Is the outside of your home ready?
We know that a home is structurally designed to keep the outside elements just that: outside. It doesn’t make sense to build a house without a roof, but who knows how many times it had to rain before the first house builders decided that a roof was necessary. In order to build an effective house, you need to not only understand the environment it is in, but also what outside elements you are trying to keep out. The same is true for preparing your home for self-defense. It is important to understand your environment and how threats try to enter your home so you can effectively harden it. Home invasions are too high a price to pay to learn from your mistakes. This article will provide you with practical ways to make your home a hard target, specifically focusing on the exterior elements of your home.
The concept of hardening your home is very straightforward. In making your home as difficult as possible to enter, you will force threats to skip your house in search of an easier target. We want threats that are attempting to break into your house to think, “There are much easier targets in this neighborhood.” While most houses in a neighborhood tend to look the same, it is in the small details that threats look for that we need to focus on. Understanding their methods allows us to create the best plan for hardening the exterior of your home.
This article is not all-inclusive but provides several easy and free, to complex and expensive steps you can implement to keep threats out. Some are incredibly obvious but painfully difficult to do, while others are subtle things that make a huge difference. In the end, the first layer of defense begins with the exterior of your home, and a successful plan means that all threats stay outside!
Keep the outside outside
It doesn’t take much to enter a home these days. Back in mid-evil times, invaders had to cross moats, climb walls, and slay a fire-breathing dragon. Now it’s as easy as walking up your driveway, straight up to your front door.
So what is the very first step in hardening your home? Lock your doors and windows! You would be amazed at how many invasion incidents happen where the intruders simply entering through an unlocked door. You wouldn’t keep your windows and doors open during a thunderstorm, so don’t keep them unlocked for a threat. Keep your doors and windows locked, 100% of the time.
As easy as this sounds, doing this consistently takes intentionality and a plan, especially if you have children at home. I still find my front door accidentally unlocked, sometimes all day with nobody home. Kids come and go, my wife runs out to get the mail, I need to grab something from the car, and the list goes on and on.
Develop the habit for everybody in your household to routinely check your windows and doors (including garage door). I forced myself to routinely check the doors throughout the day, but specifically before I leave or return home, and right before I go to sleep. With kids, it is important for them to also learn, which is why I ask them to lock a door if they’ve forgotten to, instead of me locking it for them and telling them that they forgot. I actually have the opposite problem: if my son gets inside before me, he will sometimes automatically lock the door behind him!
If you don’t have deadbolts on your exterior doors, they are a must-have. According to FBI statistics, over 50% of home invasions were forced entry. Make sure it is a quality one (ie. Hardened steel with a metal strike plate secured with at least 3” screws). You can also purchase door stoppers with alarms. A locked door with a deadbolt will deter most threats, but even ones that are adamant about getting in will have a hard time with a properly positioned door-stopper.
This video shows how hard it is with a doorstop in place. Yes, forced entry finally happens, but it takes a lot longer than if something had not been in place. The most important thing is that these tools give you the extra time to prepare for the threat if you were home.
Many doors have glass inserts for decorative purposes. The only issue with these is that they can potentially be broken to allow threats the ability to unlock your door. If replacing the door is not an option, install a window security film which helps prevent the window from breaking. You can also install a double cylinder door lock which requires a key on both the outside and inside but should consider the issue of being able to quickly escape the home in case of an emergency.
A heavy-duty glass screen door is also a great investment, allowing you to have another barrier between you and a threat. It also allows you to open your front door and communicate with people without giving them immediate access to your house. There are many instances where a decoy will try to get you to open your front door, allowing their hidden accomplices to enter at the right moment. A glass screen door that’s locked would give you enough time to close your front door at the first sign of trouble. If you can’t afford it, having a peep-hole installed will at least let you survey the outside. If you are at all suspicious, do NOT open the front door!
Here is another video of a homeowner that is able to successfully use her screen door as a barrier, giving her enough time to lock her front door. While she should not have opened her screen door (especially to a stranger at 9 pm at night), the screen door did its job and ultimately, the threats left without causing any further damage. I am not affiliated with Active Self Protection but wanted to show the video as an example.
On another note, there are many devices such as Ring that not only allow you to observe what is outside, and record what is happening, but also allow you to communicate with people who come to your front door whether you are home or not. These devices run from $100 and up, but are a great solution to keeping threats moving on to an easier target.
Don’t be an easy target
Most threats are looking for easy targets, so don’t be one! Keep shrubs and trees that may obscure windows trimmed. Burglars love to hide behind overgrown shrubs, keeping them well hidden as they break in through windows. Put those hedge trimmers to work, or pay your teenage neighbor to do the work.
Take a walk around your home at night and take note of the dark areas. Install external lights that are motion triggered to keep these areas well lit.
A set of solar powered, motion sensor LED flood lights are perfect in these situations. The motion sensor is able to pick up movement before anyone even reaches the fence door.
A well-lit home is always a great deterrent.
For your interior, have several lights on timers, especially if you are going to be away for an extended period of time. Threats canvasing the neighborhood will most likely move on if they think somebody is home.
Finally, get a dog. Having a dog is a huge benefit to your self-defense plan. Threats that hear a dog barking as they approach your property, or at the moment they ring the doorbell will typically change their mind about trying to enter. I’m no dog whisperer, but if you have a dog, don’t chastise it for barking at strangers when you have friends come over. The last thing you want is for your dog to NOT bark because it believes it is the wrong thing to do.
Consider an Alarm System
I have lived in homes with and without alarm systems and have mixed feelings regarding them. If your budget allows for an alarm, I recommend having one installed, but it is necessary to be aware of their limitations. An alarm system by itself won’t keep you safe if a threat enters your home. Yes, the alarm may trigger a response from local police, but it still takes time for that dispatch to reach your home, and who knows how long it will take them? A properly used alarm system should be one of many layers of hardening your home. I also believe that it is possible to adequately harden your home without the use of an alarm. Below are some pros and cons to a home alarm system:
- Having a sign that indicates a home is protected by an alarm system could be enough to keep threats away
- The alarm sound is typically enough to cause threats to flee, as well as immediately alerting people in the home to a threat.
- Direct links to emergency responders
- Covers more than just doors, protecting windows and living spaces through motion detectors
- Keeps watch over your home when you’re away
- Expensive to install and cost money to maintain
- Requires upkeep of sensors and battery
- Takes discipline to consistently use it properly
- Usually requires two-factor acknowledgment, resulting in a phone call from the security company when the alarm is triggered, and then dispatching police.
- Pets and children can often trigger the alarm.
- False alarms will be billed to you.
- You will still want to call 911 when dealing with a threat.
It will be up to you to decide if it is right for your circumstance to install and utilize an alarm system as one of the layers in your home defense plan. If you have it installed, like any part of your defense plan, train everybody in the home on the proper use.
Be Friendly & Be Aware
A neighbor is a valuable asset in your home defense plan. Having somebody that simply appears to be watching your home is usually enough to deter threats. When you are away, have them get your mail and newspapers from your driveway. And in the case when something goes down, you want that neighbor to be quick to act. Whether it is to dial 911 on your behalf or to simply provide some sort of support, having others interested in your safety is a huge plus. So be friendly with your neighbors. Take them cookies and cake. Even if they don’t support the 2nd Amendment, they are most likely still interested in hardening their home. Share ideas and help them with their home defense plan.
Finally, be aware! Be aware especially in the transitional spaces around your home. Areas like entering your front door, and getting in and out of your car are instances where we are more vulnerable to attack. If you mow your lawn with earphones on, be especially aware of your surroundings. Be observant report suspicious behavior or unknown vehicles driving up and down your street. The earlier you are able to identify potential threats, the faster you can begin to implement your self-defense plan.
It is amazing to me how well the self-defense industry continues to grow. In-home self-defense is one of the primary reasons for firearm ownership, and yet most homeowners who own a firearm don’t spend the time or money to properly secure their home. Analyze your weak points and develop a plan to address the biggest issues first as budget and time allow. Routinely evaluate your home to identify changing circumstances and continually address areas of concern. Keeping yourself and your loved ones safe is worth the effort!