Physical Security and the Forms of Protection

Physical Security and the Forms of Protection

From a security perspective, many preppers concern themselves primarily with tactics, techniques and procedures for use in a long term WROL (Without Rule of Law) situation but I believe that all preparedness functions (see Full Spectrum Preparedness) especially security preparedness should be considered in light of a continuum of a security environments from today’s rule of law (imperfect though it is) through increasingly degraded security situations, short term WROL situations and all the way to a full, long term, WROL environment.  Even in today’s ‘normal’ your security environment may change several times each day.  Knowing this, you should frequently assess your security environment.  You can find yourself in several very different security environments just by driving across most U.S. cities or even while standing still as day turns to night or crowds dissipate.  Today I’ll provide you with a the first part of a framework to assess and adapt to various physical security environments by considering the Principals of Protections and Forms of Protection that the U.S. Army uses to adapt to their physical security challenges. Security Challenges

When it comes to understanding physical security challenges preppers should learn from the experience our military forces.  Our troops face a myriad of security environments from service at home facing the same criminal acts and potential acts of terrorism that the rest of us do to service in war zones where the opposition employs a variety of tactics including, but not limited to snipers, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), ambushes, complex attacks, the use of civilians and non-combatants (often through coercion) as well as numerous other forms of attack and sabotage.

Our troops must also perform their duties in a variety of locals from urban areas to rural farming areas and in true wilderness.  We also operate in a variety of legal environments, jurisdictions and under different rules of engagement (ROE).  Like our troops, preppers must also anticipate that their potential adversaries (from criminals to looters to worse) will be observing us, probing us, testing us, attempting to steal from us, attempting to exploit us or in the worst case… trying to destroy us.

Threats & Hazards

A prepper’s operational environment is composed of a variety of conditions, circumstances, influences, hazards, and threats that the prepper must identify, understand and operate within or react to in order to assure his/her survival as well as that of his or her family and/or group.  Understanding the operational environment and the security portion of that environment can also lead opportunities that if properly seized will allow the prepper not just to survive but also to prosper.  For example, the refugee in need is a threat if hungry but may have skills that will allow you to significantly improve your situation.  A body fast running stream can be a hazard to movement but could be harnessed to provide power.


Hazards are conditions and situations with the potential to cause illness, injury or affect the equipment and supplies necessary to survive.  Hazards exist regardless of human actions although they may be residue or residual from human actions.  Lightning is a hazard to life and property (causes fire) but so is an oil slick if you’re traveling in/on a vehicle.  Even a light rain can be a hazard if you fail to bring delicate electronics in out of the weather.  Wildlife from the smallest West-Nile carrying mosquito to the largest bear are potential hazards depending on where you life.  Hazards may be exploited by friendly or hostile groups.


Threats are an adversary’s potential to kill, hurt or destroy your personnel or critical equipment/supplies.  You must plan for potential threats as well as anticipated threats.  Threats have a human component.  If a hostile group exploits a hazard to attack then that hazard also forms part of a threat.

Both hazards and threats can damage your chances of survival by affecting your equipment or personnel.  By identifying hazards and threats  and implementing plans you may be able to keep those hazards and threats from damaging your survivability or hurting your people.

Forms of Protection:

The following forms of protection can be used to assess and counter physical security challenges no matter your security situation::


Whenever possible the prepper should prevent a hazard or threat from materializing in the first place.  This may take many forms including:

  • Vaccination from disease
  • Training your family not to leave valuables (either financial or survival) where they can be taken.
  • Building with fire resistive materials


Deterrence reduces the potential of an action occurring including:

  • Visible security measures like cameras and guards may deter the opposition from attacking…don’t look like a soft target.
  • Putting up no smoking signs around fuel storage

Passive Defense:

Passive Defenses are your first line of defense if you’re unable to prevent or deter the threat or hazard.  Many passive defenses work to an extent even when they aren’t watched…but work much better when they are monitored.  Some examples of passive defenses are:

  • Security barriers including locks, fences, concertina wire, vehicle barricades and walls.
  • Wildlife fences around your garden to protect your food supply.
  • Electronic Surveillance or Intrusion Detection
  • Booby traps are dangerous, illegal and won’t discriminate between your children and your enemies.  Even if the security (and legal) environment was VERY degraded I can’t imagine using booby traps without multiple warning signs in several languages.

Active Security:

Check your local laws but in most areas of the U.S. you are still allowed to defend yourself and your family…if I lived in an area that didn’t legally support my natural right to self-defense I would rather risk the legal consequences than the life of a family member.  That said, here are several active security measures that I might consider depending on the security environment I was facing:

  • Obtain the training and licensing necessary to carry a weapon…hint the training required to get the license isn’t adequate by a long shot.
  • Learn unarmed and less lethal (mace, tasers, etc.) defense and combat skills
  • Maintain a ‘security force’ trained to detect, interdict, disrupt, and defeat threats or react to hazards.


Mitigation is the activities and efforts you take to minimize the damage from an attack or a hazard speed your recovery from the event that you couldn’t successfully prevent, deter or defend from.  The goals of mitigation are twofold…limit damage and return to normal operations as soon as possible.  Some examples of mitigation activities include:

  • Storing duplicates of critical equipment and supplies in multiple locations
  • Installing fire suppression systems or mounting fire extinguishers in multiple places around your house or retreat.
  • Obtaining advanced medical or first aid training and stocking appropriate supplies

I hope you’ve found our discussion of physical security and the Forms of Protection helpful.  Join us later this week for the second in this series on physical security when we dig deeper and discus the Principles of Protection.

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