The 7 Rules Of How Not To Become A Target

There’s a military axiom which says,“The best defense is a good offense.”

I have my own, modified version of this. It goes, “The best defense is not becoming a target.” What I mean by that is that if nobody has a reason for attacking you, you won’t have to worry about being attacked.

You’ve got to realize that in the aftermath of any crisis, people are going to be on the prowl. You’ve seen it on the news reports; people looting, stealing, breaking into homes, even rooting around in garbage dumpsters for the things that they need to survive.

You’re going to see it again; only this time, you’ll see it much more up close and personal. That’s why you need to learn how not to become a target.


While there are no accurate figures as to how many preppers there are in the United States, estimates put it at somewhere between two and three million people. The rest of the people out there are expecting FEMA to come to the rescue, riding on a white horse and with federal government funds (otherwise known as your tax dollars) in their hands to solve all their problems.

Since most people only have less than three days’ worth of food in their homes, it won’t take long for all those millions of people out there to get desperate. Then they’ll start hunting. They’re first stop will be the stores, which will be cleaned out of anything useful. Then, they’ll start preying on each other.

There will only be two basic ways to prevent being attacked. The first is to look so strong to the attacker that they decide to leave you alone and find somebody else to pick on. Not only is that rather expensive to accomplish, it’s just about like putting up a billboard on the roof of your home that says, “Preppers Live Here!”.

The other way is to fool people into thinking that there’s nothing to be gained by attacking you. Poor people generally don’t think of stealing from other poor people, unless they see that the other poor person has something that they want.

The general assumption is,“They’re as poor as I am, it’s not worth attacking them.” Instead, they go looking for somebody who’s going to have something worth stealing. That somebody else is you, unless of course, they don’t realize that you have anything worth grabbing. Therein lies the secret; making it look like you’re not worth bothering with.

You’re home defense problems are going to be greatly lessened if they don’t come to attack you. So, it’s important to do everything you can to make sure that they don’t know who you are, what you have, or that you are living any better than they are.

If you’re living like everything is hunky-dory, that will be like putting up that billboard again. Many of the things that you are doing to prepare for a disaster can very easily make you and your home stand out, making you into the target that you don’t want to be.

Even while you’re enjoying your stockpile of food and drinking from your well, using the light produced by your solar panels, you don’t want others to know.

Find out more on how to improve your layered home defense to survive disaster! 

How Does OPSEC Help You?

All this is called Operational Security, or OPSEC. In the military, it’s the idea of denying the enemy information about who you are, what you’re doing, what your capabilities are and what your plans are. That’s really no different than what you need to do with your prepping. You need to deny the same information to all the people around you who might want what you have.

Light Discipline

One of the easiest giveaways that you are in better shape than your neighbors is having lights shining out of your windows, when everyone else’s power is out. Most preppers have alternate sources to provide their home with power in the case of an emergency.

Even so, if people see that light shining through the windows, they’re going to be wondering where it is coming from, and why you are the only one who has electricity. To stay safe, use low wattage electric lights, that won’t be so obvious.

If you have a battery backup system, you can run wires through your house to run 12 volt automotive lights. These may not be as bright as what you’re used to, but they will provide enough light for most activities.

The best thing to do is to install blackout curtains. These are dark, heavy curtains, which are designed to prevent light from escaping through the windows. They need to be made of heavy fabric and be larger than the window, so that they cover the window and can seal the space around it.

Don’t forget about flashlights either. While there will be other people with flashlights, the longer the disaster lasts, the less batteries there will be available for them. If you have to use a flashlight, use it sparingly, and do whatever you can to hood the light and keep it from being obvious.

In the military, they use a red lens on flashlights, with a light blocker behind it. The light blocker is a solid plate, with just a pinhole in the middle. Between the two, very little light escapes, keeping it from being seen from far away.


Unless you’re one of those fortunate people who has a propane stove or a cast-iron one, you’re probably going to be doing your cooking outdoors, which means cooking on your grille or in a fire pit. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a good alternative for when your kitchen is out of order, but there is a very high risk that your neighbors are going to know exactly what you’re cooking. If that’s a pot of beans and rice, it won’t be such a big deal, but if you’re cooking steaks every night, everybody will know about this.

The longer you go without power, the greater a problem that’s going to be. The first couple of days after the power goes out, you’re probably going to smell a lot of steaks on the grille, as people try to use up what they’ve got in the freezer before it can go bad.

But once that first few days are over, there won’t be too many people with steaks to grill.

This is one of those cases that you can cover up with a bit of subterfuge. Hopefully, you’ve got a good enough relationship with your neighbors, that you’ll be helping each other out in a crisis.

So, if you go hunting and get a deer, it would seem normal that you would pass on some meat to your neighbors. Hopefully, the next week one of them will go hunting and share with you as well. If everyone in the neighborhood is grilling meat outdoors once a week, it won’t seem all that strange. The rest of your meat can be turned into jerky, and used in soups and stew that way.

Spices are another thing that can give away your abundance of food. When people are eating the most basic of foods, their sense of smell for well-seasoned food can actually be increased. If they smell well-seasoned food coming from your back yard, that will serve as another indicator that you have food.

I firmly believe in stocking spices, and I like well-seasoned foods. However, if my spice rack is going to cause me trouble, I’ll put a padlock on it and throw away the key. My family’s survival is more important to me than having gourmet meals.


Simple things can give everything away, especially to people who are looking for them. If you have a bunch of trash piling up at the curb and somebody is going to take a look in it and find a bunch of empty food packages, they’re instantly going to know that you have food while everyone else is starving.

The easiest way to solve the problem is to burn your trash. You’ve got to be careful about that, though, as burning trash could be a give away in and of itself. However, if you’re cooking outside over a fire, there’s nothing to say that you can’t use your trash to start the fire and burn some more of it as fuel. That will serve two purposes for you; get rid of the trash, and save your stock of fuel.

The same can be done if you’re using a fireplace to heat your home. Since you’ll be burning wood in it anyway, throwing some packages in there as well won’t be a problem. Once again, this can serve to dispose of the trash, while helping provide heat to your home.

If there’s no other possibility, then hide your trash in your basement or backyard, being sure to separate edible garbage from trash. The edible garbage can go into a compost heap, eliminating it, which will also help cut down on the stench from storing so much trash.

Appearance of Your Home

If you are in an area that was hit by a hurricane, there will be a lot of damage to homes and other buildings. While there might be a few which avoid any major damage, they will be few and far between. If your home is the only one in the area which doesn’t look like it sustained any damage, then it might look suspicious to people passing by. Likewise, if you manage to get it repaired faster than anyone else.

An easy thing that you can do to make your home look more damaged and increase your physical security in other ways, at the same time, is to put plywood over your windows. Some people who live in hurricane prone areas have pre-cut pieces which they can install whenever needed. If you have these, or can make some out of plywood, it will help make your home appear abandoned.

At the same time, those pieces of plywood will prevent anyone from seeing what’s going on inside and help keep any light from your lamps indoors. Should anyone decide to attack your home, plywood is fairly hard to break, making it harder for them to come through your windows.

Any gardening for fresh vegetables or livestock you have needs to be hidden in the back yard, preferably behind a privacy fence. If people don’t see it, hopefully they won’t think it’s there.

Noise Discipline

Noise can be another dead giveaway. The average person doesn’t realize how much noise they create, just doing everyday chores. That noise will show that your home is occupied. If you want to appear like an abandoned home, you’ve got to control the noise.

Even besides that, if you’re not trying to present the image of being an abandoned home, you still want to watch your noise levels, especially any sounds made by electronic devices.

If you have music playing in your home or your kids are watching a movie on the TV, it can probably be heard from outside your home. People hearing it will wonder how it is that you have electric power, when they don’t.

It’s not too much of a leap of imagination from there to wondering what else you might have that they can use.

Kids can be a real problem when it comes to noise discipline. If you have children, especially small ones, you’ll need to watch them constantly to keep them quiet. The best way to do this is to keep them busy with tasks that don’t make a lot of noise. Get them to help you and your wife around the house as well, making them a part, rather than just leaving them to play.


You’re going to be more physically active in the aftermath of a disaster, than you are today. Just trying to survive is going to keep you and your whole family busy.

Pretty much everything you do will have to be done manually,without the benefit of modern conveniences. That’s going to be a lot of hard physical work.

Trying to hide all this activity will be virtually impossible. Even so, there are a few things that you can do to camouflage your actions. More than anything, you can try and make your actions look like those around you. They’ll be busy trying to survive as well, so your actions to look like you are trying to survive shouldn’t look all that different.

Many things, like going to collect water from a nearby stream or lake will be the same as your neighbors are doing. Here again, you have a great opportunity for cooperation. If you can work together to collect and haul water, then you’ll just be part of the group.

You’ll also make the job easier for both of you, as you can help each other out. Of course, you’ll be the one with the water filtration system, so maybe you can help them out with that, in exchange for them helping you out in other ways.

Keep as much of your survival activity in your house or backyard as you possibly can. That will limit the number of people who can see what you’re doing to your immediate family and your immediate neighbors.

Here again you can co-opt them in your plans, by helping them. If they see you working in the backyard, growing vegetables, offer to help them get their garden started too; possibly in exchange for some labor.

Personal Appearance

With food shortages all around you, there’s a good chance that people are going to be losing weight. If you’re not, this could be another sign that you’re in much better shape, supply-wise than anyone else. In a town full of malnutrition, a chubby person is going to stand out like a sore thumb.

Of course, if you’re already thin, you’re not going to have a problem with this. It’s only those who are currently a bit on the heavy side that are going to end up looking a bit strange to others. They might want to go on that diet that they were talking about for years, as part of their OPSEC routine.

In addition to weight, there are other considerations about your appearance that you should keep in mind. Clean clothing, shoes that are in good condition, shaving, haircuts, and nail polish are all things that will stand out like a sore thumb, if nobody else around you has them.

Once again, this is one of those things that’s going to get worse with time. At the beginning, everyone will look fairly normal. But as the lack of soap and water make an impact, people will wear their clothes longer, even though they’re dirty, wash their hair less frequently, and let their beards grow.

To some extent, you can get away with not looking like everyone else in this case, as long as it is easily explainable to the people around you. If they see you hauling more water than anyone else, they won’t have a problem with you wearing clean clothes.

If they see your wife cut your hair, they won’t think much of it. As long as there’s an explanation, they won’t worry about it.

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Written by

John Gilmore is an army Vet, specialized in wilderness survival. Now he lives with his wife and 2 daughters on their farm close to Arizona. He has instructor level credentials and skills in various survival disciplines. He is an enthusiastic DIY expert, self-reliant and a proactive defender of our Constitutional rights. He strives to make a positive mark in this world and that's why he's writing for Survivopedia, using a pen name to protect his real identity.

Latest comments
  • All this info is very good for most people—however I am almost 83 yrs and I live
    alone in a house that has 23 windows all on ground floor level…and not much money to get or cut plywood, much else put it up ahead of time…any suggestions ?

    • Cut cardboard boxes into sheets and fit them in the windows. Unless their flush to the wall, there should be enough room to wedge them in. Number each window with a map and mark the number of each cardboard panel with the number of each window so you can know which panel goes where. The store all the panels in a dry spot to prevent mold. if/when you need to lock in the light you can place your panels in the windows very quickly.

      • You must have big house. If you can find some good people that want to prepare you could maybe get them to rent part of the house if you have an upstairs and a basement they could be converted to self contained flats. A bank loan or a reverse mortgage may be a possibility. I applied for a reverse mortgage for my mother about twenty five years ago and they sent me the papers and the offer was a something over twenty one thousand dollars. That was a good solution for her problems; she would never have to pay it back. But she wouldn’t sign the paper she wanted to leave the house in her will. The offer was one third the value of the property. I assume that the person that got the mortgage or the heirs could paid it off the property would be retrieved. I don’t know much about these things. Another way might be for other good people like you in the same situation as you are in may be willing to sell there own property and move in to your place. An important qualification besides being good people is that they are people that understand the need to be Preppers. There was a time when the adults of the house were Preppers and in most cases the children helped. They wouldn’t have survived and we wouldn’t be here if they weren’t. I will try to get back to a few more possibilities now. Years ago I read about how to be a landlord when one doesn’t have enough funds; one of the ways was in the beginning the tenant could do renovation work offset some or all of the rent for a while. A rent to own contact is the most moral situation in cases like yours. I can’t think of anything better about that. I hope you don’t mind me opinionating about that. But it would be terrible if the others were up the creek without locomotion at some point in the future. I think I had something else in mind but I don’t think I can retrieve it right now. Must be having a senior’s moment. About fourty years ago I rented a room in a large three story brick house. The basement was the communal kitchen. There were a lot of rooms in that large three story house if I remember correctly there were two stoves, two fridges and lots of cupboards in the kitchen, we each had our own sections in the cupboards and the fridges
        We got to know each other and we got along great. There was a laundry room with an ironing board and iron provided. Some of them were lrianian college students. They had the biggest, most expensive rooms on the main floor. One of the rooms must have been a very large dining room. That was our main meeting place. The landlady was an absentee landlady. I heard that she was a Countess from somewhere in Europe. I met her once, she looked like she very well could have been a Countess. Something like this can also work out well if you get the right people in your home. Of course if the Landlady stays in the house she would have a nice suite with everything she needs. P.s. Check out stealth greenhouses. They’re green houses that look like they are just Sun portches. I think a partition would have to be built. A green house like this helps conceal the fact that a person is growing food and herbs. A Jack of all trades handyperson would be valuable in a situation like this. At some point money may be worthless. Speaking of money; If any of these ideas or something like these work out there’s a chance of a good loan from the bank. And even if just some of a good plan gets started the bank may see the possibilities and invest in it. They love to collect interest.

    • Eleanor, I hope you’re still with us since you posted in 2017. If you find yourself alone during a prolonged crisis, let some good people know you’re there – and band together with them. Let them help you.. Nobody’s going to crawl in through your windows, and if they do, offer them a cup of water. I’m pretty sure how we make it through the prep situation by how decent we are to one another. The verdict against the cop who shot George Floyd is coming in the next couple of weeks so for sure we’re in for some riots. Last thoughts on your windows would be taping paper or cardboard over them. But let someone you can trust know that you’re there.

    • get another house…stat

  • Buy oil lamps.I have been 100% solar since 1996. On long winter nights I conserve power using oil lamps. There is no smell and keeps your light footprints under control. I bought a really great one for $3.00 at the flea market last weekend. Once a month or so when grocery shopping buy a jug of lamp oil and stash it away it is relatively painless and great insurance.

    • Hi-
      Re Oil lamps:
      Lamps need maintenance. Proper Wicks/ t6rimming etc.
      Oil is costly. And requires travel.
      Lamp oil degrades re storage.
      If in an enclosed area without proper ventilation; Lamps usually have a tendency to emit Carbon {solids]..
      Personal experience.
      Candles may be better. Especially beeswax as have multi purpose

      • I got a pack of lamp lids with wicks dirt cheap and a box of mason jars dirt cheap. Lamps can burn more types of oil than you would think, and are easier to move around with while lit than a candle. Ventilation is common sense.

      • I have stocked up on outdoor solar lights that can be charged during daylight, then placed in a vase in the house to provide safe clean light at night.

        • Awesome idea!

  • I have to agree with Eleanor above;I am 71 yrs. old and wheel-chair riden. I live in a ground floor condo with floor to ceiling windows and absolutely no place totore,or hide food,water or anything else. My condo is a one bedroom unit in the city,1/2 mile from 2 different interstates.I have no family to help me and I have no place to run too.Most of the people in this complex shares my plight. Can you offer any helpful advice for elderly and sick??

    • Eleanor and Barbara: By all means, network with other people. If you are part of a church or some other group of people of all ages, get to know them and find out how you can help each other. Invite them over for coffee and share ideas. Even if you are disabled, I’m sure there are ways you can contribute, maybe by sewing, knitting etc. Young people may be physically stronger, but older people have a lot of knowledge and wisdom that the younger ones don’t have.

    • Barbara, unfortunately, there are a lot of people in the same situation, and there’s no perfect answer for this situation. On the other hand, being weak or small doesn’t mean you have to be helpless. I know a case when an old lady faced a burglar successfully by shooting him in the chest with a small gun that she carried for self defense. I wish I could say that the gun is the perfect solution but it carrying it depends a lot on each person’s abilities to react when facing extreme danger.
      But since there are many persons in the same situation, you should join forces to protect yourselves together, keep in touch with the police and other local entities like the church or militia.

    • I don’t think most people – even desperate people – would risk breaking a huge window. That’s a good way to attract a lot of unnecessary attention, and a good way to get badly cut. The bad guys will be trying to enter through doors for the most part. If you can secure your doors with something like the Nightlock Security Lock (search Amazon) – I think you will solve about 80% of the possible problems you will have.

    • You have set yourself up as a target by where you live. Getting together with your neighbors and talk out a plan for all to help each other. Get a fire arm and learn to use it, Dry Fire It in the house will save on Ammo and make you a much better shot. Set up a key word for everybody to know of an intruder and that you need help…Make window coverings that role up and fit on your curtain rod in place with a string that can be untied with a hook on a pole and dropped down to cover the window.

  • John and/or Survivopedia, please respond to Eleanor and Barbara as soon as possible. Like them, I am older than the “recognized” state of Israel, but am somewhat better off (at least for now).

  • very good info, would also like to hear your ideas about security while all this is going on without having to park a tank in the driveway. Thanks

  • “The best defense is not becoming a target.” Sorry – here in Europe this is proven wrong. We have a great number of Moslems – eeven in our small village. And EVERYBODY not being Moslem is a target. So what? We only can defend ourselves, because we are the main targets. With every other enemy we can cope.

    • Albrecht, that is a terrible situation. I pray that Europe will rise up and replace Angela Merkel with someone who will stand up for what is right, and take their countries back from the enemy.

    • You Brits & Euros waited way too long to respond to the invasion of the enemy muslim pigs. You allowed yourselves to be conquered because of your cowardice!

      We REAL Americans have already started to “quietly” rid our Country of this 6th century menace to the planet, since the traitors infesting our government are too cowardly to do what they should be doing to protect our Country.

      There is ONLY ONE WAY out of the predicament you have created for yourselves, “Kill, or be KILLED”! You simply have left yourselves no other choices!

      Good Luck and Godspeed!

      • lol Americans are too busy watching their big flat screens & pop culture shows to realize muslims are infiltrating DC, & local govt positions where they live.
        They are very organized, & def plan on taking over. Patriots are already behind the 8 ball

    • It is LONG past time for you europeans to from resitance bands.

  • If you can afford it, buy freeze-dried food. Not only will it last for twenty-five years, or more, but most of it is pre-cooked and ready to eat. All you do is add boiling water to reconstitute it and you have a hot meal. This will eliminate cooking odors that would alert others to the fact that you have food.

    There are many solar lanterns and lights, available. You put them in the sun for several hours and a built-in solar panel recharges the internal battery. They are surprisingly bright and will last all night if they are fully charged. I have several of them and they work great. Check for them on Amazon.

    Although they are fairly expensive, a solar oven is worth its weight in gold. It needs no fuel and produces no smoke. The only drawback is that they require sunlight, so cooking at night or indoors (unless you have a skylight in your home) is out of the question. Likewise, you will be unable to cook on cloudy days. That said, a solar oven will save you tons of fuel. You’ll never have to worry about cutting wood or running out of propane or kerosene. You should have a secondary means of cooking, as well, such as a kerosene or wood stove, but a solar oven is a wise investment!

    In regards to looking thin . . . I have already accustomed myself to eating only every other day. It sounds like it would be hard to do, but it isn’t. People eat way more than they need to live. That’s why we have an epidemic of obesity. Start now. Eat only one meal per day and eat only every other day. You’ll lose weight, feel better, and it immediately stretches your food supply to last twice as long. A year’s worth of food instantly becomes two years’ worth of food.

    • Dale, I agree with all your comments. I am not young and I’d had trouble losing weight for years until I learned about and put into practice intermittent fasting. It worked like magic. You are so right, most of us eat far more than we need. I eat two small meals a day and could probably go on one meal a day. Don’t think I could every other day unless forced to though. I did learn I’d better eat non-junk food if I didn’t want to get hungry. Some might think that means cooking a lot. Not so. Eat satisfying food and your body won’t demand more and more. I think that’s the downfall fo Americans, relying on processed, non-food. It does not satisfy our bodies so we must continually try to find something that will. Usually more non-food junk.

    • best suggestions ever, thank you

  • I’m 72. Husband 80 has dementia. We live in a small rural community in a mobile home. Lots of Windows but slow l y putting together blackout curtains. We have solar power. Live very simple. Put back a bit of food every month. Canned meats, canned fruits and vegetables al o ng with rice and pasta mixes that cook quick with boiling water. Filling a plastic 54 gallon drum with a removable top and seal ring. That cost me $20. I just bought a round tablecloth that will cover it and look like a round side table. We don’t have a lot but work a tiny bit toward prepping each month. We have a few chickens, ducks, and rabbits and a small garden. Can’t take care of anything too big but hope to get a greenhouse together.
    I do wish we had other seniors here close to prep with.

    • Do you happen to live in Northeast Wisconsin?

    • Clergylady, Water will be your biggest problem.. Get a small Dehumidifier and fix it to collect water from air. Get a solar panel and battery to run it with a converter. The pumps can be made to run on 12 volt..I got mine from Good Will for 18.00 and I had the barrel and brackets to put it together. It can make a 2 gal. per day and keep you alive. Collecting dry fertilizer and put it in a safe place from radiation fall out. Set up a few four inch pipes that can be made to grow plants in doors in a window. Easier to care for and saves on water.

  • I am 72, my wife is younger but needs a walker and we live on 7th floor. Fortunately during the last storm she made it up in the elevator but i was parking the car and got stuck at street level for 6 hours. Fortunately i had several bottles of water in the car plus the groceries we had just bought. No branches fell on the car, i was just lucky i think as the landlord had just recently had a tree service clean up the lot.

  • In the early 2000s my ex and I were vacationing on cape cod. A hurricane was expected and a lot of houses were boarding up their windows. When we got home to Toronto I cut sheets of 5/8″ roof sheathing plywood to fit each of our windows and the big picture window up front in 3 overlapping pieces and the patio door in 2 overlapping pieces so that I cud lift, hold, and screw them in place by myself, no helper. Didn’t cost much, a 4×8 sheet was only $23. The plan was to use 3″ drywall screws and a cordless driver with 3 spare batteries. Four screws each then go back around and add screws as time permitted. The holes in the frame cud be filled later with white caulk when the threat passed and the panels would be taken down, marked for location & orientation, then stored in the garage leaned up against back wall. Fortunately we never needed them but it was cheap peace of mind & insurance.

  • Dear Rod Clark,

    I too live in Toronto and am 72 years old. I have been a “survivalist” since my early years. I’m a veteran with years of experience in COMSEC, escape and evasion. All that experience and knowledge is useless when you live alone and are not apart of a well organized group. If you know of such an organization or group and feel that they would benefit with the addition of an elderly prepper with a bit more than sh*t for brains ie: millennial mind set, please contact me.
    Remember, as they say, “Together we stand, divided we fall”. God Bless.

    • Write me at my gee male, clarkrod69

  • To help disguise your appearance as having less, go to the second-hand store and buy some clothes that are a couple of sizes too big. When you wear those, it will appear as if you have lost weight, just like the others.

  • This article and comments were so helpful for this prepper minded female senior with limited physical strength . I have been advised to sell all and buy an RV and get land to hide on. I can do that but I need a man who is RV knowledgeable to do th0se things it needs. I live in Jax FL. You response will be forwarded to me if you would like to apply to shelter in RV with me.

    • Contact my gee male, clarkrod69

  • May seem dumb question – am bedbound single female – elderly and poor strength with service dog to help me. Have been dehydrating fresh veggies and now buying food with cash so govt cannot track what I bought. Did buy a lot on line to get me a good running start but now fixing pots of chili and minestrone soup and lots of pasta and dehydrating all. Also those meal prep mixes are great – love tuna tetrazinni and bought like 10 boxes and 10 cans tuna and extra noodles. cooked what I could and stored the rest with it. Keep notebook with what I have and what I need. Also buying dog food, water and solar panels and rechargeable batteries so don’t run out of that. Biggest scare – I need monthly narcotics to handle PTSD and severe pain – trying to skip few pills a day and storing them – but that is biggest problem. Will cover all windows have panels ready and police locks for doors. Can shelter in basement for temp control it is nice and cool even in summer and in winter add quilts. Biggest problem – meds – what suggestions do you have?