Home defense can be broken down into two distinct areas: passive defenses and active defenses. Active defenses are taking up arms in defense of home and family. Active defenses are the things we do, with the idea of keeping bad guys out, so that we don’t need to take up arms in defense of our homes. Things like deadbolts and putting a stick in a sliding glass door track are common examples of passive defenses.
The problem with most passive defenses is that they operate under the premise that criminals don’t want to attract attention. A locked window really isn’t secure, because all it takes is a rock or hammer to break the glass and gain access. Since a break-in artist will avoid breaking that window because of the noise it makes, it’s at least somewhat secure. But in times of unrest, whether from rioting or due to a disaster, people may not care if they attract that attention.
Remember, desperate people do desperate things.
During those desperate times there may not be any passive defense which will fully protect your home, unless you’re going to live in a concrete bunker. Even so, your passive defenses will be of even greater importance than they are now, because they will give you time to grab your guns and put your defensive plan into effect. They can also help to control the battle by funneling the attackers into a place of your choosing.
But if we’re going to use home security as part of our defensive plan, we’ve got to rethink home security. The things we are currently doing can’t stop a determined attacker, let alone a group of them. We definitely need to step up our game, hardening our homes against attack.
Statistically, more criminals come in through the front door, than any other entry point. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that attackers during a time of crisis will try to do the same, either hoping to find the door unlocked or breaking it down to get in.
Most people don’t realize it, but pretty much any criminal can tell you that you can kick open a deadbolted door, without problem. The problem isn’t that the deadbolt isn’t strong enough; but that the door frame isn’t. Residential door frames are normally made out of ¾” thick pine and the hole that the deadbolt goes into is only ½” from the edge. With the small striker plate, held in by ¾” long screws, there’s nothing to keep the deadbolt from breaking through the door frame when the door is kicked.
The first step in making your front door more secure, is to install a security striker plate. This is a longer striker plate, that works for both the deadbolt and the door lock. Being longer, more screws are used, spreading the force of that kick out farther, so that the deadbolt doesn’t break through the door frame. But for this to work, you need one of the longer ones, which are roughly three feet long, not the 12” variety.
Install that security striker plate with 2 ½” to 3 ½” long screws, so that they go through the door frame and into the structural studs behind it. That way, the screws can’t pull out. While you’re at it, replace the screws for the hinges with those longer screws too. If your door doesn’t have security hinges on it (most newer homes have them), it would be a good idea to install them at the same time.
For extra security, it’s a good idea to have a backup support of some sort for the door. There are three basic options for this:
- Door club – Made by the same people who make “The Club” for vehicle steering wheels, this mounts on the lower part of the door and goes into the floor, acting as a second deadbolt.
- Door prop – A metal prop that goes under the doorknob and braces against the floor with a rubber foot.
- Door bar – A number of companies make door bars which go across the door, mounted into the structural framework on either side.
As I already mentioned, windows are hard to secure, because glass is so easy to break. So to secure any window, it’s necessary to make it hard to break that glass and gain access to the home. There are two ways of doing that.
Window security film is installed much like window tinting, but is clear and considerably thicker. Once the adhesive dries (which takes about two weeks) the film strengthens the glass in the same way that the inner layer of a car windshield works. Not only does it make the glass stronger, but if the glass is broken by impact, the film holds the glass shards together and in place. The attacker literally has to break the glass out all the way around the window to gain access.
A more secure method is to install burglar bars over the windows. While some people don’t like the looks of this option, thinking it makes their home look like a prison, it is extremely effective. The bars prevent criminals from entering, even if they do break the glass.
You can buy “universal” window bars from the large home-improvement centers or have them custom made by a welding shop. Of the two, the custom are better, because they are made of thicker steel. Since welding shops are making them to order, they can usually make them much more attractive.
Sliding patio doors are probably the biggest security nightmare ever invented. The idea that putting screws or a stick in the track to make them more secure assumes that the criminal doesn’t want to break your door. But if they don’t care about making noise, these doors are even easier to break than your windows are.
The best solution, from a security viewpoint, is to replace the sliding glass door with a normal entry door. The door can then be secured in the same way as the entry door is. If you don’t want to do that, then treat the door like a big window and use either of the security measures mentioned for windows. Welding shops that make burglar bars can also make gates to go over these doors.
Garages are much less secure than most of us realize, especially garages with aluminum garage doors. It really doesn’t take much to break down those doors, although it usually isn’t necessary.
Treat the garage door like your entry door, doing the same things to secure it. Likewise, the door between the garage and the rest of the house should be secured like the entry door. Since these doors typically don’t have windows in them, be sure to add peephole sights, so that you can see if anyone is on the other side of the door.
If you have an automatic garage door opener, one trick that criminals use is to snake a piece of wire over the top of the garage door and catch the emergency release cord, tripping that latch and then raising the door. You can make this impossible to accomplish by removing the handle on the end of that cord, leaving just the cord.
But that doesn’t solve the problem of the doors themselves being weak. In a time of emergency, you can make your overhead garage doors stronger by backing them up with plywood. However, this renders the door inoperable, so it’s not something that can be left that way all the time. To make the door truly secure at all times, the aluminum overhead door should be replaced by wood carriage house doors.