Recently a listener/reader asked me to do a section on defending a ranch. I did this overseas for the American military in Iraq as a Force Protection Specialist (read base security). It was my job to defend the military members that lived on the base and insure their safety. It was my greatest career accomplishment to be able to say no one died on the base when I was in charge of security. Two weeks before we took over, multiple people died on base, so I worked in an active area. We employed the techniques of defense in depth all over the base to create different things. This is just the start of how to secure a large area. Securing a base really is a week or more class, but I’ll outline some ideas that you can implement in your defense plan here.
First, you need to look at your area differently. You need to see different layers and areas around your home, in your home, and everywhere you go. Natural barriers definitely can help you see different areas. When I ran scenarios with SWAT/Tactical law enforcement teams the easiest barrier was the building/house itself. With a small team of “terrorists”, I could tie up a law enforcement tac team for hours by keeping them outside the building.
When you see the area you want to defend, look at different natural/man-made barriers and lines that are easily identifiable to start with. Then create different hardships for someone to get through that area. You can also create an FPF (Final Protective Fire) or a line that you will hold to the death (old Military joke DIP, die in place, not so cool when you are really given that order).
Each area you use should be given up to gain something. In combat I would give up an area to take a portion of the enemy. In our homes we normally have 911 and Law Enforcement that will come to our aid. So we can give up areas (like a room) to buy time for the cavalry to get there. We might also give up an area to get our enemy to move in a direction that would be advantageous to us. For instance, I might give up my living room because there is a long hallway to my bedroom where it would be easy to defend because anyone that wanted us would have to come down that hallway. In an open area like a ranch, I might give up a large open space with trees in it that would be hard to defend to make the enemy come through a small ravine or over a bridge. Much easier to defend or see the enemy coming.
You can use space you control and space you don’t control. In Iraq we controlled everything inside the walls but used standoff space in different areas to keep people away from us. You can use the space inside your house, your front lawn, and the street in front of your house for different uses of space. You can also use your land to your advantage.
Here in the real world we have the problems as over there. Who are the bad guys and how do we identify them? Use your space creatively to determine who is who. In Iraq my favorite thing to use was concertina wire.
I used wire in front of the base in Iraq wherever the Army would let me. The wire wouldn’t really stop someone but it did quickly show the intent of someone approaching. If someone walked around the wire and through the line like they were suppose to then they might be there for a legitimate reason. If someone ran through the wire, breached the wire, or tried to crawl through it, I knew they weren’t there for a good reason. The Army made me use a lot of concrete barriers because wire looked too aggressive. But you may have that problem also here in the real world. If you surround your house with concertina wire you will look a little crazy. But we can use other things, like locked doors, fences, gates, and signs to help show intent. Then we can use the appropriate amount of force to stop someone.
I really like wired while in Iraq because it was portable (could be changed easily so it wasn’t the same all the time, barriers took a fork lift or crane to move), we can see through it, and we can shoot through it. Other barriers created problems for us as the defenders and gave advantages to someone that was trying to attack the base. Look around your house and find out what can be used to hinder someone else and help you. Maybe a small chain link fence or a short hedge grove. Normal people walk around barriers, people with mal intent generally go over barriers (but not always). These escalation of force areas include locking your doors on your car and house. Don’t use signs like “This house protected by Smith and Wesson” or “Trespassers will be shot, survivors will be shot again!” They are funny but are going to show some lawyer your intent. Sometimes a hand painted sign can be the best like “You aren’t lost, you’re trespassing” is better than any store bought sign that most people ignore.
Last you have to identify avenues of approach, fields of fire, and fields of view. Avenues of approach are what they sound like, ways that someone can come into your defended area. Some are more likely than others. Someone climbing up a cliff face is a low probability while the road leading to your doorstep is probably high. When we think of using fields of fire and fields of view we are talking about multiple people in multiple spots. Cameras can help but it could also be two people sitting back to back. You want to identify what you can see from different positions and what you can’t see. You also want to identify what areas you can control and stop someone if need be and what areas you will lose. Micro terrain is a defenders worst nightmare. Micro terrain is any small hill or depression that someone can hide behind. They give an offensive person a place to hide, take cover, and re-organize. This lets them take the advantage from you because you have to wait on them to make the next move. At least it’s like that in the real world, as a Marine I would just use indirect fires from mortars or artillery on them.
You want to find vantages points that have little to no micro terrain someone can use against you. The best way is to clear a standoff area around the area you want to defend and use multiple vantage points. A creek may run through your property. At one point the creek may run across one area of view but from another vantage point someone can look up the creek and see anyone inside it.
You’ve probably heard of overlapping fields of fire, and it’s the same thing with fields of view. Ideally I would want two different positions to be looking at the same area from a different perspective. That way someone can’t hide from one watch point without being seen by the other. Every position is responsible for an area in front of them and each area overlaps the one next to it.
Having more than one person look at everything is great in theory, but doesn’t always work in the real world. The last part of a defense in depth would be an early warning device. Normally the American military is forbidden from doing this so we don’t practice as much as we should, but using things like noisemakers and trip wires work great. Now that electronic devices are getting really cheap, they can be used, also. But a noisemaker can be as simple as a string across a path that is attached to a soda can with rocks in it, or as complex as a weight activation device that sets off some pyro device that creates noise and light when tripped. These are easy to create with a little thought.
Think about these basics and look around your home and area at how you could defend it differently.
- Think of creating different layers
- Give up something to gain something else
- Make individual layers of security for someone to get through
- Use space you control and space you don’t
- Create escalation of force areas (wire)
- Outline fields of view/fire and avenues of approach hard and easy likely vs unlikely