Saturday, July 23, 2011

Again, With the Bunkers...

I get really uncomfortable when fellow security professionals engage in fear-mongering...

The author of Residential Safe Rooms Are No Longer a Luxury for the Rich & Famous - by The Security Sensei, demonstrates that some of my professional peers are still prone to rely on hyperbole, lurid examples, and misapplied statistics to drive what may become a poorly-balanced, fear-based response.  The Security Sensei is certainly not alone in this practice, but he frequently posts links to his advertorials on several groups in which I participate so he has repeatedly attracted my attention.  This sort of writing represents an unfortunate tendency seen in various segments of the security industry which appeals primarily to FUD - Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt; an approach we have seen far too much of, especially these past ten years.  

As with last year’s advertorial Security Lies Beneath: The Case for Corporate Safe Rooms, I have few questions, comments, and concerns regarding his current marketing piece.

“Few things are as frightening and potentially gruesome as a home invasion. Though the FBI and local law enforcement typically do not track this specific crime,” 

Yet, his firm's website claims “1 of every 5 homes will experience a break-in or violent home invasion.”  Where did he get this statistic?  At what rate do these crimes occur? Are even "1 of every 5 homes" the target of theft, breaking and entering, or burglary annually?  Or are we talking about each decade?  Over the term of a 30 year mortgage?  The lifetime of the owners?  A century?  Or since records have been kept?  The rate does matter.  Even then, the “or” in the claim is very important.  I’ll wager many, if not most, thefts from residences are committed when no one is at home.  And many, if not most, of the rest do not involve violence against the occupants.

"news headlines tell a very different story: from wealthy suburbs to middle class neighborhoods, from the legendary Gold Coast to the nation's heartland, home invasions are now, sadly, part of our existence."

Of course news headlines tell a different story.  Our mass media leads with stories which are, by their very nature, uncommon, unusual, and unsettling.  Lurid headlines and hastily written news articles are notoriously poor sources of information with which to determine the frequency or precise nature of crime.

"For home invaders have no regard for human life; injuring or murdering a family is simply a means to an evil end: stealing valuables and cash."

I don’t have any statistics at hand either, and I don't propose to minimize the impact of home invasion robberies, but over the years I do recall reading more than a few news reports of home invasions during which the residents were subdued or restrained but otherwise not harmed during the remainder of the robbery.  I've read other reports that suggest criminals are frequently the target of home invasions perpetrated by rivals and turncoats.  It seems that many times the bad guys are only there for the money or the drugs.

"The very nature of a home invasion - a phenomenon that transcends race, class, education and geography - reminds us that no one is immune from this crime. All of which explains the added necessity of constructing a Safe/Space™, a fortified environment that acts as a protective refuge in the event of a home invasion or other threat.

Today, safe rooms are often an integral part of new home construction. In other instances, a converted walk-in closet or bathroom can easily be transformed into protective environment. Safe rooms constructed by professionals can transform an existing space into a homeowner's ultimate sanctum. Best of all, the space retains its natural look-and-feel while safeguarding the lives of the family and pets.

Some of the features of these unique safe rooms:
include: security door(s) with impact resistant vault like door pins; walls, floors and ceilings reinforced with proprietary ballistic panels and wire mesh materials; surveillance equipment and LCD keypads wired to the alarm system, which aids both family members and the police in pinpointing an intruder's location in the home; power outlets, cell phone chargers, as well as first-aid kits, emergency lighting, water, packaged food, and possibly, self-defense tools."

A safe room certainly can be an element of a balanced personal security program.  I have recommended them to some clients in certain circumstances.  Properly located and constructed of appropriate materials a safe room may also protect against severe weather

"And, while films and television programs continue to mythologize safe rooms as an indulgence for the super rich or eccentric, actual events tell a different story: safe rooms are becoming an integral part of middle glass (sic) residences worldwide."

Perhaps he wishes it were so, but I'd like to see any statistics that support this claim.

"All though seldom broadcast on the news- safe rooms are increasingly the key factor between life and death. In fact, safe rooms for homeowners are the result of a country faced with economic turmoil and increased violence -- a situation where criminals will stop at nothing to achieve their heinous goals."

Again, I'd appreciate seeing any statistics that support this claim.

"In this life or death situation, the only proven barrier against an attacker is a safe room."

This will come as a huge surprise to those security professionals who apply the principle of defense in depth.  Most of us regard a safe room as “The Alamo” – a refuge from which the householder makes his or her last stand, holding out until the police or other security forces arrive.

"Throughout this process, one principle is sacred: a safe room is a haven, a place where individuals, families or friends can hunker-down away from harm during the nail-biting period between the alarm sounding and the police arriving on scene.

And in this day and age when a standard room is easily retrofitted for as little as $10.000.00 dollars, the lack of a safe room is, according to The Security Sensei™ - potentially a huge blunder: the assault or murder of a child or parent would forever emotionally scar a family, expose friends to unbearable shock and leave a community devastated and in constant worry.  Simply said, no homeowner is truly safe without protective barrier to stop or slow down violent intruders."

Again, while a safe room may play a role in a personal protection plan, defense in depth begins at the street, draws upon CPTED principles, involves the perimeter, the grounds, landscaping, illumination, surveillance – natural and artificial, effective physical barriers, maybe dedicated security staff, intrusion detection, protection dogs, weapons – nonlethal or lethal – as appropriate, reliable communications, duress alarms, and perhaps a room in which to safely hide.

"A safe room is an investment in the long-term value of a home, something that gives extra peace of mind to buyers. Also, a safe room only adds to the worth of a property since there is no aesthetic drawback in fortifying an existing room. The Security Sensei states 'For some of my clients, a safe room is as inseparable as plumbing or electricity, necessities that we must never be overlooked'

Also,  Take, for instance, this story (but one of hundreds of similar tales across the US) about a prominent Connecticut doctor attacked in the midst of a home invasion that left his two children dead, his wife strangled and his home engulfed in flames:. "Our precious family members have been the victims of horrible, senseless, violent assaults. We are understandably shocked and overwhelmed with sadness as we attempt to gather to support one another," said a statement from the family of Dr. William Petit, Jr., the lone survivor of this terrible event."

The Petit case is certainly an example of a brutal and senseless crime, but popular media reports say the murderers entered the house through an unlocked cellar door.  Unless the entire Petit family had been ensconced inside a Safe/Space™ with its door closed and locked when the murderous thugs entered the home then it hard to see how it might have helped.  What if the Petit family had locked and dead-bolted the cellar door?  What if every unused door on the Petit premises was secure with GSE's other product, the OnGARD™ door brace?  What if there had been an alarm system monitoring the perimeter?  What if the Petits had kept a protection dog to look after their household?  What if Mr. and Mrs. Petit had used lawfully possessed firearms or other weapons to repel this vicious attack?  What if the Petit girls had been taught self-defense techniques or had pepper spray close at hand?  What if Mrs. Petit had been provided a duress phrase to use the moment she arrived at her husband’s bank instead of struggling to communicate her dire situation as she was leaving?

"This tragedy underscores the importance of having a safe room, something constructed, tested and certified by professionals who have the proven track record to address this matter. This latter point - the necessity of only working with experienced professionals - deserves more attention, because a lot of unsavory characters mislead homeowners and construct safe rooms that fail to offer adequate protection. And yet, these so-called 'safe rooms' are wildly expensive and largely ineffective. 

One thing for certain is safe rooms are no longer a luxury for the affluent, but are now an affordable means of protecting millions of homeowners nationwide. For without a safe room to protect families from America`s increased violence, the criminals win. Period."

Violence in America is not on the increase; quite the contrary.  The 2010 FBI UCR report says "Preliminary figures indicate that, as a whole, law enforcement agencies throughout the Nation reported a decrease of 5.5 percent in the number of violent crimes brought to their attention in 2010 when compared to figures reported for 2009."

Is the only solution for millions of homeowners to buy his company's products and design services for as little as $10.000 each – to the exclusion of less expensive, simpler, more balanced, and more effective protective measures?  Ten billion dollars worth of safe rooms is certainly going to be good for someone, the question is who?

"A safe room - the propriety (sic) kind designed by The Security Sensei™ who understands the enormity of this issue - can help shield against outside threats. As a haven from the unexpected and unforeseen, a safe room is one of the wisest investments homeowners can make."

Hyperbole, lurid example, misapplied statistics, the sowing of fear, the cultivation of uncertainty, and the reaping of doubt may be effective business practices in some circles but they are a poor example of security professionalism.  We can do better.  Our clients deserve better.  Our society needs better.