A Defensible Survivable Retreat In the Lower 48: What are the Odds?

In case of The End of the World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI), where would you choose to make a stand, for yourself and your loved ones? If the problem occupies your mind a great deal, and you live in the lower 48 states of the US, you may want to consider acquiring defensible property in Canada, the remote Mexican highlands, a fertile island paradise, or perhaps New Zealand. But if you are determined to make a go of it in the lower 48, where should you locate?

Multiple locations are best, for one never knows where one might be when the world comes to an end. But assuming you are looking for THE PLACE to make a stand, you probably do not want to be in — or near — a large population density.

Consider “The American Redoubt,” for example:

The American Redoubt: It lies in the rural high country of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, eastern Washington and Oregon.

For a growing number of people, it’s the designated point of retreat when the American economy hits the fan. When banks fail, the government declares martial law, the power grid goes down. When warming oceans flood the coasts and a resurgent Russia takes out targets on the Eastern Seaboard.

… With the rising federal debt and prospects for another credit crisis, [John Wesley] Rawles said in a telephone interview, “it could turn into a full-scale economic rout in short order. And under circumstances like that, I have encouraged my readers for many years to relocate themselves in lightly populated agricultural regions that are well removed from major population centers, where there’ll be large-scale rioting and possibly looting in the event of an economic crisis.”

Rawles has already beaten his retreat, but don’t ask him to where.

The most he’ll say is he lives on a ranch — presumably in Redoubt territory — west of the Rocky Mountains. He has livestock, he has three years’ worth of food stockpiled, he has a functioning garden and he’s got the weapons he needs to hold back the hordes if they find him. __ LATimes

John Wesley Rawles’ Survival Blog is one of the go-to places for information about surviving a wide range of hazards and disasters. And few people have researched the topic of survival more than Rawles. But if it comes down to defending your house against large numbers of organised, armed intruders, you may have already lost. Best to be off the beaten path, away from places that armed gangs are likely to travel.

One wants to be part of a community of widely skilled, competent, confident and resilient people. A community far enough from criminal and militant gangs that it will have time to prepare for any likely incursions, well in advance.

Besides gangs of humans gone amok, one will need to be prepared for likely disasters of various sorts. Different parts of the continental US will be exposed to different types of natural disasters. (see Global Incident Map for up to date info while internet survives)

The best type of home for surviving most kinds of natural disaster would be some type of earth sheltered home or a concrete home such as the monolithic dome. A poured concrete or earth-sheltered home is more resistant to bullets, than a thin-shell concrete home. For almost everything else, the monolithic dome would do nicely.

See images of zombie-resistant homes here and here.

So you have your property in an ideal location, with minimal likelihood of being hit by nukes, gangs, and natural disasters. How do you make it defensible from likely threats that one is likely to find almost anywhere?

The famous Chinese general Sun Tzu once said: “If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.” So taking that advice to heart, I started to think like a bad guy. How would I “take” a typical homestead, if I was head of a desperate group of bandits (or just hungry neighbors). The answer was pretty clear. I wouldn’t play fair. I wouldn’t play nice, and I’d use every trick in the book to get what I wanted. I’d hit at night. I’d hit at random. I’d hit whatever targets I had at hand. I’d burn down buildings. I’d snipe. I’d kill animals, burn crops, and, in short, I’d cheat like crazy.

… it was quickly clear to me that 99.99 percent of modern American homes (and farmsteads) were essentially indefensible, so I needed to start from scratch. I needed a homestead relatively impervious to small arms fire, one that was inflammable seemed important, and of course not having to spend a lot of money I did not have would be good. There really is only one building technique that meets all three of these requirements: poured, reinforced concrete.

… For defense, you need as much flat, open ground as you can afford around your homestead. Most importantly, there should not be any land within at least ¼ mile that would provide an opportunity for sniping from adequate cover.

… we sunk the concrete structure of the homestead several feet into the earth. We did this for several reasons– earth sheltering gave us a much more steady temperature state (cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter), and being lowered into the soil gives us even more protection against small arms fire. A fully underground house is an alternative we considered, but it posed a greater number of additional engineering challenges, including drainage, span considerations, and cost.

… A continuous poured concrete wall, six inches thick, and six feet high conforms with all of the current standard building code limitations in most parts of the USA, so you should not need a permit to pour such a wall (as a fence) on any property, as long as it meets setback regulations… We also embedded sockets for placing an additional chain link fence (the type with the opaque green plastic covering) on the top of the concrete wall making it now a 12-foot high wall. This gives us a fully enclosed, safety area that allows us access to the outdoors. Inside the Great Wall rests things like underground water and fuel tanks, chicken coops, a small garden, and generator sheds, as well as my complete septic system (in case of need for repairs).

… not much can beat a metal roof. It’s inexpensive, long lasting, not difficult to install, and most importantly it’s NON-FLAMMABLE. For our purposes we went with a near flat metal roof, snow load of 140+ pounds per square foot, with both rigid and fiberglass insulation to bring the R value up near 40. The flatness of the roof makes sniping much more difficult, especially with it being a sunken, single level house. Also, the very slight slope to the roof and the full north berm allows us to collect water from the roof when it rains. A single inch of rain collected from a 2500 square foot roof provides more than 1600 gallons of rainwater for storage.

… __ http://survivalblog.com/how-to-build-a-defensible-single-family-retreat-by-m-s/

The author goes on to describe methods of electronic surveillance which would watch over the retreat during sleeping hours — and wake up the inhabitants in case of a threatened intrusion.

Again, you will be safer as a member of a community of competent and skilled persons, who can share the load of community defense, as well as other community needs such as medical care, gardens, livestock, technical installations and repairs, etc.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • A long growing season
  • Property backs up to a state or national park
  • Low population density and away major cities and suburban developments
  • Sufficient year-round precipitation and surface water
  • Rich topsoil
  • Sunny area for solar panels
  • No major earthquake, hurricane, or tornado risks
  • No flooding risk
  • No tidal-wave (at least two hundred feet above sea level)
  • Minimal forest-fire risk
  • Away from interstate freeways and other channelized areas
  • What type of employment is in the area
  • A diverse economy and agriculture
  • Low taxes
  • Non-intrusive scale of government
  • Favorable zoning and inexpensive building permits
  • Minimal gun laws
  • A lifestyle geared toward self-sufficiency
  • Plentiful local sources of wood or coal
  • No restrictions on keeping livestock
  • Defensible terrain
  • Not near a prison or large mental institution
  • Inexpensive insurance rates (home, auto, health)
  • Upwind and away from major nuclear power plants

__ Source

Here is a “Defensible Retreat Checklist” from a book by Ragnar Benson:

Check List

Yes or No

___ ___ Will the retreat hold all of the people who are likely to use it?

___ ___ Does the retreat provide protection from nuclear, biological and chemical threats?

___ ___ Is water available independent of any municipal supply or source?

___ ___ Do I know how I will preserve my food?

___ ___ Have I identified how I will heat and cook?

___ ___ Is it possible to safely store food, clothing, explosives, guns and ammunition at the retreat?

___ ___ Can the location be secured now before it is actually manned during the collapse?

___ ___ Does it have adequate facilities? Can all the people wash occasionally? Will the toilets work?

___ ___ Can the retreat be obscured and hidden now and after the fighting starts?

___ ___ Do any neighbors and friends outside of those who will use the retreat know of its existence?

___ ___ Have I devised a workable defense plan?

___ ___ Can the area be patrolled?

___ ___ Is the retreat actually defensible or am I just kidding myself?

___ ___ Can the approaches be mined and guarded?

___ ___ Do I have the proper equipment to guard them?

___ ___ Is the retreat in an area where I can raise a garden, scrounge and generally set up a viable existence after the collapse?

___ ___ Do I have a library in the retreat?

___ ___ Is the library good enough to provide the information needed after the collapse? If not, what books do I still need?

___ ___ What about medical supplies and information? Have I got that covered?

___ ___ Have I provided for nuclear monitoring? Do I have Geiger counters, dosimeters etc.?

___ ___ Do I have decontamination suits so at least some of my people can leave the retreat to guard, patrol and take care of outside chores?

___ ___ Have I made plans to keep hordes of people from coming anywhere near my area? Such as blocking roads with trees, rocks, logs, dynamiting bridges etc?

___ ___ Have I evaluated my people and attempted to fit them into the various duties the best way possible?

___ ___ Am I psychologically equipped to defend my retreat? Can I or any of my group actually shoot intruders or raiders?

___ ___ Does everyone know which situations will actually trigger the defense plan and when to activate traps etc. and to start shooting if necessary?

___ ___ Do I have a stock of barter goods? Are they properly stored?

___ ___ Do I know how everyone will get to the retreat, unless it is their permanent residence? Do they have at least one alternative contingency plan for getting to the retreat, preferably two?

___ ___ Have I evaluated the various threat possibilities and then made realistic plans to counter them, especially the non-confrontive, non-military threats?

___ ___ Are the immediate approaches to my retreat such that they can be made impassable by booby traps or just plain physical means?

___ ___ Do I know how much time it will take to close the approaches and who will be in charge of this job?

___ ___ Do I have a battle plan that fits everyone into the defense structure? such as shooters, non-shooters, gun loaders, look-outs etc…

___ ___ Do I know the warning signs that will indicate that it is time to put my retreat plan into operation?

___ ___ Do I the correct guns and ammunition or have I been swept away by the armament gurus into believing that tons of hardware can replace the right amount of the proper equipment?

___ ___ Have I planned for retreat communications?

___ ___ Do I know what means and material the enemy at his disposal or even who the enemy is in a realistic sense?

___ ___ Have I put together a psychological plan to keep people away and discourage them if they do attack?

___ ___ Have I planned for special medical/dietary needs of the group?

___ ___ Have I taken care of my group’s current medical/dental requirements so these won’t be of immediate concern after the collapse?

___ ___ Do I know how to reload ammunition and operate and repair guns?

___ ___ Am I skilled at using alternative means of transportation such as bicycles, motorcycles, atvs, snowmobiles, trucks etc?

___ ___ Am I highly motivated and self-confident?

___ ___ Do I know my home territory?

___ ___ Is the retreat adequately stocked with tools, utensils, barter items for use in the new economy?

___ ___ Do I know where to get the consumable items we will need such as light bulbs, grease, oil, soap, toilet paper, canning lids, salt, needles and thread? Have I thought about these items in terms of my retreat?

___ ___ Are fires a danger. If so, what can I do to counter that threat? Such as have fire extinguishers, defensible space around buildings by cutting away brush, thick trees etc…

___ ___ Is blast a danger? Will my retreat withstand an explosion? ( such as a deep underground blast shelter/bunker with dirt, rocks, concrete etc. on top)

___ ___ Can I properly evaluate situations? Am I prone to hysteria or passivity?

___ ___ Do I have a continuing survival training program? even an exercise program to stay in shape?

___ ___ Have I studied other collapsed societies and how people are surviving?

___ ___ Have I made plans to survive heavy equipment such as tanks and helicopters, If that becomes necessary?

___ ___ Do I know how to use game, fish and wild plants in my area?

___ ___ Do I know how to garden in my area?

___ ___ Do I know how the actual retreat will be ventilated? What about lighting?

___ ___ Is it possible for attackers, raiders to sneak up on my retreat unseen or, more importantly, for them to detect my retreat without exposing themselves?

___ ___ Have I tried to look at defeating my retreat from the eyes of an enemy?

Source: http://www.survivalistboards.com/showthread.php?t=91365 taken from the book by Ragnar Benson … http://www.amazon.com/The-Survival-Retreat-Total-Defense/dp/0873642759

Every member of the retreat household will need to contribute to the survivability of the redoubt. In such a setting, children must learn many skills fairly early.

Essential knot tying, depending on situation and materials on hand, are invaluable whether tying a proper fishing knot, securing a climbing harness prior to rappelling, or securing a load to a trailer while helping a friend move. Deftly tying the proper knot for a given situation is an art lost to many. Survival depends on many factors, but fortune smiles on the prepared.

… __ http://survivalblog.com/building-skills-while-paying-the-bills-carving-time-to-hone-by-scouter-dad-jeb/

There is a host of skills that children in such settings will need to learn, including fire starting and tending, food acquisition and preparation, first aid and life-saving, orienteering, teamwork, simple woodcraft / ropecraft / and metalworking, basic self defense and learning to “rough it” when necessary.

If you have children, they need to start learning such skills right away. If you don’t have children, you still need all of those skills and more for yourself — and anyone else you may want to help through the hard TEOTWAWKI times.

Chuck Baldwin, a prominent conservative preacher and radio host — and 2008 presidential candidate for the Constitution Party — has bought in.

“Over a period of about three years, my family and I … just really put our heads together and tried to look at some of the things we saw coming. And we came to the conclusion that where we had lived for over 30 years probably was not where we wanted to stay, in light of what we saw on the horizon,” Baldwin said in an interview. He decamped from Florida with his grown children, their families and his in-laws to Kalispell, Mont., in 2010.

“I hope and pray that things don’t get drastic. But at the same time, only a very foolish and naive person could think that America can continue to spiral into this deficit-spending … money system that we have established over the last few decades,” said Baldwin, who is now a candidate for lieutenant governor in Montana. __ American Redoubt

If you decide to break away from the mainstream and build a defensible redoubt, you are likely to find yourself among some interesting neighbors. Try to determine who can be relied upon for different purposes and contingencies. Be neighborly, but be particular about which neighbors are allowed into your inner sanctum and trust.

Many of the same challenges of finding a location as described above must be faced by those wanting to locate and form a resilient & dangerous (R&D) community. It is worth the challenge, since if skills and resources can be safely pooled among competent, resilient, and reliable persons and families, the chances for long-term survivability tend to go up — assuming a good geographical location is chosen.

Birds of a Feather -- Avoiding Likely Problem Areas

Birds of a Feather — Avoiding Likely Problem Areas

A final word on the impact of dominant ethnicity on harmonious relations with neighbors: Being able to blend into the landscape of a region is a definite plus. If you are of Scandinavian origin, for example, there are many — but not all — regions of the deep south, Gulf coast, and Atlantic seaboard that you should avoid, if you do not want to paint a target on your back. Do your research. If you understand the potential problems and make sure that everyone in the group is able to deal with them, you may find an ideal location in an unlikely region.

Just as a community can be a safer and more stable long-term location than a family retreat, so can a network of resilient and dangerous communities provide greater security and opportunity than a small, isolated community.

Reality check: The doom you are expecting is not the one that is likely to get you. You are almost certain to die of a heart attack, stroke, cancer, pneumonia, accident, or similarly mundane cause. And yet, modern societies are under strong pressures of decline from dysgenic decline and from government policies that encourage and amplify the coming Idiocracy. Critical systems are under increasing stresses as a result. Hard times are coming for many who are accustomed to relative ease and abundance.

HFTB. PFTW. It is never too late to have a Dangerous Childhood.


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3 Responses to A Defensible Survivable Retreat In the Lower 48: What are the Odds?

  1. bob sykes says:

    The most important point is that a single home and family cannot be defended. You have to be part of a group. First, the attacker will almost always be a gang, seldom a lone wolf, and you will need to fight as a group. Fighting as a group gives you maneuver options a single person doesn’t have and multiple points to return fire. Also, multiple lookouts and people to stand watches and patrol. Second, you need the skills your neighbors have. You may also need to trade stuff with them because all of you will have forgotten things you might need. The biggest trade item is labor, a la the Amish barn raising parties. Lots of that will be needed

    • swampie says:

      Yep, we thought about moving from Florida, but we know the poisonous and edible plants here. We’re comfortable with snakes and alligators and coyotes and black bears and hurricanes and storm surge, but don’t know squat about grizzlies and mountain lions and earthquakes and volcanoes and blizzards.

      More importantly, we know the folks who are good people and who just need killin’. We know the folks who are good mechanics and welders and electricians and horse trainers. We know the fishermen and the hunters, the alligator poachers, the moonshiners, and the marijuana growers. We’re stayin’ with who and what we know.

  2. Sam says:

    bob is right. I think far better instruction on survival comes from,


    His book is good. He lived in Argentina when it collapsed. He said the people that lived far out the criminals would invade and spend days torturing them. The best places are small but near other people. At one time the “end of the World” survivalist were right. We had 30K nukes pointed at us that could hit at any time. Now much less. Nukes are not all powerful. A good look at a nuclear blast simulator map is instructive.


    I used a 800KT SS-25 and you’re reasonably good at 12 kilometers=7.5 miles. 10 miles would be better. After the bomb you need three feet of dirt for six weeks or so. Look up “Nuclear War Survival Skills” for accurate info. It’s online.

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