Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Building or Selecting Your Rural Escape Location

This is a primitive cabin kitchen in a cabin that was reasonably priced.

    A number of people within the United States who are based in cities or suburbs fear either a terrorist attack, an economic collapse or some event which triggers civil unrest.   In addition, in the past few years many of them have not seen good returns from retirement accounts.  For this reason, a market for rural retreats was born.   Some families seek only a weekend home where they could escape their normal home for a relatively short period of time, and others seek a larger and more permanent home base where they can keep dogs, livestock, and can potentially grow some food.   Some references refer to such a home as a "bug out location".   I am less fond of this term and I don't use it generally, because it implies that a run to your rural retreat is reactionary and would occur in an emergency. If during an emergency, you must evacuate, then such a move needs to be deliberate and well considered, not thoughtlessly reactionary.  I contend that if your present neighborhood is unsafe now, that during a weather emergency, a terrorist attack, that you might not be able to evacuate and get to your secondary home.  Therefore I encourage many families if they feel unsafe in their present surroundings, to relocate as a short term goal.    Of course there are a few families who can afford to maintain homes in two places, but then both would need to be supplied for disasters.
               Of course, the title to this post could easily be the title to an entire book, and so I must seriously scale down what I might say in an entire book.  Instead, I will list the essentials to selecting a location for a retreat, a rural retreat, or a ready-made home you plan to use as such.

There are lots of hidden cabins across the United States. Some of them may be accessed only by walking.

              Water Availability

  Anywhere you purchase as an emergency location or as a permanent home needs to have unbridled and easy access to water.  You can only farm and you can only raise animals as the amount of water you have permits.   First assess the availability of water.  Can you install a deep well ?  Is there a well ?   Can water be collected from your roof ?  Is water collection legal where you are ?   Must you pump water in an emergency with electricity, or can you install the Simple Pump or another variety which allows you to pump well water without electricity ?

      Location, Location, Location

     If you plan to leave your primary home to reach your emergency base, is its location accessible for you ?
A ten acre ranch in Utah may not be quite so smart of you live and work in New York City.  Decide now whether you can relocate to a rural area and actually work from there, or whether you must keep a base in the city, and have a rural place within a couple of hours by car.

  Getting There

         How would you, your family and your pets get to your "Emergency Location" or "Beta-site" ?   Do you have a car, a truck or a sport utility vehicle that could be quickly packed and could allow you to arrive at your secondary site ?    Chances are, a bus won't get you to the kind of rural place you are going to need in emergencies.

There are some expensive cabins and getaways out there too.  You might want to buy a shell and then work on it to personalize it yourself.


           Remember that your "Beta Site" should have someone local in the rural place in which it's located, watching it for you.  You may not be there much, and it should be watched for storm damage, theft, and even for squatters.  You should pay them a small amount to do this, because then you are most likely to have their cooperation and allegiance.
          Consider a place that is not easily seen by those traveling through.   Take a lesson from nature and think about the rabbit hole.   Try to find a place which is not easily found or easily seen, without very specific directions.
         I think it's generally best to select a place without a shared driveway.  This saves difficulties down the road.

 Ask these questions:

1.  If this is a structure, was it built for year round living or will it need to have modifications to be used in Winter if necessary
2. Is it zoned for year round living, animals, off grid living, or anything else you have your heart set on doing ?
3. How much land does it have and is there a survey ?  A survey can be incredibly important.  On one property I bought I learned that I had two more wells than I knew I had, when I paid for a survey from a licensed surveyor.  Sometimes this is important information, especially if you are raising animals.
4. What are the annual property taxes at this location ?   It would be terrible to find an inexpensive cabin and then have trouble getting out there because you needed a second job in order to pay the property taxes on it.  Remember that property taxes can vary significantly jurisdiction to jurisdiction.  Find this out before you buy.
5. What is prohibited by ordinance at your Beta-site ?    Can you hunt there ?  Can you keep chickens ?  How many dogs can live there ?    Can you collect rainwater, or is that illegal ? (It is in Colorado)  If you need to add a third or fourth bedroom, is this municipality going to let you ?  On the East Coast this can be a very large problem.
6.  What is the size and status of your septic tank ?    Is that why your retreat only has 2 bedrooms ?
 One septic tank can be quite different from another.  I once bought a retreat which turned out to have a metal trash can filled with newspapers (and old condoms) in lieu of a real septic tank.   It cost a lot to install a new septic system.

           If your home in the city were destroyed while you and your family were safely at your secondary site, could you live there indefinitely ?     You need to buy somewhere safe, but it needs to be liveable.

         Lastly,  what are the hazards inherent to the area of your proposed Beta-site ?    Is there a uranium mine down the street ?       Does it overlook Love Canal ?     Is it located on top of a mammoth fault ?
Is it new because a hurricane destroyed the last structure last year and the owner was forced to rebuild by the homeowners insurance company before selling it ?   Be a little bit wary and do your homework.

            Consider building your own retreat, but remember that many times, the best buys are on pre-existing structures.  It is also my opinion that your Beta-Site should be in the country in which you normally reside.  Borders close down in emergencies faster than you can say, "jackrabbit".     

           Don't forget that if the area in which you buy a retreat which has soil and a water table which permit this, a basement is a very very good idea.  This can be helpful in tornadoes, for storage or sometimes to provide a place where extra bedrooms could be finished in future.  This is something you must consider when selecting your area for retreat.  Some places for example, parts of Florida and parts of Texas have soil issues and such a high water table that a basement is not possible, or it is not possible to finish one for living space.

This is a basement that was finished as an office.


Sunnybrook Farm said...

So may possibilities and things to ponder, I have to wonder about people on the TV shows about prepping, who call there evacuation location "our Alamo" that didn't turn out too well as I remember. Anyway being highly mobile in order to get to a plan B or C location would be of great importance. At least people are starting to think about what to do if...

JaneofVirginia said...

Yes, this is a complex issue because people and their families have differing needs and differing abilities. A single man with a golden retriever could probably formulate an evacuation plan with three contingency locations in a couple of hours. Those of us with families and animals including livestock need to have much more elaborate plans, and we may not have plans C or D because we are restricted by family size, those with medical issues who are impaired in terms of travel, and by animal transport. There is much to consider, and depending upon how many people and animals, such plans could be expensive. People ARE considering their evacuation plans in emergencies, and I see this as a good thing.

PioneerPreppy said...

And what happens if you make it to your second safe location only to find out it is already claimed. I always thought that would be a sensible problem to consider.

JaneofVirginia said...

There is nothing you can do to make that impossible. Selecting a site which almost no one knows about, coupled with having a trusted caretaker who visits frequently are important. Also, my retreat had welded steel reinforced doorframes and few windows which make illegal entry tougher. We decided long ago that our strategy would be to walk away from the higher paying jobs of the urban and suburban areas, and to accept less money in order to be at our rural retreat #1 fulltime. These are all tough decisions, all of which have to be made individually. There is no guarantee that your secondary structure won't burn to the ground while your paying an ever increasing homeowner's insurance bill.

Gorges Smythe said...

An out-of-the-way place is good for hiding, but you'll have no reinforcements available, should you be under attack. Plus thin walls don't stop bullets. Two more things to think about, depending on what all you're trying to prepare against.

JaneofVirginia said...

Good points Gorges. Concealment is extremely important. Don't forget that once you buy such a property and you are there on weekends, you begin to make friends and contacts. Some of my best friends live near our other home now. So, you do actually have people who would defend and are with you. Basements are also helpful because it can be a safe place in the event of an attack.
Although no one can prepare for everything, there is a lot we can prepare for. Also, the exterior of your hideaway shouldn't look too inviting. Signs which indicate that you might shoot keeps a lot of people away.

BBC said...

I don't own any remote property, I own a small 5th wheel and if things go to hell I'll decide which remote wilderness area here to take it to. Or I may decide to just stick it out here and shoot it out to stay here if I have to. Everything is a crap shoot.

Linda said...

I cannot go anywhere, but I live in a small town where I feel safe. The only thing that bothers me is that I live on one of the corners of the Historic District. I would be one of the first to experience anything untoward.

JaneofVirginia said...

It is possible that people would leave the historic district for places that had anything from a Wal-Mart to a bar. Civil unrest is likely not to occur at all places at the same time.

JaneofVirginia said...

This is true. A Fifth Wheel provides a lot of space and so long as you have money for gas, you could go anywhere.

BBC said...

Bars are historical meeting places during such times. America was built in bars.

JaneofVirginia said...

Exactly. People go where they feel comfort and camaraderie in times of trouble. This would not be a bar for me, but for many people, maybe even most, it would be. In Europe, and particularly the British Isles, the local pub is the center of socialization, and connection to neighborhood. In the US this is also true in many places. My father enjoyed a malt now and again, in bars owned by his friends. In Utah this is not so, but in many places it is.

kymber said...

Jane - i have nominated you for a leibster blog award. you can accept it at my blog. congrats! your friend,

JaneofVirginia said...

Thankyou, Kymber.
These are always appreciated !