Archive for January, 2016

Lock Picking as a Survival Skillset

Friday, January 29th, 2016

The following article was contributed by Ryan B.

Picking Locks Survival

“Why?” I am often asked this by people once they learn that I practice the art of lock picking. Why would I spend the time learning a skill that I will maybe only practically need to use a handful of times in my life? But you see that is the point they fail to see. That the usefulness of this skill isn’t determined by what it can do for me now, but how it can help me down the road. It could one day be useful.

This is the difference between the average mindset and the mentality of the survivalist. We spend our time learning skills that we may never once need to use in our lives. But by God if the need ever arises that we need these skills we can lace up our boots and tackle whatever problem we face with an inspiring level of grace and confidence.

Lock Picking as a Survival Skillset

But what still begs the question is how exactly can lock picking be a survival skill? Where is the practically in it? The fact of the matter is there are two things people will need to survive if the SHTF — Supplies and shelter that is safe. lock picking is a sure way to both.

One of the sure facts of any SHTF situation is that the low hanging fruit will be picked first. The simple fact of the matter is supplies will dissipate fast in a post societal world and having the means to access places no one else can would be ripe with its benefits. While you may think a crowbar and bolt cutters are all you need to be a worthy scavenger, the fact of the matter is not all doors can be knock in nor all padlocks cut. Brute force can only get you so far.

There is a certain confidence that comes with knowing that no matter how strong the door, you can always rely on lock picking as a means of infiltration. Additionally who wants to lug around a heavy set of bolt cutters when you can comfortably fit a set of lock picks in your back pocket?

One of the great things about lock picking is that it has a non-destructive quality about it.

Everything that you pick can once again be locked. Unlike knocking down a door, lock picking can help you take shelter and allow you to lock the door behind you granting a certain level a security to your new establishment.

This non-destructive attribute can also be useful in many other ways. An excellent example of this would be trigger lock on a firearm. There are not a lot of methods of removing a trigger lock without possibly harming the weapon and the difference of acquiring addition weapons in a SHTF situation could easily be the difference between life and death.

Paradigm Shift: The “Security” Facade

There is one additional perk that comes with acquiring the skill of lock picking and that is a truer sense of what security really is.

The first time you pick the lock on your front door you will have horrid realization. This little piece of metal we call a lock is a lie. If you could bypass it with a little patience and a few lock picks then of course anyone else could too.

By learning how these devices work and how they can be compromised, we will gain an invaluable perspective of what exactly locks provide for us in terms of security and what we can do to further that security. Know thy enemy. You never know what kind of enemies you may face in a SHTF situation nor what skill they themselves may possess.

By becoming aware of the security flaws in whatever environment you are in, you can turn the tides and better protect yourself and your interests.

Lock Picking is not Difficult

So as we can see lock picking is a very underestimated skill in terms of survival. But just how hard is it to learn?

There is a very common misconception that lock picking is a very complex skill by nature, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. lock picking is extraordinary simple in theory and just as simple in practice. You yourself could expect to learn and apply the basic concepts and techniques of lock picking within an hour.

Everyone I have ever taught how to pick a lock has been able to pick their first lock within 10 minutes. With a little patience and practice you can gain proficiency in this skill rather quickly and can expect to blow through a common lock within minutes, sometimes even seconds.

With lock picking in your toolbox you can experience a unique peace of mind knowing that locks aren’t the enemy. Open up your world and learn the craft that is lock picking .

Lock Picking Resources

Here is a list of recommended resources to start with:

How to Keep Warm in a Winter Power Outage

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

This article has been contributed by Anne Marie Duhon. Anne Marie is a wife, mother of six and a full time off-gridder. She and her husband currently live in a totally off grid  200 sq foot “tiny home” and are in search of (again) that elusive  perfect spot to call home. Besides being a wife and mother she, and her family, have raised many different animals on their various homesteads and have lived and loved being off the grid and many miles from the nearest paved road. She would like to share her first hand experiences and help others to learn to live and love living off grid and being as self reliant as possible. 

winter-power-outage1Winter is upon us again and with it comes storms that can cause wide spread or localized power outages. Losing power in winter does cause many more deaths than a power outage in the summer.

So how do you protect yourself and your loved ones during those cold dark hours? Read on and I will share some of the ways we do it…

The Ideal: Preparing for a Winter Power Outage

winter-power-outage2My husband and I never notice power outages anymore because we have removed ourselves from the grid so we have keeping warm without electricity down pat!

First, you HAVE to think about winter power outages long before winter gets here. Take a look at your home. Is it big and roomy with lots of open areas or small and compact? If it is large, can living areas be closed off to make smaller areas to heat? Does it have lots of windows and which direction do those windows face? North facing windows will let in lots of cold while south facing windows can be used for passive solar heating. Is your home well insulated and does it have any fireplaces or wood heating already installed? How will you be able to cook during a power outage? What about your water pipes?

So now you’ve inventoried your house. You live in the typical three bedroom brick house on a slab with windows all around and a porch on the south side. How to make it winter ready?

Check all windows and doors for leaks of air. If air can come in warm air can escape. Caulk or seal the leaks. If the windows are old and drafty consider putting plastic sheeting over the windows or making insulated drapes to hang during the winter (the drapes would work to keep the house cooler in summer too!).

Close off unneeded or unused areas during the power outage. This is where you are going to see just how fast family members can get on your nerves! Make just one or two rooms be used.

Inspect already installed fireplaces/woodstoves or install a small woodstove in a main room. You would be amazed how much one small woodstove can do! And of course have on hand a cord or so of cut, seasoned firewood for that stove and MATCHES!

Look into enclosing your south-facing porch for the winter and buy in advance the necessary supplies to do so. Enclosing your porch will give you some heat from the sun during the day and an outside place to cook if you have to use a grill.

winter-power-outage3If for some reason you cannot have a woodstove in your home look into getting some other heating source like Little Buddy camp heaters and a supply of fuel for them or a kerosene heater and several gallons of kerosene.

In a pinch, lanterns and candles do put off a bit of heat and can warm and light a small area. These choices are dangerous and should only be used in an emergency with all necessary precautions. But they are better than freezing to death.

Wrap water pipes to keep pipes from freezing, wrap them in insulation or layers of newspapers, covering the newspapers with plastic to keep out moisture. Look into storing several gallons of water incase pipes do freeze or your well isn’t working.

All the above can be and should be done and ready long before the first cold snap.

How to Survive a Winter Emergency Power Outage

But what if you get a surprise and are not ready? During an emergency power outage you need to:

  • Move all family members to one area and close off all the other rooms.
  • Select a space on the “warm” side of the house, away from prevailing cold winds. It’s best to avoid rooms with large windows or uninsulated walls. Interior rooms, such as inside bathrooms or closets, probably have the lowest heat loss. Your basement may be another great option in cold weather, because of the heat gain from the earth.
  • Isolate the room from the rest of the house by keeping doors closed, hanging bedding, heavy drapes, blankets or towels over entryways or erecting temporary partitions of cardboard or plywood. Hang drapes, bedding, shower curtains, and such other insulating items over doors and windows.
  • Drip your faucets to prevent them from freezing or shut off the water at the main and drain the pipes. Store that water for drinking and cooking.
  • Let the children make a fort to sleep in to help retain body heat.
  • Dress warmly and EXERCISE! It will help keep your core body temp up.
  • Eat and drink warm things like soups or coffee/hot chocolate. Heating up water on a small sterno can is easy, safe and does add some warmth to the room.
  • Don’t forget your pets! Many animals can and do make it through the cold months just fine as long as they are used to living outside but for those pets that are not make room in your warm spot and in your plans for them! A warm dog or cat is great to snuggle with on a cold night!
  • Turn off all electricity except for maybe one light to protect against a possible power surge when the power does finally come back on.
  • If all else fails and this power outage is going to last for a while contact your local Red Cross or church and they can probably direct you to a shelter in your area or you can contact out of area family or friends for an impromptu visit!
  • After the lights come back on take stock in how it went for you and take steps to improve on your ability to provide for yourself. Don’t beat yourself up if you had to evacuate to a friends or a shelter consider this a wakeup call and make it a goal to do better the next time because there WILL BE a next time.

Additional Resources

Reader Submission: hidden wall safe with an expedient, emergency retrieval system

Monday, January 4th, 2016

The following has been submitted by Claude Thigpen

In my idle thoughts, I often find myself mentally running “what if” scenarios.

The one I return to the most is if I awoke in the night and my home was ablaze. After securing my families safety, what would I carry with me? In that moment, which item would I value above the others? Or would I have an opportunity to save anything? This scene alters and plays differently depending on where I am in my home when I run the drill.

I originally thought of purchasing a fire safe for protecting my valuables. However, after some research and finding that in a perfect world where either your home was across the street from the fire department, or your home burned completely in less than 3 hours and sustained temps never exceeded the rating for the safe, that a fire safe was not a realistic option for me. Especially since my valuables would not be readily accessible in emergencies (for example, when rapid retrieval of a weapon was needed).

So while in a waiting room, watching a reality based police television show, I saw how the police hooked a cable to a wrought iron burglar bar door and snatched it clean away. This was the inspiration I needed when I devised this notion…

How to Build a Hidden Wall Safe (with expedient, emergency retrieval system)

Here’s my idea: I’ll fab a sheet metal cabinet, sized to fit in the thickness of a stud framed, exterior wall, this in turn provides a hidden, in the wall, safe.

This cabinet would have a rigid metal frame, on the exterior side of the cabinet. To this frame, 2 cables would be attached on either side, as high as possible so as to create more leverage when pulled against. These cables would be connected to each other with a shackle, and then to a longer, primary cable.

This would look like a Y configuration. These cables would be covered by siding, a false exterior door, false window, etc. Each install would have unique requirements. The primary cable could be discreetly located a safe distance from the wall in whatever you could dream up — a bird bath, a patio stone, a plumbing cleanout, etc. The camo is in the eye of the beholder.

From this point, in case of something as catastrophic as a house fire, retrieval could be achieved with a vehicle, i.e. a fire truck, simply by pulling the safe through the wall, out of harm’s way.

I like this choice, rather than having to choose. I’m sure I left some details out and I would like to hear any input, comments, thoughts on improving or questions.