Letter Re: The Legality and Ethics of Blocking Roads and Bridges After TEOTWAWKI

I live in an area of the south that is fairly rural. People her still plant gardens, can, hunt, raise livestock and I believe could if need be survive longer than most in a crisis time. Don’t get me wrong I am stocking and preparing for a long term survival and defense possibility.

My question is this: The 40 acres I live on is situated on a ridge in this area surrounded by deep flowing rivers,streams and creeks. These water ways separate the area I live and a metropolitan area 80 miles in one direction and another 60 miles. In a full collapses such as in your novel “Patriots” would it be feasible to block or make impassable these bridges as to route the flow of scavengers and marauders away from my area. Also it would funnel any that would find their way in to my area in from one defensible direction.

I’m talking about doing this only in the event of a full collapse as in TEOTWAWKI. The only real protection the people in this area will have will be themselves and their neighbors. Our group will be large enough to defend our stronghold at the size it is now. I just think that a more controlled area with fewer entry points would be easier to defend. Now we are not going to box ourselves into a hole, but limiting vehicle access just would be prudent. If we pulled back closer there are four smaller bridges that are less than a mile away that would close our “back door” from unexpected visitors. Most of our neighbors are self reliant and I believe in that situation would agree that limiting access would be to all of those in the “enclave’s” best interest. I’m not talking of destroying them–only blocking them with junk cars and such. We have a lot of heavy equipment between us and it would not be a problem. Typically the bridges are in low spots so they are also easily defendable from higher ground. I know this sounds extreme but we are planning long term defense and survival. – Southern Survivor

JWR Replies: Legally and ethically, as an individual you can only block roads on your own property. But if a small community makes a collective decision to block a road or bridge, then that is another matter. I would assume that every state in the Union has laws forbidding blocking any public road. Further, as both police (in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, under color of law) and various protestors have found, Federal law prohibits blocking interstate freeways.

As I’ve mentioned in SurvivalBlog several times, it is best to pick a property that is situated away from channelized areas (also known as “lines of drift.”) A ridgetop location is generally quite good, but this of course raises the age-old issue of clear fields of fire versus concealment. The best possible solution would be to have a cleared area for at least 50 yards, yet still have a solid screen of trees close to any nearby thoroughfares. This necessitates having at least 20 acres–which is out of the price range of many preppers. In the end, it comes down to compromise, and tailoring your defensive preparations to your locale and to your personal “worst case” expectations.

In my years of consulting work, I’ve met many folks that have confided that in the event of an absolute worst case–the dreaded “Mutant Zombie Biker” scenario–they plan to block public roads or even destroy bridges. Two of my consulting clients own large Caterpillar-type tractors. I’ve urged them to not use those Cats to move earth and rock to block roads, but rather to possibly use them as mobile road blocks. Parking a Cat crosswise at the end of a two-lane bridge (with its blade lowered) will stop most vehicles. OBTW, when doing this, don’t depend on just a keyed switch to disable the vehicle. Just a few types of key variations were made and/or they can easily to bypassed (“hot wired”.) So a mobile roadblock must be disabled by temporarily removing or disabling a crucial ignition, fuel, or hydraulic system part. (See how utility companies do so, for some examples.)

By using a mobile road block that is under armed observation 24/7, you will minimize the risk of alienating your neighbors. Who is to say how long a crisis might last? If you were to block a road with earth or rock piles, or even with wrecked cars, you would probably infuriate any neighbors that decide to return to a normal life of work and commuting, as well as any that resume hauling produce or livestock to market.

Also, as I’ve pointed out many time in the past: Physical obstacles are just delaysnot absolute safeguards. People will find a way through them, over them, or around them–on foot if need be. Also, given enough time, almost any obstacle can be reduced or removed. This necessitates covering any obstacle with armed sentries. For a community in a post-collapse situation, this is best accomplished by 1.) a mobile roadblock, 2.) prominent warning signs, and 3.) covered by one or more well-camouflaged sentries equipped with scoped battle rifles and radios, from a 200+ yard distance. Just one rifleman in a ghillie suit, set back in a tree line can have a tremendous psychological impact in defending a roadblock. (“Where did that shot come from?”) In my estimation, the traditional “armed party of men” standing behind barricades manning a roadblock is a thoroughly antiquated carry-over from the Ancien Régime. In the modern context, it is just an invitation to take casualties, as well as a waste of manpower.)