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Physical Barriers, Surveillance and Communications


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:

  • Physical Barriers
  • Surveillance
  • Communications
  • Defensive Equipment
  • Tactics

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”.

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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

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.

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Trip-Activated

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.

Communications

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!]

(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)



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