OPSEC Plan for Home

May 21, 2013

in Manage Risk

Operations Security (OPSEC) deals with identifying critical information that an adversary can collect and use against you. In military applications, this often deals with things like troop movements and the ability of supply chains to sustain an engagement. During tank battles in WWII, intelligence officers noticed that overrun tank units had discarded fuel cans and rubber hoses, telling them that the opponent was so low on fuel that they were siphoning it from disabled tanks. This can become critical information for designing maneuver strategy.

OPSEC is different for home use, but can be just as critical. Threat assessment is the first step and there can be a wide variation in this area, depending on the scenario being considered. In most cases, the threats will be external forces (groups or individuals) trying to either gain entry to your home for some purpose, or trying to determine what resources the home contains so they can determine whether or not they want to attempt to gain entry. In many case, these two things will go together: first an assessment of your resources and then an attempt at entry.

RESOURCE ASSESSMENT – in non-emergency scenes, this may involve simple burglary and the assessment is to determine if there is anything worth stealing. Burglars assess a home first by the general living standard of the neighborhood, which is obvious because of the size, type and condition of the homes, yard and cars parked nearby. Expensive looking landscaping, lawn equipment and window trim is also a clue. Looking in through a window can reveal a lot also.

In emergency scenes, the assessment may be very different because the goal is likely to be different. Burglary and looting aims to collect valuable articles for sale. Prolonged emergencies can produce extreme needs for water, food, electricity, generators and batteries, cooling, medical supplies, ammunition, arms and a completely different set of valuable items. Random looters and gangs in this scene will be looking for lights on at night, the sound of a generator running, noticing that cars have been moved (fuel reserves) and other indicators.

ENTRY ASSESSMENT – in most non-emergency scenes, burglars tend to avoid confrontation, preferring to invade the home when nobody is there to create resistance. They are skilled at assessing doors, locks, windows, alarm systems and know where to look for “hidden” spare keys.

A gang of armed looters are far less likely to avoid confrontation and assess their probability for success differently. If they think they can kick down your door and overwhelm any defenses without casualties, they are sure to try. If they are desperate, they may be willing to accept some casualties in exchange for what they want.

CRITICAL INFORMATION – again, there are vast differences depending upon the scenario. For non-emergency burglaries, keeping lights on is an indicator that somebody is home and becomes a deterrent. During an emergency where there is no power, displaying lights may invite an attack because they indicate desirable resources.


  • Keep your doors locked – in both types of scenes, it’s easy to assess how often doors are unlocked and this provides the easiest entry path
  • Don’t leave “hidden” keys lying around. Hiding an emergency cache with a spare key inside may be acceptable but only when it is not used often and you are sure the location can be kept confidential.
  • Use lighting to your advantage, either displaying it widely or keeping the perimeter dark, depending on your circumstances. Keep windows covered whenever possible.
  • Don’t communicate your defensive measures or a list of resources to anybody that doesn’t need to know. Don’t brag to neighbors or send emails to everybody. Joining a neighborhood preparation group can be an advantage, but weigh carefully how much they need to know about your plans and what they should not know. Be wary of ruses or social engineering designed to get you to give out your critical information. Don’t give out information on social media and web sites. Don’t post any pictures that have GPS coordinates attached to them. Don’t allow strangers that need access to your home (cleaning or repair crews) to see how your defenses work.
  • Study your own patterns and vary them so you are not predictable.
  • Use camoflauge to either prevent an adversary from correctly assessing your resources or to discourage them from making an entry attempt. Possible techniques include: blackout curtains to prevent light leakage, cosmetic damage to make it look like the house has already been looted, quarantine warning signs, creating many gun ports, and simple camoflauge to make it difficult to see defenders.
  • Arm yourself and know how to use the arms you have. If you don’t like guns, consider other kinds of weapons. At least know what inside your home can be used as a defensive weapon, like kitchen knives, broomsticks, baseball bats, golf clubs, pry bars and other items.

Operations Security = OPSEC
Situation Awareness

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