When it comes to protecting your perimeter, the first question to ask yourself is, “What is your end state?” That is, how far are you willing to go? This is often driven by what is your start point: What is the situation? In Special Forces, we always say, “Intel drives ops,” which means, we cannot plan an operation in a void or vacuum of information. We need to know what our circumstances are, as that intelligence will determine which plans we make and what our response and Course Of Action (COA) will be.
There is no such thing as hard and fast rules for anything, but there are principles that apply to everything. When in your home, under normal day-to-day circumstances, there is no one specifically seeking to do harm to you and yours and, in general, there is no one out there looking to rob your possessions. This is a base line assumption for planning.
That said, perimeter protection planning could be broken down into three main categories: zero to low threat, moderate to potentially dangerous threat, and definitely dangerous or downright imminent threat. In short, low, medium, and high threat conditions. Suffice it to say, as a combat Green Beret and family man, if anyone gets past my perimeter, the assumption is that they intend to do harm, and my intent is to not let them and to do so with extreme prejudice.
We’re also going to cover this topic from two primary considerations: static and mobile perimeters. Most people do not live in a bunker or fortress so we’ll address the static perimeter from the perspective of the normal home front. And since most folks do not go into a full-blown survival mode on a day-to-day basis, we will discuss the mobile perimeters from the perspective of people going camping. In both the static and mobile perimeter situations, there are en extremis considerations, forcing an intentional combat-level fortification of a home as well as a planned evacuation under duress.
The responsibility for the protection of your perimeter in most survival-based situations will primarily be you, in that you will notify the authorities of an intruder or threat or you will be the first (and possibly only) responder. Either of these requires an alarm system, which notifies you of potential dangers and threats to allow you to respond. The key for any alarm system is time. The more time you have, the better your response can be. Therefore, the further out your perimeter alarms are, the better your response can be. For most folks, this begins at the edge of their yard or property.
Some of the best ways to have perimeter protection are passive measures that alert you that someone or something is out and about in your general vicinity. These serve two purposes: They let you know that something is going on so you can evaluate and determine a course of action such as to investigate, initiate authorities or activate defenses. They let the potential problem know that someone has been warned. They will know this means potentially having to engage the proprietor or law enforcement. Hopefully, this is enough to discourage their advance and encourage them to withdraw. A conflict avoided is a victory all around. Mission Accomplished.
Some good examples of passive perimeter protection are the lights that come on or alarms that sound off when triggered. Usually, these are battery operated, solar charged and sometimes synchronized to professional alarm companies.
Some good active measures for static perimeter protection on low threat environments are walls or fences as well as dogs. These options provide an actual physical deterrent to someone intending to penetrate your perimeter. As a physical barrier, they are considered as an active measure, whereas noise and light, are considered passive measures, as they are only psychological deterrents.
If the threat is considered to be more dangerous—perhaps some storms have hit and there are some looters about—then one might need a bit more aggressive posture.
Some passive measures may be to put signs out saying “guard dog” or “beware of owner.” Bright floodlights can be placed as a psychological deterrent as well. People don’t like to be seen if they’re up to no good.
Some active measures may be to use electricity on the fences or put up barbed or concertina wire on the fence. In Africa, home owners place the bottoms of broken bottles and glass on the flat tops of walls.
Cameras are considered passive if they are only props and active if they are actually operational, and can track intruders. If they can track intruders, it is for you to decide if you want the camera motions to be detectable or not. If the potential intruder can see the camera looking at them and moving with them, they may decide to leave. If they see the camera looking somewhere else, they may think they can avoid it. A good option is the observation balls that do not let the intruder see what you are looking at, but a light lets them know it is active. Again, avoidance of a confrontation is always your victory.
In this situation, it is determined that someone is out to do you harm, or it is known that some people are out doing harm in general and you want to protect you and yours. In these cases, the assumption is that they will break in, they will override low- and medium-threat perimeter defenses and as such, your perimeter protection now becomes a first line of defense from an attack, and the old adage, the best defense is a good offense comes into merit.
Your perimeter must be menacing and clearly conveying demonstrable danger potential damage to anyone attempting to penetrate it. The down side of this is that it may invite the more aggressive wrongdoers. The upside is, most folks would steer clear and if someone attempts despite the obvious danger, it is a clear indicator they are either unstable or earnest in their intent to do harm. In this, they then give a full green light for the defender to initiate extreme response to deter and prevent attack.
There are no real passive measures in a high-threat situation, only active measures will protect a perimeter for an active aggressor. Some measures that can be used but are not espoused here, may include booby trapping, making physical obstructions that can either not be overcome or not done so without extreme difficulty. But remember, these work both ways and can be a danger to an emergency egress as well.
In all cases, authorities should be notified immediately and whenever things are in a state of deterioration, one of the first courses of action should always be to attempt to contact authorities. If communications are down or sporadic, this task can be assigned to one of the junior members of the family. Rehearsal is key.
The basics for mobile are the same as of static, the difference is in the tools available. Likewise, the passive and active principles are the same except the active is more than likely going to be you and yours unless you have communications with authorities. But most likely, you will be out of radio or cellular phone range and even if not, the chances of them getting to you and finding you are so slim and so slow, the active measures are simply going to fall on your shoulders. This is all the more reason to have better response time by having more distance between you and the perimeter alarms.
For those whom spent some time and dime on their planning, there are some great, affordable tools for mobile perimeter alarms. There are sonar alarms you can find in some electronic stores. They don’t cost much, they’re lightweight and easy to operate. Place it so the sonar beam goes across the potential approach path. Someone or something crosses the path, breaks the sonar beam, the alarm goes off. It scares the bejeezus out of man or beast and hopefully they run away. Same as for trip wires and lights. But even if the threat doesn’t run away, it buys you a moment while they are surprised and it tells you where there are and when they are there.
The further out you place these and the more of them you place, the better your chances of either getting away, or getting ready. Be mindful, placing alarms too far away may mean loss of alarms by forgetting where they are or potentially abandoning them under duress and egress.
If you don’t have alarms, you can make some. In the field, I will often lay leaves down in the fall or twigs and branches all around me where any threat might approach. In this way, especially when I am out camping alone, I know, neither man nor beast of prey can get near me without waking me.
In addition to these measures, I rehearse my Immediate Action Drills, or IADs. I have my super bright flashlight tied on my wrist, my super loud whistle around my neck and my walking stick, machete, knife, pistol, or rifle in my fighting hand ready to go. I rehearse my emergency wake up response at least three times before I go to sleep. I study my likely avenues of approach and my potential escape routes. I have my gear pack, and or my rucksack so I can escape with as much as possible if I need to flee.
Next to the low-threat measures, these are the same but now you want to be more aggressive about your perimeter and may want to make actual obstructions that either totally prevent approach to your perimeter, or make it so difficult, they cannot get through without alarming you and compromising themselves to being exposed to a counter attack from your defensive position. Always have an escape route planned and always have a counter attack plan ready.
In these situations, you are in the exact same situation as a military unit. You must first and foremost select the best terrain available to you.
- You must have visibility to survey around you.
- You must have concealment to hide your position.
- You need cover to give you physical protection from attack and the elements.
- You need to have an escape route, or two.
You should surround your position with not only alarms and obstacles, but booby traps, as well. Logs that fall, holes covered up, anything to stop attackers. The key is that these should be concealed.
You do not want to advertise where you are and do not want to let them see you work and thereby avoid your preparations. You want them to get trapped and hurt. This serves numerous purposes.
- It makes them yell in pain and gives you an alarm and chance to fight or flee.
- It may draw some of their party away to render aid to the injured.
- It may deter others from pursuing or at least delay them or slow them down.
But note: Always take into consideration the fact that if you injure yourself and/or others, you may be held accountable.
Dogs are a great mobile perimeter alarm, and if trained not to bark on command, they can be good in all three levels of threat. Dogs may trigger alarms if permitted to roam. In all of these, the best plan is always to have a plan and plan to survive with honor. Decide on what you value most and how far you are willing to go to protect that. Determine what courses of action you are willing to live with and stand by, should you ever be called to account for yourself and your deeds. If you do your best to do your best by others, you will always be able to hold your head high, when all said and done.
More Response Time Means Better Response Type.
This is based on another assumption of training. Training comes in many forms, but primarily it is as simple as planning a response and practicing it. Whether you are alone, with family or others, your plan must incorporate everyone, regardless of their active or passive roles. Even passive people can become complications if their actions are not coordinated and controlled.
Plan your response and respond your plan.
How much and how often you rehearse your plan and actions is a preference of preparedness. But the key to any alarm, is to have a response. The key to having a response is to have a plan. The key to any plan is to practice implementation. More rehearsals mean better execution. As you practice, you find yourself going through “what if” scenarios and in this way, you find gaps in your plan, holes in your defense and can take steps to compensate for those weaknesses. Rehearsals make you aware of flaws so that if you can remedy them, you can mentally war game through potential responses while you’re not under stress and duress. In this way, half the battle is already won before it’s begun. And always reverse your point of view in training so you can see yourself as a target.
More Rehearsal, Less Reversal
A protected perimeter is the objective. The end state, your safety: the safety of yourself and all that you are choosing to defend. Therefore, your level of commitment and resolve must be resolved before the moment of danger, any hesitation when it matters most can cost the most.
Stronger Perimeter, Safer Sanctuary
All of these principles apply to the static and mobile perimeter protection planning. The biggest difference will be dime and time. One can spend a lot on home defense, and often, that is a prudent investment. But one must evaluate how defensible a home is, and if a mobile plan might actually be a safer course of action to execute. This is particularly true for some homes. Sometimes remoteness or even being in a large city can be advantageous and sometimes, not so much. Either way, one can usually spend more money on and give more thought to perimeter planning for home. And with a little time and thought on mobile perimeters, one can greatly enhance the overall safety.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the January 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.