I see little difference between a SHTF  situation and a TEOTWAWKI  situation in terms of self defense. The mission is identical; protect our family from predators whether it be for a month or years. Same challenges, same tactics, same end result. I will concede that the longer chaos prevails, then the greater desperation and violence we could expect. But, may I submit that if forced to use lethal force, a bullet doesn’t know the difference between a killer, rapist or looter. The end result is the same. No matter where you live.
The variables and subsequent permutations of survival security tactics are endless when such a broad subject is addressed, although the psychology of mob/group behavior is unlikely to alter. For this reason, I’ve tried to capture the probable situations we might encounter in a very general manner based upon the adverse behavior and intentions of mobs and how we should/could take advantage of such behavior. The tactics herein though, are purely that of a Marine, i.e., do whatever it takes, with whatever we’ve got, to get the job done.
To rely solely on a retreat’s remoteness as the foremost and most critical factor for lengthy survival safety could be a mistake unless, perhaps, the site is so far removed that not even the locals are very familiar with the area. Having said that, location is only the first entry in the survival equation. The second, and equally important entry in the equation, is to place a defensive value of the sites tactical suitability. Bluntly put, if we cannot defend our retreat for a few hours or a day, there is no point in trying to exist in the middle of nowhere and storing food for six months sustenance. Thus, remoteness, of and in itself, is a big plus only so long as it can be defended. Critical natural terrain and site conditions and/or lack of a tactical defense plan can offset the remote advantage.
Most of us live in houses that, as one blogger here once said, are “defensive disasters”. He was right! Even though my house is constructed of concrete blocks, I’m a well trained US Marine, know how to use (and own) firearms, it’s still not defensible, to a point.
Major factors that would dominate the outcome of any attempted hostile entry to my home are mob psychology, probable scenarios and my defensive and offensive tactics. The type of construction materials used in the construction of my house, while interesting, would not, in my opinion, be a determining factor. I submit that the same holds true for you too. It’s obvious that a determined, trained and professionally-led attacking military force, with a siege mentality, would prevail no matter where we live. But that’s not a probable scenario, so it’s not really worth considering. It’s interesting that military planners of major conflict engagements, both offensive and defensive, consider many of the same factors that we, of necessity, must also consider. If on the defensive for example, the Commander will have a well thought-out defensive plan, and will take advantage of any weakness and execute a counter attack. The substantial differences of course, are scale, skill and discipline.
Here are some, but not all, significant tactical survival factors we must consider, not necessarily in the order of their importance:
1. Mob psychology
2. Human assets, number, skill level, mindset and determination
3. Site location, accessibility, visual prominence and neighbors
4. Site terrain, topography, obstacles, field of fire and cover/concealment
5. Situational awareness, surveillance and detection
6. Planning and rehearsal, (such as field exercises)
Dissecting the first tactical survival factor, the mob psychology/mentality. This causes people to succumb to violence, and dangerous, extreme behavior in groups, large or small encourages anonymity. (“It’s not my fault, everyone was doing it…”) The group encourages individuals to behave in ways they wouldn’t in a normal environment. And, they believe they cannot be held responsible for acts that cannot be traced back to them. Such groups are likely to engage in looting “without any consequences” due to political chaos or a law enforcement vacuum in the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters. And, therein lies the crux of mob psychology:“without any consequences”. The last thing the group want is resistance or painful consequences of any kind.
In a civil unrest situation hoodlums look for easily accessible, vulnerable “easy-pickings”. They’ll bypass pockets of resistance. In the  Rodney King Trial Verdict riots in Los Angeles and it’s suburbs, the only structures that were spared from active looting by large gangs were some stores owned by armed Korean Americans. Their bold stand discouraged large gangs of hoodlum looters, who have a highly developed sense of self preservation, and they moved on. Wal-Marts and other large chain stores were ransacked. Many homes and businesses were easy marks to loot however with absolutely no consequences or risk to the hoodlums; those were all ransacked.
The looters were discouraged by resistance. Some examples of this can be seen in YouTube videos titled LA Riots-Don’t steal from Koreans , and LA Riots-Looters Gone Wild . To be unable or unwilling to defend the family home and allow them access to roam the house is especially dangerous. My conclusion is that I must take advantage of the weaknesses of mob psychology. Also, at the very least I must present what appears to be a determined, armed defense. And, if that doesn’t work, then I’ll shoot. I have no other option.
Tactical survival factor number two, human assets, number, skill level, mindset and determination. By human assets, number, I mean how many persons are available and prepared to carry a weapon and stand exposed, outside, guarding the house in a professional manner. (Note: This move is entirely dependent on security factor number four) The primary mission is to avoid shooting anyone, but instead, intimidate and warn interlopers your home is well defended, to keep them as far away as possible, and to psychologically encourage them to move on. This cannot be done as effectively from the front door of a house. The threat would not look as ominous to the hoods. Two armed defenders, boldly standing guard, look a great deal more dangerous than one. If instead of leaving, the interlopers advance in a hostile manner and you believe your life and family are threatened, you and they have run out of peaceful options. The use of firearms, mindset, skill and determination is your option.
To be able and competent to shoot another person will require you to mentally practice that option. mindset comes first. This isn’t difficult. Before every practice and show the Blue Angels sit down at a conference table, close their eyes and all together fly their mission mentally. The flight leader gives the command vocally for every evolution they fly. The pilot’s hands move precisely as if they were flying their aircraft. This is how they prepare to ensure an automatic response to the leaders commands in the air. Their brain responds exactly as it will when they’re actually flying later. They’ve pre-set it. It doesn’t know the difference!
Since the brain cannot tell the difference between imagining a nasty confrontation or experiencing a real situation, we can mentally pre-set our brain to cope automatically in a variety of situations, locations and conditions. What this amounts to is using our imagination to resolve unwanted situations before they ever occur. Actively imagine specific possible situations: imagine yourself resolving them and then visualize a positive outcome.
There is another aspect to mental preparation that could easily help you avoid an ugly confrontation. After you’ve pre-set your brain when and how to respond, and to what degree, your demeanor will reflect your quiet confidence. Once you’ve acquired “MINDSET”, a predator will not mistake you for an easy mark. You won’t look like a push over. This may give you a better than even chance to be left alone. This is a far better outcome than being involved in bloodshed. By repetitive visualization again and again in resolving the threat, when, or if, deadly force is ever necessary, you will have programmed your brain to shoot without hesitation and without moral scruples or reservations. You will have already thought about the morality of shooting another and determined that if you must, you must.
Mindset has saved the lives of thousands of military and civilian police forces when seconds count. I was trained in the Marine Corps to commit extreme carnage on other human beings without hesitation. I play the hand I’m dealt, whether I like it or not. I’ll scoot if I can, but if I can’t I’ve already pre-set my brain that if you threaten my life, or my family, I’ll shoot without hesitation or second thought; I will kill you. It’s a done deal. This is my mindset. Without this firm, unwavering commitment, my weapon would be useless scrap iron. I submit the bottom line is this: if you’re not willing to mentally and physically train, yours would be too.
But, what if they’re armed? I’ve already run through that probable scenario and what option I will take. mindset at work. So, I must ask you what is your option if looters challenge your several warnings and are advancing in a hostile manner? They may be armed, unreasonable, untrained and undisciplined. In my opinion, that makes them even more dangerous. Again, what option do you have other than to take care of business and shoot. And, keep shooting until they’ve left your property. It’s not possible to negotiate with evil people and their evil intentions on the spur of chaos. You have something they want and believe they have the necessary force to take it. When you’re unwilling or unable to use lethal force, you have nothing to bargain with! And, if you let em’ get right up in your face, it’s too late. BTW, if you’re unwilling to use lethal force when necessary, it’s my opinion you shouldn’t have any firearms on site. Otherwise, when they ransack your house, you’ll also be arming the bad guys.
Tactical survival factor number three: Site location, accessibility and visual prominence just about speaks for itself. Site location safety will have a direct relationship to time. Remote locations have both good and bad points. One factor seems probable; the further from population centers, the fewer groups seeking loot. At least, initially. In the sense that a remote location should not experience difficulties in the early days of chaos simply because other properties that are close to population centers will be more convenient to ransack with less effort and without any consequences. I foresee the destructive spread of these bands to be something like an explosion with the predators gradually spreading further and further away from the population center until the most distant properties require more effort than the potential gain.
The downside to a remote location are: few, if any, basic utility services available (most of which are nice, but not absolutely essential), medical assistance may be distant and difficult to reach safely, neighborhood mutual aid may be uncertain or delayed during chaotic periods. You might also not have more than one capable shooter in residence. Two or more shooters alters the equation entirely; for the good. For long term safety, the more trained shooters, the better.
If, instead of living at a remote location you live in a typical suburban location, and plan to remain there if the SHTF, you gain some and lose some. The most important gain is the number of people, that are trained, armed, able and willing to protect the neighborhood. That alone is a huge force multiplier. Offset, in part, by the greater number of participants in an out of control mob. Nevertheless, they’ll behave and react the same as any other mob intent on looting. Mob psychology, any more than human psychology will not change. They’ll be after the easy pickings, initially in large shopping malls stealing everything from household appliances to televisions, clothing, jewelry, food; whatever can simply be picked up and carried away, with impunity. When the riots spread to suburbia, the same mob psychology rules of resistance and defense would apply. As you saw in the news video clips, the Koreans were left alone. I mention the Los Angeles riots, which were localized to only a few square miles reinforce mob psychology bent and how the Korean’s coped, successfully. The size of the mobs became huge because they erupted in congested, urban neighborhood areas. Shopping malls and suburban residential neighborhoods were all within easy walking distance. The mobs formed very quickly. National Guard and Marines were deployed as soon as it was possible to quell the riots, rape and looting. This was not a widespread SHTF situation. But as history shows, we can expect to be repeated.
A SHTF event is an entirely different animal. In that circumstance a peculiar situation would rapidly develop in my neighborhood. We would, without any pre-planning or lengthy discussion, band together and form a defensive perimeter. In the absence of police, we would take the law into our own hands for self protection and instinctively form a loosely organized, armed group. Call it “Tribal Psychology”, if you will. It’s my belief that it would be repeated throughout the land and remain in force until the people were convinced the government was back in control. And, not before.
Every neighborhood has a variety of skills that could be put to use to the defensive tribe’s advantage. If the chaos were to be prolonged, eventually, some degree of local law and order with penalties for infractions would be discussed, modified and accepted by the residents. Depending on how long the SHTF condition existed, only the fittest and most prepared would survive. For a while.
Tactical survival factor number four, “Site terrain, obstacles, fields of fire and cover and concealment” demand attention, especially in large, remote sites. Terrain, topography and obstacles dominate fields of fire, cover and concealment. If for example, your house is in a dense forest with trees very close, the house may be difficult to see but predators can use the trees as cover and concealment as they approach it. In that instance the trees are definitely not your friend. The foundation of a good defensive position is to keep the opposition as far away as the terrain allows with good fields of defensive fire. Marines call it “a killing ground” because that is exactly what it becomes. Ideally, the site is large enough to clear some trees. If that isn’t an option, then guard dogs can be used to give warning. The downside is that barking dogs are always a sign of human habitation. But, I don’t see a realistic alternative. As always, I wouldn’t attempt to raise a defense from inside a house unless it was specially built to defend. That means you will have to construct some exterior fighting positions for your cover. In suburbia, where terrain would not be a factor, the neighbors’ firepower when added to yours will convince interlopers it’s not a good idea to press their luck in that neighborhood.
“Terrain” considers the natural features, configuration and topography of your site. Obstacles address man made and natural obstructions or impediments that diminish line of sight or hinder free, easy movement. Does your house or property:
- Back-up to a very steep hill or cliff
- Have a body of water adjacent
- Have any kind of perimeter fence
- Have a steep, but navigable incline in front, back or adjacent
- Have a twisty access road
- Have an easily an access road that is easily found and identifiable with evidence of frequent use
- Have an access road viewable by neighbors
- Have a useful field of fire towards the access road or in any other direction
- Have any exterior close-in blind spots due to obstructions
- Have any cover and/or concealment that an interloper could use
- Abut other occupied properties
- Have game tracks suitable for your use
- Have telephone or electric lines leading to your property
- Have any exterior walls without a window.
If you answered yes or no to any of these then a plan should be made and executed, to either negate it’s value to an intruder or capitalize and improve it to your advantage. As you can see, the permutations are endless. Assigning a priority to adjust, remove, improve or construct a terrain feature or obstruction should consider the rule that we must try to keep intruders as far away as is possible with little, or no cover and maximum field of fire. I’ve mentioned that no house is defensible and not to try too impress intruders or defend from the inside of the house. It’s a simple, relatively inexpensive matter to construct fighting positions at strategic points from concrete block with the cells filled with concrete and then camouflage it. We do not fight fair. If we can somehow find a way to channel intruders down a path or to area that has minimum, or no cover, then we got em’. Barbed wire [and even thorny bushes or vines] can be very useful in that regard. With good tactics consistent with your property’s terrain and obstacles you have tilted the odds decidedly in your favor. It’s good start. If you are uncertain about how to do this then it would be prudent to get some expert advice; since failure is not an option.
Tactical survival factor number five, “Situational awareness, surveillance and detection”. If your retreat is out in the boonies, then you’ll have to learn and practice covert scouting and surveillance day and night utilizing the game trails and natural pathways on your property and find safe observation sites with concealment and good escape routes. That means you’ll have to know every wrinkle and obstacle on your property. But, you know, its fun and interesting discovering how wonderful nature can be on your own piece of land. By instituting a round the clock scouting schedule, if that’s possible, you’ll be in a better position to detect intruders, warn them if that’s your choice, and if necessary, fight them knowing what you’re up against. Without surveillance and detection you may have given the advantage of surprise to the predators. Private warning signals would be most appropriate utilizing gun shots, bells, police whistles or any other device that could be heard from your scouting perimeter to your retreat house warning of an event that requires their immediate attention. That might mitigate some of the loss of surprise. After giving, or while giving a warning, the scout would have to beat feet, post haste, to shooting positions close to the house. That calls for physical effort. Maybe a lot of effort. No surprise there!
A suburbanite, in a similar case, has the advantage of numbers to spread the load of surveillance, detection and opposition. There seems to no doubt that there will be very little time between detection and invasion, thus visual armed opposition must be immediately available, if not already on standby.
Finally, Tactical survival factor number six, “Planning and rehearsal”. The critical aspect in planning is to imagine any and all possible disruptive events that might occur; then conceive a plan to correct the deficiency. A sort of “what if this happens…..what am I gonna do about it”! Gosh, here we go again, back to mindset. By imagining possible problems, thinking the problem over, sooner or later you’re going to figure out a way to successfully resolve it. If, or when the problem arises, you already have a solution. I’m a great one for making punch lists, which is a list of “To Do” items, problems that need a fix, actions that should be taken and reminders. Like my anniversary date! I submit that its not easy, but its quite important you start a punch list. Make a separate page for each major item that’s important for your safety and survival. Then, start listing potential problem areas that might occur in each scenario. Scratch them off as you complete each one. It’s like solving a big problem; which is really just a lot of smaller problems in a paper bag. Reach in the bag and solve the small problems, one at a time. Pretty soon the bag is empty and the big problem no longer exists. It’s really that simple. My dad taught me that. When the next nasty problem arises, as it will, you’ll not be overwhelmed and glad you know how to solve it.
Rehearsals can be challenging, but fun if you involve the whole family. Even hot, sweaty troops enjoy field exercises. First, define the problem so the whole family understands exactly what it is. Then, tell them your solution and how you want it handled. Now, rehearse and practice the solution in real time. Set goals. Make it a timed rehearsal to see how long it takes to complete. Award points based upon excellence, speed, ingenuity and meeting the necessary requirements. Make them physically and mentally challenging. Take a break. Have a picnic. Rehearse another. Give prizes! The old adage “the harder you work, the luckier you get” applies. A Marine would say “the harder we train in peace, the less blood we shed in war”. They’re both absolutely true.
In suburbia, I doubt rehearsals would be welcome. I’ve discussed, in a fashion, how we’d establish a defensive perimeter with three experienced, armed neighbors. It will probably take an incident that the television news show video of mobs and ensuing riots for my neighbors to get serious. It’s my belief that my shooter friends unconcern at this time will be balanced by their determination and expertise when SHTF. Semper fi to my brothers.