3 Layers of Home Defense
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 13.5 million households in the United States experience some form of property victimization annually. In addition to that, there are an average of 3.7 million burglaries each year, with 1 million of those burglaries happening while people were home. Of that million, slightly more than one quarter resulted in the resident becoming a victim of some kind of violent crime.
These are sobering statistics. It's evident based on these numbers that there is a chance of your home being the intended target of a criminal. For many people, this is the reason to purchase a gun to begin with. In fact, personal defense is the primary driver behind close to half of all gun purchases. While buying a gun for home defense is a fantastic idea, it's only one part of the overall home defense equation.
Looking at these numbers and thinking of how to defend your home can seem a bit overwhelming when you're first starting out. But as the old adage goes: Eating an elephant is done one bite at a time. Just as with any other plan, home defense can also be broken down into layers. These layers are like a progression — similar to steps on a ladder. There are steps to take and a base level to start with. Each flows naturally from the other, and you'll likely find as you go along that increasing preparedness in one section instinctively develops into better prep in another.
When discussing home defense, we're making the assumption that you are at home. There are things you can do to defend your home if you aren't home. In actuality, there may well be some crossover, but the purpose of this discussion is defense in the event you're home when the intrusion occurs.
The layers of home defense can be thought of as checkpoints: specific reference points by which to try and deter, discourage, and slow down any would-be assailant as they attempt to make you a victim. These layers are: exterior, interior, and you. While that might sound oversimplified, it isn't. The layers themselves are unassuming in their obviousness, but complex in the framework they provide to encourage rigorous thought in each area.
Layer One: Exterior
We naturally want to put as much distance between us and criminals as possible, but the exterior component of your home defense plan is a little more involved than that. A good starting point for the exterior is to try and view your house from a different perspective. More specifically, don't look at it from your perspective as the occupant, but look at it as the criminal would.
For starters, criminals prefer easy targets. Before we even get into hardening your house to prevent entry, think about what can be done to make your house look less inviting to a criminal. Good exterior lighting is an absolute must in this category. Also, consider placing a security system sign in the yard, even if you don't have a security system. Anything that creates uncertainty in the mind of the criminal helps.
Criminals want smooth, direct actions, and the more potential they see for someone or something to inconvenience them, the more likely they are to ditch your house in favor of a more inviting one. In that regard, elements of unpredictability — such as the evidence of pets or even children — can sometimes deter potential invaders.
This doesn't mean your property needs to be a mess and look chaotic. Quite the opposite actually. If the property is a mess, it looks like a better target. If you're neglecting the property, you're likely neglecting its security. We don't want messy — we want unpredictable. A dog toy or house or a tricycle on the porch are examples of things that cause hesitation in the mind of the criminal.
Similarly, there are things that you can do to make the house look less easy to get into. A wide-open front yard with no places for the criminal to hide certainly makes that a less likely avenue of approach. Conversely, a yard with awkward obstacles accomplishes the same thing — just don't give the bad guy any places to hide.
Windows that aren't easy to get to — such as those that are high up or have thick shrubbery underneath — make for a tougher entrance. Speaking of windows — make sure you don't have any planters or other hard decorative items directly under windows that could be used to help a thief climb up to and in them. If you do have those, consider moving them out a little farther. Even a few inches out could be enough to keep your design but prevent them being used against you.
Every exterior step you can take works to help you in establishing security for your home. But here's the thing: All of this is without even physically hardening the exterior of your home yet. In addition to making the exterior look less inviting, there are also steps you can take to improve the physical security of the house itself so even if the criminal makes the decision to go ahead, the task is that much harder. Obviously, if you can afford it, a security system from a reputable company is a good step.
Ensuring that your windows have good locks that aren't easily breakable is a good idea. If you can afford a security system, ensure you have sensors that can detect if the glass is broken. If possible, install windows that have protection against breaks. There many options here from bulletproof glass to a clear film that can be applied to reinforce the window. Choose the best protection you can get within your budget.
Perhaps one of the most often overlooked elements of exterior security is doors. Sure, getting quality locks and third-party accessories to block the door from opening is a fantastic idea for each doorway to your home, so you should absolutely do that.
However, what many people fail to think about is reinforcing the locking plate and door frame. In most houses, the locking plate for the door is attached to the door frame with nothing more than small finishing screws. It's this that most commonly fails when the doors are kicked or pried open. A simple, inexpensive, and highly effective solution is to purchase longer screws that go through the door and to the stud in the wall itself. This can add tremendous strength to the lock you purchased.
Layer Two: Interior
Now that you've extended your perimeter as much as possible and bolstered the exterior defenses, the next step is to better secure the interior of your home. A good deal of the interior element is going to be your defense weapon storage. How and where you have your primary defensive weapon stored plays a huge part in the interior layer of defense.
Working hand in hand with that, though, is the layout of your home. The good news is that you know the layout of your home and an intruder doesn't. You can use this to your benefit.
Obstacles that make entry through windows more difficult are quite helpful. There is a fine line here, though, between something that gets in the way of entry and something that can be used as a step, so be careful in that regard. Anything that would be unstable to stand on and is directly in the way could be a powerful deterrent, even if the intruder already has the window or door open.
Even without a security system, you may still be able to have motion activated lights or cameras inside. Something as simple as a child's toy that makes noise when detecting light or motion placed at a widow could scare the intruder away while also alerting you. Elaborate drapes and curtains could be a decorative way to slow an intruder by entanglement. Also consider using some kind of device that prevents the window from operation and that can't be accessed from outside. Whether you use a dowel from a hardware store or a dedicated security bar, stopping windows from sliding internally is an excellent inside security measure.
Another interior element is ensuring that obvious targets of opportunity aren't easily visible from outside the house. Big screen TVs, safes, or expensive personal items should be positioned in a way that they aren't visible from the windows or necessarily obvious without actively looking for them. This is understandably going to be more difficult with some items than it is with others, but try to do the best you can. It's a game of constant improvement, so build it up and make it better over time. Security is a marathon, not a sprint.
Layer Three: You
Working hand-in-hand with all of the above is your own personal defense plan. Just as you should have a plan for the event of a house fire, you should plan for what to do in the event of a home invasion.
This means practicing with your firearm and getting training. Seriously: Get training. You need to be proficient in getting to and using your gun, and that doesn't happen magically. It happens with practice.
Along with that comes planning for what type of gun you'll use to defend your home, the type of ammo you'll use, the caliber and whether or not you'll have guns stored in multiple locations. In addition to that, you might want to consider what the best place to effectively engage your assailant from within each room is. These are just a few things to think about, but you can clearly see the need for developing a plan.
You also want to plan out routes of travel within the home under duress and ensure any family members know what their roles are or where they should go. Do you have a panic room? Is there a set place for the children to go? These are all considerations that you want to have in place prior to an unfortunate event occurring. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources to help you develop a plan — check out our other blog posts on personal defense and consider talking to professional instructors.
One last note: in the effort to secure your home and train yourself to defend it, don't forget to address the mental aspect. Be aware that you want to prepare — not be paranoid. Your security plan is to reassure you, not scare you. Put in the effort to have a good plan in place so you can feel secure.
Security is an ongoing process, but with the layered approach, you can start to see and think about the problem in easily digestible sections that naturally encourage each other. As you work through these layers on your own, you'll see how they fit together, complement each other, and spur you to think up new solutions as each new thought occurs. The good part is that you're thinking about it and working to improve. As G.I. Joe always said: Knowing is half the battle.