High-net-worth individuals have always worried about protecting their wealth. Now, according to Forbes, as inequality continues to increase, they’re finding they have to spend more and more to protect their homes and lives.
Chris Pollack, president of Pollack+Partners, a design and construction advisor based in Purchase, N.Y., says that while security has always been a given in building homes for his ultra-high-net-worth clients, the spending for home defense has increased markedly over the last five years.
It starts with a property’s perimeter. “The exterior has always been the holy grail because you could never really protect it without 24-hour guard service,” says Christopher Falkenberg, a Secret Service agent turned security specialist for high-net-worth families with New York-based Insite Security. Cutting-edge technologies have strengthened that fence.
For example, FLIR Systems, based in Wilsonville, Ore., manufactures infrared cameras that can read the thermal heat signatures off everything in their sight lines regardless of time of day or atmospheric obscurants such as smoke. Human beings throw off more energy than trees or small animals, so the devices can pick someone out even from a hiding place, from a kilometer away in the lowest-end models to as much as 15 kilometers away in the premium versions.
Biometric technologies are becoming more prevalent, too. Moving beyond a fingerprint scan, some programs don’t require a homeowner to touch anything at all. Former Israeli major general Aharon Ze’evi-Farkash, onetime head of the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate, has spent the past three years with his company, FST21, creating a software product that merges facial, voice and behavioral recognition technology into a keyless entry system. “It transforms you into the key for your building in under two seconds,” he says.
Windows remain an obvious and vulnerable entry point into a home. Glass-break detectors can operate within a 15-foot range, allowing them to be unobtrusively installed in the ceiling or on a wall near the window. The size of a silver dollar, they can be camouflaged in their surroundings, important when dealing with home finishes like gold-leaf ceilings or silk wallpaper. Some urban town house owners add a blast film to their windowpanes, which makes them nearly impenetrable, even if struck with a hammer or a pipe.
And don’t forget the smoke. The Corbis have a system that billows out fog screens that range from a harmless smoke meant to disorient intruders to a noisome gas with disabling effects lasting up to 24 hours. Then there is the Burglar Blaster Decintegrator, a relatively discreet ceiling-mounted device that, when tripped, showers pepper spray.
Such smoke systems can even be laced with a “DNA code”– SelectaDNA, for example, comprises a series of unique, synthetic DNA chains that attach themselves to a fog-shrouded intruder. The invisible, harmless forensic code lingers on skin for weeks, shows up under UV light and, thanks to unique markers, can be traced directly back to a specific home.
The panic room has also undergone a high-tech evolution that makes the old Jodie Foster movie look quaint. A prominent author who declined to be identified has had his South Florida home jerry-rigged with a physical perimeter alarm, motion sensors throughout rooms and stairways, and a heat sensor that detects room temperature differentials caused by a sudden change in body heat. If worse comes to worst: The third-floor master suite is outfitted as a 2,500-square-foot safe haven. Switches installed throughout the house will encapsulate the space, locking down its three entrances with reinforced doors while alerting local authorities. Taking it further, the space’s bathroom doubles as an inner panic room, protected by “a silent home defense system with sufficient armament.” Fortunately, it has never come into use. “The best system in the world is the one you never use,” says the homeowner. “But there is a lot of peace of mind that comes with it.”