Sunday, January 29, 2012

Preparedness in Apartments

Being well prepared and living in an apartment building. To some the two may seem mutually exclusive. Survival and preparedness is often associated with country living, low population and at least some land to garden. That’s the most common conception of what it means to be self-reliant and well prepared. Yet, is it all bad for people in apartments? Not in my experience. Notice the word experience here, not opinion. What seems to happen is that people mix personal preferences with practical matters.

I, like most people, prefer to live in a nice house with a chunk of land surrounded by nature, and this has more to do with living the way you like rather than a practical strategy. It’s not very often, but sometimes you find people that prefer the practicality of an apartment or flat. Students, older people, or people that travel a lot they find it easier to clean up, less expensive and time consuming. What is important to understand here is that if you find yourself living in a condo or apartment, its not all bad for you.

As much as it has its obvious disadvantages, it has its pros as well.

*An apartment is usually more affordable to either buy or rent. In these times, this may be a crucial factor.
*Apart from being more affordable to take care of, it will require less cleaning and will cost you less in terms of water, electric power and heating.
*In terms of safety, an apartment will often be safer when crime becomes a serious problem. I remember once being at the dentist and overhearing a conversation two young women were having. They were talking about how being just the two of them in a big house away from the city was dangerous, so they were talking about moving to an apartment downtown in a nice part of Buenos Aires.
While an apartment building in a poor part of town can be hell, one in a nicer area will be safer than a home in a similar income level neighborhood. Its just cheaper and more effective to have twenty families all paying so as to afford a security guard keeping an eye on the front door of the building, than ten families paying to have a guard keeping an eye on an entire block.
*Apartments located in downtown areas tend to be closer to work, reducing your commuting expense or eliminating it entirely depending on how close you are. For some people, this is probably the most significant advantage.
*While more people living together means less privacy and more interpersonal problems, if a good community is found it also means more people to help each other in times of need.
As much as I disliked living in a cement box, hearing people walk over my head, under the floor and all around, I must admit that from a practical modern survival perspective the financial benefit as well as the security benefit were significant. I still believe though, that life is just too short to live in a place you dislike.

In terms of disadvantages:
*The lack of space is a mayor one. In spite of that I honestly believe that people not only have too much stuff they don’t even need, which would still be ok, even worse people have stuff they don’t even want, and its just taking away space they could have for either using in other ways or just more freedom of movement.
*The lack of privacy is probably what bothers me the most. I cant stand loud neighbors, let alone weirdo guys just moving in across from you. In terms of security one of the most common security breaches that take place in apartments are because of new neighbors moving, getting to know your schedule and breaking in themselves when you’re gone.
*During mayor disasters you have no space for improvisation. If your building is not suited for living in any more, its not as if you can just sleep in a tent in the yard for some time.
*Vehicle complications. Sometimes parking isn’t exactly close or convenient, and you’ll rarely have a floor plan design in which you would be able to access your vehicle quickly and take off if needed. Parking areas will get crowded fast with everyone trying to leave at the same time.
*Tools and fuel. You wont have much space for those, nor will you be able to operate bigger machinery. For anyone that is a bit of a tinker, not having a workshop or at least a garage with some tools will limit you in terms of the work you can do. Storing fuel is also very difficult if not just impossible.

Advice for people in Apartments

1)Invest in a good security armored door. These don’t come cheap, but its hands down the best money in terms of preparedness and peace of mind.
2)Get to know your neighbors and BE NICE. Again, BE NICE. I had this lady living in my building who was paid a few bucks to clean the building corridors and halls in the morning. She knew I was studying until late at night, sometimes going to bed at four or five AM, and she would make noise on purpose at 6AM, right in front of my door. I talked to her and asked her to stop, it didn’t help at all, she did even more noise. Eventually I just changed my strategy. I tried to understand that upsetting me was this old widow’s idea of fun. I started to be nice to her, asking her how she was doing, helped if I saw her with grocery bags. Not only did she stop making noise in front of my apartment door at 6AM, for years she would keep an eye on my apartment when I left. She would spend her entire day gossiping and eavesdropping in that building, she knew everything that went on and I couldn’t have asked for a better ally.
3)Become creative in terms of space. Under the bed, inside closets. In an apartment you cant think in terms of square feet for storage, you have to think in terms of cubic feet, volume. This may mean adding extra shelves to the top of a closet so as to take advantage of that dead space above, or when buying a coffee table going for an old trunk which you can put to use by filling up with canned food. Even in very small places being creative you will find enough space for most of your essential gear. If you need even more space rely on family members and trusted friends, the closer the better. Remember this when storing fuel. I usually recommend the equivalent of your vehicle’s gas tank, in jerry cans along with fuel stabilizer and rotating once a year. This combined with the habit of refueling when you reach half a gas tank will give you an acceptable range for evacuation if its ever needed.
4)For water storage, I made the most of soda plastic bottles. These would fit under beds, sofas, or in closets and kitchen drawers, any place I could find.
5)For passive home security, a basic home alarm will do fine. Given the proximity, people are much likely to notice and call the police in an apartment building when they hear your alarm. Remember that you still shouldn’t open the door to strangers and check by phone before opening the door if anyone shows up claiming to be from the cable, water, power company, etc. If your home can be viewed from the outside, use your common sense. Use curtains so that people on the outside cant see the nice LED TV you just bought, and a two buck timer that goes on on its own when it gets dark will confuse anyone that saw you leave. Was someone left in the house or do you have a lamp with a timer? Better go for an easier pick just in case.
6)For active home defense, a handgun will do well enough in an apartment. You’ll have to check the type of construction. Most likely it will be hollow walls and you want to get Glaser Safety Slugs or some other low penetrating ammunition.
7)If possible avoid the ground floor but don’t go too high. Its not fun to walk up and down living in the 5th floor when the power goes down. How about dragging water when the service is interrupted for whatever reason and they start distributing water with trucks, or you have to find it on your own and again, use the stairs? No water, no power in an apartment building for days? Been there, done that, and its not fun. In some of the more modern ones, they depend so much on electric power to cool and heat that they become graves if the power goes down for extended periods of time. Know how well (or bad) your apartment will perform if services are disrupted and plan on having a B locating nearby if such an event presents itself.
8)While generators and apartments generally don’t mix well, there are exceptions. Especially in some of the older ones, if you have a balcony you can run a small generator. Keeping a small BBQ grill isn’t that bad an idea either.
9)When looking around for rent or to buy look for places that are located either above or very close to places with permanent security. In the one I used to live we had a bank in the ground floor level, so there was a cop permanently stationed at the door, and we didn’t have to pay anything for it.
10)Another thing to keep in mind. In some older apartment buildings or new high end ones they still have setups for fireplaces or French fitted stoves. These can be life savers during winter time in cold locations if the power goes down. Given the reduced overall volume and how effective some of these wood burning stoves can be, a small supply of wood goes a long way. The stoves themselves aren’t that hard to make or improvise, but the trick is having at least some way of ventilating the fumes. When looking around to rent or buy, consider these an important bonus to be found.


Maldek said...

There is a nice argentinian movie called "Phase 7" about people quarantined in an apartement complex in B.A. during a pandemic outbreak of some sort.

How people react when they run out of food and supplies, the importance of weapons etc.

Recommended watch.

Trey said...

Maldek, I came back here to make the same recommendation. I saw "Phase 7" the other night and enjoyed it.

Unknown said...

I've never heard about that movie while I was in Buenos Aires!
Who are the actors?
Maybe it wasn't at the theater, because I used to live and rent apartments in Buenos Aires for a long time.
So, as you both recommend that movie, I'll download it and watch it. Thanks!

Unknown said...
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