Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hiding Your Stuff

The Haiti earthquake pointed out a number of things that people need to consider during a disaster, everything from the difficulty of procuring fresh water to the need for emergency medical care when there isn't any to be had.

One of the most disturbing news stories about how people react after a disaster was a short blurb in the newspapers about desperate people using force to loot food and water from orphanages in Haiti's capital. Orphanages! People--adults--who are hungry and thirsty were actually taking food and water away from children by force. Hard to believe but then again, when people's world goes to hell in a handbasket, there is no telling what desperate people will do. Which brings us to the point of this blog post...if you want to be able to keep your stuff after a disaster, you are going to need to be able to hide it.

Take this time now, when there is no urgent need, to plan what you could do with your important stuff (food, water, cash, gold, tools, guns, etc) to hide it and protect it from the marauding masses in the event of a disaster. Right now, you probably couldn't even imagine that your friends, neighbors, and even strangers would see that you have something they desperately want (this could be something as simple as water or a can of Spam) and use force to take it from you. But then again, right now, these people are happily complacent with food and water of their own. Should the situation change, all bets are off.

You may think that you will protect yourself, your family, and your stuff with force if necessary. After all, you have a nice stockpile of firearms along with your prudently thought out supply of food and water, but there is only one of you, you will have a limited supply of ammo, and you will need to sleep sometime.

Here are some things to consider:
  • Think about how you could make a buried cache. Obviously you will need to remember where you buried your stash of supplies and you will also have to consider its location (ie: you don't want to place it where development could inadvertently dig up your stuff). You need to make sure that the elements (water, vermin, etc) can not get to your stuff, and that it is easy enough to retrieve your stuff when you need to get it.
  • How can you spread your stuff out so you don't have one huge stash of stuff that could be easily looted. Stores make great places to loot after a disaster because there are shelves and shelves of goods just sitting there. It would be a very different situation if people had to go from place to place to acquire only a can or two--it may not be worth their effort.
  • Look around your house. After a disaster you don't want your place (home or BOL) to look like the Taj Mahal when everyone else has nothing. How can you make you place look, as a friend says, like a Romanian orphanage--very sparse and bleak--when you actually have all of the stuff you need to survive for quite a good long time? If no one has electricity and your house it lit up like a Christmas tree, this will bring people to your door. If people don't have heat and you have a nice bonfire going complete with lots of smoke signaling your location, how will you conceal this? If people break into your garage, will they see walls and walls of food? How about if you have false walls that can conceal your stuff and hidden space in the attic in which to store the stuff you want to keep away from others? The idea is to make your place to look like every other place so you don't draw unnecessary attention to yourself, even though you may have enough stuff to weather a nuclear winter. You want to look like you are in the same situation as everyone else.
  • Some of the basics for hiding your stuff: you want hiding places that aren't very obvious. You want an easy way to store your stuff in these hiding places or you may get lazy and not use the places because of the difficulty of access. You want places that won't be inadvertently disturbed (if you hide gold in the lining of an old jacket and the spouse donates it to the Goodwill you're going to have a problem). You want a place where you can un-cache your stuff without bringing much attention to yourself. You want to practice caching and un-cashing your stuff; the more easily and inconspicuously you can do this, the better.
  • Keep your caches secret, even from the kids. Hopefully you can trust your spouse and if anything ever happens to you at least the spouse will know where your caches are but your kids are a different story. They often talk with their friends, tell them secrets, and can inadvertently spill the info on your caches which could come back to haunt you. Don't tell your friends or family either. If and when you need to help them, you can, but bragging about your stash of food/firearms/cash will bring you nothing but trouble.
  • Get creative. With some caveats. While it would be nice to post a list of locations that would make great places to stash your stuff, once this is done it becomes the looters handbook, which is why you will see articles about caching your stuff, but you won't see much specific info about where you should do this. So it is up to you to get creative and come up with your own cache locations. I would warn against caching your stuff in dangerous locations (ie: anywhere around water, electricity, extreme heights, etc) because while it may deter the looters, it could injure or kill you.
It is hard to think that all of your hard earned preps which you have taken care (and cash) to develop, could be taken away when you most need them. While I am not saying that you shouldn't use force to protect what is yours, using force should be your last resort for a variety of reasons. It is much better to blend in with everyone else, hide what you have, bring out what you need in small quantities so as not to bring attention to yourself, and save yourself the problems associated with defending large supplies of stuff that everyone else wants to get their hands on. After all, if people will take food from starving orphans, they would probably think nothing of doing this to you.


  1. There's two distinctions I would like to introduce here:

    Bulk stored stuff Vs. small essentials
    General "door to door" looters and "informed looters"

    First: There may be some great hiding places for documents and gold bullion (inside a wall, false pipes, ...) that will withstand a serious search. This doesn't apply to -say- a cubic meter tank of water or a pallet full of stacked buckets. Not to mention a vegetable garden or greenhouse.

    Some things cannot be effectively concealed, sometimes all you can do is keep it out of sight from the outside, and not attract attention to yourself.

    This brings me to the second point.

    Your average looter doesn't know what to expect in advance. He's got a long list of houses to rifle through and he won't go prying loose the floorboards in each and every one, so to say.

    These characters will probably quickly pull open all doors, checking cupboards and cabinets. A burglar looking for valuables will go straight to the bedrooms/office for jewelry and small electronics. Well, a looter hoping to score a meal will go straight for the kitchen and pantry.

    In this regard, that cranked up bed with a cover draped down to the floor may keep your food safer than a reinforced and locked pantry.

    Keep edibles out of obvious places and entries to your place. The attic you suggested is a good idea.

    If the kitchen turn out a bust, the uninformed looter will move on to greener pastures. Unless you inform him that you have food, or have done so in the past.

    If you garbage is full of power bar wrappers, empty cans and other food-associated waste, there will be at least some otherwise passer-bys who'll put two and two together.

    Once somebody KNOWS you've got food, they'll smash through doors, overthrow furniture and tear your house itself to pieces until they're no longer hungry.

    Obscurity is the best defense.

  2. You raise a question that has been on my mind for some time. I have thought of a few solutions but I welcome your thoughts.
    The issue is: How do I mask my coal/ wood burning kitchen stove? I know that dry wood or continuously adding small quantities pellet sized coal is good. 2 tons of coal in a coal bin in the basement is comforting insurance here in the north. Any ideas?

  3. Excellent points MH.
    Dan--I'm hoping the readers have some advice for you. Masking any kind of smoke is difficult. Having a basement full of reserve fuel is an excellent idea, however.

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