Sneaky Tricks to Scare the Looters

Looters are a serious problem that accompanies any disaster. If you don’t believe me, just look at Hurricane Katrina; the city was underwater, but the looters were out, seeing what they could steal.

Of course, it doesn’t take a disaster to get looters going; there are plenty around on a day-to-day basis. It’s just that they seem to multiply during the aftermath of a disaster.

Unfortunately, the police can’t stop them.

I’m not blaming the police for that; there are only so many police officers on the streets.

There’s no way that they can be everywhere at the same time, stopping those looters from doing their thing.

No, if they’re going to get stopped, it’s going to have to be because you and I do it, not because the police stop them.

There are three important things to keep in mind about the criminal mind. These three attributes pretty much define why they do what they do:

  • They’re lazy – “Why work, when you can steal?”
  • They’re bullies – They want to threaten and scare others so that they can steal.
  • They’re chicken – No criminal wants to get into a fight; they might get hurt.

What to Do

With that in mind, there are a number of things that we can do to scare off looters, before they can accomplish their goals. Always remember, your goal is to get rid of them, not necessarily to kill them or even to arrest them. You want them to leave you alone and leave your goods with you.

  • Dogs – This one is obvious. Everyone knows that a barking dog spells danger. When you hear a dog barking, you never know if it’s a big mean dog or just a little one. Considering how devastating an attack from a dog can be, most criminals will avoid any house that has dogs, especially noisy ones.
  • Signs – Putting out stakes and tape to mark out a mine field can be almost as effective as having a mine field. You can use that same concept by putting out signs that spell danger to any looters. “Beware of Dog” signs and the myriad styles of signs which say that you shoot first and ask questions later carry a lot of impact. Most criminals will avoid any place where it looks like they’re going to have to fight.
  • Camouflage – It won’t scare the looters, but you can do a lot with camouflage, making your home look like there’s nothing there worth stealing. In the aftermath of most disasters there is usually a lot of debris lying around. Collect some and pile it against your house, making your home look like just one more wrecked home in the neighborhood.
  • Fire – Do you remember seeing flame throwers in the old World War II movies?  Flame throwers are terror weapons, designed to scare whatever out of any enemies. Most people can deal with the idea of getting shot much better than the idea of being burned alive. You can make a fairly good makeshift flame thrower with a can of hairspray and butane lighter. Light the hairspray on fire and charge; they’ll probably run. Another way that you can use fire as a terror weapon is to buy a flare gun. These are made of plastic and shoot the flare out of a 12 gauge shotgun shell. Paint the gun black to cover up the orange plastic and make it look like a real gun. When you shoot it at the looters, it will look like you’re shooting fireballs at them.
  • Ambush – If it comes down to a fight, you need to stack the deck in your favor. The easiest way to do that is with an ambush. Determine which way is the most likely direction of attack and plan your defenses so that you can concentrate your firepower along that route. If you have to, put obstacles in the way, to cause them to go along your planned route, rather than outflanking you. When they’re in the “kill box” let loose with all the firepower you have.
  • Use Extra Shooters – Maybe you’re the only real shooter in your family. But do your family members know how to shoot? If they do, then hand them guns and tell them to shoot too. Even if they don’t hit the bad guys, there will be more lead flying around, making it seem like they are in greater danger. Just make sure that they can shoot well enough to avoid hitting your neighbors.
  • Simulators – The Army has simulators that they use as traps, mostly to let them know that an enemy is approaching. These make the sound of real artillery shells, explosions and machine gun firing, causing fear in the attacker. While you can’t get those simulators, you can probably get your hands on a few strings of firecrackers. In the heat of the moment, they probably won’t be able to tell if they are firecrackers or if you’re shooting at them with a machine gun.

Remember, your goal is to scare them, so that they will run away. In order to do that the most effectively, you want to hit them with everything you’ve got, all at once. In other words, while your ambush is going on, get the dogs barking and set off your simulators. Throw some fire their way as well.

The more confusion you can add to the mix, the more terror it’s going to create in their hearts. That will get them to leave, much more effectively than anything else you can do.


This article has been written by Bill White for Survivopedia.

Photo source: 123RF

Written by

Bill White is the author of Conquering the Coming Collapse, and a former Army officer, manufacturing engineer and business manager. More recently, he left the business world to work as a cross-cultural missionary on the Mexico border. Bill has been a survivalist since the 1970s, when the nation was in the latter days of the Cold War. He had determined to head into the Colorado Rockies, should Washington ever decide to push the button. While those days have passed, the knowledge Bill gained during that time hasn’t. He now works to educate others on the risks that exist in our society and how to prepare to meet them. You can send Bill a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • Just a bit of food for thought..

    When you scare someone off, there is a very reasonable chance they will come back later, reasoning that if they need something really bad, the place with the traps and diversions set up may have whatever that is. Looters tend to be lazy mostly while there are other, easier targets to focus on. Once those targets are picked clean, or determined to have nothing of value, the odds are high they will come at you again. Probably with greater numbers, and more determination.

    The first rule of survival must be willingness and readiness to make hard decisions. The decision to kill can be the hardest to make, but in a world where there are no 9-1-1, paramedics, hospitals, and cops, that is something for everyone to consider.

    • We don’t completely have a 911 address yet. they are working on it. However even if it were 100% functional. there are 4 deputies in this county (county name withheld for security purposes) but local law enforcement has informed me shoot any one on your property you believe to be a threat against your life, or will inflict sever bodily harm to you.

    • I agree, If they choose to bring a fight to my door, then a fight they will get. My plan is bug in, I have everything I could need. I see no benefit in playing peek a boo with someone who is the perpetrator. When there is no rule of law then we absolutely have to make tough choices.

  • You have to be very careful of the “Beware of Dog” signs. My insurance company told me years ago that even if your dog never bites anyone, you can be pulled into a legal mess over that sign.

    • “Working dogs on premises” might be better. I’ve got a pack that never leaves my side. I love it when strangers turn up and they all stand around me and just watch attentively with a little bit of hair standing up on their spines.
      On a survival forum (now shut down) a guy suggested putting biohazard tape around your premises, across windows and doors, with a dead body of something wafting its putridness around the place. I like that one too.

    • Only if your dog actually bites someone. If you have a beware of dog sign up and he or she bites someone, your ‘I didn’t know he would bite’ defense goes out the window. The sign signifies that you know your dog will bite, and if he’s not properly restrained it could lead to a lawsuit.

      • Jim, two things: 1. this is suppose to a time of no law, 2. no one who’s dead is going to sue you. Make sure they’re dead.

      • The rioting will probably start in the cities as law and order breaks down.
        Don’t put out warning signs before that happens.
        Once all hell breaks loss we don’t need to worry about law-suits.

    • I agree with Candy, I read an article a few years back that a family had to pay the thief who was bit by their dog and they had a “beware of dog” sign. The judge told them if they would have had a “Guard Dog on Duty” sign it would be different story since he was doing its job. So I wen to the local farmers store and had custom “Guard Dog on Duty” signs made.

  • No, my goal is not to scare them so they run away. My goal is to kill them and leave their rotting corpses as a warning to other looters and miscreants. The world will be better off without them. If I just scare them off then I certainly must have something valuable to protect so they’ll probably just return with their friends looking for a big score.

  • If any oy you watched the Ukraine revolution, then you probably saw the people using mortar fireworks shells against the police with great effectivness. Drop one in the tube, light it, point and let er rip! The shell should travel about 100 feet minimum and explode with different collered balls of fire. Very effective!

    • Can you get ahold of some Roman Candles? They’re legal around here, but some states are just stupid when it comes to anything bigger than Party Poppers!

      • I own some antique firearms. Needless to say I have black powder to load these. Talk about sneaky tricks get some 1/2 inch PVC put a cap on one end fill with 100 grains black powder drill a hole in a second cap and make some fuse with potassium nitrate and cotton string insert into the hole making sure it goes all the way to the gun powder. leave 8″ sticking not glue fuse end. lite it and throw it at them it makes a horrible bang but at 5 feet away it is relatively harmless. You can lake dozens of these for pennies. But I bet it will increase their laundry bill.!!! LOL

  • We found something hilarious in our side yard. There are no lights on the side of our house so I bought two solar powered motion detector lights ( and attached them to the inside of our fence. A few days later, I took out the trash and saw the tracks in the rocks. One of the local kids had jumped our fence, landed in front of light #1, the light came on, scared the crap out him, he dashed like hell toward the second light, it came on too, and his feet peeled out like a Bugs Bunny cartoon trying to change direction and get the hell out of there.

  • The best way to deal with looters is to form posses for security, set up a emergency reaction system, like a alert team, and kill them. Do not run them off to prey on some weaker folks.

  • Dogs work well any time.
    For those who are only want to encourage others to leave them alone, a hcan of wasp/hornet spray does wonders out to 20-25 ft.Also, while i don’t have experience with wasp/hornet spray I can tell you that ammonia in a Super Soaker will absolutely do the trick.

  • Setting up spring traps should work well hide some in the places the looters will use for cover in a attack on your home

  • Unless you are positive that society has broken down you had better not be killing anyone. Eventually they will finally restore order and if you didn’t act in a legal way to protect your life NOT your goods you could be in a lot of trouble. Messing around on your property is one thing. Being inside your house is quite different.

  • Instead of a “Beware of Dog” sign…a number of years ago I put up a “Beware of Reptile” sign. I guess it woked pretty well. About two months after I put it up…a couple of police came by asking about it. Seems some “people” had some bunched up panties about it and had “complained”. I told them that there was only one, very ill tempered “reptile” around. (Ill tempered when it found someone on the property that wasn’t supposed to be there, that is.) Well…they wanted to see “it”. I told them I’d be out in a minute and they could see it. I came out about 2 min. later…wearing a shirt that had “Reptile” printed on the front and back. They loved it, but still asked me to take the sign down because it had generated a little “fear” with some people. I asked them which was better…me taking the sign down or…telling them where the bodies might be stacked if something went bump in the night. I kept the sign and have replaced it twice. It now says, “Reptiles”…I have two sons, so I had to make it plural.

  • I feel you need to think like an infantry platoon leader to defend your property, family, neighborhood, and food stash. I have led a Federal riot control platoon at the Democratic National Convention anti-war riots in Chicago in 1968, and a rifle platoon in Vietnam in the Ashau Valley and on Dong Ap Bia [Hamburger Hill]. I have learned to use just the minimal amount of force necessary to be legal and ethical [even if there is no law enforcement], and effective without throwing all your defenses at them for minor infractions and using up your defense resources early on thus leaving you vulnerable at a later time.
    I like the idea of an area defense by organizing your neighbors into roving patrols and hidden observation posts. Cheap, yet simple, two way radio communications can inform everyone when a threat is spotted. Hidden observers [out posts] can provide you with details that can make a response from the patrols more appropriate and effective with the minimal use of precious resources. If a couple of dads scavenging for their hungry kids show up in a pickup, I do not feel you should cut loose with all the firepower you can muster. Usually, a clear show of armed force and a few sympathetic words can work wonders without causing unnecessary lose of life to several hungry family providers. If you are bugging in and your domicile is in a line of homes that will block your line of sight and make it easier for the other guys to approach you without being seen, the outpost and roving patrols can make it much easier to defend your part of town.
    Such well organized responses require some detailed organization, planning, and leadership that can be put together in a short lead-up time. One person should be put into command who tends to “stay calm and carry on” [make good decisions and give orders] when potential problems occur. That person should spend a lot of mental time reacting to various situations and planning his responses. Others should pledge to follow his [or her] orders and trust the leader completely in order to react swiftly and appropriately. A couple of neighbors should be appointed as medical personnel to create an aid station and provide medical support if needed. Likely avenues-of-approach, fields of observation, and assignments can be planned ahead of time thus facilitating quick manning in emergencies.
    Maximum defensive capabilities [firearms and explosives] should only be used as a last resort when faced with well organized and armed intruders, or in a mass riot situation like you might likely find in an urban situation. Even then, open show of force-of-arms might deter the aggressors unless they are armed. Then exposure of your force would just make your guys [and gals] tempting targets. I remember in the Ferguson situation, there were several business owners who stood out in front of their businesses with fire arms and their premises were not bothered. Of course, there the rioters were not starving and did not have firearms [that we know of]. Evaluation of the rioter’s motivation and armament should be major parts of your command structure’s thinking.
    As is obvious, I am, based upon experience, opposed to unnecessary maiming and killing unless it is desperately necessary. But, I recognize that good decision making from a calm, knowledged, and reliable source is essential for performing defensive tasks legally, ethically, and sensibly. Planning, accumulating resources, and good decision making are essential to a very functional and effective defense.

  • What is the difference between a looter and a hungry person looking for food and water? What happens when your “band of neighbors” run out of food and water?
    What happens when the bodies start stinking up the place? What happens when “They” quit fooling around and light your place on fire? No matter how well prepared you are you are going to have to leave the Fortress sometime.

  • Love our magnolia trees all around house….leaves drop all year and make a hell of a ruckus when approaching house. Also… if you have a whole house generator …. do not dare run that thing at night.. also for the last 10 years ive been “letting” People know in casual conversAtion That our Neighborhood was onE of the moSt heaVily armed in county. Start That rumor about yours Ss soon and often as pOssible… regardless if true or not.