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Retreat Barriers

One of the things that pops up in the mind of a Prepper is the survivability of his retreat. Keeping the bad guys out is a part of that. Barriers take many forms, and can include;

  • tangle foot wire
  • fences or walls
  • ditches
  • hedges
  • terrain features such as gullies or streams and rock formations
  • any combination of these and more

They serve to delay or stop intruders from stepping onto your property, and buy you time to call for help, or decide what else to do. They are part of Passive Defense.

I’m a fan of one combination approach in particular. It merges the ditch, hedge, fence and wire. Its purpose is to stop entry, or slow it to such a crawl as to make intruders reconsider their vulnerable position. This barrier is built to stop common four wheel drive vehicles, and most individuals.

The foundation of the barrier is a nicely dug trench or ditch. The earth removed from the trench is mounded up along the side facing the retreat.  To aid in stopping vehicles, it is built with a 30 degree lead-in, and a 45 degree exit at the other side.  Once in the trench and against the up side (if it reaches it… more on that later….), a vehicle faces a 75 degree obstacle. This is a difficult feature to defeat when combined with the other components of this design.

The illustration below gives you some rough measurements, in feet. On the retreat side, there is a mound of earth dug from the trench. It may be larger than depicted. Along the top of the trench, just shy of the crest, there will be a fence of some sort. The stronger – the better.  The gaps in its construction will allow the hedge to grow through and around. To make the fence work double duty, string some barbed wire along its length, close to the ground, perhaps in three courses. The fence is represented by the thick line shy of the crest of the berm. This placement is up to you. Someone may elect to position it near the base of the berm to force a persistent intruder to pause one more time, well within his sight. I prefer its position to be somewhat close to what is depicted. It allows the vehicle to engage the trench slope without expending its energy on the fence, and damaging it at that critical time.

Within the trench, is a thick hedge of thorny blackberry bushes. Thorny blackberry thrives in a wet environment, and a goodly amount of runoff in the trench will give it what it likes. Absent natural water flows, at least part of the year, simple irrigation runoff will help it to grow. Your excess in the form of gray water, garden runoff or just water above and beyond your needs will do fine. If your water table is high, make use of this. The blackberry bushes will grow high, thick and nasty. They should be able to grow up both sides of the trench, and lend stability to the slopes via their root systems. If you’ve ever tried to get rid of an established blackberry patch, you know what I mean….

Along with providing a layer of security, the hedge also grows food! If you’re a fan of blackberry-anything, then having your hedge serve up valuable ingredients is just too much to pass up. In good times, that hedge might produce enough to make a few bucks on the side.


The “Truck Stop”

A Chevy Blazer, 8’ wheel base, complete with its hell-raising gang, attempts to blow into and over the barrier. The truck is raised 6” and sports 33” tires, locking differentials, brush guard and roll bar. The four bad guys are armed with various surplus rifles and handguns.

Blackberry bushes in full swing are an imposing barrier. They are difficult to see through, tall and not very inviting. Their vines and branches on the ground reduce tires’ traction. Our invaders figure they can mow down the brush on the near side and crash through the far side. They assume that the combination of momentum and four wheel drive will leave them with enough inertia to complete the breech.

At the bottom of the trench, they have already discovered that the wiry stems and branches of the blackberries have begun to both tangle into the brush guard and suspension, and to absorb some of the truck’s energy. In addition, the muddy bottom, laced with thick roots, has begun to bind some tires and cause others to slip. Finally, the front bumper and guard, even with the lift, have dug into the far side of the trench and momentarily stopped their forward movement.

Pulling back a foot or so, if successful in the mud and brambles, gives the driver a second chance to find a tire hold. For the sake of argument, we’ll say he finds one, and is able to get a purchase on the high side. The truck begins its upward course, tearing up blackberries and churning the bottom of the trench into soup. Now, I don’t expect any truck to make it up the slope, even if it were dry. (The first drawing below shows the insanity of a trench wedgie.) I expect it to get entangled and even high sided on the brush. But if the truck gets near the top of the high side, it will be stopped by the fence and wire. With gravity, bad traction, brush, loose soil, fence and wire working against the struggling four-wheeler, it will come to a stop after making some awful noises in its attempt.  This is shown below, minus the hedge.







The “Good Neighbor” Fence

On foot, a man must deal with everything a truck would, using boots, thick clothing and gloves, eye protection and wire cutters. One major difference, though, is that the truck and its crew don’t care much about sticky thorns. They are protected by the truck’s sheet metal body. A foot mobile intruder has to work his way through the hedge with some form of brush cutting method. This is where your preparation makes a difference. You could do the man (and his friends) a favor and not grow something thick. You could help him out by simply providing him with some shade under which to rest, before he snuggles into a sniping position at the top of the high side. Or, you could make his effort so difficult, that he reasons it not worth the loss of time, comfort and blood.

The density and height of the thicket is the key, here. He must be forced to move slowly, making some degree of noise, and preferably painfully so. He stands a better chance than the truck if he keeps his head and works the easiest path. Deny him any easy path and force him to cut his way through. Cans or cow bells hung in the wire and hard to reach, can be useful in alerting you to his presence.

If he makes it towards the top, he’ll need to deal with the fence and wire, and whatever other security alert measures (dogs, for one) you have in place. As he deals with the last obstacles, you can deal with him.

The “Party Crashers”

A larger force of, let’s say, three trucks, with explosives can defeat the barrier by blowing the hedge first, and then crashing through. Further explosives can defeat the fence, too. The best bet for a crashing party is to send in a couple men first. They plant a couple sticks of boom stuff here and there, to clear a path and blow the fence. After they retreat and set off the charges, the trucks smash through. The first truck sets up a fire team on the other side of the berm while the others follow through the breech. After that, it’s whoever’s version of small unit tactics.

This level of sophistication, though, will be rarely seen. The risk to the invaders is high, and unless they really, really want what you have, they won’t try it. The bad guys almost always take the easy way, if they’re smart, or they just leave you alone. Risk versus reward has its place even in their warped minds. If you do encounter a raiding party like this, you’ll find yourself in a scenario that none of us wants to face – the one where the other side has a plan and means to carry it out. Dealing with that is another topic….

Laying it Out

This arrangement works best when placed seventy five yards or more from the retreat house. At distances further than that, detecting the noise of penetration becomes more difficult. Remember, a barrier is designed to stop or slow an intruder. A determined man or group will get through eventually if unchallenged. Your creation buys you time to deal with those that don’t give up.  Slowing them down though, does you no good if you don’t know they are there.

Make use of natural terrain features to reduce the amount of earth moving you need to do. I know of one home that is on a “plateau” , an almost unnoticeable rise in the ground of about 4 feet. You can only really see the rise if you are looking at it from a certain angle. This rise can be cut into and eliminate the need to create a lead in ramp. With just a small trench, he can create a water way to feed the hedge.

Barriers, however elaborately or simply constructed, can not solve all your security concerns. Along with placement, you need some means of monitoring them. I’m a fan of IP cameras, monitored from within your retreat house, or OP/ LP. They are not prohibitively expensive these days, and with some forethought, you can cover everything you need to see! Add a few microphones along the fence, and you have it covered. The Astak camera below has pan /tilt built in, night vision, real time motion detection and internet monitoring. On a local network, these can be ganged together for full coverage.

The pros and cons of distance work like this:
The further out the barrier is, the more time you have to decide what to do, and then get it done. This is obviously a plus. More time, less pressure. Sounds good to me. Working against that, though, is the possibility that you won’t know the bad guys are there until they are half way across the distance to the retreat center. You have to know when they are “in the wire”.

The closer in the barrier is, the less time you have to make decisions. Balancing against that is the knowledge that you’ll more likely hear a breech attempt, especially if made by more than one vehicle.  Contingency, or reaction plans, are necessary for any defensive setup. When the operating area is small, or contains tight spaces, those plans need to be in place ahead of time, and drilled into your brain. War Gaming is an absolute must! For any plan, really – because it proves or disproves your assumptions, even if based on experience.

Active Defense

Lastly, a note on firearms. Distance is your friend when using a rifle. You know your land, the distances between points, and the obstacles. While I don’t go into weapons much on this site, they are an obvious component of retreat security. Most bad guys like to think they are “operators”, with all of the attendant skills. In reality, they don’t have much on the retreat owner that is serious about knowing his arms and their capabilities. As it is with anything, planning well is a force quantity all its own.

Think things through. Plan well. Live well.