When Bugging Out is Not an Option: Hunkering Down with a Quadriplegic, by Steven in Alabama

I’ve always considered myself and my family extremely blessed.  I also am a firm believer that God expects you to make the most out of what you have.  God gave me a wonderful wife and 3 healthy, strong boys.  We are a hard working family who have always had goals and planned well for the future.  We even had a bug-out plan when not many other folks even talked about such things.  Our world took a drastic turn a little over a year ago when my oldest son was injured in a high school wrestling accident.  In the blink of an eye my son became a C4C5 quadriplegic.  After about three months reality began to sit in and we had to start planning for a greatly altered future.  One night I began to think about our bug-out plan and it became obvious for a plethora of reasons that we couldn’t just grab our stuff and head out.  At this point I began to harden our existing home.  Fortunately we live in a very rural neighborhood with like-minded people around us.  There is nothing about us that calls attention to ourselves or screams prepper.  We just go about business as usual and quietly prepare.  Here is what we have done and are in the process of doing to make our house a handicapped assessable fortress.

I must preface this article by saying that we are not a wealthy family with an unlimited budget.  We are just a dual income family that has always saved for the future.  Most of what I will describe came together very quickly because we sold a property that was not handicapped assessable and opted to put that extra money in our now primary and only home.  I hope that what I’m about to share will help others who want to prepare and have a handicapped family member.  We’re not trying to reinvent the wheel.  I do realize that we are doing many things that other individuals have done and are doing, but, I will give you a unique perspective from a handicapped assessable point of view.  The first thing I learned was that you really do need to commit to live where you will hunker down.  Everything that you want or need will be with you all the time and you will never have to decide what to take and what to leave behind in an emergency situation.  I also found it easier from a financial stand point since I was putting money into one place.  So, with that being said, here is our home and retreat.  

Our house is a one level all brick home on a full basement with one step to get in the front door and a nice smooth slope with no steps down to the drive and basement.  Talk about handicapped ready before we even arrived!  Doors will be your first challenge.  They have to be widened to allow wheel chair access.  Use this opportunity to really fortify all those exterior entries.  Nobody will question you at all in this situation so here is your opportunity to go a little crazy.  I do suggest that you limit the amount of glass and beef these doors up to take a slug.  You can justify this by saying that the door may take a beating from the wheel chair and if it is a power chair it will definitely take a few good licks early in the game.  At the very least you need a very heavy wooden door with some kind of cross support.  Install a strike plate which would deflect and distribute the force of a blow along with reinforced hinges.  Go ahead and widen every single doorway inside the house.  You won’t regret it.  It will be easier for everybody to move around, I promise.  Eventually your injured family member will need access to the entire house and it is an opportunity to reinforce the interior a little as well.  Get rid of all carpet.  Wheel chairs don’t like carpet and it’s hard to keep clean.  Hard wood is an excellent choice for all rooms and no lip at any door.  Let’s talk wheelchair for a second.  Make sure you have a high quality manual push chair as a back-up if not your primary chair.  Charging a motorized chair could be an issue when there is no power to count on.  Opt for solid wheels rather than air so that you don’t have to worry about flat tires.  Air will give you a better ride though.

The next modifications made were in my son’s living area which is in our finished basement.  These changes in particular are aimed at handicapped individuals but have made maintenance and livability much easier for everyone.  All carpet and tile was torn out so that we had raw concrete.  The concrete was then polished, stained, and sealed.  It’s beautiful and very easy to clean as well as super tough and durable.  Also worth mentioning is his bathroom.  We took out a wall and increased the area from existing closet space and constructed him a huge roll in shower.  The shower is now roughly a 10 foot by 10 foot area.  It’s overkill but, maneuverability is an important issue.

Surveillance was something that we put our money into soon after getting our son home.  We invested in both indoor and outdoor cameras.  We can’t be with our son at every moment, so, we can always check on him and his care person at any time and any place.  All of our cameras are tied into our alarm system and we can monitor with our phone 24/7 by video monitor at home.  These cameras will help as our son begins to gain some independence and in crunch time they may save your life by giving you a view of exactly what is going on outside without placing someone in a potentially dangerous situation.  We did opt for infrared cameras outside which give you an incredible view in the dark.

An all metal roof is nice but, you may have to put a few other changes first.  If you don’t have gutters, get them!  Rain water is your friend.  If possible, install underground tanks to catch all the rain off your roof.  I learned this trick from a Cajun that I duck hunt with.  He has a camp built on a barge that catches rain water in 2 tanks that each holds a thousand gallons.  If you treat your water with swimming pool chlorine and use your water wisely, you should have plenty of usable water at all times.  I have been shocked at how well this works at his camp.  I’m going to us a 1,000 gallon holding tank.  Putting it in will spur a few questions but, explaining that you have drainage issues and you also intend to irrigate with it should explain it all away.  It has also come to my attention that in some cities you must have a permit to catch rain water off your roof.  This is crazy, but some regulations in a few places say you are not allowed to change the natural flow of water, even if that is off your roof.  In my opinion this is government over reaching its bounds again.  If you’re worried about this it is easy to check.  We did, and all is fine.   We will pump the water with electric pumps that can also work with our back-up power system which I will discuss later in this article.  We use about 6,000 gallons of water each month and in crunch time this could be greatly reduced.  We get plenty of rain throughout the year here in the South, so we should be able to keep our tank rather full.  For now, we are picking out the most practical placement for this tank and with a little luck it will be catching water by June of this year.  Initially we will just use our tanks for watering and car washing.  This water will be perfect to use for washing and bathing as is.  It should be run through a filter system before drinking and cooking.   Another great thing about the underground tank method is that people will never realize that you have plenty of water.  We also store water in many other various containers. 

My next suggestion concerning water will be a little complicated, but this fix will hopefully make your septic system more trouble free.  An inspector will not allow you to do this but, route your black water (toilet) to the septic tank.  Re-route your waste water (gray) out to a run off to catch it for reuse.  If you plan ahead for this, when the mess hits the fan, all you will need to do is twist a few levers and you are on a black/gray system.  If you think about it, your home just became similar to a giant camper with a fresh water holding tank, black tank, and a gray tank.

Let’s talk about energy independence and some practical modifications that I have made and will be making very soon.  Solar energy is a strong and lasting option.  You will need a good supply of sunshine though.  Our house is situated so that we get full sunlight on our house from sunrise until sunset.  Did God know that we would need this place or what!!  The system that we are planning to install produces enough energy that we can meet all our needs and feed back into the power grid for credit should we so choose.  We will have a battery system for night time power and use the grid if necessary.  Batteries are not great power sources like the sun but, they can keep you a fair supply of emergency power.  Should the grid go down, we hope it won’t faze us too bad.  This does come with a strong price tag!  Depending on your choice of set-up and needs, the price can range from $15,000-$30,000.  This will be our most expensive prep.  The good news is that you can take advantage of some tax credits by going solar.  I know that is a lot of money, but, over the span of a few years the system will help pay for itself through energy savings and increasing the value and marketability of your home.  It will be worth every penny the first time you lose power for any extended period of time and when the mess hits the fan, this system will be priceless.  Don’t forget, we have a quadriplegic that has more needs to meet than for the average person.  Thank goodness he is not respirator dependent, but, that need could be met if it were ever necessary.  We are working out the logistics for a 10KW system to be installed before summer.   We also keep a 7,500 watt generator on hand with 60 gallons of stabilized gas close by. (Yes, I know that this is not enough fuel. We are making arrangements for a larger and better storage system.)   Other electrical needs are met with an abundance of rechargeable batteries and the small backpack solar chargers.  The most important modification that we made to our house was done well before we started preparing for a hunkering down situation.  We installed lightning rods on our home.  We have been hit twice over the past few years and lost television s and other electrical items.  In crunch time, this would be a devastating blow.  Get your house grounded by a professional.  Take every step to make your shelter safe and energy independent.  We are quickly moving toward energy independence.  You should be too!

Windows are a weak link in all homes.  Ours are tied into an alarm system.  In crunch time my suggestion here is to have diamond plate sheets on hand to place over certain select windows (I’m not talking about aluminum).  You can find them in many different gauges to meet your personal needs.  I do suggest that you get them in a flat black or brown color.  They can easily be bolted on in times of emergency and to be honest, in severe weather outbreaks, they are rather handy.  Can they stop a bullet?  Yes.  A heavy gauge will offer sufficient protection from almost any projectile that you will encounter.  If a tank rolls into your neighborhood, it’s not going to matter what you have up.  Is this perfect?  No.  But I guarantee you that a looter won’t crawl in a window or shoot you from the street.  This leads me right to my next change.  We will be adding a wood burning stove in our basement kitchen for heating and cooking purposes.  It will be vented out an existing window which will now be closed and sealed off.  That’s one less window to worry about.  Also, consider adding a kitchen in your basement.  We added a small kitchen to our basement when we made modifications to our home for our son.  His area is the basement and the kitchen actually makes him feel like the basement is his own place.  You never know when you may have to stay in your basement for extended periods of time due to a Biological/Chemical hazard or some other fallout.  A good underground basement offers nice protection and can be sealed fairly tight.  Also, our basement has a fully furnished and well equipped wine cellar.  Homemade wine will be an excellent trade/barter item when some stability is returned to society.  A simple hobby now could turn into a nice profession one day.  Also, the temperature of the cellar makes it easy to store other items should it ever become necessary.

Now, let’s discuss a few personal needs.  These next few comments are especially for those hunkering down with someone who has a spinal cord injury but, can be helpful to the able bodied individual as well.  You must have a rock solid plan for bowel and bladder needs.  I won’t elaborate.  You are familiar with your loved one’s needs better than anyone else.  This is priority number one.  Next is skin care, which must become second nature.  A pressure sore could easily be fatal.  Remember, there won’t be deliveries and replacements for medical supplies for a long time (if ever).You must learn to conserve and reuse as well as clean and sterilize material.  It’s defiantly tough to consider, but, you better learn how to put an indwelling foley catheter in your family member just in case something happens and intermittent catheterization is not practical.  I suggest you obtain a large amount of cranberry supplements for your injured family member.  It will help a little in the prevention of a urinary tract infection.  Many spinal cord injury patients die from urinary tract infections long after their injury, so be careful.  I should also mention that individuals with high spinal cord injuries have trouble with blood pressure and lose the ability to regulate their body temperature.  Blood pressure medicine may be hard to get or even impossible.  You should stock up with many extra pair of ted hose and abdominal binders.  These will help push the blood back toward the heart.  Familiarize yourself with the signs of dysreflexia and be prepared to treat it immediately.  This is a sudden and huge increase in blood pressure usually caused by some type of irritation or something that would be painful to the able bodied person.  You must locate this problem and correct it immediately.  Your family member can die from this if not corrected quickly.  Your doctor should have prepared you for this.  Our family is lucky.  My wife is a family nurse practitioner so she is highly qualified to care for our family.  Here are some things that we feel you must have stocked up:  Ibuprofen, Tylenol, Aspirin, Antibiotics, Vitamins, Potassium Iodide tablets, Masks, Bandages, Tape, Eye drops, Suture kit, Surgical and other instruments.  Have a very high quality blood pressure cuff on hand that you know how to use.  Keep a very large supply of Clorox, rubbing alcohol, iodine, and peroxide on hand.   KY jelly and Vaseline should also be stocked heavily.  I would also have several aloe plants on hand and keep them in good health.  Rubber gloves, paper products, and plastic bags are vital and like other medical supplies are finite in number.  The list can go on and on.  The bottom line is to stock up so that you can meet your medical needs as best possible. 

You must eat to stay healthy.  Stocking up on food is a given.  You must learn to grow, gather seed, can, and preserve your food.  When my son was still inpatient, he took an interest in gardening and landscape.  As a result of his new found interest, we constructed several raised beds in our back yard for him to plant in and help tend his garden.  We have a large, fenced in back yard where these raised beds are located.   And much to our surprise, our neighbors have done the same.  After some discussion and planning, we have decided to team up in the food production (and defense) business should the need ever arise.  You will be shocked at the quantity and quality of food that is produced in raised beds.  Our garden produces enough that we had to give away a large amount of food.  You will find that you will be able to keep something growing almost year around.  The raised beds and fence help keep the critters out.  The fact that the beds are raised will allow our son to help cultivate the crops from his wheelchair.  It is extremely important for the mental well being of your injured family member that they be able to work and contribute to the success of your home. We also have several blackberry and blueberry bushes planted with several fruit trees.  Our newest project has been establishing grape vines.  At some point, I would like to learn how to keep bees.  Do you have any idea how popular you would be in crunch time if you had honey to barter or trade with?  Bees are vital around your garden anyway!  I should probably move this up on my list especially since we live in a perfect climate for bee keeping. 

Birds are a different story.  A BB gun or nice air rifle will handle that problem and I guess that we all might need to learn to eat a little crow.  It goes without saying that you need a dehydrator and lots of salt.  You need to learn how to make jerky.  Now, how do I put meat on the table?  Of course we have plenty on hand to last several months but, sooner or later you will need to begin harvesting again.  This won’t be easy but we have a plan.  Around here everybody and their brother will head for any wooded area and try to kill anything that moves during the first few weeks of a meltdown.  I don’t think they will have much success as there are very few real hunters.  After a couple of weeks when people figure out that they can’t just go out and kill what they want, most will stop trying and resort to other methods (looting/stealing).  In a situation where everything has fallen apart, normal rules have to be thrown out so that food can be harvested.   When the time is right, I will harvest game, if we need it, in the middle of the night with the aid of a FLIR.  That is thermal imaging.  Everything alive gives off a heat signature and I plan to take full advantage of this fact.  I was completely amazed the first time I drove through our hunting club in our Ranger and took a look through my FLIR.  Wow!  There were many pairs of eyes on me!  If you have a chance, try one out and you will be very impressed.  You can purchase a nice FLIR for about $2,000 and it will be a valuable asset when it comes to food gathering and defense of your home.  The one that I use runs on rechargeable batteries and is very trouble free.  I have not had very good luck with regular night vision goggles.  Lenses tend to break easy and they have caused us more trouble than they are worth.  Camouflage won’t hide a heat signature either.    Nobody will sneak up on you.  If you can afford it, get an extra one.  Now, back to food harvesting for a second.  Given the circumstances, I doubt the game warden will be out looking for poachers.  I’m sure I can bring plenty of game right to our door with a nice salt block or a little corn. 

It is my opinion that the defense of your home is the most important part of preparing for a crisis like the one we are discussing.  I’ve already mentioned what my plans are for entry ways and windows.  After much research and study, I believe that the reinforced heavy doors and diamond plate sheets are perfect for most situations like ours.  Our back yard and garden are already fenced in with chain link and as luck would have it, our property looks out over hundreds of acres and there is a huge drop to the property below.  We are on extremely high ground and it would be difficult for someone to approach us from behind.  Therefore, in a time of civil unrest, I would probably only add barbed wire to the top of our fence and apply a layer of electric wire.  Another huge advantage that we have is how isolated our small neighborhood is and there is only one dead end road which enters and forest around that.  However, until we can agree as a neighborhood group to barricade the road, my neighbors and I will take steps to keep a crazy looter from driving through our front door.  My two neighbors on each side and I plan to erect pilings through our yards spaced so that a vehicle cannot pass between them.  Railroad ties along with existing trees are what we plan to use and we have been collecting the ties for a couple of months now.  They are easy to get here and it doesn’t hurt to have a friend who works with the railroad.  We realize that this is going to be very tough and time consuming work but, if everything falls apart you will have plenty of time on your hands and you never know what a desperate individual might try.  Each post will be placed at least 3 feet in the ground.  This should be an excellent barrier from almost any vehicle.  Speaking as someone who has operated heavy machinery in the past, I can definitely vouch that the machine could not just drive straight through.  It would require a little work which would give us time to take appropriate action to stop it. 

Thank God for the Second Amendment!   We do try to keep things simple.  Everybody has a 12 gauge shotgun.  In a rural neighborhood like ours this gun may very well be our most valuable weapon.  We’ll use number 2 or 4 shot in most cases.  We do have buckshot and some goose loads if necessary.  Everybody has a. 22 rifle with thousands of rounds and extra magazines.  Everyone has a handgun with the exception of our injured son.   These include a .44 Magnum, .45 ACP, .38 revolvers, .22s, and some extras parts.  The long guns in addition to our .22s include a .44 Mag lever action rifle ,a .22-250, a .17 HMR, .270 and an AR-15.   

All these weapons are very effective in our particular situation and everyone is very comfortable with these weapons.  I do believe our shotguns will be our most useful tool.  Now, our handicapped son will be able to take part in the defense of the home as well.  He has a very nice .270 with a first class Leupold scope.  How does he shoot it?  Thanks to Buckmasters, he has a mounting system for his chair that enables him to shoot as well as an able bodied person if not better.  He has a LCD display with joystick controls and a sip and puff trigger control.  He can really reach out and touch someone.  The whole set-up runs off a 12 volt battery.  Many thanks go out to the people at Buckmasters for giving this to my son which has enabled him to hunt again.  We even figured out how to use the LCD with the FLIR.  Of course we do keep a few other surprises locked away in our vault and our neighbors each have a very nice selection of weapons.  Our area will be very well defended! 

With that being said, let me take a moment and talk especially to those who have an injured or disabled family member.  Your family member is an easy target for criminals.  In our situation, (our son) is a target when he is in public because he can’t help or defend himself.  A thief will target a quad and take anything they want with very little problem.  Independence is important and must be approached carefully.  Due to the level of our son’s injury he still has an attendant or close friend with him if he is in public.  One step that we took to help our son become more independent was to get a service dog.  He chose a large German shepherd.  The security around our house just doubled.  That dog loves my son and would give her life protecting his and the family.  She opens and closes doors, picks up items off the floor, helps pull him when he is in his manual chair, and is a constant companion.  She has also been exposed to the sport of schutzhund.  I know that there have been other articles about the value of dogs in crunch time so I won’t spend time discussing them.  But, you should strongly consider a service animal!  Once a dog like a German shepherd bonds with you and the family they will become extremely protective of their pack.  You are now part of the pack! You should see the wide space people give my son when he is in public with his German shepherd.  Also, these animals can go any place in public that you go.  That equals independence and peace of mind.     

Another factor that I believe will play a vital role in the survival of our family is the fact that we are all very outdoor oriented people.  We’re all avid campers and know how to ruff it when necessary.  Everyone knows how to read a map and use a compass.  These are skills that are very valuable and few people understand anymore.  We all have good knives and know how to use them.  We have good radios to communicate with and listen for local news.  We also obtained a good short wave radio.  Monitoring the radios and cameras will be our injured son’s primary job.  We have a large supply of what I call my everyday useful tools.  Examples of these are rakes, shovels, hoes, picks, axes, wedges, hammers of all sizes and weights, sling blades, hatchets, machetes, saws including an old fashioned 2 man saw, various sizes of nails, bolts, screws, nuts, and washers.  You will also need a good supply of common hand tools for mechanical, plumbing, and carpenter needs.  Consider keeping a supply of various tape, caulk, glue, and oils.  Keep a good supply of replacement parts on hand and learn how to maintain what you have, especially your solar power supply and water pumps.  Don’t forget that you are now the repair man.  There is also a little pocket reference book that is written by Thomas J. Glover which I think everybody should own.  It has over 500 pages of tables/facts/formulas and other information that you will need sooner or later.  I think that it is a great tool that everyone must have.

Also, keep in mind that with a spinal cord injury you are going to have large amounts of medical waste that will need to be disposed of to avoid disease and other problems.  My suggestion is to invest in one or two 50 gallon metal drums to burn trash in.  You might be surprised how often you use it now.  Keep your old new papers.  Try to have a nice selection of books and magazines which should include plenty of how to information.  The fox fire book series is nice to have.  Cards and board games will also help pass the time.  And I guess most important would be to learn how to reload your ammunition and have plenty of supplies in that area! 

We’re lucky we don’t live in a big city, but we are a little too close for comfort.  Should something happen, we feel that the first 24 to 48 hours will be vital in the preparation and initial fortification of our home.  While everybody else is staggering around in shock, we will get everybody home and move into action.  Close up, seal up, lock up, and drop off of the radar.  Let the crazy’s kill and steal from each other and don’t do anything to catch their attention.  No smoke during the day and keep it dark at night.  With any luck all this will pass and civility will return rather soon.  If not, we and our neighbors are ready to hunker down together where are and keep each other safe for the long haul.  Hunkering down where you are may be your best plan for now.  For us, at this time in our life, we really must make the best out of what we have.  Working with your close neighbors makes this process much easier.  For those of you who can’t relocate at this time like us, don’t stress, just work to make what you have the best possible.  It can be done.  We’re living proof.  So, until such a time that we are able to relocate to the great American redoubt, we’ll be holding the line here in the South.   God Bless and good luck.