From the dawn of time, man has tried to build a home that would keep him and his family safe. From caves to small huts to castles with moats and now underground bunkers we humans have continued to strive for safety. Safety from what? It depends on the time, the situation and location. The threats could be from burglars, rioters or ruthless gangs. They could be psycho ex-boyfriends or girlfriends or just some nut that made eye contact with you at the wrong moment and decided to ruin your day. It could be someone you know or a complete stranger. Regardless of the threat, an ideal home is one that is secure and can keep you safe from a person or people who mean to do you harm.
Now, let me first simply acknowledge that unless you do have a castle with a moat or an underground bunker with a tunnel complex that leads to an underground river that connects via a secret cave to the ocean, just about any residence you are living in can be overrun given the right time and motivation. Even the “worlds most zombie secure house” shown above can be overrun; people make mistakes. Castles can be sieged and towns can be starved out or burned, so what can you do?
There is a lot that the average prepper can do to make their home more secure and I am going to talk about some fairly basic enhancements to security that the average Joe or Jane can do themselves to make it harder for someone to get inside. Some of these ideas are going to be from the perspective of a post-SHTF type of scenario and others you can implement now while we are living in peace and harmony and beautiful birds chirp all day long. Right.
Why do we have this problem in the first place?
Our home is our castle, or it used to be. We still call our home a castle, but it has been centuries since our home provided the level of protection that your run of the mill Medieval fixer upper did. Over time our homes have become less and less sturdy and ceased being built with the goal of keeping invading hordes out. As a society we have learned to live with each other in mostly peaceful conditions for hundreds and hundreds of years. In that time we have slowly changed our concepts of security and aesthetics. We (until recently) relied on the police or an alarm company for security or we simply don’t believe that anything bad can happen to us. Our homes are designed now to be beautiful, energy-efficient; maybe Green, but rarely “safe” from intrusion. You don’t usually see those shows on home and garden TV talk about how sturdy the doors or walls are. You do hear them talk about granite counter-tops and stainless steel appliances though. My daughter especially loves those.
It is the weakness of our modern homes that has us in this position. We want windows to let in a lot of light. Windows everywhere, even on the doors. Our frame construction is pretty weak too. You can take an axe and chop through an exterior wall of plywood and vinyl siding in a few minutes. Our doors are decorative, not designed to keep anyone out really. That is why you see police easily bust down doors and flood into the bad guy’s house on TV every night.
It is also our mindset that has made us more complacent. Most people walk around every day with the idea that nothing bad could happen to them. Nothing is wrong they say and believe people will watch out for one another. We also fail to maintain any real level of security footing when we are in our homes. How many of you now have at least one door unlocked? What is stopping anyone from walking right in? Nothing but the right person and opportunity. If you are at home I would bet that most of us, maybe until you are ready for bed leave the doors and some windows (depending on the season) unlocked.
Taking into consideration the relative weakness of our current architecture and a “condition white” mindset, what can we do about those two things?
Don’t get caught with your pants down
By this I am talking primarily about your mental state. I recently discussed Situational Awareness and the need to maintain a more alert mindset to help you see the threats before they get to you. When you are thinking about security in your home, recognizing the weaknesses you have and planning to remedy those is a great first step. That recognition of the threat though is not where you should stop. Your neighborhood where you live is full of people most likely and it is not as though you can just close your door and the world disappears. Maintaining situational awareness of your surroundings even if you are behind the walls of your house is important.
Design your own castle
“What would you buy if you won the lottery tomorrow”? My daughter likes to ask me this question every once in a while. It would probably help my chances if I actually bought a ticket, but I like to play along with this fantasy too so I humor her every time. My response usually is that I would buy a big piece of land well away from any cities over 10,000 people and I would start building my dream castle. My ideal home in the woods, safely hidden from the rest of most of the world is a dream I am sure will never come to pass, but it is fun to think about it.
If you are building your own home, you have a great opportunity to plan for security right as the construction is going on. From reinforced doors at one end of the spectrum to rolling metal shutters that protect your windows and a security perimeter. If you are in the market to build, I would highly recommend “The Secure Home” by Joel M. Skousen. This book is a treasure trove of knowledge and ideas. If you order it off his site he was autographing them at one time. Most of the heavy security considerations are out of the realm of possibility for us regular folks, just like my lottery castle, but you can make some changes that won’t necessarily break the bank and can be done as a normal part of new construction or retro-actively in an existing home.
Obstacles for fun and enjoyment
Fences have their own usefulness that is readily apparent. In a suburban setting they are usually decorative, but in a grid-down scenario they could slow an attackers advance allowing you extra time to either retreat into your home, or effectively take care of them before they reach your house. Fences can also be augmented with concertina or razor wire if we do have a total collapse. This of course is only possible if you have the foresight to purchase the mounting hardware and supplies before the emergency happens and may fall into the category of “nice to have” for most people. Fences even without razor wire aren’t cheap.
A cheaper option to a fence would be a tangle trap out of regular barbed wire. You can see an example of a simple trap in the image to the right. Barbed wire is one of those supplies I have that sit in the shed for a rainy day. You can get a bale for around $100 at Home Depot and if the SHTF, I plan on using mine to augment my exterior security if it gets really ugly. The simple design is made with some extra scrap wood that you should have if you read my post on the 12 Survival items you may have overlooked. The barbed wire is secured to the frame and the X members should be high enough that they can’t be easily jumped. Will this protect you from gunfire? No of course not, but they can prevent someone from running into your position at full speed or sneaking up right next to your home.
Let’s say you have a decently secure house with stone or brick construction but you are worried about your doors. The experts recommend a steel door with a solid metal frame and screws that go at least 3 inches into the framing on your house. If that isn’t possible, another option may be a product called Bar-ricade. It is a brilliantly simple idea. It’s just a metal bar that you mount with seriously long screws to brackets that attach to the inside of your door frame. What if someone decides to knock on your door with an old station wagon? Provided we have cars that are running, I can foresee a possibility where someone who was desperate enough would use their car as a battering ram.
Since 9/11 most federal buildings have installed additional security in the form of those cylinders meant to stop a speeding vehicle. They quickly rise out of the ground when triggered and can stop a Mack truck. I know this is out of the question for the average person, but you can construct concrete planters and have those set as barricades in front of your house where the main entrance is. There are a lot of plans out there, but I found these simple Popular Mechanics plans for a solid concrete planter that you can use. Obviously, the plans would need to be scaled up to at least 4 feet tall, but you can get ideas from this concept.
Sandbags can be used for an effective bulwark against bullets and can be set up if the situation arises. This isn’t a simple chore I know; actually it will be back breaking work, but you can buy sandbags now and store them for the potential use later. We have details on how to build sandbag walls in our recent post on the subject.
Exterior lighting is supposed to help us see what is out there and make us feel safe. It has another purpose though and that is to let people know where you are or who still has power on. Security lighting can help the bad guys see where they are going so by having a bright area they can quickly navigate around your property.
Security lighting does come in handy when you are either returning home and it is dark or you are inside and want to see who is outside. The ideal situation would be infrared lighting provided you had night vision goggles. With IR lighting it would appear as if no lights were on, unless you had on night vision goggles.
A companion concept to security lighting is black out conditions. You may find yourself needing to make your home appear completely dark on the outside. The best way to accomplish this is to purchase black plastic sheeting and plenty of rolls of duct tape. When you do this, make sure you check your house from the exterior to ensure there are no light leaks.
Motion detection systems
Knowing when people are coming onto your property can give you precious seconds or even minutes of advance warning. Systems like the Dakota Long Range Alert system can offer advance warning and perimeter detection you can use to alert on driveways or any blind spots of your property. These units are wireless and have an advertised range of a half mile; more than enough for most homes. You can even disguise the motion sensor in a bird house so that it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb.
Safe Rooms and Vaults
Safe rooms aren’t easily added post construction to a house unless you have a basement. You can reinforce a big walk-in closet, but this may not be an easy option. With a basement, you can pour solid concrete walls and set a vault door that would keep you safe. Vault doors aren’t cheap at all, Liberty safe sells vault doors for over $6,400 but neither is making a solid concrete wall safe room in your basement. With a reinforced closet you would want to have very strong walls and a door that can withstand gunfire and brute force attack. A way out the back would be perfect but firearms and some stored food and water would be considerations. I believe the The Secure Home has plans for the reinforced safe room, but I plan to write a separate post on that later. And what good is a safe room if no one is coming to make it’s exterior “safe” again? Relying on boredom or that the intruders are going to miss the next iPhone release is not as smart as having a Security Guard Service that can send help fast.
What about windows?
Windows are just about the easiest item to destroy if you are looking to break into someone’s home with a quickness. I think they are second only to large patio doors in terms of overall weakness. There are of course security windows out there, but they are very pricey. An aftermarket option would be security window film. 3M has a line of security window film that you may want to check out. This not only resists break-ins but can keep your windows from caving in heavy winds associated with tornadoes and hurricanes. AND, they can be tinted to keep your home cooler as well.
As with most other items we discuss in Prepper circles, OPSEC is crucial. You simply can’t take a chance that a neighbor or friend will use the knowledge of your preparations against you. Make sure you think about who needs to know that you have a safe room, or stores of food or a secret door in your office that leads to a back hallway. Your safety and your families safety may depend on information that you don’t want anyone else knowing so before you shoot your mouth off, think.
The options and topics with Home security are numerous but hopefully this gave you some ideas to consider. If you have any ideas not listed here, I would love to hear about them in the comments below.