Introductory biographical note: The author is 64 years old, father of nine children, BSAE Aeronautical Engineering, Ex-Army Infantry Training Officer (1970-1974), former Gym Trainer (1996-1997), Firefighter and EMT training and certification (2009-2010), Real Estate Broker/Owner
I began realizing my vulnerability in 1998-1999, when Y2K-induced turmoil was a potential real possibility. I began, in all haste to find and prepare for the possible disaster that might come when the clock struck 12:00 midnight and 2000 would ring in. My first step was to find enough land that would be secure enough for my family and to design a place we could live and that would handle any disaster, whether it was of nature, man-made or God directed. My requirements were simple. It needed to have relatively high elevation (1,500ft+ above sea level), close enough to a populated city , but rural enough to not easily be found, basically within a 1 hour drive. Secluded, but not to isolated, and not to far removed from all civilization, but yet be sparsely populated and hard to find. It had to have access to running water and have soil to grow crops.
I found a piece of property that was nearly 50 acres on the top of a ridge line, that was part of a 1,000 acre tract, with only 15 other property owners, with tracts ranging from 15 acres to 200 acres. The 1,000 acres was gated with one main, electrically operated secured gate leading in and a permanently locked gate leading out for emergencies only. The community had two 400 ft wells, with creeks running through the 1,000 acres and touching my tract. One of the wells was at the bottom of my property and had a 5 h.p. pump. The well was on a timer and delivered water to multiple tanks at different locations on the three highest elevations. Gravity feed then brought the water to the 15 property owners. I purchased an 8kw mobile generator, for standby power, to run the pump, if we were to loose electricity for any long period of time. The owner of the 200 acre tract reserved his for hunting and kept it seeded, to attract deer, rabbit, bear & turkey. The developer of the 1,000 acres paved the main road coming up to about 1,500 feet and then graveled from there to all the tracts ranging from 500 ft to 2,500 ft. My parcel sits at about 2,200 ft. ASL. All of the tracts are heavily wooded with hardwoods as well as evergreens.
My next step was to design and start construction of an impregnable home (fortress) that would withstand any disaster within the constraints of my budget. My plan was to dig into the mountain such that only one side would be open and dirt would surround the other three sides up to 12’. Because time was a factor, I knew I could only get the basement part completed before the New Year would ring in. This meant my roof would be the floor of the home that I would need to finish someday in the future, if the world was still around after Y2K.
I sent my floor plans to the engineering department of a nearby university and asked for help.
The dimensions I gave them were to be 37’X 52’ split lengthwise by a 12’ separation wall 12” thick of poured reinforced concrete surrounded by 12’ walls of the same. To handle the load of a semi-truck driving over my roof, they told me I needed 8” of poured concrete, reinforced with rebar, 10” on center and 6 by 6 [heavy] wire mesh. I added an 8’ wide X 5’ high fireplace on the open side of the basement with large racks for grilling my kill. The basement floor was 4” poured concrete that I ran one inch polyurethane tubing 4’ apart throughout the basement floor, which ran into a plenum in the base of the fireplace and back to a recirculating pump and holding tank. In addition, valving was added to reroute the heated water into the hot water system of the house. A small, electric hot water heater was added to the system capable of running from standard 120 VAC as second water heater capable running at 12VDC from solar panels via deep cycle storage batteries I purchased (4) 2’X 6‘ solar panels with frame, and a windmill.
Prior to having the roof poured I dropped in a 500 gal urethane water tank built into a frame that raised the tank from 6’ to the roof. This would allow me for gravity feed system in the basement.. I constructed two fiberglass shower stalls for two bathrooms, a work/mechanical room, two bedrooms and a kitchen on one side of the divided wall. Two metal framed doors secured this area from the large living room that is between the divided wall and the outside open wall. There are two metal doors exiting the basement. One is through a stairwell to the roof (future floor of the main house) and the other through the open side.
I also decided to add one additional piece for security, as well as escape. At the back of the basement going into the mountain I put in a 30’ X 10’ cleaned out metal fuel tank (25,000 gal to be exact). This is what I called my Survival Tank. I found the tank at a scrap metal yard out in the boonies and had a local welder cut one end out and put in a double hinged door secured by 1” X 1” sliding bars that were lockable with the largest master locks I could find. On the top of one end of the tank I had him cut out a 3’ X 3’ square and ran 4 walls, 6’ up with a latchable top, secured from the inside, as well as a metal ladder to go from the floor to the top of the latch. I then had a floor frame put in that was 30” from the bottom of the tank and added 2’ x 6” wood removable flooring. This is where I store all of the 5 gal urethane storage buckets. From the 2”x 6” floor I built metal shelving with 2”x 6” wood shelves to the roof of the tank. That left me with about an 8’ walkway front to rear down the center of the tank. The hard part was getting the tank up the last 500’ vertical 30 degree incline to the homesite. For this I had to find the largest wrecker in the state. We had to winch the tank up the 500’ and then drop it in the ground before we poured the 12” back wall around it, leaving the welded doors as the entry from the basement to the tank. The tank was now about 4’ underground, with the escape hatch protruding above the surface. A few years later, after Y2K became a no- event, I enlarged my floor plan above the basement and added an additional 1,000sq ft and poured concrete over the entire area where the tank was buried. With all this, an oversized septic system and drain field needed to be designed. I have since changed the design of the house to have a castle look that is an additional 26’ above the basement, using split face block that is reinforced with rebar and filled with concrete. Other things that have been done are the purchase and installation of an inverter system, solar array and windmill. I have a 600 gal gas tank and 1,000 gal propane tank. I have an extra 5kva generator which has been converted to be a dual-fuel system, i.e. gas/propane. After nine years I have the walls up from the basement roof and hope to have a metal/concrete roof put on before 2012, for what I hope is also a non-event.
This is really a continuation of Phase I, but it is the process of preparing the list of lists and then accumulating the items necessary to insure a plan A, B & C and in some areas a plan D.
- CACHES- I keep most of my equipment& supplies that I cannot easily replace or want to safeguard the most, in the Survival Tank. But I have also build special caches for firearms and ammo that I can bury in different locations, if for any reason any of my residences become compromised. I did this by taking 8” X 5’ sections of PVC pipe and capping each end. They are waterproof, can hold two rifles, hand guns and ammo each and can easily be buried and retrieved.
- EMERGENCY LIGHTING- Purchased wall-mounted LED kits that can easily be mounted above telephone jacks, thus utilizing the 2nd pair of phone wires on a 12VDC circuit wired to a single automobile battery with a small solar panel for emergency lighting.
- EXERCISE/MILLING/12VDC GENERATOR- I purchased a Country Living Mill and then found an exercise bike. I also mounted both the mill and a 12VDC automobile generator, pre-1975, to a board with a 12 VDC battery. I can generate 12 VDC power for my emergency lighting or charge up the car battery or grind wheat into flour, while getting in our daily exercise.
- TRANSPORTATION- Purchased a customized ’71 & ’74 4WD Chevy Blazers on the internet. The ’71 was customized for brush firefighting and the ’74 was customized as a dual fuel
- GARDENING- I have just applied for a subsidy grant, and received it, from a program launched in December 2009 by the Department of Agriculture, whereby I will be reimbursed up to $3,300 for materials to construct up to 2,175 sf of high tunnels for growing crops. A high tunnel or hoop house are miniature greenhouses without all the fancy bells and whistles The grants are being awarded to 38 states for the purpose of extending the growing seasons of food crops and most families can qualify if they have a small tract of land to put them on. Last month I had a bob-cat grade out about a half acre and will start planting in the fall for a early spring harvest.
- FOOD- Thousands of rations of MREs. Freeze-dried , dehydrated and raw wheat, rice, sugar, honey etc.
Mistakes I have made:
- I put 2-8’x10’ sectioned windows on the open side of the basement. Twice I have had ATV renegades break in, through the windows, even through the metal-doored tank, cutting the locks and thereby taking my guns and ammo and trying to hot wire my dirt bike. I have since then boarded up the windows and put larger Master locks on the doors. I have found that there is almost nowhere safe from a dirt bike or ATV. A security system is my next step. Booby traps are illegal in most jurisdictions.
- Metal tanks, underground, will sweat, making large pools of water in the bottom of the tank. It is difficult to control the temperature, but since I installed dehumidifiers, everything stays dry and cool. Dampness accelerates the deterioration of metal cans making them rust from both inside and outside the can. Mold or mildew starts to take over everything from bedding, to books to any type of paper products and boxes will fall apart over time Dampness also invites rodents you do not want, as well as insects, so use plenty of rat bait and seal up all possible points of entry. I also fog the place every time I leave.
- If you are going to build an oversize fireplace make sure you find someone who knows how to calculate the ratio of the flu and damper.
- When building a basement underground, be sure you study up on removing water from the walls created by hydrostatic pressure and have a good wall and below floor drainage system.
- Rotation of Food- MREs do last more than 10 years [at temperatures under 60 degrees], with a few exceptions such as high oil content foods which begin to deteriorate. Fruits break down and start to ferment or just go bad.
- I’m not yet sure how to handle long term supply of female monthly needs or what to substitute when supplies run out. [JWR Adds: I’ve had several readers enthusiastically recommend washable fabric sanitary pads. Patterns for making your own are available on-line. Or if you’d rather have someone else do the repetitive sewing work, then I recommend a small, family-owned business called Naturally Cozy. From all reports, their pads are very comfortable and made to last.]
Don’t run out of money, because your eyes are bigger than your wallet or borrowing power is.
My Belief System
For those who believe, have repented and have chosen to follow in his teachings, he has promised eternal life. Although all things are in God’s hand, and it has been ordained as to the end and how and when it will happen, as Christians, we have a responsibility to God, our families, our church and our fellow man to be prepared both spiritually and materially. We may choose that “God will provide”, “ What is meant to be, will be” or “God helps those who help themselves” attitude. Through out the Bible, God gave direction, through his word, directly and indirectly to be prepared at all times.
Most agree on at least the distinction that we live in an unprecedented time in History. Before us, cities, kingdoms and nations have been destroyed by God or God has removed his hand and blessings and they have been destroyed or have destroyed themselves. God has, through his mercy, given guidance and direction for us to be prepared for his second coming. He has warned us of upcoming famine, destruction and the wrath that will be unleashed upon the earth before Jesus Christ returns. [We’ve also been warned of] the possibility, if not the absolute certainty, of some form of collapse in our system, as we know it. This may come in a variety of forms – flu pandemic, economic depression, or an EMP attack, all of which are likely scenarios. Regardless of the form, the result will be very similar and our concerns are as well: How do we protect ourselves and our families and provide a living? While stocking up on beans, bullets, and band-aids is the initial response, further preparation encourages us to find a defensible, as well as productive retreat. But then what? So you have your retreat (or not), you’ve stocked up on seeds and a food mill, and “the event” actually comes. Are you prepared to provide for yourself when the food runs out or if society never returns to “normal”?
Although it may be difficult to learn and find the time for, the ability to provide for yourself provides incredible rewards. If we should need to return to a less technologically “advanced” society, many people will not have the knowledge, skills, and determination to do so. A few forward-thinkers will. Which do you want to be?