For many; the not too distant events in Ferguson are the first thoughts that come to mind when you mention the word looting. Looting in some circles is what you do apparently when there is an opportunity to steal and occasionally destroy with relative impunity. For some people, looting is appropriate after your team loses a sports event like the 2011 Vancouver riots or wins one as in the case of the San Francisco riots of 2014. The most likely place to see unabashed looting appears to be after a natural disaster like the looting reported immediately following hurricanes Katrina and more recently Sandy. Even before the Sandy storm had subsided, wannabe criminals were taking to Twitter to announce their looting plans. To be fair, our country isn’t the only one engaging in behavior like this during a crisis, as the recent hurricane in Cabo San Lucas showed.
Whatever the motivation, looting is wrong in my opinion and if it were happening to you, I am sure you would agree. There are some professionals (lawyers naturally)who have tried to justify looting in the context of a natural disaster by obliquely saying property rights are suspended and as such the looters aren’t technically stealing from anyone. Property without an owner needs to be redistributed. The example is when you leave your home because an impending hurricane, the property is no longer in your possession so it is fair game.
Isn’t that special?
But consider for a moment, a real collapse, not your garden variety incident that provokes the theft of TV’s, shoes, jewelry and clothes or the overturning of a cop car. In a real collapse scenario where you didn’t have FEMA coming with tent cities to take care of you, the power wasn’t coming back on, and nobody had jobs outside of survival; looting would take on a different meaning. In a real collapse, I think looters would quickly forget about electronic game consoles and would quickly move on to food and supplies. In this article I want to discuss some looter defense tactics to consider if the SHTF and the looters are coming down your street.
Home defense mistakes
When it comes to a collapse, we are talking about living a life that is almost entirely devoted to survival. Even if you have plenty of food stored up, you will need to take steps to find and cultivate new sources of food and possibly collect water on a daily basis for your family. You will eventually need to go outside and even if you barricaded yourself in your suburban home, that would not guarantee your safety from determined looters.
Fight your own normalcy bias – Before a crisis hits you would ideally have a plan in place to deal with the potential outcomes. It is important to understand as quickly as possible the severity of the events surrounding you and take proactive steps to head off any further problems. It is too simple and dangerous to hope that given time, the authorities will be around, the power and water will come back on and life will go on as it did before the crisis. You have to start thinking of taking care of yourself without the dependence on emergency services from the start.
Of course I am talking about cataclysmic events, not smaller regional events like hurricanes which we should all accept are recoverable as a societal whole, in most cases. If there is a football game that goes crazy and riots are in the downtown area, I don’t think we have to worry in the same way as if a terror attack that takes out the grid. People who are even half-way paying attention will know when it is time to jump into action and you should be well ahead of the chaos game before that point.
Be prepared to defend your life – In a true collapse, the regular rules are out the window. There will likely be no law enforcement for some period of time, possibly ever. At best, they will be much slower to respond because they will already be busy with other issues. You have to seriously consider what will be required of you in a worst case scenario and to that end, what you are capable of in the realm of defending your family and home. We talk about all kinds of forms of self-protection on the Prepper Journal, but each person has their preference. No matter what that is, are you prepared to use it? Are you prepared to take the life of someone who has plans to kill you if you are standing in the way of something they want? If you are not prepared to defend your home and the life of your family, are you prepared to live with the consequences?
Not being there to defend the home – This last one might sound overly simplistic but if the crisis comes and you have already bugged out to the woods, I wouldn’t expect to be able to return to an untouched house. If you don’t have the money for your own private security firm, who do you think will protect what is left inside? In a real collapse, it may make sense to always have someone stationed in your home to prevent looting and theft; possibly worse. It isn’t like you will be driving to the in-laws or the mall across town and will be gone all day, but even short trips away from your home could give the bad guys an opportunity to smash a window in and quickly take off with supplies your family needs. During a collapse, you really need to start thinking of your dwelling as a castle. It may not have the nice tapestries hanging from the walls, but it will be worth defending.
The ability to provide round the clock security will force you to rely on a larger group. This is when your neighborhood watch plans would make the most sense. Here are some looter defense ideas that may prevent you from being a victim.
Deter – How to make your home less of a target
- Don’t give them anything to come after – This one is harder to visualize in a collapse. When everything is fine, we would talk about moving valuables out of sight of people looking in your windows should they be casing your home. Grid down – they may be more desperate and not looking for jewelry or TV’s or care if your yard is nicely manicured. Hiding food and supplies will be more common for everyone so you have to seriously work on making sure nobody knows you have things they want. Concepts of the grey neighbor apply and it may be necessary to pretend you are worse off than you actually are. You could also make your home look like it has already been looted.
- Signs and fences –Armed response – Make them think there is a chance they will get hurt, possibly dead looting from your home. At least they should think it won’t be as simple as walking up to the door and kicking it in. Fences are an obstacle they have to negotiate, but I think unless you have a ridiculous fence that might not stop looters in a grid down scenario. A good roll of razor wire could come in handy after a collapse to string along the tops of your fences, but this requires a fair amount of extra planning. Knowing they are dealing with an armed person (looters will be shot) might not prevent them from trying, but they will have to think twice before they do. This will deter anyone who isn’t really serious about getting into your home.
- Dogs – No thief likes dogs – although in a serious collapse, if all rules are out the door, they may simply shoot Fido and keep going.
Detect – How can I have advance warning of looting?
- Change your perspective – Foreknowledge is all about intelligence. You have to know what is going on outside your home and the further out you can gain intelligence, the more time you will have to prepare for looters. In a collapse scenario, I think it will be necessary to have someone outside monitoring the situation on your street, in your neighborhood so they can provide advanced warning. This is best done with a group for coverage and capacity of bodies. Neighborhood security plans would be best for this scenario.
- Motion Detectors/Trip flares – Lights Perimeter Alarm – Barring an outside sentry team or system, motion detectors are a great way to have a security system that alerts you when movement is happening on your property. Driveway alarm systems can be purchased for simple notification, but requires someone to come up your driveway. In a collapse, something like a simple air-soft “grenade” could be turned into a trip wire noise device system or even cans on a string could alert you to movement in your yard. Motion activated lights could give you advance warning assuming power is on and you aren’t trying to keep a low profile. Of course, these could go off like any other motion activated device when the wind blows. Too many false alarms will lead to the Boy who cried wolf syndrome and will be ignored eventually.
- Security Cameras – Security cameras are a good option if you have power and somebody to monitor the cameras at all times.
- Dog – Yes, a dog will probably detect people coming toward your house better than almost any other means.
Delay – How can I make my home harder to loot or buy me time?
- Reinforce your doors – Most home break-ins occur from doors and first floor windows. Doors are pretty easily kicked in unless they are reinforced. One simple and cost effective way of making this harder is to reinforce the jams and door-frame with something like the EZ Armor Door security kit. Any door’s weakest point is the hinges, the wood around the locking bolt and their attachment to the wooden frame. A security kit takes the weakness of that wood frame and converts it to a steel shroud that increases the amount of effort required to kick in your door. An added benefit is that this device can be installed in a few minutes by almost anyone. Another option that requires no installation is a Security bar from Master Lock that simply attaches on the inside of the door under the door knob.
- Charley Bar for sliding glass doors – Yes, in a grid down scenario sliding glass doors are a stones-throw away from obliteration, but if the looters are trying to be sneaky, a device like the Charley bar will slow them down. I like a lot of others have the simple sawed off broom handle as my security feature, but the Charley bar is a nicer option that attaches to the door and puts the reinforcement at the middle of the sliding glass door as opposed to the bottom. Additionally, you can slide the bar up out-of-the-way when not in use and you don’t have to worry about the bar walking away, or in my case being used for a toy by someone. Kids!
- Security Window Film – It won’t make your windows bulletproof, but adding security window film could slow down someone trying to break in. The concept is similar to safety glass, where you have a thin sheet of transparent plastic film over the glass. Instead of shattering completely on impact, the film holds the glass together making entry a much slower process. You can see a video of how this works here but this is another do it yourself home security project that is pretty simple and could give you precious seconds of time to defend yourself.
Defend – When all else fails, what is my defense plan?
- Layers of security – This is when I believe everything will come down to life or death. In a collapse situation, if someone has gone through all your security options above and is not deterred, you will most likely be fighting for your life and the lives of everyone in your home. The ideal defense is to not even be in your home, but to repel the attackers from as far away from your home as possible. If they get in, you do have the advantages of knowing your home, confined spaces and possibly the element of surprise. When they enter your home, it is not the time to negotiate though, that time has passed. Retreat to a secure area or at least a space that provides cover that will shield you from bullets. If the looters are coming in from two directions, find a place where they will funnel, possibly a hallway where you can attack them from one direction – your protected front. Make sure you have someone watching behind you also.
- Hearing protection – Gunshots, contrary to what you see on TV and the movies, are very loud. At the range we have ear protection, but in a panic situation that might not be the first thing on your mind. If you have to shoot inside your home it will be even louder (140-190db) and will render you effectively deaf for some period of time after that happens. Noise cancelling sport earmuffs use the same technology that the Bose headsets use to block loud jet engine noises, but let regular sounds come in. Any gunshot sounds will be blocked because they are higher than 80db but you will still be able to hear regular conversations when you are done. Instead of ringing ears, you will be able to hear people move or talk to each other and this can give you a huge advantage if you are prepared.
- Plan and Communication – Having a plan will be important so that everyone in your home knows what to do. If you are shot, what do they do? If the front door is breached, what is our plan? If they throw a Molotov cocktail through the window, what do we do? Don’t wait until the looters are in your home to react, have a plan and practice it. I don’t know if this is absolutely necessary now, but would be one of the first things to consider in a collapse. A well-trained team will perform better than a group of scared people who are frozen in a panic.
What are your thoughts on looter defense tactics for your home? Have you given this any thought?