Saturday, September 10, 2011

It's Not That Easy (Shelter)

Dear Preppers and Survivalists,

The other day, I was watching the news, and a commentator was reporting about some disaster. As usual, folks had no food or water; their houses and businesses were destroyed. At the end of the segment, the commentator asked what do the people affected by the disaster do next.


They focus on the priorities and improvise as needed.





Protection, Medical, Clothing, Communications, Transportation, and ... until everyone is safe or buried.

Before I begin, if you think a violent collapse will never happen, I need for you to stop reading. Instead I want you to click on the above links, read the past articles, and get started on your family's preps.

For those folks planning for a possible violent collapse, let's begin.

Living in a typical "stick built" home during a violent collapse could be a death sentence for you and your family. These homes are easily destroyed by fire and offer little ballistic protection for your family. Plus, a typical home is ill-suited for mounting a defense against marauders.

Now, some folks will suggest that you download and read FM 5-103 "Survivability" and FM 90-10-1 "An Infantryman's Guide to Combat in Built-Up Areas" These field manuals, from these United States Army, will instruct you on how to fortify a home to withstand an attack. These manuals will tell you to place sandbags (they should be filled with soil not sand) to protect you and your family while shooting. This is good advise, but ...

I had a buddy do this during his military tour in Berlin. His platoon (about 20 people) was told to fortify a two-story wooded building, just like your home, according to FM 5-103 and FM 90-10-1. He said once they were finished; they couldn't go into the building until they had reinforced the floors, walls, and ceiling with timber supports because of all the added weight from the filled sandbags.

The next problem with staying in your home is your home isn't designed to be defended.

Let me explain.

You have obtained all the sandbags you and your family need, filled the bags with soil, reinforced your home's floors and walls, and have the sandbags properly stacked inside your home by the windows, protecting your family's firing positions.

Note: Make sure you have sandbags on all four sides of your firing position. Bullets will penetrate your home's walls, even the the walls behind you!

Once you have done all this stuff, you have to ask yourself the question: Do all the firing positions cover the whole house?

Dead Space Outside a Typical Home

Probably not because a typical home is either a square or rectangle. These shapes prohibit defenders (you and your family) from shooting at the corners of the house. This dead space will allow attackers to be protected from your firearm's fire just because of the attacker's location. The attackers will then be able to have a safe place to attack your family.

So what's a very serious prepper or survivalist to do?

Build a home that can be defended.

Yep! If you think a violent collapse is likely, within your lifetime or your children's lifetime, you need to be building a home that can be defended from a violent attack. One design is a cross-shaped home.

Cross-Shaped Home for Better Defense

Note: I apologize. I haven't explained the pictures. The lines coming from the middle of the drawing are the bullets' paths.

Notice, the difference between the two houses designs. The square/rectangle shaped house allows dead space to touch the home. The cross-shaped home makes the attacker move (walk, run, crawl) though a hail of bullets before reaching the house.

Next, the serious prepper or survivalist needs to ensure the walls of their home can stop bullets. The only product that I have found that can do that is ICF (insulated concrete forms), and ICF has a high insulating factor. (Because we still have to prep for power outages, bad weather, and lowering our fuel usage.) Your home should also have bullet resistant shutters covering the windows, at least on the lower floors, and a metal roofing system.

Now, some folks are going to say that I am f*cking crazy, (I am) but it's do able. Building with insulated concrete forms (ICF) only adds about 10% to the cost of a home. That cost is recouped from lower fuel bills and lower insurance rates (Remember, fire is the number one threat to preppers/survivalists) Plus, you can always build a smaller home. It will be easier to heat and defend.

And that leads to my next point.

Survivalists and prepper families don't have enough folks to effectively mount a defense of a typical home. A square or rectangular home should have two people on each side, 8 people. The cross-shaped house should have at least one person on each 'side' of the house. (Twelve 'sides' equals 12 people) during an attack. More people would be better, so any of the sides could be reinforced or a wounded person replaced.

Heck, most preppers and survivalists don't have enough people to effectively have a 24-hour observation team of two people. (LP/OP in military speak).

Note: I might write about LP/OPs in a couple of months.

My brothers and I have talked about this issue. We have several suggestions.

The first idea we talked about was to look at the Scottish clan model. Members of an extended family, related by blood and marriage work together to build a fortified home. The 'home' place is large enough to allow for the 'clan' to expand, if needed during an emergency.

Another idea is for one family to build the place and 'invite' others (friends, close relatives, coworkers, and ...) to come on down during a disaster. The invited folks may or may not be required to cache supplies.

The last idea, I'll mention, is a combining of the first two ideas. A group of friends build a fortified place, together. Each family is required to provide support for the group (buildings, water well/water catchment, and other projects) and for themselves (food, guns/ammo, and a whole lot of other stuff)

Boer War Block House, South Africa (circa 1901)
Danie van der Merwe

The Sentinel Blockhouse in Burgersdorp, South Africa
Leo za1

All three ideas have their pros and cons, but all three might not work for those folks planning for a multigenerational event. Those folks are going to have livestock, and livestock needs to be protected.

One idea from history, on at least three continents and one island, is the fortified farm. France, South Africa, these United States, and England offer examples for us to look at.

In South Africa, there is one fortified farm house that I would like to highlight. It is called Barville Park. It has a two-story house, a two story barn, and a 6 to 8 feet high wall connecting them.

A home like this could be built in three stages.

First the house, as I mentioned earlier, the house would be a two-story home with thick concrete walls, bullet resistant shutters covering the lower story windows, and a metal roof.

In one description of the Barville Park farm, the walls of the house are over six-feet thick.

The next step would be to build the barn. Just like the house it would have thick walls, and all first story windows would be on the inside facing the future courtyard.

Possibly, just like the block houses, the barn would have an overhang that would allow folks to shoot along the walls, stopping any attackers from getting close to the wall.

Lastly, or the second step, would be to build a wall. The wall would be only one and a half stories tall. The wall would be as thick or thicker then the walls of the barn.

Needless to say, any gate would have to be strong enough to prevent villains from ramming through it.

I would like for you to notice that the house and barn are offset from the wall. This allows you and your family to shoot, from loopholes on the first floor or small windows on the second floor, along the wall

Of course, there is a flaw in this design. Unless you have an overhang, like the block houses, for firing at the two corners, dead space touches your home and barn.

Remember, dead space allows an attacker protection from your weapons.

OK. Before I leave, I would like to talk to you about walls. I like walls for a couple of reasons. First, they slow down attackers. Second, if they are thick enough, they stop bullets. Lastly, they can look very cool, as in castle cool.

But you have to be careful.

Walls should never be taller then your home. Walls taller then your home allow villains to shoot into your home from the wall.

It's the same principal as your home should be on a hilltop or a rise (the highest point in the immediate area)

The French forgot this when they were building their big military base at Dien Bien Phu, in the 1950s.

Next, walls should have a place that allow you or your family to fire over or through the wall from a protected place. On castles, they are called crenelations. They are the saw-tooth looking things on top of castle walls.


You could make something like arrow-loops. They are holes in the wall that allow defenders to fire arrows (you should be using firearms) from a protected position.

Lastly, at least about walls, the walls should be taller then a standing person, but you won't be able to fire over it. One way of doing that is having a firing step.

When you want to fire, you step up, fire, and step down. This will protect you from return fire. Plus, you can move to a different firing position without bring seen.

That's it, for now.

Before I go. Some folks will think I'm crazy (I am) for suggesting that you and your family build an elaborate fortified home.

Hey, it's your choice how much you get prepared for the disasters you and your family are preparing for, but ...


If you think something bad is going to happen, and you do nothing about it. You really don't believe; it could happen.


LP/OP - Listening Post/Observation Post

Global Security - FM 5-103 Survivability

Duffer's Drift - The Defence of Duffer's Drift

Wikipedia - Insulated Concrete Form

Wikimedia Commons- BoerWarBlockHouse SouthAfrica.jpg by Danie van der Merwe

Wikimedia Commons - Burgersdorp: Sentinel 001.jpg by Leo za1

Wikipedia - South African Farm Attacks - Barville Park, Details

Visit - Fortified Towers and Houses in South and East Cumbria Military History - First Indochina War: Battle of Dien Bien Phu

The Castles of Wales - Castle Terminology