Thinking Ahead – Station Physical Security Needs

Another in the Thinking Ahead series started with

Station Physical Security is an often overlooked aspect of being a Radio Amateur. Because we typically have a visual antenna signature, our stations are well advertised. Plus we’re on lots of lists, everything from our FCC and QRZ-type records, to possible planning permission, to the marketing lists for places like DX-Engineering, HRO and other radio amateur niche marketeers.

Our stations are full of perceived valuables. In really harsh times they are likely locations of electrical power.

Is a recent ARRL ARES eLetter this article stood out:

Major Station Burglary Demonstrates Need for Building, Radio Room Security

The Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) North Valley Station (old Fire Station 77) was burglarized recently.
The thieves broke into the radio room and took virtually everything including the lights.
While they were careful in removing the radios — brackets and all — they chose to vandalize the room after they were done.
LAPD has taken a report and processed the area for fingerprints.
The list of stolen items is available.
Area amateurs were asked to watch ham radio classified ads and inform the LAFD ACS if any of the listed items are shown.
Serial numbers for all radios are available.
The members will soon begin to raise funds to replace the equipment and to better secure the facility.
Donations to LAFD ACS are being accepted and appreciated. – Dan Tomlinson, NR6V, Los Angeles City Auxiliary Communications Service (ACS) Battalions 10 and 17 Communications Unit Leader
[Thanks to Duane Mariotti, WB9RER, for forwarding this report to the ARES E-Letter –ed.]

Perhaps read it again carefully – the thieves knew what they were going to steal, stripped the place bare – including the lights! – and the best the police protective services and the EmGov served agencies can do it “take a report” while asking for help from the amateur radio community if the thieves fence the stolen gear nearby.

Again the takeaways:

  • Station stripped bare in a focused burglary and vandalism attack.
  • Reports as the only official response.
  • Only true appeal for help is to the wider amateur community to watch for gear resurfacing.

Not to get lost in the details of this attack, as in a world where we socially are allowing greater creation of drug addicts, catering to those who choose a homeless lifestyle, and basically letting our collective guard down on many fronts in distortions of social responsibility, your radio stuff is see as booty to a portion of society.

Obviously you can’t stand guard 24/7/365 over your station, and if you choose to deploy for Emcom/EmGov purposes your station may be unattended for the extent of your deployment.

Additionally often we end up very focused while operating or doing station maintenance/repairs, which lowers our guard.  I’ll address Personal Physical Security in a separate post though.

My stations are monitored electronically, volunteers being present, and are reasonable physically robustly secured.

Intrusion detection often benefits from having concentric zones of protection.  The sensors at your site perimeter would be the outer zone, the external cameras the next, building intrusion protection with cameras the next and in the shack monitoring the innermost zone.

It may be worth having some non-web dependent call-out.  Perhaps one zone that is independent.

While shutting the barn door after the horse had fled doesn’t help keep that horse where you expected it to be, recording as much of any attack as possible may aid in recovery.  Thinking trail cameras as a possibility.

You will need to make up your mind and have a plan on responding to any intrusion.  I’ve heard fellow hams tell me that they will avoid the conflict of confronting an intruder by expecting police response to handle it.  I’ve also had hams tells me “they will handle it,” usually brashly adding “with the Three-S program” (Shoot, Shovel, Shut Up) or other bravado.  Truly these hams are full of bluster and haven’t thought things through.

In “normal times” the economic and time-lost costs of a mortality or wounding in the defense of property gives a very poor ROI (Return on Investment).  That speaks nothing of the “cost to self” you receive as a fallout.

Perhaps during “normal times” the goal is dissuade, deter, and deflect?  To get in the head of the criminally inclined to convince them they really don’t want to even think about robbing your shack.  Then make it hard to actually accomplish the burglary. And last to perhaps be willing to lose a little bit of gear, while protecting through concealment your main gear.

In “troubled times” you may become the “de facto law” in absence of effective police, or potentially unreliable motives of official responders.  In that sort of Wild West scenario you may be faced with “fight or flee” decisions in Station Physical Security.  You will need help to maintain security for any extended period of time.

Lots to think about.



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