Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bugging, Part I: Securing the Castle

First thing every morning, I confront a stark reality: This is not the world I grew up in.

Howdy Doody Time is over. The Beaver has left the stage. Happy Days? Only in re-runs. By any measure, this is a far more dangerous world than the one in which we lived even a decade ago.

Our enemies, once marked by flags and isolated from us by borders and oceans, now are shadows that move among us. Law enforcement and homeland-security professionals, brave and dedicated as they are, cannot stem the tide of illegal immigration or prevent grandstand-style homicides. Home invasions are as common as fender-benders on the freeway.

It's time to live our lives accordingly -- not paranoid, but prepared.

The first and best place to tackle today's reality, I believe, is at home. Secure castle, hearth and family, then expand security preparations outward.

My family and I have spent a lot of time on home security and defense. Here, in general terms, is our approach.

I married well -- my bride was working in private security when we met, trained professionally in security and defensive tactics. For the purposes of home security and defense, however, her skills are perhaps less relevant than her mindset.

When we bought our home, we addressed locks and lighting immediately. We also scouted the property and formulated our plan for electronic measures.

Then we chose a system installer -- a 20-year-old moonlighter, the relative of a co-worker -- and that's when the fertilizer met the ventilator. Hard.

The kid's electrical work was solid, if slow, but he hit a wall when it came to programming the system. When we told him that we'd withhold further payment until the system was operational, he bolted for our basement and started ripping live electrical lines from the joists. Fortunately, my hand-to-hand skills weren't as rusty as I thought, and I was successful in persuading him (and his brother, who made the fracas two-on-one) to leave.

What happened to us was the embarrassing result of several bad choices, illustrating how important it is to choose a skilled, experienced and trustworthy installer. Get professional and personal references -- don't make the choice based on an infomercial or a Yellow Pages ad.

Or nepotism, for that matter.

Long story short, we now have three-level electronic security, with a fourth to come. Belt and suspenders, if you will.

Even the best security system is no guarantee against intrusion, so the next step was preparing to defend our home.

My personal choice of a home-defense handgun was based largely on my wife’s primary. Why? They share the same manual-of-arms and the same caliber, which means that we don't have to perform mental gymnastics if one or the other becomes a backup under stress. Likewise a pair of kissing-cousin shotguns, which join a rifle kitted specifically for home defense.

Because our spawns are in their curious and hormone-charged teens, our defensive weapons and ammunition are always secured -- but they’re secured in such a way that my wife and I can access them in seconds.
Finally, we acknowledge that the most important part of choosing firearms to defend our home is professional training. As Col. Jeff Cooper said:
"You are no more armed because you own a gun than you are a musician because you own a piano. The instrument is not the answer; the skill to use the instrument is the answer."
Other hardware & software
Completing the picture, in no particular order:
  • Our mobile phones are either on the belt or charging at the bedside.
  • We're equipped with weapon-mounted and hand-held SureFire flashlights and numerous handy Maglites.
  • A pair of alarm dogs are effective flesh-and-blood adjuncts to our electronic system.
  • We've posted generic electronic-security signs conspicuously around the property, to discourage opportunists.
  • We cultivate a good relationship with our monitoring service, which knows our duress and hostage codes.
  • Our system incorporates a “cell backup” in case our land line is down or has been cut.
  • Each member of our family carries a panic fob.

Plan & drill
We believe that the real key to surviving a threat is our plan. We've designated a primary "safe room," and our spawns have “safe places” where they can hunker down in relative concealment and cover until we can reel them into the safe room (or if we can’t).

We've established code words to communicate threat (intruder), acknowledgement (the equivalent of “Marco...Polo”) and all clear. That may seem like a contrivance, but our spawns know the difference between “C’mon out, everything’s ok” and the code for that condition -- no secret word, no safety, stay put.

Most important, we drill our plan -- daylight, low light and no light -- with the goal of survival-in-place until law enforcement arrives. No heroics, no machismo.

Security first, survival second, defense as a last resort.

About Castle Doctrine
Preparing to employ armed defense to protect oneself and one's family is a personal choice and, thanks to our elected officials, not at all a simple one.

The crux here is called
Castle Doctrine, and whether or not it applies varies from state to state. It designates a person's place of residence (and in some states a person's vehicle or workplace) as a "castle" in which that person may expect to enjoy protection from illegal trespassing and violent attack. It gives a person the legal right to use deadly force to defend that "castle," and other innocent persons legally within, from violent attack or intrusion which threatens violent attack.

Fundamentally, Castle Doctrine enables a person's right to self-defense, trumping the misguided "duty to retreat" principle and the idiotic mandate that a person use only proportionate force against an attacker. And legally speaking, it permits the criminal defense of "justifiable homicide" when the use of deadly force actually causes death.

Castle Doctrine is
not a get-out-of-jail-free card, and again, it's not universal. It's also important to note that the law almost never permits armed defense of property -- only life. Each of us is obliged to know our state and local laws and make our own choices. And if we choose to make armed defense part of protecting self and family, professional training is a must.

Bugging, Part II: My Tin Hat
Bugging, Part III: In or Out?
Bugging, Part IV: The Right Stuff