DEFENDING YOUR PROPERTY AND YOURSELF
As the folks in Homestead, FL and LA found out in recent years, with disaster comes violence. How best to protect yourself and your property? I've been asked if it's possible to defend a dwelling in town, either a house or an apartment. This is a good question and one that deserves some thought. Being a country girl, I'm extremely uncomfortable when surrounded by vehicles, people and a multitude of buildings; however, within this statement lies part of the answer.
Where are you most comfortable? Where do you feel most 'in' your element? If you've spent most of your life in a town or city, you'll most likely wish to stay on familiar ground during a crisis. Still, the potential for looters, shooters and assaults on your property or yourself increases proportionally to the severity of the situation. You'll need to formulate a plan for evacuating the city in the event of ongoing rioting or other crisis. If you're planning on staying in town, you might want to acquire the SAS Urban Survival Handbook
In weather-related disasters like floods and hurricanes, windows are targeted for protection. Every window and every door become possible points of entry for either human or Mother Nature's assault - and with that entry could come big trouble! How will you prepare for all eventualities?
If you have ground-level windows, you might want to invest in some decorative but functional steel gratings as your first line of defense. You can also buy a door with the same type of grating. If you live in hurricane country, for example, you might want to cut some 1/2"-3/4" plywood for your windows, pre-drill the holes in both plywood and window casings, then fit them with 1/4-turn fasteners for quick installation. Information on preparing for the arrival of a hurricane can be found at the American Red Cross, USA Today Weather, and the 1996 Hurricane Survival Guide, among others.
In tornado country, you need to either establish a shelter of your own or locate one close to your property. If you have an interior room with load-bearing walls, you can set it up for use as a tornado shelter. There is information on tornado-protection available at USA Today Weather, at Tornado Safety Tips (OSU), and FEMA. These sites are listed because they were among the best hits for a search on "tornado shelter".
If you live in a flood-prone area, you need to plan on loss of power and even loss of living quarters. Have arrangements made with friends or relatives outside the area to provide temporary shelter in case you're evacuated. Have an evacuation drill that includes moving important possessions to the highest area of your home if time allows. My folks live about 100 yards from a creek that floods regularly in the spring; they also have an artesian well running through their basement. Since the furnace, water softener, and wiring are in the basement they have a pump which activates when the water reaches a certain level. They also have a 4.5 kW generator to run this pump in case of power loss. By acquiring the generator, they've insured that unless the creek rises to historically high levels, they can protect items in their basement! More information about what to do before and after a flood can be found at Flood Survival and Recovery Fact Sheets (KSU).
Once you've protected your property and safety from weather-related disaster, how do you protect yourself from the kinds of people who seem to thrive on making the most of other people's misfortune?
You have a few choices here, beginning with a battery-operated alarm system. Personal protection alarms, like those found at Radio Shack and other electronic stores, are trip-beam activated and can be arranged around the perimeter of your home or property to form a continuous chain of protection.
As folks in LA found during the King riots, having a reliable firearm isn't such a bad idea either. When it comes to firearms I can't make a recommendation about what you should or shouldn't have, but if you're part of a team or family group, make sure you standardize your weaponry. This will save you a lot of lugging, tugging, and missteps down the road. Once you've acquired a firearm, learn it inside out - literally! Know how to field strip and replace worn or broken parts - and make sure you have a repair kit. Make sure you get in plenty of target practice and field practice so you can react appropriately in the shortest possible time - a looter isn't going to wait for you to fumble with the safety! Remember the first rule of gun safety: The gun is always loaded - even if you emptied the chamber 5 minutes ago. Always check the weapon before you clean or service it. One accidental discharge could be your last!
As a single woman living in a remote area without a regular telephone and without close neighbors, I never traveled away from the cabin with a firearm, even to take a short hike to pick berries. I was more concerned about rabid coons and foxes than I was burglars, as sound carried extremely well around the immediate area and I could hear a car coming down the road long before I could see it. There was one road - and it was a noisy one full of rocks and gravel and hard packed dirt. I also kept my firearm next to my bed at night - and being a hunting cabin, I could just stand my rifles and shotgun on one of several gun racks during the day. There was seldom a day when I didn't do some practice shooting on the range in my back yard just to stay sharp. After a time my penchant for carrying a firearm wherever I went (even when approaching trespassers) earned me the nickname "Crazy Lady with the Guns". While I wasn't crazy, I was rather fond of my guns and entirely comfortable with each and every one. I taught a number of my female friends and co-workers to shoot in an effort to expand the pro-gun community, and found that to a number they all loved it once they hit the bullseye for the first time!