I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the biggest threats during any type of disaster is people who are unprepared. At first, they’ll stay in their homes and wait for the government to send help. But after several days, when they start running out of food and realize no one is going to save them, you’ll have to be very careful. Even the friendly guy next door could become a dangerous killer if he or his children are about the starve to death.
Even if it’s not a disaster that empties the grocery stores, you’ll still need to watch out for opportunistic criminals. Just look at Venezuela. As the economy has deteriorated, the kidnapping and murder rates have skyrocketed. When the next recession (or depression) begins, it will be very bad considering we’re already overdue for one and considering the average person never fully recovered from the last recession. This means crime will skyrocket all over the world.
So unless you happen to be the Duke of a large estate with a fortified castle, you’ll have to put some effort into securing your home from invaders. An SHTF scenario will drastically widen the gap between the Haves and the Have-Nots, and if people suspect you’re one of the Haves, you’ll need multiple security measures to deter and repel them.
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1. Find a Safe Place to Live
When looking for a place to live, use sites like CrimeReports.com to find parts of the city with the lowest crime rates. Chances are, they’ll be safer during a disaster, too.
However, be careful about moving to places that are too isolated. According to Fernando Aguirre, a survivor of the hyperinflationary collapse of Argentina’s economy, isolation often works in favour of the attackers.
It makes sense to flee the city during a worst-case scenario, but during a long-term disaster like a depression, you’re actually safer in places where your neighbors are close enough to hear you calling for help.
You should also look for a place that is difficult to break into. Avoid houses with large windows and sliding glass doors. In my opinion, glass doors may as well be open doors. They’re just too easy to get through.
If all you can afford is an apartment, remember that second and third-floor apartments are much less likely to be broken into as criminals usually want to be able to make a quick getaway in case there’s trouble.
2. Upgrade Your Fence
It needs to go all the way around your property and be at least seven feet high. Criminals might still find a way past it, but the point of most of these security measures is deterrence, and a fence is a fantastic deterrent. If you can keep dangerous people off your property altogether, you won’t even have to put your other home security measures to the test.
So if you don’t have a fence, build one. And if you do have one, upgrade it. A simple privacy fence can be reinforced quite a bit: wooden posts can be changed to steel posts, wooden slats can be covered with corrugated tin, and of course barbed wire or razor wire can be installed on top.
In addition, the height of your fence can be increased and the gates can be strengthened (although if you live in within city limits, check your regulations for fence height).
3. Get Motion Detector Lights
This should be a no-brainer. Criminals don’t like to be seen, and if a bright light hits them they’ll usually flee like cockroaches. Since power outages are likely during any disaster, make sure you install the kind that runs on batteries or, better yet, solar power. They’re very affordable nowadays, and you could also use them indoors in lieu of flashlights.
4. Landscape Defensively
Use shrubs and trees to your advantage when planning your landscape. Thorny bushes such as blackberry bushes are a great thing to plant in front of windows (and you get the added bonus of delicious berries).
You have to strike a balance, however: bushes and shrubs can also offer concealment to would-be invaders, so make sure your landscaping still offers 360-degree visibility.
As for your fence, plant a thorny vine such as smilax rotundifolia (also known as catbriar or greenbriar). It will quickly grow up your fence and cling to it, covering it with green leaves and, most importantly, sharp thorns.
5. Reinforce Your Doors
You’d be surprised how often criminals go straight to the front door when breaking into a home. Most doors are surprisingly easy to kick in, as I explained in this post, so reinforcing your doors should be a top priority.
Consider these four options for optimally reinforced doors:
- Metal Frames – Installing a metal doorframe is the best, most secure measure you can take for reinforcing your doors. A bad guy can easily kick in a door that is set into a wooden frame, no matter how strong and intricate its lock system. Metal frames are much harder to break through.
- Steel Doors – In addition to having metal frames, upgrade your wooden door to a steel door for extra strength. Another perk to having steel doors is that they are resistant to fire. Even if you decide to keep a strong wooden door, make sure it is solid and without any decorative windows—you’re surviving, not winning House of the Year.
- Steel Conduit – To take the metal frame concept even further, you can install a small length of steel conduit running a few inches into your doorframe. This way, your deadbolt will be anchored into not only a metal frame but an entrenched metal sheath as well.
- Security Deadbolt – The best reinforcements in the world won’t stop a lock from being picked, but a Dead Bolt Secure ensures the knob on a deadbolt can’t be turned from the outside, even if someone has a copy of your key.
- Additional Reinforcements – If metal frames, steal conduits, metal doors, and secure deadbolts are a little beyond your means, you can still reinforce your doors with doorstops, extra deadbolts, or even boards mounted to the walls (if your door opens inward).
6. Strengthen Your Windows
A bad guy’s other main point of entry into your home is typically through a window. Strengthen your windows using any or all of these methods:
- Security Bars – The first and most obvious way to secure your windows is to fit bars over them, either on the inside or the outside. This prevents bad guys from entering, jailhouse style.
- Plexiglas – If bars aren’t your thing, you can strengthen the window itself by using Plexiglas instead of regular glass. Plexiglas will deter all be the most resourceful home invaders, as it takes much more abuse to shatter it.
- Dowel Rods – Windows, like doors, are still a weakness if they can be unlocked. While you can secure your windows with deadbolts and the like, a cheap, efficient additional security measure can be found in the form of a dowel rod. Simply place one in the gap where your window slides to ensure it can’t be opened enough for someone to get in. This is also a great solution for sliding glass doors.
7. Get an Alarm
A very loud one. And as with your motion detector lights, make sure it will work without power. Unfortunately, the backup battery in most home security systems will only last for a few hours once the power goes out.
However, there are other options such as battery-powered door stop alarms, window alarms, and motion sensors. They won’t automatically call the police or anything, but they’ll at least let you know that someone has broken into your home.
8. Build a Safe Room
A safe room is a secure room in your home that you can retreat to in case of a home invasion. The idea is to stay there until the intruders leave.
In an SHTF scenario, most people looking to unlawfully enter your property want your stuff, not you. If you can’t keep them out of your home, at least escape the encounter with your life by getting yourself and your family into the safe room.
It doesn’t have to be elaborate like in the movies or built to withstand a nuclear blast; it can simply be a small, undetectable space with a few days’ worth of supplies.
Daisy Luther of The Organic Prepper wrote an excellent guide on how to build a safe room in your house or apartment, which you can read here.
9. Get a Decoy Safe
This is a clever idea that I heard and implemented several years ago.
In my bedroom closet is a small, cheap safe filled with fake jewelry, a small amount of cash, and some important-looking documents. It’s very easy to spot, and that’s intentional. My hope is that if an intruder is searching my place for valuables, they’ll spot the safe, think they hit the jackpot, then take it and leave.
My real safe is much heavier and much more difficult to find.
10. Enlist Canine Help
Man’s best friend is also one of your home’s best defenses. With superb hearing and scent detection, defensive dogs such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and several other breeds will alert you if someone is trying to break in. And odds are, once the would-be burglar hears the large, barking dog inside, he’ll move on to a different house.
Again, you have to strike a balance in your security needs: an untrained, large dog can be a detriment to your survival in some scenarios. Make sure you train your dog to stay silent on command and to always listen to your cues.
11. Get a Gun
And finally, in case an intruder manages to get past all of your defenses, your final defense is a good firearm such as a Mossberg Shotgun or even an AR-15. There are some alternatives to guns worth considering, but honestly, if you really want to survive a home invasion, you need to get a good gun and learn how to use it. A baseball bat isn’t going to stop a violent intruder, much less a gang of intruders.
Check out this list of guns for home defense.