The idea that someone can come into your home or business and just steal what is rightly yours is infuriating. That’s exactly what looters do. These brazen thieves love to kick down doors and simply take. The idea of looters should piss you off, but it shouldn’t be scary. You can prepare for looters. It can’t be completely prevented, but you can help discourage looters from making your home or business their next target. The most important step is having a plan and making it realistic enough to easily follow.
What Brings Looters Out
Opportunity, desperation, and disaster bring the worst out in people. Looters are a diverse bunch and in order to make a good plan to discourage looting you have to understand them. Some looters are nothing but opportunists. We see them at events where civil unrest is present and these opportunists will steal anything not bolted to the ground. These people steal TVs, video games, shoes, liquor, cigarettes, and really just anything they want. The opportunist type of looters will crash, destroy, and take with little regard to anyone but themselves.
Other looters come out in desperation. They are trying to survive and potentially feed their families after a disastrous event. While it’s easy to sympathize with this type of looter you still need to be wary of them. Desperate people are unpredictable and potentially violent. Even offering them aid could turn you into a target. Offer a man a fish and he’ll want another, and another.
You’ll be a target for looters as a prepper, especially if word gets out that you’re stocked up and ready for a disaster. Expect to be a target for looters who will take anything they can if you own a business.
The Looter’s Mentality
Looters aren’t mastermind level criminals. They’re often unorganized opportunists looking for an easy score. Easy being the keyword. Many of them may resort to violence, but only up to a point. They’re fighting for free stuff, you’re fighting to defend your home or livelihood. Who has the better motivation? A large portion of looters are simply following the mob. Mob mentality sets in and people begin to compromise their own ethics because everyone else is doing it. Mob mentality is easy to follow, but also easy to break among looters. It’s easily broken at the first sign of resistance. People will commit violence to take things but rarely engage an armed and ready defender.
We saw this in Ferguson. Businesses who armed up or accepted the help of the Oath Keepers made it through. Being armed and ready should be the last resort of the plan. Our ultimate goal to deal with looters is to prevent them from ever even trying you.
You’re on Your Own
Realize that in times of civil unrest and disaster scenarios you’re on your own. The police will probably be unable to help you, even if the phone lines aren’t down. You’re going to have to deal with looters on your own. Realize and recognize that there is no cavalry coming to save you. Don’t count on the police as any part of your plan.
Hiding in Plain Sight
Our goal is to make looters completely avoid you. Have them pass by in the night and leave you completely alone. The first step is to make it appear you have nothing worth taking in the first place. This means creating a low profile. You want to limit people’s ability to see your goods in a disaster situation. This includes hiding gardens behind fences, disguising water tanks, and avoiding advertising the fact you have a mountain of bottled water, MREs, and more.
This means trash discipline. Disposing of goods in a way that doesn’t attract attention. It also means limiting eating and drinking in front of others. If your family is fat, happy, and clean in a disaster scenario it will draw attention.
Close the blinds, shutter the windows, and practice proper operational security. No one needs to know you and your family are well prepared for a crisis. This comes into play well before the crisis starts and stays in place long after it’s over.
If you own a business and civil unrest is coming it’s time to load up your most expensive inventory and get it out. Take displays down and black out the windows. Operating a business during a riot is difficult, so hiding what you have is definitely worthwhile.
Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?
Whenever there was a mission and an order as a Marine we always wanted to know at the end of the day, was the Juice Worth the Squeeze? This simply means would our end result be worth the time, effort, and risk we were putting forward? Looters aren’t planning mastermind level heists, they’re looking for quick and easy opportunities to steal and pillage.
Making this simple task difficult will dissuade the majority of looters. To make this unappealing you need to harden your home. A defense is best done in layers.
In most disaster scenarios it’s normal to cover the windows with plywood, and that works to some extent. However, plywood can be defeated by a crowbar. Consider security window film to back up your window covering. This film comes from companies like 3M and is incredibly effective at keeping home intruders out.
Next, you need to have quality locks on your doors. Don’t just go for the Walmart special, get hard locks that are difficult to break through. On top of that, you should add something like a burglar bar. This will make the door nearly impossible to take down without some serious breaching tools. If you can, consider beefing up your doors in general. This is an expensive investment but worth it. It won’t just help against looters in a disaster situation but against any intruder. It also adds value to your home.
A solid wood door or one with a metal plate in the middle is an excellent means to show that no means no. Also, don’t forget to lock the garage. Most garage tracks have built in lock holes that make it impossible for thieves to shove the garage door upwards. If you’re missing these holes, drill some out and attach a padlock to the track.
A major defensive statement is a big dog with a mighty bark. Add a few beware of dog signs and you have an active, potentially aggressive alarm system. Obviously, this is a big investment for situations that are rare. At the very least, beware of dog signs are cheap. There is even recorded CDs and alarm devices that play the sounds of dogs barking. It’s nothing like the real thing but may discourage the passing looter.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to make an offensive statement. By offensive, I don’t mean something rude but rather a statement of your intent to be offensive. A sign saying “we shoot looters” is a powerful statement. How many looters are willing to risk life and death trying to find out if you’re serious or not? I doubt there are many.
You Are Stronger When United
Communities are much stronger together during these events. Neighbors and fellow business owners that are prepared to defend each other’s property is invaluable. The LA riots saw many Korean communities coming together armed and ready to respond to rioters. They weren’t completely spared, but they stood together and fended off the majority of the threats.
Coming together as a community allows you to establish watch schedules, reinforce each other, and most importantly obey the number 1 rule to gunfighting. Bring a gun and bring friends with guns. A group of people united for the common defense of property could be enough deterrent to change the mind of any looter.
Communities coming together can be one of the highlights of a disastrous situation. When men and women work together for a common goal they’re much more likely to succeed. Not only that, but you’ll be welcoming in different skill sets and tools.
When It All Goes Wrong
Let’s say you do everything listed above. You hide anything that makes your home or business appear valuable, harden your home or business, and unite your community. In a perfect world, this would be more than enough to deter your common looter. Since we don’t live in a perfect world we need to be ready in case everything fails.
You have a right to defend your life with speed, surprise, and violence of action. The best means of defending your home is with a firearm, and looters often come in groups. The best weapon to defend against groups of people is a semi-automatic rifle. Something like the AR 15 or AK series of rifles is perfect. These rifles are easy to use, low recoiling, and offer a substantial advantage over a handgun or shotgun when dealing with multiple attackers. When it comes to shooting you need to have a home defense plan that’s understood by everyone in your family. I suggest having a plan inside your home for what may essentially be a siege. This means having open fire lanes and fortified positions inside your home.
You’ll want to bottleneck invaders in doorways and hallways. This has allowed smaller forces to fight larger forces since the beginning of organized militaries. There’s a reason that a few thousand Greeks could hold off the might of the Persian Empire for days. They held a position that eliminated the advantage that superior numbers offered.
Attacks succeed and fail based on the momentum of the attacker. The faster you can reverse the momentum the better. In the military, our defensive positions would have us establish positions then use C Wire and other obstacles to funnel the enemy to our machine guns. You can use the same tactics in your home.
My personal plan includes moving obstacles in front of the front door to funnel targets to me. I would simply block the path into my house with furniture and give them only enough room to maintain the bottleneck the door offers.
A rifle, some extra magazines, and grim determination can get you through a lot. This final line of defense is often enough to change attacker’s minds. When a looter starts seeing his fellow violent criminals get shot, they’re likely to turn tail and run. No one wants to die for some food or a TV.
When to Retreat
No one wants to die for some food or a TV, and that includes you. Should everything fail, you need to consider retreat. Yes, it’s terrible to think about giving up what you’ve worked so hard for but none of its worth your life.
Should fighting fail or for whatever reason you’re overrun, then you need to flee. This final portion of your plan should be to flee somewhere safe. A pre-planned destination is a must. This could be a friend’s home or just someplace away from the crowds and the city or town you’re in. Places like public campsites are great because there isn’t much to destroy or steal there.
Have a Bug Out Bag (BOB) ready and accessible. Make sure it’s stocked up and on hand well before any kind of crisis hits.
No one likes a looter, and hopefully, you’ll never have to face one. Unfortunately, we’ve seen over and over that innocent people can lose a lot to rioting crowds. Being prepared for a disaster situation means being prepared for looters. Harden your home, harden your heart, and be prepared to fight when necessary.
This article was originally published in Survival Dispatch Insider magazine Volume 2 Issue 5.