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Physical Retreat Security

Providing adequate defensive measures must be given priority in the planning and development of any survival retreat. The threat of incursions by refugees and/or armed gangs is real and prudence requires that efforts are applied to minimize their potential for harm.

In this paper an ‘event’ is any disaster, natural or man-made, in which there has been a complete national (and international) breakdown in society, law and order. The use of ‘booby traps’ in any other situation is undoubtedly illegal.

The approach I have chose is based on the ‘onion theory’ in that there are several ‘layers’ of defence which must each be overcome for an invader to reach the ‘core’ of your retreat.

The suggestions are based on three central ideas: camouflage, misdirection and practicality. Whilst it is recognised that a retreat could be styled as a pillbox, bunker or fortress the needs of pre-event living suggest these are not practical, nor probably comfortable. The suggestions are designed to be relatively cheap and easy to implement (particularly if done at the design stage), enable a small group to defend from a larger number of aggressors and not be immediately evident to anyone visiting prior to an event.

Dirt: The outermost layer is termed the dirt, the reason should be clear after reading the description. Prior to an event you should acquire several of those plastic construction barriers or alternatively roadwork signs. These can be placed at the nearest intersection(s) to the road(s) leading to your retreats drive. Rubbish should then be mounded behind these barriers and a dead animal added for odour. A burnt out car wreck might also add a nice touch. The intent being to discourage most people passing from venturing up the road. Part of the road can be left clear to allow passage if required.

Layer 1: This is the first layer of defence and begins at your gate. Just in front of the gate should be a large ditch made to look like a drainage ditch. A pre-fabricated concrete ‘U’ used for storm water culverts could be used as a bridge to span the ditch. In the case of an ‘event’ this could be removed or destroyed leaving a ditch impassable to vehicles. Access to your retreat would then be via a ‘hidden’ entrance.

The boundary fences of the property should be in good condition, the gate secured with a padlock with a shroud that defeats bolt-cutters. A row of trees should be planted inside the fence line to block any views.

An official looking sign can also be painted saying something such as ‘water treatment plant’ or ‘hazardous waste storage’. The first works particularly well when there are a couple of rectangular dams in the paddock behind.

Alternatively, fences could be made to look old and run-down but I do not support this approach as good fences are invaluable in keeping stock in and intruders out. If you do intend to use dilapidated fences to deter people then an inner fence, out of sight, should be erected, however, this adds significantly to the costs.

Layer 2: The second layer of defence begins just inside your gate. The two most important features are the Listening Post/Observation Post (LP/OP) and the drive. The LP/OP should be situated 75 – 100m uphill from the gate with clear fields of fire. A second security post could also be included 150 – 250m uphill on the other side of the drive (the idea being if numbers permit intruders can be caught from behind and personnel in the LP/OP can have their retreat covered). Small explosives could also be placed in the second post, if unmanned, and set off to cover a retreat or confuse intruders into thinking there are more defenders.

The drive itself should wind its way into the property and a couple of speed bumps are also a good idea (apparently the most ardent terrorist will think twice about taking a car bomb over speed bumps). The LP/OP should be on the same side of the drive as your retreat. A path from behind the LP/OP should allow a covered retreat back to the house. The distance this path takes should be considerably shorter than that taken by the drive.

Between the LP/OP and the gate plantings of thorny bushes can be used to funnel invaders into fire zones and impede progress toward the LP/OP. I can’t think of a better place to put my blackberry trellises.

In the case of an ‘event’ homemade claymores or similar could be laid out in a pattern and exploded to cover movements back to the retreat if required.

Pattern explosives are a technique developed in Vietnam along with booby-traps. The principle is that each explosive device forces intruders into places where other explosives are laid. This can be repeated several times confusing and eliminating intruders.

Current ambush theory, such as that used by the US Rangers, calls for massive concentrated firepower to overwhelm and demoralize the enemy. We do not have the luxury of either numbers of firepower so we are forced to be more creative.

Layer 3: This layer covers the immediate approaches to the retreat. The drive should approach preferably from the south (north in the northern hemisphere), the reason for this is that with good solar design windows on this side are minimal and can be realistically kept below the 15% recommended to minimize blast damage. Bollards or reinforced planter boxes can be used to impede traffic on a direct line to the retreat and used intelligently can create ‘kill-zones’ by concentrating intruders in certain areas. An area around the retreat should be kept clear to a distance of about 50 – 100m, this may seem quite a distance but it also is imperative for control of bush-fires. We have designed a retreat with the house and outbuildings forming a rough square. There are gardens inside the square but the land will be cleared outside of it. Gaps in the ‘square’ can be filled with temporary fences or barbed wire.

While external lights should not be used unless attacked good floodlights should be fitted in zones to deny intruders the cover of darkness. Different zones can be turned on as intruders enter them.

About 50m down the drive and in front of the retreat a single row of fencing (say 100m long) and a gate might be erected to slow the intruders advance and give the defenders ample time to fire upon them.

On the northern side of the house a couple of dams should be built. These have the dual effect of impeding access and/or funnelling intruders into kill-zones and acting as a heat bank, an excellent solar design feature. These could be supplemented with tangle foot wires.

Tangle foot wires are strung in a random pattern between stakes six inches high, the intent being to trip intruders who try to navigate through them.

Another thought might be leaving some form of cover (say a mound) and then ‘mining’ it so that when intruders rush to this position the mines can be detonated.

Layer 4: The fourth layer is the façade of the retreat. All windows should be covered with a ballistic film to ensure that glass fragments do not injure any occupants, ballistic/forced entry resistant doors should be fitted to all external doorways and deadbolts added top and bottom (these doors should come with their own reinforced frame). Shutters should be provided for all windows, either the storm or roller-door types, if possible these should be made of 5mm ballistic grade steel or aluminium. The costs of these could be offset by claiming them as bushfire protection equipment (which incidentally they are). The retreat should be constructed of a solid material such as stone or reinforced concrete. Some semi-in-ground houses might also be considered. Firing points should be specially reinforced with at least 60cm of solid material. If the walls cannot be engineered to provide the protection sand bags can be used as and expedient measure either inside or out around firing points. Windows should have heavy drapes (which may only be put up in the case of an event), these will help contain flying glass but can also be used as black-out curtains.

Layer 5: The core of the onion. All the outer layers are designed to keep intruders from this point (i.e. gaining access to the retreat), however, if the outer layers are breached your family must be protected as much as possible. This can be achieved by using ballistic/forced entry resistant doors on the master bedroom and locating in the master bedroom a ‘hidden’ safe room similar to the old priest holes fitted with air-filters in case of smoke and protected against blast, bullets, fire etc. If possible this could include an escape hatch leading to a tunnel or outside to a covered area from which escape is possible. It is also advocated that the retreat include a cellar of some description in which can be stored essential supplied. This cellar should be fitted with blast doors and a lock. Properly designed it could also double as a NBC shelter provided the risk from the building collapsing from overpressure is minimal as is most likely with any retreat site.

A back-up generator or alternate source of power should be located inside the retreat. There should be a redundant wiring system in the house and the utilities box located inside to prevent tampering.

If possible water supplies should also be protected (either a back up supply inside or having the bore/well located in a protected position.

Doors and padlocks can be keyed-alike to facilitate movement and should be the highest quality as possible (un-pick able?).

A good quality alarm system including a variety of devices can be included if finances permit. At least one camera should be sited viewing the gate and a pressure sensor installed in the drive to detect traffic.


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Last Modified: April 15, 2008
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