Residential Security: The Five Rings of Protection

8 MINS READMar 9, 2006 | 00:47 GMT
Editor's Note: This is the second in a three-part series on residential security. The "outside-in" approach to developing an effective residential security plan involves a system of five concentric rings of protection. The outermost ring is off the property in the area surrounding the residence. The second ring usually is the residence property line, and the third is the outer perimeter and grounds. The fourth ring is the "hard line" — the actual walls of the residence, and the final, innermost circle is the safe-haven, a place to shelter during an attack or intrusion.
Ideally, a professional security service that is trained in countersurveillance should provide the first ring of protection, by patrolling the neighborhood regularly. In U.S. neighborhoods, however, this function often is performed by police and neighborhood watch programs, both of which can be effective deterrents to crime. If dedicated security patrols are not available, residents should encourage local authorities to step up police patrols and develop a cooperative relationship with others in the vicinity. The area around the residence also should be well-lighted at night to discourage both surveillance and criminal activity. The second ring starts with a clearly delineated property line, which is marked as private property and includes physical barriers such as fences or hedges to discourage casual or accidental intrusion. For this, aesthetic considerations should be taken into account. A high wall topped with razor wire, for example, might not fit in with many residential areas. If possible, the entire property line should be accessible to security personnel, including police, so that they can regularly inspect the entire perimeter to watch for signs of intrusion. Depending on the size of the area contained by the property line and the available security personnel, the outer perimeter of the property — the third ring — can reach to the property line. For larger estates, however, fencing in the entire property might not be feasible, meaning the outer perimeter will be closer in to the residence. In general, it is better to establish an outer perimeter that can be adequately patrolled and protected by available security personnel than to try to cover too much area and have security spread thin. In any case, the outer perimeter should, at a minimum, provide a physical barrier to intrusion and shield the property from prying eyes such as paparazzi or hostile surveillance. The physical barrier along the outer perimeter can range from aesthetically pleasing privacy fencing or hedges in most cases, to electric fencing or massive concrete walls topped by razor wire. If the security assessment has deemed it necessary, the outer perimeter also can be monitored by security personnel and/or the resident using closed-circuit television cameras. The perimeter should be well-lighted to discourage intruders and to provide enough light for the cameras to be effective. Where aesthetic concerns or local light-pollution ordinances must be considered, infrared lighting and infrared sensitive cameras can be used. Intrusion-detection equipment, such as pressure plates, buried radio frequency loops or motion-detector systems — all connected to alarms — also can be used. Full lighting should be available on demand, in case of emergence, though suddenly flooding the grounds with light can be a double-edged sword: It can expose intruders, but also can reveal the location of residents and/or security personnel. Therefore, the circumstances and techniques for employing full lighting should be carefully considered, based on the situation. The outer perimeter should be established far enough away from the residence to provide enough stand-off distance to mitigate the effects of explosives or to give security personnel a better chance of intercepting an intruder who is heading for the house. In extreme cases, in regions in which the overall threat is especially pronounced or the resident is assessed to be at extreme risk, the outer perimeter should be actively patrolled at all times by human security personnel. These can include armed or unarmed security guards, on foot or in patrol vehicles. Guard dogs can be employed in extreme situations, as they make excellent patrol and detection assets, especially with an armed handler. In some cases, an upper-floor apartment in a well-secured building can be a wise choice for housing because such living provides a degree of anonymity, while access to the public is limited via the use of security cards or doormen. The quality of the building's security system and personnel, as well as the risk incurred by living in close proximity to the other residents, some of whom may be high-value-targets, however, must be taken into consideration. Apartment living also complicates fire/evacuation plans. The dwelling's grounds, part of the third ring of security, also can be covered by closed-circuit TV or seismic detection devices, infrared cameras and motion detectors. Any system, however, should be linked to a single, integrated alarm set to alert both security personnel and residents to any intrusion. Residents and security management should develop clear understandings with first responders, such as local police, as to the actions they will take should an intrusion occur beyond the outer perimeter. These procedures should be tested by both residents and security personnel, with response times carefully noted. The "hard line," the walls, doors and windows of the residence itself, makes up the fourth ring. In practical and legal terms, this barrier can and should be protected according to the level deemed appropriate in the overall security assessment and, if necessary, defended with force. The hard line should have its own system of passive and active defenses. Passive defenses include robust construction, locks, landscape features and security procedures, while active defenses refer to alarms, detection systems and security personnel. Special attention should be paid to the strength, quality and proper installation of doors and locks. Ideally, cipher locks with combinations that can be changed frequently should be used, as changing the combinations mitigates the threat of a former, possibly disgruntled, employee or staffer from having access to sensitive areas. In cases in which a combination lock is not optimal, a good quality dead bolt also can be effective. Double-cylinder dead bolts should be used if the door is near any window. Both types of locks can be augmented by a simple slide bolt that goes into the floor. In all cases, locks should be professionally selected and installed by specialists. However, the best lock in the world, even when set in a sturdy metal door, can easily be kicked in if it is set in a cheap wood frame. Special attention should be paid to windows, especially ground-floor windows. It goes without saying that locks on ordinary glass windows are useless, as shattering or removing a glass pane allows access to the residence. In extreme cases, then, ground-floor windows should be barred, as should any higher window that can be reached if the intruder climbs onto a wall or tree. Of course, emergency releases should be installed on an adequate number of the window bars to allow for escape in case of fire. Wherever possible, landscaping features such as hedges should be kept away from hard-line walls, windows and doors, as they can conceal an intruder. Another passive defense is having the entire hard line flooded with light, infrared if necessary. In addition, any outside roof access ladders should be enclosed by cages and locked. Active defenses along the hard line should consist of redundant intrusion-detection systems and individual alarms that are connected to the overall alarm system, but that function if the main system fails. The system should be backed up with battery power in case electric power is lost or disconnected. A cell phone backup also should be at hand at all times, in case the phone lines go down or are cut. In addition, door and window alarms plus systems that detect motion or glass breakage can be installed inside the residence if the broader assessment demands their use. "Panic alarms," those that can alert the entire household and even local police to an intrusion, also should be discreetly placed in several strategic locations around the residence. And an intrusion beyond the hard line must always be treated as an extreme emergency until security responders can clear the residence. This requires that security respond immediately and aggressively to an intrusion and that the residents retire immediately to the final ring of protection — the safe-haven. It is important to note that a security plan should be commensurate with the overall threat assessment for the residence. In other words, while the five rings of protection are standard for every dwelling, the degree to which they are reinforced can fluctuate. What works to prevent criminal intrusion may not be sufficient to defend against militant attackers armed with heavy weapons or explosives. Also, some individuals, based on their status or what they symbolize, are at greater risk than others and require fuller security. With this in mind, a measured response to the assessed threats should be applied.

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