Four Letters Re: Rourke on Real Estate Development Proposal Ideas

Wanted to comment on your reply to Rourke. I agree with you that independently managed homesteads are superior to the communal style that Rourke describes, but for a different, much simpler reason: human nature. In ANY communal system where fixed resources are shared, some members consume more than others, and the others get jealous. This is the basic reason that communism is untenable. A small group of people (family size) can emphasize frugality and make it stick, because wasting resources really may kill a loved one. The more extended the group becomes, the less well people know each other, the less ‘real’ the threat is to any individual, and the more envious of others any one may become. Rourke’s idea of banding together for common defense is certainly a good one, but unless someone can ensure that all of the participants begin with equal resources and consume anything communal at an equivalent rate, then the seeds for destruction will have been sown. Just to be clear, I am not denigrating human selfishness in any way. I, in fact, defend rational self-interest as the well-spring from which society has emerged. But I also know that while self-interest is in the nature of every man, rationality is not. Keeping the groups small and self-managed, in a voluntary association with others, is the only tenable arrangement for long term survival. – M.W.

I received this earlier this morning: “You might pass this on to the blog from Joel Skousen. Rourke doesn’t have a clue about how ugly the infighting and disagreement can be in among independent-minded and argumentative survivalists–especially those that start out as religious communities. I’ve seen virtually every survival community blow apart or split into various factions over the knotty decisions about shared facilities! Bad idea. JWR is right–keep it all private except for perhaps the water supply.” Great site and blog, – W.

I just saw your letter from Rourke regarding survival communities. What he’s describing is very similar to a concept called “Co-Housing”. [It] combines both private property with commonly-owned (or controlled) property. Good information about the concept and implementation variations available at   Hope this helps! Debra (at The Claire Files)

Mr. Rawles,
The Rivendell community in rural Virginia was set up along similar lines in the buildup to Y2K. The folks there were interested in forming an explicitly Christian, Reformed, home schooling community that would foster group self-sufficiency. Their website ( is still active, but seems to have changed to theological study.  – TFA303

Rourke’s Reply (to JWR’s Original Comments)

You are going for an entire community then, in which case I would recommend you actually form a Village and have self-government. (City is too complex). Now Disney in Florida even made its own county, but I doubt that will happen again. Still, a Village can be very powerful if you can do all the development up front. Set up police, fire, even schools, and public buildings and systems with survival in mind. What an opportunity. However, as it grows, the survival mindset of those started it is likely to be diluted, and that will show up in elections over time. As a primary residence community, I think it will be hard to get such a concentration of survivalist in a small area, thus I have gone toward the recreational retreat community or condo idea, thus pulling them from all over to an area with good survival capabilities.

I agree how great it would be to form an entire community with all that, but very few from my experience can afford that, thus I have trimmed down my dreaming. In fact, in polling I found $10,000 down and $500 a month was about the maximum you could expect from even the upper 10% of survivalists toward a retreat (besides their home). This is one reason I started with the condo idea, but for people with even lower budgets, I think the best solution is a trailer park/RV park lot. Now this would involve having well, gray water, and black water hook-ups with a common septic system and well, common electric off-grid power, a common building/bunker which will preferably be an earth shelter or concrete dome (i.e. with community bathrooms, showers, and kitchen and emergency housing, so it will stand up to a tornado even if all the trailers are lost. You make a good point about single source point failures, thus have dual systems set up would be a good idea, and over sizing them, so if one goes down, the other can pick up the slack. Hardened storage would also be good idea. Selling a very small lot for $5,000 would provide a lot of money for such improvements, maintained by a reasonable monthly or annual fee. Also, such lot could be leased out when that person is not there, just have a clause that they can be asked to leave within 24 hours and refunded the money, or some sort of escape clause if the owner is bugging out the site. Used hunting trailers around here are around $2,000. It seems to me the least expensive option. Once again, good to be near some farm land and an agreeable farmer for food production. – Rourke

Note from JWR:

I have updated yesterday’s post (Dec. 11, 2005) on the potential radius of EMP effects. The revised figure is a radius of 280 miles, based on a higher anticipated maximum potential altitude for some business jets. (See below.)

Rourke on Real Estate Development Proposal Ideas

For those who have ever considered the idea of a survival community, I would like to propose a few ideas for consideration from a real estate developer’s perspective. The idea of cluster communities in rural areas is a growing idea in states including Colorado. The idea is to take some land, say 100 acres, and rather than breaking it up into twenty 5 acre lots, you instead cluster the lots into twenty 1 acre (or less) lots, and leave the remaining acreage as an undeveloped buffer owned by the subdivision association (or a LLC it controls), which is then controlled democratically by the home owners. Taking this a step further for survival purposes, it would be advantageous to have a good part of that common land in crop production and have a working relationship with a farmer, or perhaps work out the entire deal with the farmer who owned the land in the first place to continue farming that portion of land, and hopefully even bring in a little revenue.
Development costs for improving the lots are where this idea really shines. While it is usually a good idea for each home to have its own well, shared septic systems and backup power systems are cheaper if shared. Whether by a large conventional septic system, a mound system, or a mini-sewer plant, a waste water treatment system can be designed for easy and continuing operation after TSHTF. Same goes for large backup generator systems, which can be run off large propane tanks for long term fuel storage, or diesel fuel, which lasts for a good eight years with the stabilizer in it. The costs of a large battery [bank] system, and perhaps a solar array and wind mill can all be added into the development costs. There is also the opportunity to wire for an underground house to house phone or some type of intercom and party line communication system for alert, command, and control. Communications after phone lines go down is often overlooked even though they are the key to tactical coordinated defensive responses. Also, transmissions can give away your position, as well as be monitored.
Also, since the media strives to make “survivalist” a bad word, or as a new generation things instead of people eating bugs and getting voting off the island, the community should rather hold out itself as being and example of alternate energy, green building, green space, off-grid living, and self-reliance living. Think about would you would build into such a development. – Rourke (

JWR Replies: My covenant community concept is a bit different:  Start with a 640 acre section of land and subdivide it into 20 to 60 acre parcels, leaving a 20 acre “Commons” green in the center. Also somewhere near the center of the section, set aside a few half acre lots for stores, small businesses, and an acre for a church meeting hall/community center. IMHO, a development with larger parcels and a reserved place for commerce would lend itself to greater self sufficiency and a real sense of community that rourke’s plan outlined above

Other than shared wells, I’m not a big believer in public utilities. I think that having separate family-owned off-grid power systems would be much more resilient than the “single point of failure” created by having a shared power utility. In the region that I’m considering, undeveloped land sells for around $4,000 to $5,000 per acre for 20 acre parcels. So buying a 20 acre chunk costs about the same amount as buying a 1/2 acre lot in the suburbs.

OBTW, I’d like to gauge the level of interest for such a project. If any of the readers of SurvivalBlog have the means and a sincere interest in being part of a survival-oriented covenant community in the inland Pacific Northwest, just send me an e-mail with “Preparedness Community” in the title, and I will file them away until the project gets going.

Letter Re: Photocell and Seismic Intrusion Detection Systems

Could you tell us more about a seismic intrusion detection system? Until your recent comments on this being necessary for the security of a hidden retreat, I had never even heard of such a thing. There must be more novices like me who are soaking up like a sponge everything you write, and would be very interested in knowing more. Thank you, – Joe.

JWR Replies:  I cannot over-emphasize the need for a proper intrusion detection system for a retreat. The simplest are the photocell “driveway alarms” which are commonly used on farms and ranches in the west. Most folks buy them just to have advance waning on when the UPS truck is approaching with a delivery. But they would also have some utility in a slow-slide scenario.  If looters are stupid enough to come right up your driveway in the middle of the night, such a system will tip you off and give you enough warning to man a defense. Unfortunately most of these are dependent on 117 VAC power. You can often find these on eBay. Just be sure to get sturdy “Commercial” style system if you want it to last. (The $20 cheapo made in China systems are not designed to last.) You can expect to pay $50 to $150 for one of the good reliable ones.

Far more sophisticated systems have been used my the U.S. military since the 1960s. These used buried seismic probes to detect approaching vehicles, the footfalls of approaching troops, and even the vibrations from low flying helicopters. These are battery operated, and designed for tactical field use in all weather. The early type are hard-wired (typically with commo wire.)  The later ones are wireless, but require more batteries, since a small radio transmitter is mated to each seismic sensor. Once you get used to using one of these, you can learn to easily differentiate between the footfalls of a man and a deer. I’m not kidding.

The “old reliable” is the hard-wired AN/PSR-1A.  It was still used by USMC active duty units up until a few years ago. In fact, a few might still be lingering around USMC reserve units.  They use six D-cell batteries, or can easily be adapted to any other 9 VDC source. They use 1950s technology (EMP proof) and are a bit heavy for man-pack use. The 1950s-style headphone supplied with these are a joke, but very simple to replace with a modern pair of headphones. Just make sure that the new ones have correctly matching impedance. Otherwise, I have no complaints about these units. They work fine for a fixed-site retreat. OBTW, SurvivalBlog readers Kitiara and John at the Forevervain Blog mentioned that they recently obtained one of these sets through eBay.  Good choice!

OBTW, if you are an electronics wizard, Al Glanze at STANO Components ( ) has several hundred spare PSR-1A seismic probes available. They are very rugged.  If you were to mate some of these with a modern chassis (the PSR-1A circuit diagram is pretty simple) with a DSP chip that could trigger an audible alarm, you could build yourself a fantastic retreat security system.

One of the best recent-production U.S. military systems is the AN/TRC-3A Wireless Seismic Intrusion Detection Set. This model will work well for both fixed site retreats and mobile (patrolling bivouac site) use. These are often in stock with a number of vendors including Ready Made Resources (one of our advertisers) and Fair Radio Sales. Both of these companies are very reputable. They can also be found on eBay, buy beware that eBay sellers are notorious for selling nonfunctional used electronic gear.

A seismic intrusion detection set will be a tremendous labor saver in the the event of TEOTWAWKI-type collapse. While they are not a proper substitute for a 24/7-manned LP/OP, having one of these sets could mean the difference between life and death if you are operating a survival retreat that is short-handed.  When prioritizing your purchases, a good quality (full mil spec) seismic intrusion detection set should be near the top of your list. Don’t skimp on this expense, or you will surely regret it later!

Letter Re: Pre-1993 Dodge Diesels–EMP Proof Survival Rigs

Mr. Rawles,
One vehicle that I would like to point out which I believe is pretty EMP proof is the earlier Dodge Diesels…from around 1989-1993. They have 12 valve Cummins engines which are completely mechanical driven with the exception of a 12 VDC battery which basically keeps the fuel pump open. As long as you have simple 12 volt battery power the vehicle cannot be shut down. These vehicles can be acquired from around $4-10k depending on condition and options. For simplicity you do not want the 24 valve and it should also be noted that one can easily get 400,000 miles out of a well maintained Cummins diesel engine. There are also several good internet resources for the do-it-yourself mechanic for maintenance such as and BTW: Patriots is a great book! – John

Letter Re: New FINCEN Regulation on Precious Metals/Gemstones Transaction Reporting

Bill in North Idaho’s letter intrigued me, so I did some digging and thought you would be interested in what I found. The FinCEN FAQ is pretty clear that the requirements of being a ‘dealer’ only applies if you buy and sell more then $50,000 in one calendar year/tax year, so if you’re buying up bullion and not selling it (i.e. hoarding it) you don’t count as a ‘dealer’ so this specific ruling doesn’t touch you. What it does do, is make most people selling lots of gold/silver/jewels into ‘dealers’ which means they file IRS form 8300 and report it if a transaction is over $10,000 or they believe that multiple transactions to one person will equal $10,000. Under my reading of this, you can get around being on file somewhere by doing one of three things:
1) Don’t Buy From A ‘dealer’ Part I: ‘retailers’ are not always ‘dealers’ under this language (if they buy from US sources they’re probably not), so ask where you buy if they comply with the FinCEN Anti Money Laundering rules. Note that this will probably raise more alarm bells than SurvivalBlog readers would like and might get your name on a ‘suspicious transaction’ form.
2) Don’t Buy From A ‘dealer’ Part II: Private individuals who do less than $50,000 a year don’t count, so find a like-minded individual and buy from him/her.
3) Do It Slowly. Even under this ruling, buying from a ‘dealer’ your name shouldn’t go on a federal form unless you break $10k in one day. Spread out your purchasing to multiple stores over a period and don’t buy from one store too often. Don’t let them take your name/info and if they ask, don’t go back.
This should, by my reading, keep your name off of any government forms. I don’t even know who you would ask for a ‘professional’ opinion, maybe a tax lawyer, but I’m certainly not one.

Letter Re: Dealing With Buckshot Bruce

Hi Jim,
Just wanted to send a short note to let you know how much I enjoy the site and the information there. Also, awhile back, Buckshot had posted a great article on trapping and a special on his DVDs trading for some 90% [pre-1965 U.S.] silver. I wanted to let you know what a great guy Buckshot is, and Mrs. Buckshot is pretty terrific as well. I’ve done a little trading with him and found him to be an honest and straightforward guy. His videos and traps are terrific!  Their e-mails and service is second to none. I’d recommend him to all your readers. Thanks Again, – Craig

Jim’s Quote of the Day:

"The first panacea of a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; and permanent ruin." – Ernest Hemingway

Note from JWR:

Please continue to spread the word about SurvivalBlog. Just a brief mention of our URL in your e-mail footer will add thousands of daily readers.

Muddying The Waters on EMP–Jack Wheeler and the BLOS Imponderable

SurvivalBlog reader Joe. K. mentioned in a recent e-mail that one of my heroes, Dr. Jack Wheeler, posted a dismissive article about the EMP threat, back in June. (It was posted at Wheeler’s excellent “To The Point News” subscription website:  )  Wheeler is a fascinating fellow. Back in the 1960s, he swam the Hellespont, climbed the Matterhorn, and went tiger hunting as a civilian in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. All of this before he was 25 years old. He also spent a lot of time living with head hunters in the Amazon jungle. But I digress…  Wheeler’s article, titled “The EMP Annoyance” soft-pedals the EMP threat. Although Wheeler is usually spot-on in his economic analyses, I think that he missed the mark in this case  His main premise is based on the fact that the Starfish Prime EMP high altitude hydrogen bomb test at Johnston Atoll in 1962 caused only transitory power grid and radio disruption 700 miles away in Hawaii. But what he forgets is that those were the days of simpler electronics–when much of America was still primarily using electron tubes and just a few transistors. Modern microcircuits, with their incredibly small gate dimensions are at an order of magnitude greater risk to EMP.

Wheeler is correct in his assertion that terrorists will probably not have access to hydrogen (fusion) bombs–just traditional fission bombs.  Nor will they have access to any means of detonating a nuke at extremely high altitude to maximize its line of sight (LOS) “footprint” area of effectiveness. But nation states like China have both.

Several SurvivalBlog readers have written to ask me about the greatest potential effective range of an EMP-optimized nuclear detonation. The answer is both easy and impossible to determine. Let me explain. First, the easy part. The basic LOS footprint range calculation is really simple. It is essentially the same as the calculation that is used to determine the maximum effective range for a VHF or UHF radio onboard an aircraft. Referring back to one of my unclassified notebooks from my Electronic Warfare (5M) course at Fort Huachuca, I find: Assuming level terrain, the maximum potential radius of LOS in nautical miles (nmi) = square root of the emitter’s altitude (in feet) x 1.056. Hence, that would be 149.3 nmi at 20,000 feet ASL, or 191.8 nmi at 33,000 feet ASL. (A typical jet or C-130’s service ceiling. SurvivalBlog reader “Flighter” mentioned: “…some of the larger business jets such as the Airbus ACJ, Gulfstream, Challenger, and Citation are certificated to fly at or above 41,000 feet. The Sino Swearingen SJ30, is perhaps the highest flyer with a certificated ceiling of 49,000 feet. A dangerous parabolic flight profile could with supplemental oxygen for the flight crew perhaps push apogee to 75,000 feet in a few aircraft models. (Hey, it would be a suicidal flight anyway.) That is probably the highest altitude that could be expected for a terrorist to touch off a nuke–at least in the near future. That would equate to a footprint with a 280 mile radius.

Now on to the part that is impossible to predict: long range linear coupling.  Because telephone lines, power lines, and railroad tracks will act as giant antennas for EMP, the EMP waveforms will be coupled through those structures for many, many miles beyond line of sight (BLOS). Just how many miles BLOS is not yet known. I believe that if it were not for the advent of the Atmospheric Test Ban Treaty and the Outer Space Test Ban Treaty, the DOD and AEC would have had the opportunity to conduct far more extensive tests to further characterize the panoply of potential EMP effects. But those test bans have kept us in the dark. In the absence of practical data, there is a lot guesswork, even among “applied physics” specialist nuclear weapons scientists. We may not know the full extent of the EMP risk until after we see that bright flash on the horizon.

For planning purposes, you can probably safely assume that if you are living more than 280 miles from a major city, then your vehicle electronics will be safe from a terrorist  nuke’s EMP. (Since you will be BLOS to the EMP footprint of a nuke that is set off below 75,000 feet ASL.) Your home electronics, however, anywhere in CONUS might be at risk due to long range linear coupling–that is if your house is on grid power. This, BTW, is one more good reason for you to set up your own off-grid self sufficient power system.

David in Israel Re: Firearms for Survival

I’ll start with a confession: It is hard for me, a true “heavy battle rifle/ M1911 .45/ one shot is all it takes” kind of guy to advocate hosing down and running. Reading posts
about the tinkering and modding is fun but as I hear the Arabs across the wadi from me get all fired up and shoot into the air (I hope). I realize it is not about looking cool but staying alive. Attacking the most controversial issue, let’s sit back and watch the flames spread from this!

1-Concealment and deception. Be “The Gray Man” (see my post on this concept, Thursday, November 3, 2005 in the Survival Blog Archives), avoid the fight.

2-If it is too difficult, eventually you will likely not do it. [For example, heavy/ungainly guns get left in places where they are not quickly accessible.]

Speaking with survivalists, the first topic is almost always firearms. While a fun hobby we must discuss separating the hobby aspect from the application. A survivor with limited resources must consider the utility of the tool he intends to purchase. The firearm is not to be on the top of your preparation list. Don’t let the Audie Murphy fantasy knock you off the track to survival.

Reasonable assumptions to be applied to survival weapons:
1- You are not the Army, so don’t try to copy the army
2- You are not an offensive unit–his is contrary to survival in almost all cases.
3- Hunting is for sport, trapping and/or livestock are food except in cases of target of opportunity, the time wasted on a hunt is needed elsewhere.
4- In most locations the largest dangerous animal is a human.
5- Long range shooting is both fun and cool, you likely won’t have a good reason to do that.
6- A heavy weapon will slow you down some no matter how strong you are
7- People are rightly frightened by bullets whizzing past them

We can waste quite a bit of time fighting over these assumptions but we are looking at statistics and not an emotional attachment to a favorite in your collection. This is to be primarily a defensive arm to keep you alive–saving you from one or more raiding thugs, before order is restored.

Group 1
Heavy battle rifles are awesome to behold, tossing a 180 grain slug at the bad guys or imagining the force of a butt stroke from the oak stock is what some fantasies are made of. Reality is that unless you have a disability which limits your running they make the quick sprints that save lives more difficult. The heavier slug is not a major deciding factor unless you plan on assaulting troops in body armor. For survival, I consider these in a similar class to a light machine gun, good for a fixed fortification or military assault but not for protection.

Group 2
Assault style rifles, SMGs, and carbines offer a handy easily portable weapon but can provide quick suppressing and aimed fire assuming a large magazine. A few shots to keep their heads down as you back up is what living to see another day is made of. Only the most hardened (stupid) soldier will not duck when gunfire is aimed in their direction. The chances of you taking an aimed (G-d forbid) kill shot are low, you and your loved ones should be worried about how to get away with the time you have bought. Try to get a weapon which has some aimed fire accuracy beyond 10 meters. CAR-15/M4 with an Israeli sling would be my choice.

Group 3
Scout Rifle
Light and handy, reliable bolt action accurate at long range. Sadly it may be less of a deterrent as it doesn’t look as aggressive. A beautiful hunting or ultra light sniper arm, [but] its slow action makes laying down suppressing fire impossible.

A regular magazine is good for carry and normal usage but in the case of an encounter with rifle armed opponents a 30 round mag will give you the spray power
to make your escape. A detachable stock (if available/legal in your country) helps with aim and handling, but you likely will be drawing from a holster and not have
time to attach it.

Combat is usually fast and unexpected–an ambush or a raid. Humans with a desire to live will almost always disengage at any sign of real resistance. Suppressing
fire while not normally lethal will buy time for retreat and maneuver.

Fantasy is made of one shot kills. This fantasy is built in static training ranges. Marksmanship is absolutely vital (thousands of rounds a year) but training should include several sprints before quickly taking you place on the line, while you are still winded. ALWAYS HAVE A SAFETY SPOTTER. While winded, practice taking snap shots from holster and slung positions.

Team paint ball (real competition not weekend buddy fun) will safely let you experience something like the confusion of a firefight and the utility of suppressing fire mixed
with a few aimed shots.

Proper training and drill time must be invested to use aimed fire during a fire fight. Even the most committed range shooter likely has not had the proper mental/psychological drilling to enable them to effectively return aimed fire if ambushed or raided. It takes real discipline to keep to the plan and fall back in an organized way rather than dropping pack and running (sometimes the best tactic) or laying down fetal position and expelling ones bowels.

Interestingly, since the Yom Kippur war standard selector setting on our M16s is on semi-auto after they almost ran out of 5.56 ammunition.
In serious combat units most soldiers pack a M4 orCAR-15 with a reflex sight with one or two ACOG scopes per squad. The reflex sight chalieem can do
snap shots while the sharpshooters get the more distant targets.

Letter Re: Potential for Earth Strikes by Large Asteroids

See: A sub part of this site was mentioned in the article that you posted Friday, but I’d recommend posting this main page of the site.

People forget we had an asteroid pass very close to us last year, just 2/3 the distance to the moon. (Called a lunar distance or “LD”).

Let’s look at two more things. 1.) NASA just recently proved they can hit an asteroid with a satellite. Doesn’t that strike you as at least a little odd they would spend the money to do that just for researching the impact? 2.) Now, did you also notice that the military is working on a new type of “bunker busting” nuclear penetration bomb that survives for 100 milliseconds, burrowing into the ground through concrete and steel, and then goes off? Put the two together and you have a far more realistic approach to busting an approaching asteroid than was portrayed in the movies Deep Impact or Armageddon. – Rourke

Letter Re: Faraday Cage Grounding

Mr. Rawles,
I have been enjoying reading your excellent blog. Some thoughts for you on the post from Rourke and the troubles presented by EMP.

The only circuit breaker that could possibly open before an EMP surge could do damage are some large (400+ pounds) industrial types and they start at about $40,000. Be quite the installation. Any breaker you can get for less than that just ain’t nearly fast enough.

You want to be a bit careful about installing a grounding system in your house that isn’t connected to the house’s grounding system, if it has one. The National Electrical Code forbids it, and for good reason.

Let’s say I build a Faraday cage in my basement, and drive a ground rod just for it. Now let’s say that my home is grounded–most are. If the physical arrangement of my cage is such that I can touch the cage and something else metallic in my basement, such as a washer, dryer, freezer or some such because there are now two separate ground pathways there can be a voltage difference between the two and since I’m touching both I become the conductor for any voltage differences. Does that make sense?

Grounding systems for some large installations can be huge and very complex, but they are all, electrically one system so no voltage differences can exist.
Hope this helps. – Catshooter