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Security Ideas for Desert Locales

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Security Ideas for Desert Locales

Postby LVKINGG » Mon Oct 31, 2011 12:21 pm

I have given some thought to the defensibility of a desert location in a SHTF scenario, and here is a summary of my observations:

Most desert terrain supports sparse vegetation, or at least vegetation that does little to impede visual surveillance. As such, this is both an advantage and a disadvantage to those who wish to defend a homestead/retreat in the desert. For the advantage side, desert terrain generally permits observation over great distances, particularly concerning the approach of vehicles (which usually kick up dust clouds that can be seen for many miles). This makes a surprise assault by hostile forces much more difficult to achieve--when the defenders are vigilant anyway. The principle disadvantage is that the ability to observe over great distances is afforded to the hostiles as well. This means that the defenders must be even more cautious about chosing locations for their structures and employ camouflaging techniques to keep their homesteads/retreats from being spotted by (potential) hostiles.

Another concern about desert terrain is that, unless it is also mountainous, the defenders will have no natural terrain features to prevent an approach to the property from any direction. This means that they must be able to defend against attacks from anywhere in a 360 degree arc! Places with heavy woods, deep/wide/swift rivers and cliffs are more easily defended because approach from at least one direction is effectively blocked (but even these locations will be monitored by prudent defenders). When looking for land, would be homesteaders/retreaters should consider terrain that can 'funnel' movement into narrow corridors that are much easier to defend.

If intruders are expected in the area, desert dwellers must practice flawless operations discipline to avoid detection and becoming a target. This includes noise, odor and light discipline. This is because any man-made sights, sounds and smells can be detected over great distances in the desert and give invaders ample time to prepare a plan of attack. Buildings, fences and other tell-tale signs of habitation will attract invaders, so a desert dweller should do whatever possible to minimize the appearance of these structures. Generators running, the sounds of farmstead animals (chickens, cows, sheep, goats and dogs), talking/shouting and music are all audio indicators of habitation, and should be minimized or eliminated to the greatest extent possible if intruders are suspected of being near or in the area. The smells of cooking or other fragrances not natural to the environment can also betray your location, so these must be controlled as best you can. Smoke is not a normal thing to see in a desert environment, and can be seen during daylight for many miles, and any form of man-made light during nighttime will attract intruders from similar distances.

Build your homestead/retreat well off any main roads (especially any that are paved) and if possible out of view from any such roads. While many desert locations are not at risk of large scale movement of potential intruders, any rural areas that lie between cities which have major highways will be at greater risk of intrusion by refugees or looters should the cities ever be evacuated.

Get to know your neighbors and when possible, involve them in your security plans (if you don't have neighbors, you may want to encourage trusted friends to become neighbors, or join you at your homestead/retreat). Obviously this involves trust, so the sooner you can establish good working relations, the better. Good neighbors can act as an advance warning system, and if they are of similar mindset can assist in the security of your property. When doing so, always promote mutual protection and keep to your word! Desert environments are hard and require a rugged mindset, so having good neighbors can only benefit everyone! Mutual support is the only way to go!

I think this should be enough to get the thread going. I would appreciate any suggestions or constructive criticisms so that we may all benefit!
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Re: Security Ideas for Desert Locales

Postby dogboy » Mon Oct 31, 2011 1:26 pm

Being uninformed of the real desert, I can picture only vast expanses of beach sand. Are sand dunes and drifting sand a real factor in the American SW? Can you use trenches and pits to restrict avenues of approach? Water has to be a problem.... right?
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Re: Security Ideas for Desert Locales

Postby LVKINGG » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:05 pm

Most deserts do not look like the Sahara--with its vast rolling dunes and vegetation located only near the rare oasis. Much of the desert region in the American West is actually quite mountainous, and while the vegetation is anything but lush, there is still quite a bit of it, ranging from scrub pine to sage brush to cacti. Even so, some areas do have some dunes, but they are generally surrounded by rocky areas, low hills and other barriers.

It has been my experience that dust (particularly on alkali flats) can be a nuisance and potential health hazard, and the deserts are also subjected to miniature cyclones (that everyone I know calls "dust devils") which can cause light damage to stationary objects if they remain stationary for any length of time, but sand drifts only seem to have a minimal impact. Everything in the desert gets dusty, and usually very quickly.

I think that digging trenches and pits is a viable option for defense of an area, but any earthworks that are visible from a road may bring unwanted attention. Still, there are lots of mines in the remote regions of the Western deserts that might fill in as pre-existing decoys to help disuade intruders from investigating your constructions. I would not, however, want someone to see my earthworks until they have weathered for a while... nothing says "inhabited" better than recent digging, and it sure does stand out! If you were to opt for trenches and the like, I would also consider putting up barbed-wire fences, as the BLM and private ranchers in many locales have MILES of this stuff stretched out all over the place. As long as you used aged timber for the posts and second-hand wire, it wouldn't stand out, and you would have another impediment to intrusion.

Water accessibility is the single weakest link in defense of a desert homestead/retreat. If hostiles can cut you off from your water supply, you are basically toast. That's why I advocate a single-point source, like a well or spring for water supply as opposed to any source of surface water. The worst is a river or stream (unless you have exclusive access to the headwaters) because you can get cut off from your water by diversions or dams. Wells and springs though can be blocked or poisoned unless you could come up with ways to minimize the risk (like a hidden well-head, or a secured heavy stone well-house with passive alarms designed to notify you of an intrusion). Of course, it never hurts to have multiple sources, but properties in the desert that have those are both very scarce and correspondingly expensive! Another consideration for security that involves water is that any desert area with a fairly consistent supply of surface water is going to be very green. This stands out against the dull green-gray and brown colors of typical desert vegetation and can be tempting to refugees/looters who are desperate for water! There are many old ranch houses you can see from the roadways that look like oases because they have water; which is why I encourage desert homesteaders/retreaters to get properties that are out of sight of the main roads.

Contrary to popular belief, many desert areas also see significant precipitation--especially during the winter months--which may come as rain or snow. When it does come down, muddy quagmires pop up all over the place and can hamper friendly and hostile movements alike! The water tends to dry up quickly, though. I've seen places where it rained solid all night, and by noon the water was gone! Which reminds me... dirt roads can get washed out and made virtually impassable after a severe rainstorm, and flash flooding is a very real danger in valleys and lowlands. Finally, if you do encounter surface water in the Western desert areas, NEVER drink it without purifying it first! It may contain high quantities of salt, alkali, heavy metals/minerals like arsenic, lead, mercury, sulfur and antimony or harmful bioorganisms. Don't trust waterholes being frequented by local wildlife or cattle either. They may have immunities or resistances to substances in the water that we do not!
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Re: Security Ideas for Desert Locales

Postby DesertDweller » Thu Nov 03, 2011 5:18 am

Thanks so much for posting this, LVKING! I look forward to any updates you or others may have! I thought I heard someone mention my "name", DesertDweller :)
"What matters most is how well you walk through the fire" ~Charles Bukowski~
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Re: Security Ideas for Desert Locales

Postby lgtsabr » Fri Nov 04, 2011 10:21 pm

Great Topic...!!! :thumbsup:

Security and defense in the desert is not something to take lightly. Everything you have mentioned are real issues to think about.

I especially like the one about funneling access to your location. I think a Thermopylae type defense would prove a GREAT advantage to someone who is bugging out alone. That is, if you have to bug out alone. I think you are right in the way of getting to know your neighbors. I think a small band of like minded folks would make a much better defense than having to defend on your own. Trust notwithstanding, of course.

One thing you did mention that I never thought about... Smells. This would not only betray your location to possible hostile invaders but to predators as well. And even in the desert of the Southwestern US, there are plenty of predators to be mindful of.

I like this topic. I'm excited to see everyone's response...
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Re: Security Ideas for Desert Locales

Postby LVKINGG » Sat Nov 05, 2011 11:13 pm

Glad to get ideas out there lgtsabr! I hope fellow preppers like yourself find them useful, but I am also hoping to get some ideas from others about desert defense as well...
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Re: Security Ideas for Desert Locales

Postby Deadfall » Sat Nov 19, 2011 2:59 pm

LVKINGG,

You have really brought to light an incredible topic and some well thought out points. For all of us “desert folk” these are very real concerns. As lgtsabr points out, I hadn’t thought much of smells either although I remember knowing which way to go back to camp simply because I can smell the camp fire or the food cooking. It just never registered with me as another security weakness in my planning.

Overall, you have touched on many of the concerns about setting up a BOL in the desert and it would be redundant to point them all out again.

I do want to weigh in on the topic with a thought though about living here and using the American Southwest as a retreat and bug out location should staying at home in an urban setting no longer suit our survivability. I’m working on the premise that most of us have to drive to work, the store, the doctor’s office and generally don’t want to spend several hours driving in from the desert wilderness to do it. Consequently, we all live close to civilization if not right in the middle of town.

Traveling around in Nevada as a history buff, I tend to go places that are off the beaten path and there are a few homes and such out there that unless you knew what back roads and trails to take, you simply won’t find them out of dumb luck. The comment to stay off of and out of sight of the main road would be the greatest point of all the security tips made. It is also my experience that those people living there are completely capable and willing to repel intruders to their land, are generally self-sufficient and have decided to leave town to have the expanse of the land they occupy for their livelihood. Mostly I see back road ranches and agricultural settings when talking about these locations and not so much the old “mining camp” kinds of places any longer. They would be a “best choice scenario” in a situation needing a BOL and if you have that already, you’re all set. For all the rest of us though that aren’t already living on a back road ranch somewhere in the American desert, then we need to address how to survive this environment.

Going to the points made in the topic it convinces me more that to go out and attempt to survive in these desert environments individually or with a small family is more of a recipe for failure on the long term. There may be the highly trained individuals or families as the exception to the rule but generally, most people haven’t learned to handle and have trained in extreme desert survival.

A fairly good size group of families or people still strike me as the only way to go for a long term solution to survival for a period of a few weeks and longer. There are simply too many points to list that present major and potentially life threatening problems when contemplating long term desert survival on your own without staging a major cache of supplies and equipment and a way to defend that. It’s nearly impossible to not be noticed when out in the desert if anyone is within ten miles of your location. Something will give you away unless you’re living like a mouse underground, excluding the extreme desert survival experts. But a home that can accommodate many people living in it or using it has to be the best and possibly only long term solution available to people calling the desert home. Given that in our non-city type of environment and lifestyle, if you don’t have it, you aren’t going to get it as a rule of thumb for an after the SHTF event, it takes care to have already set up a location and to have made plans to move provisions and supplies to it if not already having it pre done. Packing everything needed to live out in the desert for the long term is a heavy load to carry around, especially on your back. I have made hikes that when started should have been 20 minutes but the desert is very deceiving and 4 hours later they turned out because of the landscape to be some of the most arduous hikes I’ve ever rivaling anything I did in the military.

In my opinion, it will take a group to handle the potential security concerns brought up in the threads and anyone of ill intentions is most likely looking for easily aggressed targets rather than a larger group of several to many families to overcome. Additionally, desert survival will need all of those extra hands to make it possible to keep each other sustained and cared for from everything to providing food, maintaining drinking water, caring for animals, producing produce, medical and hygiene concerns and possibly keeping everyone sane and comforted. You simply have to work very hard to survive here given other environments which are more abundant in critical resources.

A few days to a week by myself in the desert is an incredibly tough event and something I’m not sure I could pull off longer, especially if I have to worry about security events from the bad guys. I simply don’t believe that I can do it and not be noticed in some way. All in all, I’m going to summarize my point and say that the best chance of survival for something longer than a week in our desert environment is the have a group of several to many people established to work a BOL together. Although the location couldn’t work directly in an urban setting, it could work near that setting and could easily work when out of sight from the main roads and off the beaten path. I think attempting to live off the land with a small family or individually is too dangerous to anyone’s survival without the safety and assistance of others in our desert environment. That being said, you just can’t hide out and hope no one with ill intentions doesn’t find you, try to live off the land at the same time and expect to survive long term. You have to have the assistance of others and you have to have an established structure to do it in and that will take some effort and planning to pull off; otherwise it will probably end up being a cot in a government established refugee camp somewhere for you and your family.
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Re: Security Ideas for Desert Locales

Postby Tobor » Sat Nov 19, 2011 3:37 pm

how solid is the ground itself.. would one be able to make underground tunnels or homes and not have it collapse? maybe this type of living would take care of 90% of the security problems in the dessert ..have an access door in your normal house that could be used if people were spotted and stay down there until they leave..
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Re: Security Ideas for Desert Locales

Postby Deadfall » Sat Nov 19, 2011 4:26 pm

You bring up a great point that an underground “root cellar” or “secret basement” is a great solution to the security concern. I would be personally concerned though with going underground while my above ground home was being gone through by looters, scavengers and general bad guys. I also wonder how awkward it would ultimately be when those that live there pop up from the underground hiding place to find that someone else has decided to set up camp in their above ground home. Although, I can’t help but think about those situations during times of war when the families were hiding below or in secret areas within the home and how it became a necessity to protect family members.

Having only a small amount of mining knowledge I would say it’s impractical in this area to simply dig out an underground structure. I have been in some mines and mining displays and it requires a great deal of lumber and constant maintenance of that lumber as well as the unique structural requirements to set it up to keep it from collapsing in on itself. With the seismic activity in the American Southwest and more specifically Nevada, it really requires those with the engineering background to establish a safe underground area. The area is dotted with abandoned mines and the State of Nevada has taken great steps to mark those because of how incredibly dangerous they are as an example. The ground is just not that stable to withstand being excavated without structural support. Even digging trenches and such have to have a significant amount of bracing and support so as not to collapse when working in them. Frankly though, I’m not sure I would want my family in that kind of environment for any length of time if I had other options more readily available to me.

As for underground structures in general, it’s obviously something that can be constructed but difficult to live in for extended periods of time. I would reference though a bomb shelter and how that is built, maintained and stocked. It can be done for a while but most people I would assume do not have the necessary income to construct such a shelter.

Hiding underground is a good solution to keeping the family, the kids or yourself from harms way but ultimately the risk is great and the loss of necessary supplies and equipment might be the tipping point of your survival given the short amount of time everyone would need to get away to the underground hideout when the bad guys show up. You simply aren’t going to have the time necessary to collect everything up. I would also say that if it was recognized that your location was inhabited from a distance that anyone attempting to aggress it would spend a fair amount of time trying to figure out what happened to you when they got inside and I can’t imagine that going well for those found and trapped in a hole in the ground with nowhere to go.
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Re: Security Ideas for Desert Locales

Postby Tobor » Sat Nov 19, 2011 8:57 pm

never been past the mississippi river so i wasnt sure how it was out there..it would be hard enough here in WV with our soil and rock mountains..
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Re: Security Ideas for Desert Locales

Postby Pedro wyoming » Sun Nov 20, 2011 2:15 pm

I dont know if it would be worthwhile to expand on the underground approach. Build the entire structure underground with a small house on top to mask the entrance. WSHTF, torch the above ground structure and live underground. Any trespassers would be visible across the desert and when seen, the family retreats to the underground shelter. If this sounds like life on Tatooine or Arakis, those were the models.
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Re: Security Ideas for Desert Locales

Postby ramidus » Tue Jan 17, 2012 3:55 am

Great thread... baits the question of what would we do to conceal our "homestead" and pits it against the intrinsic characteristic of our social being.. I would try and avoid detection at first, concentrating on concealment efforts.. but as time wore on, I think we would see "isolated individualistic" behavior change to a more beneficial mode of survival. Clanship.

The need for self sustainability and self reliance is tempered with the gains from outside influence, interaction and innovation. We are a curious species, and a social one as well. In a true SHTF scenario, the means in which information is exchanged will change from instant and electronic, to slow and geographic. There will be no more Google, Wiki or Prepper threads. There needs to be a way to share both innovation and technology. It will require travel, primarily by horse, foot, by water or by "free energy" vehicles like "wind karts". The interaction with others, and the exchange of information, has some great benefits. ( as well as risks)

Look at this Trade route map of the local Washoe Indian...

http://www.manataka.org/images/Washoe%2 ... %20Map.jpg

They used seasonal and annual food resources as a way to trade with others and enrich their lives.
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