What could possibly go wrong…?

Earlier in my life, my wife and I decided to become Game Rangers. We completed a Ranger Course and soon we were working as Field Guides in the Greater Kruger National Park.

One afternoon, I was taking a group of German tourists on a game drive. My wife called me over the two-way radio and informed me that a large herd of buffalo gathered at the watering hole next to our camp. I subsequently rushed back to camp as this promised to be a great sight for the tourists. I drove into the camp and we disembarked and walked to the observation deck which was about forty meters from the watering hole. Our camp was surrounded by a 4-foot high electric fence with four-wire strands. The purpose of the fence was to discourage animals like lions, buffaloes, and elephants from casually strolling into camp.

As we approached the observation deck, the German tourists became super excited and I used the opportunity to tell them about the habits and behavior of these magnificent creatures. We did not get onto the observation deck but stood next to the electric fence with the closest animals about thirty meters from us. While I was enthusiastically talking to the tourists and sharing my knowledge, I noticed that my wife had this strange look on her face and she said to me through pressed lips that we had a power failure. I could not understand why she wanted me to attend an electricity problem while I was busy with guests but she kept on repeating the same message with wide eyes. At one point she became upset and pulled me to the side and spelled it out to me:

 “T-H-E- E-L-E-C-T-R-I-C-A-L- F-E-N-C-E -I-S- O-F-F!”

 O Crap! We need to get the tourists out of there. Fast! There was nothing between us and these notoriously dangerous creatures should they decide to charge. In an instant, I went from hero to zero. I was in panic mode. In my haste to impress the tourists, I left my rifle in the game viewing vehicle which was parked about 10 meters away from me.

Why did I go from hero to zero in a second? Because the perceived risk changed. I saw opportunities for the animals to attack I did not see before. I knew that it was unlikely that the buffalo would know that the fence is not working but the following thoughts immediately raced through my mind:

  • What if one of the young calves wanders closer and a tourist tries to touch it and the cow decides to charge- there will be nothing to stop her?
  •  What if one of the bulls feels threatened by us and decide to mock charge and crash through the fence? 
  • What if a tourist realizes that the fence is not electrified and climbs through/over it to get closer for a better picture?
  • Multiple guests and even my wife and I may be trampled to death!
  • I will be accused of gross negligence and possibly end up in jail!
  • Our lodge will get a negative reputation and may even close down!

In hindsight, I did everything wrong that day and I was just lucky nothing happened.

When thinking about self-defense or about protecting your home you should not rely on only one mechanism of defense or on luck. You should always look at the potential threat in terms of:

a)    What could happen?

b)    How could it happen?

c)    What is the likelihood that it will happen, taking into consideration the protection measures in place as well as historical data?

d)    What will be the consequence/severity if it happens?

In the protection/security environment it is called a threat assessment. A threat assessment is the most critical part of a personal and family protection plan against criminal predators. Without a proper threat assessment, it is impossible to identify all the potential risks and to develop a cost-effective protection strategy.

The funny thing about violent attacks is that it is always crystal clear after the attack happened how the attack was done, what could and should have been done to prevent it. In the heat of an attack, there is no time to think about strategies.

The best way is to think about risk before the incident happens and to put mitigating strategies and measures in place in advance. This significantly improves your chances of survival.

A threat assessment can be as complicated or as simple as you want it to be. I recommend that you keep it as simple as possible. It is important to realize that one needs to think realistically when doing a threat assessment. It is easy to go overboard and identify so many risks that your head will spin.

A simple way to assess security risk is to list all the potential security risks you and your family may be exposed to. Rank them as High, Medium, and Low Risk. To determine whether the risks are High, Medium or Low Risk think about and consider the following:

a)    Has a similar incident happened in my country/neighborhood recently?

b)    Taking my current security measures into consideration, how likely is it that such an incident will happen?

c)    If such an incident happens, what will be the consequences in terms of fatalities, injuries, financial loss, etc?

A risk that ranks high in terms of likelihood of occurrence and high in terms out consequence must receive first preference.

Then use that risk list and think about how you would go about to target your family/home if you were a criminal. Look for weak points in your defense. Here I mean, really look for weak points. If you have a fence around your home but you were locked out, where would you enter? If you locked yourself out of your home, how would you gain access? Try and think like a criminal. Remember lions do not want to work hard to get that baby impala. The easiest and fastest way is what they want! Make it difficult for human predators by taking away easy opportunities.

Once you identified all the risks and the loopholes in your defense, start critically thinking about how you can close those loopholes. Try to think about solutions that can close multiple loopholes at the same time. It is not always necessary to have a measure in place for each and every single risk. Sometimes, one strategy takes care of multiple loopholes simultaneously.  Just bear in mind that you never want to rely on one measure only as that measure may fail. Protection measures also do not always have to include physical measures. Sometimes it only requires training, procedures, and rules. The best protection measures are measures where multiple control measures complement or support each other. Your control measures should aim to deter an attacker, delay an attacker, detect an attacker, and neutralize an attacker.

Deterring an attacker refers to creating the impression that it will be too difficult to achieve his objective and that it will involve hard work with a real risk that he will be caught.

Delaying an attacker refers to measures that require time to breach which in turn makes it harder work for the attacker. At the same time, it buys the victim time to react or to implement emergency procedures.

Detecting an attacker refers to measures that will make the presence of the attacker known to the victim or other people before the attacker can succeed with the attack. This allows the victim time to prepare for the attack or to escape.

Neutralizing the attack refers to the measures you use to stop the attacker in his tracks or to minimize the effect of the attack. It also includes apprehending the attacker.

Extract from Survive the Predator – Modern Strategies for safeguarding your family against a violent attack.

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