Sunday, June 3, 2012

A SWAT-resistant house

The topic of "What do you do if you get swated?"came up recently on TTAG. It's a good question. What if someone decided to play a potentially fatal prank on you and get a SWAT team to bust down your door, guns at the ready, shooting you and your dogs to death?

Well, the first issue is, we all live in the modern equivalent of this:
So the issue is, a SWAT team, an armed mob, or a halfway-determined armed robber or two could huff, puff and blow down your front door without breaking a sweat. Or your windows.

"But Mr. Smith!" you say, "I don't want to live in something that looks like a jail with burglar bars on the windows!" 

You don't have to. Luckily, with a bit of planning and not too much money, you too can make your home resistant to things from a small battering ram all the way up to an APC. Something like an M1 Abrams tank shelling your house is a bit more problematic if you want to live in something that looks like a house, but the odds of the ATF or the like shelling a civilian house are hopefully low enough to avoid going to the lengths it take to make your house resistant to such things.

The other important point is an exit strategy. You don't want your house to become your tomb.

Let's take a basic review of the threats you'd probably face from anyone determined to get in.
  1. People with heavy boots but no battering rams or pry bars.
  2. People with man-portable battering rams.
  3. People with vehicle-powered battering rams.
  4. People with an APC.
  5. People with small arms (handguns, rifles up to .50 cal.)
  6. People with a flamethrower or other fire source.
  7. People with heavy arms / destructive devices.
  8. People with an Abrams tank. 
So this list is ordered from smallest cost and difficulty to defend against to largest cost and highest difficulty to defend against. If the scenario is just someone with heavy boots trying to kick down your door, it's not too hard to build a better door. If the scenario is someone with a tank, a flamethrower or a mortar, it's both difficult and expensive to build anything that looks remotely like a house that will defend against such things.

Not impossible though. Take a look at the EDS datacenters and you'll notice the ivy-covered anti-vehicle bunkers and retractable tank barriers. To the casual eye, they looks pretty much like any other corporate building around them. However, it'd take more than a SWAT team to get inside one. Most of us don't have the sort of budget EDS has, or enough land to build such defensive features, so we'll start with what the average American has and work our way up.

This is an extensive and lengthy topic, so I'll just go over the rough outlines for the first two points from the list above.

So the average American lives in something that's roughly the equivalent of a cardboard box. A few minutes with an axe will get any intruder through any wall. Doors and windows go even quicker. Ditto to anything heavier, or someone with a fire source.

So first things first. Build a door that won't fall down to anything human-powered. It's not too difficult to have something that could be mistaken for a normal door that has a high-security frame and an impact rating high enough to withstand a man-portable battering ram.

Windows in modern dwellings are a defensive sore-spot. They're big and offer absolutely no defense. Cleverly disguised steel shutters are about the only thing you can do without seriously altering the existing building:

It's not something that will stop people forever, but it will stop them long enough (hopefully) for you to make your exit.And that's what it comes down to. Assessing the risk, strengthening your dwelling to the point it will resist what you'll likely encounter, and making sure it will last long enough for you to be alerted, gather your senses, and get yourself (and your family if applicable) to an exit that isn't obvious to your attackers.

On a philosophical note, this isn't aimed at resisting any legitimate authority. If someone comes to your door with a signed and legitimate warrant and asks nicely, you should obey. But they don't always ask nicely. Sometimes they bust doors down without warning and shoot you and your dog before anyone can do anything. Sometimes they falsify evidence to get a warrant, shoot your dog, your kids and yourself and set the place on fire. Sometimes it's not anyone who has anything legal on their mind trying to get into your house and rob, steal, plunder, rape, murder, etc. 

The thing is, you never know what it will be, so it makes sense to hope for the best while still being prepared for the wost. And statistically speaking, the odds of such a thing happening are pretty low. But for some people, just because the odds are low, they realize that they're still higher than zero, and while taking precautions is pointless if nothing ever happens, it's got a great point if anything ever does. 

For Americans, the fourth amendment is a bit of a joke these days. Few, if any, are safe from unreasonable search and seizure. It's on our own shoulders to make sure that we are, not to leave that up to those that should protect us but with depressing frequency, end up killing enough 'good guys' to make it obvious that they can't be depended on to do the right thing enough of the time.

You have but one life. It is up to you to safeguard it from all threats.

To be continued...

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