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Protecting against home invasion should be one of your top priorities, as all the gear and supplies  in the world won’t do you much good if someone can easily take them from your home. Designing and implementing a solid security plan need not involve spending hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a fancy surveillance system or contracting with an alarm company. There are several things you  can do yourself that will dramatically improve your home security and doesn’t involve bars on the windows or voice print scanners at each entrance. For the purposes of our discussion, we’re not so much concerned about protection after some sort of societal collapse. Instead, we’re focusing on mitigating run-of-the-mill, everyday security issues such as burglars and home invaders. Should a true end-of-the-world scenario come to pass, home security will likely be rather different.

Whether we’re talking about a single family home, an apartment or a Fortune 500 company, a good security plan involves three elements: deter, delay, defend. Ideally, a burglar will be deterred by your security measures and decide to move on to an easier target. Failing that, you want to delay them long enough so they’ll either give up their efforts or you’ll discover their presence; possibly both. If they’re not deterred, and you’ve delayed them sufficiently, you can take defensive action… which is beyond the scope of this article.

PROTECTING AGAINST HOME INVASION

Protecting against home invasion begins with security, and security starts at the perimeter. The goal is to stop the bad guys—or at least slow them down long enough for you to become aware of their presence. However, when we say “stop them,” we’re not referring to things such as land mines or booby traps. Such devices pose as much threat to you and your family as they would to potential  intruders, so they are not recommended.

Instead, we’re going to try to convince the bad guys to move on to an easier target. Step outside your home and look at it from an outsider’s perspective. What do you see?

Exterior lighting. Are there exterior lights above or  near the entrance(s)? If so, do they work? Criminals don’t want to be seen, so anything you can do to increase their visibility works in your favor. Motion-activated lights are great, and there are several on the market that utilize solar power, so you don’t need to be an electrician to install them. Simply screw them to the wall, and you’re done.

Shrubbery. Severely trim or outright remove any shrubs and bushes that are large enough for a home invader to hide behind as you walk up to the door. If you truly want some decorative greenery in flowerbeds by windows and doors, opt for burglar-deterring hawthorn or similar thorn-bearing plants.

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Signs and stickers. You know those cutesy signs people put on their lawn bragging about their star student athlete? Telling everyone that your son Johnny is on the local football team also tells people your house is likely to be empty on Friday nights during the game. Similarly, all those stickers on the back of your “grocery-getter” (your vehicle, that is) serve to tell those who might be interested just how many people live in your home, where family members go to school, what sports they play and all sorts of interesting information. Pick up some fake security system stickers and place them on the windows at or near your doors. Given the choice, burglars always look for the easiest marks, and they won’t risk dealing with a security system if they can avoid it.

While we’re talking about stickers: Take down any of them that advertise gun ownership. You know—the one that says, “These premises are protected by Smith & Wesson.” Think it through: If no one is home, that means there is no one there to defend the property using that firearm. All the sign truly accomplishes is to tell the home invader that once they get through the door, they are likely to find one or more firearms in the home. Instead of being a deterrent, this sign acts more as bait. Get rid of it and any others like it.

Dogs are top burglar deterrents. If you don’t have a furry “child” at home, pick up a cheap leash and large food dish at the dollar store. Put the dish on the floor near the front door and hang the leash somewhere visible. Create the illusion there is a canine companion waiting inside.

“Whether we’re talking about a single family home, an apartment or a Fortune 500 company, a good security plan involves three elements: deter, delay, defend.”

STRUCTURE HARDENING

Your doors and windows are your primary lines of defense against intrusion. Keep in mind that given sufficient time, energy and resources, no building can ever be truly impregnable. That said, all we’re trying to accomplish is to get the intruder to move on to greener pastures, so to speak. Burglars and their ilk want to get in, grab their loot and get out as quickly as possible. Anything that will slow them down works in your favor.

Doors. Grab a screwdriver, and open your front door. Remove one screw from the wall side of one of the hinges. Odds are, that screw is all of an inch or so long. The screws that come with hinges are designed to simply hold the door up. A good kick could tear those hinges off the frame. Take the screw to the hardware store and look for steel screws the same diameter but 3 inches long. Those screws will go beyond the doorframe and into the studs, making the door far more secure. Buy enough screws to replace all of the ones on each of your doors. When you get home, replace one screw at a time so you don’t have to take down the whole door.

Standard hinge screws should be replaced with steel screws long enough to reach beyond the doorframe and into the studs.

If you don’t have a deadbolt on each exterior door, pick up them up while you’re at the hardware store. You’ll need a hole saw and a power drill to install them, but deadbolts are worth the effort and expense. Make sure that when the lock is thrown, the bolt extends fully into the doorframe. Be sure to install the strike plate on the hole, too. A properly-installed deadbolt makes kicking in a door much more difficult.

Of course, the best locks in the world are nearly worthless when installed on a cheap door. Your exterior doors should be solid, not hollow-core. Few people want to go as far as to use steel-encased doors, but that’s always an option if your budget allows.

Windows. Windows can be troublesome—because, well, glass isn’t too difficult to break. Invest in shatter-resistant window film and apply it to all ground-level windows. This security film comes in different thicknesses, but 12 mil is sufficient for most home applications. Installing the film is easy, provided you take your time to do it properly. Measure the window and transfer the measurements to the film. Cut out the piece with a razor. Clean the interior side of the window until it is spotless. Give it a few shots with a spray bottle filled with soapy water, and begin applying the film by removing the backing at the top of the sheet. Slowly work your way down the window, lightly pressing the film to the window. Finally, starting from the middle of the window, use a squeegee and work your way toward the edges, pushing out all the air bubbles. If you’ve done this properly, you’ll never notice the film is there.

Shatter-resistant window still intact despite having a large crack

Shatter-resistant window film won’t keep the glass from breaking, but it will help prevent an intruder from smashing their way through the window.

ALARMS

An alarm serves two purposes. First, of course, is to let you know something is amiss. Second, it is intended to spook the intruder and cause them to beat feet, lest they get caught in the act. Silent alarms are great, but only if you know you’ll always be in a position to react instantly to the intruder and take whatever action you feel is necessary.

There are many alarms and alarm systems available for purchase. One excellent option is the Camp Alert Perimeter Security System and Survival Signaling System (CAPSS3) by Brite-Strike (www.Brite-Strike.com). The alarm is activated by means of a pin being pulled from the alarm unit. When triggered, it emits a 135dB alarm. The pin can easily be attached to a tripwire or a door.

A more DIY approach involves a clothespin, metal thumbtacks, fishing line and an old credit card. Drive the  thumbtacks into the jaws of the clothespin so when it closes, the tacks make contact. Run wires from these tacks to a store-bought alarm and a battery in such a way that when the clothespin is closed, the tacks complete the electrical circuit. Slide the credit card between the tacks and attach it to a trip wire. When the card is pulled out, the alarm activates. Another option is to head to your local thrift store and buy the loudest, most obnoxious wind chime you can find. Each night before you go to bed, hang it on the back of your front door. If you’re particularly ambitious, get a different wind chime for each of your entry doors so you’ll be able to identify which one is being opened. If someone comes through, you’ll hear it. (By the way, this is also a great idea for those who have teenagers who might try sneaking in past curfew…).

DIY alarm trigger made with clothespin, old credit card and thumbtacks

This clothespin trigger just needs to have wires run from the tacks to the battery and  alarm. Removing the credit card completes the electric circuit, thereby sounding the alarm.

Large wooden wind chime

An obnoxiously loud wind chime hung from the back of a door should give you a warning if someone opens it unannounced.

COMMON-SENSE APPROACH

Home security involves far more common sense than it does gadgets and gizmos. Keep your doors and windows locked when you aren’t using them and especially when you’re not home. Avoid flashy displays of high-ticket items. If you buy a new TV, don’t just put the empty box out on garbage day. Cut it up so it isn’t obvious what it is.
Keep your eyes open and your head on a swivel when you come home and watch for signs that something might be amiss, and you will have taken a great step forward toward keeping yourself and your family safe.

Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the February 2017 print issue of American Survival Guide.