This guide is based on advice from manufacturers, architects, insurers and security services on how to mitigate risk with physical security.
Only you can decide what your risks are and how acceptable they are.
Techniques are mostly those from the world of commercial security – the kind you would expect of a jewellers shop – but include those derived from nuclear, military and embassy standards against terrorism and for high risk personnel.
Standards are UK, unless there is a lacuna in free publicly available standards, in which case US equivalents are drawn on.
It addresses risks from hungry unarmed mobs kicking your door in, through police jacking your door open to confiscate your stash and gangsters putting an RPG through your kitchen window, to Ivan nuking your nearest city.
Whether you want the £20 door brace, the £200 dog, the £2,000 DIY electronic security deal, the £20,000 security makeover, the £200,000 bunker or the £2,000,000 Bond villain lair is up to you – specifications or at least references for pretty much every imaginable option is here.
Each post is a chapter from the handbook, and typically takes an hour to read, watch (if you wade through the videos) and think about as you survey your home afterwards and decide what to do.
The handbook does not cover bikes, crime reporting, drug detection, RFID or property registration as that is irrelevant post-SHTF.
The assumption is that as a prepper you want to protect assets, being your life and supplies, from discovery and theft.
Physical protection notes
The British insurance security standard for barriers, such as doors, windows and fences, is from the Loss Prevention Certification Board (LPCB), LPS1175, which for most of its existence had ratings from SR1 to SR8 with increasing tool groups from A (eg 12” crowbar) to H (eg rescue chainsaw) and delay times from 1 to 20 minutes. But now it certifies tool groups and delay times separately so manufacturers can, for example, market products designed for different response times. So what used to be SR1 is now A1 – resisting tool group A for 1 minute. High domestic security would be found at around what was SR3, now C5.
SBD means Secure By Design, the police standard for basic security. The (LPCB) information below was correct as at 24/07/20.
To find a security consultant look for ICE RSES or WCSP CSyP registration.
UK research shows the biggest preventers of amateur burglary are locks, outside lighting and inside random lighting, to force burglars to carry tools, be seen and risk you being home. Other measures can either increase risk or do nothing or little. For example, alarms simply change who burgles you so that only professionals try their luck. Your first port of call should be to buy light timers such as the SBD rated MyDome for £29.
It will probably cost in the five or six figures to upgrade your security for a house, probably more than your contents are insured for; but the point is you cannot put a price on your life, so simply must not be attacked or have your only home invaded or have your only food stolen.
Given budget constraints, you might have to DIY your reinforcements once you read what is needed; if you are a high net worth individual then you will find out just about everything you can buy.
The guide also introduces you to more expensive tech for large high value target estates that need and can cope with surveillance and perimeters to critical national infrastructure / border level, and how to find extreme rated barrier materials for bunker-style homes or refuges.
One final word on cost though: before spending a fortune turning your home into a castle, consider if you would be safer spending some of it on a refuge and/or bunker that can protect against wider risks, and/or a bug out location with a redundancy stash, and/or wider and deeper preps for non-intrusion risks, and/or training.
The bad (or maybe good) news is in the UK we cannot all lie in wait with a gun as our prepping strategy. The definitely good news is our homes are made of brick not wood, so if we beef up our doors, window, and maybe roof, we can actually delay a professional burglar and stop a random looter. There is, however, nothing you can do to a normal home to stop explosives, diamond core drills or locksmiths (if you want a final exit door). That requires a permanently occupied bunker, which a home can be if you can afford it, have the staff and space, and do not mind what it looks like.
What is involved
As a rule of thumb, the upgrade means where you have glass add plastic, where you have wood change it to steel, where you have plasterboard add steel or plywood.
As well as physical security of the building fabric, do not forget to secure your mail, visitors and internet, as these are ways attackers can slip in without looking like a burglar.
You do not have to install all security at once if you have other priorities, as there is no point securing supplies you cannot afford because you blew all your cash on security.
You could protect against the most likely threats first and worry about less likely scenarios later.
You could build all aspects of security in layers, one layer at a time.
You could gradually install security using modular kit bit by bit. For example, you could get an old home up to housebuilder/police standard with locks and ground floor laminated glass and knock up sheets of plywood riot boarding ready to fit at a moment’s notice, then add shutters or grille when funds allow, and when windows and doors need replacing fit security versions. Cameras, lights and alarms systems can come later; in the meantime you can buy standalone kit for such surveillance, such as infra red camera alarms and perimeter triggers, which will still be useful when you buy separate systems one day for the building.
The advice differs from what you hear from many American preppers, whose audience want easy cheap comforting solutions for the totally insecure sheds they live in (such as changing keep screws in door jambs to 3”) and who believe they can carry on hitting targets after being shot as long as they wear a flak jacket. Some are in the product commission business so need the biggest audience and thus tell it what it wants to hear, whether it is ‘civil war is coming’ or ‘buy more guns’.
It assumes you are adopting the military doctrine of defence in depth which is widely used in security, with concentric circles of measures, such as fences, walls and saferooms, to deter, detect, delay and defend. Security in depth can also mean you need to multiply the probabilities of each security layer working as, for example, if your door has a 90% chance of resisting physical attack but the lock uses wifi with a 90% chance of being hacked then you only have a 9% secure door. You normally want to layer different technologies and redundancy into defence in depth, maintain consistent boundaries with minimal gaps and avoid layouts that give strangers excuses to be near where they should not.
You could also consider routine activity theory that says criminals choose soft targets with low guardianship, so you need to show you will catch them and your home is not a soft touch.
There is also rational choice theory that says criminals weigh up the chance of being detected, caught, taking unacceptable casualties and being successful in breaking in.
Finally, there is estimated adversary sequence interruption which lets you estimate the probability of interruption and neutralisation.
The normal assumption applied to terrorism is assumed for domestic security, that pre-SHTF, bombs, guns and specialist vehicles involve more risk and investment for an attacker than the reward justifies, so tools are the main threat, but that everyday vehicles become a bigger risk as SHTF unfolds and guns start to look like a worthwhile investment to source and risk using after there are no longer any police. We do not know whether intruders will be surreptitious, use stealth, come mob handed, still have fuel for power tools or be willing to make noise, but we can assume that, as SHTF unfolds, noise becomes less of a risk to intruders, and bringing heavy tools and friends becomes more worthwhile. The hope is that once intruders become more fearless after SHTF they will feel under less pressure to be in and out before being caught so may preserve fuel for power tools by not using them, although they may still want them to avoid exhaustion from hand tools.
Make a threat planning assumption, based on risk criteria of acceptable loss, to define a design basis threat that you are prepared to pay to protect your assets from adversaries. For example:
A starving neighbour with a hammer or a gang with a petrol chainsaw, bomb and shotgun?
Might somebody interfere with your water tank, air intake or food stash?
Do you need to be able to seal off your home into lockdown at the flip of a switch?
Do you need to block hostile vehicles that might act as a ram or carry a bomb, or just prevent grenades being lobbed in?
Might somebody mess about with drones?
Suggested design threat
The threat planning assumption guiding the UK Prepper Security Handbook is, to put in the crassest of prepper terms, ‘your home needs to be zombie-proof’. To put it in technical terms:
“you cannot afford to lose your prepping supplies and gear,
which will be targeted by a design basis threat of
attack being inevitable due to high number of survivors and low number of them having enough resources,
usually unskilled adversaries, such as unsophisticated criminals and unprepped looter gangs, and at worst unarmed protestor crowds or emergency confiscatory state actors with possible method entry (MOE) training and equipment but probably limited to a ram,
motivated by survival and extreme resaleability of survival gear in a disaster,
breaking off into groups of 4-6 to target each home (6 is the limit of how many intruders can coordinate an attack on a normal opening anyway),
who have planned a noisy, determined, violent, overt, kinetic burglary,
not excluding breaking glass and
with heavy unconcealable tools which
will not include explosives or indirect fire,
will only include vehicles or power tools in the beginning of a SHTF scenario while fuel lasts, and
will not include firearm usage except a low risk of shotguns by civilians,
but will not hack or spy on you, and
you cannot economically harden your home beyond the strength of unreinforced brickwork,
you cannot repair your security if damaged by failed attack,
you cannot gain enough delay or warning from perimeters due to a front garden, thus having to rely more on deterrence, detection at facade, delay by physical security and response,
you cannot guarantee
availability of redundant supplies stashed elsewhere,
availability of a mutual assistance group (MAG),
availability of an alarm receiving centre or police,
preventing the disaster crystallising, or
the wisdom of bugging out to a stocked location”.
On that basis, physical security needs to:
go beyond the usual police-approved domestic risk ratings of PAS24 or LPS2081 (for opportunistic burglars looking for their next fix without being caught), and
instead should be exceptional residential risk & base level counter terror to LPS1175 SR3, CPNI or EN1627 RC6 (roughly equivalent to US DoD medium protection against level III threat) (all these standard are explained later)),
be not concerned with cyber risks, detection of compromise of secrets, or CCTV recording, or security management systems such as for cameras, alarms or access control,
be backed up by response force, more likely needing to be trained and armed if limited to one family.
The reason you need security normally aimed at critical infrastructure is not because politically motivated terrorists are coming for you, but because post SHTF your home is your critical infrastructure, you are your own mission-essential personnel and your stash is your mission-essential assets, and intruders can be expected to be as motivated as terrorists regardless of noise, witnesses, risk of capture and insurance value, as the consequence to them of not getting your stuff may be death just as the consequence to you of you losing it may be death. However high you rate your probability of attempted invasion, when it comes down to the have-nots versus the haves, your risk is high because you face high consequence (of starving) with high vulnerability (living in a home of normal construction) which needs mitigating through redundancy and hardening.
In short, your home must be a nightmare to get into and you must hear an alarm and neutralise the intruder faster than the ‘adversary task time’ (time needed to compromise you), which might only be the time it takes after an intruder walks up to your front door until they have damaged it. But in case anyone manages it, for example you were out, or outnumbered, or the intruder started hacking through the facade before you heard an alarm – meaning you missed the critical detection point by when you needed to have been unlocking the gun safe, you need a stocked bugout location.
Who needs to do what on your land and where is it?
What constraints are you under from council, neighbours or insurers etc, eg fire safety?
What dependencies do you rely on, eg utilities coming in and out or emergency services?
Apart from the people you obviously want to protect, what assets (such as gear and rations) can you not lose and what would it take to replace assets such as utilities, weatherproofing and food?
How much can you let occupiers and technology share the security load with physical barriers?
How can you show adversaries that you are too secure and will fight back without making it look like you could provide reward?
How will you detect an attack immediately?
How will you keep adversaries away?
Can you protect utilities beyond your boundary?
How will you hold off adversaries pending reinforcements?
How will you replace shelter or gear?
How will you disrupt people taking an unhealthy interest in your home?
What type and level of warning would trigger you to put your home on lockdown and 24h watch, eg riots or police announcement?
Is it cheaper to buy a second stash at a bugout location near enough that you can guarantee you can get to it, than to harden your home?
How can you maintain constant high alert post SHTF (equivalent to the USA DoD’s FPCON BRAVO) when you do not know you are targeted, but you do know it is only a matter of time before the unprepped find you.
Consider how can you absorb, adapt or recover from a successful attack.
In short, think what can you do to deter, detect, delay, defend and defeat attacks? This will centre on lights, alarms and barriers, and eliminating lines of sight, and includes physical and procedural measures such as 24h watch, fences and PPE. Visible ability to detect, delay, deny and defeat gives you deterrence. Detection is guards or alarms. Delay is from barriers measured from detection while the response clocks runs. Denial is delay while you arrive to engage. Defeating means engaging and stopping.
Keep security simple to operate or it will be forgotten.
Life or death
Marauders or government may decide to confiscate your resources. They are unlikely to be legally authorised. It is down to you to see them off and stash backups elsewhere. A home invasion gang can be assumed to be coming to assassinate you, whether by violence or starvation, so depending on numbers and weapons, you might be justified in extinguishing life in self defence and maybe for prevention of crime even if the rule of law resurfaces. But you do not want dead aggressors with vengeful relatives or mates turning up to spring attackers from your makeshift cell, although if any die nor do you want gangsters as witnesses running for reinforcements.
Perhaps read Sun Tzu on sieges.
Build a fearsome reputation so that marauders know what is to be punished,
do not let them draw you out,
if you can identify an attack in advance, eg because you live in an isolated spot, you first attack them, and
you build alliances with powerful mutual aid groups to take them out before they arrive.