Your neighbor next door just told you his brand new Ford Mustang was stolen last night. He had it locked up, had the alarm system on, but whoever stole it was a pro; it was gone and was going to stay that way. What did he do wrong?
The big, fancy house down the street was robbed again. This time, the thieves even stole the alarm system! It seems like the house positively attracts thieves. What’s wrong? Your buddy’s new home theater system—the one he bragged cost him six thousand bucks—was stolen last night, along with half of the rest of the contents of his house.
You can’t understand how anyone could have picked his house to hit, and he was always careful about who he invited in and who he talked to. These, and other modern horror stories about thefts and burglaries are all possible, and they all have a common thread. Basically, the people involved violated one of the cardinal rules of the modern survivalist: they didn’t use risk management to help them avoid getting ripped off.
💥 Risk management
The term “risk management” has a certain esoteric ring to it, and makes a nice subject of conversation when you meet with your friends, but what does it really mean for the survivalist?
The answer’s simple: for us, “risk management” means adjusting and controlling our lifestyle to reduce the possibility that we’ll find ourselves coming home to a house stripped of everything we value, perhaps having the situation made all the worse if we find the cold body of someone we hold dear. Risk management is simply recognizing that a problem exists and acting to reduce or eliminate whatever risk attaches to the problem.
All the people in our examples raised their risk levels and paid the price for being so foolish. The man who buys the fancy, a flashy sports car is setting himself up for grief and should have realized it—statistically. This type of car is more likely to be stolen than almost any other kind. To reduce the risk, avoid buying the car.
The owners of the biggest, best, most expensive house in a neighborhood are setting themselves up for bad problems from the word go; big, expensive houses are attractive targets for professional—and amateur—thieves because they represent a concentrated source of loot. From a thief’s viewpoint, you’re more likely to find valuables in a wealthy looking house than in a house more in keeping with its neighbors, and you can guess who’s more likely to be robbed. To reduce the risk, you avoid buying the biggest house in the neighborhood.
The man who bragged to his neighbor about his expensive home theater system violated the most important rule of common sense: if he bragged to one person, he probably told everybody who’d listen what he was getting and how valuable it was. To reduce the risk, you don’t advertise what you have or plan to get.
In the cold, bright light after the fact, it’s easy to see where these people went wrong, but how can you avoid the problem?
The answer’s simple: look carefully at what you do that could give clues as to how valuable a target you’d be to a thief, then adjust your habits to reduce the risk.
The most common spot around the house where our lives interface with the outside world is the telephone. How many times have you been rudely interrupted in the middle of dinner by somebody calling up to chat for a few minutes? How many salesmen call you on the phone every day?
There are several ways to avoid being bothered like this: you can pay for an unlisted number, you can use a false name in the phone book, or you can have your phone torn out. My personal preference is to have an unlisted number and control who I give my telephone number to; only business associates and close friends have mine. You could go further and buy a telephone that won’t put a call through unless the caller uses a specific access code—great, but what happens in an emergency?
Another plague that is affecting not only Americans but the entire world is social media. This cancer has spread everywhere, and it does us more harm than good. Besides tracking every move you make, collecting data, and recording your conversations 24/7, we also give out valuable information without even acknowledging it. People post on social media their vacation plans, itineraries, they brag with the things they bought or with personal achievements that should stay private. Stop posting on social media so much because everyone is tapped to this information flux.
🧳 Leaving the house
Most normal people leave the house at least once in a while, and that means you’ll have some contact with people outside your immediate family circle. Human beings are sociable and tend to talk to one another, and since talking is communications, and communications is a form of data exchange, the information will get out that you might not want out—unless you learn to control your tongue.
You can choose between being known as the neighborhood grouch, an object of suspicion and gossip, and being known as just being very quiet by choosing to talk or not to talk with the people you meet. My personal preference is to talk and keep conversation to a polite minimum. The weather and traffic are usually safe subjects, but I control whatever else I choose to talk about.
Conversations that you let turn to what you earn and what you do in general are foolish. It’s nobody else’s business what you earn, where you work, or what you have; this is a matter between you, the IRS, the state taxing agency, and no one else. The old saying about not discussing religion or politics is perfectly sensible, too; as soon as you express an opinion on either one, you’re labeled, and who wants to be labeled?
📪 Mail and risk management
Mail can sometimes be a problem. The best bet is to rent a post office box and have all your mail diverted there. Some mailmen are notoriously talkative, and you don’t want to have all your business spread around town any more than is absolutely necessary.
Listen to the TV news once in a while when some loon is arrested for acting strangely; invariably, the newspaper reporters mention that “X” had survival magazines or gun magazines or (horror of horrors) a gun in his house.
In small towns, mail deliveries can be a real problem since the post office is sometimes the local social center as well, you might be better off by getting a P.O. box in a nearby, larger town where the people have no real interest in you than to let your mail pass through some people’s hands. This could be expensive since you might have to rent a motel room or an apartment while the box application is processed.
💳 Credit card and cash problems
Credit cards are another interface with the world that must be controlled. Everybody knows that if you lose one to a thief, you can be almost bankrupted unless your state has a liability limiting law.
In some cases, less than honest people will take the information from your card through various means and use them to access your card or make various online purchases. You might not find out about somebody doing this for almost a month!
Dishonest people who have access to credit card records can also charge small items to heavily used accounts and probably get away with the practice for a long, long time. Use your credit card only when you know is safe to do so and start using currency only, which sets you up for other problems, there isn’t any way to control credit cards other than to limit the purchases on them and keep complete records of when, where, how, and how much you spend with the cards. If you have a half dozen or more active cards, this can get quite complicated.
My recommendation is to cut the number of cards back to a bare minimum. Nobody really needs five or more credit cards!
Carrying cash is a problem as well. If you have the habit of flashing your bankroll, you’re setting yourself up as a target for a pickpocket or robber. If you don’t carry cash, and still pay bills, how do you do it safely?
This is where clever use of your bank accounts comes into play. Pay by using online apps, but keep only a minimum amount of money in the account used for paying. Keep the rest of your money in another account. There are applications that allow you to create a virtual card, and you can use that one for online purchases and other payments. Transfer the money you need on that card and use it safely without exposing your main accounts.
🛍️ Risk management and shopping
When you go shopping, you’re setting up a pattern. Try not to go to the same stores at the same time every time you go shopping. Habits are bad security; besides, spreading your purchases around helps the economy. People also watch what you buy.
If you’re a prepper, you usually buy a little extra to build up your stocks. People will note that and could reveal the fact later—to your sorrow! When you bring your purchases home, don’t be foolish as to advertise what you bought. People look and gossip, and pretty soon, you’re being called an eccentric prepper.
That can set you up as an inadvertent target. Some purchases can’t be concealed. Large items are difficult to slip under your coat and bring into the house. For smaller items, you can reduce the profile by slipping a brown paper store bag over a fancy box for camouflage. Nobody gets excited about groceries. You can also wait until dark to bring some items in or unload your trunk in the garage.
By the way, when you buy anything large or small, a refrigerator, a portable TV, or a washing machine, for example, destroy the boxes and cart them away yourself. If you put cartons out for the garbage collectors, you’re advertising exactly what you just bought—a new portable TV, a computer system, whatever—to anyone who walks by, and that automatically raises your profile to the point where the risk of interference becomes very high.
🧱 You’re still exposed no matter what
There are literally thousands of ways other people can access your records or otherwise get into your business. This article can’t list but a few of them; you have to examine your own lifestyle yourself and decide what habits you have, what tastes, what particular opinions you have that can unduly raise your risks.
Remember, unless you live like a guru—a poor one —in total isolation, there has to be some data interchange between you and the outside world; normal human existence means interchange. The clue is in controlling what data you put into circulation. Some people believe that you can avoid getting on Uncle’s great computers in Washington. The truth is, you can’t.
If you live in a house, there’s a record; if you rent an apartment, there’s a record; if you have utilities, there’s a record; if you were in the service (or use VA health facilities), there’s a record; if you earn money and pay taxes, there’s a record; if you have money in the bank, there’s a record; if you own a car or have a driver’s license, or have insurance, or were born, or buy on credit, or (maybe even) breathe, there’s a record of the fact somewhere.
Worrying about Big Brother knowing when our bowels move is foolish, not to mention paranoid. If a government wants to arrest you, it will; if a government wants to nab you overseas, it can; if a government wants to collect records on you, it will.
However, unless you’re a specific target of an investigation, the sheer volume of records makes a search impossible; even when you’re the specific target of an investigation, the data volume involved is usually so huge that it can’t be processed adequately (besides, why do you think you’re the target of an investigation?).
The object here is to avoid situations in which you create unnecessary records. Control your profile as much as possible, and the odds will be in your favor.
🏥 Losses, Injuries
Suppose you’ve successfully avoided the dangers of having a high profile, but someone still breaks into your home.
What can you do to prevent loss and possible injuries?
Modern legal interpretations severely limit the actions you can take against intruders to the point where the victim stands to face greater legal problems than the criminal. The use of force—any kind, deadly or not—by the homeowner is a chancy, risk-filled proposition in most jurisdictions.
The simple act of defending yourself against an attack may result in your being imprisoned, sued, and bankrupted. Obviously, in “normal” times, you won’t want to risk this sort of punishment.
The answer is that we have to plan on creating a modification of the castle keep —the central, most heavily defended, part of a castle, where the last-ditch defense was planned to happen for ourselves and our families.
We have to decide what sort of defenses to include in our “safe rooms” by analyzing possible threats. If there’s a genuine expectation that the homeowner might face a siege, plans will include different, and better defenses than if some-one merely wants to delay the intruder long enough to get out of the building.
Before we go on to discuss the safe room in general, we should mention some actions we can take to make an intruder’s job more difficult. First of all, read the other articles on this website and modify them as necessary to meet your individual situation.
A must-read: Perimeter Protection Assurance – Smart Tips
Second of all, you can make internal access within your house more difficult. To do so, you want to compartmentalize the house as much as possible because this will slow intruders down, and give you time to act without the risk of acting in a panic situation.
🛡️ Home defense
The basic idea is to adapt the same system of secure doors inside the house as you installed outside. In some cases, each bedroom door should be as strong as any exterior door—the reason’s obvious.
If someone can’t break down a bedroom door easily, they’ll be deterred from getting into the room, and any person inside is less likely to be injured than would otherwise be the case; the reverse is true as well since someone who penetrates one room won’t be able to easily get into the rest of the house.
Long corridors, long hallways, stairwells, any choke points that divide the house into logical sections, and so forth, can be protected by a good door and lock. You should realize in case you do compartmentalize the house, that there should be an individual fire alarm in each room or section.
By compartmentalizing the house, you may increase your risk in a fire. It can be mitigated by having all second (or third) story windows equipped with a safe, fireproof ladder that more than reaches to the ground and holding regular drills in using them with all family members. In fact, the same fire drill can be used to protect against intruders.
Above all, teach everyone to rendezvous in a single, special spot in the event of any trouble whatever; this way, you’ll be able to tell who’s safe and who’s not.
The problem at this point is to choose which room you want to make into the safe room. Actually, the choice of rooms to convert is rather simple. You want a room that everyone can get to in an emergency, and that has easy access for you and your family, that gives an easy exit for a possible flight, that can be defended against a severe attack, and that can remain intact and defensible under the most likely attack.
The choice usually comes down to either of two rooms: the master bedroom or the bathroom. Some of the reasons are obvious: a ready source of water (fill the tub, since the opposition may decide to turn off your water halfway through a siege), a possible escape route, and others. However, the problem is that these rooms are seldom absolutely secure; advice about getting into the bathtub to lessen the risk of being hit by stray rounds is nice—for one or two people at the most. There are better things that can be done.
Walls are extremely difficult to harden, although a variety of ways have been suggested depending on your needs and desires: some people suggest lining them with bricks or concrete blocks (unfortunately, both of them shatter under gunfire and spray fragments through the wall), others, building up a barrier of bullet-resistant material—soft armor—in the walls, and still, others have suggested putting metal panels in the walls. No solution is perfect.
The bricks and blocks weigh so much that the physical structure of the house can be damaged, while soft armor or steel are expensive in the kind of quantities needed to protect a house. One interesting failing in this sort of argument is the fact that the floor and ceiling of the safe room is seldom protected.
In my personal opinion, if you plan to harden the walls, hire a contractor to do the job. This goes beyond the abilities of most home handypersons. If you want to prevent anyone from getting through the walls, the best bet would be to install extra wooden studs in the walls, between the normal studs. These are installed on 16- inch centers, so including one or two studs between the regular wall studs would create an effective, cheap barrier.
🚪 What sort of equipment do you need inside the safe room?
If you believe you’re going to be subjected to violent attacks, include your favorite guns and a good supply of ammo, that way, if somebody starts shooting at you, you can reply in kind. An emergency smartphone would be nice, but a battery-powered CB would be better since phones can lose the signal at the most inopportune times—like in the middle of a call for help!
If you have an attached bathroom, you have water at hand; even so, lay in a supply of water for emergencies; remember, fill the tub and basins. A fire extinguisher is handy, but the gases can extinguish you too if they’re confined in a small room.
Water can’t be used around electrical fires, so I recommend a couple of sand buckets—the sand’s cheap, effective against all types of fires, and can be cleaned up and reused immediately, something you can’t do with an empty fire extinguisher.
A food supply is optional—face it, how long do you think you can hold out unaided against a howling mob, thirsting for your blood? If you said more than five minutes, you need to seriously rethink your planning!
One thing you should do, if at all possible, is to have your house circuit breakers installed in the safe room (if not in violation of local codes). Cutting off the electricity at the opportune moment may be a life-saving action; preventing it from being cut off easily might also be a life-saving action!
If you can manage it, all utilities should be arranged in just this way. Frankly, the safe room is a stopgap, an emergency location that might protect you from attack for the vital few minutes needed to get outside help. It is not a universal panacea, it is not guaranteed for all situations. You have to make the judgment as to the usefulness of the safe room under your conditions.
But if the safe room isn’t sufficient, how will you be able to protect yourself and your family from attack?
You may not be able to. It may be that you’ll have to flee your home under attack; if so, make certain that you have an accessible exit. A window too small, a door that doesn’t open, a folding ladder that doesn’t reach the ground, immovable burglar bars on the window, can all spell the difference between survival and death.
Check out all the factors that you can control in advance before a disaster threatens. Don’t hesitate to throw your folding ladder out of a second-story window to test it. You should climb in and out of the window and see if it can be done. If you’re worried the neighbors might think you’re crazy, tell ’em you’re testing the ladders for use in case of a house fire if you want since everybody understands that problem.
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