopped running. A good cleaning and some much needed oil and that guy would have had a fully functioning gun that I bet would have run flawlessly. If competitive shooting teaches you one thing it’s the limitations of your firearms. I’ve spent many hours scrubbing guns before a match. Keep it clean and oiled.

Gun oil:  Don’t use WD-40 to lube your firearms. WD-40 evaporates and leaves little to no lubricating film, at least not enough to keep a firearm running under extreme conditions. Have you ever shot your firearms in 10 below zero temperatures, extreme heat or dusty conditions? I use FP-10 gun oil for all of my firearms. I’ve used this oil in below zero weather and dusty ranges and as long as I didn’t let it dry out it never failed me. Some oils will thicken in cold weather which can cause malfunctions.

Detachable box magazines:
I’m betting there is more than one prepper out there who has a pile of shiny, new magazines still in the original wrapper put away for a rainy day. (Note: Some people call magazines clips). I highly recommend taking every new magazine to the range at least once and loading it full and shooting until empty. I recently returned three new hi-capacity Glock 23 magazines to the seller because none of them would work in my gun. I also have two new 20 round AR magazines that won’t work in my rifle. One of these days I’ll try giving them a tune up. Shiny and new doesn’t guarantee function. Don’t forget to clean your magazines. Grit and moisture inside a magazine can cause malfunction and failure. Most magazines have a removable base plate that slides out releasing the spring retainer plate, spring, and follower. Use a soft brush or cloth to clean the inside of the magazine body being careful not to bend the magazine body or feed lips in the process. Wipe any grease, dirt or grim off the spring and follower. Do not oil any part of your magazines. Oil will attract dirt and dust and is not needed for function.

Gun embellishments and other fancy stuff:
When I first started shooting IPSC the game was basically an equipment race. From fancy fast draw holsters to custom tuned extended high capacity magazines and everything in between. This stuff is fine for fun and games but I personally stay away from it on my SHTF firearms. The more stuff you have hanging on your gun the more there is to go wrong or impede the function of the gun or shooter. Not to mention a good prosecuting attorney can turn a fancied up gun into a murder with premeditation weapon even if it was used in self defense. Keep it simple!

Recoil compensators:
Several of my competition guns have recoil compensators. A recoil compensator is a machined part that is attached to the end of a rifle or pistol barrel and has grooves cut to redirect the exhaust gasses from the burnt powder upwards helping counter act muzzle rise during recoil. Compensators do make shooting easier however they do have some negatives. 1. They are extremely loud and often redirect the noise back towards the shooter. 2. In the right conditions such as shooting with your gun barrel along a wall or through a port hole can force the gasses back in your face. Even with safety glasses it burns your eyes.

Sighting systems:
Everyone has their own preferences when it comes to sights for their firearms. IPSC is hard on equipment and quickly separates what will hold up and what won’t. Sights are often a matter of opinion and personal preference. For that reason I will not attempt to tell you good from bad however I will tell you what I prefer. My personal SHTF firearms are set up as follows:

AR -15 – Flat top with EoTech (red dot) with quick detachable mount and alternative rear flip up peep sight with standard AR fixed front sight. My sights don’t co-witness although I wish they did. (Co-witness means you can use the iron sights while looking through the EoTech. This would save having to remove the EoTech if it stops working.

M1911 Pistol –  the rear sight is a BoMar adjustable rear site and the front a dovetailed blade with fiber optic. Some might say the adjustable BoMar is too fragile however it hasn’t failed me after many thousands of rounds.  IPSC is an action sport where firearms can be exposed to bangs, dings and dents. Make sure your dovetailed sights are staked so they can’t work loose. Note: my front sight still works even if the fiber optic breaks and falls out.

A note on fiber optic sights: I’ve broken many fiber optics rods that were mounted on my sights. If I didn’t bang the sight it broke from repetitive use. Best to have plenty extra fiber rod on hand or use a site that doesn’t have the fiber optic feature.

Shotgun (semi-auto and pump) – My semi-auto is a Winchester SuperX2 Tactical that has a Picatinny rear sight rail (V-notch rail) with an optional flip up buckhorn sight for more pinpoint work and a fiber optic front bead. The sights still work even if the fiber optic is knocked out. My pump (a Remington Model 870) has a factory stock, a white-painted front bead and a vented rib with a groove in the rear receiver. If it is not broken, don’t fix it.

I would have Tritium sights on all my SHTF firearms if I could afford it.

Laser and red dot sights – Personally these are not for me. I once shot a night match with my EoTech (Lighted Red dot sight) against a laser sited AR. I smoked the laser sighted rifle because I could acquire the target and fire so much faster. The laser shooter spent too much time looking for and positioning the dot on the target. Practice serves me better than a laser sight. My 2 cents.

A few shooting facts I learned in competitive shooting
1. No less than three tenths of a second is typically how long it takes for the average person to start to react to a situation.  
2. Muscle memory starts to set in after about 1,000 repetitions.
3, If you pull the trigger on a live round and your gun makes a funny poof sound, then stop! You may have a squib load. A squib is a light or no powder load that doesn’t have enough power to push the bullet out of the barrel. Shooting another round without clearing a squibbed bullet will blow up your gun and hurt you. I’ve had squibs and was lucky to never have blown up a gun.
4. Limp-wrist shooting can cause your semi auto pistol to jamb. Limp-wrist shooting is when you don’t lock (hold rigid) your wrist allowing the pistol muzzle to flip up in excess under recoil. The excess muzzle flip counteracts slide momentum which in turn limits the distance the slide needs to travel to properly eject the spent shell casing. When this happens the case hangs up and gets caught in the gun instead of ejecting clear. Not real common but it does happen.

Happy and safe practicing, hope you don’t need it!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I am looking to purchase a really good spot light. Do you have any suggestions? I have had far too many pieces of junk that were supposed to be great. I figure that you are the man to ask. Thanks, W.P.

JWR Replies: While they have some utility in controlling predator wildlife (depending on your state's fish and game laws, of course), I DO NOT recommend visible spotlights for any retreat defense situations.  Spotlights pinpoint your dwelling and can make you a target.  There could be some utility in infrared spotlights set up a distance for your position (NOT hand-held!) , but if your opponent has any sort of night vision gear, then again you are making yourself a target.

With those provisos out of the way, this is one of the better ones.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

There are literally thousands of resources out there for the prepper and would-be survivalist giving advice on the best Bug-Out Bag (BOB), Bug-Out Vehicle (BOV), or necessities to pack into your Bug-out Bag (BOG) or the well stocked first aid kit.  All of this advice is great, however, one thing most of these references have in common is that they all tell the individual prepper he or she needs to assess his or her needs and current situation in order to determine their individual needs.  One thing I have noticed is the dearth of advice on HOW to plan for survival.  I propose using a tried and true tool that can easily be learned and is actually quite intuitive.
The US Military (as well as NATO partners and others) use what is known at the Military Decision Making Process, or MDMP, to plan every level of mission from a squad attack to the invasion of a foreign country.  The tool incorporates gathering all available information, developing Courses of Action (COAs), analyzing them, comparing the results, and deciding on a plan.  The level detail of the planning is dependent only on the amount of information available and the time one has to plan.  As a 25 year military veteran, I have discovered that I subconsciously use MDMP in virtually every decision I make, often without even realizing it, and you probably do as well.
MDMP is a seven step process consisting of:  Receipt of Mission, Mission Analysis, COA Development, COA Analysis, COA Comparison, COA Approval, and Orders Production.  After the plan is developed and briefed, rehearsals are conducted and then are always followed by an After Action Review or AAR.  Each of these steps is comprised of substeps.  I will take you through each of the steps and some of the more relevant substeps and give examples of how they apply to prepping.

  •  Receipt of Mission:  In the military, orders are passed from higher to lower and a subordinate staff will usually start planning off of their higher headquarters guidance and specified tasks.  Oftentimes, however, a commander owning battlespace will develop a plan on his own, based on broad overarching guidance from their higher.  This step, while simple, is critical.  The substeps include conducting an Initial Assessment, Updating Staff Estimates, and Preparing for Mission Analysis.  The outputs are generally Guidance from the Commander and a first Warning Order to subordinate units.

For the Prepper:  Obviously, you do not have a higher headquarters issuing you specified tasks, but you are a battlespace owner (your land, your house, your apartment) and you have been given guidance from such places as FEMA and other Federal Agencies, sites like, survival books and numerous other resources.  You have recognized the threat to yourselves and your families and are determined to develop a plan.  Step 1 for the Prepper includes gathering, and understanding, all of these guides, determining your basic requirement (shelter for you and your family of ‘X’, local threats (proximity to nuclear power plants or other high value/high risk targets, etc), pets, and so on.  Make a list.  Preparing for mission analysis is nothing more than gathering all your references together as well as planning tools you might need (note paper, dry erase boards, maps, manuals, lists, etc).

  •  Mission Analysis:  This step, in my humble opinion, is by far the most important step requiring the most detailed analysis and time.  Inputs to this step include the mission from higher, original estimates from the staff (of in the case of the individual prepper, yourself), and all facts and assumptions.  The substeps of Mission Analysis consist of Analysis of the Higher HQ Mission/Intent (See Step 1), Identify Specified and Implied Tasks, Review Task Organization and Assets, Determine Restrictions or Constraints, Assess Risk, and Identify Critical Facts and Assumptions.  Outputs from this step include:  Initial Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield (IPB), Restated Mission (5Ws), Commander’s Intent/Guidance, Warning Order 2, Staff Products, Battlefield Framework, and conduct Preliminary Movement.

For the Prepper:  After your have gathered all your products mentioned in step 1, make a list of all the things you NEED to do (specified tasks), and think you SHOULD do (implied tasks).  For example, you determine that you NEED to defend your family against marauders.  Implied tasks include acquiring weapons and ammunition and practice your marksmanship.  Write all these down on separate lists.  Your review of your task organization is straight forward; e.g.  I have a family of five (wife and three sons), and a dog.  Assets gets more detailed: e.g. an SUV that seats 7, is diesel powered and four wheel drive, and has a range of about 200 miles when fully loaded and full tank; a semi-automatic rifle, a deer rifle, a 12 gauge shotgun, a 9mm pistol, and a .38; a house on a ¼ acre lot in a sub-development with basement and a hunting cabin on a 200 acre lot in the mountains 45 miles from home.  Make this list detailed including all equipment and assets you have.  You will quickly realize where you are short once you have it all listed on paper.  Next are your restrictions and constraints.  Restrictions are imposed upon you such as laws and regulations, constraints are things beyond your control (such as my sons are too young to drive).  Next, assess risks to you and yours.  For example, there is a nuclear reactor 10 miles straight line distance from our house.  Finally, identify critical facts and assumptions.  These are hugely important and need more that a little brain power.  Examples of facts may be that my Bug Out Location is 45 miles away that can easily be reached by my SUV in any weather, however our sedan would not make the drive in deep snow.  The primary (and quickest) route takes us through a major metropolitan area of over 2 million people, the alternate route makes the drive more than an hour longer and through very rural areas.  Assumptions are critical to identify, but keep in mind that they must be valid and necessary based upon your analysis of the situation.  It might be fun to assume the zombie apocalypse, but probably not a valid or necessary assumption.  A more valid assumption may be that I will have enough warning to load our vehicles and reach our BOL before the SHTF, or that I won’t.  If I assume that I won’t, then that whole plan is not valid.

  •  Course of Action Development:  Develop at least two Courses of Action (COAs), three is better, but more than three is probably too many.  In this step the staff Analyzes Relative Combat Power (friendly  assets vs. the enemy’s  assets), Generate Options,  Array Initial Forces (where friendly forces are arrayed as well as the best information on the enemy are arrayed), Develop the Scheme of Maneuver, Assign Headquarters, and prepare COA statements and sketches.  The COA sketch is a one page (usually PowerPoint) diagram that shows a map of the plan with all the critical tasks listed along one side.   COAs need to pass the suitability, feasibility, acceptability, distinguishability, and completeness tests.  This means that the plans each need to be realistic given the assets, restraints, constraints, and assumptions listed in the previous step.  The two to three COAs need to be distinct from each other, not just minor variations of the same plan.  And they need to be complete.  Of course, they have to also be acceptable…. nuke ‘em all, is not an option.

For the Prepper:  Your COA development is very similar with just some minor tweaks from the military model.  Your relative combat power is listed in your assets (weapons, vehicles. etc) and your adversaries come from your assumptions (in a possible scenario one could anticipate groups of up to a half dozen armed marauders, well armed but poorly trained). Now is when you generate your options:  do I Bug In or Bug Out, for example?  You array your initial forces on a map:  we are here, they are there.  Developing your scheme of maneuver entails adding detail to your COAs.  If Bugging In, then you are in essence planning a defense.  What is your perimeter?  Where are your defenses, chokepoints, and vulnerabilities?  Where is your strongpoint?  If Bugging Out, what are your routes?  Where are you most vulnerable?  How are you moving (together or linking up at a rally point, for example)?  If your COA involves others, you would break individual or group tasks down at this point.  Who brings what to the party?  Who is responsible for food, fuel, ammo, shelter, and so on?  Finally, as much of this information as possible is arrayed on your sketches of your COAs so that the picture speaks for itself.

  •  Course of Action Analysis.  This step is known as wargaming.  The staff have gathered all the information available, determined assets available and the assets the enemy has, identified facts and assumptions, and developed a couple of plans.  Now the plan is put to the test in a table top exercise.  There are rules to wargaming.  At all times, remain unbiased towards a COA.  If someone want a COA to “win” it will.  Approach wargaming as an honest assessment of the plans to determine their strengths and weakness.  Next, list the advantages and disadvantages of each.  This is done as the wargaming progresses and is tracked on a board.  Continually assess the COA feasibility, acceptability, and suitability.  If, while wargaming, it is determined a COA just won’t work, then we stop wargaming it.  No sense of wasting time on a plan that is impossible to accomplish.  Next, avoid drawing premature conclusions and gathering facts to support such conclusions.  This is a scientific process and picking and choosing information to support one COA over the other is not an option.  Finally, compare the COAs in the next step, not during wargaming.  When wargaming, focus on one COA at a time, from start to finish, without discussing how this COA has an advantage over the other.  Wargaming takes preparation.  All the tools used for wargaming are gathered in advance (maps, toy vehicles, toy Soldiers, methods to record actions and reactions, etc).  List all the friendly forces.  List all your assumptions so you can refer back to them for validity and necessity.  List known critical events and decision point.  Determine evaluation criteria, which means on what basis are we going to evaluate the COAs (survivability, cost, risk, etc)?  Select the wargaming method, which can vary on the COA.  Typically, a defense is wargamed in a box, whereas a movement is often done using the Avenue-in-depth technique.  Next,  the method to record and display results is selected, which is typically a dry erase board or large sheet of paper with each of the critical events listed across the top and friendly and enemy forces listed down the sides.  Finally war game the COA from start to finish.  Go friendly action, enemy reaction, friendly counteraction for each event (or enemy action, friendly action, enemy counter action if the enemy strikes first).  One member is dedicated to the enemy side, who fights to win for the enemy (could even represent the natural disaster).  And remember to record everything.

For the prepper:  This is pretty straightforward.  Take your Bug In COA and play it out from the time you determine the need to Bug In until you think it is safe to come out.  What are the threats; be they natural, manmade, or mutant, and how can they defeat you?  Discuss how you will defeat each threat based on your assets and forces that you have on hand.  When you determine a shortfall, write it down.  Do not say you will do something you have no capability of, such as “well, I will have landmines around the perimeter.”  Really?  Where are you going to get landmines?  When are you going to put them in, camouflage them, control their detonation, and recover them?  Be realistic.  After you have wargamed that COA, wargame the other from start to finish.  If your second COA is to Bug Out, play through getting from somewhere else (such as your place of work) to your house in order to load vehicles.  How long will out load take and who does what?  War game both your primary and alternate routes.  And don’t forget to war game what happens when you get to your Bug Out Location.  You are essentially Bugging In there, so war game that as well.  That might have a completely different set of threats and conditions.  When you are done wargaming, you should have a list of the strengths and weaknesses of both of your plans.  You have identified where there are risks.  Now the assumptions that you made earlier are either emphasized or discarded.  Additionally, you may have developed branches and sequels to your plans that you hadn’t thought of before (If X happens, I will do A, if Y happens, I will do B).  All of these should be written down as well.

Step 5:  Course of Action Comparison.  Now is the time that the various COAs are compared to determine which is the best and therefore which plan to go with.  The actual comparison of the COAs is critical.  We use any technique that facilitates reaching the best decision.  Start by evaluating each COA from different perspectives, using the evaluation criteria that was already established.  Now, compare the COAs to determine the one with the highest likelihood of success against the most likely enemy threat and the most dangerous enemy threat.  This is done through a simple matrix with COAs listed across the top and the evaluation criteria listed down the side.  The criteria can be weighted in order to give more strength to those criteria which is most important.  Then each COA is scored, usually 1, 2, or 3.  If certain criterion is given a weight of 3, then the results would be 3, 6 and 9 respectively, with lowest score being best.  After each COA is graded and weighted, they are totaled and the one with the lowest score wins.  You now have your COA.
For the prepper:  The process is the same.  The only real difference would be the criteria you evaluate the COAs against.  For example, the military might use such things as Fires, Intelligence, Air Defense, and Combat Service

Support.  The prepper would use criteria such as Survivability, Risk, Simplicity, Cost, etc.
Step 6:  Course of Action Approval.  Within the military, this is a formalized brief to the commander by the staff with detailing the results of the wargaming process and their recommended COA.  At the end of the briefing, the command decides on a COA and then issues final planning guidance.  Since you are the commander, it is ultimately your decision; therefore there is not much to cover in this step.

Step 7:  Orders Production.  Now that the COA has been approved, the staff gets to work finalizing the plan that will result in an order to subordinate units.  All the information gathered during wargaming is gathered, including branches and sequels to the plan, and incorporated into the plan as  either tasks to subordinate units  or coordinating instructions that apply to multiple units.  The plan also identifies risks and implements control measures to reduce those risks.  The commander reviews the final plan which is then issued via a variety of means.

For the prepper:  Now that you have your plan, and have seen where you are vulnerable, you can write everything down into one cohesive document.  This can include maps and directions, a list of division of responsibilities within the family or your group, load plans for vehicles and packing lists.  This is a good time to also list those items you identified you need to support your plan, but don’t currently have on hand.  This is your new shopping list.  This way you are purchasing what you will NEED to support your plan, not what you THINK you need and can help reduce waste.

Finally, after the plan is issued to everyone, and everyone understands the plan, comes the time to rehearse, rehearse, and rehearse again.  Time is the main limiting factor here. If you have a solid plan for TEOTWAWKI you can rehearse it with everyone involved in your plan at any time.  Try to do it under a variety of conditions such as night time, high traffic times, middle of winter, in the rain, etc.  After each rehearsal, conduct an After Actions Review to discuss what the plan was, what went right and what went wrong.  Only then can you identify faults in your plan that you didn’t realize while planning  in the comfort of your living room and further develop other contingencies to counter those problems.

The Military Decision Making Process was designed to handle any kind of operation, take all factors into consideration, and come up with the best plan in order to accomplish the mission.  Prepping for when TSHTF is no different and is the method I use to ensure the survival of my family.

FM 5-0, Army Planning and Orders Production, 20 January, 2005, Defense Printing Office

Friday, June 15, 2012

First, a little about me. I am a Sailor and Submariner. I have spent 20+ years of my life riding submarines in various roles from deck waxer/hull painter to Communications Division and Operations Department enlisted leader. I have taught Communications, Electronic Signals Intercept (ES), OPSEC/Security, leadership and a myriad of other courses.

I really started reading SurvivalBlog and other sites after experiencing a deep dissatisfaction with the course our country is heading. I have experienced first-hand the gross inefficiency of the government and the lack of will/strength/backbone to stand up and change things. “Staying the Course” seems to be the direction our bloated bureaucracy is going.
Being a Submariner I have had the privilege of serving in a tight knit community that prides itself on OPSEC and the ability to adapt, improvise and overcome. There is a wee bit of craziness in all of us to willingly lock ourselves in a steel tube with no windows and a nuclear reactor.

OPSEC – Submarines are known as the Silent Service for a reason. We do things and go places nobody else can. We remain hidden and lay in wait. We stalk, we observe and we gather data. As such, we generally do not talk about what we do/have done in other than the vaguest details, if we talk at all.

  • The first part of OPSEC from the Submarining point of view is identifying what information is critical. Think along the lines of things like capabilities. If the enemy knows the capabilities of your platform, how you fight and what you fight with they can develop effective countermeasures and at best limit what you can do. At worst, the enemy can destroy you. In order to keep the enemies guessing in any survival situation it is vital to limit the information you put out there.
    • As a submariner we do not say where we operate. As a survivor don’t put your retreat information out there.
    •  As a Submariner we do not discuss the capabilities of our boats except in the most general terms. As a survivor do not tell people what you have in your retreat location to defend yourself or survive. A simple statement of “I am prepared” should suffice.
  • The second part of OPSEC is thinking about how the enemy can collect information about you. As a submariner, there are multiple avenues for this.
    • Physical government agents looking for the person who can’t shut up(Chinese and Russians do it all the time).  As a Submariner, talking about underway times, return to port times and other stuff is strictly forbidden. Even to spouses. As a survivor, discussing stuff such as your times you go out patrolling, hunting or even how long you station your watches at your compound/retreat can lead to problems.
    • Electronic intelligence gathering. The Chinese have become excellent at mining Facebook and other social media sites for information. “If you do not transmit, it can’t be heard” is an axiom we all should live by.  Posting even the smallest bit of information on the web can seem inconsequential, until that picture of you and the spouse on your hidden retreat is tied together with a previous comment you made about a certain river nearby, and another comment about elevation, so forth and so on. A relatively smart person can start tying things together from data mining and put together a very clear picture of you and where you are along with your capabilities.
    • Passive observation. The enemy is out there doing their thing. As a Submariner, we strive to run quietly and operate smartly. A misstep in operating smartly can lead the enemy to unexpected discovery. Just because someone isn’t actively looking for you doesn’t mean they can’t accidentally spot you when you do something stupid. In a survival situation there could/will be groups of people wandering around. They are not necessarily looking for you.  Give yourself away by making unnecessary noise or ignoring light discipline can give them a reason to come your way. This doesn’t mean lie around all day and do nothing. In order to survive, we need to do activities that cause noise. There isn’t any way around it. Being aware, checking your “six”, alert watchstanding and regularly patrolling your area can mitigate the risk.
  • The third part of OPSEC is continuously analyzing your vulnerabilities. It is not enough to do one noise monitor on the submarine and call it good. Constantly monitoring the surrounding environment and own ship helps us understand some of our vulnerabilities. Understanding the equipment onboard and what activities create noise is another portion.
    •  Take a hard, critical look at your capabilities and short comings.  As a Submarine Comms guy I continuously evaluate the environment (nearby ships, distance from land, Bobs Discount Chinese satellite overhead, etc).  I fully understand the various RF paths and antennas I can transmit and receive on. I always understand the mission and what micro part of the mission I am on and I understand the vulnerabilities of each antenna I may have to raise above the waterline. As a survivor, you should understand the lay of your land. Can someone sneak up on your base of ops without you knowing? What is the external threat situation? Has the SHTF fully? Are there roving groups of people out there? What happens if I do “X” activity? Is there a better time of day I can do “X” activity? Ask yourself these questions. Test your defenses and any watchstander you may have stationed.  It is better to discover your own vulnerabilities than have the enemy discover them for you.
  • Tying all the above in, Assess your risk. Before you do something ask yourself how this could harm you or your family. Ask yourself how this information you might be giving out could come back to haunt you. Manage the risk by developing countermeasures. The most effective countermeasure is not to post or talk about something. There is an old saying in the Submarine Force that holds true. The probability of a secret getting out is squared by the number of people who know it.

Drill (Practice) – Drill, drill repeatedly, drill realistically. As a Submariner I have endured countless drills. A long time ago I did not understand why we drilled endlessly because no one above me ever bothered to explain it to me and I was young and dumb. It was just what we did. I hated it. It was repetitive. It was mind numbing and it deprived me of the small amount of time I could get sleep. It wasn’t until I had to react in a SHTF situation (for a Submarine) that it really dawned upon me why. Responses were almost muscle memory. I did what I had to do quickly and efficiently because it was drilled endlessly.
We also drilled endlessly because there was no fire department to call. No “911” operators. We were a submarine, operating in the middle of the ocean. We were our own fire department. Our own casualty response team. If we couldn’t stop the casualty and recover, we were as good as dead. The same situation applies in a SHTF scenario. You and your own community are all that you can depend on.

  • Planning what drill to run - Think about the different things that could happen. Brainstorm with your family or community group. Draw upon experience. Make a detailed list and then order them in the probability they may happen. For instance, maybe your house or compound catching on fire through human error, mechanical failure or a natural disaster has the highest probability of happening (as determined by you). There are 12 other items on your list with the probability of occurrence dropping to near zero at the bottom (let’s call the last one Zombie Apocalypse).  Figure out which of those events could cause the most damage to the compound/community/group. That is what you would want to drill on the most. On the subs, fire and flooding are two of the biggest risks and also happen to be two items with the highest probability of causing severe damage to (or sinking) the boat. Dedicate precious drill time to the highest probability events.
  • Assigning responsibilities (consider this a watch/quarter/station bill) – Generations of Sailors in the Navy have learned this the hard way; if someone is not specifically assigned to do something during a casualty (fire/flooding/etc) by name or by watchstation then there is a probability it will not get done. Example of a watch/Quarter/Station Bill. Assign people to do things.
  • Planning the drill – Say for instance you have determined fire is the biggest risk to your group. Plan a fire drill. Come up with a realistic scenario in which a fire may break out in your retreat. Start out small and simple. A small pretend fire in a trashcan is easy to do. Eventually you want to work up to the big fire drill such as multiple levels in a building. In all cases (and I cannot emphasize this enough) never light an actual fire in a building to practice.
  • Realism – The more realistic the scenario, the more your people/family will take away from the drill. On a submarine during a fire drill the fire teams don Fire Fighting Ensembles, Scott Air Packs, grab a thermal imager and flake out (and pressurize) fire hoses. They get those fire hoses on scene and try to attack from multiple directions. Often the team has their vision impaired as it would be during an actual fire. Probably you would not have these items available to you. How could you make it realistic? In a survival scenario where the fire department won’t be coming to help, your objective should be to get firefighting agent to the scene as quickly as possible. In most cases this would be maybe a few fire extinguishers and water. A simple flashing red led light in a trash can or wherever you want to simulate the fire can often suffice to get people to bring the extinguishing agent to the right location. If you have a way to create non-toxic smoke safely then I suggest doing so. The Halloween foggers work quite well.  Another way to simulate smoke (and something that is reusable over and over) is a light blue hairnet. One of these placed over the face or (if you are lucky enough to have breathing equipment) a mask can effectively simulate a smoky environment. Make it as realistic (safely) as you can. The time to find out you, your family or your group doesn’t know what it is doing is when the SHTF.
  • The drill process – You want to get the most out of the drill and identify any issue so you can fix them. Have a process. Pre-brief the drill with your drill team (it may only be you and one other). Run the drill and observe/write-down actions and issues. Make sure you get response times written down. After the drill gather the observers together and collate comments. Finally talk to the group. Go over what happened, what went right and what went wrong. Your group cannot get better if they do not know what they did wrong and how to fix it.

Community – Being a Submariner, I am proud part of a select (and demented) community. The key word is community. We rely on each other to help solve problems. A submarine underway is a survival community all on its own. As mentioned above, we are the fire department. We are also the maintainers of our resources. When we leave the pier we leave it with what we have onboard. If you forget something, well, it is too bad. Make do without it. As a community (crew) we make sure we have everything onboard to get underway and do our time at sea effectively. Food and stores must be loaded. Critical parts stowed. We rely on each other as any good community should. Some of the things we do that can be applied to a community survival situation:

  • Qualifying and cross-qualifying – On a submarine each person must “qualify” the boat. What this means is an individual has to have a decent understanding of every system onboard the submarine. Take a Los Angeles Class Fast Attack submarine that is three levels of systems in a 360 foot long tube.  You have three major hydraulic systems, high pressure air, ventilation, weapons, etc, etc. It is a lot of stuff. The person must also qualify to stand a security watch in port and an underway watchstation. Finally the individual must also thoroughly understand damage control and how to respond during different casualties (such as fire, flooding, steam line rupture, etc). 

As a community it is important for everyone to know as much as they can about the general working of the community. How does the community respond to an attack? A fire? What are the systems that are in place within the community (such as water, sanitation, power) and basically how do they work. You want the people within the community to have understanding of the workings in order to respond to situations.
Within a community you will always have specialists. People may be firearms experts. Some can drop a fishing line in the water and will a fish onto their hook. Others can grow crops. This is where cross-qualifying comes into play. In a survival scenario it is important that people know how to do more than one job. The sad reality is that in a SHTF scenario not everyone will survive. Having people cross-qualify and learning multiple jobs lessens the loss of an individual. A cross qualified person also gives versatility in rotating personnel through rest periods and spreading the workload.

  • Relaxation – Every person needs down time. People always on the edge ready for a trip-wire event lose sharpness and focus. On a submarine, I knew there would be days I would get little rest. In a survival situation the same thing will happen. It is vital that every opportunity to get rest or unwind should be taken. I like to think of it as banking time. It is a balancing game. There will ALWAYS be work that needs to get done. Rest should be part of the work routine. As a Submariner out to sea we often depended on each other for entertainment. Take 150 guys, stuff then in a steel tube, deprive them of sunlight and news and entertainment will happen. Sailors at sea have been figuring out ways to break up the monotony of a long voyage for years on end. As a survival community it is vital that the community celebrate when they can. We celebrate halfway night (mid way through a 6 or 7 month deployment). A community can celebrate the harvest. A community can make any occasion a reason to celebrate what God has given them and it is important that they do. Celebrating life’s little victories and accomplishments makes things go better.
  • Recognition – On Submarines we recognize Sailors for outstanding work. Sometimes it is a medal. Sometimes it is advancement in rank. Other times it is a well deserved extra day off. It is human nature for most of us to get some recognition of a job well done.  Personally I never sought it out but was always grateful when it happened. It is important for the community to celebrate accomplishments by individuals within the community. Each group must decide on their own what that may be, but recognition is important. With my own sons, it can be a simple pat on the back and the words “good job”.

In the end, survival will always be how well the community binds together. Individual survival can happen for awhile but for us to go on we need to interface, interact and rebuild. Fellowship and reliance on others is what makes Submariners strong and what makes a group/family/community stronger. Some of what I have talked about is not for everybody and cannot be applied to every situation. It is something to ponder. Just like some of the posts here on SurvivalBlog are not always applicable to my situation, I appreciate the time this online community has invested in getting the information out there and I take a lot of what people have to say to heart. Thanks for all that you do and keep posting. I need something to print out/save and take underway to read!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

To anyone who swatches the news or opens up an internet browser from time to time, it’s exceedingly clear that the world is becoming an extremely dangerous place.  From the abstract threats such as global economic collapse or pandemic to the more concrete ideas of natural catastrophes, terrorist attacks and the like, it’s obvious that preparedness isn’t just something to think about occasionally, it’s an absolute necessity.  Yet, with our feet firmly planted in the middle class, my wife and I don’t exactly have the money to go out and build the fortified bunker of our dreams for the day when, inevitably, life as we know it here in America may take a turn for the worse.  We’ve had to adapt our game plan to match both our materials and our means.  And let me tell you, preparing for disaster smack dab in the middle of the suburban wasteland is a completely different ball game.

So, to start off, I think we should have a little history about me and my situation.  I grew up in the mountains of northeastern Tennessee, deep in the heart of Dixie.  In rural Appalachia, self-sustainable living and prepping are just normal parts of everyday life for a lot of people, and my family was no exception.  Hunting, fishing, gardening, canning food, etc. were pretty much the norm in our area, and served as a means for people in a fairly poor economic region to build both a comfortable life for themselves and a little peace of mind.  On top of that, the mountainous terrain of the southern back country offers great protection from a lot of natural disasters (tornados, flooding, etc.) and isolation from most of the rest of the American populace should widespread civil unrest occur.  In short, though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was born and raised in a prepper’s paradise.  Then, against all odds, I found a beautiful woman who loved me back and we’ve been building a life together for the last 12 years.

However, once we got married, we joined the world of corporate America in order to be able to make the kind of living that we wanted for ourselves in the “new” economy.  Unfortunately, our company underwent some “consolidation” and shut down the office in our hometown.  My wife and I (who both work for the same business) were tasked with a choice:  both face unemployment and risk becoming part of the foreclosure statistics on American home owners, or follow our jobs and move far from friends and family out into the Midwest.  It wasn’t an easy decision, but with the prospect of starting a family of our own right around the corner, there was no choice but to bite the bullet and take a chance on building a better life.  With only a three month window to find and purchase a new home, we ended up settling in a large subdivision on the outskirts of a major metropolitan area near our new place of employment.

Back in Tennessee, our home was a two story brick house with a sizable basement, snuggled into the side of a heavily wooded mountain.  However, due to the higher prices of real estate in our new area, we ended up in a single story wood-framed house built onto a concrete slab, surrounded by hundreds of nearly identical homes.  We are less than 10 miles from one of the largest cities in the continental United States, and to make matters worse, our home is actually visible from one of the major interstates that feed into the city.  In other words, like most of Middle America, my new house is a nightmare in terms of survivability should any major collapse of society occur.  Yet, for that very reason, immediately bugging out during a time of crisis is not an option, due to some of the following factors:

  • Living near a major population center means that when food/water/electricity go into short supply, everyone is going to have the same idea: get out of Dodge.
  • The major roadways around our home become near parking lots during rush hour every day as it is.  In a disaster, those traffic pileups are likely to become semi-permanent.
  • Since a lot of people in large cities don’t commute via cars, during the mass exodus to escape, those who do have working transportation will become immediate targets.
  • Furthermore, like the swarm of locusts of Biblical lore, a large group of people trying to flee an area on foot are likely to consume every resource in their path, one way or another.  While they may not have cars, it’s extremely likely that whether it’s a golf club or a Glock, some will be armed.

Therefore, for all these reasons and more, a more nuanced approach is required.  As much as we would like to, getting back to friends and family in the mountains of Tennessee just probably won’t be an option in the short term.  This means bugging in and hoping to ride out the worst of it until such a time that either:

  • We deem the situation fit to travel via the back roads and reach a more defensible location back home with our families.


  • The turmoil in our area has cooled to a point that we can start trying to become self-sustainable here in our community without fear of reprisal (openly gardening, hunting, fishing, etc.)

Either way, the name of the game becomes surviving the short term fallout that is bound to follow any collapse of basic societal structure.  Following Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it becomes pretty easy to map out the way that things will probably play out.  Our lives, like it or not, are ruled by this chart.  Surviving the “exodus” near a major city means two things:  Having the basics in the bottom row of that pyramid covered for up to a 6-month time period for you and your family and having the means to defend it from those who will want to take it from you.  However, there are unique challenges to achieving either of these goals when living in a matchstick house on a concrete block amidst hundreds of other families and within spitting distance of millions of potentially hostile people.

Let’s start with the first part, meeting your needs.  There are plenty of preparation checklists out there with great advice on every little thing that you might need to survive the apocalypse.  I’m going to assume that you know how to cover the basics of food/water/medicine storage.  However, there are a few extra things to consider when living in the suburbs.  Basic bunker mentality for bugging in during a crisis follows the “dig in and defend” model.  We’ll call this the tortoise approach.  That’s great if you have the means to make it work, however, there’s nothing particularly defensible about many people’s homes, mine included, so that mentality has to change.  For me it has become “avoid detection and deter”.  My home doesn’t have a basement, a bunker, or a safe room, so the idea of holing up in a fortified spot with enough firepower to hold off the mob just isn’t feasible.  Instead, I want to present a small target and make it as unappetizing to potential looters as possible.  Think less snapping turtle, more porcupine.

Back to Maslow’s handy dandy pyramid of preparedness priorities, we know that water is the number one driving force of human survival behavior.  Once the taps stop running and the Aquafina has flown off the shelves, it will be a matter of a few short days before people either leave their homes in search of greener pastures (lakes, rivers, etc.) or start to beg, borrow, plead, and potentially kill to take water from those who still have it.  Here are some things to remember about water storage in the ‘burbs.

  • Diversify your storage.  Like the old adage says, don’t keep all your eggs in one basket (this includes brands, types of containers, and storage locations).
  • You should try to have at least 100 potential gallons per person in your house at any given time, and stored in a variety of places around your home.
  • Keep emergency water containers clean, dry, and ready to be filled at a moment’s notice.
  • My solutions include:

It’s been said over and over, but it is the truest statement in this world: water is life.  Storing water in this way, even if a portion of my home becomes damaged or inaccessible, I’ll still have enough to survive the short term and reevaluate the situation.  Eventually, though, even the largest supplies will run dry.  In this case, you need to be able to answer these questions:

  • Where is my nearest source of clean water (stream, river, large lake, etc.)?
  • Is it easily reachable by foot, under cover of darkness?
  • If not, how likely am I to be able to reach it by car?
  • Do I have an easy way to transport it back to my home?
  • Can I protect myself during this process?
  • Do I have some way to make sure it’s safe (boiling, filters, water treatments, etc.)?

Next on the list comes food storage, and this is another topic that is covered ad nauseam in any number of preparedness web sites and books.  But the important thing to remember for our purposes is that not only do you need to have food, but you need to not draw attention to the fact that you have food.  Nothing brings uninvited guests to the party quite like the smell of fresh beef stew when they haven’t eaten a thing in weeks.  In fact, they’re likely to bring their own silverware if you catch my drift.  Here are some ways to keep that from happening:

  • Avoid storing foods that have to be cooked in an open container or that put off a strong or unique odor.
  • Avoid heating methods that produce smoke or have to be ventilated in any way.
  • Don’t store foods that require much, if any, water to prepare.  Water is going to be your number one resource; you can’t waste a drop that you don’t have to.
  • Try to cut down on trash as much as possible (i.e. large resealable containers as opposed to individually packaged and disposable containers).  Trash has to be disposed of at some point and is a clear indicator that someone is still taking the wrappers off of candy bars.
  • Keep calorie intake healthy, but to a minimum.  Being the only guy in the neighborhood who still has a double chin is another red flag.
  • Don’t use a generator for any reason, ever.  In an isolated location, with proper noise reduction and ventilation, it’s a viable choice.  But nothing says “come burn my house down and take my stuff” like being the one family that has electricity when the darkness comes.

The whole goal here is to fly under the radar as much as possible.  Shelf stable foods that don’t have to be cooked at all are ideal.  Think mixed nuts, dry cereals, beef jerky, and the like.  These types of foods are also much more convenient to transport and prepare should you have to bail out.  Self-heating MREs are also a fantastic option but do require water to prepare and are easy to get burnt out on after a while.  While it’s no fun to have very few fresh hot meals, survival in the midst of the fleeing hordes revolves around avoiding notice at all costs.  You may not be happy, but you’ll be alive.

The last piece of the puzzle is the hardest, but also the most important: defense.  A quiet, middle-class suburb is a pretty appetizing target to people in a desperate search for the basic necessities of life.  All of the supplies in the world won’t mean a thing if you can’t defend them.  However, the key is to not to attract any unnecessary notice and to make your home an inadvisable target.  Some potential tools for getting this job done include:

  • Door Crossbar Holders:  These can be installed quickly during a time of chaos with nothing but a cordless drill, some heavy duty wood screws, and some spare 2x4s.  Putting up at least two sets per door means that the old police trick of “kick and breach” won’t be quite so easy.  It also stops the more subtle “lockpick in the night” routine.  Remember, the goal here isn’t to make the entryway impregnable (which is nigh impossible in a wood and drywall home), but rather to buy some time to defend.
  • Biohazard Signs:  If pandemic is the trigger that starts the collapse, one of these signs on each door is tantamount to installing an invisible force field around your home.  Even if it’s something more plausible, like a global economic collapse, looters are much more likely to target the house that they think won’t give them cholera.
  • Window Privacy Film:  It’s ok for people to know that your home is still occupied.  In fact, an abandoned house is far more likely to be ransacked than one that is thought to still be defended.  Letting people pinpoint your exact location before an attack, however, could cost you your life.  With this upgrade (along with normal blinds/curtains) you can still use lanterns, headlamps, etc. without giving away where you’ve chosen to bed down.
  • Window Bars:  Again, the keys here are speed/ease of installation and deterrence.  You don’t need to protect your windows from a full SWAT team with breaching charges, just dehydrated, half-starved city folks looking for some free supplies.  These bars give you time to line up a clear shot from behind cover and make sure that the person trying to get in realizes the risk vs. the reward.

It’s also important to designate a small fallback area within your home and use this as the staging area for everything else you do.  This way if part of your home becomes compromised it’s not a total loss.  While your “Alamo” may not be a fortress, it should be a place with as few windows and doors as possible and a clear field of fire.   Ours is the large master bathroom with an attached walk-in closet.  The only window in the bathroom is small, octagonal, made of thick frosted glass, and about 8 feet off the ground.  Once things look to be turning south, all our supplies can be quickly moved to the closet, the bathroom door triple barred, and the window filmed over.  The two Mossberg pump action 12 Gauge shotguns with 500+ magnum slug shells that live in the closet provide the “deter” portion of the game plan.

Finally, if possible, it’s also great to have a “plan C” just in case.  If your home catches fire, is completely overrun, or for some other reason becomes uninhabitable, you may have to leave in a hurry.  Fortunately for us, there is attic access in both the walk-in closet and our garage, with only about 20 feet of crawlspace between the two.  Hiding a couple of bug-out backpacks in the crawlspace allows us a fairly covert escape route directly to the car, or at the very least, out of the house.  Planning everything needed to bail out and stay safe on the run in a completely different topic in and of itself, but just keep in mind that bug-out supplies are similar to bug-in supplies, just on a much smaller, more mobile scale.  It’s not a perfect scenario, but having a “last ditch effort” retreat solution is never a bad thing. 

At the end of the day, I think it’s very feasible to sit tight and ride out the initial panic of any major catastrophe, even in a less than fortified location.  When the lights go out and the trucks stop running, places in and around major cities are going to revert to the Wild West fairly quickly.  But it’s for that very reason that staying put is the best option.  When the world around you is chaos, there are too many things that can go wrong by stepping out into the maelstrom, even if the goal is getting to a safer location.  It’s hard to predict exactly how things will go down and Murphy’s Law will bite you on the butt any time you think you’ve got it all figured out.  In any event, by keeping a low profile, deterring looters if possible, and using force if necessary, I think that we suburbanites stand a pretty good chance of making it through the first few months of TEOTWAWKI relatively unscathed.  And that, my friends, is what it is all about.


Thursday, May 31, 2012


Thought I'd pass on some field training exercise (FTX) grunt games that we used to use for training. It's an excellent way to evaluate your rural home or retreat security, and develop reconnaissance skills.

I don't know if the military still encourages this kind of training, but during the Cold War, there was a game we used to play to try and keep sharp. If I remember right, both my army reserve unit and later, my regular army mechanized infantry units both practiced this. It costs about nothing, but hones critical skills.

The premise is simple:

To send a team out to gather as much information on the opposing team as possible, and report back without being caught. To make things a little more interesting, each aggressor team member would have a deck of cards, and place them on items of value that they could have stolen or destroyed inside the defenders camp. And if one of the aggressors were caught, they were usually held inside the camp, and made to do something embarrassing (singing a nursery rhyme, clucking like a chicken, or whatever the officer or NCO felt like at that time).

The defensive team would, of course, try and create a defense where no one could sneak through, send out patrols to try and spot/capture recon-patrols, and set traps within their parameter to secure valuable/sensitive items.


When training within the platoon, one group (usually a team to squad size - 4 to 13 people) are marked as the aggressor, the remaining play the defensive role. Sometimes this would even be one company against another company where both had aggressor and defensive components.

This was never official, and usually the losers had to pay for some beer when it was over, but you would be surprised how effective it was.

Training Goals:

Learn where your training is weakest - both in personal training and the tactical abilities of your team/platoon/company.
The best way to learn where your parameter is weakest is to try and get around it.
The best way to learn how to defend against small recon size patrols or individuals is to defend against them.
Not knowing the exact location of the defenders was critical. We would get a general location of where they might be, but beyond that we had to track down the defenders by search grids, and their lack of noise and light discipline.
Most of this was done at night. We had night vision, but the technology is not as effective as you might think in woodland terrain. Plus when the goggles are cranked up to full power, they send out a light beam that gives you away when the opposing team has the goggles too.

Sometimes the NCO on patrol would declare himself "injured", and he would alternate putting E4s in charge during the remaining mission. It always caused a little confusion, but dealing with confusion was part of the exercise.

To avoid the 'I saw you' excuses, we would plan out the recon, mark times at different points, and if possible leave cards where you could have stolen or destroyed materials. In addition, there was on occasion a hidden case of beer. If you could get it out of the defensive parameter without being caught it was yours, if you could identify where it was you split it with whoever else spotted it. We mixed up the rewards all of the time, but you get the point.

One last note: we often did this over the course of a planned field exercise, and in-between normal training. If you only do this for one night, then the opposing force will be ready and have most of their people awake as possible. If they don't know if you are coming tonight, tomorrow night, or early next week, then they have to use a normal schedule for security. It also meant that if we were to infiltrate when they were the most tiered from their daily training, we would be infiltrating under the same conditions, and with the added strain of the patrol. - Robert B.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Mr Rawles,
Thank you for your excellent Blog. Can you direct me to a supplier of rolls of military concertina wire?  I am looking for 6-to-8 rolls.  I live in Central Florida.  Google searches have revealed nothing but Chinese and Indian companies overseas.
Thank you for you help - Jim M.

JWR Replies: Buying new concertina wire or razor wire from manufacturers and distributors is a costly proposition. In my experience, the best way to buy defensive wire is used, from military (DRMO) or other government auctions. These can be found through the web site. Here is a typical auction, at Fort Lewis, Washington. Used concertina wire often sells for near scrap steel prices. Buying used defensive wire has two other advantages: 1.) It will be weathered and hence it will not be as reflective as new wire. This will make it blend in, at least when seen from a distance. 2.) It may have some rusty spots. This will likely induce fear in those with "rusty nail" phobias.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

SurvivalBlog is the best in it’s field because it draws upon the different skill sets and experiences of it’s readers. On that note, I would like to offer up my own experience for the benefit of other readers. I am a former Army Infantry Sergeant with combat service in Afghanistan and am currently a private security contractor. I was not a prepper before my service there. However, witnessing a post-collapse environment first hand made me confront some painful realities. I hope to God that my experiences will aid fellow preppers by giving them insight in to one type of collapse and it’s