Practical Security

Sharon August 26th, 2008

Ok, I’m going to run through a range of security options, covering both personal and community, and talk a little about the pros and cons of each.  I’ve divided them into four categories - personal, preventative (ie, avoiding security issues in the first place); community, preventative, personal, responsive (ie, when something bad is/has already happened) and community responsive. 

It is almost alwasy cheaper, easier and more efficient to devote most of your resources to personal and community preventative measures than to devote them to responsive ones.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t have a way to respond to violence or threat - no preventative works all the time.  But if you have limited resources, preventative measures are usually the easiest way to start, and the most effective overall.  The most important thing to remember is that most threatening is based on a fairly rational risk assessment by the person doing it - they think they’ll be better off stealing from you or hurting you than not - now there are plenty of exceptions -  some criminals are morons and can’t tell what their risks are, and some people are sociopaths, ormotivated by compulsions beyond rational control -  but the odds are good that the person looking to steal from you or attack you and take your money is looking to do it with minimal risk to themselves and good odds of success.  If they do this as a regular hobby or a living, they are probably pretty experienced at this.  If they don’t do it very often, odds are they are quite nervous about being caught.  So anything that slows them down (and thus increases their chance of being caught), make yourself and your family appear to be a less attractive victim, raises their risk of being caught, or raises their risk of being hurt reduces your risk.

Now at the moment, I’m talking mostly about criminal assault here. And I think the odds are that increasing poverty will increase the crime rate, although variably in various areas.  It is worth remembering, however, that while individual or small band criminal assault is a fairly common scenario, it is not the only possible scenario.  For most women and children, I would remind all of us again that domestic violence is far more common than external violence, and neighbors, friends, etc… often perpetrators as well.   In a lower-energy world, most of our problems will probably come from people we know, or who don’t live very far away, rather than the bands of roaming marauders some people worry about.  I think this is particularly important when we talk about guns (and it is so hard to talk about security without all the focus landing on guns, even if we don’t want to, because our thoughts are so heavily weighted and polarized on this issue).

One of the reasons I don’t recommend guns to every household is that for women who are victims of husbands, lovers and boyfriends (or occasionally girlfriends and wives), having a gun is probably more dangerous than not having one.  Someone in an abusive partnership has already failed to use (and I understand this is a difficult thing to do in many situations) the most potent weapon they have - getting out (this does not necessarily apply to those who have left abusive situations and have to fear a partner coming after them).  And if you can’t leave an abusive partner, odds are, you won’t shoot them either.  On the other hand, abusive partners often kill the women they abuse, sometimes with their own guns.  So as we go through, it is worth noting that all people, especially women (some men are abused too, but the situation is less chronic) need to think about not just “the stranger trying to jack my car” but other, more intimate realities.

Another real and serious question, raised by one of the commenter’s in my previous post is the issue of suicide.  This is a particularly big issue for men - the disruption of male economic roles tends to cause depression, anxiety, and stress related illness and a lot of suicide, especially by middle aged and older men.  Teenagers are also vulnerable to suicide.  And as my poster wisely pointed out, having the gun available in the house means that you don’t need a sustained desire for suicide - merely a brief period of despair.  For those with a history of depression or concerns, the benefits of guns may well be outweighed by the dangers of having them.

Finally, there’s the issue of children.  If you have young children, generally speaking it is wise to keep guns and ammo locked up - there are rural families who live in ways that don’t allow this, and police and military parents who need to use other strategies, but most parents will be safer if there is no possible way for young children, children with disabilities that limit their ability to understand the consequence of guns and others to get ahold of them. Now it is easy to assume that this situation means that a gun is totally useless - but that assumes that the only scenarios in which a gun would be useful are ones where someone is breaking down your door just as you are sitting there thinking “damn - I wish I had my weapon.”  And it is true that if you have young kids or disabled kids who function like them, you probably necessarily lose that ability to respond in a heartbeat.  But since that’s not the only possible scenario - plenty of home invasions or acts of violence have lead times, with people scoping out an area, or lying in wait, notice being given by a barking dog, etc…  it isn’t the case that guns are only useful if you don’t have kids.  My own feeling is that it is generally worth limiting your ability to respond rapidly for the safety of your children - and it is also worth training yourself in the ability to rapidly open and load your gun if you are going to have one.

The other scenario worth talking about is state supported violence.  If you are black in the US, you are already probably pretty clear on this one, at least one scale.  A lot of us tend to leap immediate to the idea of ”camps” or something as the logical face of state authorized or created violence, but simply the idea that you have to be as or more afraid of the police than criminals is one form of state violence.  This can occur at any level - town, state, federal.  There are people and places where police will never be your allies, and it is definitely worth being aware that the US military, the police and the state can be used against you, and has been.  The last charge of the US Cavalry, for example, occurred not against a foreign enemy but during the Great Depression when impoverished veterans of World War I marched peacefully upon Washington and set up shantytowns demanding that they be paid a promised subsidy.  The fear of the state is perfectly reasonable.  This does not mean that agents of the state are bad - or that they can’t also be a really good thing.  It merely means that even the most humane and best agent of the state always risks being misused by an evil state.

That said, what you should do about the fear of the state is a tough question - personal solutions will probably only work in very rural areas where the state has few representatives, and while an armed populace represents something of a deterrant, it honestly isn’t clear to me how much.  In the case of widespread federally supported state violence (and I should note by this I mean “more than now” and not to imply it doesn’t exist now), probably the best solution is a revolution, and probably a non-violent one.  But this involves a level of community organization I’m not quite prepared to cover in this one post ;-). 

Personal Preventative Measures:

1. Self-confidence, or at least the appearance thereof.  It isn’t true that all victims look like victims, but it is the case that if someone is calculating whether to attack or steal or do something illegal, they are probably calculating their risk too.  The stronger and harder to intimidate you appear, the less likely you will be to look like an easy target.  For some people this is easy - for example, I’m 6′ tall and not thin.  I’m a big woman and I walk and act like I take up space - this is to my advantage.  But I’ve known very small and very elderly women who also have this quality.  It may not truly be the case that all bullies are cowards, but some are, and you can put off some assaults with a certain measure of self confidence, and the ability not to respond fearfully.  It isn’t magic, and it has to be carefully balanced with the instinct for self preservation, but it can help.

For women facing domestic violence, I realize this is much easier said than done, but part of this has to include the ability to say that it is never permissable for anyone to touch you violently, even if they love you, and that you will leave immediately, not the second or third time, but the first time it happens.

2. Common sense.  Don’t make yourself unnecessarily vulnerable.  Walk with another person when possible.  Stay close to other people if you are out alone.  Don’t flash cash where no one else has it.  Don’t punch your atm card in clear view of everyone.  Don’t leave your bags unattended.  Don’t start bar fights you can’t finish.  Don’t let your kids roam around alone if there are lots of human or animal predators around.  Be aware of your surroundings, pay attention to other people, avoid people looking for fights or trouble.  Use your brain - that’s what it is for.

3. The ability to shift the ground and understand the person you are dealing with.  This may be about slowing things down, increasing the perception of risk by the criminal, making you seem a poor choice of victim or about making them fear being hurt (use that latter one carefully).  If the threat to your security is a person, sometimes you can change the threat by talking to them, or dealing with them.  I’ve already mentioned the woman I know who got out of a carjacking by talking about her kids and their need for her.  But I’ve also met a woman who got out of being raped by claiming she had her period, and Derrick Jensen talks about his sister getting out of it by saying she had VD.  That doesn’t mean things like this always work, but they are tools you have.  I’ve also met an elderly nun who rather famously disarmed multiple soldiers on several seperate occasions - she lived in a nunnery near Serajevo, and soldiers would come to the nunnery - sometimes to steal, sometimes to intimidate, at least one time, she said, bent on rape, and she would talk to them, joke with them sometimes, guilt trip them others, remind them of their own mothers, and every single time, she ended up with the soldiers leaving, and a couple of times, she was holding their guns at the end.  This is a gift, obviously, that not all of us have, and that some people are not susceptible to.  But some are, and language, persuasion, emotional manipulation, identification even humor - these things are tools people have to use and should be aware of as such. 

4. Basic home security measures that slow someone down and make it more likely they will be caught.  Good locks.  Actually lock them if things get risky (I live in an area where locks are not presently used much).  Stout doors.  Bars for the doors.  Heavy metal screens or window bars for particularly dangerous areas.  Fences to keep things out of sight.  Padlocks on sheds. Locks on your gas caps.  A safe place to move animals to.  

5. A dog, geese or guinea hens.  These work both to raise the risk of being caught, and to raise the risk of a criminal being hurt.  I don’t generally suggest that most people get trained attack dogs, but some kind of animal deterrant that can alert you to unusual situations is a good idea.  A dog is the most common choice, but geese have some real advantages - they are also excellent watchdogs, and in some ways, your average criminal may be more afraid of an aggressive gander than a dog, simply because it is more unfamiliar, and they eat grass.  Basically, you want something that hears and smells better than you do, and will give you some warning time, while also discouraging the large number of people who want an easy target. 

I don’t recommend this one if you don’t like animals, can’t take care of them, or don’t have a plan for supplying them with food in the longer term.  The world does not need more abandoned or euthanized animals. If you have kids, the dog must be gentle and good with kids, ideally raised from a puppy, and you must not leave young children along with dogs ever.  But if you are prepared to do this wisely and carefully, watch animals can reduce your risk and provide you with some warning of trouble.

6. Electronic security systems depend on electricity, money, monitors, police infrastructure and cars to get there quickly - they are an option while things are good, but I wouldn’t bet on them unless you are quite wealthy and you and your neighborhood can afford to maintain the infrastructure behind them.  Even then, the “gated community” model is not something that particularly takes my interest, so I’m going to skip over it.

Community Preventative:

1. A community.  This is one of those “duh” things, but it is useful to have those relationships built *before* you need them - that way if things change quickly,  you’ve got this in place.  And honestly, a non-car community - a place where people walk and bike and talk to each other and sit on porches or interact regularly at meals and occasions - ie, where there are people around and connected to each other, is itself a measure of deterrence.  That is, a neighborhood where there are people isn’t as easy pickings to a burglar as a place where people aren’t.

 2. Neighborhood watch - this is related to the above.  Getting together, keeping an eye on things, having people out in the streets, showing presence - these things help make you look less vulnerable.  Obvious neighborhood unity is protective against state violence as well, because if the police have to deal with a large community en masse they will be less powerful than if they can deal with isolated citizens.  A neighborhood watch that looks within may also be a preventative against domestic abuse as well, discretely enabling victims to get away, or making it clear to perpetrator that they pay a public price as well.

3. Bells, code words and other alert methods.  Jews in urban New York city use a yiddish codeword.  Carnival operators yell “Hey Rube!”  In some places “Help” or “Socorro!” or some other equivalent gets the response.  Other places may use whistles or loud bells.  But the idea is that when an alarm is sounded, everyone drops what they are doing and comes running, ideally armed with what ever is at hand - a stick, a rock, a loud voice.  This works on any kind of violence or criminal activity (and is especially effective if neighbors can bring themselves to do it in the case of domestic violence, which relies heavily on the tacit silence of neighbors and their fear of intervention).  Numbers have power!  Two criminals with knives are scary if they are facing a few people - against 30 or so angry neighbors, they aren’t quite as scary. 

4. Public and private security, and a good relationship with them.    There are places where police have little relationship to the people they serve and protect - and many times this can be remedied.  Getting to know the police, and talking to them, having them have a relationship with your neighborhood or community group can be really helpful.  Their presence can provide a deterrant, slow crime down and increase the chance of a criminal paying a price.  In some situations, post-collapse, many societies rely on private security - in some cases, you may have no choice but to rely on private security, as in some places the choice is “hire” protection or need protection from those  you might otherwise have hired.  Having people whose job it is to see to security is a good thing, assuming they are good people with the public (whole public) interest in mind.

5. Walls, gates, lights, speed bumps, etc… barriers to entry.  While I’m not much interested in the wealthy gated community, in some neighborhoods reducing car or pedestrian access to certain areas, providing motion sensor lighting, etc… make a lot of sense.  Do an evaluation of your area and its needs.

6. Organized non-violence.  This can be an extension of much of the above, but also can include passive resistance strategies and a host of other things.  I strongly recommend Mark Kurlansky’s excellent history of non-violence.  This is actually potentially the most effective strategy ever against state violence, and can be used quite effectively.  It does require, however that you have a strongly organized and consistent community that pretty much agrees to this policy - that is, it can’t work without strong community ties.

Personal Responsive:  Everything in this category is totally pointless if you don’t know what you are doing with it.  Seriously, if you can’t take the time and energy to deal with learning how to use this properly, when to use it, when not to use it and a host of other things, don’t bother - concentrate on the above.  Because having a weapon that can be taken from you and used on you is a bad idea. 

 It is just as important to know when *NOT* to use these as when to use them.  For example, self-defense trainers teach people not to hang onto their purses during most purse snatchings - the first thing most of them teach is how to let your purse go.  The reason is that most purses don’t have anything worth risking your life for.  If you respond to a low level threat with a strong response, maybe you’ll end the situation - but if it goes wrong, or you make a mistake (and mistakes happen, and will no matter what), you may find yourself facing a much greater threat.  One of the classic peak oil worries is the question of the marauding band.  My feeling is that if there’s someone after my food, and I have young children, it doesn’t matter if my band is bigger and meaner than the food hunting band - the minute the shooting starts, I risk the loss of someone to crossfire, which kills as many people as intended violence when bullets are flying.  There are situations where each of these tools can be useful - but plenty of situations where they are not, and telling one from the other is a bigger problem than can be handled in this post.  So if you are going to pick up one of these methods, think hard about when you might want to use them and when not.

 All of these options act as deterrents, as well as actual responses.  But the problem is that if you aren’t prepared to use them, they can be easily used against you.  But it is never a bad idea to gently let people know that you are familiar with self-defensive methods (the only exception to this is that some kinds of martial arts, in some kinds of crowds, I’m told create a guy kind of “I have to try and take him” crap, so keep that in mind), or perhaps to not make your non-violent proclivities the subject of public discussion.  If you are resolutely non-violent, you might consider an unloaded shotgun which can still be “pumped’ because the sound of a shotgun is such a visceral and powerful one.

1. Self defense or martial arts training.  This ranges hugely from purely defensive techniques to aggressive ones, to basic police sponsored self defense training to serious martial arts.  Almost anything you will get is better than nothing, assuming it comes with a competent trainer that can help you with evaluating your situation.  In the broadest possible terms, even very basic self defense training will help you make yourself a lot harder to hurt or attack.  It won’t fix everything, but again, assuming that people who want to hurt you in part rely on the fact that you will be frightened, panicky and not know how to hurt them, this helps a lot.  It is also a huge confidence booster - I was friends with a woman who used to teach self defense to elderly women who lived in urban areas, a terribly vulnerable population,  many quite frail and disabled, and she said their tracking showed that assaults halved, mostly not because the women could do terribly much harm, but because they acted like they could, and made it difficult for their attackers.

2. Blunt objects.  I really like these.  A good, heavy blunt object has a lot of uses in icky times.  Baseball bats, one of my students like Maglite flashlights, axe or hatchet handles, even a good cane for them that use them.  Now knowing some commonsense use is really helpful - it is easy for a strong attacker with a long reach to take this away and use it on you (this is true to varying degrees of all weapons).  Still, if you can figure out how to use them productively, they are cheap, widely available and useful at close range.  Various blunt objects traditionally used in stick fighting of various sorts can be trained upon, and this is not a bad idea.  But often in a non-weaponed conflict, simply the sight of a stick or other weapon makes you look like a bad target.

3. Pepper spray - I’ve heard very mixed things about this stuff, and must admit to no personal experience with it. It has the advantage of being usually (but not always) non-lethal, of being painful as hell to the attacker, and cheap and widely available.  I’ve known several people, however, who didn’t realize just how close together you have to be to use it successfully.  Two of those people used it at a far enough range that it wasn’t very effective, and one of the attackers was *REALLY* pissed off.  So like everythink KNOW HOW TO USE IT.  It is also worth noting that it can cause death by asthma and is incredibly painful - so you might not want to use it in uncertain situations.  

4. Tasers cannot be classified as a non-lethal, as they do cause death sometimes.  They are legal, including for concealed carry in many states, and they do work rather well - but shouldn’t be used casually or treated as a non-lethal weapon.  They do tend to end a confrontation quite rapidly, but they depend on fairly close proximity and decent aim.  They are not legal in my state for civilian use.  It would be wise to treat a taser as less likely to kill than a gun, but as potentially as dangerous.

5. SCA weapons.  I’m unfairly putting bows of all sorts, swords, fighting knives and a host of things in this category. I am not doing so because I dismiss them, but because they are not things to fuck with unless you know what you are doing, and generally speaking, the SCA isn’t a bad place to master them.  The problem with the SCA as I see it is that there are a certain number of gamer geeks who think that once a week waving a sword about makes them quite something, and who are totally wrong.  Don’t get me wrong - I don’t think that the SCA is made up only of these people.  But I think it would be easy, with the wrong people, to get the sense that your weaponry is more useful than it is, or that you are more skillful than you are.  If you are going to rely on SCA weapons, train extensively with multiple people, and know their limitations and abilities.

6. Knives.  An emergency backup, if you are using your knife in a conflict, you are already pretty screwed.  Knives, like everything else, can be taken away from you, and most people know this.  If you are already in close quarters, getting out a knife and using it will be awkward, but if you can do it, might be as effective as all hell.  But stabbing someone is not physically easy (bodies do not penetrate as easily as on tv).  Not the worst reserve item ever, but not easy to use.

7. Guns.  We’ve already talked so much about guns that I feel like we’ve covered a lot of the ground.  Who shouldn’t have a gun?  Kids who still think they are immortal and those with mental or psychological disabilities, anyone likely to seriously consider suicide, anyone who hates and fears guns, anyone who doesn’t think they’d use a gun, morons who think guns make the invincible (although though these people probably already have them),  and anyone who is vulnerable to violence from someone they love.  Who might want to consider them?  Anyone with animal predators around (and packs of feral dogs are a likely consequence of a poorer society), hunters, women, especially single women, and older women and couples.  Anyone who is good with guns and will take the time to use them carefully.  Anyone who needs a long range weapon, and who can effectively use a gun, never pointing it unless they are prepared to use it.  Anyone who can disconnect themselves from TV and the popular culture relationship to guns and treat it as a tool of limited usefulness.

Community Responses:

1. Organized Collective Non-Violence with Media Attention.  I mentioned this above, but I think it works both actively and passively.  It is worth noting that non-violence is not the same as “non-resistance” - it does not mean accepting outcomes, but thwarting violence before it happens.  The reason I mention “media attention” is that perhaps the most important things non-violent resister’s can do in a violent situation is draw the attention to the realities, make people see what they do not see.  One of the points of Kurlansky’s book on non-violence is that the inevitability of violence is almost always clear - at the point that we have lost every chance to resolve a conflict without violence, usually simply discarding those moments of possibility, in which public sentiment and other practices might have been used.  That is, it is very easy to say “Oh, non-violence wouldn’t have saved the Jews under the Nazis” - and that is almost certainly true.  On the other hand, non-violent forms of resistance did save the Danish Jews, who virtually all survived.  There is no question that allied nations could have opened their borders to the Jews and most of the loss of life would have been prevented.  That is, violence became inevitable once we closed down every other choice - and that may well happen to many of us.  But that doesn’t mean that non-violence pointless, or has no role in the lives of people who are not pacifists - sometimes, often, especially when states are involved, nonviolence is extremely effective and powerful.  It is not, as some argue (including Kurlansky, and I think he’s wrong) the only tool - but it is a tool and important one.

2. Militias/Community self-Policing.  This works best if you are trained by someone who actually knows what they are doing - I don’t recommend it otherwise.  Getting a bunch of people together to practice using weapons is kind of pointless, if no one has ever thought critically about strategy, or when not to use weapons or fight.  Half of such work is knowing how to disperse a crowd, distract a drunk and send him home, or recognize trouble waiting to happen and intervene.  If the police are unavailable, corrupt or absent and private security untrustworthy or too expensive to manage, get someone with serious training to teach you.  While I think the risks of guns are often overstated by the mainstream media, I think the risks of weekend warriors with weapons waving them around without a lot of training couldn’t possibly be overstated.

 Ok, now that we’ve talked about death and violence, on to finances and sex.  What fun!



26 Responses to “Practical Security”

  1. MEAon 26 Aug 2008 at 3:13 pm

    One thing that concerns me is that I think the most likely people to steal from each other are not the hordes, but the neighbors. That’s the way it is now. And when you are starving, it’s going to be very hard no to take from others. Another reason why being in touch with each other before TSHTF isn’t such a bad idea.

  2. Fearsclaveon 26 Aug 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Something that occurred to me reading this (probably because I don’t have children) is that in the event of anything worse than a very gentle, slow collapse, things are going to be pretty hard on the kids; they won’t enjoy anywhere near the opportunities for, well, everything, that we did. Fewer educational opportunities, fewer career opportunities, fewer entertainment options, fewer social options. Their world is going to be colder and harder and more dangerous and labour-intensive than ours was.

    Kids living through the collapse are going to have to grow up a lot faster than we did.

    On kids and firearms, I have to say that all gun owners have to choose between the dangers posed by having firearms readily available and accessable to children, and the dangers posed by not having firearms readily accessible when you need them. Obviously, your evaluation of these risks is different from those of Jim Rawles over at Survivalblog, and since you’re both responsible, rational adults who know your respective situations far better than I do, I’m not going to criticize your respective choices in this area. However, one way of minimizing both risks is to “gunproof” your kids. My grandfather kept his guns in the closet under the stairs, next to the ammunition, with everything unlocked, and taught my brother and I at a very early age (I think I was five) how to safely handle them. His teaching covered largely the same ground as the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program, but was far superior in that it made very clear that doing anything stupid with his guns would result in the Wrath of Grandad descending upon our heads. We never had an accident. My brother’s done the same with his kids, and my ten-year-old nephew now has better gun handling skills than some adult shooters that I can think of.

    Demystifying guns for kids, educating them as to the dangers of irresponsible gun handling, and demonstrating responsible practices at every opportunity, goes a long way towards reducing the risks posed by having guns in a household with kids. I expect the same would go for teaching them all the other security measures you mention; we won’t be able to childproof the world during the collapse, so worldproofing our kids is probably going to be the only option.

  3. Sarahon 26 Aug 2008 at 5:38 pm

    I’d also like to recommend that anyone who is really scared of/opposed to guns still learn some basic gun safety if possible, just so that they don’t freak out more than necessary if they end up in a self-defense situation involving guns. That was something that used to be a huge sticking point for me, but I have a friend who shoots and offered to teach a group of us basic handgun use, and I decided that it would be a responsible sort of practical-skills thing to learn. Not only do I not have that knee-jerk reaction against guns anymore, but I actually turned out to be really good at it for a beginner, which was kind of startling given my total lack of athletic ability and eye-hand coordination :-)

  4. Coleenon 26 Aug 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Sharon: Excellent post as always. You have become quite the “family friend” to me and my husband with your well thought out blogs and excellent grasp of what might hit as well as the fact that you are still positive about human nature and where we can go from here. Thank you for your continued time and efforts on our behalf. C

  5. RCon 26 Aug 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Just to dial down the gun thing a bit, so much can be done with air rifles and they are definitely a few degrees safer. I doubt they will deal with big game, but a pellet in the eye would discourage a human. You can very successfully hunt all the small game from birds to fish to iguanas to mongeese, etc, with air. I use pump, I don’t want to be out of the CO2 cartridges and they cost too much. A massive amount of pellets is very cheap.
    They’re quiet, relatively. I’m 55, have a half lame right arm, can barely see out of the right eye, but I can hit a dime size {you need to be that sharp for small game} on one shot at 100 feet. It takes practice, but if I could do it, most persons could. Because I pump and I do not use a scope ever, it’s all in the tracking and stalking.
    Better even is the short crossbow, but don’t lose the short bolts.
    Again about the marauders: I would say let them in, serve them a meal, and let them steal whatever they can after that. BUT here is what I didn’t find about your passive resistance: the hidden room or rooms or passageway. This is no fantasy. I have built hidden rooms for clients and I have lived in a famous city of escape tunnels, Old San Juan, and I discovered entire massive hidden rooms under courtyards there that at first appeared to be wells filled with garbage. That would be a brick room 20 feet X 20 feet X 25 feet deep, with a staircase under that to the tunnels. Soldiers hid there.
    It isn’t that hard to engineer hiding the greatest part of the food and the weaponry. Always remember to leave a good deal of the booty out, or the lack of it will arouse suspicion. Many books on the simplest techniques can be found, but as a contractor I invented my own. I very much recommend hiding as the best security.
    And if you can hide yourselves and emerge after the invaders have relaxed at your place and take them by surprise, all the better. Check out the last 1000 years of Vietnamese history if you need proof.
    Last, you didn’t mention chemical or gas defenses against marauders. I recommend them highly and suggest you investigate them. Not only pepper spray but many other items can be made and pressurized at home and their non-lethal but highly noxious character will drive off humans not wearing diving equipment.
    These methods will also work against dog packs, large cats and bears. I should mention that in the seventies we studied all of this, so this era we are approaching now is not new for me, not new at all.
    Keep up the fantastic work and happiness to the family. Your site is so far ahead of almost all of the other sincere persons looking to get a grasp on an uncertain future.

  6. […] Casaubon’s Book » Blog Archive » Practical Security Ok, I’m going to run through a range of security options, covering both personal and community, and talk a little about the pros and cons of each. I’ve divided them into four categories - personal, preventative (ie, avoiding security issues in the first place); community, preventative, personal, responsive (ie, when something bad is/has already happened) and community responsive. […]

  7. Studenton 26 Aug 2008 at 9:26 pm

    There is a good book called “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin De Becker that builds on your inherent awareness skills - I recommend it. He also has one called “Protecting the Gift” about kids.

    Pepper spray works well within 5-6 feet; there are foam versions that spray farther. Don’t spray when the wind is in your face. It will incapacitate you if you get it in your eyes, nose, mouth or throat.

    Regarding guns - it goes without saying that you must train enough to know how to handle them, but more importantly, you have to be prepared to kill someone. If you don’t think you can do that, you are better off without one. A second of hesitation is all it takes if the bad guy has a gun too, or if he sees the doubt in your eyes. And never shoot just to wound - center mass is the target - you shoot to stop the threat.

    Excellent post, Sharon.

  8. Bob Comison 27 Aug 2008 at 4:31 am

    I can’t help but think that these security posts are quintessentially American in their character. American’s are obsessed with the question of security, and they are obsessed with weaponry and “defending one’s own,” and they suffer from a delusional action hero mentality. Sharon’s focus on prevention is certainly a breath of fresh air in the polluted atmosphere of American gun violence and bravado, but nevertheless, the spirit of American machismo, gang-land violence, Hollywood gun porn, and Wild West fetishism pervades these two posts, which I think significantly undermines whatever value thinking about security within the context of preparedness might have held.

    In spite of the fact that you seem to think otherwise, I do not think you have at all “disconnect[ed] [yourself] from TV and the popular culture relationship to guns.” The categories of your posts play out like a Hollywood gun flick, with about as much footing in reality.

    Ideological notes: 1) I think the Second Amendment was clearly written within the context of collective, *not* personal, arms. 2) I think hand guns should be banned until the people of the gun culture accept responsibility for being the source of hand gun violence and start policing themselves to seriously limit, or better, erase the externalities of legal hand gun sales (the source of the vast majority of hand guns used in violent crimes are an ever shifting small percentage of licensed gun dealers), and until serious gun control laws are put into place. In other words, since neither of those things is ever going to happen, I think hand guns should be banned.

  9. Sharonon 27 Aug 2008 at 7:07 am

    Bob, they are in fact, very American posts - I tried to say that upfront, and they are very much in the context of America. In a society that wasn’t as heavily armed as my own, and in a state that wasn’t as repressive as my own, I’m not sure I would advocate private weapons ownership at all. But I am an American, I do live in a America (and all my writings are flavored and shaped by that reality), and I do think that the fact that violence, including gun violence is endemic to American culture means that we Americans can’t just decide not to participate in our culture - we live here, and we’re part of our culture.

    I don’t disagree with you that the 2nd amendment was designed for collective, communal gun ownership - what it was quite explicitly designed for was to enable Americans to overthrow a tyrannical government. Although that isn’t my primary focus, I tend to think that the use of weapons for doing is real, and the potential for the need to respond to tyranny unfortunately real as well.


  10. Stephen B.on 27 Aug 2008 at 8:16 am

    I don’t own a gun, nor do I plan to in the near future, and I largely agree with Bob and Sharon about the inherit American nature of Sharon’s essays. But I do disagree with both of you on the 2nd Amendment. How one can argue that the 2nd is only a collective right when the other Bill of Rights amendments, 1, 3, 4, 5, etc clearly enumerate individual rights? Furthermore, even if the 2nd *was* a collective right written for the support of a militia against an overpowering “state”, the local militia these days is the National Guard, falling under control of the governor and at times the Pentagon. Even if we’re talking about something other than the National Guard, we are then dealing with the state, county, or local police - again, all controlled and completely organized by the “state”. If we are to have a real militia of the proletariat as the authors of the 2nd intended, then it will have to be founded on the basis of individuals coming together with their arms from their homes and personal stashes as the “state”-supported “militia” of today has evolved WAY past anything the historical writers imagined.

    Bob, nevertheless, raises an interesting point. I’d like to hear more about these ideas of security (or an alternative to worrying about security) from non-American perspectives. Dare I ask, who should I read for that viewpoint?

    Off-topic note: Sharon your book arrived yesterday :-)

  11. […] More from Sharon Astyk. Ok, I’m going to run through a range of security options, covering both personal and community, and talk a little about the pros and cons of each. I’ve divided them into four categories - personal, preventative (ie, avoiding security issues in the first place); community, preventative, personal, responsive (ie, when something bad is/has already happened) and community responsive. […]

  12. Greenpaon 27 Aug 2008 at 9:57 am

    wow. So who are you really- and where DID you get that brain? :-)

    I like solar powered motion activated security lights. Not too expensive right now; for under $100 you can get one that is well built, has single crystal solar panels (most durable) and an easily replaceable battery. Mostly good as a “casual scum” deterrent, but good at that.

    On guns- my vote is teach the kids; don’t rely on hidden and locked- kids will get into anything eventually- specifically when you aren’t there. Also, as others have pointed out in this discussion, hidden and locked guns are useless if you need them quick. I keep one shotgun hanging on very high hooks- which only I can reach, but right there in full sight at all times. It appears to be loaded- as neighbors have noticed- you can see a shell in the magazine. When the kids are small- that’s an empty shell; but nobody but me knows it. When they’re older- it’s not.

  13. andy hillon 27 Aug 2008 at 10:03 am

    hi sharon
    just wanted to say thanks for all your posts, that make people think about what is ahead of us.
    yes, this post and your site in general is US centric, but there are plenty of us over in europe taking your sound suggestions and relating them to european realities.
    the problem with having guns banned means that only govt and and criminals have them! i think switzerland has more guns per capita than the US, but everybody is trained in how to use them. this is partly why no one ever bothers to invade, and also one reason why they have very low crime rate.
    keep it up

  14. Chileon 27 Aug 2008 at 11:48 am

    I can’t add much to the discussion but I did want to make one comment. You said Don’t start bar fights you can’t finish. I would say, “Don’t start bar fights.” Period.

  15. Veganon 27 Aug 2008 at 1:42 pm

    Bob’s comment makes me wonder if there might not be a certain obsession with security in these posts (no offense, Sharon). Isn’t the obsession with security and the hoarding of food and commodities representative of our particularly covetous, materialistic and power-lusting Western Civilization? Exactly what we have exported to one degree or another worldwide as globalization and consumerism? Maybe we are so obsessed with security because we secretly admire power, and our government exploits our “insecurity,” which is our desire for or admiration of power.

    Our government then gets away with practicing socialism for the rich and letting the rest of us fend for ourselves — which means worrying about defending me and mine.

  16. AppleJackCreekon 27 Aug 2008 at 2:01 pm

    I will add a comment slightly different than the others … this is about kids.

    My son is 12 and my advice to him when he’s alone in public places is to find a family with small kids and sit near them. Strangers will assume he belongs to that family, and probably not bother him. It’s the kid version of “don’t look vulnerable”. Look like you’re with the family, not the solo kid who’s an easy target.

    I also have said, ever since he was big enough to wander off on his own, that if he got lost or needed help and could not find a security guard or police officer (there aren’t many beat cops here), he should find a mommy with a kid in a stroller or a baby in her arms and ask her for help - another mommy is the next best thing if you can’t find your own. No guarantees, but if you need help from a stranger and you’re a kid - asking a mom - who is likely to think “oh that could be MY kid!” for assitance is probably your best bet. I’ve also taught him to scream if grabbed “YOU ARE NOT MY DAD I DO NOT KNOW THIS PERSON HELP ME” so it is clear it’s an abduction, not a disciplinary action gone unpleasant.

    We are lucky to live near good neighbours who keep an eye on things for one another, and with big dogs who bark at strangers. They look mean … but mostly they’re just noisy.

    I do like the idea of hiding things. I read a book about an old farmhouse with the cellar door hidden under the kitchen rug. Got me thinking.

  17. Theresaon 27 Aug 2008 at 3:57 pm

    Another comment about pepper spray. I work in a jail and it gets used quite a lot here - every couple of days probably. There are some people on which it has no effect for some reason - most of the time these people are high on some kind of amphetamine, but there are some people that just don’t react to the capsicum in the spray. So if the sprayer reacts to the spray, but the sprayee doesn’t, that would be bad. You wouldn’t want to count on the spray being 100% effective, and it could actually incapacitate you.

    Also, my husband is a truck driver and carries with him a ‘tire tester’ - essentially a club, but clearly labeled as a ‘tire tester’ in big writing on the side. Handy to have in the vehicle with you when you are doing walk-around inspections of your semi in darkened parking lots or rest areas. I would imagine it would be handy in a car too.

  18. Meadowlarkon 27 Aug 2008 at 5:42 pm

    Chile - I would say, “Don’t start bar fights.” Period.
    Loosen up!!! Life is much more fun with the occasional bar fight ;) Just kidding.

    I have always wanted a secret room. You’ve got me thinking about drywalling the entrance to the middle basement room and putting in some sort of secret entry. Being a basement, I’m assuming people wouldn’t necessarily think it was the same shape as the upper floor, would they? I mean, especially since it’s not already. (Did that make sense?)

    I can’t discuss weaponry, as I’m biased FOR. But I will remind you of that ol’ revolutionary, Tommy J and his words:
    “The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in Government.” - T. Jefferson

    Which of course reminds me of the corollary:
    “You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go around repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in their struggle for independence.” Charles A. Beard

  19. Sharonon 28 Aug 2008 at 7:10 am

    Stephen, I think you slightly mistook me - first of all, I don’t think that the intention of the founding fathers was the nationalization of militias, and when I say “militia” I am referring only to self-organized community or at most state level organizations - by definition if the federal government has a finger in that pie, you are in trouble. But the term “well regulated” does matter in the 2nd amendment, I think. As for it being an individual right - again, perhaps I misspoke - I believe it refers to an individual right to gun ownership with the presumption that gun ownership is primarily a collective responsibility. I think both parts of that matter. Nor, honestly, am I a founding father fetishist - I think that the constitution is a useful document, and a fascinating one, that shouldn’t be lightly overthrown, but I don’t think that those who came before me were gods, or that we should ignore all present realities. That is, I think the fact that the militias in most cases are functionally arms of the state now effectively means they can’t serve the primary purpose of the right to bear arms, so private uses have to. But I would like to see real militias re-enter the lexicon, and ones that aren’t tied to a particular political ideology - that is, I’d like to see, say Massachusetts and New York liberals and leftists start militias ;-). I am joking, but not, if that makes sense.

    Chile, I don’t know, I know a couple of people for whom a good bar fight is a major form of recreation, and since they are good at it, who am I to argue ;-)?

    Applejackcreek, that’s really good advice.

    For those who comment about training kids, one point is that SOME KIDS ARE NOT TRAINABLE - my oldest, autistic child *CANNOT* understand what a gun can do to him - or at least he cannot indicate that he can, and “maybe” isn’t sufficient in this. The best trained 3 year old on the planet is still a three year old - so those with very small kids aren’t going to be able to use this advice for some time. And the reality is that there are some kids who can’t resist a challenge, no matter how well trained - we’ve all met a few of them. So it really depends - how old are your kids? What kind of kids are they. For those with quite young children and with disabled kids, I think that the comparatively small risk of a sudden home invasion of which you have no notice (and assuming that you have the common sense to make it hard to sneak up on you - dogs, security lights, etc…) is probably not equal to the risk of having unlocked guns in the house. On the other hand, for someone with older kids who can understand the issue, the ground shifts. As I said, I was 10 when my father taught me to shoot, and I have no objection to rational children learning gun safety - and, in fact, agree it makes them safer than not knowing anything about guns by a good bit - but not all children are rational.


  20. Stephen B.on 28 Aug 2008 at 7:40 am

    Sharon, I completely agree when you on the 2nd amendment and the constitution as you restate them.

    I’m still a bit queasy, however, that as an American (a US American that is), I am missing an understanding of an alternative to being so security-centric as I think Bob is saying. I just don’t read enough from outside the US I guess and that’s something to fix. As an alternative, community building and sharing comes right to mind of course. If it’s as simple as that, and that’s what Bob means, then I guess I’m already there, I hope.

    As for the “action hero mentality” that Bob refers to, I don’t watch TV (except to tune in to the local news at exactly 15 minutes into the show for the local weather person - then tune out again before the sports guy gets his/her head on the screen), and seldom ever watch movies. Most “us vs. them” shoot outs, from old westerns to the Star Wars series, are very American, and very tiresome for me. I gave up on that line of thinking 25+ years ago. Although I love Star Trek TOS, and Star Trek TNG, even those episodes that basically devolve into 2 landing parties or 2 ships shooting phasors and photon torpedoes at each other are, in fact, tiresome and dull. As in interesting side note, I would except the latter series’ episode sequence involving the Borg, however, as that story, though it too is a shoot-out thing, is fun in its treatment of individual vs. collective thinking. That’s still a very American idea I suppose, (expecially since the “collective” basically is the devil incarnate - anything “collective” is bad), but an interesting one just the same.

  21. Traverse Davieson 28 Aug 2008 at 8:30 am

    There are a few things I found were lacking in what was a very well though out piece. On the prevention side… when things get to the point where you have to make a fight or flight decision, flight is often the better choice. Seriously, run the hell away and let the marauders have what they want if you are likely to lose a fight with them. Hell, even if you are 50/50 (or even 60/40) on your odds of winning the fight… run. You can learn to get better at running away (I have a post about preparing yourself for how to survive gearless on my blog but even if you aren’t that good at it, if all the goodies are left behind then odds are good the people robbing you will stay and keep the goodies.
    As to martial arts, one of the biggest things that my current master (and pretty much all the ones I have studied under) stresses is reaction to assault situations. A classic drill is practicing a defensive kick and having one of the senior members of the class run at you with a kicking pad. You get to the point where you automatically kick when approached. This is actually far more useful in a real fight than any other single aspect of martial arts, as it takes the defensive tactic and makes it an automatic one. On the other hand, early on before I had learned to control it I did find myself playing football (and yes, to all who know me in person… I actually played a game of football once in my life, hell maybe even twice, but that’s it, I draw the line at two) with some friends, and reacted before I had a chance to think and took a close friend down with a well placed kick to the gut…
    The domestic violence against men thing is one of my trigger issues… probably mostly because I suffered it for several years, but I do believe it is far more widespread and endemic than it is given credit for (it turns out that a sizable portion of what are called single partner violence incidents are coming from women at this point… men often simply don’t make any effort to defend themselves).

  22. Traverse Davieson 28 Aug 2008 at 8:35 am

    Oh, one other thing I forgot one the knife point: Sharon, you are absolutely right about knives being much harder to stab with than we think. In that vein, never stab someone with a kitchen knife. The reason fighting knives and swords have a guard between the hilt and the blade is to stop your hands from slipping up onto the blade. People have in fact died as a result of blood loss from hand injuries when they tried to stab someone with a knife that lacked hand guards. If you are going to use a bladed weapon, train with it, if you haven’t trained with it simply put it down and get something else.

  23. Chileon 28 Aug 2008 at 11:57 am

    Well, I suppose it’s not a problem for me anyway, Sharon, since I can’t remember the last time I was in a bar. Not that I’m a prude, but I simply have no desire to spend my time drinking that much with strangers. Ya’ll want to come over and sample my ginger liqueur and limoncello, that’s fine. (Limited samples, though. Don’t want any drunk drivers on my street!) ;-)

  24. Greenpaon 28 Aug 2008 at 12:37 pm

    “For those who comment about training kids, one point is that SOME KIDS ARE NOT TRAINABLE -”

    Sure. One of the things that is probably not fixable about the blog format is the endless possibility for “of course I didn’t mean THAT!” kinds of stuff. It’s not possible to include all possible ifs and maybes, yes?

    You’re right to point this out here; the approach should definitely depend on the kid.

  25. Sharonon 28 Aug 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Greenpa, not to be a pedant, but I think this is more than just “there are exceptions” - I think about 1/3 -1/2 of the child-household population probably falls into this category, simply by virtue of age. That is, it isn’t just that once in a great while there’s a kid who can’t be trained, but that very young kids, or households that contain both older children and quite young ones have to deal with the reality that the lowest common denominator defines things. Add in children with disabilities and those with common sense deficiencies greater than the natural one for their age group ;-) and I think the norm for young children should be “lock ‘em up” at least until the statistical dangers change and people are in different situations. I know there are households that by necessity and preference will do things differently even with toddlers, I assume yours is one, but I still think that the general policy for households with kids under 8 should be lock ‘em, barring a high risk situation or other special scenario. With older kids, training should be the default, again, barring specific situations.


  26. emeeathomeon 28 Aug 2008 at 6:00 pm

    Bear in mind that this is from Australia, where we don’t have as many guns as the U S of A

    I’m an ‘invite them in for a coffee’ sort of person. Remain calm, be solicitous etc, etc. I have survived three occasions. Two of them involved a state-wide ‘do not approach this dangerous person alert’, and the other was a very angry man who wanted to kill Charlie, but he was looking for him at the wrong address. I have been VERY, VERY lucky. But I’m sure my apparent lack of fear and panic helped.

    Also when my kids were very young we lived in the middle of nowhere, but not far from the lock-up for the crininally insane. The criminally insane seemed to be always on the run. My two kids were instructed that if I ever asked them to go down to the chook house to collect some eggs while there was someone else at the house, they were to go down to the chook house and to continue going past the chook house and to hide in the gully and not come out till they heard me or my then beloved calling them. I ran a trial run when they were 6 and 4 and it worked perfectly

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