Congratulations for getting to this article on hardening the interior of your home. Hopefully, you’ve read and implemented some of the tactics to strengthen your home exterior but don’t stop there! Many homeowners only focus on the exterior of the home, but focusing on hardening the interior is equally important. We should never assume that a hardened exterior will stop a threat, which means we also need to take all the necessary precautions to create an interior that best protects us and our loved ones.
A solid home defense plan has multiple layers that all work together. Yes, having at least one layer is better than nothing, but having both a hard exterior and interior is best. Ideas that will be covered in this article will be safe types, safe placement for firearm accessibility, decorating for cover, and finally, building your safe room(s).
Whether you have other people living in the home or not, and regardless of your local and state laws, having your firearms safely secured in a safe is an important part of hardening your home interior. If you have children, it is self-explanatory as to why you need to secure your firearms, but even for those that live alone, having your firearms secured keeps their accessibility limited to yourself (and whoever else you may choose to include in your defense plan). If a threat gains entry to your home, the last thing you want is to give them access to your self-defense firearm that you would use to defend yourself. Even if they are unable to utilize the firearm (trigger lock or lack of ammo), it is still in their possession and not yours. The worst possible scenario is to stare down the barrel of your personal firearm that you intended for your defense!
Like firearms, safes come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, which really give you the flexibility to purchase the right one specific to your home defense plan. There are many storage safes out there that allow you to store multiple guns, but these rarely are the best option for home defense use because they are typically large, bulky, heavy which require them to be put in locations out of quick reach, like garages and basements. They also have complicated combinations that are not designed for quick entry. I’m not against storage safes obviously, as they serve their purpose well, but there are many options available that are specifically designed for home defense, both for a handgun or long-gun.
My two main requirements for a home defense safe are to allow for flexible placement and quick, gross-motor skills access.
- Flexible placement: While next to your bed is a standard place for a home defense safe, it shouldn’t be the only location. A safe should be small enough to fit throughout the house in various locations that provide you with the best access regardless of where you are in the house. Whether it is in a cabinet, behind a painting or under a sofa, the best safes allow them to be placed just where you need them to be.
- Quick, gross-motor skills access: When the adrenaline is pumping because of high-stress levels, the last thing you want is to need fine motor skills in order to open your safe. Safes that require turning small dials or pushing small buttons aren’t a good idea. Biometric safes are popular for this reason as they only require a fingerprint scan. Large button punch code safes are popular as well. The only downside to these are that they require batteries, which means you need to stay on top of replacing them. Regardless of the locking mechanism, you need to practice opening that safe under stress. Timing yourself and racing against the clock is a great way to train on opening your safe under pressure. I don’t suggest safes that require a key as that is an extra step, not to mention you might not be able to find the key, and that would be terrible to not have access to your firearm when you need it the most.
The best safe placement allows quick firearm access from any location within your home. If you own a single storage safe for all of your firearms, but it is in a location that isn’t central, you need to purchase a smaller one that you can keep in a central location. Consider the following scenario: If I lived in a three-story home and my safe was in the basement, how fast would I be able to get to that safe if a threat was in my house and I was on the top floor? Would that be even feasible if they were on the middle floor and I had to cross their path? Would that mean I would have to leave my family unattended while I retrieved my firearm? That is the type of scenario that you will want to plan for as you survey your home for the best safe locations.
In deciding where to place your safe, you should answer these questions: where do you spend most of your time? Kitchen? Family Room? How many floors are in your home and where are the entrances, because you want to avoid having to cross paths with a threat in order to access your firearm.
As a starting point, you should always have a safe accessible in your bedroom for nighttime defense. Second, because studies also show that home invasions occur during the day, I recommend having another safe in the main living space where you spend most of your time. Again, the key is to be able to access your firearm quickly without having to cross an entrance point. Keep the safe hidden, out of plain sight. A cabinet or closet is an ideal location.
Also, do not be tied to a single location but be flexible and willing to change locations as you observe your life routine. In a perfect world, firearm safes should be in a central area that is not only quick to access but also conveniently on the way to your safe room (more on safe rooms in a moment). Look at your floor plan, think about your daily routine, and strategically place your safe(s) so in a moments notice, you are able to be armed and ready to defend yourself and loved ones. Time yourself from different spots in your home to figure out the best placement.
In discussing safes, I’d like to mention that there are other home defense storage options that include furniture and shelves that allow firearms to be hidden within the furniture itself. The positive side is that you can have your firearm quickly accessible in many locations where a safe would be obvious. These solutions are in plain sight and only open to reveal your firearm when unlocked with some sort of key or RFID card. Unfortunately, many of these solutions require a key to unlock it, or are already completely unlocked. These solutions may keep the firearms ‘hidden’, but requiring a key is a bad idea for your home defense safe. These furniture solutions look amazing but are quite pricey. In the end, I prefer a dedicated home defense safe that you can hide out of plain sight.
Decorating For Cover
If you don’t know the difference between cover and concealment, let me quickly explain it here. Something that provides cover will protect you from bullet penetration. Concealment simply hides your location. Obviously, cover is ideal, but concealment is better than being out in the wide open. In other words, being able to hide from a threat when cover isn’t an option can still be effective if the threat never discovers your location. The goal of this section is to enable you to decorate your home to provide maximum cover options.
Now the bad news: most building materials as well as items in your home only provide adequate concealment. Dry walls, furniture, and appliances will NOT stop a bullet. There are countless videos on the internet that show the penetration capabilities of every handgun and rifle round, with the conclusion is that structure elements like walls, and furniture does not stop bullets at all. Even cars don’t stop handgun rounds (unless you are behind the engine block or steel wheel), so running to the garage to use your car as cover isn’t a great idea.
So what actually gives you the best cover short of placing sandbag walls all over your house? Are there any items already in your home that can provide adequate cover? The answer: lots of wood and lots of paper. A bookcase full of books is a great object to use as cover. Not only would a bullet have to penetrate the bookcase structure, but it would also have to pass through all the books that were on the shelves as well. A metal filing cabinet full of papers would also be a great source of cover. Replacing interior doors with solid wood exterior doors are also a great option.
Don’t assume multiple layers of something will provide enough cover. Even a .22lr round shot out of a handgun can easily penetrate multiple layers of drywall. The good news is that a bookcase and filing cabinet are items that are typically found in homes. At least in my home, every room has at least one bookcase that has enough room on the side furthest from the door to allow somebody to stand behind. A metal filing cabinet may be more of an eye-sore in the middle of your living room, but it fits in perfectly in an office or even bedroom (I have one next to a small desk in my bedroom for filing bills).
Finally, you can actually decorate your home for cover without it looking like a fortress. Many solid wood tables can be purchased thick enough to at least stop a handgun round. Obviously, they would need to be flipped on their side, but it is an option in an emergency. You can also reinforce sofas by adding a solid wood back table end or buffet table. Trust me, any stained wood looks good inside the home. Even more popular is the rustic wood and steel type furniture, both aesthetically pleasing and functional as well.
Building your Safe Room
Having a safe room is the number one priority in hardening the interior of your home. The safe room is a fortified area that you and your household can retreat to and adequately defend. Whether you wait for authorities to arrive or you engage directly with the threat, your safe room provides you with the best opportunity for survival and success in a home invasion scenario.
In an ideal world, you would just need one safe room for the entire house because your hardened exterior provides you with adequate warning and time in order successfully retreat there. In the worst case scenario where you have minimal warning and time, multiple safe rooms can be created so that each household member can at least have some option of protecting themselves against home invasion threats.
A hardened exterior is the first criteria for success as it gives the home occupants time to retreat to the designated safe room. The door of your safe room should be replaced with a solid wood exterior door. As a funny aside, the drywall surrounding this door will not provide protection from any fired shots, but in most home invasion scenarios, intruders attempt to only fire through doors and rarely fire (intentionally) through walls. Therefore, a reinforced door is a great first barrier to your safe room. Adding a reinforced door stop is the next step to making entry into your safe room as difficult as possible. Making the threat work hard at entry creates more time for your defense preparation. Law enforcement response time is out of the scope of this article, but I would not rely on it as the primary intervention to stop the threat from harming you or your loved ones. Time for your defense preparation means getting family members behind adequate cover and positioning yourself with a clear line of fire that avoids over penetration into other areas of the house (other safe rooms) and/or neighboring houses.
As mentioned, you want your safe room to have enough cover elements for everybody in your household. My safe room is my bedroom, where I have bookshelves, a small solid hardwood table, and a filing cabinet, all positioned out of the line of sight of a threat entering the safe room. This means a threat would have to gain entry to the room and turn to the side in order to see my cover elements. Having adequate defense layers can also give you the necessary time to reposition cover elements for maximum protection.
Your safe room should have the following items directly accessible: your firearm and extra ammo, phone, flashlight, and your house key on a glow stick. The reason for the keys on a glow stick is to allow law enforcement entry to your house without having to kick down a door. When law enforcement arrives, you can toss the keys out the window, letting them know where they can find them. I know it’s probably the last thing on your mind, but it actually is less work for them to simply open your door with a key than having to try to force entry into your home.
Your home interior is yet another layer that is an integral part of your home defense plan. The goal is to create as difficult a time for the bad guys to not only gain entry but also once they are inside your home as well. Instead of a hard shell, soft interior, we want a hard shell, hard interior plan to discourage and deter threats from moving forward with their plan to bring you harm. As I will always say, firearms are the best response, but that involves much more than simple ownership. A hard interior involves strategic safe placement and being able to defend your home from adequate cover. It also requires a safe room from which you can not only notify appropriate authorities but defend yourself and loved ones.
Because you most likely engage threats from the interior of your home, the next and final article will cover appropriate training for properly defending your home.