Letter Re: The New Urban Fortress, by M.H.

The author of the “Urban Fortress – Part 1 & 2” wanted feedback:


Residential septic tanks are available in 1,000, 1,500, and 2,000 gallon sizes. Builders routinely install a 1,000-gallon tank. Two 2,000 gallon tanks are better: one connected only to toilets for sanitary material, and the other connected to everything else for “gray water,” each with independent leach fields, each leach field having 50-100% greater capacity than required for the projected load. (Research “septic system distribution boxes”.) Building plumbing should be designed to allow sanitary-only piping to be easily reconnected to the gray water piping in the event of sanitary system leach field failure.

Toilets should be cleaned only with isopropyl alcohol, not commercially available toilet cleaners, and the alcohol burned in the toilet rather than flushed. The only thing going into the sanitary septic tank should be liquid and solid sanitary waste, no soaps, detergents, or chemicals of any kind; all of that will kill the bacteria that digests the solid waste, resulting in faster accumulation of solid waste and shortening the time between pumpings. Periodic infusions of brewer’s yeast will aid in digestion of waste material in the tank. Tank should still be pumped out periodically, because digestion process is not 100% effective. The pump-out cycle will be dependent on sanitary system usage volume.

A gray water septic tank should be accessible to allow access to the gray water; some plants (example: roses) prefer slightly alkaline water. No greases or oils of any kind, especially cooking oils and animal fats, should be introduced to either tank. Oils and fats are lighter than water and float on the water in the tank, making them the first liquids that are carried out into the leach field; oils and fats eventually clog the pores of the soil, and it stops absorbing liquids, requiring the digging and installation of a new leach field. The gray water tank should never need pumping, unless sanitary leach field failure requires connecting sanitary piping to it.


Codes will almost certainly require a commercial building above a minimum size to include a fire sprinkler system. Plan for the water demands of that system, especially on the lower floors. Using a public water system during “happy path” period is fine, but if no public pressurized water is available, the building can be easily destroyed by fire to drive occupants out. All construction on the lower floors should be of absolutely fireproof materials and extremely limited use made of flammable furniture and fixtures. All internal water systems should be “heavily valved” to allow full control of every major and minor subsection of the water system. (Research “submarine piping and control valve layouts”.)


Fire resistance should extend to the roof structure and material. If bandits can’t burn you out from below, they’ll launch combustibles onto the roof. Hurricane glass in windows accessible to bandits or mobs, while expensive, will keep thrown missles out of the structure; a bonding security film should also be applied to the interior of the glass. (Research “3M security film”.)

Repelling Boarders

A means should be included to allow “repelling boarders” who attempt to gain access to upper floors with ladders, cherry-picker trucks, et cetera. The easiest method will be gunfire, but there are other less attention-getting methods, including flame thrower ports, flammable liquids and flare pistols, tear gas nozzles on the exterior, et cetera.

During construction, tunnels should be included to allow for potential escape and provide a path to well hidden strong points out to, and beyond, the “legal” perimeter. (“Legal” is referring to land owned and controlled by the entity that owns the structure.) Unless there is overwatch available capable of defending the exterior of the structure, it will always be vulnerable. It is quite effective when attackers suddenly have lethal threats “magically” appearing behind them.

All landscaping should be done to prevent vehicle access within a defensible perimeter, short (3-4 ft) positive terraces farther out and negative terraces closer in do that well. If designed to deter HUMMVs, it will stop anything with wheels short of “monster trucks”. Angle of departure restrictions prevent wheeled vehicles climbing the wall, the drop-offs on negative terraces will high-center and “nose lock” vehicles attempting to negotiate the obstacle. Negative terraces also eliminate a place for attackers to hide or be protected during attack. All terrace wall construction should include piping to allow future use of anti-personnel devices. (Research “fougasse design and construction”, especially application and ignition of flammable liquids.)

Tracked vehicles can more easily overcome (or destroy) barriers, so your AO (area of operation) intelligence should include constant awareness of any heavy construction equipment within several miles, and operations should include a means of destroying it. The structure should include secure storage for utility vehicles and their required fuel. A small bulldozer and a medium tractor with front loader and backhoe can be extremely useful and accomplish in a couple hours what it would take 20+ men a day or more to accomplish by hand.


The structure should be populated only by active and engaged participants (e.g. “your tribe”). During “happy path” lower floors, especially the ground floor, can be used for commercial purposes. Only businesses with owners and personnel who are tribe members should be allowed to operate within the structure and firm commitment by dollar buy-in required. Tribe members should be alert to delivery and contractor personnel.

Odd Stuff

A well inside the building is easy, but there should be at least two. There are quite a few semiconductor manufacturing facilities with deep (500 ft or greater) wells inside their buildings to provide access to a very reliable electrical ground path by dropping >400 ft of heavy gauge braided copper cable into the well. If the “building plans” call for performing electronics manufacturing or repair, justifying the wells is easy.

Contractors From Outside Area of Operation

Contractors should come from outside your area of operation. The farther away, the better. There should be no duty overlap between contractors. For example, for the two internal wells, have different well drillers from different areas drilling their well in one section of the building (or what will be the future building) and at a different time than the other well is drilled. They cannot “compare notes”, because they won’t know any other well driller was involved. The same applies to electricians, plumbers, drywallers, et cetera.

Note: using 3/4 firecode-rated drywall is recommended but is rare enough that it will draw attention from suppliers and contractors, and simple tasks like painting, floor tiling, et cetera should be kept within the tribe. There will be “information overlap” with, and among, government inspectors, and inspectors do, and will, constantly have conversations with local contractors; inspectors will question why local contractors were not used, perhaps not to you but certainly to those local contractors. Try to keep information release to a minimum, but it will be extremely difficult. Having an “information management plan” from the outset is beneficial, and “legitimate” cover stories are part of that plan.


Ground water heat pumps are efficient but complicated and complex to support and repair, and replacement parts-dependent. Research them well before committing. Some use a more thermally conductive liquid than water in the piping. If a ground source unit is used, heat exchange methods should be duplicated and redundant. For example, have spare piping on hand in case of leaks, spare fittings, et cetera.

Whatever heat source is used, (lots) more insulation and reducing or eliminating air infiltration is key. The lower the demand is for heat, the easier it will be to meet that demand and the fewer resources that must be committed to it.

Buried Infrastructure Duplicated

Any buried infrastructure (communication lines, electrical lines, ground source heat pump piping, et cetera) should be duplicated and redundant. For example, put two complete sets of buried pipe in a trench for ground source heat pump use. Have one pipe circuit in use and the other capped for future use, in the event of failure of the primary piping system. This adds only the cost of the pipe. It’s the trench that’s expensive.

All trenches for buried infrastructure should be 50% deeper than everyone thinks they should be, and all buried copper or fiber should be laid in conduit with pull strings. Trench ends should have termination points inside underground vaults hidden below the surface. Digging three feet to get to a vault is easier than digging 10 feet to find the end of a cable somewhere in the dirt. All buried infrastructure should be very accurately mapped on a site plan, which must be very closely held under a very strict “need to know” basis. Remember, Luke Skywalker was able to blow up the Death Star because someone learned where the reactor vent was.

Draw-Down Capacity Well Pump

If wells are used for daily water, install enough draw-down capacity to allow the pump(s) longer run times. What kills submersible pumps is frequent on-off-on-off cycling, every time a toilet gets flushed or hands washed.

There’s a lot more, but this is too long already. The Urban Fortress is an interesting concept, but it strikes me as overly dependent on what may be (or become) fragile infrastructure, and it requires a sufficiently large commitment to exact, very substantial physical and psychological demands. In short, because so many eggs are in one basket, you won’t be able to walk away from that basket even if walking away is the right choice. I might suggest a less unitarian concept, one of multiple smaller nearby structures with overlapping responsibilities, capabilities, and authority, each capable of independent operation and mutual support but each also capable of being sacrificed if necessary without fatally compromising the whole enterprise. Humans can live, with some accommodations, after arms or legs are amputated; amputating the head, not so much.



  1. On the subject of repelling boarders.
    We did a 5 year tour in Japan. We visited a few castles.
    One castle had a “nightingale floor”. The floor was a deck that surrounded the main building and it was designed to squeak. An early example of an intrusion alarm system.
    I use this concept as an excuse not to fix my squeaky floors.

    Other castles we visited had path ways designed to move invaders in a direction of choice. Well worn wide pathways would narrow to kill zones where a keystone could be pulled causing a rock slide trapping invaders. The pathways that were used by the occupants were less obvious.

    The stair ways up to the castles were asymmetrical. Step distance and height varied forcing invaders to look down so not to trip. The spears, arrows, and hot oil would rain down from roof top battle stations.

    The Japanese had to figure this stuff out. Invading armies of samari were right next door.
    Some study of their castle design might give us even more ideas to make our homes safer. Thank you for the article.

  2. Interesting information. I’m sure the Rothschilds have one or two castles that meet these standards but I’m just an average person without funds to do these things. But you have some good ideas.

    1. Not sure I follow the thought process. If its tough, you’d really prefer death? Why on earth would someone go to a site such as this if they lack the salt to persevere through adversity?

      The author is generally outlining processes for building redundancy into your plans. This expounds upon follows the ridiculously simplistic one is none philosophy. While I am not smart enough to understand what the author was getting at with the draw down capacity on the well pump, I have already thought through installing a large water tank that is filled by the well pump. then that tank has a pump to manage house needs. Well only comes on when the tank is drawn down to x%.

      Dual heating systems makes a lot of sense for any time, not just the end of the world. Any time you dig, it makes sense to drop two lines into the hole, one to use, and one capped at the ends until you have drama and need it.

      1. Hey, I’m probably better ‘prepped” than 90% of you folks, just by the lifestyle I was taught and lived by since I was born. If I have to live holed up in some sort of fortress just to survive I’d just as soon not. of course if I were younger I might have a different view, but I’m past 60 now and just making a living in my chosen profession is a challenge conquering pain every day from arthritis and an old broken down body. Looking at more surgery this winter just to keep moving. The only thing I’m good for now is teaching young people how to live “wild and free”, not holed up in some miserable fortress situation. Dying ain’t so bad, everybody does it sooner or later, no way to get around it, quality of life is what it’s all about. I’ll leave it to you young folks to create the brave new world, what ever that may be, more power to you.

        1. Spoken like a true Boomer. On your generations watch we haven’t won a war since 45, we’ve seen the most corrupt politicians and government the world has ever known, every one of the rights granted to us by the Constitution is under attack without so much as a whimper, and the next generations are left with over $200 trillion in debt, and you still working to the point where you can barely move. You’re going to teach me how to be wild and free? No thanks, I’ll pass.

          1. “Spoken like a true Boomer. On your generations watch we haven’t won a war since 45,”

            well, we did win the cold war, and you are still here. could easily have turned out otherwise ….

          2. Well ok, but I personally am not responsible for politicians decisions of the last 70 years…… I’ll just keep my trap shut and let the younger generations figure it all out for them selves.

      2. @BobW – RE: draw down capacity on the well pump – in a pump-fed pressurized water system a pressure switch monitors the pressure of the in-house system and starts the pump when it drops below a set point, then turns the pump off when a higher set pressure is reached. Builders install a 6-gallon draw down tank because some sort of tank is required and that’s the cheapest because it’s small. 6 gallons means a toilet flush and hand wash consumes enough water to require pump start, the pump will deliver 4-6 gallons, then shut off. Without a pressure thank in the system, even a small one, every time a faucet is turned on the pump would start.

        A much larger draw down tank (there are a variety of brands, I’m familiar with Well-X-Trol which makes a residential version with a 46 gallon draw down, larger commercial tanks are also available) , or better, multiple tanks plumbed in parallel, deliver more water before the pump has to start, and when the pump does start it runs for longer periods to fill the larger capacity draw down tanks which is easier on the pump than constant start-stop-start-stop operation. If you’re dependent on a generator to power the pump in a grid-down environment, that means running the generator 1X or 2X a day to keep the water system “charged” rather than running it constantly during the periods water is being demanded by users. This is convenient during “grip-up” and more easily workable during “grid-down.” Your solution – well pump to a large unpressurized tank then pump into the building water system – will also work, and allows for using a manual pump for that secondary distribution if necessary.

        Both solutions are still dependent upon some kind of pump to get the water from the well. An unpressurized tank will by necessity be open to the environment making it susceptible to contamination and possible overflow if the well pump does not shut off; a pressurized system is closed from pump intake to faucet outlet (unpressurized systems usually use a float valve to control pump start/stop).

  3. The investment required to follow plans like these in a urban or suburban area would buy true sustainability in the sticks. Clean a toilet with IPA, and burn it in the bowl? An armchair prepper, who has never cleaned a toilet, nor replaced one broken by thermal shock.

  4. You should have three septic systems and drain lines. 1) Black water drains for toilets. 2) Kitchen sinks and dishwashers into a drains with grease traps. 3) Sinks, showers, bathtubs, and clothes washers to gray water drain. The gray water could be rough filtered for use in toilets to conserve water. A bidet system can be used to wash bottoms instead of TP, although clean water would be better than grey water.

  5. dunno man, think you’d be better off 30 miles outside of town in a nice place with a 1/4 mile driveway all visible from the front porch ….

    “there are other less attention-getting methods, including flame thrower ports”

    dunno, those would certainly get MY attention ….

    “The investment required to follow plans like these in a urban or suburban area would buy true sustainability in the sticks.”

    word. unless you think you can move in after-the-fact … might be good to have an idea of how to do it should the opportunity or necessity arise.

    “An armchair prepper”

    well … historically castles have been dark dank damp smelly rancid disease-ridden caves, but refugees have packed into them because the alternatives have been worse. as for toilets, just do what they used to do – dump it over the side so attackers have to wade through your waste to get at you.

  6. I had a septic system when I lived in the Sierras. It was the easiest, simplest system ever. I took no weird precautions other than: No eggshells down the disposal, I used Mrs. Meyers cleaning products (organic), and I never put any oils/fats of any kind down the disposal or toilets. When I sold the place, the septic guy quipped, “Didn’t you ever use the thing?” Septic systems do pretty well with minimal effort and they’ve been in use a long time. And yes, I’d like to be back on my septic/well water/no garbage pick up house again. Never dealth with a city/private utility and it was wonderful.

  7. The insurance agent says there is paint on the metal that burns, insulation in the walls and on the wires that burns, paper on the sheetrock that burns. Clothes burn. You are not going to make a structure that is livable fireproof. A brick exterior will resist. Metal roof material will repel burning embers.

    Any attempt to defend a fixed position is a fools errand. You must be ready to move in the face of a superior force.

    Alcohol may kill bacteria but will not do squat for fungus, mildew. We have been using magic eraser to excess rather than a bleach based scrubbing compound. The lavatory drain and drain plug was choked with gobs of mildew. Gross as anything. Stocking up on Softscrub.

  8. much much simpler to install a large water storage tank that the well fills, st to refill at half to 90%. then use a cheaper pump at the tank to run pressure in the building. this can be set up with a simple set of floats and relays. submersible pumps are expensive. with some creative valving and piping you can make the entire system functional across multipule failure modes.

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