Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bugging In Pt. III

Now we’ll suppose that for reasons of relative youth, lack of funds, bad luck, travel, poor foresight, or simple stupidity, you can’t do any of the things in the preceding articles in series, and can’t perform all the modifications on your domicile. So what do you do?
What follows breaks down two ways: locations you have some control over, and those you don’t. The former are places like apartments, condos, workplaces, and other locations which, while you don’t have carte blanche to alter or modify, you have at least some, even if only by default  and frequency of occupation. The latter are any other places, ranging from a hotel in a foreign city to whatever circumstances leave you within when whatever happens, happens.

For those you can control somewhat: you can still upgrade basic security. Windows can still receive anti-breakage and privacy applique. Doors, if in any way possible, should be replaced with the sturdiest commercial industrial-grade fireproof doors (which are usually helpfully metal-clad and heavy-duty break-in resistant) you can locate. The step below that is to at least make sure all exterior doors are solid wood, not hollow-core, and skin the outside with sheet steel overall or steel/brass reinforcements over hinges, lockset, and deadbolts. If your structure is wood-framed or solid masonry, replace the (probably 1 ½”) screws holding locks, hinges, etc. with 4-5” screws to punch past the 1” pine pre-hung doorframe and into the actual wall reinforcing members. Put at least 1 and ideally 4 cane bolts (L-shaped bolts) at each of the door’s corners, 2 upwards, and 2 downwards. If all 4 are installed and secured, even shooting out the locks and hinges with a breaching shotgun won’t allow the door to be opened. Acquire plywood sheets pre-cut to fit over each window, inside and out. Both sides, because if and when necessary, you’re better off covering both sides, after opening the windows completely, and screwing/bolting the half where there’s no glass together, outside to inside, which will hold it in place without requiring. You can further build in the previously mentioned cross-holes for visibility/gunports if you so choose. They can be stored behind bookcases or furniture, under beds, in the backs of closets, etc. If you have large patio doors on a balcony, put exterior grade sheets outside, upright, and painted or texture painted to look like the walls they’re covering, and screwed/bolted to them, such that you can remove them and block over the glass patio doors in a hurry, while occupying almost no space in the meantime and attracting no notice. If plywood is difficult, 1x12” boards can also go under and behind furniture, or laid at the bottom of each row of bookshelves until needed, and even stained to match the bookshelves in the meantime, with no one but yourself knowing they’re there until you need them. They’ll also nestle quietly across the tops of kitchen shelves that leave space between the shelf unit and the actual ceiling. You may also want to get a pair or two of brackets to hold a door bar or two in place, use a stud-finder to spot the wall joists, and get enough lagscrews to emplace them, but not actually put them in until you need to, to preserve the capability without jacking up your security deposit in the meantime.
In times of trouble, blocking up access to a multi-user building to just one stairwell/exterior doorway are extreme but possibly very prudent courses. Anything from spare lounge furniture to padlocks and lengths of chain might suffice to secure extra entryways and stairwells, and channelize friend and foe into one more-easily watched and guarded access point.

Quickly-emplaced doorbraces that wedge from floor to doorknob aren’t a bad idea. Imagine yourself the office worker or teacher in an unlocked office or schoolroom when you hear gunshots down the hall, and coming closer. A $50 quickbrace could save multiple lives. So could a discreetly installed cane bolt or other inside-only door security hardware. Nothing is perfect, but something may be enough to beat nothing. Nitrile gloves, booties, hooded gas mask, and tyvek suit take up about the same space as a small purse or backpack. For travel/work use, they’ll do a better job of getting you out of a smoky or chemical-filled building than a wet-t-shirt.
For water, even while traveling, a small bottle of unscented hypochlorite laundry bleach and an eyedropper can be had just about worldwide, and will ensure drinking water for weeks for an investment of a couple of dollars. And Camelbak hydration pouches come in dozens of sizes and colors, not just military khaki tan and olive drab. One should be part of your everyday carry, and one kept at work, in the car, etc. A large storage bladder called a “water bob” is a bathtub sized water bladder that sits in an empty bathtub, and turns 100 gallons of dead space into an emergency water storage reservoir provided you have 20 minutes to fill it up. You can always fill it with unsafe but readily available water, and add bleach to purify it, if practical.

Food needs to be light, and compact, which usually means dehydrated, thus pricey. Do what you can to store as much as possible. A hide-a-bed sofa can be gutted, and you can build quite a pantry into the lower portions of an L-sectional sofa. Reading nooks in window seats, benches in dinettes, and dead corner space in kitchen cabinetry can also serve as hidden storage for your supplies, also being advantageously out of sight to all but a determined ad thorough search.  Windows, exterior walls next to them, or balconies on the 3rd or higher floors may be equipped with exterior-grade cup hooks, and you can acquire and hang flexible solar cells for power to run a radio, laptop, and small (12V and/or LED) lights. All of which are better than none of the above. With a couple of marine batteries, you might be able to store enough power to run a microwave once or twice a day, and an RV/marine 12V hotplate/coffeepot. Hot food is much more appealing than cold gruel, and can be had for a small investment in happier times.
Don’t overlook attic/crawlspace options. I once had an apartment whose closet floor provided the sole access to 6000 cubic feet of crawlspace – 3’ high. Obviously, in an earthquake/building drop, not so great. But in civil unrest, having a secure, pre-sandbagged hidey hole with a couple days food and water to which I could remove myself into in emergency was more comfort than nothing. I built a small sleeping area, with enough room outside to cook on a brick grill, next to an underbuilding vent, tarpapered, sealed, padlocked, and surrounded by sandbags on 4 sides. It’s probably still there. An overhead area might provide a place to squirrel away lighter bulky items (paper napkins/towels/toilet paper?), provided they’re sealed from insects/vermin. Also look for voids. I had a wall that enclosed the underside of an outdoor staircase, which netted me an area half the size of my living room in hidden storage, inaccessible to anyone but me, all for the investment of one sheet of sheetrock, some spackle compound, and a gallon of white paint. I note that only this week, a similar but far smaller space in Wales was discovered as the repository of 20+ firearms and ammunition, carefully stored there for nearly 20 years since the UK banned virtually all firearms, and all in perfect state of preservation. Imagine the possibilities with a few 4’ lengths of 8” PVC and a house sized crawl space.

On the subject of storage, whether for work, school, or near home, storage spaces ranging from closet-sized to room size are available nearly nationwide, usually for a reasonable price, as long as you pay the rental. A 5’x10’x8’ high storage “closet” you could access 24/7 could hold quite a bit of personal necessities, canned food, a barrel of stored clean water, and a hidden locking gun safe with a few key items secured within, without impacting your tidy home digs or other location, and without making you a pariah at work, while providing a life-saving cornucopia of necessaries for you if you were a student or an office worker when some sort of local or general disaster struck. I’d much rather try to hoof it a couple of blocks on foot to that, and then move on homeward perhaps miles or days, than try to survive on what you might be able to legally and securely squirrel away in a file drawer at work or a college dorm. Be aware that most have posted notices about not allowing storage of things like gasoline or ammunition, and warning that “detection dogs” patrol the premises. Unless they also run nuclear storage facilities, such notices are boilerplate for the boobs, and the only “detection dog” available is usually the on-site residing lease agent’s shih tzu or tabby cat. Use common sense and secure storage principles, and you’ll be the only one to know about a small military surplus ammo can of ordnance and 5 gallon jerrycan of emergency gasoline that you stock with fuel preservative and rotate through the stash every 12 months.
For travel, and other such circumstances, you’ll need to rely on what you can carry with you every day, and what you can acquire inexpensively before you go or once you arrive. An SAS-style cargo-pocket kit in a small tin or nylon pouch, together with multiple exit strategies, are your friend at this point. A multitool, flashlight, single-edged razor, compass, wire saw, firestarter, personal first-aid kit, a water container, water purification device/tablets, and some protein/power bars, soup, tea, sugar, salt and boullion packets, along with perhaps a packet or two of tuna or beef jerky, poncho, candle or two, and a couple of big trash bags would fit in a pouch the size of a small video camcorder, and probably keep you alive anywhere on land between either polar icecap long enough to make your way to a better place. Hence copies of passport and visa(s),credit cards, cash & coin (local and dollars/euros/whatever), local map(s), more cash, GPS/locator, more cash, cell/satphone, even more cash, and an alternate travel/relocation plan (or three) would also be a splendid idea. Making or acquiring suitable on-body stashes for cash, papers, etc. on both ankles, around your neck, in a hidden belt/underwaist belt, and various hidden pockets isn’t James Bond nefarious, it’s simple survival and theft/robbery protection. And other than the knife-blade on a multitool, would breeze through security and checkpoints without a second glance in packed or carried luggage.

Treat your life like something worth saving, and you probably will. Follow alternative pathways at your own peril.

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