L. Neil Smith's
Number 223, May 11, 2003


The Art of Threat Management
by Mike Straw

Special to TLE

Is your family safe?

If you spent a million dollars for the most opulent home, complete with the finest "security" equipment money could buy, would you feel safer? Ask fourteen year old Elizabeth Smart, who on June fifth 2002 who was illegally kidnapped at gunpoint from her own bedroom in their six-thousand six hundred square foot, six bedroom house in Salt Lake City Utah, as her terrified nine year old sister, Mary Katherine, looked on and her ignorant parents blissfully slept unaware. The alarm system was conveniently turned off.

The battle is won in the mind first, then acted out. Be able to predict where the illegal assault will come and have a proven counter-attack already in place to deal with it, or, as they say in the Army, the "seven Ps:" proper prior planning and preparation prevents poor performance.

Although we prudently seek first to avoid, then sensibly to evade, we must pragmatically lastly defend against unwarranted illegal aggression. The average loss from residential burglary was eight hundred thirty-four dollars in 1992. Only about fifteen percent of all U. S. households have a "security" system. Why would you even need one?

The threat will illegally strike when conditions are most favorable for him, and least favorable for you. You're not a "random disarmed victim." You've been carefully selected. Perhaps a more accurate term would be "a target of convenience." You were available, and didn't make it sufficiently difficult that the threat was dissuaded from pursuing you.

You should never place your faith in any device, but the comparatively small cost of an automated "security" and life-safety system is significantly less than the cost of an illegal assault or emergency. Sensors are available to detect opening, movement, glass breakage, vehicles, people, noise, light and pressure. Environmental controls are available to detect conditions of temperature, water, humidity, gas, smoke, and fire.

U. S. M. C. Major J. Kelly McCann, CEO of Crucible Security, suggests several layers of safety, like an onion. The first layer is what the public sees from the street. Do you have a perimeter fence to discourage unwanted visitors?

The second layer is from your property line to the skin of your dwelling. Do you have a dog, or at least video monitoring and motion detectors? It's important to maintain control over anything a threat could utilize against you: barrels, ladders, ropes, hoses, wires. An unlocked garage will turn into a pot of gold for intruders, providing not only tools to gain entry, but improvised weapons like knives, saws, hammers and screwdrivers to do you in.

The third layer is your dwelling itself. Will your windows and doors deter unauthorized entry? How will the threat gain entry? Statistically, entry is gained on the first floor, by the front door, in the majority of burglaries. He'll use legitimate cues that can be readily explained to passers-by to ascertain the status of your property, like ringing your doorbell (a dangerous obsolete device that gives a tremendous advantage to the threat by summoning you to a specific place at a specific time, without revealing the threat or his motives), knocking noisily and loudly saying "hello," then progressing to actually trying your doors and windows. You should have some type of positive monitoring device to alert you without fail to the fact that a warm body has just entered your dwelling and each door should be equipped with self-closers. Home invasions are popular. Don't use mail slots or pet doors. They may not always provide a way in for bad guys, but they will always provide a listening post. If your valuables, money and jewels, get a safe—why don't you?

The fourth layer is your safe room. They're not a new phenomenon, in the middle ages they were known as castle keeps. Every abode already has one, if you think about it. What room is most defensible or isolated? Even in a motel, you usually have a closet, or at least a bathroom. In Israel, all construction since 1992 has required a "protective room." The Federal Department of Homeland "Security" recommends that you have one. This is the place to install your alarm panel—the part that actually transmits the alarm—in the most secure part of the dwelling. Why? Most installers are merely trying to make a big profit on the job: that means get in and out as quick as they can. That means locating the main panel near existing telephone and electrical power and providing ease of use for the limited number of components that they supply at their exorbitant "bargain" price.

If your alarm panel is conveniently located in a "public" part of the house, like a kitchen, all the threat need do is toss a rock through the sliding glass door and rip the panel out of the wall, thereby precluding any warning from ever being sent. It takes extra time, and so extra money, to do the job right. The alarm panel must be located in the most secure part of the dwelling and additional remote keypads to actually operate the system. The safe room is where your valuables belong: the Rolex, cameras, jewelry, cash, your coin or stamp collection, the heirloom silver, all critical documentation and records. Your architect didn't include one? Make the best of what's available: your master bedroom, either down a long hall or upstairs can easily be "hardened" as a expedient safe room. A solid-core type door with deadbolt that contains a wide-angle viewfinder, not a light hollow type will slow unauthorized entry.

How long will you have to "hole up" before the cavalry finally arrives? Drive to your local Public Service facility. Time it. That's the minimum, and doesn't consider Murphy's Law.


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