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Friday, March 12, 2010

Diversion Safes for Survival

So, you've probably all see a diversion safe at some point. They appear to be every day objects, but secretly contain a small compartment for hiding things.
These devices aren't really safes--they don't rely on heavy locks and reinforced steel walls to keep people out, but instead on avoiding detection entirely. Fake rocks for hiding a house key are a classic example of a diversion safe, as is the ever popular hollowed out book. Caches--hidden storage sites for logistics and weapon supplies--have long been a part of survival. Think of these devices as miniature caches. Like full caches, these devices can be useful in our preparations. They can also teach a few principles about maintaining a low profile and flying below the radar.

There are a wide variety of ready-made diversion safes on the market. Amazon has a good selection of these devices, a few of my favorites are the Liquid Wrech Can Safe, the Shaving Cream Can Safe and the Ajax Can Safe. These are especially unlikely to be noticed by intruders, but also unlikely to be accidentally discovered by visitors. Soda and beer can safes, while fun, do have that chance of being accidentally stumbled upon by a curious visitor.

Most diversion safes are small in size, and only good for hiding cash, jewelry, an emergency USB drive, or similarly sized objects. You could cram a folding knife, spare magazine or a mini-revolver into them, but there is no way you're going to cram even a subcompact handgun into a shaving cream can. There are a few larger sized safes on the market, big enough to conceal handguns. These are usually clocks or picture frames that open up to reveal the hiding place. A large book safe, like this one, stashed away in the back of a full bookshelf could also do the job.

To use these hides most effectively, you must "set the stage"; an object that stands out may garner attention during a search. Underneath a sink or in the back of a closet, with similar, functional items are good places to stash them. In your sock drawer or night stand is not. Likewise, you should pad the insides to keep objects from rattling and avoid filling the safe to an unconvincing weight.  

So, how are these devices useful to us? They provide a hiding place when a real safe is not an option, due to cost, size, weight or other circumstances. Good luck moving that 500 pound safe around frequently or hauling it with you on a business trip. Also, unlike real safes, these hides don't scream "I have valuables inside!", an important consideration when you have frequent visitors. People see a safe and wonder what treasures it might contain--no one notices the can of shaving cream shoved underneath the sink.

A few ideas for possible uses:
  • As a hiding place while traveling--hotel rooms are frequently robbed by hotel staff and others. Even if you have an in-room security safe, you're fooling yourself if you don't think the hotel staff knows how to open them in a few seconds. If you need to leave stuff behind in your hotel room, hiding your valuables (cash, dress watch, etc.) is a much better bet.
  • As a hiding place in your vehicle. Vehicles are also frequent targets of criminals--but it will be a rare criminal that steals a can of fix-a-flat or pop can from the back seat.
  • A stash in your desk at work, even if it's just for some emergency cash or change for the vending machine. Cleaning crews and co-workers will swipe anything tempting.
  • In your EDC or bug out bag, to avoid detection during unlawful searches.
What do these devices teach us? Avoid attention by making potentially interesting things--cash, jewelry, firearms, etc.--look like mundane, uninteresting items. Camouflage them.

We can extrapolate this into other areas of our preparations. Generally, we want to avoid standing out and drawing attention with our EDC, bug out gear and other preps. Avoid the obvious gun/knife/tactical swag--the heavily logo'd stickers, patches, hats and t-shirts--unless you want to "out" yourself. Likewise lean towards mundane looking gear in favor of the tactical stuff. For example, which will draw more interest--a rifle sized pelican case or a tennis racket bag? A travel vest or a multicam chest rig? There are certainly times when it is advantageous to draw attention to yourself, but in most cases, as a prepared civilian it's wise to fly below the radar.

We'll be taking a look at this topic more in the future. If you have any cool hiding places or diversion safes you'd like to share, shoot me an e-mail at

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