Farm owners are often considered to be at greater risk of a home invasion or violent attack due to their isolated living environment, making them an easy target. This is particularly evident in countries like South Africa, where farm murders are at an all-time high. Implementing farmland security measures in rural areas can be vital in safeguarding your family, your friends and your property, and having previously consulted on numerous South African farmlands in the past, I thought I’d share my experience on the matter. So how would you go about improving security on your property and reducing the risk of an unwelcome intrusion.
As a farm owner (or occupant), your primary objective when it comes to the security of your family and your property is to make the conversion from being a soft target to becoming a hard target. A farm that is relatively unprotected or vulnerable is considered a soft target, while a farm with hard target status has minimised existing risks due to the farm-owners actions and appropriate protective measures, thus most likely representing an unattractive target.
Your goal in hardening security is to remove the surprise factor, which can be achieved by creating defensive layers in a number of sectors. We will discuss these in more detail below.
Types of Criminals Involved in Farm Attacks
By understanding the types of criminals that exist, you are able to apply effective security measures that will prevent these syndicates from considering your property as a likely target. Amateurs will often be deterred by overt security measures such as CCTV cameras and alarm systems, but professionals will look past these and learn your daily routine, waiting for the right time to strike if an opportunity presents itself.
- Amateurs – these individuals are opportunists who are looking for a quick and easy entry. They typically take chances, but if the risk of detection is too high, they will not attempt to enter a home.
- Semi-Professionals – these individuals are aware that the key to success is in planning. They usually scout a neighbourhood, ‘casing’ a residence and waiting for the right moment to strike.
- Professionals – these criminals are sharp and spend sufficient time planning and strategising, often focusing on extremely valuable items such as money, jewellery, cars and firearms.
Whilst amateurs usually choose easy targets such as unoccupied homes that are lacking security measures, professional criminals may seek to enter a home with the intention of robbing the occupants of their belongings. This is when the occupants are most at risk of being subjected to multiple victimisation, where entire families have been brutalised and members tortured, raped and killed.
In order to deter all three criminal personalities, you require a pro-active approach to farmland defence, creating and controlling the security of your property rather than just responding to an incident once it has happened.
Your State of Mental Readiness
As unpleasant as it may sound, farm owners should live in an “orange” state of readiness at all times. Situational awareness is vital 24/7, and once the effort has been placed into gaining a hard target status, your guard must not be relaxed.
Unfortunately many farm owners adopt a mindset that states that an attack may happen to their neighbour’s farm, but not on their own. This mindset leads to a lifestyle that naturally results in an obvious soft target status, whereby these individuals live in a “green” state of readiness.
Farmland Defensive Structure
As previously mentioned, becoming a hard target and therefore an unattractive target requires the removal of the surprise factor. This is achieved by creating defensive layers on your property that mutually support one another.
A systematic approach covering all of the following areas are advised:
- The Farmhouse
- The Perimeter or Yard
- The Farm Itself
- Your Neighbours
- Your Community
- Communication Structures
The idea of the above mutual support structure is to combine a good warning system, delay system and response system in order to ensure that all bases are covered and an adequate plan is in place in the event of a security breach.
1. Securing Your Farmhouse
According to statistics, over 70% of farm attacks take place inside the farmhouse (or home), making farmhouse defence your number one priority.
If your budget does not allow the hardening of the entire farmhouse, it is important to secure at least the sleeping quarters. But do not neglect the remaining 5 defensive sectors (as listed above), as these are vital in providing a good warning and delay system.
The following measures are recommended in securing your farmhouse.
Establishing four lines of defence (LOD) is ideal. This means that an intruder would need to breach four sets of barriers in order to reach you and your loved ones.
|1st LOD||Farmhouse access doors and security gates|
|2nd LOD||Security gate separating the sleeping quarters from the main house|
|3rd LOD||Bedroom doors|
|4th LOD||Toilet doors (en suite), which may double up as an improvised safe room|
- Install solid-core access doors that lock from the inside with deadbolts and slam-lock mechanisms. This includes all doors that provide access into the house from the outside. Fit wide-angled peepholes that can be used before answering the door, but consider covering these up while not in use, as reverse peephole viewers are readily available.
- Install solid-core bedroom and bathroom doors that lock from the inside with deadbolts and slam-lock mechanisms. Strongwood is recommended (a steel reinforced wood), or at the very least a good, solid-core hardwood.
- Upgrade all relevant door locks to high security locks. Deadbolts must be used, which include an authenticated slam-lock mechanism on all doors considered to be part of your internal layer of defence. Most household locks are fairly simple to bypass.
- Install longer screws into all door frames and hinges, preferably 7 to 8cm in length.
- Ensure that a key is always available in each bedroom/toilet door, on the inside.
- Windows must lock securely from the inside, and must remain locked when not in use. This includes second and third story windows.
- Use secondary locking devices on windows to prevent them from opening past a certain angle. This is one extra step in delaying unauthorised entry.
- Ideally fit glass-break sensors to all concerning windows or glass doors, and ensure that these are connected to the main alarm system.
- Look at anti-smash & grab window film as an option. If you have glass doors, make sure that they are double paned and laminated.
- Install dowel rods or steel pins into the track of sliding glass doors to prevent them from being opened if the lock is bypassed.
- All burglar bar screws should be stripped, tac-welded, or secured by one-way screws to prevent easy removal. It is recommended that burglar bars be drilled into the window and door reveals where possible.
- Deadlocks and high security door locks are paramount on all access points and bedroom/bathroom doors.
- Where padlocks are present, weld a metal cover over the hasp to protect the lock against bolt-cutters. You can click here to see an image example.
- During dark or when not in use, all gates should be locked with padlocks, hasp covers and deadbolts.
- A high quality, sturdy, and branded security gate must separate the sleeping quarters from the rest of the house (if the layout allows). Case studies often show that criminals break in at a point far from the sleeping area, as this reduces audible noise. A well-built and well installed security gate will give you time to activate a response alarm and get to a safe room, protecting yourself and your family when required.
- It is extremely important to always keep security gates locked. Most security companies report that when responding to an incident (typically false alarms), they often arrive to find security gates unlocked and open.
- Easily-removable gate hinges should also be fortified, as these are weak points.
- Numerous farmers in areas that I have consulted for have had burglars enter their farmhouse through the roof, often gaining easy access into the house and bypassing security measures. Internal roof areas should always have motion sensors that are linked to the primary alarm system to detect any movement within your ceiling.
- If your budget allows, also link external roof sensors to the primary alarm system.
- IR (infrared radiation) surveillance cameras may be placed inside the roof with motion activated spotlights for added security.
- All rooftop access points, hatchways, air ducts and air vents should be covered by security bars that are securely fastened. Glass skylights should have burglary-resistant glass and security bars or a steel grill. These bars should be further secured by padlocks.
- Ensure that your roof tiles are securely fixed to the roof structure in order to prevent easy removal.
- Razor wire may be placed in vulnerable areas inside of the roof for extra security or a a deterrent/ delay tactic.
- It is important that you don’t make it easy for intruders to get up on your roof by having exterior ladders or trash containers against your exterior wall. Ladders to your roof should be relocated indoors and you must move and secure your trash containers away from your exterior wall. In addition, any trees that are overhanging the roof should be cut back.
- Keeping a small dog (or large) inside the house will act as a verbal alarm, again buying you valuable time and alerting you to an intrusion.
- Large outdoor dogs will in some cases act as a deterrent, but remember that an outdoor dog can easily be poisoned, as many case studies have demonstrated. If you suspect that your dog has been poisoned, it is a likely indication that an attack is imminent, and an immediate investigation is required.
Weapons & Firearms
- Keep weapons in hidden places that you’ll likely be taken to during an invasion (ASP baton, crow bar, machete, taser, pepper spray, etc). This may of course be a double-edged sword, as the weapons may be used against you during an attack, so ensure that they are well-hidden.
- Be aware of not leaving weapons where children can get to them.
- Firearms should be kept in the safe room or master bedroom, and not in the office or spare bedroom. Also, a firearm should always be carried on your person and you should be properly trained in handling all firearms that you own.
- Safes must be correctly bolted down in the most suitable place with an accessible but well-hidden key. Digital safes are a good option.
The Safe Room
- The safe room can be defined as a secure rally point in an organised room, where you have the ability to protect yourself and your family by providing a temporary shelter in the event of a home invasion, giving you time to call and wait for help.
- Choose a room with as few windows as possible and a door that opens outwards, which is situated close to where you sleep. The bathroom is often the best place as it usually has only one window to secure, and also has a toilet and running water.
- Fortify the safe room door with a high quality sliding security barrier fitted inside the room. This is especially important if you only have hollow-core internal doors that could easily be kicked open. These should however be replaced with solid-core, slam-lock doors as mentioned previously.
- Fit sliding security barriers to the windows that can also serve as an escape route when required. In the event of a home invasion, you could shout for help out of this window, or sound an air horn to attract neighbours’ attention.
- Keep a spare set of keys for the security barriers (and vehicles) inside the safe room at all times.
- Have a panic button fitted at child-level in this room, or make sure a portable one is permanently left here.
- Have emergency numbers stored in a mobile phone which is kept in the safe room. Include your armed response service, a neighbour and/or relative, ambulance service, fire department and local police station.
- If CCTV surveillance is installed, have monitors placed in the safe room, or at the very least have access to the live feed via mobile screening.
- Keep the supplies you would need in an emergency in a cupboard or on a shelf in the room, as listed below.
Vehicles & Garage
- Keep spare vehicle keys (or any other important spare keys) in a lock-box or safe in your strongroom/master bedroom. These may be vital during an attack when you need to make a quick escape.
- Always keep the alarm set/activated on your vehicle when parked.
- Consider changing your factory set garage door opener code. Thieves sometimes drive neighbourhoods with common openers looking for doors that they work on.
Having An Emergency Reaction Plan
- Always have a plan for your family or roommates in your home in the event of a home invasion. Talk it over and know what each person’s responsibilities are. The plan should include ways to escape the home if necessary.
- Part of this plan should include the instruction to never use or play with the emergency supplies in the safe room (specifically for children) – unless during an emergency of course.
- Regularly discuss the importance of home security with everyone who lives in the household. It only takes one person to forget to lock a door or window.
- Be sensitive to what information is passed out over social media. This includes letting people know when you’re away from home or home alone (specifically teens and females).
- In an emergency, try to escape first. If this is impossible or too risky, lock yourselves in the safe room, phone the police and your security response company and sit it out. Do not come out of the room until help arrives, unless there is an opportunity for someone to escape through the window and get help (the situation will dictate).
2. Perimeter and Yard Security
The following measures are recommended in securing your perimeter or yard.
- External perimeter lighting is one of your biggest visual deterrents. Movement activated spotlights that shine outwards are certainly recommended around the farmhouse perimeter. Attackers will often lookout for these, especially during daylight as they approach the farm in an innocent manner (seeking advice, information or job opportunities) during their planning phase. It is therefore crucial to install censored spotlights that cover 360-degrees.
- If a suspicious noise or activation of lights occurs, switch all inside lights off. This will allow you to see movement outside, and anyone outside will not be able to see movement inside, giving you the upper hand.
- The next step is to install an alarm that sounds when activated. This gives homeowners a chance to react, and means that criminals are now unsure of what may happen next, instilling doubt. Again, it is important to cover a 360-degree arc around the farmhouse.
- Once the alarm is fitted, it must be turned on and used regularly. It is a well-known fact that criminals often rely on an alarm not being set while someone is home and awake.
- Also ensure that your alarm is monitored and will continue to work should you lose power in a storm or power outage. Consider good quality backup batteries and cellular monitoring if your budget permits. Cellular monitoring provides a dedicated cellular channel which sends a wireless signal via a secure, encrypted transmission to the monitoring centre in case of an emergency.
- Have a secondary alarm keypad fitted in your master bedroom/strongroom that can be used to sound a panic alarm or quickly access alarm controls when needed.
- Place a secondary siren and bright flashing lights both inside the house and outside, as the intense noise and lights creates confusion for intruders.
- The burglar control box must be mounted high up on the wall (master bedroom or safe room) or in the ceiling above your safe room.
- It is important to change or cycle alarm codes regularly.
- Finally, test alarm circuits and total functionality at least once a week, and fix any faults immediately.
- Video surveillance systems should be installed covering the farmhouse perimeter, and if your budget allows it, the interior as well.
- Include IR cameras, monitors and recorders which are integrated with detection devices. Motion sensors will trigger an alarm and activate the video recorder when an intruder is present.
- Surveillance cameras should interlock and cover a full 360-degree arc.
- A 40-pixel or higher camera/video system is recommended for clear images. Avoid cheap budget systems and rather invest in something of decent quality.
- While these systems can provide real-time video feeds from within an improvised or purpose built strong-room, they also may capture important vehicle data and other helpful information related to a repeat offender.
- Make sure your camera recording system is housed in a lockbox inside your safe room or in the ceiling above, and that the hard drive is recording properly.
- Always keep outdoor vegetation neatly trimmed to reduce the number of available hiding places, and trim tree limbs that allow second story or roof access.
- Thick, sharp and thorny vegetation placed close to windows can often prevent access or at the very least make access difficult.
- The boundary is the property owner’s primary line of defence. The stronger and more noticeable it is, the greater the probability of deterring an attack.
- Always secure locks and gates; a gate is only secure if it is closed and locked. Gates at entrances to your property should be as strong as possible, mounted securely to strong corner posts and locked with heavy-duty chains and padlocks (not just electronically, as these can be removed).
- Go around your property from time to time and look at it through the eyes of a thief. Look for areas where thieves could easily operate or gain access. Vegetation must be well maintained and kept short, and look out for trees and branches that allow easy access over the fence and into the farmyard. These must be removed.
- Place stickers, neighbourhood watch, aggressive dog and alarm signs on the exterior of your home. Even fake alarm decals can act as a deterrent.
- Use highly-visible house/farm numbers so that police and security/response units can readily identify your home in the event of an emergency.
- For perimeter security, a 360-degree electric fence should be built. This should also have a reactive alarm, meaning that an alarm will alert you in the event of a power outage or a break in the circuit when being tampered with. A break in the circuit can happen if a line is cut or broken by an intruder or animal. If voltage is lost, the electric fence will not be effective in keeping either intruders out or animals in. Without an alarm, there isn’t really any way for you to know that the fence is disabled until you either realise that the cows are out or there is a burglar in your home.
- Criminals often throw rubber mats and blankets over the fence to climb over. This should trigger an alarm if the fence is correctly installed. When correctly installed, each strand of wire is affixed with a compression spring allowing it to have some slack if force is applied – so much so that it will make contact with the wire below and set off the alarm.
- It is important to realise that criminals are often very clever; they know that if an electric fence doesn’t make that little click-click sound, it is probably off. Or if the wires are hanging loosely all over the place, that it is broken. It is also important to maintain perimeter fencing and make sure that it is always in a fully working state.
- Each and every perimeter alarm or disturbance requires a response, as the system will often be tested by potential intruders to check for complacency.
- It is crucial that a concrete foundation be built beneath the perimeter fence to prevent unauthorised access via digging. Criminals will over burrow beneath the fence line when they have no other option.
- Get a trained professional (or trusted/intelligent farm worker) to check the perimeter daily. This includes a visual inspection of the electric fence. A simple perimeter check sheet (as seen below) can be used for record-keeping and inspection purposes.
- Access into and out of your farm should be via an electronic, remote controlled access gate which fits into the 360-degree reactive electric fence perimeter.
- Movement activated spotlights must shine outwards from the property. It is important that these flood the area and allow for a good view of all approach routes, exits, and surrounding areas by day and night.
- Vegetation at the perimeter entrance should be removed, or maintained to allow for a full view of the surrounding area. This will prevent any attackers from sneaking into the premises during darkness, while your vehicles enter/exit the property.
- Remain extremely vigilant at all times when entering and leaving your home, and make sure you are able to view the access gate until it is fully closed and secured at all times.
- It is recommended to create a turning circle along the entrance road (internal perimeter) where vehicles can easily execute a 180-degree turn and dash during an imminent attack.
3. Securing Your Farm
The following measures are recommended in securing your farm.
- Armed guards (personal security) should patrol the farm on a regular basis. When selecting armed guards, they must be properly vetted with police clearance for any prior criminal record.
- Rotate patrol members to prevent complacency; 8 to12 hours per shift, consisting of 2 or 3 teams. Only one team is required at any given time.
- Install a camera in the guard hut to ensure efficient work ethics and that no sleeping takes place whilst on the job.
- Patrol routes must be randomised as not to set any patterns. This makes planning more difficult should your property be considered as a potential target.
- Patrol guards should be given task sheets to complete that include checking perimeter security and looking our for trespassers or unusual behaviour. Create test scenarios and occasionally place suspicious objects at designated points to test their efficiency.
- While there may be numerous employees working on the farm, it is important that only trusted and vetted workers have access within the internal farm perimeter and household.
4. Know Your Neighbours
Getting to know your neighbours is a vital step in achieving mutual support and fast response during an emergency.
- Develop a good, mutual relationship with neighbours. Invite each other over for social events which allows for a good understanding of the farm layout, as well as potential vulnerable points.
- In the event of a serious concern, contact your neighbours and the police, and ask those who are trained to come and determine if there is any reason for concern. Part of your mutual relationships should be to help one another during uncertain times.
Assign or Designate Responsibilities
Each member of your team or “neighbourhood watch group” should have a set of responsibilities. Duties may include vehicle cut-offs (responsible for blocking roads and exit points), a first aid responder or team medic, a communications liaison, and then of course a team who are trained in firearms and are able to enter the farm premises if police or emergency response services are delayed.
Progressive and Continuative Training
- Schedule firearms and SOP (standard operating procedure) training days with neighbours, and at the very least, with those living on your farm premises.
- It is important to discuss, decide beforehand, and rehearse what you would do in an emergency on a regular basis (just like a fire drill). This should be conducted at least every 3 months, and can be the difference between a well implemented reaction plan and an unsuccessful one.
If neighbours see strange activity or strangers asking questions within the local area, it should be reported. A WhatsApp group is ideal for reporting concerns like these, as well as for sending out an alert during an attack.
5. Community Awareness
Developing a positive and personal relationship with local farm workers and emergency services will go a long way.
- It is very important to test the response time of your local security responder/armed response unit. This should be done at random points over a period of time in order to develop a realistic response time.
- This includes testing your alarm system and all panic buttons.
- A good relationship with farmworkers is integral to good security.
- Tell workers and community members that there is a reward for those who help stop theft or attacks. Reassure them that an informant’s identity will stay secret, and keep your word, paying a reward when one is due.
- Consideration should be given to also getting worker “buy in” by taking security measures in their compound area. These areas are often vulnerable to attack as well and need to be secured.
- Build a close and harmonious relationship with the local police where possible.
- A relationship of trust with your local police service always comes highly recommended. If local police officers know you personally and are on good terms, they are far more likely to respond in a hurry when called upon.
- If there are police officers who are known to you personally, save their personal phone numbers on all family members’ phones around the house and make sure that each individual knows who to call in the event of an attack or worrying concern at home.
6. Communication Structures
Communication is always vital in ensuring a timeous response during an emergency. Always aim to achieve as many reliable communication structures as possible and ensure that these are always active or topped up and easily accessible throughout your house.
- Cellular signal on farmlands can often be a cause for concern, giving limited access to sending and receiving calls or data. It is therefore important to test all available network providers and use that which allows for the most reliable coverage on your farm, especially in the location of your safe room. Changing network providers these days can be easily done, and a sim swap allows you to hold onto your current phone number.
- In the event of an emergency, it is important to try and gain access to your primary phone. However this may not always be possible, which is why your safe room mobile phone must be kept up to date, topped-up, and fully charged at all times.
- A power bank and spare charging cable (for all household phone models) should be kept in your safe room at all times.
- Create whatsapp groups amongst neighbours and valuable community members to allow for passage of security related information. A group like this could in many cases be your best point of call for immediate aid during a farm attack.
- It is important to remain active on these groups otherwise they often become neglected.
- Establish a radio comms system that allows you to speak with neighbours and security services in the event of an attack.
- Radio comms must be available from within your safe room, and must be audible in the event of a call out. This means that they are not only active when you need them, but when others may need to get hold of you for assistance.
- Be sure to keep additional power sources to hand at all times.
- Be aware of communication-security when using radios, as you never know how well organised your attackers may be and who is listening on the other end.
Firearms For Self Defence
- For many farm owners, occupants, or residents living in remote areas, having a gun in the home is about protecting themselves, their families and their possessions against an unwelcome intruder (or multiple intruders).
- Proficiency with firearms and owning the correct firearms to do the job may very well allow you to be the solution to a farm attack. I recommend reading the following blog which relates well to this statement: The AR-15 Rifle For Home Defense.
We hope that you have enjoyed this blog, and that you will use some of our recommended methods and techniques to harden your properties security measures.
If you live on a farm or in a remote area that is considered to be at a higher risk than the general population, try your best to adopt a mindset whereby you are always aware of your surroundings and remain situationally aware.
Your mental readiness state must always remain in orange, unless you feel the need to heighten it. Once you have hard target status on your property, your guard must not be relaxed and you must not allow yourself or your family to become complacent. This way of life will eventually become second nature and you will find it no more of a nuisance than you do right now.
If you found this post useful, don’t keep it to yourself; help us spread the word – select a social share button below. And should you wish to share your thoughts or ask a question, scroll down and leave us a comment 🙂