Mar 202013
 
A classic US military TA-312A/PT Field Phone.

A classic US military TA-312A/PT Field Phone.

As we’ve discussed in our article ‘Will there be telephone service after TSHTF?‘, it is probable that any event such as to activate your prepping survival plans will see a loss of both wired and wireless phone service.  We also predict the same failure for internet service, for similar reasons.

This will make your retreat electronically cut off from the outside world.  Oh – with the likely shortage or total disappearance of diesel and petrol supplies, you’ll become more physically removed from the nearest township too.

There will remain methods of communication, which we’ll discuss in subsequent articles in this series (particularly ham radio, and we’ve already advocated you should get a ham radio operator license) and of course other methods of transportation (or of fueling your current vehicles) too.  But this article approaches one of the alternatives you have for communications in, on and around your retreat property.  Using Wired Phones.

The Pluses and Minuses of Using Wired Phones

Apart from smoke signals, semaphore, and other ‘low bit rate’ forms of signaling, most of your communications around your retreat property would be either by wireless telephony of some sort (CB or other walkie-talkie, ham radios, Wi-Fi devices or cell phones) or by wired phones.

As we never tire of saying, you need to plan for a low-tech ultra-reliable type of communications that you can be certain will survive any initiating events that plunge you into a Level 2/3 situation, and which will continue to operate during the period of that situation.  As lovely as wireless devices are, they are less resilient.

There is another downside to wireless communications.  They are more readily detected and monitored by unfriendly people.  What is the point of being obsessive about ‘Op-Sec’ in a dozen different ways if you are chattering away on walkie-talkies regularly every day, providing a huge big electronic ‘homing beacon’ for unfriendly people to zero in on.  With scanning radios nowadays being inexpensive, readily available, and easy to use (for example, the $100 Bearcat handheld scanner listed on the many pages of scanners at Amazon, here) you have to assume that any radio transmissions you are emitting will eventually be picked up by people who may not have your best interests at heart.

Wireless devices also need batteries.  Sooner or later, you are going to run out of batteries, and/or your rechargeable batteries will wear out.

In comparison, wired phones are much more secure and harder for unwanted third parties to eavesdrop and listen in on.  They are generally lower tech and probably are more likely to be repairable if they develop a problem.  They might also require power, but they are probably much more forgiving about the type of power and the exact voltage they’ll operate with than is the case with a wireless device.

But a wired phone is not something you can have with you, all the time, everywhere you are located.  You need to have wiring run to each place a phone is placed.  And the wires are somewhat vulnerable to accidental or deliberate damage, although it is true your radio signals could also be deliberately jammed (all an enemy would have to do is to transmit on the same frequency as you any time you started a transmission, which might cause your transmission to be displaced by his).

Overall, if you are asking yourself the question ‘Should I prepare for wired or wireless communications at my retreat?’ you are probably not asking the correct question.  Ideally, you should have both.  Where possible, you’d use wired communications, but also have the ‘safety blanket’ of a wireless device with you for emergency communications.

Note that emergency communications might occur from you to other members of your retreat community, or equally likely, in the other direction from them to you.  Emergency communications don’t only involve ‘Help, we are being attacked’ type scenarios.  There are plenty of other emergencies and high priority reasons for calling someone else, and many of those scenarios won’t see either you or the person needing to contact you being at a wired phone.

So in the balance of this article, we look at issues to do with a simple type of wired phone – the field phone.  We’ll also be publishing articles on other communication options subsequently.

What is a Field Phone?

There is no formal definition for what a field phone is or is not, other than a vague expectation that it is a rugged device and probably of military origin.

When we talk about field phones, we are referring to very simple basic analog phones, although note that the latest military field phones are sophisticated digital devices.  There is nothing wrong with these at all, but they require more support and high-tech infrastructure than very low tech analog devices and from a prepping perspective, we are best advised to keep it as simple as possible.

The simplest phones of all require no power of any sort – no mains power, and no battery power either, because they are sound powered.  Slightly more sophisticated field phones are battery-powered, either from batteries inside each phone set or by batteries at a central switching location.

Field phones are connected to each other and to switching points via ordinary wire (rather than coax cable).  Some phones use two wires, others use four wires.  Two wire phones are typically a ‘simplex’ type of operation where only one person can be speaking at a time (like using walkie-talkies); four wire phones permit ‘duplex’ operation with both people speaking simultaneously.

Field phones are generally not equipped with dial pads and generally are not connected to any type of automatic switching exchange.  They certainly could be equipped with such capabilities, and be connected through an automatic exchange too, but as the sophistication of the phones and the required ‘central office’ support equipment increases, we feel we are no longer talking about ‘field phones’ which, by definition, should be thought of as very simple devices with limited capabilities.

There is no reason why you couldn’t create your own automated private exchange if you wish to do this – there are plenty of ‘off the shelf’ systems that you can buy for varying amounts of money, and with varying features, and you might validly wish to add a small private exchange to your retreat as well.

But the more sophisticated you make your communications, the greater the vulnerability they present.  They become more maintenance intensive, they become more energy intensive (requiring good quality electricity) and they become more EMP-vulnerable (phone lines will act as antennas to funnel and magnify EMP energy into the phones and other devices they are connected to, making phones and phone switching equipment very vulnerable to EMP effects).

There is also no reason why some field phones could not be connected – either directly or through your own branch exchange/switch, to the public phone network as well.  But you’re running into the danger of ‘over-engineering’ your situation and your solution.  Field phones are designed to be simple in form and simple in function.

At the other extreme to the latest multi-feature digital phone, you end up with a sound-powered phone.  Sure, it does nothing other than transmit voice to another person, but there’s almost nothing that can go wrong with it, and the few things that might go wrong can generally be repaired without any specialty high-tech tools, equipment, or parts.

Some things are common for all field phones – especially issues to do with how you wire them.  We consider these issues in this article; in another article we talk about the different types of field phones you can choose between.

Wire for Field Phones

Unlike wire for data or radio frequency circuits, field phone wire doesn’t need to be shielded, and doesn’t require any other special properties.  It just needs to be insulated and suitably strong for however you’ll be laying it.

Field phones can operate on pretty much any type of electrical wire at all.  The larger the gauge of the wire, the less the resistance and the longer the distance you can have between phone sets, especially with sound-powered rather than battery-powered phones.

The ‘entry level’ least expensive and arguably most common type of wire for military field phones is the WD-1/TT or WD-1A/TT single pair multi-strand wire.  It is lightweight and inexpensive, and you can sometimes find it for sale on quarter mile or longer reels.  There are also plenty of other types of mil-spec wire (with better conductivity, but greater weight and higher cost) and there’s no real need for the wire to be mil-spec anyway.

Four Wire vs Two Wire

If money allows, whenever you run one wire, run two or three, because you’ve no idea what you might not want to have in the future, and it is very much easier to run multiple wires at the same time than it is to redo the whole exercise and run more wires later.

In the case of  phone wiring, this means that even if you’re only planning on using a single wire pair type phone system, you should still make a point of running two pairs or four pairs of wire everywhere.  Who only knows what you might not end up using the additional pairs of wires for – you might upgrade your system to a four wire phone system, you might use the wires to run some power, or for remote metering, or who only knows what else.  Or maybe one of the wires breaks and you can then switch over to another spare wire.

Of course, it is one thing to be running multiple pairs of wire over short 100 ft distances within your retreat.  The extra cost is minimal.  But if you’re running a one mile line from one end of your property to the other, or a five mile connection to your neighbor’s retreat, then the cost of doubling up on your materials becomes more appreciable and you might have to compromise between what would be ideal and what is feasible.

Comparative Efficiencies of Different Wire Types

The length of wire you can run is limited primarily by the resistance of the wire.  Resistance is determined by the type of material, the thickness of the wire, and the length of the wire.

In general, copper is the best conductor of electricity (ie it has the lowest resistance), with aluminum as second best, then iron, then steel.  If copper has one unit of resistance, then aluminum has about 1.6, iron has about 6, and steel has about 8.5 units.

To put that another way, for every 8.5 ft of copper wire, you can only have one ft of equivalent thickness steel wire; or for every 1.6 ft of copper wire, you can have one ft of aluminum, and so on.

Another way of looking at it is that to have the same resistance, you must have a steel wire nine times thicker than a copper wire, because the larger the thickness or diameter of the wire, the better the conductivity.  On the other hand, the thicker the wire, the heavier it is, which poses problems if stringing it up between poles, and adds to its cost, no matter how you are running the wire.

Several different sources list comparable effective distances for TA-312 phones depending on the type of wire they are being connected together with.  The same concepts apply to other phones too, of course, such that if a phone’s range with one type of wire is twice as long (or twice as short) then it would be similarly twice as long/short for the other wire options presented as well.

Here’s the table for TA-312 phones (source – alas, the company that lists the phones no longer makes/sells them – I checked in March 2013).  As you can see, the practical working distance lengthens dramatically as the wire thickness increases.

WD-1/TT –  35 Km (22 miles)

Lead Covered Cable (19 Gauge) –  48 Km (30 miles)

Open Wire Line (W-2 #14 AWG copper, 0.064″ diameter) –   370 Km (230 miles)

Open Wire Line (W-74 #12 AWG copper. 0.081″ diameter) –  837 Km (520 miles)

How to Run Your Field Phone Wire Outside

Wiring for inside your retreat is a relatively trivial issue.  You’ll probably have it in the walls and ceiling and terminating in wall jacks, just like for regular phone and data wiring.  But how you run your wire outside is a more complex consideration.

The first consideration is security.  If you don’t want your wire to be obviously exposed, then you’ll almost certainly have to bury the wire to obscure and protect it.  An exposed wire poses several security threats.  First, it could be damaged/broken.  Second, it could be followed, perhaps helping an unfriendly visitor to locate any remote observation posts you might have.  Third, it could be tapped into, allowing unknown parties to listen in on your conversations.  And fourthly, a person might connect a high voltage device in series or parallel with the line, probably destroying whatever devices were connected at either end.

So, for security purposes. a buried line is better than an above-ground line.

Buried lines can be both more vulnerable and less vulnerable to accidental damage.  There is a risk of someone digging through the line, or perhaps as part of plowing a field also damaging the line.  Gophers and moles can be a problem, too.  Over time, tree roots may damage lines.  If a buried line is damaged, it can be more difficult to locate and repair the damage that with an above-ground line, unless you have a sophisticated test device that will tell you the approximate distance to where the line damage is located.

If you are running below-ground wire, you don’t need it in conduit, although that would enhance its protection appreciably, and so if budget allows, we would recommend you to do so, and particularly if you anticipate potential mole/gopher type challenges.  We suggest that one way to protect below ground wire – and to conveniently locate it again if you need to – is to run it alongside fence lines.  Usually any plowing or other working of the ground doesn’t go hard up to the fence line, so your wire is more likely to be undisturbed.

On the other hand, above ground lines are far from bullet-proof, either.  Indeed, there’s a vulnerability in that expression – there’s a danger of idiots capriciously or maliciously shooting at your lines just for the fun of it.  Depending on how you are keeping the lines above ground, if they are strung from tree to tree, you have obvious problems in the wind.

The only good thing about above ground wires is that it is easy to trouble shoot them and to repair them if (when) they break.  Generally we recommend below ground wiring.

If you have below ground wiring, we’d suggest that, where appropriate and possible, you either have inspection and access traps to allow you to easily access the wire or simply run the wire up above the ground on a post then back down below ground again.

If you run the wire in direct lines between traps or posts, that will help you follow its path if you need to dig it up to repair it in the future.

The traps or posts also provide access points where you can connect phones.

Fencing Wire for Field Phones

If you have a wire fence, why not use the fencing wire to carry a phone signal, too?  That is certainly an option.

Typical fencing wire is made out of zinc coated steel, and is 12 – 12½ gauge in diameter.  A 500 ft length of 12 gauge copper wire has a resistance of 0.77 Ω, a similar length of steel wire has a resistance of about 6.6 Ω (source).

Or, to express it another way, the resistance you’d encounter with 100 ft of WD-1/TT wire would be about the same as you’d encounter with 140 ft of fencing wire.

Using fencing wire for your field phones also has the advantage that you can tap into the circuit any time you are close to the fence line.  It is semi-secure, being ‘hidden in plain sight’.

If you were going to do this, then assuming you have a more than two wire fence, we’d recommend connecting the top wire and the third wire together for one part of the phone two wire pair, and the second and fourth wires together for the second phone wire.  Every so often, you should run wires connecting the electrically twinned/joined together fence wires.  This makes the double wiring more fault tolerant.

Doubling the wires this way not only halves the resistance (so then 280 ft of doubled fence wire would be the same as 100 ft of WD-1 wire), but also gives you some redundancy – one of the two wires can break and the other one still remains in place.  And by using only the top wires, the bottom wire (in a typical five wire fence) is left untouched, with this being the one most likely to be contacted by grass and other vegetation that might otherwise cause some of the current to ‘leak’ out.

If you only had three usable strands of wire, we’d recommend that about half the time, the third wire be linked to one of the two wires and the other half the time, it be linked to the other of the two ‘main’ wires.  That way it gives you a reasonably balanced/averaged resistance on both sides of the two wire line.

We would recommend using the middle wire as the one which alternates between sharing the signal with the wire above it and the wire below it.  That way, if you wanted to connect a field phone up to the fence wires, you always know to use the top and bottom wires and to ignore the middle wire.  It doesn’t matter if it is sharing the top or bottom wire, wherever you are.

Clearly, if you came to a gate, you’d then need to have ‘normal’ wire running down from the fence posts, under the entrance/gateway, then up the other side again.  And anywhere you had joins in the wire, you’d want to make sure the two lengths of wire had plenty of contact between them to create a good electrical connection.  In general, it would be preferable to run your fencing with as few joins as possible.

Wiring Topography and Strategy

There are several considerations and different ways to run your wiring.  In its simplest form, you have a simple single pair line running all around the place, and you can connect phones on and off this single pair line anywhere you want to, any time you want to.  Simple sound powered phones will get quieter and quieter for each extra phone currently connected (in parallel) across the wires, so that is a limitation, and there is a similar (but not so severe) type of limitation for battery-powered phones too, but for a quick and easy initial wiring layout, this works just fine.

If you have multiple phones on the one circuit, then anyone can pick up their phone and hear what other people are saying, and there has to be some sort of signaling protocol so a person calling another person can make the call request in a manner that doesn’t cause everyone to simultaneously rush to pick up their phone, only to find that the call wasn’t for them.

There is a variation on the single length of circuit concept, which is to make it into a loop.  This makes the circuit fault tolerant – you can have a break in the loop occur somewhere and the circuit will still work because the current simply flows the ‘other’ way between the devices.

This also makes a nice way of managing your circuit – you can have a test point on each of the two wires that is a break in each wire.  Normally you have the breaks joined together, but you can open up the test point and check for continuity/resistance in the circuit.  You’d get a very different value if a break in the line had occurred than if the line was still okay in both directions – although note that this value will vary depending on how many phones are also connected in parallel across the line and where they are located.  Best to do the test with as few phones across the line as possible.

A more sophisticated system has a star type of shape.  A central point – somewhere in your retreat building, probably, has multiple lines feeding out to different locations, with phones being connected on these multiple lines.  When someone calls on the remote phone, it rings at a switchboard in your retreat, and when someone answers, they can then either talk to the caller or connect them to one of the other phones if the caller wished to be switched to another person on another circuit.

The benefit of this type of system is that you can have multiple conversations simultaneously, and happening separate to each other, rather than having everyone simultaneously using the one circuit and struggling to get a word in edgewise.

In reality, you’re probably not going to have – or need – an extensive phone network.  You might have one phone in the barn, a ‘traveling’ phone that people can take with them when they are working in the fields, maybe another phone as a ‘gate phone’ that visitors can use to call to you at the retreat from your property boundary/gate and ask for permission to enter, and maybe another phone in an observation post.

Summary

Good and convenient communications simultaneously become more essential and more difficult in a future ‘grid down’ situation.  They are more essential because you need to live your life more efficiently, and good communications is an essential part of coordinating your life and your activities with those of the other people in your community.  Good communications are also an essential part of your retreat’s security program.

But the ‘grid down’ nature of a future Level 2 or 3 situation means you have to provide your own solution to your communication needs.  We recommend you adopt both wired and wireless communication services, and in this article we have given you some of the information you need to install a wired field phone type system.

Feb 192013
 
High capability remote controlled drones can be purchased for civilian use and costing as little as $1000 or less.  But be careful how you integrate such capabilities into your retreat's defensive strategies.

High capability remote-controlled drones can be purchased for civilian use and costing as little as $1000 or less. But be careful how you integrate such capabilities into your retreat’s defensive strategies.

I was reading an article on the comprehensive Survivalblog website – an impressive site that should be on your ‘must visit’ list.  It has a huge compilation of content, albeit some of it user-contributed and occasionally overlapping and repetitive in nature.

This particular article was about using radio controlled planes/helicopters (ie what are commonly now being termed ‘drones’) for reconnaissance and security purposes at one’s retreat.

The author of the article was talking about how these sorts of devices (possibly augmented by fixed wireless remote cameras too) provide excellent security and surveillance, and can even send live audio and video feeds direct to his cell phone and tablet, wherever he was.  It all sounded wonderful and appealing, and I could understand the author’s enthusiasm for the concepts he was proposing.

But.

This is the part which gave me pause, and served as the inspiration for the article you are now reading :

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.

This is all great stuff, and as a high-tech gadget lover myself, music to my ears.  But there are three huge assumptions inherent in his recommendations.

The first assumption is not one to be discussed here – and that is the assumption that glorified ‘toys’ can provide an effective and secure observation/security/surveillance system, saving you from needing to have ‘boots on the ground’ out there, in observation posts and walking patrols.  That’s an assumption I’m very uncomfortable with; and so much so that it should be the subject of a separate post all on its own.

Suffice it to say that any type of security system is best with multiple layers of sensors and sensing, and that there’s still nothing out there that can entirely replace the good old Mark 1 Human Eyeball and Ear.  And whereas people and ‘human sensors’ are moderately all-weather capable and can be deployed for some hours at a time, most drones costing less than five or six figures are very limited in their weather handling, their range and their endurance.

The other two assumptions are what we wish to discuss in this article.

His second assumption – when he says that machines are expendable and replaceable, yes, that is definitely true today.  You can order spare parts or complete new machines online or over the phone today and expect them delivered a day or two later.  And probably you’d keep at least one spare for such a mission critical capability on-site, too.

The third assumption – when he talks about streaming video into a laptop, iPhone or iPad, regardless of location, that too is largely true today, as long as you are within a Wi-Fi or wireless data coverage area.  Of course, many of our retreat locations suffer from poor cell phone signals at the best of times, and very few also have good fast data service, but that is a known variable that can be factored in to one’s planning.

But – and here’s the huge, enormous, overpowering but.  What happens in a Level 2 or 3 situation (defined here)?  Even a Level 1 situation will pose problems.

What happens when the grid goes down, and society suffers a short, medium, or long-term collapse?  How do these assumptions withstand this type of adverse scenario, which is, after all, the scenario we are planning for?

You can’t then go online and order things, because the internet will be down.  Within a few days, landline phone service will become increasingly fractured too – where will the phone companies get electricity from to power their exchanges, their repeaters, and everything else needed to drive the wired phone system?  Sure, you probably understand that if you have traditional ‘POTS’ (Plain Old Telephone Service) at your home/retreat, you don’t need power for a wired phone to work – but that is because the phone company is powering the system at its end.  What happens when they lose power?

How will you then order a replacement drone?  You can’t, can you.  All of a sudden, that ‘expendable and replaceable’ item has become precious and irreplaceable.

Okay, we’re absolutely not saying you should carelessly hazard the lives of your community members instead (although a cynic might point out that replacement community members might be more readily available than replacement high-tech drones!).  We’re simply saying that basing your retreat’s defense strategy on the assumption that your main asset for observation and local intelligence gathering is conveniently available in limitless quantities and can be freely sacrificed is not a good idea.

The second of the two paragraphs we quoted above has another enormous assumption built-in to it.  While it is true that you could create your own LAN within your retreat, and you could of course use Wi-Fi routers to provide a wireless network that your portable computer devices could connect to, the range and coverage of this network will be limited and much less than the author’s expectations of being available ‘regardless of your location’.

Using omni-directional wireless hubs, you can expect a range of little more than 100 ft in the ‘best’ indoor situations, reducing substantially for every wall, floor or ceiling the signal needs to travel through.  An outside Wi-Fi antenna can radiate its signal 300 ft or maybe slightly more.

These ranges can be massively extended by using special directional antennas on both the Wi-Fi hub and the Wi-Fi device that is connecting to the hub, but an iPhone or iPad has no way of adding an external antenna to boost its range, and while a directional antenna will give you more range in its favored direction, the rest of the 360° of coverage area will have correspondingly less coverage.

Furthermore, when your device gets out of Wi-Fi coverage and switches to use the wireless phone company’s data signal instead (3G, 4G, LTE, whatever) that embodies a huge assumption – that the wireless company is still providing service, and that there is an internet connection between the device that receives the drone’s transmissions and the wireless company’s servers.  That’s just not going to happen – it only takes one link in the complex chain of dependencies between your drone’s receiver and your phone to go down for the connection as a whole to totally fail.

Don’t get us wrong.  As we said before, we love technology, and our own retreat is full of high-tech features and capabilities too.  But we’ve planned for a future where there are no external resources, and we fully expect our high-tech capabilities to degrade over time, so we have fall-back alternate approaches ready to deploy as this happens.

You must not rely upon being able to get resupply of anything.  Not food, not fuel, and definitely nothing high-tech.  You must not rely upon the continued existence of any external communications of any sort with the outside world – not data, not phone, not even snail-mail.

This is part of the differentiation between a Level 2 and a Level 3 event.  In a Level 2 event, you can plan to use your stocks and stores of ‘modern day’ conveniences (as long as they don’t require external support from sources and services outside your retreat) in the semi-confident expectation/hope that by the time you have used them all up, life will be back to normal.

But the Level 3 event – a longer term one than a Level 2 event, with a slower recovery back to ‘normal’ life – assumes that you are exhausting your accumulated inventories of everything and are having to shift to a type of sustainable life-style that you can support indefinitely, due to an extended time without the benefits of our modern world being restored.

Summary

Our point is simply this.  Examine very carefully the assumptions on which you are basing your planning and preparing.  Have you – like the writer of this article – accidentally slipped in some assumptions that the world we experience and enjoy at present will still be there to support you in an uncertain future?

If so, adapt your plan to reflect a situation where this external support resource is not available.

Jan 072013
 
Fun for all the family with your own M/T-114 armored personnel carrier - this one costs $74,000.

Fun for all the family with your own M/T-114 armored personnel carrier – this one costs $74,000.

If you found yourself suddenly gifted with several million dollars, and assuming you had some left over after spending money on all the usual things, maybe you might choose to treat yourself to a really neat vehicle to stick in your retreat’s garage.

The issue of successfully defending your retreat against armed attackers post-WTSHTF is one of considerable debate.  Some people choose to ignore the issue entirely, and claim they have no need for serious preparations and defenses, either because their retreat is well hidden, or because they are in a region with plenty of like-minded folks, or because they don’t believe that people would actually come after them and attempt to steal from them by force (and – we fear – do much worse than that too).

We’re not going to re-debate those points.  We’ve discussed them before, and might again in the future, and suffice it to say for now that we feel it an essential component of the prepping mindset to consider not just best case but also worst case scenarios, and to prepare (within reason) for both.  What sort of prepper allows themselves to be caught out by something that they say weakly in excuse about ‘Oh, gosh, we didn’t think that was likely to happen’?  Isn’t prepping all about preparing for less likely things which, if they do happen, will seriously destroy our lives and our lifestyles?

This article is simply looking at some unusual types of defensive vehicles.  And, yes, clearly these ‘defensive’ vehicles could be used just as well by someone else as an offensive vehicle – to bring the battle directly to your front door.

That thought of course begs the difficult question – what would you do if a bad guy turned up on your doorstep in a tank?

Unfortunately, that’s a far from impossible scenario (depending on how close your retreat is to a base with armored vehicles on it at present).  When the rule of law crumbles, there will be many thousands of tanks and other armored vehicles on bases around the country that will be liable to being ‘repurposed’ by people with evil intent.  We can only hope they run out of fuel (or ammo and/or spare parts) for their armored vehicles before they reach your retreat.

But what about the lawful availability of armored vehicles, today?  Did you know there’s a reasonably extensive market that trades in older armored military vehicles.  Of course, the main guns have usually been ‘de-milled’ and made inoperable and close to impossible to repair back to working order, but as a secure platform that would resist small arms fire up to and probably including the .50 BMG round, they are very interesting.

Some of the older vehicles also have fully analog type engines that are probably about as sure to survive an EMP attack as anything out there.

Of course, a heavy armored vehicle is going to give very bad gas mileage, and so you don’t want to use it as a daily driver.  Tracked vehicles can also be very maintenance intensive.  But as the ultimate all-weather and all-terrain vehicle that you can use hopefully in almost any type of weather and ground condition, and with a secure protected compartment that you can either escape within or fight from, an armored vehicle gives you a new level of tactical options that hopefully the bad guys ranged against you can’t match.

Remember that not all tracked vehicles are armored, and of course, general purpose ‘military’ trucks and other vehicles are probably not armored either.  And not everything with impressive looking tracks or really big wheels will manage to proceed in deep soft snow or bottomless mud.

There are a number of different national sources of military vehicles.  Ebay Motors has a section for military vehicles.  Here’s another website that features online classified ads (and interesting magazines too).

Let’s not forget our own government – they sell off just about everything imaginable, including through this site.

Perhaps the best site for armored vehicles is this one.

In addition, who knows what you mightn’t find locally as well.  Ask around, do some Googling, and the chances are, if you want to indulge yourself in such a vehicle, there’ll be exactly what you’re looking for, somewhere in the country, and priced from the low tens of thousands up to the middling hundreds of thousands, depending of course on all the usual things such as market appeal, practicality, and condition.

Aug 272012
 

This World War 2 poster equates silence with security. We’re not so sure the concept applies to modern-day WROL retreats.

Many preppers love to boast about their Opsec.

Sometimes they capitalize the term to give it (and them) even more (self)importance.  They particularly love to boast about how no-one for many miles around knows of their retreat location and their presence there.

Some people simultaneously boast of the resilience of their retreat and then turn around and refuse to disclose even the state it is located within.  Why?  What are they scared of, with such a self-described resilient retreat to start with?

Excuse me if I feel a bit like vomiting when I see people quoting military terms but not necessarily knowing what they really mean and misapplying them, or using them in the wrong context, or as a ‘magic spell’ invocation to give them powers of invincibility – as if merely saying the term is all they need to do.

Let’s think about just four implications of someone who obsessively hides their retreat away.  None of them are positive.  Oh – and we’re not even going to number the most important consideration of all – in this day and age, no-one is truly hidden away.

Everyone can be found, and every dwelling leaves fingerprints and footprints in many different public records, private company work records, aerial photos, and so on.

Even if you’re not found by people deliberately searching you out, it is reasonable to expect a lot more people will be roaming around the currently empty woods in a Level 3 situation, and Murphy’s Law mandates that they’ll accidentally discover you.  See our earlier article ‘Is it Reasonable to Expect Your Retreat Will Not be Found‘ for more discussion on this point.

1.  The Need to Hide Away Implies (or Creates) Vulnerabilities

If you have a strong secure retreat and true ‘op sec’ (which doesn’t mean operations secrecy, it means operations security – an important difference of meaning) then you do not need to be so secretive.

Sure, it is never appropriate to brag about things, and to make your retreat a tasty tempting target for all and sundry.  But if you need to be totally hidden away, that implies your retreat is otherwise vulnerable, and therefore, was/is probably a bad choice to start with.

If you start building an expectation, an assumption, and before too long, a reliance on no-one ever finding you, then you’re basing your survival on a terrible risk, and on something you have much less control over than you might think.  Every day you are playing Russian Roulette against the odds of being discovered.

It is important to understand where and when the constraints of Op-sec should apply.  Disclosing that you live ‘over there’ need not be a breach of Opsec.  Revealing the access code to the main gate would be.

You also need to weigh the pros and cons of keeping an ultra low profile.  Are the trade-offs acceptable?  For example, see the next point.

2.  If No-one Knows About You, Who Will Help You

If you’re secretly squirreled away somewhere miles from anywhere, what happens when you inevitably need help?  Best case scenario, bringing in someone or some people to help with whatever your emergency is will destroy whatever secrecy your retreat might have formerly had.  Worst case scenario is you’ll be on your own, without any support and without any community goodwill.

And if the nearby community does discover you, they’ll not see you as a friendly ‘one of us’ – you’ll be an outsider and not entitled to any special treatment.  See our article about becoming part of the solution, not part of the problem, after the collapse of society.

3.  Do You Still Have a Defensive Posture

If your plan revolves around no-one finding your retreat’s location, do you still maintain a defensive posture for the inevitable time when someone does?

Do you still have sentries (or at least some form of remote sensing/monitoring) 24/7?  Did you make your retreat’s exterior walls bullet-resistant and fire-proof?  Or have you allowed your hope that no-one knows where you are lull you into a false sense of security?

This consideration points out one of the weaknesses of the entire opsec advocacy.  You can’t plan your retreat’s security based on the hope that it will never be found.  You must assume it will be found, and by adversaries, and have a plan to respond to that situation when it inevitably (and probably repeatedly) occurs.

So if you are planning for discovery, why delay it?  Why not have the discovery on your terms, rather than on the terms of unknown others?

4.  Who Are Your Neighbors

As part of creating your own secretive retreat, have you been able to spy on and identify and analyze all your neighbors?  If you’re keeping a very low profile yourself, that might be difficult.

For all you know, the next valley over might be the home of a group of domestic Muslim terrorists, or white supremacists, or an outlaw gang.  For that matter, your own valley might also be home to an illegal drug factory or growing operation.

It is difficult to thoroughly identify your neighbors without revealing yourself, and remember also that the same things you are doing to identify your neighbors are techniques that might be done, and possibly to an even more sophisticated level, by your neighbors to you.  Or, for that matter, by federal agencies, who seem to be more than a little interested in secretive groups of people in the American redoubt states.  It is sad but true that the things that encourage us – lawful good ordinary citizens – to move to American redoubt locations also encourage bad people to move there, too.  And it is even sadder, but still true, that some of the values we treasure are misperceived by some as being anti-American, whereas they are in fact totally pro-American.

It seems only fair to acknowledge that if you believe you have managed to obscure your own retreat, then it is possible you could be immediately adjacent to someone else who has similarly disguised their retreat, too.  And while your own motivation for obscuring your retreat is positive and good, theirs may not be quite so positive.

Of course, if you believe you have absolutely uncovered details about all your regional neighbors, isn’t it incredibly myopic of you to simultaneously believe that you’ve managed to simultaneously avoid the prying eyes of other folk around you?

Plus, wouldn’t you rather be friends with your neighbors, so you can call on them for help if ever needed, plus enjoy a better life in normal times – socializing with them, occasionally swapping or sharing or lending things, and so on?

Fighting Against the Inevitable

Here’s an interesting comparison.  It seems that no matter how convoluted an approach our schools and other self-appointed moral leaders adopt, teenagers find out about sex and then experiment with it.  No amount of abstinence advocacy seems to have much effect; indeed one study showed that girls who joined a group pledging to remains virgins until marriage ended up with higher out-of-wedlock pregnancy rates than did other ‘normal’ girls.  You can make contraceptives freely available or withhold them, you can educate teens about every aspect of relationships and physical relations, adopting any type of advocacy perspective, and still teenagers have sex and still teenagers get pregnant.

Our point, in case you are wondering, is that opsec, particularly in a civilian and less controlled environment such as you would be planning with your retreat, is very limited and not very controllable in nature.

It isn’t a case of if your opsec will be punctured and destroyed, it is a case of when.

Just like the teenagers, somehow ‘the truth will out’ – through any one of many dozens of different vectors – and all of a sudden, your secret will be revealed for all to see.  Complete opsec is unachievable to start with, just like keeping all teenagers chaste.

Much better, we suggest, to accept this reality, and to instead manage the release of selected information about yourselves.  Some studies suggest that households that take a matter-of-fact approach to sex end up with teenagers in turn adopting a more restrained view of the topic, rather than being consumed with curiosity about an apparently special super secretive aspect of being an adult.  It is the same with alcohol – families that treat alcohol as a functional normal part of their world have fewer binge drinking teenagers and alcoholics.

So too can it be the same with your retreat.  If you act casually about who you are, and where your retreat is and why, then the locals will accept it in the same low-key ordinary way you present it.

A key part of opsec is not eliminating all information flowing outside of your operation.  It is instead controlling and shaping the information release, and adopting appropriate internal measures to anticipate the outcomes of the information that has been released.

You don’t need to place a public notice in the local newspaper boasting of your new retreat and all the stores you’ve stockpiled, of course.  But you can tell people where you live, and if you’re not there permanently, you can describe it as a vacation home, a hunting/fishing lodge, or whatever else you like.  This changes you from being a subject of speculation and gossip, and instead you become a known normal quantity, and no longer worthy of ongoing discussion.

If you do succeed in clamping down on the release of all information, that actually becomes significant.  As a comparison, these days, one of the ways to find a submarine in the ocean is to look for an area of unexpected silence – the most sophisticated stealthy submarines now create areas not of detectable noise, but of unusual silence.  It is the same with your retreat – if someone is checking off property on a map saying ‘Oh yes, this lot belong to Bill Smith, that lot is forest land, John Jones grows crops here’ then they come to your lot and say ‘Hey, what’s going on here?  We better go see.’

Even some of the least sophisticated counties have adopted very complete and detailed GISs – geographical information systems that plot every square inch of land in their county, showing who owns it, recording the location of easements, utilities, wells, rivers, streams, lakes, mines, septic systems, buildings, and all manner of other details.  Sometimes this is even publicly accessible online.  It is also used, perhaps with greater detail revealed, by emergency services, by county valuers and assessors, health inspectors, building inspectors, and so on through a huge long list of departments and bureaucracies.

Here is an example of one such database – it covers every property in the entire state of Montana.

If your retreat isn’t already captured in your county’s GIS, it is only a matter of time before it will be, because the state and county agencies revisit and re-inspect properties to update their records on an occasional basis.  You might have managed to create your retreat on land the county thought to be undeveloped forest, but sooner or later, they’ll discover your presence, and then you’ll find yourself in an embarrassing situation – un-permitted improvements, non-standard construction, back taxes, penalties, and you’ll transition from being obscure to being very visible.  Maybe you are already on several different federal GIS databases (not just police and security ones).

It is much better to take control of these matters up-front, and to manage the release of information.  As we said before, you don’t necessarily need to fully share all information about everything, but you need to disclose enough to explain your presence and to make it seem ordinary and normal.

Summary

Right from the minute you buy your retreat land from someone, you are starting to create a paper trail and record of your presence.  Don’t fight it.  Accept it and take the initiative, positively creating the impression you wish to convey in the local community.

The best opsec is not to adopt an unrealistic attempt to hide away from everyone, always.  It is instead a managed release of information on your terms to neutralize potentially harmful speculation and to replace unknowns and curiosity with the impression of whatever semi-normal concept you wish to convey.

Aug 232012
 

The waves of refugees after TEOTWAWKI will be both heart-rending and dangerous.

Shortly after some type of disaster that disrupts the normal flow of food and energy into your nearby towns, people will be forced to leave their residences and fan out into the countryside, foraging for food (and subsequently shelter too).  That is obvious – if there is no food in the town/city, people can either stay where they are and die of thirst or starvation, or they can pro-actively start looking for food.

People will initially look for food on one of two different levels.  The first level is ‘looking for food nearby and returning back to one’s normal home to eat it and continue living’.  The second level is ‘abandoning one’s former residence and moving, as a refugee, towards wherever the possibility of ongoing survival may be greatest’.  A third and fourth type of food seeking will develop later into a crisis.

It is helpful to understand the differing types of contacts you’ll have, because each poses different challenges, problems, threats, and even opportunities, calling for different responses on your part.

And while we consider our four different waves to be more or less chronologically sequential, there will be some overlaps, with some people representing some waves either earlier than most others, or later than most others.

The First Wave

The first wave will start shortly after the social disruption occurs, initially as a trickle, and then successively greater and greater as more and more people run out of food and come to realize that the government won’t magically solve the problem that occurred.

It will only take a week or two before the first type of food-seeking necessarily ends, due to people running out of gas for their vehicles, and being reduced instead to only traveling and foraging as far as they can walk or bicycle (although, on flat terrain, fitter people could fairly easily cycle up to 50 miles out and then 50 miles back home again).

We predict that people in this ‘first wave’ won’t be very threatening, because they will be more in a hurry to cover as much ground as possible to find as much easy food as possible, rather than becoming fixated on specific potential targets.  Plus, the ‘kill or be killed’ reality of tough survival won’t yet have fully penetrated, and the region will have patches of remaining lawfulness alongside areas of growing anarchy.

Furthermore, these people are primarily seeking food only, not shelter.  They’ve not yet accepted that their city residences have become unviable and need to be abandoned.

Your tactic to resist problems from the first wave of food/shelter seekers will be to maintain a low profile, so most of such people pass you by, and to positively respond to people who do come visiting, encouraging them to go find easier targets/food sources elsewhere.

Of course, the further you are from the nearby towns and cities, the fewer the number of people who might stumble upon you.  But you’ll never be 100% guaranteed to be safely far from such itinerant scavengers.  Fortunately the danger they pose to your retreat at this early stage is low, so while your location choice will ideally not be right next to a freeway exit, a mere 10 miles from the city center, you don’t need to keep yourself hundreds of miles away from any and all population concentrations.

The Second Wave

As the first wave ends and is replaced by the second wave, people’s attitudes will be hardening, because their ability to travel far and wide is massively reduced.  They have probably used up most of their emergency food stores, and now, limited primarily by their ability to walk, any source of food becomes one they must take full advantage of.  They can no longer afford the luxury of leaving empty-handed, and their lack of mobility now reduces the number of places they can travel to in search of food.  They have to make the best of every possible opportunity.

The grim reality of the ‘eat or be eaten’ concept will also be one which the survivors can no longer ignore.

If these people come across your retreat, they are likely to be a stronger and more determined adversary than people in the first wave (and people in the second wave could well be the same people who visited more peaceably in the first wave, too).

Fortunately, most of these people in the second wave will still be nomadic and itinerant.  They’ll be traveling in the hope of finding a Shangri-La somewhere that is full of food, energy, and welcoming people keen to help them, and probably won’t yet be in the ‘looking for anywhere to settle’ mode that will come later.  They might hope for overnight shelter, but they’re not yet looking for a place to settle – or, if they are, they’re probably not yet realistic enough to appreciate the value of your retreat.

People will start abandoning their homes anytime after only a very few days of the crisis commencing and once they start to accept that no magic solutions are forthcoming.  This won’t only be due to the lack of food and lack of any future food supply, but may also be due to lack of water, lack of plumbing, and lack of energy in general.  A high-rise apartment with no water, no working elevators, and no lights or heating/cooling will quickly become uninhabitable, food or not.

The second wave will probably diminish after three or so weeks, because by that point, people will have either left the city, or died, or created some sort of semi-stable ongoing basis of existence in the city.

Your strategy during this exodus stage is to be located somewhere reasonably far from the main routes people are likely to travel along.  It is as important that you are off the likely refugee routes, whether you are 1 mile or 100 miles from the major population centers, because people will potentially be traveling long distances in their search for somewhere better to live.

People may fan out slightly from the main routes as they search for food en route, but they will generally follow the major arterial routes.

Major routes will tend to be well maintained highways, and generally we expect people will move to the coasts and south, rather than inland and to the north.  People will, either by reason or instinct, seek out warm climates and water/ocean.  The warm climate reduces their dependency on shelter and energy, and the ocean has the appeal of ‘free fish’ and also some type of instinctive deep-seated lure.

The Third Wave

The third wave will be refugees, the same as the second wave, but this time it will be people looking for somewhere to settle.

These will be people who are becoming more realistic in their expectations, and now rather than mindlessly going anywhere in the hope of finding (nonexistent) salvation, they are now looking for somewhere they can settle and survive for the medium or longer term.

Your appeal to these people is not just the food you have stored, but also your retreat as a whole, the under-way food cultivation, the energy creating resources you have, and everything else you have done to prepare yourselves for this future.

Some of these people will be seeking short-term easy solutions.  They’ll want to rob you of your food, your shelter, and everything else you have.  They have no concern for sustainability, they want to live for the moment, and when they’ve exhausted everything you have, they’ll move on to somewhere else.

Others of these people will be more realistic, but they’ll still want to displace you from your property and take it over.

There will also be a very few people who will be fair and honest and decent, and who will offer to work their way for and with you.  They’ll offer their labor and their skills, in return for your shelter and assistance – probably as a ‘package deal’ for themselves and their other family members.

It would be good if you had a way of responding positively to such people, because they may prove to be valuable additions to your small community.

The Fourth Wave

The fourth wave is very different from the other three.  It is longer lasting and more potentially impactful on your retreat and community.

Due to the importance of this fourth wave, we have devoted a separate article to it – The Fourth and Deadliest Wave of Refugees.  Please click the link to continue reading.

Jul 142012
 

The darker the color, the greater the density of gang members in the state. Source – FBI 2011 National Gang Threat Assessment.

You know about gangs from the movies, television, and sometimes from the newspapers, right?

You probably understand them to be disaffected lawless groups of underclass urban youth, often from ethnic minorities, and while a problem for sure in the inner cities, not something you’re likely to encounter, either hopefully in your normal daily lives, or – and more to the point – if you ever need to bug out to the safety of your rural retreat.

Many people also assume that because street gangs are lawless and disruptive, and because they deal in and use drugs, and because they seem to be made up of high school dropouts rather than honor roll students, they are anarchistic in nature, uncoordinated, and poorly managed.  Their tendency to kill each other is viewed as further proof of their irrelevancy outside of the narrow geographic areas they can be found in, and outside of the drugs trade they seem to be such a part of.

Unfortunately, while some of the preceding two paragraphs is indeed correct, the most important parts are totally wrong.  Gangs are not a geographically confined phenomenon affecting only their fellow members of the criminal classes.  They have already infiltrated all parts of the US – rural and urban – and are engaged in all types of criminal activity, from ‘white collar’ crimes such as identity theft and mortgage fraud to more traditional activities such as drugs, prostitution and general violent crime.

Gangs members are also more numerous than you might think and steadily increasing in number.  In 2010 it was estimated there were at least 1.4 million gang members in the US (up from a 2008/2009 estimate of 1 million).  In four states (CA ID UT and NM) the gang members outnumber the police by more than six to one, in another seven states there are 4 – 6 gang members for every law enforcement official (NV WA MT ND NE IA MS).

As these numbers hint at, gangs are moving out of the cities and into the rural states and regions.  States with more than four gang members per 1,000 of population in general are CA, NV, ID, NM, IL (all with 6+ per thousand) and AK, WA, UT, WY, CO, NE, KS, OK, MN, IA, MS, TN, NJ and ME (all with 4 – 6 gang members per thousand).  This is illustrated on the map at the top of this article.

Some Scary Facts About Gangs

While some neighborhood gangs remain informal and amorphous casual groupings of people with little interest in anything outside their own territory, most gangs are very different.  These days gangs can be multi-national organizations comprising sometimes tens of thousands of members, and involved in international trade just like many large corporations, albeit of illegal rather than regular goods.  They have hierarchies of leadership, they form alliances with each other, and generally act – in some respects – rationally and in a coordinated manner.

Rather than being made up of aimless drifters and high school dropouts, some gangs even provide scholarships for selected members to go to college to learn regular business skills which can subsequently be applied to benefit the gang.  Other gang members are recruited out of the military, while some gang members remain active in the reserves, so the gangs have the benefit of the finest weapons and training that Uncle Sam can provide.

Gangs also have the latest in military grade weapons, both legal and illegal, and not only do they have higher powered weapons and munitions, they also have the training in how to use them effectively and a complete lack of moral restraint or care of consequences for when it comes to choosing to use them.  They’re not just ‘gang bangers’ with ‘Saturday Night Special’ cheap revolvers stuck down the fronts of their trousers.  Some of them are highly trained and battle hardened weapons experts who have fought in our various foreign wars, and who now are training their fellow gang members in the same combat skills, and with the same equipment – weapons, night optics, protective clothing, and field medical care – as they became proficient with in the armed services.

Gang members also actively seek to join police departments and other government organizations – and often succeed in doing so.  Because of this, some gangs have as good or better intelligence about what the police are doing than what the police have about the gang members – it is difficult with some ethnic groupings to get police informers into gangs, and with our strange obsession about treating illegal aliens as a special privileged class of criminal these days, the determination, particularly at national levels, to give illegal aliens a ‘free ride’ and to look the other way whenever accidentally encountering one has also helped gangs preserve their own ‘opsec’.  Needless to say, significant numbers of gang members are illegal aliens – oh yes, and they’re also actively involved in bringing more illegal aliens into the country as well.

Those gangs that haven’t infiltrated members into local law enforcement might still be able to pretend to be law officers.  Gangs regularly target police vehicles to steal weapons, bullet proof vests, and police ID.

While gangs are happily involved in most traditional forms of crime, they haven’t restricted themselves to only crimes of violence.  They have opportunistically spread into just about every form of illegal endeavor.  Gangs even make use of mortgage banking and identity fraud the same as the best of white-collar criminals.

And while gang members like to flash recognition signs at each other, and to wear particular colors and styles of clothing, that’s not the only way they communicate.  They also use high-tech methods of communication for command and control purposes, including encrypted voice communications, computer to computer links, and throw-away cell phones.

Gangs also use public internet communities as a means of recruiting new gang members, with specific individuals tasked with formal recruiting duties.  Gangs aren’t growing in size as a result of randomness – they are actively – and successfully – recruiting new members, much more successfully than your local church or community group.

Gangs Are Now in Rural Areas as Well as Cities

Gangs have already spread across the country.  They’re not exclusively an inner city/big city problem.  They’re increasingly setting up in rural communities.  The crime you’re seeking to escape from, by moving to a small township somewhere, may have already moved there ahead of you.

Unfortunately, the spread of migrant agricultural workers from Mexico and other Central/South American countries into agri-business states has also had them bring their gangs with them.  And our willingness to welcome refugees has also seen us welcome refugee gangsters as well as refugees, whether they be from Somalia or Russia or anyplace else.

There’s a related consideration to keep in mind as well.  You may not recognize gang members when you see them.  Sure, some gang members are obvious, but not all gang members fit the classic profiles.  In addition to youthful hispanics and blacks, middle-aged white men are gang members too, and as you surely know, we as preppers are often painted with too broad a brush, confusing us with ‘white supremacists’ and ‘neo-nazis’ and ‘fundamentalists’.

While we of course don’t like this blurring of the lines between ordinary law-abiding folk such as ourselves who simply wish to prudently prepare for possible future breakdowns in society, and extremists who wish to contribute to the breakdown in society, there is an uncomfortable element in this confusion.  Sometimes it can be difficult for us to distinguish between fellow law-abiding and prepping ‘good folks’ and other people who while also prepping for an adverse future are most definitely not good folks.

This may be part of the reason why Idaho is shown as having so many gang members.  We’re not sure if all the so-called gang members in ID are truly gang members, or if perhaps they are merely ‘counter-cultural’ types that in the last few years the Department of Justice has been distressingly eager to categorize as either domestic terrorists or gang members.

But, whatever and whoever these folks are, it is always prudent to keep in mind that the person next to you in the store who is also buying up bulk supplies of long life food, cases of ammo, or whatever else, may not necessarily share all the same values as yourself, and may not for sure be the sort of person you’d want to invite into your retreat, either in good times or bad.

Who is Winning the War Against Gangs?

Is there even a ‘war against gangs’, and if there is, do we have any reason to believe it is any less a colossal failure than our war against drugs?

While some elements of local gangs are indeed made up of the dregs of society doing their best to eliminate themselves from the gene pool, there’s precious little evidence that even against such dysfunctional adversaries our law enforcement bodies are winning the upper hand.  No matter how many task forces and initiatives and community groups are formed, and no matter how much money is thrown at the issue, these least threatening types of gangs still seem to be thriving.

The upper elements of regional, national and international gangs are calculating, intelligent and very formidable opponents, and they are definitely growing in numbers and distribution.  As evidence of that is the ongoing growth and spread of their gangs.

The FBI/National Gang Intelligence Center issued a National Gang Threat Assessment document in 2009 (you can read it here) in which they estimated there were about one million gang members in the US.  A new National Gang Threat Assessment document was published in 2011 (you can read it here) in which the estimate had grown to 1.4 million.

The FBI say, to partially explain and excuse this apparent 40% leap in gang membership in a mere two years, that the reason for the growth in their estimate is in part due to better intelligence in 2011.  But that’s not reassuring at any level – if the FBI couldn’t estimate gang numbers to within 40% of the real count in 2009, what else were they overlooking then, and what else are they still overlooking now?  They didn’t say, in their 2009 report ‘this number might be off by 40%’; how are we to know that the 1.4 million count now is any more accurate?

There is a lot of information about gangs on the internet of course, and while the two FBI reports are more authoritative than many other sources, they have to be read in context with the FBI’s own constraints and framing agenda.  Does it suit the FBI, in cases where a judgment call could be made, to be alarmist or to be calming in how they interpret the incomplete and raw data they receive?

If you want to know more, we suggest you should do a fairly open-minded and broad review of the published literature, and most of all, make sure you accept it free of the constraints of normal civilized behavior.  Many of these gangs live a life and interact with normal people in a way that truly is (or could be) your worst nightmare, and unfortunately, it is in the rural communities these days where they are often most dominant.

At least in the inner cities, a confrontation between gang members and police can see tens if not hundreds of police rush to the location in only a few minutes, backed up by SWAT teams, helicopters, and all sorts of other formidable resources.  But what about in a lightly populated county, where there might only be half a dozen sheriff’s deputies on duty at a given time, and half of them are 50+ miles away from the other half?  This is distressingly a common circumstance in some areas these days – where one or two policemen realize that reinforcements are at least 30 minutes away and potentially an hour or more away, and even if the reinforcements all turn up magically in just a few minutes, they’ll still be outnumbered ten to one by the gang members they are confronting.

We know, from discussions with law enforcement officers and third parties, about counties where the police are massively outnumbered by gang members and where the gangs have pretty much taken over the county.  Normal residents have either moved out or been forced to adjust their lives to accept the impact and presence of the gangs around them.  The police will still happily give us, as ordinary law-abiding folks who support our local police and accept the rule of law, a ticket for doing 33 mph in a 30 mph zone, but if you’re a gang member, they’ll develop sudden selective blindness.

The police are used to ordinary criminals mouthing off when they are arrested, making all sorts of wild threats about what they will do when they get free, variously to the police officers and their families.  They also know that 99.9% of the time, these threats are empty and without any meaning.  But if the police overstep the bounds of the uneasy informal truces with their local gangs, they know that the threats are very real.

This creates for an uneasy sort of truce between the police and the gangs, with the gangs in the ascendancy.

Who is winning the war against gangs?  Isn’t it obvious?  The war is over, ended before it even started.  The gangs have won.

Implications for Preppers

We headed this article with the claim that gangs are possibly your biggest security threat.  Hopefully the article has opened your eyes to how and why this can be so.

In particular, consider the following points :

  • Gangs are everywhere, including quite possibly in the towns and countryside close to your retreat.  In other words, they’re already dangerously close to you.
  • Gangs have many members, and are affiliated with potentially tens of thousands of fellow gang members in other branches of the gang.  In other words, they outnumber you, maybe by ten to one, maybe by one hundred to one.
  • Gangs have well-developed military competencies, and the weapons to match.  In other words, expect to be confronted by battle hardened combatants armed with heavy caliber automatic weapons.
  • Gangs have no moral restraints acting on them.  They break the law with relative impunity now, and in a crisis seeing a collapse of society and its normal values, they’ll be even freer in their actions then.  In other words, what’s yours risks becoming theirs.

What can you do?  There are some small glimmers of hope.  While the gangs are not constrained by normal moral or legal considerations, they do have a moderately rational leadership.  Their future success doesn’t depend exclusively on plundering your retreat – they can turn away from you and concentrate on other easier opportunities if it suits them to do so.  They’ve shown they can co-exist alongside local law enforcement, provided that the local law doesn’t become too bothersome.  If you can create a ‘win-win’ that will result in that outcome, so much the better.  (We have some thoughts on such scenarios, and you’ll understand our hesitation in publishing them for all to see.)

On the other hand, they’ll not be fazed by the thought of a ‘lose-lose’ situation.  Particularly in a Level 2/3 event, they’ll have no shortage of people wishing to join their gang, and if they have to sacrifice 50 or 100 new recruits as part of an operation to eliminate you and your retreat, they’ll probably happily do so.

The likely impact of gangs on you and your retreat underscores, yet again, the essential need for you to be part of a medium or larger sized community, whether it be a Code Green community, one you create yourselves, or any other similar sort of arrangement.  If it is just you against 50 gang members, you know how that story will end.  But if it is 50 (or 100) of you against 50 gang members, you have a better range of endings to work towards.

Jul 112012
 

How many people do you need in your community in order to ensure its viability and safety? The answer will surprise you.

As we’ve several times detailed, to create a secure retreat, you need some sort of community defense program – either in the form of a suitable sized group sharing your retreat with you, or by forming a local ‘neighborhood watch’ program, albeit on steroids and armed for bear.

If we calculate the minimum size of security force we need, we can extrapolate from that to get an ideal of the minimum size that a group as a whole can be.  Clearly, there’s probably no upper limit that would be a problem for most of us, but – as we calculate in this article – there is indeed a lower limit that may be a challenge in some situations.

In planning your security needs, there are two main factors to keep in mind.  The first is you’ll need some type of 24/7 perimeter security on watch to give you warning of the appearance of any marauders, and the second is you’ll need a team of armed people to help you fight them off.

What Perimeter Do You Need to Patrol and Secure?

The first issue is to decide what your patrol zone will be and what your secure zone will be.  The two may not necessarily be identical.

Obviously, your retreat building itself will need to be patrolled and secured, and if you are part of a community, their retreat buildings will also need to be patrolled and secured.  This points to the benefit of a small cluster of retreat dwellings close together – it is easier to patrol all buildings and the common areas between them if they are close together.  (See also our article on Community Mutual Defense Pacts and the situations in which they will or won’t work for more discussion on this important topic.)

One of the key things about a perimeter is that everywhere inside it is reasonably secure – the perimeter encloses an area such that people can not cross the perimeter without being detected.  For this reason, perimeters usually have some sort of physical barrier so as to require people crossing it to make a conscious decision to do so (meaning that if you find an intruder inside your perimeter, you know they are not there by innocent mistake) and also to make it easier for you to detect them while they are crossing the barrier, meaning you can patrol your perimeter with fewer people.  The barrier hopefully also provides you and your fellow sentries with some security so you can’t be ambushed or picked off by distant snipers.

Establishing a secure perimeter can be a problem if you have a geographically distributed group of retreat dwellings.  You can patrol/secure each dwelling, but you can’t patrol the land between them, which also makes it dangerous for people from one dwelling to travel to another one, whether it be for social purposes or to provide reinforcement in time of attack.

Note that the area you patrol – your perimeter – need not be the same as the area you defend.  Maybe you have obscured listening/observation posts around your property, but when the sentries at such locations detect people coming towards them, they merely sound the alarm and then stealthily withdraw back to the main defended location.

Another situation could have you needing to patrol your fields to protect your livestock from rustling and possibly even to protect your crops from being stolen too.

Clearly, the more area you need to patrol, the more people you will need on patrol.  Which leads to our next point.

How Many People as Sentries

Even if you are only patrolling/protecting your own retreat, you can’t just share sentry duty with your spouse during the day, and lock the front door and bolt the windows when you both go to bed at night.  You need to be actively looking for threatening people, and you need to intercept them before they get dangerously close to your dwelling.

Note that ‘dangerously close’ is actually quite a long way away – a person can sprint almost 100 yards in ten seconds.  How much warning do you need to suddenly be ready to defend your house and loved ones from a surprise attack – almost surely plenty more than ten seconds.

You don’t want to be woken up late at night to the sound and other sensations of attackers already attempting to crash through your front door, and pouring burning liquids in through any openings in your retreat walls.  You need to have sufficient people on sentry duty, at least during the nights, and ideally all day every day, as to ensure you can never be attacked by surprise.

At the very least, you need three people to do lookout duty.  This would allow for duty cycles of four hours on, eight hours off, every day (56 hours on duty every week for each of three people).  Three people means one person always on duty.

But there’s a problem with that – and we’re assuming that the area you are patrolling is small enough and laid out so that a single person is all that is needed to adequately patrol it.  If you have only one sentry, what happens if that one person is taken out in a sneaky surprise attack?  You then have nothing and no-one between you and your attackers.

So perhaps you need two people on duty all the time, in the hope that one of the two will survive long enough to sound an alarm – and also doubling the chances of the sentries spotting the bad guys before the bad guys launch their attack.

So this means you need six people at a minimum to keep two people on duty all the time.  And that is assuming a well laid out retreat and patrol path that allows for one two-man team to effectively patrol the entire perimeter.

You might think that in a survival situation, people won’t mind working longer shifts.  Union and state/federal labor laws probably won’t apply in such a scenario!

That is true, but the reality is that you can’t keep people fresh and alert for more than four hours on sentry duty at a time; indeed, two-hour or three-hour shifts would be vastly better than four-hour shifts.

You also need to allow people a chance to be well rested (ie at least one break of at least 8 hours) and to give them a measure of time to just ‘live their lives’ as well.  Maybe you could work a schedule with three three-hour shifts, a nine-hour break and two three-hour breaks, but that would be about the absolute maximum for ongoing ordinary operations, and all you’ve done is get one extra hour per sentry per day.

In reality, you’ll need to have more than six people on your sentry duty roster.  You need someone to coordinate the schedules, you need to allow time for sickness and other special events, and so on.

For sure, the six or more sentry personnel can also be contributing to your retreat in other ways when not sleeping or standing sentry duty, but this number – six – represents one measure of the minimum size group of people you need for a secure retreat in a Level 2 situation.

This number probably surprises you.  Just to stand sentry duty to detect the possible approach of bad guys will require six people, each working 56 hours a week minimum.

The good news is that one of the two sentries on duty at any time need not be an adult with skill at arms.  One person could be a child – with probably better eyesight and hearing than an adult, a child could be a good sentry, although they need to be old enough to have sufficient concentration span to remain alert for their shift.

How Many People as Defenders

It is fairly easy to do as we just did, to work the numbers and to decide you need at least six people available to rotate shifts as sentries.  But what happens when a group of marauders approach and attack you?

Clearly at that point, everyone who can aim and shoot a rifle will be doing exactly that.  There’s no such thing as having too many defenders.  But there is definitely a problem about having too few.

As an awfully absolute bare minimum, you want at least two people able to be your primary fire team engaging the attackers.  You then want to still have some sentries, scanning around the rest of your perimeter, looking for additional attackers suddenly appearing from the sides or rear.

You also need a support person bringing additional ammunition supplies and anything else that may be needed to the active shooters.  This person might also do double duty as a corpsman/medic, in the event that you suffer casualties among your own people.

You need at least one person in a ‘ready reserve’.  Best case scenario, they do nothing.  Neutral case scenario, they are called upon to successfully defend against an attack from a new zone (but this will be one person on your side, and probably two or more attackers – a ready reserve of one is very few, especially when you can’t afford to take people away from your primary fire team either).  Worst case scenario, they have to replace an incapacitated member of the primary fire team.

So, add that up, and you need 2 on the primary fire team, one support person, at least one lookout, and hopefully plenty more than one person in your ready reserve – five people altogether as a terrible minimum, better six or seven (or eight or nine…).

Yes, five people is adequate to successfully defend against one attacker.  You might think that you only need two people to successfully defend, from your somewhat fortified position, and while that is sort of true, you need to be alert and able to respond to additional threats that suddenly appear at the same time.  So you need five people to be reasonably sure of winning against one attacker (in part because you can never be sure there is only one person).

The good news is that you don’t need five more people for each additional attacker.  But it would be nice to have at least as many people shooting back as there are people shooting at you, and you do need the support resources too.

You’ll probably be faced with many more than one person attacking you.  How many should you anticipate?

How Many People as Attackers

How many people do you think might attack you?  That’s a tremendously unknown but important number.  It depends a bit on the makeup of the group of people attacking you.  Are they an ad-hoc group of people joined together in the common cause of stealing food, or are they members of a traditional gang?

Ad-hoc groups are probably going to be at least five in number – any less than that and they’d not feel secure at attacking a defended position and would either leave you alone or join up with other individuals or groups.

On the other hand, smaller groups of 2 or 3 or 4 might adopt a stealthy approach and subterfuge – appearing initially as harmless helpless refugees or whatever, getting close to or even inside your retreat, and only then surprising you and overwhelming you in your unprepared state.  Anyone who approaches your retreat is a potential threat.

We guess ad hoc groups of attackers would tend to be around 8 – 20 people in number.  More than 20 gets complicated to manage/control, and becomes vulnerable to ‘splinter groups’ forming and breaking away, while less than 8 and the group will still be keen to recruit more participants.

Furthermore, if ad-hoc groups get much larger, they’ll start to delegate duties, and it is reasonable to expect that any initial foraging teams will probably be only eight or so people – this is more than enough to overwhelm unprotected or lightly protected retreats.

So for these type of newly formed ad-hoc groups, we guess you’ll be encountering at least five and probably more people attacking you.  But, the more secure and impressive your own retreat, the greater the size of the attacking group, because smaller groups will simply pass you by while looking for easier pickings and larger groups will apply more of their force to the assault.  Maybe the first team sees your retreat and security, then goes back to the main group and suggests that the initial approach/attack be with a larger attacking force.

As for more traditional street gang type groups, that’s a much bigger worry.

Organized Gangs

Way back in 2005, a Department of Justice report estimated there were 21,500 gangs in the US, and 731,000 active gang members.  There’s an interesting piece of information in this data – it seems the average gang size, in 2005, was 34 people.

A second set of statistics in 2007 claims 30,000 gangs and 800,000 gang members.  This works out to a lower count of 27 per gang.

Another set of statistics, in 2009, claims 900,000 gang members plus another 147,000 gang members in prisons, but doesn’t provide a count of the number of gangs.

A 2011 FBI report estimated 1.4 million people in gangs.  We can only guess what the count of gangs and gang members may be now.

None of these numbers are exact, but two things are apparent.  First, gang membership is increasing at a dismaying rate.  Second, it seems likely to expect that most gangs will have between 25 – 40 members.

If we look at this number of 25 – 40 people per gang, it seems reasonable to assume that if it is a gang type group of people attacking you, there could be as many as half their members in an attack force, and certainly eight or more people.

Perhaps the initial attack might be about eight people, and then after you fight them off, the survivors go back and bring the rest of the gang back for round two of the battle – maybe the second time around you find yourself up against 30 attackers.

We feel the gang threat may be the gravest threat you face – see our separate article that analyses gang issues in more detail.

Realistic Sized Security Force

There are many other factors that go into determining the size of security force you need.  But for this overview, let’s simply say that you need at least ten people who can effectively fight to defend your retreat, and if you can scale this up further, so much the better.

Of course, in an emergency, most adults will be pressed into service to defend the retreat, so we’re simply saying your group needs to include at least ten able-bodied arms-bearing adults at a minimum and preferably more like twenty, so as to be able to defend itself against occasional attacks.

If your retreat is unusually large, you may need even more people, just so you don’t have any exposed undefended external walls.

Not Just Able Bodied Adults

The chances are your community will not just be exclusively able-bodied adults (and we’re also assuming that all adults, both male and female, will be able to and will agree to bear arms in support of the community).  You’ll for sure have some children too, and maybe also elderly people less able to contribute significantly to the defense of the community.

If you have 15 able-bodied adults at a minimum, what does that mean for the overall total community size?  Will there be another 10 children and elderly?  Or another 20?  You can of course influence the answer to this question by selecting who you choose to bring in to your community, but the chances are that at the very least, 15 able-bodied adults will mean a total community size of 25.

Let’s run the numbers some more about what the minimum size community could effectively be.  You’ll be surprised.

What is the Minimum Sized Community

So, to successfully patrol your retreat, you need at least six people working as sentries full-time (ie 56 hrs/week each).  If your retreat or patrolled perimeter is larger than what can be adequately monitored by one single two-man team, you might need 12 people (for two teams) or 18 (for three teams) or some other multiple of six.

If your retreat has six adults as sentries, people who are full-time diverted from ‘productive’ duties such as caring for livestock, growing crops, and so on, clearly it needs to have perhaps another six adults who can do productive duties to provide the food and ongoing shelter and energy needs for the group of 12 as a whole.  These other six people could double as part-time members of the defense force in the event that an attack eventuates.

Remember also that a community will typically have some people who are less productive – retirees and children.  Indeed, younger children are not only less productive themselves, but will also drain productive adult resources by needing to be cared for and educated.

So we start with six adults, minimum, just for sentry duties.  Then another six adults to produce food for the group, now totaling 12.  Maybe these 12 people are joined by 8 less productive children or adults, who need another four adults to care for them directly or to indirectly add to the community’s overall food and energy production.  And now the four extra adults bring additional less productive companions with them too, and so on, over and over.

It is easy to see how the practical minimum size of a single retreat/contiguous community can rapidly swell to way more than 25 people in total, and ideally more like 30 or even 40.  Which probably means you split into two or more dwellings (but see our article advocating a multi-unit condo block rather than free standing dwellings), and may need at least one more set of six sentries, plus the support people now needed for them, and on it goes.

Before you know where you are, you’re looking at 50+ people, and wishing you had more.

Implications for Preppers

We’ve several times pointed out the need to join or create a community so as to establish a viable sized group – not only for defense, but for other purposes too.  However, this is the first time we’ve put a number alongside the claim.  Depending on the physical layout of your retreat(s) and the make-up of your group (as between fully productive adults and less productive seniors and children) you need somewhere between 25 and 50 people as a minimum viable sized group.

Chances are you’ll be as surprised at this as we were, the first time we did the calculation.  But check our logic, and if you can see some other way of working the numbers, let us know.

We started out, probably like you, planning our own retreat for just our immediate family members.  Then we decided to invite in a few selected and trusted very close friends, because we sensed that there was safety, security, and strength in numbers.  But now that we’ve seen how many people we really need to be more certain of securely surviving a Level 2/3 scenario, we’ve evolved our thinking and are now offering the Code Green Community concept, inviting you to consider joining with us as part of a larger more viable group.

Consider joining us by all means.  Alternatively, of course you can do your own thing – either close to us or anywhere else in the country.  But whatever you do, make sure you do it as part of an integrated group; don’t plan on only yourself, your spouse, and immediate family members going it alone.  Whether it is a security problem or something quite different, it is just too risky to attempt to survive in a very small group.

Jul 112012
 

London’s 2011 riots yet again demonstrated the ugly streak of evil that lurks close below the surface of modern society.

(Note – it might be helpful to refresh your understanding of what we define as Level 1, 2 and 3 events.)

The main challenge you will have in a Level 2 situation is security.  While you probably will have food and energy supplies for a year or two (or three….), most ‘normal’ unprepared people have no energy stockpiles and little food.  Within a week, most people will be increasingly forced to ‘forage’ for their food – and we use this word ‘forage’ as a euphemism for more than simple ‘stealing’, because stealing is a familiar and non-violent sounding term.

Interestingly, we see the greatest problems being in the early days of any Level 2/3 scenario.  There is probably an evolutionary process that society will shake down through – we discuss this in our article on the security/lawlessness cycle here.

In that article we lightly touch on the concept that people will be forced to choose between starvation and forcibly taking such food and shelter as they can, by any means necessary.  Let’s look into this in some more detail both in terms of the types of risks and threats you’ll face, and how you need to prepare for them.

Level 2 Risks :  (a)  Lawless Gangs

We have regularly seen, both in the US and elsewhere in the world, the propensity of some groups of society to degenerate into violent lawlessness any time society hiccups and normal law enforcement activities pause.

These people violently riot and loot (and attack and murder) for the sheer devilry and ‘fun’ of it, and because they are laboring under some bizarre view of reality that makes them feel entitled to behave that way, and also for the opportunistic chance to enrich themselves by carrying away color televisions and other home electronics from stores they are looting.

How much more aggressive will they be in a Level 2 situation?  It seems realistic to accept that normal law enforcement will be massively reduced in a Level 2 situation.  Even if all the police and other law enforcement personnel still report for duty, the same as normal, they’ll be overwhelmed by the number of problems suddenly dropping in their lap.

As we saw in, for example, the Los Angeles riots in 1992, normal law enforcement numbers can be completely inadequate for any outbreaks of mass violence, and in a Level 2 situation, not only will there be even greater disorder, there will not be regional and national reserves of manpower to call upon, because every other region will also be struggling to keep ahead of their own problems.  The inability of local law enforcement to deal with rioting is the flipside of the coin to do with the police relying on the general consent and acquiescence of the communities they police – when this starts to fail, so too does the policing, whether it be as we say in Los Angeles in 1992, or more recently in London in 2011, or anywhere else.

Add to that the fact that such roving gangs of people won’t only be looting for fun and for personal enrichment, and they won’t just be seeking things such as computers, iPhones, and suchlike.  They’ll be as threatened with starvation as anyone else, and they’ll be looting for food and survival, too – just more vigorously and violently then everyone else.

Level 2 Risks :  (b)  Organized Gangs

A much greater threat is the presence of organized gangs – bikers, drug distribution networks, street gangs, and such like.  While there aren’t as many of these people as there will be, initially, of lawless gangs, they are organized, disciplined, and totally amoral.

They are also determined.  Whereas lawless groups of people – ad hoc gangs – are opportunistic and will attack easy targets and avoid hard targets, organized gangs will be willing to attack all types of targets – weak targets because they can, and hard targets because they pose potential threats to the organized gang that will otherwise seek to become the new power structure in a region.

Even worse, many of these gangs are vaguely prepping for the future, too.  They’re poised, waiting to attack society as soon as it becomes feasible to do so.

Level 2 Risks :  (c)  Starving People

We don’t need guns if/when a person politely comes up and knocks on our door and asks if we can spare any food.  If we are unable to help out, they thank us for our time and leave again.

But do you really think that is what will happen?

Let’s say 50% of the population only has food for three days or less, another 25% for about ten days, another 20% for about twenty days.  And let’s say it becomes obvious to everyone that the Level 2 situation will take not days or weeks, but many months to be resolved.

In three days, half the population will be looking at empty pantries.  What will they do?

Within another week, 75% of the population will have no food, and there will be a growing realization by everyone, whether they still have food or not, that there is no hope of any arriving any time soon.  What will all these people do?

Over the next ten days, they’ll be joined by just about everyone else.  In less than three weeks – probably much less – more than 95% of the population will be starving.

Will these people politely knock on your door, and then just shuffle off and die quietly on the street if you refuse to share your own limited supply of food with them?  It is possible that a pacifist single person might do this, but what about a man (or woman) with a spouse and children to feed?  Will they just passively let their entire family die of starvation, while watching you and a very few others continue to eat almost normally?

Here’s the logic they face :

You can threaten to shoot me with your gun, but if I don’t take your food from you, I’ll definitely die of starvation, so it makes sense for me to risk being shot while doing anything and everything necessary to take your food from you.  If I have to choose between you dying, or me and my family dying, you will be the one I prefer to see die.

You need to understand this.  If you refuse to feed your best friend in a post Level 2/3 situation, then he, just as much as any stranger, has no choice but to use whatever means necessary to take your food from you, because it is essential tp the survival of himself and his family.

You also need to remember how people are so brilliantly good at justifying any actions to themselves.  The same people who laughed at you for stockpiling food will now be demanding it from you as their ‘right’ – ‘You have no right not to share your food with us, you can’t just leave us to die, you selfish so-and-so’.  That’s only one small step removed from ‘You are trying to kill us by withholding food from us’ and ‘You’ve more food than you could possibly need yourself, there should be a law against such selfishness’.

After they’ve demonized you in their own mind, and played up their own deserving victim status, they’ll feel totally justified to shoot you in your doorway, and then to clamber over your dead body and to loot your house of all its supplies.

We are deliberately writing this in vivid shock terms, but you need to understand and accept this.  If it sounds impossible to you, ask yourself – and answer the question – what will starving people do instead when they see you with plenty of food while they have none?

Some people might find it unlikely that their friendly next door neighbors will turn around and use any and all means up to and including lethal force to take food from them.  We agree this is unlikely, but we realistically fear that it is much more likely that your neighbors (and, of course, strangers too) will do this than it is that they’ll just peacefully and calmly resign themselves to die of starvation and lie waiting for death to occur in their own homes.

Implications

No matter where you have your retreat located, sooner or later it will be found by groups of starving marauders and/or opportunistic gangs (see our article on ‘Is it Realistic to Expect Your Retreat Will Not be Found‘).  The only three things you don’t know is how long it will be until you are first confronted by starving/looting marauders, how often such confrontations will occur into the future, and how many people you’ll encounter on each occasion.

The one thing you can be sure of is that these people mean to take your food and other supplies and resources from you, and if they have to do it by force, they won’t even pause to think twice.  Indeed, their resentment at you being well prepared is such they’ll feel you ‘deserve to die’ – this is about as warped as illogic can get, but do you want to bet your life that this is not how people will end up thinking?

You will have become the evil ‘1%’ that has recently been demonized by the ‘Occupy Wall St’ protesters.  We’ve seen, over the last year, people trying to wrap themselves in the righteous mantle of being part of a supposed 99% of the country, using this supposed ‘moral majority’ empowerment to advocate violence and sanctions against the remaining 1% of the country – even though the supposed 99% group are – quite obviously to those of us who truly are mainstream – anything but representative members of the majority.  They’re as much a 1% minority group as are the people they claim that their ‘majority status’ empowers them to act against.

We make these points not so much to criticize the Occupy Wall St people (although we definitely don’t support them) but rather to point out how people readily make completely ridiculous claims about themselves so as to give themselves a self-claimed mantle of legitimacy that then empowers them to do whatever lawless and wrong acts they wish.

The same people who are keen to live off government handouts today, and who believe that rich people should be taxed and then taxed some more so that they (the ‘99%’) don’t need to do any work themselves, will of course now resent you for doing the very thing they will have laughed at you about before the Level 2 event – preparing prudently and storing food.

They won’t now consider it to have been prudent preparation and storing of your food.  They will claim it to be immorally selfish hoarding of food that should belong to the community (and, in particular, to them).  Your refusal to give all your food to them means that you are denying them the right to live.  So, of course, they’ll feel totally morally empowered to at the very least take all your food from you, and if they have to shoot you in the process, so be it.

Summary

You need to plan your retreat not just from a perspective of weather and suitability for agricultural purposes and everything else.  You also need to plan to make it defendable against people keen to rob you by force, even by lethal force if necessary.

The most important adage is ‘safety in numbers’.  You need to become part of a community to share the burden of defending your properties, and to have the strength in numbers necessary to prevail against attacks by evildoers.

Jul 052012
 

Unlike modern towns, those in the ‘wild west’ were designed to be defendable and convenient for their residents.

We consistently urge you to become part of a community of fellow preppers for mutual support in all respects (or to form one if you can’t find a suitable community already out there).

Being part of a community gives you access to extra manpower when you need help with construction projects.  It represents people to buy/sell/trade with.  It offers you access to a wider range of supplies, skills and expertise.  Equally importantly, but intangibly, it gives you companionship and fellowship and moral support, helping you to remain positive and determined to succeed, even in grave adversity.

A community can also potentially provide support in another very important sense – the shared defense of your various properties, something that is of course essential for survival.

But when many preppers think of this concept (and some of us don’t at all, preferring instead a quixotic vision of a lonely battle against the entire world, all by themselves, unassisted), their vision of how a mutual defense agreement would work is sadly not practical.  They think of becoming part of a community with neighbors who will join with them in defending each other and in creating a larger outpost of safety for all the community members.

Now for the problem with this apparently sensible concept.  First, the good news – this is a realistic and viable arrangement in a town or village.

But – the bad news.  It is close to useless to have some sort of support arrangement with people who live on surrounding farms.  If your main dwelling is out of sight of the other homesteads of the other families nearby, there is both no visible sign of support/deterrence to attackers, and there is also no compelling visual urgency and obligation on the part of your neighbors when/if you are attacked.

The Problem of Mutual Support in the Countryside

The attackers see a remote dwelling, all by itself, with no other dwellings anywhere around.  A tasty, tempting, vulnerable target – their ‘best case scenario’ type of encounter.  They don’t care what sort of mutual defense agreements you might have, because if there isn’t anyone with you at the time they attack, to join you in your defense, then what difference does it make?

There’s no augmented and credible indication of you being a ‘hard’ target rather than a soft target.  There’s no upfront deterrence.  You’re still highly likely to be attacked.

Now let’s think about what happens if you are attacked.  Presumably you sound some sort of alarm – a siren or something – that is an agreed upon call for assistance.  Now try to think very carefully about what will happen next.

How many of your neighbors will instead rush inside their own dwellings and shutter their windows and hunker down defensively?  That’s sure an easier choice for them than to go out in the open, and seek out the people attacking you.  Remember, the warning you have sounded is not currently placing them personally at risk – how many wives will say to their husbands ‘Please don’t go, because if you get injured, there are no advanced medical facilities to treat you, and if you die, who will work our farm with me, who will support me and our children?’

If your house was just over the street from them, they would both feel more directly threatened and also more directly obliged.  But being some distance away, and out of sight, there is the temptation to say ‘Oh, sorry, didn’t hear the alarm.  I had my iPod headphones on and didn’t hear the siren at all’ (or ‘I was napping’ or ‘I was working on some noisy machinery’ or any other excuse they choose).

Or maybe they will ‘make haste slowly’ and very slowly travel to your dwelling, in the hope that by the time they get there, it will all be over and the bad guys safely gone.  ‘Oh, sorry, I came as quickly as I could’.  ‘Sorry, I was in the shower, and so I had to rinse the soap off, get dried, blow-dry my hair, have a fresh shave, etc before I could come’.

Let’s however be positive and assume that your neighbors do respond.  Even if they hurry, how long will it take for them to stop what they are doing, to prepare for battle and to get appropriate clothing, supplies and weapons, then more time to stealthily approach your property, and then still more time for them to meet up with other neighbors until there was a sufficient force to mount an attack from the rear on your attackers?

It doesn’t matter so much how fast the first person will arrive – he would be foolish to do anything until joined by others.  The key time measure is how long it takes the slower people to bolster the numbers to the point they jointly feel able to enter the battle.

Don’t forget to allow for the probability that your neighbors don’t have any motorized transport – or, even if they did, they’d not use it, preferring a slow stealthy sneaky surprise attack from the rear.

That points out another key issue.  Any sort of support from your neighbors would have to involve multiple neighbors all helping in a coordinated manner.  You couldn’t expect one only neighbor to come, and from an outdoors exposed position try to help you (from inside your dwelling) fight off multiple attackers.  That would be close to suicide for him.  If the attackers suddenly came under fire from someone in the open, of course they’d shift their focus from you in your dwelling (because you are in a defensive not attacking posture, and aren’t going anywhere) to the sudden new threat from the rear or side.

So there you are, on your 20+ acre lot, with neighbors also on 20+ acre lots.  How many neighbors will agree to come and help you, how many will even hear your alarm, and how long will it take?

Oh – and how long might it take your attackers, who will have ambushed you on their terms, to overwhelm you and overrun your dwelling?  You will probably be dead, your supplies all looted, and the bad guys already gone, before any support reaches you.

A Town/Village Alternative

Now think through a similar scenario, but this time in a township where a cluster of a dozen or more homes are all located close to each other.  There are signs posted on the routes in to the township advising that martial law is in effect, telling looters they’ll be shot on sight, and requiring strangers to check in with the local ‘sheriff’ if they wish to visit the town.

Any stranger approaching sees not just one isolated homestead, alone by itself, but a cluster of houses all close to each other.  They  see signs indicating an active community defense plan is in place, and they realize they can’t just single out one of the houses to attack – if they do anything to any of the houses,  the other residents from the other houses will also respond.

Most of the time, they’ll pass the town completely by, preferring to find easier pickings elsewhere – like, for example, a single homestead all by itself with no nearby neighbors (sound familiar?).

Put yourself in the shoes of your neighbors again.  This time when you sound your alarm, there’s no way they can’t hear it, and they just have to look out the window to see what is going down, and indeed, they might even be able to participate in the battle by simply shooting from their window, too.

And because they can see the bad guys, maybe no more than 50 yards away from their own front door, they feel equally threatened, because they know if the bad guys have the cojones to ride into town and openly attack one of its residences, they’ll not stop at only one.

This is not a situation where selfish self-interest would motivate your neighbors to ignore your call for help, with the distance giving them excuses for doing so.  It is not a situation where even if they did help, it would probably be too little and too late.  Instead your neighbors will be motivated to fight as desperately as you are, because they are almost at as much risk as you, and they can effectively join the fight in a minute or less, from defensive safe positions.  They’re not doing this out of any altruism – they’re doing it as much for their own good as they are to help you.

So – in the township you are less likely to be attacked in the first place, and if you are attacked, you are more likely to get almost instant and effective support from your fellow townsfolk.

Now tell us again where you plan to build your retreat?

We’re not saying you should set up a retreat in the form of a house in a small town on a typical quarter acre lot.  Sure, you can still have your 20+ acres, and indeed, sure, you should have a decent sized parcel of land.  But set your main dwelling in a cluster with other folks, even if that means you’ve got a bit of a journey to get from your front door to your land.  After all, with 20+ acres, most of it will be some distance from your front door anyway, so it’s not necessarily a big deal to have almost all of it a distance away.

And by all means have a ‘kitchen garden’ or a greenhouse on your in-town lot, too.  This will be a great convenience, particularly in the winter months.

Choose Your Community Wisely

The key part of this concept of course revolves around finding a community group where you’ll be united in a common goal of self-defense and survival.

There’s no guarantee that moving into an existing community will also instantly surround you with like-minded souls.  Indeed, some of the smaller rural towns seem to have a curious mix of people, including some ‘counter-culturalists’ and old hippies, maybe some ‘migrant workers’ (aka illegal immigrants), and some yuppies from the city who have lifestyle properties in the countryside, maybe some low-density alternate-lifestyle organic farmers, and who knows who else.

Not all of the people in these categories are people you’d immediately want to rely on watching your back in a difficult situation.  Worst of all, some of these people may even prove to be ‘part of the problem’ rather than helping you in the solution when a Level 2/3 situation occurs.

Furthermore, the layout and design of most rural towns is not necessarily optimized to create a defensive enclave.  Many people seek privacy from their neighbors and attempt to avoid sight-lines, whereas for defensive purposes, it is better to be closer together and to have nothing between properties that attackers could use as cover.  And the houses are not built to withstand rifle fire – either from attackers or from fellow townsfolk who are shooting at attackers in situations where your house is unavoidably in the background.

We’re not saying it is impossible to find a suitable township, and even a so-so township may be better that nothing.  But it does point to the benefits of joining, or at least getting close to, a custom community such as with ourselves (or developing your own) so that you know you’re together with people who share a similar approach to surviving and succeeding in a Level 2/3 situation.