George Ure and Gaye Levy Contributors
Both George and Gaye get a lot of email from people who seem to understand that one of the downsides to prepping is that you can become a target for all kinds of problems if – or when – times get bad. Recently, George wrote a column based on some reader comments which were very much on point. We thought it would be worth your time to review.
Today George shares his thoughts on caching your stuff – and avoiding becoming a target.
Readers frequently ask – in these periods of “calm before the storm” things like “Where should I hide my food, money, or medicines in order to ensure that I will not be ‘caught out’ (to use a sailing term) should the winds of change suddenly blow up?”
I have been preparing for a financial crisis for sometime now (not very well, sometimes) and have some ideas I thought I would share for hiding cash and that one gold coin of yours at home.
I am in the process of making more room in the bedroom and decided to build a couple of bookcases between the studs along one wall. The bottom shelf looks solid but is actually sitting on two blocks of wood screwed to the studs. In between is plenty of room for cash and coins. Also, I have an unfinished (as yet) basement, and will be taking a length of PVC pipe and some fittings and attaching them under the main floor to look as if they are part of the plumbing system.
They probably won’t hold a lot of weight, but would be good for cash and a few coins. I also have a craft table down there that needs a center support leg. I want to use a length of steel pipe in a large enough diameter that I could stuff it with coins. Mounted under the table, most thieves are going to walk right by.
Our garage is unfinished also, and I plan to include a few hidey holes out there as we put up the sheet rock. Perhaps a fire safe that could be hidden behind the camping gear on the outer wall. That way, if there is ever a fire, it would be easy to recover, being on the outermost wall of the house.
I know you’ve done some modifications to your home already, and I’m sure you have your own ideas, I just wanted to share a few of mine.
Good ones they are, too. Especially for “normal” times when police still come when called and what you’re up against is routine burglary. It’s amazing what a picture on a wall can hide, although that kind of thing may be rapidly found – depending on the level of experience of home invaders.
But what about abnormal times – when people turn into animals and should the rule of law fail – what then? Worse, what happens if the failure comes when you’re not at home? Phones are down, and alarms, too? Part of the problem to consider is what happens if you can’t get into your own home? What about strategic retreat? Do you have a go-to spot already picked out? Is there a cache of supplies waiting for you?
For that situation, I tend to be a fan of plastic garbage sacks (two layers, sealed) and inside of that a Pelican case. Amazon sells one for about $40 for a camera Different sizes, but the camera size will hold a handgun and enough ammo for a decent close-in fire fight. A second one might hold night vision gear, spare batteries for that, a hunting knife of three, and so forth. Couple of energy bars, and of course this is all only theoretical.
This whole matter of how to cache stuff isn’t too often discussed, and everyone has their own theory about how an actual breakdown of society would play out. Would you cache on your property, someone else’s, or on public land? I won’t offer hints.
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that if you have a home in a suburban to rural kind of area, thieves and bandits tend to focus on structures. There’s just so much dirt out there in the world and a metal detector doesn’t cover a whole lot of ground.
Even if you do cache, and someone comes along with a metal detector, put yourself some scrap metal about 12” up from the real cache. Most metal detector people will not rescan an area once they find the “bait” (a rusty can is great) that you’ve planted for them.
They also don’t look up, either, although things like hiding a few coins in the toilet tank are amateur moves – easy stuff readily found by intruders. Public restrooms at gas stations are the most common drug drops in the world. D’oh…how does he know this stuff? Police beat reporter school.
If you’re in a remote location, or don’t have neighbors to watch your back close-in, consider caching over a wide area. And don’t forget to buy some $20 shovels and keep them away from the house a good distance, as well. Olive drab spray – about four layers worth – and they will outlive you and not draw attention. Food 3 feet into the ground gets close to ambient earth temperature, but it’s more working digging so those shovels will be handy.
A mile or three of strategic retreat, a good meal, stored water, and small arms, night vision and a couple of radios…then you can make a decision about whether a house is worth the possible costs of re-taking. It may – or may not – be.
Communications is key: Plenty of slick-thinking burglary sleaze have taken to GMRS radios, so think outside the box and listen first, even a couple of simple mic key presses, so as to see if anyone is using the channel. Those will often get a response “Was that you Mikey?” or some such if you happen to land on the same GMRS channel. Don’t underestimate the force magnifier effect of good coms.
Also think stealth and night-fighting options: Bows and hunting arrows don’t make much noise that could give away a position and night vision (not the cheap stuff, either) can certainly even-up what would otherwise be very long adverse odds.
The main thing to think through is attachment to a “thing” like your home. If you have put some 1/4″ to 3/8″ inch plate steel into the walls (think about something that a 7.62 X39 round can’t easily penetrate) then I suppose “making a stand” is something that shows up in American film a lot and you might be able to do it. But if you think just having a zillion rounds of ammo is an answer, it is NOT. Remember for every round outgoing there are likely to be two or more incoming. Choose “stands” carefully. Ask every time: “Is this (event) and (time, place or location) worth decisively engaging the enemy? The word decisive means this: One side ends all dead, the other side has survivors.
If there is a catastrophic end of society, Hollywood’s portrayals of people gone mad and turning into animals will likely prove about right.
Myself? I’m the strategic retreat type. Then I assess my longer-term objectives and options. You have to remember that if you’re a prepper you need to be realistic when assessing who the “opposing force” is likely to be. Friendly people who just want to make you share? Maybe, but you find that out on YOUR terms. You’re a nuisance to people with food, if it comes to that, so dead is a very real outcome to be considered. More food for them means a lot when times turn lawless. Think back on wars of the grittiest and ugliest. Then double it and that’s a planning baseline.
The criminal mindset is very much “turf” and “thing” oriented. People stealing televisions in the middle of Katrina/Rita showed that. I don’t have a problem with a strategic retreat to dispersed resources and then killing brigands at my leisure should 9-11 not respond in a timely manner.
Problem is (and most don’t think stuff through very far) is that if the gangs are any sort of organized at all, if you do a cowboy stand-off successfully, they will just be back with more manpower thinking: “Gee he must have a lot of resource he’s defending… he killed my brother…I’ll just go get some help to take what he has an avenge my brother’s death…”.
Mobility is survival. Mobile gang-bangers will run through their drugs, vehicle fuel, and ammo in fairly short order. If the collapse ever did happen, the first 90-days would be the worst, I figure. The book One Second After comes to mind. Lucifer’s Hammer too, if you’re building a reading list.
In the event of that kind of social upheaval, you’ll be better served, I think, with at least a three-legged escape plan. Ours includes pedal, foot, flight, and float and our range is a circle 1,800 miles across. So whether it’s a meltdown, war with Mexico gangs, collapse of the Internet (which my book out shortly will cover) – think big.
An inexpensive AM/FM/Shortwave radio (with long life batteries – those photo lithium’s are cool for this) will give you at least some intel on what the big picture is nationally and internationally. So will the 2-meter ham rig since most repeaters have a couple of days worth of emergency power. With that, you can make a more informed decision about whether a home is worth the potential cost of retaking it.
And, if you’re going to do that, it’s safest as a three (or more) person operation, proper lines of fire, and so forth. A study in small unit tactics is essential, but again, the key thing to start by asking yourself is “Is this pile of (stuff) worth defending and 50-50 dying for?” If you’ve study caching well enough, the house might be ransacked, but the brigands would move on shortly after finding little to work with. Roving gangs don’t take metal detectors and, besides, got any idea how long it takes to sweep even a quarter section of land? (160 acres).
If you plan to defend, do you have perimeters planned? People are best encountered at a distance – a quarter mile or more.
In that kind of world – which I sincerely hope we never get to – everything will be an instant cost-benefit calculation; and if the rule of law we enjoy in semi-sane modern times breaks down, possession will be 99.9% of the law. So you’d want to be very, very particular about what you’d be willing to lay down your life for.
In many scenarios I’ve been through, if you make it through the first six months, the odds of living longer get pretty good after the violent people sort themselves out. Staying out of harm’s way comes down to correctly answering “when to decisively engage” – as anyone with military training ought to know.
Let’s hope we never have to find out.
Introducing Strategic-Living: a practical and useful online magazine providing inspiration and guidance as we make our way through the maze of changes that are coming our way. In collaboration with my friend and colleague, George Ure, Strategic-Living will offer a synthesis of Urban Survival and Backdoor Survival with much more detailed tips, tools and strategies for creating a vibrant and sustainable lifestyle wherever your path may take you. Think of Urban Survival and Backdoor Survival as your roadmap and Strategic-Living as your detailed guidebook. Here you will find articles and photos, diagrams and how-to’s, and a healthy dose get-out-there and do it with kick-in-the-ass inspiration.
Read other articles by George Ure HERE
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