Updated: Jul 30, 2019
Whenever I read in depth articles, training and/or guidance on security, it gets my attention. I don't consider myself an expert, but after 35 years of experience planning and protecting about every imaginable resource around the world, I do understand the concepts. On the surface it is easy to suggest or tell someone what you think they should do, but if one hasn't conducted a Risk Analysis and identified vulnerabilities, mitigation steps and prioritized what you are trying to protect, then most of the effort is cosmetic in my view. First and foremost, what is your mindset? Here we go again, the mindset. Everything starts with the mindset. Do you run possible scenarios in your mind as you are driving down the road? If you don't, I ask, how do you determine where you could be vulnerable? A person is most vulnerable when on the move. Especially when passing through choke points. Understanding how a threat could disrupt your condition to hurt you and your family should be a constant in your thoughts. Trying to stay a step ahead of the possible aggressor. What measures can you take and put in place as a barrier to delay threats and buy you time to react and respond to the threat is important. Proactive vs reactive. Being capable of moving fast is important. My wife tells me her security plan is to just out run me. But, it is more important to be mentally fast.
If you have attended my class on setting up your security plan or read my book, Hope For Survival, I explained security-in-depth and the meaning of force multipliers. These are things you need in your planning, both in the home and around the exterior. Stand off and distance. How are you separating you and your family from the threat? Security-in-depth means stretching your perimeter as far as possible. Consider your community as your outer boundary. Some of your best intelligence to threats could come from trusted contacts in your community. Understand how to utilize technology and humans as your force multipliers to layer any and all approaches to your location. Technology is a great force multiplier. Especially when you have vulnerable approach routes and minimal manpower. Early warning is critical. The sooner you know the threat is approaching the faster you can switch your security plan to a heightened state. If time is on your side, you could consider going in to an offensive mode to eliminate the threat early on.
In my personal security plan, I use technology, humans, and natural barriers. If your option is an alarm going off to warn you vs dropping a tree across the approach route, use both. Why? One is none and two is one. If the batteries fail, the downed tree blocking the approach path will be difficult to move past quickly.
I was talking with a fellow Patriot over the weekend about planning perimeter security and striving to funnel the threat to choke points. Eliminate the vehicular threat and force the individual(s) on foot, if possible. Take away the approach route the aggressor wanted to use against you. Use barriers and delays to push the threat to your choice of choke points. Take away every possible capability of the threat to try and level the playing field, as best possible. It is your playing field so keep everything to your advantage.
As much as I love technology and the capabilities it offers, I still like the human capability as well. Bells and whistles, bangs and booms, the human factor (when trained and focused) still offers certain capabilities I always include in my plans. Early warning, site, smell, and hearing, communications, lethal defense if part of the plan (last resort). The list goes on. Posting an LP/OP, or Listening and Observation Post, is a great asset to your plan. It can be utilized in city, urban, rural and really rural locations. If you send out a recon team to collect information from a local community and they are returning to your area, the LP/OP posted in an elevated position could help determine if the team is being followed.
The article below is thought out and developed well. Honestly, security has so many facets that makes up the protection umbrella it is very easy to exclude a point or discipline within security. The areas that I believe should be more developed I have talked about above. So, hopefully, you can take all the information and pull something from it to aid you in developing your plan.
Unless you plan to live off the land in the middle of nowhere, then you will have some type of shelter. Regardless of location, your homestead can be threatened and you need to plan for security. Some key security considerations include:
These elements need to be considered for three layers or rings of defense:
*Perimeter (property boundary)
*Structural (building exterior)
*Interior (within the structure)
In a true SHTF situation, controlling your perimeter is the most critical. We normally think of security in an orderly society where people are living independently, utilities are functioning and first responders are available within 5 - 20 minutes. Under these conditions, your job is to defend the family until the cavalry arrives. You achieve this by preventing a break-in if possible or keeping your loved ones protected within a safe location - using deadly force if necessary.
In a situation where the police aren't coming any time soon (or at all) and critical services are limited (food, water, sanitation, energy) - you face a vastly different problem. While the threat may still be from an individual kicking in the door, it is very likely that a group will be looking to steal your resources without regard for your life. If you and your family plan on going it alone in this scenario, please think through the implications. A family unit does not have the resources for 24-hour security and you are likely to be defending from inside the home.
How Will You...
So, consider: How will you:
* Defend against a concerted attack by a group. They can arrive at any time. They will come at you from multiple access points and you cannot defend all of these at once.
* Defending from windows will inevitably leave blind spots. Even if only one attacker gets to the house walls, he will be very difficult to engage without you hanging out the window and being exposed (which is why old forts were shaped in a star configuration).
* The typical home is wood frame construction. Attackers can shoot through walls at your defensive position and have a high probability of connecting.
* How many access points do you have - if even one is undefended and breached you are now in a "Close Quarters Battle" (CQB) fight for your life. Retreating to a safe room will only prolong the battle unless you have a concealed escape route. Clearing the house yourself is possible but extremely dangerous.
* If you are the only trained defender, what happens to the family once you're down.
* Even if you do prevent a break-in, attackers always have the option to just wait or burn you out. At some point you will need to venture out for water, sanitation or to visit the garden. And don't get near the windows - you can be sniped and eliminated over time.
Your Defensive Perimeter
For all these reasons, the most effective defense will be outside the home. This "perimeter" includes terrain visible outside your property boundary and everything from the boundary to the wall of the house. Ideally this is large enough to give you positions of cover for defense. This is often the case in rural areas but is not effective in an urban environment. The suburban scenario will likely require several households that work together to establish an area large enough for defense.
This touches on another critical aspect of perimeter defense - you need friends! You need at least one or two people on watch outside. You need a quick reaction force inside to augment them if a threat is observed - especially if you have a single outside defender. Having a minimum of two people on duty 24/7 requires at least 6-8 capable people. To do this while also handling daily living chores and providing coverage for less capable team members easily doubles this number to 12-16. Using this math (combined with creating a large enough perimeter in a suburban environment) we are talking about 4-6 family units. Bottom line - get to know like minded people who share your values, have essential skills and are willing to "cover your back".
Assuming you have a viable defensive area and friends who are willing to fight, here are some key considerations:
Physical Barriers: People almost always look for the easiest access to get in and the lowest risk path for escape. The public street leading to your location provides these features. In addition, the street allows multiple vehicles / people to approach very quickly and overwhelm your defenses. Barriers must (in normal times) be inside the property line but don't need to look like a prison enclosure with cyclone fence and concertina wire. If you are fortunate enough to live well off the road, a heavy-duty gate can stop people from driving to your front door. If not, consider the use of fencing, heavy shrubbery, rocks, vehicles or other means to limit the approaches and funnel attackers into known defensive zones. Although barbed (or concertina) wire is not something you'd use in normal times, you can stockpile this (and appropriate supporting posts, attachment wire and tools) for use in a SHTF situation.
Surveillance systems fall into two broad categories - cameras and sensors. Cameras have the advantage of being able to see what is happening at a distance in real-time and recording activity when you are not monitoring. You can also have them alarm when they detect motion. The downside is cost for a quality system. Wireless cameras are available but you will need ensure good signal transmission (typically limited to line of sight) and deal with batteries - either replacing them or having a solar charger. These systems can also have limited resolution and/or delays in transmission. Hardwired cameras typically provide better performance and solve the power problem.
You will also need to determine the image quality you want. The best cameras will digitize the image and provide 1080P high resolution. Another key feature to look for is the ability to operate at night. Outdoor cameras are available with:
*IR lighting - these illuminate the person with invisible IR light. They provide good image quality but are limited to short range - generally 35 - 100 feet. They are also visible to anyone using night vision.
*Low light capability - these use more sensitive image sensors and provide capability similar to night vision. They are relatively effective as long as there is some moonlight. The image is not as clear as an IR illumination camera but they don't have the limited range and active illumination issues.
*Full thermal vision capability - these sense body heat and are extremely effective at finding intruders. They are also very expensive.
Sensors can provide advanced warning of activity at lower cost and are effective when using wireless transmission. The most common type is passive IR - detecting motion of a warm body (person or vehicle). These cover up to a 30-foot, fan shaped area. They are subject to false alarms if you have pets or live in the country. Driveway sensors are available that detect a large metal object (vehicle) that disrupts a magnetic field. A coil is buried along the driveway and connected by cable to a control box typically mounted on a tree. These are only subject to false alarm by lightning. I am a fan of the Dakota Alert sensors. I have used them for several years and can attest to their reliability at reasonable cost.
Lighting Lighting is an adjunct to surveillance based on making the intruder visible. In a densely populated area, full time lighting at night allows neighbors to see activity and discourages intruders. In a more remote location, motion activated lighting can alert you to a person and cause them to back off. Lighting is most often on or near a building but it can also be used closer to your perimeter to discourage entry. Just remember that these systems are best used before a crisis since post-SHTF you may not have power or, more importantly, you may not want to draw attention to the fact that you do have power.
An alternative is some type of trip wire device to produce noise and/or light. The old version of a wire with tin cans plus a few pebbles might work at close range but there are better options. One is a trip wire connected to a signal device - such as a blank cartridge or flare. The electronic equivalent uses an IR beam that detects anything interrupting the beam and can span 100 or more feet.
Another aspect of surveillance is having visual access to likely approaches. Walls and foliage that may limit access points can also provide an intruder with a place to hide and an avenue of approach that you cannot see. In general, it is best to NOT have foliage near the house. If possible, provide cleared areas near the house for observation.
While verbal communication can work when people are within a few yards, it won't be effective across distant points of the yard, house or between inside and outside a structure. Handheld radios are essential to coordinate defenses and prevent friendly fire accidents. Inexpensive FRS radios can serve this purpose. Just be aware these units are fragile, have limited range (low power), are open to the public with a limited number of channels and can be awkward to use while trying to observe and remain quiet or while engaging a threat. I consider a headset with microphone and push-to-talk button essential for any radio.
Another option is to use CB radios. They have gone out of favor with most civilians other than long distance truckers - but they are reasonable effective. They are readily available in both vehicle mounted form and handheld. While they are more capable than FRS radios, they still have relatively low power and have a limited number of channels.
A significant upgrade can be had with VHF/UHF handheld radios in the 4-8 watt power range. These generally have headsets, better antennas, rechargeable batteries and other accessories available. They will, however, require you to obtain an FCC license for use prior to SHTF. The license is relatively easy to obtain - read an instruction book, take practice exams online until you get passing scores and schedule an exam.
Another option is to operat these more capable radios only on a no-license required frequency prior to an event. The MURS band is designated for commercial purposes without a license and has the advantage of being used by several of the wireless remote sensors (such as the Dakota Alert). In this way, radios you purchase can perform double duty as sensor alarms and communication sets. Speaking of dual use, your radios will likely be used in the early stages of a SHTF event to discuss events and gather your friends if cell phones are down.
Baofeng UV5RThe BaoFeng UV-5R is an inexpensive and relatively effective radio available from Amazon. The downside to these radios is low durability in the field with impact, dirt and water. If you want something more robust, consider handheld radios from name brands such as Yaesu, Kenwood, Icon or other established manufacturers. These can be 5+ times as expensive, but are more rugged. Regardless of what you select, be sure you are proficient with them. This is a matter of using the radios enough to be sure they are properly programmed and you fully understand the controls.
[JWR Adds: The BaoFeng UV-5R is a quite capable little transceiver. It was in fact a bit TOO capable "out of band", so late last year the FCC banned any further importation. These are still legal to buy, sell, own, and operate (in some bands). But there will be NO MORE imported. A new, less capable FCC-approved model is now being developed. Prices are already up about 20% and I expect them to double in price in the next couple of years. The law of supply an demand is inescapable. So buy yours, soon!]
Defensive Equipment - Each capable team member should have an AR, AK, or similar rifle - plus a handgun. It is useful to have at least one shotgun for close in firepower and an accurate, scoped bolt action rifle if you have longer range potential threats. While handguns and shotguns are useful in or immediately around the house, perimeter defense will depend on your rifle skills. Assuming you are capable of safe, accurate and reasonably fast target engagement with your rifles, then here are a few additional considerations:
*Sights - While it is essential to be proficient with iron sights, you should take advantage of better options for speed and accuracy at longer range. Inside of 50 yards, red dots are much quicker to acquire. Beyond 50 yards, scopes come into their own. If you have the potential for longer range defense, especially beyond 100 yards, the new breed of 1-4x, 1-6x, and 1-8x power scopes give you the option for fast engagement up close when set on 1x and the ability to find a small or hidden target at longer range when set to the higher power. At 1x they are relatively fast but not as fast as a red dot due to the need for proper head position behind the scope tube. Several of these scopes also provide a red dot as part of the reticle - giving you another way to quickly index on target. If you use a variable power scope, be sure to keep it on the lowest power setting. This gives you the widest field of view if needed up close. You should have time to dial up magnification if the threat is further away or partially hidden.
*Lasers - Another option is a visible laser on your firearm. These work well in low light conditions where it's harder to see your sights and the laser isn't washed out by bright sunlight. They work out to 25+ yards but are best within 10 yards - making them most effective on handguns. At longer ranges they are relatively dim and you spend too much time trying to find the beam and get it on target. Infrared (IR) lasers, on the other hand, are extremely effective when coupled with Night Vision Devices (NVD or NVG for Night Vision Goggles). Although invisible to the naked eye, they are highly visible with NVD and extremely effective to 100 yards - further depending on power level and the quality of your NVD.
*Lights - Flashlights are essential for home defense since you must be able to see and identify a potential target before engaging. Handheld flashlights are best for navigating and searching. Weapon mounted lights are best for targeting with the caveat that the muzzle is sweeping anything you light up. A weapon mounted light is useful on a perimeter defense rifle but will not be your primary observation tool since (1) regardless of how powerful the light, it will eventually lose effectiveness at longer range and (2) if you are counting on surprise while defending the perimeter, the white light will be a beacon for incoming fire. IR lights, on the other hand, are a great addition if you are using NVD. They extend the range at which NVD can find and identify threats.
Night Vision Gear
Much of the foregoing discussed how to augment your firearms at night. This is an essential topic since the majority of 'normal' criminal activity occurs at night and, after SHTF, it is likely that aggressors would use night to get closer to your home without being observed. In these circumstances, the ability to see and engage at night gives you a huge advantage. Both night vision and thermal systems provide this capability but with a high price tag. Most devices are priced above $1,000 with the best going for $3,000 and up. If this sounds painful, think about how much you have invested in weapons and ammo. It's less glamorous but a lot more practical to add night capability than to buy more custom handguns, precision rifles, and other accessories.
Night Vision Devices (NVDs) provide amplification of existing light from the moon, stars or surrounding community. It has the advantage of being passive - you aren't emitting visible light - and provides good resolution for moving around and identifying threats. It can be weapon mounted in front of a scope or behind a red dot but this makes it awkward to scan for threats unless you are in a stationary position. The best use is mounted on a helmet in front of your non-dominant eye. This allows you to scan and move while still having your dominant eye available if you need to use conventional sights in well-lit areas.
When helmet mounted, the NVD is coupled with a weapon mounted IR laser for targeting. This is where lasers provide their most dramatic advantage. You mount the rifle a bit lower than usual (chin versus cheek weld), put the laser on the target and shoot. The laser must be sighted in before use and will have an offset from your daylight sight depending on its location. You also need to remember that the laser will be visible to an adversary using NVD. This same caveat applies to the use of an IR illuminator with NVD. The illuminator allows you to see much further and more clearly through the NVD but is visible to other NVDs. NOTE: This is another reason for NVDs - you can detect an attacker using IR devices and it prevents you from being at a huge disadvantage if the attacker has NVD and you don't.
A drawback to night vision is that it only allows you to see as well as you would without it in twilight conditions. If a threat hides behind vegetation for concealment and you would not see them in the daylight - then you won't see them with a light amplification NVD. This is where thermal systems have a huge advantage. Thermal sights detect the heat coming from anything they look at. They can be used for navigating your property as long as there has been enough sunlight to warm the terrain and provide differences in temperature. They are least effective for navigation after a cold, cloudy, foggy day when everything is at nearly the same temperature. Living things and vehicles, on the other hand, are dramatically hotter than the surroundings and stand out like a neon sign, regardless of weather. You can literally see through light vegetation if there are any openings. This is also true during daylight hours. While light amplification NVDs cannot be used during the day, thermal devices can see a heat signature regardless of visible light levels. This allows you to scan your perimeter during the day to see hidden threats.
Thermal devices can be used as a handheld monocular for searching or [in some cases] weapon-mounted for targeting. They excel at finding targets and engaging them but do not offer as good resolution for identification as NVD. They are favored for hunting hogs and coyotes at night and there are a bunch of good videos on YouTube to compare their capabilities to NVDs. Thermals also have the advantage of being totally passive - there is no need for an IR laser or IR light. Their downsides are generally higher cost than NVD and they will not work when looking through glass.
Regardless of what you choose regarding electronic devices (lights, lasers, NVD, thermals) you need to practice with them to gain proficiency. You will also need a good supply of batteries. Ideally you will also have rechargeable batteries with a small solar panel. If possible, own spare devices in case of failure or to share with all those friends coming over to help. As the saying goes, "two is one and one is none".
Another source of leverage is the use of suppressors on weapons. These not only reduce the sound signature but also effectively eliminate muzzle flash. These provide great leverage at night. There are documented cases of night engagements in the Middle East where a single friendly sniper positioned away from a group of US soldiers was able to stop and repel a much larger enemy force. Aggressors were hit without being able to see or hear where the shots were coming from. Although they could hear the sonic boom of a passing bullet, they could not identify the direction without hearing the muzzle blast or seeing the muzzle flash. Suppressors are restricted by Federal law and require an application with fingerprints, photo, and paying a $200 transfer tax. You can expect a 6 to 8 month wait, for approval. On the other hand, they have become very mainstream and there is an excellent selection of models at relatively reasonable prices (several hundred dollars).
Assuming that you've taken the precautions, you will have advance warning of approaching threats, devices to make you more effective at engaging those threats and friends to mount a defense. The problem is how to coordinate those resources. I highly recommend reading up on tactics. One excellent reference is the book Tactical Manual - Small Unit Tactics by Max Velocity (available at Amazon.com). Beyond this, you will need professional training to perfect your skills.
A few basic principles are:
*You want to surprise (ambush) and stop the threat away from your house while in a position of cover.
*Know your property - look for probable avenues of attack. Driveways, paths and other open areas are likely to be used by poorly trained groups. If an attacker is more careful, they will look for an approach which is out of site from the primary structure - in a gully, behind a wall or outbuildings, inside the tree line, etc.
*Identify defensive positions where you have the best line of sight to these approaches along with cover for your position.
*Once you engage, an attacker with any training will attempt to pin you down with suppressive fire and maneuver others in for the kill.
*Apply the infantry mantra of "shoot, move and communicate". You must be able to maneuver if you encounter a group and your position is compromised. Have an escape route using terrain or structures to hide your movement. Have several fallback defensive positions depending on the direction of counter-attack.
*A buddy pair is far more powerful than a lone defender. This allows for coordinated movement where one provides covering fire while the other reloads or moves. This is a skill that needs to be learned from a professional since you will be shooting around and past each other while maneuvering.
*When you move, another mantra is "I'm up, he sees me, I'm down". You have about 3 seconds to move before being targeted. You always look for your next position of cover before moving.
*You should know the ranges where you expect to engage and, with multiple shooting positions, the fields of fire for each shooter. This will include arcs that cannot be used due to friendly forces or structures.
*Be aware that an attack may be a feint to test your response or a diversion to have you commit resources in the wrong direction. This is another reason to have multiple resources outside if possible and have reinforcements available on short notice.
*Regardless of your situation - have a plan!
This discussion of perimeter defense can only provide a brief overview of important topics. Be sure to do your research on what trained professionals recommend. Think through how you would approach defending your property. If you consider nothing else - think about the limitations of defending from within the house and take stock of how you can extend your perimeter to stop attackers at a distance. Develop a plan that works for your circumstance to augment your physical barriers, surveillance, communications, defensive firearms and tactics. Get training and practice with critical devices. All these efforts take time and money to implement - get started now and build up capability based on the time and resources you can commit.