Preppers have a bad reputation in sheeple’s eyes for getting ready for things that might never happen, like a nuclear war or the zombie apocalypse. But being prepared for an apocalypse-level disaster — and everything in between — is never a bad thing. Even if the world doesn’t end, having that level of preparation means you’re ready for whatever the world might throw at you, whether that means riding out a hurricane or keeping yourself fed when the infrastructure breaks down after an earthquake.
Besides basic survival needs, clearly one of your biggest concerns after a disaster hits is going to be the potential for theft and looting. If the world as you know it collapses, law and order tend to go out the window, and if you’ve got a good stash of supplies then you will be a target. Here’s what to do…
Looting vs. Scavenging
First, what’s the difference between looting and scavenging? In the eyes of the law, both are forms of theft. But in a disaster situation, one may be more socially acceptable than the other. We’ve all seen what happens when law and order break down even temporarily. Looting is often rampant after a natural disaster. Instead of seeking out supplies that they need to survive, looters target high-dollar items like electronics — things they may have no use for now but might be able to use or sell after the world goes back to normal.
Scavenging, on the other hand, is all about gathering the things that you might need to survive — food, water, medical supplies, ammunition, parts to repair your vehicle — while you’re out looking for supplies. While the two phrases are often used interchangeably, looting and scavenging are not the same thing! Scavenging might be a moral grey area to some, but looting is both wrong and illegal!
1. Don’t Brag About Your Stash
When disaster strikes, one of the easiest things you can do to prevent theft is to keep quiet. It sounds harsh, but bragging about your stash isn’t going to win you any friends. On the contrary — it’s going to make you a target for people who didn’t prepare in the first place. They’re going to be cold, hungry and desperate, and they’re going to come after you and the supplies that you’ve so carefully stockpiled.
If you’re prepared for an apocalypse-level scenario, the only people who should know about it are those in your immediate family and your inner circle — the people you trust most. For everyone else, keep quiet (and especially children) and don’t tell anyone else about you may have stashed away.
2. Hang a Truly Scary Sign
Under normal circumstances, you might want to make your home look as welcoming as possible. But once a disaster strikes, don’t make it look like a place where someone might find an easy place to acquire supplies. On the contrary, make your home look as secure and unwelcoming as possible.
One way to do that is to hang scary warning signs that might deter the casual thief. Even in today’s world, robbers are likely to avoid entering a house that has a “Beware of Dog” sign hanging on the wall or the fence — even if you don’t have a dog.
For end-of-the-world scenarios, biohazard signs or radiation warnings may sound scary enough, but what you really want are signs that show you mean business, such as “shoots first, asks questions later.” You get the idea.
3. Install Bullet-resistant Glass
The windows in your home — whether you’re sheltering at home or in a bug-out cabin in the woods — are easily your property’s most vulnerable features. Sadly, it doesn’t take much for a potential thief to smash through a window and now they’ve got an easy access point into your home. If you’re going to shelter in place, consider upgrading your windows and doors with bullet-resistant glass or, at least, shatter-resistant glass to stop smash and grab scenarios.
Right now, it seems like the only people who utilize such tactics are celebrities and high-profile executives. But anyone can benefit from reinforcing their property this way. It can be costly, but once they’re in place, you don’t ever have to worry about someone casually smashing through your window to make off with your hard-earned supplies.
4. Upgrade Doors Jambs
Most people wrong believe that their locks and deadbolts are the end-all-be-all when it comes to home security. However, an enterprising thief isn’t going to be discouraged by locks and closed doors, especially when they’re possibly desperate. If they know you’ve got supplies, they’ll often stop at nothing to get what you’ve stored.
With that in mind, you should consider installing jambs in all of your doors that attach to the exterior of your shelter. These are designed to stop the door from being opened even if they are unlocked.
On a side note, don’t use door chains. They might be useful if you’re standing armed right behind the door, but if you’re not home it doesn’t take much for a thief to circumvent the door chain with a pair of bolt cutters. Stick to door jambs that prevent the door from opening at all unless you’re there to unlock them.
5. Reinforce Existing Doorways
Existing doorways, especially interior doorways, aren’t designed to stand up to any sort of assault. If someone kicks your door, it’s generally NOT the door that’s going to fail — it’s the door frame that is going to splinter. If you haven’t built your home from the ground up, you should take the time to reinforce your exterior door frames to keep this from happening.
Reinforcing your door frame can be as simple as swapping out the screws in your deadbolt’s kickplate which typically use half-inch screws that only attach to the wood trim piece. This is what splinters away if someone kicks the door in. Swap out those little half-inch screws with ones that are at least three inches long. They’ll move through the wood trim and into the 2×4 studs that create the frame. Doing so will keep the kickplate from tearing free or splintering and help you prevent theft.
[Editor’s note: Swap out the screws for the hinges too! In fact, my book discusses this and dozens more ideas to keep your home and family safe.]
6. Lock EVERYTHING, Always
Locking your doors should be considered common sense. But since common sense is so rare that it ought to be considered a superpower, we’ve decided that it deserves a place on this list. Lock everything you can. Even if you’ve never had to lock your shed before, grab a padlock and secure that too.
Upgrade your deadbolts to ensure you’ve as secure as possible. Consider investing in a jimmy-proof deadbolt since they’re easy to install and nearly impossible to pick. You can even opt for models that give you the option to lock the lock so that it can’t be opened even with the key from the outside.
7. Keep Guard Dogs
A barking dog can be one of the best ways to protect your property from theft, especially after a disaster. Preferably, you’ll want to choose large breeds that look threatening, even if they wouldn’t actually hurt a fly. German Shepherds, Dobermans, Rottweilers, Pitbulls and other breeds can be the sweetest pets, but they look like four-legged soldiers who would tear your face off as soon as look at you… and that’s a good thing when it comes to protecting what’s yours.
In fact, dogs don’t just help protect your property from theft. They can also help to protect you and your family from aggressors and thieves as well, which will be incredibly valuable when you’re on your own. If it’s an apocalypse-style scenario, you may even want to look into breeding dogs to protect your family and your property in the future.
Alternatively, Keep Guard Geese
This might sound a little bit silly, but bear with us here. Keeping livestock will help you to be self-sustaining if you can’t go to the grocery store to pick up some chicken breasts or steak. When you hear “livestock,” the first thing you’ll probably think of is chicken or cows or pigs.
But what about geese? They might not be as tasty as the chickens, but they’ve got a secondary use — they’re mean and they’re noisy. They will attack anyone who comes into your space, and they will start making a ton of noise while they do it. No one likes crossing paths with geese. If dogs don’t discourage the bad guys, geese sure will.
Geese are easier to keep than chickens in an apocalypse situation. Chickens and ducks both require a high-protein diet that could be difficult to maintain during a lengthy scenario. Geese, on the other hand, are grazers. Give them a patch of grass and they will turn it into meat and eggs for you.
8. Line Roads and Driveways With Tire Spikes
Driveways and roads around your shelter can give thieves easy access to your home. Don’t make it easy for them! Take the time to line any driveways or roads near your property that you don’t use with tire spikes or caltrops. You can hide them and allow any potential raiders to drive over them, or you can make them obvious to discourage anyone from making the approach in the first place.
You can even use spike strips to protect the roads or driveways that you use; just make sure that you remember to move them before you drive in or out of your facility.
9. Invest in a Fireproof Safe
While it’s impossible to know exactly what will end the world, it’s important to be prepared for anything. Even if you’re sheltering in place, a wildfire caused by weather, fallen power lines or a stove that someone left on can sweep through and destroy all of your important papers and valuables. A flood can do the same, caused by rain or a broken dam. Before you need it, take the time to invest in a fireproof safe — preferably one that is also waterproof or at least water-resistant to ensure you can protect what you need to keep safe.
A secure safe will also protect your valuables from theft. Most of the thieves and looters after the world ends are going to look for easy scores — things they can pick up and grab on-the-go. If you put your valuables in a safe, they’re not easy to access anymore and they’ll likely overlook them in favor of an easier target.
Don’t Count on Emergency Services
Don’t count on police or fire. You’re on your own, so do whatever you need to protect yourself. Theft will be an enormous problem if we find ourselves in anything like a Hurricane Katrina again. Once law and order break down, people will feel emboldened to take what they want or need, no matter where they have to get it from. That means they’ll strip out grocery stores and warehouses, and if they think you have the supplies they need, they’ll target you as well.
[Note: This was a guest post.]