Editor’s Note: Have you ever wondered how to defend your home and yourself if the SHTF? In this interview, Selco provides us with information from his personal experience during the occupation of Bosnia. There are many lessons we can learn from his experience. ~ Daisy
What was the most likely crime you would encounter when the SHTF?
Where there is no regular system of law and order you have different kinds of groups who impose that “law and order.” In reality, it is lawlessness or law of whichever group is stronger.
To add to that, when there is not any kind of “law” it is then a matter of a no-rules situation.
That means all kind of violence was there.
In reality, it worked on many different levels. For example, you form an armed neighborhood watch. We did, of some 15 people, in our street. Sometimes, in the middle of the of night, we were faced with a group of 50 men demanding something from us. For example, one was a group of people in uniform who stated that they were government forces and they wanted to check our neighborhood for whatever reason.
We could obey or fight or negotiate. All combination were tested over the time, and sad truth is that when SHTF for serious there is gonna be many different groups who will “represent” government (or law, or order or you name it). But in reality, it all comes down to who will outsmart who.
The most likely crimes were connected with resources because simply in that time and city there was not enough resources.
So it was about who owned how much (resources), and ways to take those resources from other folks.
It worked on a low level. For example, a few guys could kill you in the street and take your possessions, or on a bigger level – a local gang (if strong enough) could own your part of town and terrorize you and other folks by taking your stuff with brute force.
How did you make your home less desirable to criminals?
First, it was important where your home is, even in urban settings your house can be kinda “isolated” or stand in a way that it clearly “sticks out.” That was bad, and you could not change it.
Then it was important what period of SHTF we are talking about. At the starting period of SHTF, it was bad if your house was close to some objects that were interesting for looting, like malls, gas stations, police stations, or similar.
Generally speaking, it was better if your home (we are talking about in the city) was in the area where it was more packed with houses, simply because it was easier to blend in. Also, as the situation worsened we could use close houses too as they became destroyed or abandoned, which gave us more options, especially in terms of security.
The first level of making a home “less desirable” to criminals was simple blending in. I point it out very often as the most important thing in a home defense plan.
It may seem hard to understand why I point it out so much, but think about it this way:
In order to “pacify” and “own” a city, you need to have a huge military force, organized in a perfect way. Even then it is impossible to be safe in that city. There are many examples of that in modern history.
In my case, and in that SHTF, nobody really “owned” the city. There were many groups trying to acomplish that through different methods. But in reality and on the ground it was a situation where nothing was for sure.
As a result, most of the home invasions were a matter of opportunity. If attackers saw the opportunity they took it.
It was not a rule, but it was very often like that.
As a result, a good plan was not to be that opportunity.
In my case that meant we tried to keep our activities on a low level when it came to giving up information about resources in our home.
For example, if we needed to drag some bags of food home we did it so no one saw it. If we cooked something, sometimes even a nice smell could pose a possible danger.
In short, it was time to be quiet and look for danger.
For example, to transfer it to your world- if something serious happens there in your city do you want to be the only guy in the neighbourhood running a generator? Or do you want to be only one who has a barbecue every night when SHTF?
In my case, sometimes people did even more drastic things, like placing dead animals somewhere so stench could fend off intruders. It was not about scaring the attacker with the stench. It was about a situation where you have 20-30 houses very close to each other, and you have 50 people going through your street, mostly armed. And they look for useful things, they are scavenging. They might take a chance and fight if they find people defending some house, or they might not, you never know.
So you make your house or your entrance and yard look abandoned, deserted destroyed, dirty…by putting some garbage, obstacles from ruins, some dead animals and you hope they will choose some other house because other houses look easier to get in and more desirable.
People do not go gladly into places where they suspect dead things are or go gladly through some obstacles that can hurt them (remember-no doctor). They will chose another target.
That is the first line of defense. The second line is you and the people inside waiting with guns.
Now, this may look stupid to you. You might say,”Oh, this is the US. It does not work like that here.” But think about principles, maybe in your case some CDC label (“infectious diseases” or “bodies inside”) works.
For example, in my case, a sign warning of “mines” would do a pretty good job but it might be good only for my region.
It is all about deterring those who are thinking about coming to your home.
How did you secure your doors and windows?
First, it was very important not to “trap yourself” in. There was no sense, if you were under attack, being so well fortified that you could not get out.
Alternate exit and entrances were very useful at that time, not only because of defense. Very often, it was good to leave and enter your home invisibly. You were never sure who monitored you and the stuff you were taking into your home.
Most of our houses are brick or stone houses, so from that point pretty good for smaller calibers. Very soon people started to reinforce doors and windows with whatever was available that offered protection.
One of the coolest was steel sewage covers. Those covers offered good protection. The favorite was dirt bags in combination with boards (planking).
Of course, we used also whatever was available, so a laundry machine, for example, was a good addition for “plugging” a hole.
Can you tell us about your home defense plan? How did you defend your home?
The house was always guarded, all the time.
Depending on the situation (or let us use the term “threat level”) it was guarded and defended in layers. The outer layer, for example, started on the street, through the neighboring abandoned house, then to the last layer – our house.
If you had to fight, it was bad if you failed to use outer levels and the fight started in your house.
If you choose to avoid fighting, then the outer levels may not be implemented at all. You could wait and hope to avoid the fight unless they attacked your home.
Another good term that comes to mind is that situation was dynamic. Based on that, we adapted.
Sometimes the situation dictated that the threat would be eliminated quickly out in the street.
We were not soldiers, and the people who attacked us were not soldiers in most of the situations. We were closer to some kind of militia probably when it came to the rules of fighting.
Our weapons and condition was a matter of many other factors:
- how much ammo we had
- how many sick group members
- did some of us had a grenade in given moment
Then it was a question of how the attackers looked to us:
- organized or not
- what kind of weapon they had
- any visible fighting skills
- organized gang or bunch of desperate folks
Every situation was different.
How great was the risk of being assaulted when you were away from home?
It was a great risk because you were exposed much more to the danger then being inside your home.
It is important to understand that sooner or later you’ll be forced to go out, and in urban settings that means you meet other people.
The point of prepping is to postpone that moment (by having a lot of resources in your home) until you figure out what is going on outside.
You can try to minimize the risk of violence when you are out by carefully planning all your trips and tasks and using as much information available in that planning. But in reality, in urban settings, there are simply too many factors. You never knew what you find out outside your home while you are looking for firewood for example.
Were women victimized? How did they protect themselves?
In any societal breakdowns, women are victimized.
Also in any modern society, there are certain people who are, let’s say sick, but they are under the care of the system (or simply scared of system and punishment that the system will bring to them if they assault women.)
When society’s laws are out, that punishment is also out, so those kind of people are on the hunt.
Women’s victimization is also brought on another level. Powerful groups (gangs) had their own prisons with women inside. That was used as a kind of reward for gang members.
It was also used in a way of bringing terror to the people. For example, rape was used as a punishment in a lot of cases if people would not obey.
It was part of a special war policy if you can call it like that, to know as a fact that women from your family, for example, could end up in a private rape prison.
Fear and terror was a big part of everything.
Women protected themselves in two ways (actually just like males did):
- by belonging to some group, like family, group of friends or similar-sharing their knowledge and role in that survival group
- by joining some other group, more let us say sinister group and looking for safety there in exchange for other activities.
What were the ways people protected themselves?
The most effective way was by organizing into groups that had something in common. The more things, they had in common, the better the group was. People with things in common are more trustful.
Of course, common sense says that no matter how much a group was trustful, if they did not had enough skills and the will to use violence, chances for them were poor.
Quite opposite to some myths, violence was not a solution for everything. Very often it led to death.
The knowledge of how to use violence was very cool, but much more important was the skill to judge WHEN to use violence and when to chose some other way (run, negotiate, trade…)
What are your suggestions for ways we can prepare now to keep our homes and selves safe when the SHTF?
There are no magic solutions.
I am talking from the point of urban survival, and there are two reasons for that:
- I experienced urban collapse so I have experience there
- Most of the people live in some kind of urban settings, so chances are big you are gonna experience it too.
There is a popular myth that all of us who live in urban settings will “bug out” to our rural retreat on time (I have that plan too), but in reality lot of us who even have the good bug out places out of the urban centers will simply fail to reach it on time. This is reality.
So a few urban survival suggestions to defend your home:
- Do not be alone when SHTF. No matter how romantic it looks to be the lone wolf, it is hard and almost impossible to survive it alone without help. You are gonna be sick, you are gonna be forced to be on guard 24 hrs a day, you are gonna have hard time looking for resources…
- Find like minded people (preferably before SHTF). You need time to find people, and you need time to get to know that people.
- Be ready for violence. Both physically and mentally, practice with your weapon and be very familiar with your skills and especially with your limitations. Use common sense in choosing your weapons. Check what is useful to have in your situation.(For example, in my situation it made sense to have AK, CZ and similar.)
- Look at your home from the point of defending/attacking it. Look today how your home stands, how you can improve it, for example in “deterring” possible attackers, neighboring houses, ways of approach, possible booby traps, ways to quickly reinforce your home…
At the end, you need to get up and work pretty hard in order to be prepared for a real collapse, No internet article can teach you that. It can only give you highlights or possible direction.
About the Author
Selco survived the Balkan war of the 90s in a city under siege, without electricity, running water, or food distribution. In his online works, he gives an inside view of the reality of survival under the harshest conditions. He reviews what works and what doesn’t, tells you the hard lessons he learned, and shares how he prepares today. He never stopped learning about survival and preparedness since the war. Regardless what happens, chances are you will never experience extreme situations like Selco did. But you have the chance to learn from him and how he faced death for months. Real survival is not romantic or idealistic. It is brutal, hard and unfair. Let Selco take you into that world.