Neighborhood RECON

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If it all goes sideways someday, a lot of us are preparing to hunker down as opposed to bugging out. Your home, your city, your neighborhood is where you will choose to make your stand. Knowing your surroundings will give you a distinct advantage over people passing through looking for opportunities to loot and pillage or worse. Knowing that you have food preparations will help you prioritize other facets of survival, but knowing your neighbors and the streets around your home is crucial if you need to plan to collaborate with others or defend what you have.

I like to take walks around our neighborhood and often I notice things that could come in handy if the grid goes down; I call this neighborhood recon. Now let me be clear and state for the record that I am not advocating breaking any laws. I am not suggesting you steal anything from a neighbor, but having knowledge of resources can help a good sheep dog. The information you learn by observing your surroundings should be used to help your family and fellow-man, not bring about their ruin or destruction.

Now, with that out-of-the-way I have some ideas that I thought of on my last few walks and they may jog some memories, or give you ideas of your own about your environment and how to recognize resources that may have an impact on your life if and when the time comes that you need them.

Water Water Everywhere

Everyone needs water and this point has been hammered home in the survival and preparedness community for years. It is amazing to me still how many people aren’t prepared and when some disaster happens, they are scrambling to find some to drink. Bottled water is one of the first things to disappear off the grocery store shelves during any “emergency” whether this is a hurricane or just a minor snow storm that will be over in two days.

To the prepper who knows what they are looking for (in most areas) there are numerous sources of water. All of these may need to be treated of course, but simply procuring the water you need could be as easy as walking down the street. In my neighborhood we have several small ponds. It’s funny how everyone around here refers to them as lakes, but they are relatively small. Most of our ponds are man-made and are really no more than collection holes where all of the storm water runs to after a big gully washer. People fish in there and some are on private property but they are out there. We also live near a creek that strangely enough runs right past one of our ponds.

Swimming pools and hot tubs are great sources of water in a pinch and we have a few of those in our neighborhood too. I also notice homes that have rain barrels for a couple of reasons. First of all, they are a source of water potentially, but secondarily may indicate the person living there has some prepping tendencies too. The more the merrier!

Another option would be decorative fountain/pond types of areas. These would have less water overall, but could be a source if you needed some.

Lastly, I take note of the fire hydrants and how they are laid out in our neighborhood. The lines that fill those hydrants have millions of gallons of water stored all total. If you are in a situation where water was scarce, find the lowest fire hydrant you can and open that (slowly) to let gravity bring you all of the water in the lines.

Gimme Shelter

Shelter can come in many forms. For this subject I started looking at homes with retaining walls or brick fences. There are a few homes near us that have brick walls circling either the home or lining the road and these would make great cover if you had to hide in a firefight. Would you be behind them at the perfect time? I don’t know but it is something I think could help you. It may be that this location would make a good perimeter security station for your group.

Some homes have sheds in the backyards and these could afford all sorts of resources. Most of the time I would assume they are like my shed and full of a myriad of garden tools and a bunch of junk we no longer want to store in the house. In a pinch, they could also house people who have been displaced.

If you are living in a city are there abandoned buildings that could be used for other purposes?

Escape Routes

One of the scenarios I think about is what if you are forced to hide and escape from people coming into your neighborhood. Do you know which homes have fences in their backyard? Could you make it from 2 miles away back home without ever walking on the roads for more than 20 feet? There are paths you can take from one place to another and knowing these better than the person chasing you could mean the difference between dying or living to fight another day. Do you have trails through the woods near your home? How about walk paths? Those are going up everywhere in suburbia now it seems and they could be a blessing or a curse. If you have a walk path near your neighborhood people from miles and miles could simply walk into your street. Something else to consider.

Pinch Points and Security

Another scenario that some may consider unlikely but I do think of from time to time is how to prevent vehicles from over running your neighborhood easily. It may sound far-fetched, but with DHS buying 2700 armored vehicles, not out of the realm of possibility. OK, maybe the DHS has nothing but sugar-coated fairy dream plans for these vehicles, but other bad guys could want to roll into your neighborhood and set up shop while they rape, and loot to their heart’s content. Wouldn’t it be wise to think about blocking roads and setting up barriers? Nothing would be permanent in most cases, but large trees could be toppled between abandoned houses effectively blocking the road. Optionally, you could partially block the road with two trees spaced far enough that cars could pass, but they would have to go much slower to navigate the tight turns. This would give you the opportunity to stop them if needed or light em up.

In a city, it is easier to block off roads and make a security perimeter than out in the country, but each has opportunities that the sharp-eyed prepper can find if you think about it.

Resources to Barter

Who around your neighborhood has gardens? These would be the first people I would go to in order to barter food for services if I didn’t have a garden of my own. If nothing else, you may be able to help them garden and share in the harvest. I have also noticed in the winter who is burning fires. This would indicate fireplaces or wood burning stoves. To a family with a stove, they may trade firewood for heating or cooking assistance. Perhaps you can chop some wood for their stove and they can heat your water to can the vegetables you want to put away that you grew with your neighbor who has the garden. Maybe they would allow a sick or unhealthy older person stay in their heated home. There are lots of possibilities.

There is a guy in our neighborhood who has his own welding business and I would of course go to him for services. I don’t know what I could barter, but having someone with that skill and more importantly, the equipment would be huge. Do you have homes with solar panels or solar water heater panels on their roofs? What about the guy down the road who is always working on his 69 Camaro? He could have tools and the mechanical expertise you would need to repair broken equipment.

There is a world of possibilities out there, not to be taken advantage of but to be aware of. I am sure there are other ideas out there and I would love to hear from you.


  1. Dan Shaw

    March 14, 2013 at 9:06 pm

    Great article and it presented things I haven’t put a whole lot of thought into. Reading this made me think of google maps and how the arial view of my neighborhood would be of great assistance in marking out different things. Sometimes google maps close view is blurry but a lot of times there are local realtor property/tax listing that have better arial views.
    If we are faced with a total collapse these type maps would prove invaluable. You could mark homes where people have stayed put, homes that have been abandoned and so much more. Water sources and many times, specially if you live in the country, sources of water you never knew about

    • prepperjournal

      March 14, 2013 at 9:24 pm

      Thanks for the comments Dan! Yes, Google map would be a great resource and I haven’t used it but I hear Google Earth has some impressive features also. The major mapping systems do vary and I have looked at Bing versus Google, versus Map Quest and they all have different maps. In Google sometimes the map was taken in the Winter and Bing is the opposite. In the major cities Google seems to shine, but residential areas I find that Bing does a better job of detail as you zoom in.

      I would print these maps out once you have them so they would be a resource even without internet or power. Great ideas!


  2. Larry Black

    March 16, 2013 at 5:35 pm

    Love the article. My situation is a little different from most. Water isn’t any problem, as we have several sources on site including an artesian well (400′ deep) and a hand-dug spring that has run without fail for nearly 100 years. I share ownership in a 100+/- acre property in rural Vermont. Plenty of room to grow a garden and raise a few head & chickens. My greatest concerns are the refugees from the cities to the south coming up and rampaging, and the government deciding that I don’t “need” all this property and that I should give it up to common usage for the “public good”.
    For the latter, there’s not much I can do. I’m not likely to win a firefight with the government. Although, I s’pose I could torch the place, ala Atlas Shrugged, leaving them a note saying they’re welcome to it. It’s the first possibility that worries me. I have begun to build a personal defense cache of weapons, but defending the borders of my property is impossible for any force smaller than, say, a regiment, especially as much of the land is hilly and wooded. Any suggestions for securing the property from possible invasion?

    • prepperjournal

      March 16, 2013 at 5:58 pm

      Thanks for the comment and question Larry!

      You do have a completely different situation from most. Your land area alone will be hard to defend without substantial perimeter fencing or a significant sized group who has trained together to repel a force. Dealing with the golden horde is hard enough when people have gotten to the point where they are prepared to take what you have by force if necessary. In my mind it will be worse when you have to turn away begging and potentially starving people.

      Your resources at your “retreat” and your geographic location would factor heavily into any discussion of ideas. There are so many ways to tackle this subject and each one could be its own detailed discussion which we will be covering here on the Prepper Journal in the future. For now, I would suggest studying the land around your property in detail to plan for the
      easiest or most logical foot traffic and where they would be coming from. Are you near a highway exit? Is your home visible from the road? Do you really need to protect your entire 100 acres, or a smaller zone closer to your house? What natural defense advantages do you have? Are you at the top of a hill; are there sides of your property that make attacking unlikely such as steep cliffs? Like I said, each facet could be a complete subject to tackle.

      I think my best advice now without knowing your situation more is to plan for a larger group if you haven’t already to help you at your retreat. The safety and resources a larger group would gain would be a deciding factor when defending your land. At that point, you have numbers on your side and the home turf advantage. One man alone won’t hold off anyone for too long and there is always strength in numbers.

      • Larry Black

        March 16, 2013 at 8:59 pm

        Thanks for the reply. You’re right about potentially turning away the hungry and desperate being the most difficult obstacle. No one is more dangerous than someone who believes they have nothing to lose. As for a perimeter fence, I have considered it, but I’d be looking at more than a mile of border. Any serious defensive measure would have to include a double fence w/barbed or razor wire. Big money. However, I do have some extended family that I could consider taking in. They could help with the labor required to run a family farm and help defend the place in return for being allowed to share in the harvest and a secure place to live with their families. In fact, I have a grand-son-in-law who has experience working in a slaughter house and butcher shop. His help would be invaluable when it comes to preparing carcasses, be it beef, venison, bear, or even moose.
        The immediate concern could be limited to a relative handful of acres immediately surrounding the house. I could (and plan to) fence that area off to protect livestock and gardens from pilferage. Dan’s idea of using Google Maps and Bing to help map out possible defensive locations is great, also. I’ll be sure to incorporate that, as well. Thanks again.

  3. Al

    March 17, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Here’s my biggest problem when it comes to discussions around survival scavenging: proactively scavenging preppers VERSUS well hidden and hunkered down survivalists if the SHTF. If you got your poop in a group and are just trying to lay low and ride the storm out, what are you going to do if you observe some “looter” sneaking around your home/retreat with a crowbar or a pair of bolt cutters? It’s a recipe for disaster. Bit of advice, if you’re breaking into someone else’s shed and you hear a “Hey!”, don’t turn around but just run away instead. I’d prefer to shoot looters in the chest than in the back, less questions later that way.

    • prepperjournal

      March 18, 2013 at 8:59 am


      Thank you for your comment, but either I didn’t accurately communicate my point in this article, or else I misunderstand your comments. I agree, that you shouldn’t be stealing or scavenging. I mention that in the post. Perhaps I didn’t state this clear enough but I would be using this information for intelligence only. I don’t agree with stealing anything from anyone regardless of the need.

      Now, lets take an extreme example of some type of viral outbreak. If your neighbors came up to you as they had packed every last item they owned onto the top of their SUV and said. “take anything you need, we aren’t coming back” then I would say it is perfectly fine to take a rake out of their shed. If your neighbor gives you explicit permission then it is OK to scavenge as you say. That isn’t what I was referring to in this article. If your neighbors are eaten by zombies, then all bets are off. 🙂

      Information above a lot of other things can help you. It isn’t necessarily who has what but also terrain intelligence I was trying to convey. Hopefully that makes the point I was trying to make clearer.


  4. Nate W.

    September 1, 2013 at 10:01 pm

    Awesome article! I am going to be much more aware the next time I go to walk the pup. Funny that I have a guy up the street with a few mustangs and other muscle cars, his head is always buried in the hood as I walk/drive by. Maybe I will swing in and have some car talk with him and sneak in a prepping line to see if I get a bite. At the least, I may get a guy that can do a few tune-ups for me for cheap. But one question, how on earth do you get a fire hydrant open???

    • prepperjournal

      September 2, 2013 at 9:20 am

      Thanks Nate!

      You will need a big pipe wrench to open the fire hydrant and this should be done carefully, slowly and only if necessary. An open fire hydrant can let about 1000 gallons per minute out.


      • Nate W.

        September 3, 2013 at 6:52 pm

        Thanks. Will add this to the SHTF diary.

  5. ilovechristmas

    October 24, 2013 at 6:04 am

    This is an excellent article. Now I look at my neighborhood from a different perspective – how it can help me and my family survive

    • prepperjournal

      October 24, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      Thank you very much ilovechristmas!

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