Basics of Home Defense Readiness: Bandages, Beans and Bullets on a Budget

by Spencer Coursen, Coursen Security Group

When designing any emergency response plan, it is important to first identify the most realistic threat you are likely to face. Imaginations will always exceed budgets, so identifying and mounting a defense against the threat you are most likely to face will help manage your fear and your finances in equal measure.

I’m a fan of The Walking Dead as much as anyone, but the thought of zombie coming in through my windows on a some random Tuesday afternoon hell-bent on eating me alive, brings me about as much anxiety as the thought of a grizzly bear scaling a downtown apartment building intent on doing the same. It’s just not going to happen.

The Realistic Scenario

Why are we talking about Bunkers in the first place?

Anyone who’s walked through an airport in the last ten years, has heard, “Threat Level: Orange” which is a non-invasive way for Homeland Security to say, “Yes - there is a reasonable expectation for a violent terrorist threat to breach our borders.”

However, this next attack will very likely be a 9/11 style attack. Which is to say, a singular or coordinated attack all happening at once – not unlike the hours between 8am and 11am on September 11th. The intent of a terrorist threat is meant promote fear and panic rather than to engage in a continuous and prolonged campaign of direct action.

We as a nation, are also under continuous attack by the [Chinese] shadow warfare cyber tactics probing and potentially infecting our financial institutions, our water supply, and our transportation systems, in what Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has warned as a “Cyber Pearl Harbor.”

Natural disasters also seem more frequent. Hurricane Katrina and Super Storm Sandy brought to the forefront of national attention just how devastating and time consuming these atrocities can be to endure.

Regardless of the crisis you may face, what all of these scenarios have in common is the challenge to your safety and security after the event has occurred. When the dust has settled, the winds have died, and the waters calmed, you must survive until “the return to normal,” and my hope is this helps you find the best way to do so.

For agreement in discussion, I am employing the term “bunker” in the same fashion I would employ “safe-haven” - a defendable place where you and your family can spend evenings in conditional safety and reasonable comfort.

Preparedness is Paramount

Preparing for what comes next, will prepare you for what comes before. Your mind and your body are finely tuned with each other, and stressors on the mind will have physiological affects, much as stressors on the body have psychological affects.

I was in a car accident recently, t-boned while driving down Venice Blvd in Los Angeles. The entire drivers side door caved in. It was a bad accident, and I’m lucky to have walked away unscathed from the wreck. I tell you this, because no sooner had their speeding car slammed into mine, when two things went simultaneously went through my mind. The first was a once learned and Army-instilled self-assessment of my physical condition telling me I was not hurt and to get moving, and the second was a mental re-assurance my car insurance was paid and up to date.

There was nothing I could have done to prevent the accident. There was no warning, and I had no opportunity to avoid, evade or escape the collision. Yet, I was in complete control over what came next, because I knew I had done everything up to that moment to prepare for this one.

My seatbelt was on having safeguarded my life, and my insurance was paid having safe guarded my livelihood. Had either of those two preparations not been previously handled, I would most definitely not have been in a physical or psychological condition to deal with the aftermath with rational logic and effectiveness. Additional stressors were not a factor, because I had taken the necessary measures to prepare for this very likely and realistic scenario.

What should I do first?

You are right here...right now. Stop reading this article for a second and look around. One second from now, your world and your life will change forever. Are you ready?

Safety First: Protect yourself and get to a safe and sustainable location. You will know your home and your neighborhood the best, so get there as quickly and as safely as you can.

Contact anyone and everyone while/if you still can. Let trusted people (friends and family) know where you are, where you are going, you’re physical condition as well as anything you may need. If you haven’t already done so, initiate your family emergency plan so that everyone knows where to go and what to do.

Take inventory: Who is with you and what you have on hand? If you don’t have what you need, decide immediately how important it is to have vs. the risk of retrieval. This will obviously be a situational-dependent statement, but as a rule: anything less than the life of a loved one, and you should prepare yourself to be without.

Triage: Is anyone hurt or injured? Require immediate medical attention? What do you need to do to ensure the health, welfare and safety of those in your charge tonight? Are you safe where you are? Can you safely move to a better location? You will need to determine the most important tasks often as priorities may shift at any given moment. (Always be thinking: Safety, Food, & Shelter)

Delegate: If you are of good enough fortune to be with others, utilize them to their full advantage. There is strength in numbers. Do Not try to do everything yourself.

If anything can be done 70% as well as you, delegate that tasking to another. They’ll learn as they go, and getting something done is better than getting nothing done.

Where you live will determine what you need

Most of us surviving a crisis situation will be restricted to the

immediate vicinity of our homes with little to no power or communication.

Where you live will determine the necessity of what is needed for your specific situation. If you live in an urban environment, where daily deliveries to markets and groceries are required, then your focus should be on food storage more so than if you live in a more rural environment where you could feasibly live off the land in a hunter/gather capacity.

Dependence on machine-generated climate control is another factor to consider. Understanding the susceptible changes to the natural climate of your location should be factored when deciding where to bunker down.

What is a reasonable expectation of duration?

4 nights / 5 days of on-hand rations is a good rule of thumb. Emergency services are generally able to provide basic assistance within three days. However, having value-added goods on hand (Cigarettes and Alcohol) will afford you the ability to barter and exchange for necessities later on should the crisis continue indefinitely.

Who can I trust?

You already know the answer to this. If you’re thinking, “I think so,” then the answer is no. If you can unequivocally say, “Yes,” than the answer is yes. One may never know where loyalty is born, but the beginning of a crisis isn’t when you want to find out. Alliances start now. Community counts. Find like-minded friends and neighbors who live in close-proximity and start discussing the roles and functions of those who can provide varying and essential skills and services.

For example, if your neighbor has a generator, and you have a giant freezer full of food in your garage, talk to each other now and work out a system to combine resources should the time come. If any of your neighbors are Doctors, RN’s or Police, invite them over for dinner.

What should I have on-hand?

As I stated before, your own needs will be conditional upon your situation. What’s listed here is by no means the must have’s, but rather the should have’s for basic home defense and survival. I have listed them here in order of priority according to my own personal experience and practice.

1. Enough food, water and prescription medication to last you five days. Assume your water won’t be running or will be deemed unsafe. Buy one case of water for everyone in your family and stash it under the bed, in the basement or in the closet. (Somewhere out of sight and out of mind so you won’t use this cache as your go-to supply for car trips)

Water is the one thing you’ll always wish you had in abundance. Some of it you’ll drink, some of it you’ll need to boil, some of it you’ll use to bath. You really can’t have enough.

Your food on-hand should be shelf-stable and require no addition preparation. It’s likely the power will be out and if you’re living in an apartment or similar enclosed location, building a fire won’t always be possible. High calorie, high protein and complex carb meals will be the best. Watch some old-school cowboy movies for inspiration. Stock up on some cans of beans and beef stew, Beef Jerky and Trail Mix. Look into “Paleo Kits” too. Extreme athletes and Cross Fit enthusiast swear by them. I recommend you purchase at least one to see if you like them. On a budget, it’s much cheaper to modify and make your own. Local purchase the ingredients you like and vacuum seal individual single-servings. PaleoKit as shown: Cost $7

2. Have some extra bags of ice in the freezer, king-cubes will last you longer than the icemaker variety. Ice will help keep your refrigerator and freezer functional for a day or two after the power goes out. Fill up a few tuba-ware containers filled with water and freeze overnight. Keep as many frozen bricks in your freezer as you can. Ice does more than chill your drinks, there are medical uses (Blister Burn, splinter removal, oral numbness to treat tooth pain, and soft tissue injury to name a few, so having some on hand will prove beneficial to your cause.

3. A “go-bag” is -in layman terms– the bag you grab when it’s time to “Go,” as in right now -when the time required to plan, prep and pack will mitigate your chance of survival. The premise is such that your go-bag is always packed, ready and waiting with the essentials you will need to survive for two nights and three days in the outdoor terrain of your approximate location and in current local climate. No creature comforts; just the necessities to survive, contained in a packaged weight, affording you the ability to remain mobile. Keep in mind; your packing list may change throughout the year dependent upon the time of year, the season, your location, your medical requirements and your physical ability. You should be well versed in terms of your bag’s content, knowledgeable of item location, and organized for ease of use.

Everyone who is physically able to carry a pack should have one. Your own individual packing list may vary based on personal preference and necessity, but

the contents of the one below serves as an excellent tutorial on what constitutes essentials. If you only do one thing to prepare beyond your in-home food and water storage, this is it. This is what you need. Everyone should have one. Build or buy one today. Many pre-customized options are available on-line. As shown on Amazon.com Cost: $310

4. A fully stocked First-Aid kit is a priority requirement for any emergency action plan. One should always strive to have as much medical and trauma training, resources and equipment on hand as possible. Medical equipment can be cost prohibitive, but medical knowledge can be as cheap as a YouTube search. Being First Aid and CPR certified (or at least capable) could literally save a life one day, and could increase your own survival rate exponentially.

Staff infection is both silent and deadly, and if you find yourself unable to acquire professional medical attention or prescription medication, it is critical you possess, at the very least, the medical know-how and resources to clean, disinfect and treat a cut, scrape, or sprain.

This standard First Aid kit is commonly found in commercial venues, but doubles equally well in the home. Cost: $25

5. Despite all of the technological advances of the past century, the best home defense option available to you is still a mid to full sized dog - especially one with specific [Sentry] training tailored to your needs. In addition to being naturally defensive of their owner, and territorial of their property, a dog can offer a companionship in an otherwise lonesome scenario. (Think; I am Legend vs Castaway) If you already have a dog (even an untrained small dog), you’re already ahead of the game. The yelp of a small pup directed toward an unwelcome visitor may be all that’s required to bring undo attention to clandestine activities and thwart their evil intentions.

6. In every home there should be an identified “Safe Room,” a last line of defense where you and your loved ones can safely barricade yourselves until help can arrive. There is literally no limit to the amount of money one can spend on the construction such a sanctuary.

For the rest of us, we have door wedges. These specific door wedges were designed by EMS units to keep the heavy industrial doors propped open during their rescue operations. As good as they are at propping doors open, they are even better at wedging doors closed. Jam one of these under a closed door and there is no way an intruder is pushing the door open. Added security if you wedge one between the door and the frame too. (Just make sure you’re on the side of the door that can see the hinges)

For a few dollars more, some door wedges also come with an alarm feature, but if you can sleep through an intruder trying to kick down the door, I’m not sure the alarm of a AA Battery will stir you from your slumber. Cost: $8.00

7. Today, all of our communication devices require a charge. Assuming an EMP was not the cause of the crisis you’re currently facing, your mobile devices will be critical to helping you negotiate your way to a better day. (Read: One Second After by William Fortschen) While a few commercial venues with back-up generators may be able to facilitate the needs of the few, they most certainly will not be able to cater to the needs of the many. So skip the Starbucks iPhone-charging line and invest in this universal solar-charging unit. Yes, there are cheaper versions available on the market place, but this one has been in my go-bag for the last two years and has never once let me down. Cost: $120

8. Take the time to go through all of the contents your go-bag has available, and identify anything inside you think you may need to use in your home. Purchase in duplicate to what’s in the bag, but do your best to NOT use what’s already provided. If you don’t already have the basics of a lights-out scenario in your home, then you should most certainly acquire the necessary provisions of matches, candles, flashlights, and batteries. Other items of mention may also include a multi-tool, a home improvement tool kit, survival literature, pocket-knives, pre-packaged meals such as MRE’s, or water purification tablets.

9. Employ aspects of deterrence works, in hopes of promoting transference. The pros of a home security system far outweigh any cons. The innovation available on today’s modern marketplace can match almost any imagination, and yet there are endless options available to work within the confines of even the tightest budget.

A good security system will alert, notify, and confirm the something/someone out of the ordinary with enough lead time for you to respond accordingly. More importantly, a positive security posture promotes one very important fact to the causal observer: You take your security seriously. At any given time, our friends, neighbors, and general passers-by are evaluating our actions, behaviors, and even our daily routines.

And we do this to others. We know which stores are safer than others, which stores we visit take their security more seriously than others, which office buildings are safer, which parking garages are more closely monitored. We even intrinsically know which streets are safe at night, and which streets we go out of our way to avoid. All of this observational knowledge is subconsciously remembered and categorized, and plays and important aspect in split-second decision making scenarios regarding our own safety and security.

In times of crisis, necessity sometimes lends itself to immoral action. Social predators, looters, and criminals of opportunity will always reveal themselves when social order is in chaos. Like lions stalking a herd of gazelle, they will evaluate the masses to identify the easy prey vs. those whom pose a challenge, a target drawn on the weakest and most vulnerable first.

However, criminals often act with childhood methodology in that hard work isn’t warranted unless there’s a guaranteed reward for their effort, otherwise only the least bit of effort shall be asserted. So, forget for a moment, that in this crisis scenario you face, there is no power and your system doesn’t work. The camera dome above your door or next and next to your window, says something succinct about your home, “Another target will be easier.”

10. Despite the fact that movies and television will have you convinced otherwise, a weapon will not be required or necessary for your survival in nearly every conceivable crisis you will realistically face. However, as a former soldier I would be lying to you if I told you I didn’t have a weapon as part of my own emergency action plan. If you decide to include a weapon in your inventory, please familiarize, and train yourself to the fullest extent possible, and employ safety, rational thought and sound moral guidance in all aspects of it’s use.

With all aspects considered, my final recommendation is the Mossberg 500 JIC. Mossberg revealed their understanding of emergency preparedness to heart when naming their Model 500 “JIC,” which stands for “Just In Case.” A shotgun such as this serves many masters. It not only acts as a psychological deterrent to the Social Predator when they hear the unmistakable chuh-chik of the slide chambering a round, and being honest, you don’t exactly have to be surgical when firing it either.

This weapon is equally effective at dropping the bad guy, or the flock of ducks flying overhead for dinner. This weapon is lightweight, easy to use, and gets the job done. Just in case you really find yourself in need (or want) of a versatile and dependable weapon, having this on-hand will serve you well. Cost: $479

Everyday a school day...

Your individual list of needs, wants and desires may be completely different than mine, but what’s most important is that you’re forward thinking to a scenario you can help frame and manage before you find yourself whiplashed by the harsh reality of whatever unfortunate predicament life prescribes.

One advantage of advance preparation is that you afford yourself the extra time needed to get yourself ready both mentally and physically for whatever tomorrow may bring. Preparation requires forethought and action, and if you’ve read this far, you have already improved your odds for a successful outcome. Real life is different from little league tee-ball. No participation trophies here. Big Boy rules are in effect. Expect the worst, and hope for the best. Know that problems will arise, and when life breaks bad it often finds you when you are least expecting, and most ill prepared.

Remember that survivors and winners have something in common; they both visualize victory, even when hope seems forsaken, and the odds are stacked against you. Champion Poker Player, Jack Strauss embodies this philosophy with one of his key quotes after winning the World Series of Poker, “I had a chip, and a chair, so I knew I had a chance.”

Hard work and sacrifice must be accepted as your reality. In the end, your commendation for action will not come in the form of applause or congratulations, and certainly not a trophy, but rather in knowing that you and your loved ones will sleep in peace some future night because of your preparation today.

As I’m signing off, an email alert pops up with the subject line, “Zombie Kit.” I smile a little, and then stop. Like the Mossberg, maybe I should include this too. You know, Just in Case. Cost: $349

Stop trying to be right and think of the children

Mario Tama/Getty Images

All the outrage this week has mainly focused on one thing: the evil Trump administration and its minions who delight in taking children from their illegal immigrant parents and throwing them all in dungeons. Separate dungeons, mind you.

That makes for a nice, easy storyline, but the reality is less convenient. Most Americans seem to agree that separating children from their parents — even if their parents entered the US illegally — is a bad thing. But what if that mom and dad you're trying to keep the kids with aren't really the kids' parents? Believe it or not, fraud happens.

RELATED: Where were Rachel Maddow's tears for immigrant children in 2014?

While there are plenty of heartbreaking stories of parents simply seeking a chance for a better life for their children in the US, there are also corrupt, abusive human traffickers who profit from the illegal immigration trade. And sorting all of this out is no easy task.

This week, the Department of Homeland Security said that since October 2017, more than 300 children have arrived at the border with adults claiming to be their parents who turned out not to be relatives. 90 of these fraud cases came from the Rio Grande Valley sector alone.

In 2017, DHS reported 46 causes of fraudulent family claims. But there have already been 191 fraud cases in 2018.

Shouldn't we be concerned about any child that is smuggled by a human trafficker?

When Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen pointed out this 315 percent increase, the New York Times was quick to give these family fraud cases "context" by noting they make up less than one percent of the total number of illegal immigrant families apprehended at the southern border. Their implication was that Nielsen was exaggerating the numbers. Even if the number of fraud cases at the border was only 0.001 percent, shouldn't we be concerned about any child that is smuggled by a human trafficker?

This is the most infuriating part of this whole conversation this week (if you can call it a "conversation") — that both sides have an angle to defend. And while everyone's busy yelling and making their case, children are being abused.

What if we just tried, for two seconds, to love having mercy more than we love having to be right all the time?

Remember when cartoons were happy things? Each panel took you on a tiny journey, carrying you to an unexplored place. In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud writes:

The comics creator asks us to join in a silent dance of the seen and the unseen. The visible and the invisible. This dance is unique to comics. No other artform gives so much to its audience while asking so much from them as well. This is why I think it's a mistake to see comics as a mere hybrid of the graphic arts and prose fiction. What happens between . . . panels is a kind of magic only comics can create.

When that magic is manipulated or politicized, it often devolves the artform into a baseless thing. Yesterday, Occupy Wall Street published the perfect example of low-brow deviation of the artform: A six-panel approach at satire, which imitates the instructions-panel found in the netted cubbyhole behind seats on airplanes. The cartoon is a critique of the recent news about immigrant children being separated from their parents after crossing the border. It is a step-by-step guide to murdering US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents.

RELATED: Cultural appropriation has jumped the shark, and everyone is noticing

The first panel shows a man shoving an infant into a cage meant for Pomeranians. The following five panels feature instructions, and include pictures of a cartoonish murder.

The panels read as follows:

  1. If an ICE agent tries to take your child at the border, don't panic.
  2. Pull your child away as quickly as possibly by force.
  3. Gently tell your child to close his/her eyes and ears so they won't witness what you are about to do.
  4. Grab the ICE agent from behind and push your knife into his chest with an upward thrust, causing the agent's sternum to break.
  5. Reach into his chest and pull out his still beating heart.
  6. Hold his bloody heart out for all other agents to see, and tell them that the same fate awaits them if they f--- with your child again.

Violent comics are nothing new. But most of the time, they remain in the realms of invented worlds — in other words, not in our own, with reference to actual people, let alone federal agents.

The mainstream media made a game of crying racism with every cartoon depiction of Obama during his presidency, as well as during his tenure as Senator, when the New Yorker, of all things, faced scrutiny for depicting him in "Muslim clothing." Life was a minefield for political cartoonists during the Obama era.

Chris Hondros/Getty Images

This year, we saw the leftist outrage regarding The Simpsons character Apu — a cartoon representation of a highly-respected, though cartoonishly-depicted, character on a cartoon show composed of cartoonishly-depicted characters.

We all remember Charlie Hebdo, which, like many outlets that have used cartoon satire to criticize Islam, faced the wrath and ire of people unable to see even the tamest representation of the prophet, Muhammad.

Interesting, isn't it? Occupy Wall Street publishes a cartoon that advocates murdering federal agents, and critics are told to lighten up. Meanwhile, the merest depiction of Muhammad has resulted in riots throughout the world, murder and terror on an unprecedented scale.

The intersection of Islam and comics is complex enough to have its own three-hour show, so we'll leave it at that, for now. Although, it is worth mentioning the commentary by satirical website The Onion, which featured a highly offensive cartoon of all the major religious figures except Muhammad. It noted:

Following the publication of the image above, in which the most cherished figures from multiple religious faiths were depicted engaging in a lascivious sex act of considerable depravity, no one was murdered, beaten, or had their lives threatened.

Of course, Occupy Wall Street is free to publish any cartoon they like. Freedom of speech, and so on—although there have been several instances in which violent cartoons were ruled to have violated the "yelling fire in a crowded theater" limitation of the First Amendment.

Posting it to Twitter is another issue — this is surely in violation of Twitter's violent content policy, but something tells me nothing will come of it. It's a funny world, isn't it? A screenshot of a receipt from Chick-fil-A causes outrage but a cartoon advocating murder gets crickets.

RELATED: Twitter mob goes ballistic over Father's Day photo of Caitlyn Jenner. Who cares?

In Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud concludes that, "Today the possibilities for comics are — as they've always been — endless. Comics offers . . . range and versatility, with all the potential imagery of film and painting plus the intimacy of the written word. And all that's needed is the desire to be heard, the will to learn, and the ability to see."

Smile, and keep moving forward.

Crude and awful as the Occupy Wall Street comic is, the best thing we can do is nod and look elsewhere for the art that will open our eyes. Let the lunatics draw what they want, let them stew in their own flawed double standards. Otherwise, we're as shallow and empty as they are, and nothing good comes of that. Smile, and keep moving forward.

Things are getting better. Show the world how to hear, how to learn, how to see.

People should start listening to Nikki Haley

ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

Okay. Let's take a vote. You know, an objective, quantifiable count. How many resolutions has the UN Human Rights Council adopted condemning dictatorships? Easy. Well. How do you define "dictatorship"?

Well, one metric is the UN Human Rights Council Condemnation. How many have the United Nations issued to China, with a body count higher than a professional Call of Duty player?

Zero.

How about Venezuela, where socialism is devouring its own in the cruelest, most unsettling ways imaginable?

Zero.

And Russia, home of unsettling cruelty and rampant censorship, murder and (actual) homophobia?

Zero.

Iraq? Zero. Turkey? Iraq? Zero. Cuba? Zero. Pakistan? Zero.

RELATED: Nikki Haley just dropped some serious verbal bombs on Russia at the UN

According to UN Human Rights Council Condemnations, 2006-2016, none of these nations is as dangerous as we'd imagined. Or, rather, none of them faced a single condemnation. Meanwhile, one country in particular has faced unbelievable scrutiny and fury — you'll never guess which country.

No, it's not Somalia. It's Israel. With 68 UN Human Rights Council Condemnations! In fact, the number of total United Nations condemnations against Israel outnumbers the total of condemnations against all other countries combined. The only country that comes close is Syria, with 15.

The Trump administration withdrew from the United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday in protest of what it perceives as an entrenched bias against Israel and a willingness to allow notorious human rights abusers as members.

In an address to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Nikki Haley said:

Let's remember that the Hamas terrorist organization has been inciting violence for years, long before the United States decided to move our embassy. This is what is endangering the people of Gaza. Make no mistake, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday... No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.

Maybe people should start listening to Haley. Hopefully, they will. Not likely, but there's no crime in remaining hopeful.

Here's a question unique to our times: "Should I tell my father 'Happy Father's Day,' even though he (she?) is now one of my mothers?"

Father's Day was four days ago, yes, but this story is just weird enough to report on. One enjoyable line to read was this gem from Hollywood Gossip: "Cait is a woman and a transgender icon, but she is also and will always be the father of her six children."

RELATED: If Bruce was never a he and always a she, who won the men's Olympic gold in 1976?

Imagine reading that to someone ten — even five — years ago. And, honestly, there's something nice about it. But the strangeness of its having ever been written overpowers any emotional impact it might bring.

"So lucky to have you," wrote Kylie Jenner, in the Instagram caption under pre-transition pictures of Bruce Jenner.

Look. I risk sounding like a tabloid by mere dint of having even mentioned this story, but the important element is the cultural sway that's occurring. The original story was that a band of disgruntled Twitter users got outraged about the supposed "transphobic" remarks by Jenner's daughter.

But, what we should be saying is, "who the hell cares?" Who cares what one Jenner says to another — and more importantly and on a far deeper level — who cares what some anonymous Twitter user has to say?

When are we going to stop playing into the hands of the Twitter mob?

When are we going to stop playing into the hands of the Twitter mob? Because, at the moment, they've got it pretty good. They have a nifty relationship with the mainstream media: One or two Twitter users get outraged by any given thing — in this case Jenner and supposed transphobia. In return, the mainstream media use the Twitter comment as a source.

Then, a larger Twitter audience points to the article itself as proof that there's some kind of systemic justice at play. It's a closed-market currency, where the negative feedback loop of proof and evidence is composed of faulty accusations. Isn't it a hell of a time to be alive?