Following an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it scenario or even a severe economic collapse, one of the most practical security measures that homeowners, neighborhoods and small towns can take is to find ways to increase security with minimal manpower.
One of the simplest ways to do this is to use physical barriers. The type of barrier depends on your resources, budget, time-frame and the threat that you are defending against. As an example, chain-link fence topped with barbed wire will keep most two- and four-legged predators out of your garden, but won’t stop a truck, tank or helicopter.
What I will address is one of the ways I see good people responding to long-term breakdowns in civil order — not defending against tanks and helicopters, but defending against robbery, home invasions and other violent attacks. In particular, I will explain how to create small safe zones within cities.
Of course, there’s a precedent for this. From the time that people started creating population centers to expand commerce and to join together for common defense, people have used physical barriers to keep hostile invaders out.
Some historical physical barriers were purely functional. Others are beautiful after the fact, like Old West forts, castles and the Great Wall of China.
Fast forward to today. Walls are used in countries around the globe to protect individual houses and neighborhoods from outsiders. My friends from Mexico City weren’t upper class, but they still lived in walled neighborhoods with guards armed with Uzis. One of them ran a home-based daycare for wealthy families, and several of the preschoolers had their own armed guards who stayed outside the house during the day. Interestingly enough, the guns the armed guards carried were illegal.
Regardless of what towns and cities will officially do in an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it situation, people with the means to do so will protect themselves. One of the best ways to ensure that you live to a ripe old age is to make sure you never look like the easiest target. Physical barriers go a long way toward helping criminals decide to go after someone else’s stuff instead of yours.
Almost all houses in the United States are vulnerable to attack. Flimsy interior doors, sliding glass doors, multiple big windows, insecure entry doors and non-rock/brick/cement construction all add up to big vulnerability from determined attackers.
One thing in particular that I see happening is that wealthy, urban U.S. homeowners follow the example of wealthy homeowners from around the world and wall themselves in — with walls around both their individual properties and bigger walls around their neighborhoods.
Walls can be made with HESCO barriers, prestressed concrete, silage, conex boxes (shipping containers), brick, stone, lumber or whatever happens to work best in a particular area used alone or in conjunction with trenches and/or barbed wire.
HESCO barriers are large, stackable “boxes” of dirt. They come in several sizes, but are basically collapsible weaved fabric boxes measuring 1 meter tall, 1 meter deep and 10 meters long that you fill with sand or dirt using a front end loader. They are effective against firearms, small bombs and vehicle assaults. You can set them up single or double thick and stack them several layers high. Our troops have used them extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have saved countless lives and are much more efficient than sandbags if you have the equipment necessary to load them.
If you’ve ever seen a cement commercial building go from nothing to all four walls being up in a few hours, you’ve seen prestressed concrete in action. Silage walls are also prestressed concrete, but they are generally made with wider bases so they are self-supporting — like highway barriers, only taller.
I bring this up because I see opportunity here, and you can take advantage of it. First, if you are in a neighborhood, apartment or condominium where it might be practical to pool money to build a common defensive wall, you might want to start looking for resources as you’re going about your daily life. Identify people who use heavy equipment, companies that own heavy equipment, concrete companies, independent truckers, etc. Also, start thinking about where you would place the walls and openings/checkpoints. How would you alter it if you can’t raise enough money?
I would love to say that the need to build improvised walls around your neighborhood has little to no chance of happening, but we just don’t know. People probably thought protective walls weren’t necessary at some point in most of the places in the world where they are in use today.
In any case, the sheer volume of low probability threats that we currently face adds up to a significant risk. Even so, this is an idea to consider and start identifying solutions for, but I wouldn’t dedicate money or a significant amount of time to it at this point unless it makes sense in light of your current level of preparedness. You’re much more likely to benefit from taking the steps necessary to have 40 days of food on hand than you would be to benefit from spending the same amount of time and money on physical barriers. Even so, just introducing the concept will help you start identifying opportunities around you.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve seen and talked with officials from cities in the U.S. where they either have concrete barriers pre-positioned near where they’re needed or have heavy equipment operators on standby to close off access to the town by outsiders in the event of a disaster.
Second, if you happen to have skills or assets that could be used to help secure semi-wealthy or wealthy neighborhoods, start thinking about how you would sell your services after a disaster. Would you sell your services for money? For a place to live within the wall? For a share of water? Maybe you don’t currently live somewhere where it would be practical to put up physical barriers, but you might be able to figure out how to provide enough value to people who do live in areas that can afford to erect physical barriers to be able to move in.
Third, think about what skills you have that would be of value to people inside of communities that might put up walls. Are you a master hydroponic, aeroponic or conventional gardener, and do you want to expand your operation? Are you skilled and experienced at raising animals, but don’t have the secure space to do it? The answer to both of these questions may lead you to growing food or raising animals on someone else’s property within a walled neighborhood or property — especially if it’s more secure. Heck, I even see opportunities for armed house sitters to watch over people’s houses while the owners are on vacation or at other (rural) properties.
This brings to mind a conversation that I had last fall when I was visiting with a friend of mine 2,000 miles away from home. He asked me what I would do if a fictional “Jericho” type event happened that day and my family and home got wiped out by a nuclear bomb, shortly followed by an EMP that knocked out power across the country. My answer was that I’d find the wealthiest neighborhood I could find and figure out what their particular needs were and how I could make myself so valuable that they’d be eager to give me food, fire, water, shelter and medication — even though I was a complete stranger visiting from out of town.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on walled neighborhoods after a breakdown in civil order. I’m particularly interested in hearing from people who have lived overseas in walled “compounds,” whether they were U.S. enclaves or simple civilian neighborhoods. I know many of you have been Department of Defense or Department of State dependents stationed overseas, and I would appreciate any insights you have to share.