I called one of my good friends up after Thanksgiving. He works at a bank as information systems support. He had another of our friends up for Thanksgiving, and that friend works in IT for the casinos. I have some some older network admin certificates but never used them for employment. The reason I mention all this is to give a little background. My friends and I are accustomed to looking at systems and how things in the system interact, and how what seem like minor glitches can bring a network down.
I am a Libertarian who moved to that party from the Republican Party (family switched from Democrat to Republican second term of Reagan). I believe the bank IT guy is an Independent who was formerly a Democrat (long history of Southern Democrats--the family quote is "You'd have to be rich or stupid to vote Republican) and I'm not sure of the casino IT's politics. In 1996, both the bank IT guy and I voted for Alan Keyes in the Calfornia presidential primary (it's an open primary).
One of the topics was what would it take to cripple the United States at this point in time. DISCLAIMER: I'm not suggesting that we do any of these things, and perhaps I won't mention anything that will give ideas. In any case, we all are thinking that our nation is really on the edge of catastrophe. Hopefully not past the tipping point. One of the topics we discusses was getting together to plan for what to do in a national emergency.
What would we do if all of the services we rely on became unreliable or unavailable? What if electricity becomes unavailable due to foreigners hacking our electrical grid? What if gasoline stops being delivered? There a large oil pipeline in Long Beach, CA, that is sitting atop a major faultline. If 'the big one' happened in the Long Beach or Los Angeles area what would happen if in addition to the destruction from the earthquake we had a huge inferno or several smaller ones. Additionally, the LA area has been having an issue with old pipes rupturing, so a large earthquake might break the water lines necessary to fight the fires causes by the earthquake. There is also the possibility of civil unrest as our government spends itself broke (both state and federal and here)
Keeping in mind the lawlessness of the populace during the aftermath of Katrina and the LA Riots, it makes sense to have the ability to defend yourself and your family. I remember during the LA riots, pictures of Korean shopkeepers with SKS rifles standing on top of their places, and them being the only places not being destroyed. If you are stuck in one location, can't or won't leave, then you'll need to protect yourself.
Protective measures come in two types, defensive and offensive. Defensive measures involve terrain, obstacles, and mechanical means of preventing entry to your property or hurting the occupants. This can include fences, walls, shrubs, raised planting beds (which can double as a garden with medicinal herbs), safety bars on your windows, security screens, quality lock hardware, rosebushes or cactuses to deter access to your windows or channel people along selected paths for visibility or to direct them toward security lights and cameras.
Setting up security cameras is also a good idea and relatively inexpensive these days. Here's a how-to link for setting up wireless cameras. As you're reading this online, I'm guessing you have access to a computer.
House design and furniture arrangement can increase your security. Additionally, the more independent your house is, the less you have to worry about interupted public services. Solar or wind powered electricity, propane tanks, a water well, and septic systems would be preferable to municipal sources, especially if you have the knowledge and parts for maintenance and repair. If your house is designed or redesigned for independence, then you will have less reason to expose yourself and family to danger. If you're not "off grid" then you should at least have a bbq and fuel (though don't use indoors), camp stove, and a solar cooker. I would also recommend solar powered battery chargers and battery powered devices or magneto powered flashlights and radios.
Older houses built in the 50's often have higher windows in the bedrooms (above 4' sometimes 5') which was lowered to allow firefighters access. Some of these 50's houses also have lath and plaster interiors which are more resistant to bullets than standard drywall construction. Brick and block houses also offer obvious advantages over standard stick frame construction, though I imagine stucco would be fairly bullet proof for a while. Working shutters or security bars with interior releases would also be helpful.
Arranging furniture defensively will also be a benefit. Books are an incredible way to bullet proof a room. I would recommend putting them on the front exterior walls. Make sure you secure the bookshelves to the walls (this is good in case of earthquake too. All those old encyclopedias will have a new use. The books should ideally be a source of how-to info (There's a theme here...things should serve multiple purposes), but fill the shelves. On a defensive note, keep tv's and electronics away from windows.
The more population density you have--tract housing & condos & apartment complexes--the more likely you are to have problem people close by. For this reason, I like a defensible space further away from the population areas.
I recommend at least a two week supply of basic necessities. That means food, water, and toilet paper. You're going to need one gallon of water per person per day. In the even of a problem, if you have a bath tub, I would recommend plugging it and filling it with water and taking sponge baths if you don't have water stored up. Water in plastic stays good for a long time but starts tasting plasticky. You can always use it for washing if you can't stand the taste. These days 50 gallon barrels are available on craigslist.com for under $20. For food, I recommend dry goods like rice and beans from Smart & Final, and whatever canned meat you prefer. If you have a root cellar, potatoes, carrots and onion keep for a long time.
There are a lot of places out there that give a lot of great advice. I'm going to be linking to them as time goes by and I discover sites I like. If you've dropped in and can recommend a site, please link it. Please don't link racist sites. This is my blog and I reserve the right to edit out stuff that offends me.
For weapons, I think most people should have three, and more importantly be willing and able to use them all. A rifle, a shotgun, and a pistol. Rifles and shotguns are dual purpose. They can be used for defense and hunting. Unless you're really good with a pistol, you're unlikely to use it as an effective hunting weapon. One aside, a shotgun used inside a home at waist level will disable an intruder and in many cases will embed shot in the walls rather than leaving the house. Read this blog on "stopping power".
This list is by no means exhaustive. If anyone has any other ideas, please submit them.