When you talk about security to preppers and survivalists, typically the conversation revolves around how many firearms to acquire and how much ammunition to stockpile. However, that’s only one piece of the puzzle, and, in fact, it isn’t even the most important piece. Whether we’re talking about a security plan for a family of four or a large multinational corporation, there are three basic elements involved, with each leading to the next. They are Deter, Delay and Defend.
Human beings tend to make many if not most decisions on a risk versus reward basis. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about whether we should go out with our buddies Friday night or whether we should rob a bank, we weigh the risk of getting into trouble and whether the potential payoff is worth it.
From a security standpoint, deterrence works in two basic ways. We can work on increasing the risk or reducing the perceived reward. For example, employing various means of disguising the home so it looks run down, even abandoned, can cause someone to believe there is probably nothing of value inside and they’ll hopefully move on to a more tasty target.
The downside, though, of making your home look uninhabited in some way is that it will likely only work on people who don’t live in your area. Your immediate neighbors are sure to know you’re still there, no matter how well you’ve made your house look burned out.
Part of deterrence falls under the OPSEC (Operations Security) umbrella. OPSEC refers to that old motto of “loose lips sink ships.” In other words, keep your mouth shut about your disaster preparations and don’t give guided tours of your extensive food storage. If after a major disaster most of the neighborhood is lining up for handouts at the makeshift soup kitchen in the park and you consistently have bacon breath, you’re setting yourself up to be a target. You are increasing the perceived reward to someone who is considering breaking into your home.
The flip side is to remember that sometimes the best defense is a strong offense. Increasing the risk to where it likely outweighs the perceived reward is a viable approach in many situations. Making it obvious you have one or more dogs can sometimes be all it takes for the bad guy to seek fame and fortune elsewhere. Similarly, visible evidence of security measures such as motion sensitive lights and signs advertising the presence of an alarm system often work very well.
The whole point of the deterrence element is to cause a potential intruder to decide the reward isn’t worth the risk and to move on to an easier mark.
In the second element of your security plan, the idea is to increase the amount of time it will take for an intruder to be successful in their plan. The longer it takes for a burglar to gain access to your home and loved ones, the more time you have to detect their presence and take whatever action you feel may be necessary. For example, by planting thorny plants such as hawthorn bushes under our windows, we create an obstacle that must be overcome in some fashion. If you’ve ever tangled with hawthorn, you know what I mean. The thorns are truly like needles, penetrating all but the most durable of garments. The burglar will either need to move slowly so as to avoid being pricked multiple times or they’ll need to choose a different entry point.
Take a good, hard look at the perimeter of your home. Are there certain areas where intruders are most likely to travel as they approach your home? For example, let’s say you have an outbuilding that is fairly close to your home. Joe Burglar may want to use that structure as cover as he surveys the scene. By placing some loose brush behind the building, you’ll make it a bit harder for him to be stealthy. Go a step further and run a trip wire from the brush to an alarm. When he moves the brush aside he pulls on the wire and activates the alarm.
Strong locks on all doors and windows mean a quick and easy entry isn’t at all guaranteed. They’ll need to spend extra time dealing with them in some way, whether by picking the locks or just smashing the window or door. If they choose the latter, you’re likely to become immediately aware something is amiss.
Alarm systems, whether professionally installed and monitored or of the more DIY approach, will also help with alerting you quickly if someone gains unauthorized entry to your home. One product I particularly like is the Brite-Strike Camp Perimeter Security System (Source: brite-strike.com). It consists of a base unit that attaches to the wall and a small pin with an attached split ring. When the pin is pulled from the base, a 130db alarm goes off. Suffice to say, this will get your attention.
A slightly less sophisticated approach would be to hang an obnoxiously loud wind chime on the inside of your door. Any time the door is opened, you’ll hear the chimes. During the holiday season, perhaps replace the chimes with sleigh bells. You could go even one more step down the food chain, so to speak, and just place a few empty glass bottles where an opened door is likely to knock them over. Tin cans with pebbles or marbles inside works on the same principle. Very simple yet effective.
Anything you can do to either slow up the bad guy or decrease the time it takes for you to discover them will work in your favor.
In many ways, resorting to active defensive measures indicates a failure in your security plan. It is what remains if your efforts to deter and delay the intruder have not worked. Taking positive action against an intruder is not something to enter into lightly. You need to act quickly and decisively.
Deciding on a course of action is something you should give serious thought to before it becomes necessary. I strongly advise you to become intimately familiar with your local laws regarding self-defense, such as whether your state has a castle doctrine law. Simply put, castle doctrine says there is no legal duty to retreat from someone invading your home. Remember, even if the invasion is occurring in the aftermath of a major disaster, at some point order will likely be restored and you may have to answer for the actions you took. More than one homeowner has used deadly force to protect their family from a home invader and ended up on the wrong side of the law themselves. Better to do your homework in advance and have a good handle on what is legally allowed and what is not.
For most people, defense involves the use of firearms. If this is your own chosen course of action, do all involved a favor and obtain training in the safe use of the weapon. Know how it works and become proficient in its use. Be wary of the risk of over-penetration. Without taking that into consideration, you may indeed shoot the intruder but the bullet traveled through him as well as the wall behind them, injuring or even killing a loved one in the next room.
For non-lethal options, consider pepper spray. Look for the types that shoot a stream rather than a spray or fog. The stream is far easier to aim and you’ll have less risk of any of the chemical blowing back at you. Aim for the face and keep spraying until the intruder goes down. Electronic devices such as stun guns work as well, provided they are legal to own in your area. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll need to be within arm’s reach to be able to use the stun gun. If you are close enough to touch the intruder, you are close enough for them to grab you, possibly disarming you in the process.
I don’t advocate employing any sort of bladed implement as a self-defense weapon unless you are trained in the proper use of it. Further to that point, you are just as likely to get cut yourself as you are to injure your assailant.
No matter which sort of defensive measures you employ, the goal is to disable the intruder to such a degree that you can get away from them, preferably getting yourself out of the home completely, and get help. I realize there is a certain mindset among some survivalists that encourages the use of what is sometimes called the Three Ss – Shoot, Shovel, Shut up. While that might work for a small percentage of preppers, most will be best served by putting the intruder down as quickly as possible, then calling for assistance from the local authorities.
Security planning needs to involve several components. Just investing in a few firearms isn’t nearly enough. If the only tool you own is a hammer, then every problem looks like a nail. While the judicious use of a hammer might indeed dissuade an intruder, give serious thought to all three elements of your plan – Deter, Delay, and Defend.
AVOID GIVING OUT TOO MUCH INFORMATION
I suggest you decide against purchasing threatening signs, such as the ones that say things like, “Nothing here is worth your life,” or, “This house is protected by Smith & Wesson.” The reality is these and similar signs do little other than suggest an intruder can probably find firearms inside the home. The only way that works in your favor is if you are home and pointing the handgun at them as they come through the door or window. Otherwise, all you’ve done is increase the potential reward in their mind.
Signs proclaiming your son to be a member of the local football team or your daughter a member of the swim team tell a burglar that no one is likely to be home when the team is playing, such as during Friday night football games.
Take a look at the cutesy or humorous signs you may have posted on or around your home. What information are you giving out without realizing it?
Replace Hinge Screws
Most doors are installed with decidedly short screws attaching the hinges to the door frame. It won’t matter how strong the lock and deadbolt are if the thief can simply kick their way in on the hinge side of the door. Head down to your local hardware store and purchase a handful of three inch wood screws. Open your door all the way to expose the hinges. Remove the screws going into the door frame and replace them with the longer wood screws. If you do this one by one, you won’t need to worry about rehanging the door.
Editors Note: A version of this article first appeared in the April 2015 print issue of American Survival Guide.