Security Planning in a Nutshell

Minimum farm security is a must, and your first step should be to determine and understand the real threat to your property. Ask yourself, What needs to be protected? Then consider the Three Ls: Lock, Light, and Limit access-in that sequence. Don't make the mistake of installing a protection system and implementing security measures without identifying what is most at risk; doing so could prove costly, ineffective, and/or inadequate.

Prioritize Assets and Security

What processes and operations are essential to the survival of your farm? That is, what are your critical assets? What would be the consequences of losing them? Prioritize your critical assets and your application of security measures to protect them.

Who Are the Bad Guys?

The bad guys could be insiders such as former or disgruntled employees, or they could be outsiders whom we commonly call extremists or terrorists. Each poses a potential threat. Speak with local law enforcement personnel about your critical assets and the likelihood of their being targeted for attack, and implement security measures based on the estimated motive and capabilities of the potential aggressor.

View from Your Adversary's Perspective

Look at your property, buildings, and critical assets from the adversary's perspective. Ask yourself, What would be the easiest method for an adversary to use to steal, attack, or destroy a particular asset? Once you identify the potential adversary's targets and paths, you can start to devise security countermeasures to deter, detect, delay, and respond to an attack.

Threat + Vulnerability = Risk

Consider these definitions:

Look at your operation from the adversary's perspective. Ask yourself these questions:

Only by identifying the risk can you assess it and determine what must be done to protect your assets. Ask yourself what path an adversary might take to steal, attack, or destroy your assets; then implement security measures accordingly.

Security Strategies and Measures

An effective physical protection system is based on three basic principles: deterrence, detection, and delay.


Lighting a dark area may deter the would-be intruder who is simply not bold enough to risk being seen. Motion-activated lighting provides an element of surprise and can catch a perpetrator off guard. Other deterrence strategies include the installation of gates, fences, and no-trespassing signs; barking dogs can be effective as well.

Deterrence is the first line of defense toward making your farm property too risky to enter, but some adversaries will not be deterred no matter what you do. The true effectiveness of deterrents cannot be measured.


The purpose of a detection system is to alert you when someone enters your property; devices such as electronic sensors and cameras can be very effective. But so can visual surveillance by employees and neighbors: heads-up observation and awareness are hard to beat. If you suspect that your property may be targeted, ask local law enforcement personnel to increase their patrol of the area.


Delay strategies are meant to slow and disrupt the perpetrator's attempt to access your property. Physical barriers such as locks, fences, doors, and distance from the road are effective in delaying the intruder, but it is important not to hinder access for emergency responders or routes for evacuation. Effective delay tactics allow enough time-between detection and access-for law enforcement officials to respond and catch the intrusion in progress.

Delaying the intruder increases the likelihood of apprehension. Ask your sheriff how long it would take his officers to reach your farm in response to a 911 call. Whether the response time is five minutes or thirty, your delay tactics must keep the intruder on-site for that long in order to be effective. Concentrate delay efforts away from likely targets in order to keep the intruder from accessing them before help arrives.

Relative Cost of Security Measures

Operational security usually doesn't cost a thing. If you don't have a security plan in place, start by gearing procedures toward protecting your assets. Educate your employees and family members to always be aware of their surroundings and what is going on around them. Alert them to assets that an intruder might want to damage, destroy, or steal. Make security a part of everyone's job.

Establish multiple scouting patterns and juggle them randomly; that is, purposely make farm visits at various times of the day and on various days of the week. Don't give an intruder the advantage of knowing when and how often you check your farm. Switch scouting responsibilities now and then to keep everybody sharp; and even if employees or family members are responsible for most of your security procedures, make it a point to perform them yourself at least part of the time to stay on top of things.

Electronic security systems-alarms, access controls, video surveillance, and motion sensors-can be expensive, but the cost is justified by the protection they provide. Physical security barriers such as fences, gates, locks, and security doors are relatively inexpensive by comparison, and they, too, are worth the investment.

Do not put someone at risk to protect your property. If specific assets are threatened, or if you suspect that someone's life is in danger, call the police. Also keep in mind that extreme security measures on your part-especially if there is a potential for violence-could cost you more in liability than the value of the assets you're protecting. Professional law enforcement should prevail in these situations.

Your most expensive security measure might be the hiring of security guards or employees to perform specific security functions. But you can minimize your expense by hiring guards on a short-term basis, only, to protect a critical asset during a period of heightened risk. An example might be the hiring of someone to guard a short-term animal research project.