Letter Re: Hidden Rooms and Compartments–Conning the Burglars

Many people are worried about the security of their food, supplies, arms, etc., at retreats where they do not live. Burglars are usually working against a clock. This helps keep some items safe. But when a burglar has watched your retreat location and sees no one coming and going…time is on his side. With enough time, any door, lock, container can be opened—and all your stuff now belongs to him.
One thing we need to do is use your imagination–really use it.
If your retreat has a basement, the door to the basement will be found by a burglar with enough time. Answer? No door. It will take some work, but is easily accomplished during a weekend at the retreat. Remove the door, and trim, cut plywood or drywall to fit hole, tape, plaster, paint. Then age the wall with scuff marks. You know where the door was, but a burglar just sees four walls. Of course, if you have basement windows, these will need to be covered, and [gravel] fill used to make it appear as if nothing is there.
If there is a basement, the joists give you a ton of storage space. Screw [thick] plywood to basement side of the rafters, and now you have a space the depth and length of those joists. Do some calculations to determine what weight can be held. But there is a remarkable amount of room in there for dry goods, clothing, arms, food, ammo, etc. Paint the basement ceiling, and now anyone who goes down there and looks up just sees a ceiling. If you fear the weight is marginal for a ceiling to hold, then before putting up plywood ceiling take chicken-wire or similar wire screens and make a 3 sided “box”, open on top. Slip this into the joist area and attach with screws to side of joists. Then pack [the space] and attach plywood. Whatever you do, use a calculator before you do this work.
On a home that is not built over a basement, this will require some more in-depth carpentry work, but you can do it.
Every viable retreat will have various types of lumber stored, or it should. Find the right room [with a high ceiling] and turn board lumber on its edge. Picture 2x10s or 2x12s laying in a room, on edge, spaced 3 feet apart (or whatever you need). These will be the support for your new “floor”, built on the floor of this room. Secure the boards to existing floor. Stack canned goods, arms, ammo, clothing (whatever you have to hide) between the rows of boards. Plywood over the top, screwed down—but just enough to hold. Lay cheap carpet over the top [of the plywood]. You have just secured food, etc. But now, you will be faced with a “step up” to this room. No problem. Build ramps at entries to the room that appear as if a handicapped person uses the place. In fact, in the spirit of having a little “movie set”, make it realistic. You must “sell the con”, and this is a con game. You versus a burglar. Find an old wheelchair and leave it on-site next to the doorway. Build a rough ramp to front door, etc. Put down old carpet in this room, put some old furniture in it. You have now hidden a ton of goods, and only those who will wreck your house will find them.
Burglars usually want to steal something quick, and without a lot of work. If they loved labor, then they would have jobs. These ramps don’t have to pass an inspection. They see a ramp, wheelchair, think “handicapped”. The ramps in the house are only to disguise the false floor, nothing else. Pay attention at doorways to make certain the trim is not obvious.

Use your imagination. But remember: Don’t go making the place look like a mansion inside. This is a survival retreat, not a hopeful candidate for home of the year. Old ratty furniture and peeling wallpaper just helps sell the con [that there is nothing there worth stealing.] Dust and dirt and things that smell nasty can be cleaned up the first hour you are on site after SHTF. If you can make a burglar come in, look around and think “gross”, then you won. Good luck, – Straightblast

JWR Adds: Even if you have a monitored burglar alarm system, and even you have a vault, there is a huge advantage in making “dead space” disappear in your house, to conceal the majority of your preparedness logistics. Not everyone can afford to construct a walk-in vault. Just the vault door can cost $2,000+. But constructing a floor cache, a wall cache, or a hidden room is largely a matter of time and “sweat equity.” Think in terms “defense in depth”: What is better than owning a securely bolted-down gun vault? A gun vault that is concealed behind a false wall or panel. And what is better than that? A gun vault behind a false wall that is inside a house with a motion detection web cam or a IR motion detector camera system and a monitored alarm system. Motion detection web cams are available from X10.com. Battery-powered IR motion detector camera systems are available from Ready Made Resources. Monitored alarm systems are available from uControl Home Security . BTW, the latter two companies are SurvivalBlog advertisers, and would appreciate your patronage.