It’s inevitable that security comes up when we’re talking prepping. It comes up for good reason as it’s level of importance cannot be overstated. No matter what aspect of preparation you point to, security is the unmentioned component. There is no sense in having things if you can’t protect or defend it. This isn’t to say we’re preparing for war, which is an entirely different topic. What I mean is that security primarily comes down to situational awareness and making some plans accordingly.
Physical security is typically broken down into three rings. This can sometimes seem very military in nature. While that’s not the intention, it only makes sense that the very essence of the military is this very topic. But don’t get lulled into the bravado of entering into what can be perceived as a military exercise. Most of us are civilians. As such we don’t possess the tactical expertise to form a physical security plan. I hope to help form the basis of what a physical security plan should look like with this article.
Before we get into the actual three rings, there are a couple of things that you need to define. The first is, what is your AO or area of operation? Yes, there is one of those military terms but for the purpose of this article they’re necessary. Think of your AO as your area of influence. This is the area in which you plan to project force. More on force later. The second is, how many people do you have at your disposal to accomplish this mission? These two things are directly related. The size of one will dictate the size of the other. Just as the limits of one will dictate the limits of the other.
We’re going to begin with the third ring of security. This is the farthest layer of security for whatever it is you intend to protect. For the sake of simplicity imagine a large gated community. One where the one percent of the nation lives. There is a main gate to get into the community and each estate also has a gate. Each house also has a front door. This is in essence your three rings.
Now imagine this in your neighborhood. Where is your main gate? Considerations for this exercise are, how far from your house is it? What is your transportation plan? Do you have enough manpower to man this outer ring? Provide a QRF, or quick reaction force, to come to the aid of those on the outer ring should they find themselves in a violent encounter?
Your third ring is the farthest point from your base of operation. This is usually your home in most cases. Unlike the other rings, the third ring doesn’t necessarily have people in static positions. Quite the contrary in fact. On your third ring you want mobile elements that make foot or mounted patrols at random intervals and in random patterns. The biggest threat to your third ring is the establishment of a pattern.
But, there is always a but, at times you may want to establish a temporary OP, or operational post. The impetus for this may be seeing signs or activity in your area. It may then be necessary to establish an overnight OP to see what’s happening in the dark. This shouldn’t be used for more than an overnight operation.
That is the reason static positions aren’t the best for the outer ring. A static position is easily spotted and therefore evaded. If you’re in a fixed position, you’ve already done a third of your oppositions work for them. Now, all he needs to do is close with you to destroy. That last thought is the very reason for the third ring. Its purpose is to disrupt the oppositions ability to close with your position without you knowing.
We’ve established then that the third ring is the area in which you plan to deny anyone the ability to operate without your knowledge. Now, this doesn’t mean no one is there. Your third ring could very well encompass several other homes where you’re all working together to provide mutual support and security to one another. Which brings us to the relationship of area you intend to patrol and the number of people at your disposal to do so.
The smallest element that should ever be sent out on a patrol is three and even this is pushing it. Four is better. In a three-man team if one person becomes injured, be it from gun fire or simply rolling an ankle, the other two are now combat ineffective. They now have to carry the third person out. Forget the Rambo dreams of carrying your brother-in-law out over your shoulder like a fireman. Moving a person over any distance is a very tough job. One that would be so difficult for two people as to be near impossible. If you add in the possibility of being pursued and shot at, before the end of the day you’ll have three casualties in short order.
The job of your three or four-man team is to project force. Remember that if you’re not putting boots on it, you don’t own it! No amount of observation from distance can make up for standing on that same ground. From a distance you cannot see footprints. You cannot see where someone may have moved through. You cannot see where they’ve snuck in at night and built a hide to allow them to observe your position to develop an assault plan. You have to walk the land.
The critical aspect of this is that any patrols in the area are random. Going back to the idea that your AO encompasses several homes, you’ll have the manpower to do so. Maybe each place has a three-man element that can conduct a patrol. These are organized so that at random times each unit conducts a patrol. Since they’re leaving from their compound it won’t be from the same location as the others. They take a different route, patrol a different section of the AO. This is the best way to ensure you’re not establishing a pattern.
The last piece of the third ring equation is the ability to support the elements that are patrolling the AO should they get in trouble. That means a QRF standing by, ready to deploy immediately. The QRF cannot be engaged in anything that takes them away from their ability to react immediately. Not working in the field for instance. Now, that doesn’t mean they have to be sitting in the truck waiting to go. They just need to have their gear staged and be able to drop what they are doing at a moments notice to back-up the patrol elements.
The primary concerns of the third ring are, what do you intend to project force on? Do you have the manpower to do so? Can you provide a QRF to support the patrol elements? There are a couple other elements as well, but they also apply to other elements of your security that will be covered later. But the number of people you have is the primary concern and one that needs to be carefully thought out.
Let’s move on to the second ring. Unlike the third ring, your second ring is the place for static positions. These are typically referred to as OP’s or LP’s, listening posts. Typically though, they’re combined into LPOP’s. For our purpose here, I will simply refer to them as OP’s. Going back to our gated community example, the second ring is the fence around the estate. Whereas the third ring is designed to deny the opposition to close with your position unnoticed, the second ring is where you’ll stand and fight.
OP’s need to be established in a manner that allows them to support one another with interlocking fields of fire. So that should one come under attack, at least one other can provide fire support. The field of vision from any single OP needs to also be taken into consideration. The key here is that there be no blanks in the visual coverage that would allow someone to approach without being observed or heard.
It’s here in the second ring where force multipliers come into play. A force multiplier is anything that gives you an advantage over the opposition. Optics, binoculars, night vision, thermal optics are all things that will provide a distinct advantage to your second ring of security. In this game, you want every advantage for your side. With that said, in this article we’re not going to cover warning devices. I will address that in another. For now, just keep in the back of your mind that you would also want to incorporate signals that could alert to someone’s approach.
OP’s are most effective if they’re manned. But don’t underestimate the value of creating a very obvious OP. The psychological aspect of seeing what is an obvious reinforced position will force anyone thinking of attacking to alter their plans. But at the end of the day they are a ploy and the opposition could call your bluff. That is why it’s imperative that every manned position be able to support one another and there be no blind spots.
Unlike our decoy OP, we want our manned positions to be as concealed as possible. There are a number of great videos on YouTube on how to construct these. Constructing concealed locations is a skill that takes time to develop. This is a vitally important step. Use the natural elements to your advantage. Living material is the best way to do this.
If your OP is constructed of cut material, it will need to be replaced every other day or so. A large clump of brown in the middle of a green tree line would be too obvious. Pay attention to what it’s made from. If you can get military or even commercial camo netting, they’re a great addition. But camo netting alone is not enough. Natural material needs to be added and replaced as necessary.
The next primary concern is access. Not only into the OP proper, but even the routes taken to access it. The routes to the OP need to be varied. A beaten path of bare earth leading to your OP will render its effectiveness to near nothing. The idea is to be able to see them before they see you. The same goes for access into the hide. This will be more difficult because there are only one or two ways to physically enter the space. You can mitigate the issue to a degree by using burlap or a tarp at the entrance that will help protect the immediate area. Just pay attention to this as it’s important and very difficult to deal with.
Ideally an OP would be manned by two people. This would allow for breaks from the optics while also providing fire support and the ability to provide comm support. We’ll talk about comms later. With that said though, a single person will do. It will just require the shifts in the OP to be shorter. Which brings us to an important point. Ideally, shifts in the OP should be around two hours. When I worked in the physical security world there were a number of studies done to determine how long and how much one person could watch while still being effective. It was determined that people began to lose effectiveness after two hours. While two hours is ideal, it may not be practical and longer shifts required. However, a shift should never be more than four hours for a single person.
I’ve had this discussion with numerous people and most of them, in my opinion, are very naïve in their perception of the group’s capabilities. I’ve had people tell me they would do twelve hour shifts in an OP. While it’s possible, it’s a terrible idea. No one sitting in a cramped location for twelve hours will be very effective. The possibility of someone falling asleep goes up exponentially. Which is also why it’s a good idea to have two people in the hide, to wake you up when you fall asleep!
The duty of those in the OP is to look and listen. In the extreme, it’s also to shoot. But this is a last resort. The first time you pull the trigger from inside the OP, you’ve just burned it and will have to move. If it comes to it, your OP’s are a prepared defensive location to engage from and should be equipped as such. Extra ammo, water, food, and signals should all be kept in the OP. Ammo cans are a good way to do this. This also reinforces the fact that your team should have standards on weapons. A can full of AR mags in the OP will be useless to the guy that shows up for his shift with an AK.
Should your OP be forced to engage, the ammo stored in the OP should be used first. Because if things don’t go your way and you have to fall back, the shooter should have a full load of personal ammo. In addition to ammo, flares, smoke grenades, and signal panels are all good items to keep in the hide. I wouldn’t store medical items there as they’ll be exposed to the elements. Plus all your personnel should have an IFAK on their person.
Design your hide to have enough room to be comfortable but not so much as to allow people to to fall asleep easier. Creature comforts are important, just remember you want it uncomfortable enough to keep them awake. This is very important, remember it.
To recap, position your OP’s to provide interlocking fields of fire and visual support. Camouflage cannot be stressed enough. Build them accordingly. Alter the routes to them and take measures to protect the entry points. Stock them with needed materials. Make them comfortable, but not too comfortable. Amplify the effectiveness of your OP with the addition of optics.
The third ring of your security is the Alamo. Typically, this will be your home or whatever structure you’re living in. The first thing to establish at the Alamo is your emergency exfil routes. If you’re pushed back to the Alamo and then forced from there, you’ll need a way to get out. By a way out, I actually mean several ways out. Look at it as though you’re going to assault it. Consider every approach an adversary is likely to do and then plan escape routes. Remember, a static target is just that, a target.
Reinforce your Alamo. Modern construction in America is not at all designed with ballistic protection in mind. Unless you have a block home with poured walls, even a .22 is a threat. Establish fighting positions. Sandbags are the easiest way. While no one wants a pile of sandbags under the living room window, you’ll need the cover. Another consideration is placing sandbags on the outside of the house to create the same ballistic protection.
At the Alamo everyone is a shooter. If they’re old enough to hold a rifle, they’re part of the defense. Even elderly or handicapped people can aid in the defense as this is a static position and will be defended to the greatest extent possible. The alternative of being overrun is not acceptable.
The Alamo is also where all the important work takes place in regard to the three rings. Maps should be up on a wall in an area designated as the CP or command post. The importance of maps cannot be stressed enough. Information is a weapon and a more powerful weapon than any rifle. It will allow you to make decisions on when and where to engage, or whether to even do so. Having detailed maps is critically important. After every patrol, the personnel should be debriefed in front of the map and any intel gathered should be updated on it.
This also brings us to comms. Communication is probably the most important component to a security plan. There are a number of ways to do this. Radios are the obvious choice. Your patrols and OP’s should all be equipped with radios. All communications should be routed through the CP. That means that someone should be on duty 24/7 in the CP. The good thing is, that’s the only person that needs to be on duty. Should things turn western, your patrols and OP’s should be able to alert the CP who can then rouse the defense.
Another valuable item at the CP is a good quality scanner. Most people will be using cheap radios from Walmart or Amazon. A scanner like the Bearcat Home Defense will pick up on these transmissions. This is a two-way street though. The opposition could very likely be using scanners as well. We’ll cover signals security in another article.
A good choice for OP comms are old military field phones. The benefits are a direct line of communication to the CP that cannot be intercepted. If these are used, a radio should be kept in each location as a back-up. Communication needs be structured and constant. Patrols should have checkpoints when they will call in. The duty person in the CP would then mark on the map where the patrol made contact from so that in the unfortunate event you lose them, you have a place to start looking.
That means having a plan. If we’re doing things such as establishing OP’s, the world has changed. In that world, nothing is done without a plan. Patrols are planned in the CP. The routes are marked on the map with checkpoints when the patrol will call in. Duty rosters are coordinated at the CP and posted. The OP’s should likewise call in to the CP. There’s a couple of reasons. First, to ensure those on duty are still awake and doing their job. But also to ensure they’ve not been compromised. I won’t go into codes and such in this article. However, having codes is also very important to ensure the integrity of your security plan.
To recap the first ring. It’s the Alamo where the final stand will take place. That’s where all your gear and supplies are as well as the most important aspect, the people you’re trying to protect. Every member of your groups is a member of the defense. If they can hold a rifle they’re a shooter. If not, they can provide other support like carrying ammo or simply watching the rear. The Alamo is also the CP where all command and control takes place. All comms are routed through there and the CP desk is manned at all times.
As we now see there is a lot that goes into establishing a security plan. I hope this article gives you the information to get started developing your plan. If you’re feeling overwhelmed and not sure where to start, start with comms. Get a comms protocol established and acquire the equipment. Next, work on your optics. If you can’t see it, you can’t do anything about it. Do your research on how to construct your OP’s. And lastly, work on your PT. All of this is hard work. Patrolling takes a physical toll and it will do no one any good if you have to be carried back from the field.