Letter Re: Hardening a Home Against Small Arms Fire

I wish to inquire about hardening a home .I n a firefight, when in a “normal” home, shots would traverse the walls. Being a simple farmer here in southeastern Idaho I am a little concerned about the current turmoil and possible Golden Horde. I know that when I was in Rhodesia, we built earthen berms around the home like big flower boxes along with 2″x4″ mesh wire to stop RPGs. We also had built two perimeter fences and placed crushed white stone inside the two fences ([each] nine feet high). Also I am interested in how to pump water here when there is no grid power for myself and family and 30 head of animals. I have some supposed “no freeze” hydrants now but they do freeze. Go figure. I have only been in Idaho for two years. Thanks for any help. Also, I wanted to say that your novel was great. Sincerely, – Charles B.

JWR Replies: Retrofitting a house for ballistic protection can be an expensive proposition, if it is done in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing in the present day. Sand bags are inexpensive, but as one of my distaff consulting clients noted, “There is a big difference between Better Homes and Gardens and your Harder Homes and Gardens.”)

I generally recommend starting with a masonry house with a metal roof. They are nearly fireproof, and aside for their windows, quite resistant to small arms fire. As I described in detail in my novel “Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse”, given sufficiently heavy hinges and stout hinge mounting points, steel shutters can be added to windows, and then wood veneer added, to make the shutters look “decorative.” Adding steel plate to doors overstresses their hinges, so it best to build bullet-resistant doors from scratch. Again, that is described in my novel. And the novel even includes a formula for calculating the weight of plate steel. (It does add up quickly. Parenthetically, special safety precautions must be taken when lifting and positioning plate steel. (See: ANSI A10.13-2001.) The oft-quoted “32 feet per second-per second” of acceleration is a law not to be trifled with! Watch your fingers and toes.)

Water pumping is best accomplished by a traditional Aermotor windmill if you are in a windy region, or via photovoltaics elsewhere. In either case, I recommend constructing a large cistern to provide gravity flow for domestic use, gardening, livestock, and firefighting. OBTW, the folks at Ready Made Resources offer free consulting on photovoltaics and other alternative energy systems.

Regarding your frost-free hydrants. They were possibly installed incorrectly. Since the valve body is buried below frost depth, they should not freeze is buried at sufficiently deep. (This depth varies, depending on latitude and solar exposure.) Properly, they should have at least a cubic foot of gravel around the base, where the valve’s weep hole drains the water from the standpipe portion of the hydrant, each time that that the water is turned off. It is uncommon, but the weep hole can become plugged, especially by heavy clay soil. It is also possible for frost to be “driven down” to unusual depths by the proximity of vehicular traffic or even large livestock tromping around a valve. BTW, be very cautious if you decide to excavate to check to see if there is enough gravel there. It is easy to break Schedule 40 PVC pipe with a hand shovel. (I speak from sad experience!)