Last night I attended a talk on information security given by a representative of a major endpoint security company. They make antivirus software for those who aren’t fluent in geek.

The presenter made an interesting point that I think is relevant to personal security and self defense. He showed an image of a house and talked about the three necessary components to preventing loss or mitigating risks for burglaries. The first component is prevention, this includes door locks, fences, and anything designed to keep a burglar out. The next component is detection and includes things like alarms which are designed to make us aware when a breach of our preventative measures has occurred. The final component is response and includes things like alarm monitoring that calls the police and owning a gun or a dog. Response is the ability to react when a breach has occurred and has been detected.

The presenter next asked which of the three components was most important. Most of us (including me) answered that prevention was most important. In surveys this is the consensus of 95% of people asked. The reality is that, according to insurance statistics, for mitigating loss to burglary – detection and response are far more important than prevention. While having good door locks and other preventative measures is  important, once they are bypassed – without detection and response a burglar is free to steal with impunity.

How can we relate this to self defense and personal protection?

  1. Prevention: This is anything you do to keep yourself from being a target of criminals. This may include avoiding dangerous situations, locking your car and house doors, not flashing valuables or cash in public – etc. The issue is, that there is no such thing as 100% fail-proof prevention. You can do everything right, and even go overboard with security precautions and still become the target of crime.
  2. Detection: Detection boils down to awareness. Clearly most people will be aware of an attack after it happens, but understanding pre-violence indicators and having situational and environmental awareness are keys to surviving violence. I sometimes tell students that I cannot teach them how to defend against a sniper rifle. If the attack isn’t perceived, there will be no response.
  3. Response: What do you do when you detect a threat, or when attacked? This is where tools and training come in.

The truth of the matter is that all three layers of defense are incredibly important. Insurance companies are not going to tell you to forget about door locks and just get an alarm and a gun. Many schools of self defense focus solely on response, and this is fine. However, without awareness, response will be too late and infective.

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