Thursday, February 25, 2016

Prepper's Home Defense By Jim Cobb - An Introduction to Security Strategies Book Review

The copy of Prepper's Home Defense- Security Strategies to Protect Your Family by Any Means Necessary that I am reviewing here is by Jim Cobb.  It is published by Ulysses Press and is copyrighted 2012.  For those searching for it by ISBN: 978-1-61243-115-4.

The topic of this work is of great contemporary interest to Americans from all walks of life.  There is an innate drive to protect that which is yours, both material and family from the unknown ravages of an uncertain future.  It is common practice for books of this genre to approach the subject from an assumption that "SHTF" or "TEOTWAWKI" is in effect.  This is not different, as the opening planning assumption in the introduction is that "a long term lapse in social services" is present

The genesis of these scenarios is given as a range of events that the individual can have either no impact upon the course of, or some ability to prepare for the days after the event.

Ultimately, it is up to the individual to consider the various scenarios and how they may be prioritized and prepared for.  The work in review here provides a solid structure to base thoughts and plans upon, with a few minor points that I will address. 

On page 18, the author addresses the primary planning assumption that anyone interested in protecting hearth and home must address... that of "protect from WHAT?"  As he follows up with, the reader is assumed to not be planning against the common criminal as experienced pre-crisis.  We all know the general details of the local crime blotters... this book is not for that generally low probability event, it is for what comes during periods of sustained lawlessness (aka, WROL or "Without Rule of Law") and even anarchy.

A note on style here.  While the author uses the term "Mutant Zombie Biker" (MZB) in his work, it is important that people remember what it is they are planning against.  You are not planning against a euphemism, a cartoon character.  You are planning against a mutually opposing, hostile and free willed opponent who sees you as his/her route to survive into the next day.  The problem inherent in not calling a thing by its rightful name is faced by Confucious, who stated that

“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.”

Not to do so allows for various bits of unrealistic planning to seep in and is confusing for those who have to pick up planning where you left off.  Let us face this fact- you won't always be around to help modify or develop plans.  Although even professional military staffs will engage in this from time to time, it is not going to help you in this context.  Call things by their rightful names and avoid confusion.  While the U.S. Army may find it humorous for a CONOP 8888 to exist, you won't have the luxury of time to do so.

The section on Basic Security Concepts is well composed.  I commend the author for getting it out there that no plan is perfect.  Such an animal does not exist.  In the realm of security planning for facilities, compounds and dwellings, this holds true as well.  The focus on desperation as a factor driving mobs and individuals to seek to take what you have and even your life is an important concept to absorb.  What we see around us in pre-event times lends itself to normalcy bias, that all will remain as it is, to include human behavior.  This is not borne out in history.  The author's use of Katrina as a point of illustration highlights this.  While many became passive and waited for help, others became feral quickly in the situation that overtook the city.  An understanding of human psychology and accepting that mankind is actually a predatory animal with a veneer of civility will go a long way towards preparing yourself mentally for what the realm of the possible is.  A minor point on the last item in the section regarding drills... one needs to be mindful of what training objective, what standard you wish to program for.  Drills for the sake of drilling are counter productive.  Decide what you are drilling in order to achieve/do, and you'll have a much better go of it.

Chapter 2 covers OPSEC.  As the author states, this is your most important layer of defense.  After all, if you never have to fight, isn't that a big win?  I'd say so.  Your family will probably agree with the idea that it is best to not stick out so that you can survive.  That is the goal, right?

On page 41, there is an OPSEC issue that is more experience based than what is detailed in the pages.  Landscape cloth may be useful at hindering observation into a structure from outside, but it is not going to block light from inside leaking out.  There are other cloth types out there such as Hessian cloth 
that can be used and dyed to match your requirements. 

Keep in mind that even solid canvas will not keep all light contained due to pores as well as the issues regarding infrared light.  If you assess that you may face someone or thing that has the capability to passively see IR, you will need to be far more thorough in your efforts, like blocking windows with layers of aluminum foil, ensuring that all cracks and crevices are caulked, that sort of thing.  I remember being able to walk easily among large tents that were internally lit using just early generation night vision.  The amount of light energy was sufficient to see inside the tents with this set up.  If you want a preview of what that may look like, try using a video camera with a "night" setting and go set up a tent with a small LED inside.  You'll see what I mean.  His advice on sound and odor discipline is well written, might be a good excuse to buy some hunter's odorless laundry and washing soap.  For you smokers, it is a good time to stop.  Non-smokers can smell your presence a surprising distance away.

 1st Generation Night Vision Goggles

In section 2, the author addresses physical defense.  This section is logical and well laid out, covering concepts of perimeters and area denial.  I have to express exception to the mention of "booby traps" on page 50, as this is just bad ju-ju.  If you have kids, pets, a spouse, or even friends... this is not a good idea at all.  Find some other way, if not, it will be you that lives with the consequences. 

Page 53 mentions wireless video cameras.  These are great... for peaceful times.  That same convenient wireless signal is detectable by anyone out there with a wireless camera setup.  The reason I know this is because as I drive around my area, I can see not only who has a wireless camera setup, but what they are looking at.  All this is from the wireless backup camera on my truck, yet even being years old, it still lights up with the small range of frequencies.  The issue of coaxial cable runs... coax is excellent, as it contains the signal within the cable itself.  If the jacket gets damaged, water gets in and will quickly ruin it.  There is a category of coax that is rated for burial, it is orange in color.  RG-6 is a standard, what you want is something like this, swept to 3 Ghz and rated for what you want to do:

 Coaxial Cable suitable for burial
When you get that, don't forget:


On page 55, the author takes a moment to discuss the role of the sniper.  This is useful in many ways, but can be taken farther if the operations and sniping end of the business know about and use high payoff target lists (HPTL) and what constitutes a high value target (HVT).  This of course will be different in a post event scenario than a conventional conflict.  Usually, the more antennae, the more people go to an individual, the higher up the chain they are.  If you are dealing with a (per the author) "MZB" outbreak, it might be best for a sniper to develop the situation and be the eyes and ears of the main force.  People forget that the main role of the sniper is as scout.  Seeing and reporting is often WAY more important than fighting, particularly as we fight as teams.  At least, we fight as teams if we want to survive.

The discussion on hardening structures is well considered.  While not all is likely practical for the average homeowner, it should provide enough spark to generate ideas on how to best generate delay for a rip crew or MZB horde.  Worst case, you need to generate time to react even if you are dead asleep.

The issue of safe rooms is a contentious one.  A place that you have no way out of can just as easily become your tomb.  I do not see it as practical for most to provide viable alternate exits from a safe room.  For those so inclined, you are on your own.  You might find some information on what you plan to do with combat engineering texts online or civil engineering texts at your local library.

Chapter 6 on secure and hidden storage is interesting and practical.  In particular, his suggestion to use teflon tape on threaded PVC joints is an excellent and almost free way to waterproof your tubular containers.  Further discussion on placing tubes within tubes for ease of retrieval of contents is both novel and practical.  Previously, most discussion on this was that it was best to place 550 cords onto all packages in tube containers so that you could get the contents out.  This idea allows you to just take the whole tube out from a larger, protective tube.  Additional measures not discussed but that may help you keep what you put in a tube serviceable is VCI paper (volatile corrosion inhibitor paper).  Military armories use it, it offgasses quantities of rust inhibitors and is used to pack up military arms for storage.

Chapter 7 on firearms is pretty standard and well presented.  One aspect that Preppers may want to consider is that the first rule of a firefight is to have a gun.  What your favorite is is immaterial.  If you have a $200 FEG PPK knockoff and have practiced with it, you are better off than some clown with a tricked out 1911 that he never gets to use.  Firearms are not totems, they are tools.  You are best off with whatever is most common in your area.  The AR series, the Remington 870 and the 10/22 are perhaps not optimal, but you will find them everywhere.  That is a good quality in a post event world.

Chapter 8 on other and improvised weapons... I have to say that you are probably much better off being proficient in a few weapons than just above clueless in a vast array of weapons.  In a post event world, do you have time for the hobby and intricacies of some obscure combat tool or methodology?  I am pretty sure that you'll have more pressing needs along Maslow's hierarchy of needs.  Besides, edged weapons imply that you are close enough to use them.  That means you are close enough to someone else who may outpower you or have skills in that arena.  Don't be in that situation.

Chapter 9 on hand to hand combat - here is the deal.  If you are old, very young or female, you are probably going to have a bad day when dealing with a military age male.  Refer back to firearms section and don't be in this position.  Hand to hand is exhausting, brutal work.  For some idea of the effort required, try a boxing gym and spend some time on a heavy bag doing shovelhook punches.  You will see what I mean.  The best thing to do is avoid it, maintain standoff, and be armed in a group.  There are no winners in hand to hand, just first loser.  Remember, you may have to fight more than one of them, and not sequentially.

Section 4 branches out to cover other considerations.  The first up is dogs, aka man's best friend.  Dogs are very useful, territorial and loyal companions that can provide early detection and a degree of deterrence among other notable qualities.  While training is important, training a dog to the standards indicated is an involved process.  You may not be cut out for that and may find it more appropriate to contract out to a qualified specialist. I admit, I know little about training dogs other than as docile and well behaved housepets.

The communications section is a good overview, but readers would be well served to delve deeper into the topic at places such as Sparks 31, dialtone blog and elsewhere.  Comms can get very technical quickly.  The bottom line on comms is that listening is more important than talking (credit to Sparks31). 

Free PDF download on "Grid Down Communications" from Sparks31

The further reaches of the book deal with mutual aid agreements, children, the elderly, "bugging out" and excursions.  The issue of making agreements in a post event world is a difficult one, although some degree of mutual trust and understanding/benefit must exist otherwise the agreement is pointless.  The bottom line with this is it is best to have a lot of friends who you know well enough in the general area who are like minded before things go sideways.  Issues of children and the elderly, they have logical roles and functions.  Understand that the elderly may have a depth of experience that you would be foolish to ignore.  Children are the logical trainees and the next echelon who you are doing all of this work for, so it is natural that they will be taught at your side on a daily basis.

"Time As Money:  Setting up a Time Bank as a way of building community trust"

"The Vanishing Rouble": An accessible and authoritative analysis of the widespread use of barter in the countries of the former Soviet Union--one of the most dramatic, but least understood, aspects of the region's tortuous transitition from planned to market economy. Written by a distinguished team of economists and other social scientists with minimal use of maths the book is designed to appeal not just to area atudies scholars with an interest in the transition process but also to economists and anthropologists interested in the role of money and social networks in modern societies:
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In conclusion, this book is a good place to start for a beginner or the curious.  The topics covered are all relevant to the title and purpose of the book.  While I may differ with the author on a few details, I have outlined those points for your perusal.  No matter what you do, it is important that the reader think about what the future may hold and what they can do to increase the survivability of not only themselves, but their family units.  To that end, the book succeeds.

Prepper Handbook Book Review written by StopShouting contributor and #FAB50 Blog Award Winner Partyzantski, retired Mustang, former FID embedded military Advisor, SASO trainer and scenario developer, Electronic Warfare Aviator, PME instructor, certified Force Protection and Anti-terrorism officer and combat seasoned USMC (0202) field grade intelligence officer. When not blogging or maintaining weapons proficiency at the range, he enjoys cat herding and travel to off-the-beaten-track locales. You can follow him on Twitter @Partyzantski

You may also enjoying reading some of Partyzantski's previously published Home Defense and Personal Security Articles:

When Bugging Out is Not An Option, Essay #1

When Bugging Out is Not An Option, Essay #2

When Bugging Out is Not An Option, Essay #3  

Home and Personal Security, An Ongoing Saga

Creative Home Security Ideas:  Defeating the Criminal and Potentially Dangerous

Reviewing Safes/Storage Options for Firearms and Valuables 

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PZ Fan said...

Thanks for this book review!! I was actually getting worried about you guys, because you haven't been posting much lately. I saw this book on Amazon but wasn't sure if it would be a good choice, especially after reading the other (do not buy) Prepper book you did.

As I know you have the "been there, done that" Teeshirt, and used to get paid the big bucks to keep people safe especially in high risk parts of the globe, and your other tips were practical and easy to institute, I bought this book and look forward to reading it and perhaps adding more to our home security posture (to quote you PZ!)

I really appreciate that you take the time to share your experience and knowledge with the rest of us!

Anonymous said...

PZ Fan,

Thank you for your comment. Life intervened and I had a number of things that had to get done with my new job, which is taking up way more time than I had bargained for. I am working on a few more projects for the blog which are book reviews.
I look forward to reader input to keep myself on track in case I go outside my expertise, and I value your input and following. If you have any ideas about what you'd like to see here that has not come up yet, please ping me in comments and I'll speak with the owner/editor of the sire and see if I can put in a good word!