Article by Jason Wagner
Hardening your home, also known as reinforcing or fortifying, is the practice of making it more difficult for an intruder to invade your home. As with all things in life, nothing is ever simple. This applies to house hardening, too! Properly fortifying your house is one part retrofitting, one part improvising, one part planning/strategizing and another part knowing the laws. To put it another way, hardening your household isn’t just about the house – it is also about the inhabitants.
If you’re (understandably) asking how hardening your home applies to preparing for disasters, a home that’s more secure today will be safer tomorrow. Besides, if someone came into your house and stole your MRE’s, what would you eat in the Armageddon?
Making your home more defensible is something that should appeal to just about everyone. So many covet safety, yet so few of us seem to take the necessary steps needed to, well, make ourselves safer. But I know that you fine people, my readers, have an elevated sense of self-preservation!
If you live in one of the seedier parts of town, a little household hardening is downright necessary. If you’re a resident of one of those creepily idyllic places, it still doesn’t hurt to increase your home’s security.
The Gateways to Your Home –
Not all doors are equivalent. A design that I have a particular disdain for are those aesthetically pleasing glass doors; especially the ones that are mostly made of metal, with glass paneling. These glass/metal hybrid doors provide a false sense of protection. For the majority of lock types, all the intruder has to do is reach in through the broken glass and unlock the door.
To make matters worse, the main entryways are by and large the sturdiest doors of the entire house. If the perpetrator can get through that door, it’s usually only a matter of kicking down the rest.
If you’re adamant about having the damn glass door, consider making some modifications to them. Polycarbonate panels are similar in appearance to glass, but they lack glass’s brittleness; Lexan is a popular form of shatterproof polycarbonate that can be bought at most home improvement stores.
Glass is hardly the only problem.
Check your door for overall structural integrity. For instance, a wooden door with glued on panels are quite weak compared to solid doors. Be especially wary of hollow doors. You can get a pretty good idea if you door is hollow in the inside by knocking on it; does it sound hollow? If it does, you have got a weakling of a door.
Even if your door is sturdy, it’s only as strong as its weakest link. In the spirit of eliminating the weakest link, you ought to consider buying one of those DIY door reinforcement kits. If you want to do something yourself, respectable enhancements can be made by adding additional strike points and hinges. Extra-long six inch screws can really help to hold a hinge together.
Check your Locks:
Deadbolt style locks are a nice upgrade over the more common spring bolt locks. It makes for good sense to equip the entry/exit doors with deadbolts.
Not all locks are created equal. While the price is not a definitive indicator of quality, those five dollar locks you’ve no doubt seen at the store are cheap for a reason.
Don’t keep a spare keep under your flower pot. Every single criminal and their cat know to look under your damn flower pot or your stupid door mat.
Having more than one lock on a door is nearly always a good policy. What might be a minor inconvenience to you (using two keys) might be what makes a would-be burglar bugger off. Half of hardening your home is dissuading burglars by projecting well-laid out security.
Double cylinder knobs are an uncommon type of lock that has a keyhole on both sides of the knob. In effect, the double cylinder lock system makes it impossible for an intruder to punch through a glass door and unlock it from the other side. If it weren’t for the inherent fire risks of such a system, double cylinder locks would be a superior choice for most people. In many settings, such as an apartment, double cylinder locks are highly discouraged.
Use some good judgment when inspecting your locks. For the sake of example, if you see that the lock can be removed, from the outside, with a screwdriver…replace that useless lock.
If a criminal(s) wants to take the loud and dumb approach, they’ll either kick down your door or burst in through your windows. If your doors are fairly secure, what do you think they will go for? I would never urge you to remove your windows…that would be weird of you, but rather you need to place some increased security around those areas.
If you have your house wired with video cameras, as you should, windows should always be in their field of view. Try not to back yourself into a corner with a window. If your house is being robbed, chances are somebody isn’t going to burst through it and grab you, but like I always say – don’t tempt fate.
There are ways to fortify your windows without significantly altering their clarity. One newer method is to apply something called window security film. Some of the better quality window films have the added benefits of adding insulating and/or UV-blocking characteristics to the windows.
Because of the web-like qualities of the film, instead of the window shattering all over the ground, the shattered glass (good movie) is loosely held together by the film. While the film is unlikely to make your windows impervious, it should buy you at least a few seconds.
Like with the doors, some people have opted for polycarbonate materials as a replacement for windows.
Barricading is important for one vital reason – it buys you time! Barricading is a simple thing that usually requires no structural modifications. The last thing you want to be doing in a home defense situation is desperately trying to think what will be effective at barricading your door while in a panic; worst case scenario, you will fail to barricade your door in time.
Ideally you will be able to set up an effective barricade in a matter of seconds. That means you need to have all the important components by the door. Dressers are one of the best barricades, but they’re but one example. Whatever you use to barricade, it should be heavy, but not so heavy that you cannot move them.
Whatever you’ve designated as your instrument of barricading, verify that it is acceptable for the task. I’d rather have something that took slightly longer to set up, but I was sure of its strength, than something that a strong intruder can just ram out of the way.
Always keep the barricading object near whichever doors you want to barricade. If something happens, you do NOT want to improvise at the last second.
Remember, that barricading is most effective when you’re barricading a reasonably well-built door. Otherwise the intruder can just break the door and climb/push over most barricades.
A Duty to Retreat:
As moronic as it may be, most states have made it so you have a duty to retreat in your very own home. If your life is in extreme danger, you may discharge your weapon in an effort to eliminate the threat, but with the laws being what they are – let’s just say that the gun is your last resort.
In theory, a duty to retreat actually makes sense for you. If you can avoid entanglements, nobody has to die, you don’t have a body on your conscious, your house isn’t damaged and everything is good; like in Genesis! If the intruder keeps prodding you, well, you know what they say about the bulls and the horns.
While there is no one size fits all plan for home invasions, most of my in theory strategies involve me falling back to what I consider the strongest, most defensible part of my house. If the criminal wants to tread any further, I’ve got a little double barreled surprise waiting for him. Just kidding, I use a pump-action shotgun.
Establishing a Safe-Point:
The safe-point, or plural, is where you make your stand. I call safe-points, safe-points because they offer reasonable protection, most people can designate at least one room in their house as a safe-point and they are different from the specially-made safe rooms. A safe room is nice, very nice, but a good safe-point should be effective enough to keep you quite safe until law enforcement arrive.
In my opinion, a walk-in-closet is probably the ultimate safe-point. The walk-in-closet typically has a sort of corridor setup, which gives you plenty of time to aim and take fire at a charging intruder, it can be barricaded, you can set up cover, there’s no worry of being flanked and there’s usually no window.
If you have a good walk-in-closet, perfect – otherwise, just pick a reasonably defensible looking room in your house.
Because the safe-point will be your preferred defensive position, you should keep a concentration of your valuables located there. If there’s a gun safe there, too – all the better; can’t let those criminals take our guns! More importantly, the safe being there ensures that you can get yourself to a safe place first, and then grab your firearm. Speaking of safes – all of your valuables should be in a strong, sturdy, static (immovable) safe that can’t just be pried open. You and your belongings only need to hang on for a relatively short period of time.
If you aren’t there to protect your safe, you better hope that the safe is resilient. Again, remember that the laws only protect YOUR LIFE; if you kill somebody that’s running away with your belongings, you could potentially be in a legal maelstrom for killing or otherwise harming the thief.
Tie your life with your belongings or (figuratively and literally) bolt them to the ground…or both.
Whether you choose a bedroom, bathroom, walk-in-closet or other for your safe-point, check the following checklist:
If a criminal cut off service to your phone, the cellphone will be your link to law enforcement. Remember, batteries lose their charge and must be recharged fairly regularly. Make sure that the cellphone is available at all times.
Can it be barricaded? If the room cannot be properly barricaded, pick another room to serve as your safe-point. Bedrooms are almost always relatively good choices
Having a stocked gun safe in the safe-point can be of great assistance. Depending on how fast the intruder moves, you may have little time to even get into your safe-point and barricade it. If the unwelcomed guest see’s you readying a weapon they will either attack you or flee. Get yourself somewhere safe, first, then arm yourself.
If you have a concealed carry permit, then that changes things a little bit. You can buy a code activated gun safe to put on your nightstand which basically gives you access to a loaded gun in ten seconds.
Formulate a Plan:
If you live alone, defending your house is pretty easy. Sure, you don’t have any wingmen to help you out, but then again you don’t have any children to round up, either. If you do have a family, children or not – they should all know the plan. If everybody doesn’t know exactly what to do, things could go shaky at best and deadly at worst.
The best plans usually involve no panicking and everyone regrouping and/or falling back to the safe-point. You do not want anyone’s best defense to be hiding under the sink while some maniac ransacks your house. However, given how a home invasion is as fluid a situation as fluid situations gets – make sure everyone is well briefed on contingencies.
Here’s a generic battle plan:
Under ideal (as far as home invasion scenarios go) circumstances, everyone should regroup and fall back into the designated safe-point of the house. Those that can’t make it should attempt to grab a weapon and make their way to the nearest, safest location. If someone doesn’t make the rendezvous and you suspect that they might be in significant danger, you should carefully seek them out.
As is always the case, melee combat is way too risky; carry a firearm, preferably a short barreled firearm such as a 4 inch handgun. Avoid the intruder as much as you can without delaying help to someone that you feel to be in extreme danger. Once you have found the person in question, make your ways back to the safe-point and hold out. If the path is blocked off, create a defensive position and hold it.
Remember – most burglaries don’t result in any physical harm to the occupants and even the dreaded home invasions usually leave the occupants alive. If you surprise an intruder by jumping out in front of them, the vagabond could very well light you up. Avoid running into the intruder, but should you unwittingly run into a dangerous situation – be ready to react quickly.
A good canine is nearly as helpful as a fantastic gun. I admit, I have a preference for big rough and tumble dogs such as the noble German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Irish Wolfhounds and Newfoundland’s, but nearly all dogs are useful. A small dog isn’t much in the way of an offensive weapon, but they still have that strange, keen canine sense that can alert you to an intruder. Also, an intruder might retreat if they hear a bark of any kind. And if they don’t run upon hearing the bark of a big Shep, I hope that they’re eager to meet their lord because the dog would be happy to oblige them.
It goes without saying that if you get a dog, take care of it, train it, love it – a dog is not a tool to be senselessly thrown at a problem.
When you’re done with the fortification/hardening work, check that it complies with the following guidelines:
Principally above all else – your objective is to make your home defensible against real world home invasion scenarios. Let’s keep those fantastic stories of heroism against all odds in the books. Do you feel like you and your house are reasonably well prepared for a home invasion? If the answer is a yes, good work.
Make periodic inspections of your house. Even if you aren’t an expert on home security, you might notice glaring weaknesses. Identify any weaknesses and address them.
Once done, your home should still feel similar to how it did pre-hardening. I mean, you still want your house to feel like a home.
In the event of an emergency, in particular a fire, a quick escape is paramount. Ensure that your household enhancements don’t significantly slow any escapes.
Don’t go overboard! No matter how hard you try – if enough people decide they want to take your house, they will seize it. Don’t act like you could take on a contingent of marines by nailing in some metal rivets to your walls! If you want to live in absolute security, try squatting in one of those NORAD bunkers.
Home security is an immensely complex topic that could easily fill several books. This article merely touches on some good ways to enhance your homes security, while maximizing your safety. I recommend that you also investigate security systems, cameras, lightning solutions and anything else that will help to deter criminals. If this article gets a good response, I’ll write some more pieces on home defense.
Thanks for reading my article. It’s my hope that it will make your home a little bit safer!