10 Ways to Fortify Your Home for Survival
Even when insurance covers the financial loss, victims of natural disasters or home invasions often report that mental angst is the longest-standing scar that heals very slowly. The most enlightened among us, may contend that a house and the possessions inside are just things – made of bricks, wood, steel, and glass – that can be replaced.
Although such a statement may be true, our home represents our safety, security, and even our identity. The loss, damage, or threat to your home can be devastating and taking steps to reduce the probability of such an occurrence is wise.
In survival events, whether it’s major civil unrest or a weather situation, you need to have peace of mind that your house is secure from a threat. That means you take precautions to fortify your entryways and implement extra security measures a typical homeowner may not have.
Whether it serves as a simple deterrent to keep people or natural harm from happening, or it ends up preventing a devastating situation by blocking access or harm to your home and family, these are steps that can’t be taken soon enough.
Get Doors That Can’t Be Compromised
Keeping unwanted guests out of your home starts at the most obvious entrance points – the doors. The most relevant criterion to consider is strength. You want a door that someone with ill intentions cannot kick down easily.
When selecting a door, the most common materials are steel, wood, and fiberglass. Of the three, steel offers the most secure option. In addition to be unchanged by temperatures and therefore, free from cracking and warping, a steel door requires no reinforcement.
A steel door is nearly impossible to break down, regardless of the force used. They may dent with extreme force, but they won’t cave. Fiberglass is the second most secure option and is selected when security and strength are a priority, but the budget can’t handle a steel option.
Wood is the most common door type and often selected for its aesthetics. However, wood can warp and crack in extreme temperatures and requires metal reinforcement to optimize the security of the door.
Wood is the least effective in terms of strength and security. It can easily be hacked into, burned or kicked in, so if you go this route, make sure you choose the best wood available for longevity and sturdiness.
Make Sure Your Windows Are Secure
Aside from doors, windows are the next penetration into your home that need to be considered when discussing the fortification of your house. There are several elements of your windows that need to be analyzed.
There are several shatterproof options on the marketplace. It’s important to first understand that shatterproof does not mean unbreakable. The term shatterproof is descriptive of the manner in which the glass breaks, not that it doesn’t break.
Specifically, shatterproof glass is typically composed of a thin piece of transparent film that is placed between two pieces of glass. This prevents glass shards from shattering inwards by holding them in place even after they have broken.
This makes “shatterproof” glass a great protection against weather and moderately effective against intruders. A persistent intruder will be slowed down by shatterproof glass, but not thwarted.
A stronger alternative to shatterproof glass is polycarbonate panels. Polycarbonate panels are made from a combination of acrylics, polycarbonate, and plastics. The resulting product is visually indistinguishable from glass, but much more flexible and of higher strength.
Unlike shatterproof glass, these windows are designed to be nearly unbreakable. They have been designed to be impervious to very high forces up to and include bombs and firearms. They are nearly impenetrable.
Put Extra Security Measures on Entryways
In addition to selecting the appropriate doors and windows, inventory all of the penetrations in your home. This will include all doors, windows, garage entries, and even pet doors. For each penetration point, you must decide if you are interested in fortifying these openings above and beyond the strength of the penetration and its locking mechanism.
When evaluating the strength of your doors, in addition to the material of the door itself, consider the following extra security measures:
* A deadbolt lock can be purchased and installed for between $50 – $300. Deadbolt locks add physical strength to the door, in addition to providing a psychological deterrent to a would-be intruder.
* A strike plate attaches to the door jam and works in tandem with a deadbolt lock to resist door kick-ins by providing an anchor point for the deadbolt lock. Avoid reinforced plastic strike plates and opt for a metal one instead. Use screws that are at least 3” in length.
* Installing a smart lock is wise, too. Of the 1.1 million reported home break-ins in 2019, one-third of them were classified as break-ins of opportunity. This means that one-third of home invasions occurred with unlocked doors. While smart locks may not provide additional strength, it does provide homeowners with reminders and alerts for unlocked doors.
Never rely solely on smart technology to protect your home. You never know if these can be compromised (hacked into) or if you’ll be protected if the grid goes down for a significant amount of time.
Install Security Cameras Inside and Outside of Your Home
Security cameras provide no physical barrier to a home intruder. However, they do provide the homeowner security benefits as a deterrent and a recovery tool. Your security cameras should be very visible.
There is no sense in hiding them because the number one benefit of security cameras is the deterrent that they provide. A would-be intruder is likely to simply move along to the next house without a security camera.
Additionally, without a security camera, the chances of catching a home intruder once they make their getaway is near zero. Having a security camera increases your chances that the police will catch the thieves.
Some home insurance providers will reward you with a lower rate on your premium if you have indoor or outdoor security cameras installed. You should consider some important things before installing cameras.
The price can be expensive for a deterrent. Although prices vary, if you are hoping to provide full-coverage of your property with a high-quality system, you will be investing several hundred to several thousand dollars.
Some homeowners on a budget purchase fake cameras to place strategically outside to act as a deterrent. While this won’t provide you with any evidence, it could keep someone from invading your property.
The video quality will significantly impact price and storage size of the video stream. If you desire to have a system with quality that can enable you to identify license plates and facial features, it’s recommended that you invest an ultra-high definition system of at least 2K or 4K.
A standard high definition system will suffice for general surveillance, but will fall short of providing details that will assist with recovery, especially at night. You may want to get cameras with night vision capabilities for a clear, crisp video.
Consider connecting your camera system to a security system for maximum benefit. Because of storage and power concerns, it’s unlikely that you will have a camera system that is recording constantly.
Some can be set for certain times to begin recording, or motion activated. If you connect your camera system to your security system, the cameras can be programmed to turn on in response to a forced entry through a door or window, noise, or motion.
Have Motion-Activated Lights for Your Property
Motion-activated lights will neither physically prevent a home break-in nor will they aid in gathering evidence for the authorities in the event of a theft. However, motion-activated lights can be a nice add-on for your other home security measures.
For example, motion-activated lights can spook a would-be home invader and have them fleeing your property when activated. If you have a camera system, the motion-activated lights will significantly improve the quality of your video feed by providing light.
Motion-activated lights can serve to provide you with peace of mind. You can be relatively sure that the noise you thought you heard in the backyard was just the wind, if the noise is not accompanied by the lights activating.
Build a Safe Room in Your Home
This is a security-measure for those who truly want the maximum amount of protection for themselves and their family. Your exposure to the idea of a safe room might be limited to movies.
In fact, there is a 2002 movie called “Panic Room” starring Jodie Foster where the entire plot centers around Jodie Foster’s character using a safe room in response to a home invasion.
Although the concept of a safe room makes an interesting dynamic for Hollywood, they also provide an option for those who are most concerned about their safety. If you aren’t familiar with concept of a safe room, it’s room in your house that you can escape to in the event of a home intrusion.
Safe room are locked from the inside and are heavily fortified to prevent entrance from the outside of the room. Safe rooms can be equipped with phone lines, surveillance monitors for your camera or security system, and provisions such as food and water.
Safe rooms can also be used as a place to safely hide in the event of a natural disaster such a hurricane or tornado. Safe rooms will typically have no windows and be made of thick steel walls, making them a safe place to hunker down until the threat passes.
Plant Landscaping That Deters Intruders
Before the technology of security cameras and security systems, homeowners routinely used trees and plants to keep intruders away. Today, homeowners still use hedges to increase privacy, but it’s uncommon to use plants as a barrier to a home break-in.
However, just because it isn’t used often, doesn’t mean that they aren’t effective. Most cat burglars are lazy. They’re looking for the biggest takeaway with the least amount of work.
A strategically placed plant – such as a cactus – can create way more work and discomfort than the typical home intruder is likely to tolerate. Here some plant types to consider: Bougainvillea, Mediterranean Fan Palms, Rose Bushes, Cacti, Agaves and Yucca.
All of these plants have prickly thorns that, when strategically placed near windows can make a burglar’s prospective break-in inconvenient and painful. You don’t want to use thornless hedges because then it gives intruders a place to hide.
Secure the Perimeter with a Fence
Establishing a perimeter around your property may be a necessity, depending upon your location, your property size, and your comfort level. If you’re contemplating installing a fence, here are some items to consider:
Although it may be tempting to install a tall wooden fence for privacy and security, the significant downside to a wooden fence is that it allows burglars a place to hide – on the side facing away from your home.
The ideal security fence gives burglars nowhere to hide. Therefore, if they choose to climb the fence, they will have to do it in plain sight of you and your camera system and put themselves at risk.
In addition to material considerations, there are design variables that should be considered to make your fence more secure. Examples include:
* If you use a chain link fence, the space within the cutouts should be not more than 1 ¾”. This specification will make climbing very difficult.
* If you choose to you use a wooden fence, select a design with pickets that have a point or spear at the top.
* Your security fence should be at least 54 inches in height with a recommended height of 8 feet (96 inches). However, be sure to check your local ordinances and home owners’ association for additional guidelines.
* Avoid designs that include horizontal rails, if possible. Horizontal rails can be used by an intruder to scale the fence.
Be a good neighbor. Although there is an expression that “good fences make good neighbors,” you will want to make sure you have an open and honest discussion with your neighbor about your intentions to build a fence.
Even if you are not required to get their permission, a pre-construction conversation will go a long way to building a good rapport with your neighbor – and you may need them in the event of a survival situation.
Having a neighbor on your side can pay dividends when it comes to the security of your home, above and beyond that of a fence. Some may be willing to split the cost with you for the fence portion running between your two properties, too.
Keep Prying Eyes at Bay
There are multiple solutions for increasing your privacy (and security) as it relates to the transparency of glass panes on your windows and doors. The most common methodologies are window coverings, frost, and film.
Curtains, blinds, or shades are the most common and often, most cost effective, solution to keeping prying eyes at bay. In addition to the fact there are endless design options, installation costs are minimal, and you can change the design seasonally.
You can also open and close them to match your privacy and security needs at the moment. This is probably the greatest advantage to this solution and the most affordable for those securing their home on a budget.
Frosting the glass is the most permanent solution listed. Unfortunately, unlike curtains, you are stuck with the consequences of the increased privacy for good and bad. On the plus side, you don’t need to remember to draw your curtains to get your privacy.
Additionally, frosted glass allows natural light into your home while still providing privacy. On the negative side, your view outside of your window is permanently and significantly distorted.
Plus, the person can see a slight outline of someone on the inside, so while it doesn’t let them see details, it does let them know whether the home is empty. Still, it’s a good choice for front doors and bathroom windows if you don’t have other coverings.
Apply a privacy film to your windows. The security impact of privacy film is very similar to frosted glass. However, it tends to be less expensive and DIY options exist as well. Further, privacy films with decorative designs are available to enhance their aesthetic appeal.
Unlike frosting, if you change your mind, it’s much easier to remove a privacy film than frosted glass. They have film that provides minimal security and others that are darker and provide more.
Don’t Underestimate the Power of a Simple Sign
The number one goal of any and all security measures is prevention. The number one cause of prevention is deterrence. In all but the most unlikely circumstances, an intruder is not targeting your home – they are targeting a home.
Their selection criteria may vary depending upon their objectives, but if they can avoid complications by moving on to a less secure house, they will. Therefore, sometimes a “Beware of Dog” sign is just as effective as an actual dog.
In fact, it has been rumored, although not substantiated by research, that the threat of a dog is the most effective deterrent to a thief. Related to the “Beware of Dog” sign are the security signs that accompany security and camera systems.
The signs are typically in the form of “This property is surveilled and protected by Company X.” Again, that sign may be just as effective as a deterrent as the actual system itself.
However, there is one sign that may be intended to serve as a deterrent which might actually have the reverse effect. Specifically, signs related to guns such as “NRA member” or “Homeowner is armed and dangerous,” may actually provide burglars with an incentive to select your home because guns can be valuable on the black market.
Therefore, as long as the burglar can confirm that you are not home, he may actually prefer to target your home in the hopes of stealing your gun collection. Be careful about what you put on display.
Bonus Tip: Minimize the Possibility of an Inside Job
As mentioned earlier, there are approximately one million home invasions each year. It’s estimated that a staggeringly high percentage, upwards of 65 percent, of these home invasions are performed by someone that the homeowner knows.
Therefore, it’s prudent to be aware of some actions that you can take to avoid an inside job – which is especially possible in the event of a survival situation where you or others in your family have bragged about the supplies you’ve accumulated.
You can prevent people from being tempted in several ways. After purchasing or renting a home, have all of the locks replaced because you have no knowledge of how many copies of the keys are out in the world.
Be very careful about inviting contractors into your home to provide a cost estimate of work to be done. Of course, there are times when you will choose to do so, which is why having positive references or a connection with the contractor can be wise instead of calling the first company that pops up on a Google search.
If you have to share the location of your hidden key with someone outside of the immediate family such as a babysitter, dog walker, or a contractor, move the location of that hidden key after it has been used.
Home security is no laughing matter – especially when you’re talking about an extreme SHTF situation. As any victim of a home intrusion can tell you, that emotional violation, above and beyond financial loss, can have long lasting negative psychological effects.
A little bit of preparation can go a long way in minimizing the probability of you having to attest to this consequence first-hand. You want to protect your family, your belongings and your survival supplies and fortifying your home is the first step in ensuring their safety from those who want to take what you have for their own use.