The 4 Layers of Effective Home Defense
by Brian LaMaster
If there is anyplace you should feel secure, it's in your home. But statistically speaking, your home is the most dangerous place to be simply because you spend so much time there.
There are over 2 million reported home invasions every year, including burglaries, rapes, kidnappings, murders, and hostage situations. In a 10-year period, you face a 1 in 5 chance that your home will be invaded. Over a 20-year period, the odds are about 50/50 that you'll be the victim of some form of home invasion.
Many people plan for this by purchasing a firearm. Being armed is always a good idea, but a gun isn't the only answer. And it's certainly not a “plan.” Preparing for home defense is really about creating layers of deterrence to lower the odds that a bad guy will enter your home. Plus, you need to establish a specific set of actions to take if someone does break in and presents a threat to you or your family.
For the average home owner, here are 4 simple “layers” of defense to consider:
Maintain the appearance of your home.
Burglars and bad guys are generally lazy opportunists. They look for easy targets. So if your home looks run down and your property is unkempt, you're sending a message that you're careless and vulnerable.
Mow your lawn and trim your shrubs on a regular basis. Clear debris from your property. Never leave ladders outside, which could be used to gain entry to upper floors or balconies. Clear away loose rocks, bricks, and other small, heavy items that can be used to batter doors or break glass.
Keep your windows shut if you are not home. Get into the habit of locking doors even if you are home. Change the factory code on your garage door opener. If the garage door does not need to be open, then keep it closed. What about your basement windows? Are they reinforced with glass block? Do you have bars over the windows? Ground level windows provide easy points of entry.
Add visual deterrents to the outside of your home.
Even if you keep up with your home's appearance, a criminal might consider breaking in anyway. So you want to provide some visual cues that make him think twice and, ideally, encourage him to move on.
If you like dogs, get one. A big one. Criminals never want to tangle with a dog. But it's important to make sure anyone casing your house knows you have a dog. A dog house, a big chain, a water or food dish, or dog warning signs are all great ways to send the message. And they can work even if you don't actually have a dog. Yes, your neighbors may know the truth, but bad guys often case a house as they drive or walk by and won't know the difference.
Video surveillance systems also offer strong deterrence. No one wants to get caught on camera. And video systems send a signal that you take security seriously. It can make criminals wander what other surprises you might have waiting for them.
Security service signs are a popular deterrent. Most security companies includes yard signs and window decals as part of their service when you install a new system. Use them. Post signs prominently at key entry points and place decals on first floor windows.
Strengthen all points of entry.
Given enough time and the proper motivation, you can enter a house any number of ways. But criminals will almost always use the obvious entry points: doors and windows.
The reliability of your doors depends on the quality of your home's construction. It is shocking how poorly build some homes and apartments really are. A door is only as strong as the frame, so if you're able, check the framing and reinforce it if necessary.
Replace cheap locks with heavy, high-quality deadbolts on all exterior doors. Dead bolts should go as far into the wood frame as possible with 3-inch screws securing the striker plate to the frame. If you have glass panes on your doors or windows right next to doors, use key-operated deadbolts. Locks with knobs on the inside can be unlocked by simply breaking a nearby pane of glass and reaching inside.
For windows, be sure they are all locked. By their very nature, windows are easily broken. So if you have a security system, consider having sensors connected to each window or using glass break detectors.
You can even use landscaping and lighting to strengthen points of entry. For example, install thorny bushes below windows. Remove low branches on trees that can be used to climb to upper floors or reach a skylight. Remove bushes and trees that provide cover or darkness near entry points. Add landscape lighting, motion-activated lights, or flood lights to brighten and expose entry points.
There is nothing you can do to make your house invulnerable. The idea is to do whatever you can to slow down intruders. Bad guys generally want to get in and out fast. The more time you can make them spend gaining entry, the more time there is to detect their presence, notify authorities, or take other action to protect your loved ones.
Create and practice a home defense plan.
Even if you've kept up with your home's appearance, added visual deterrents, and strengthened points of entry, it's still possible for someone to break in. And when they do, you need to be prepared. You and your family need a plan and must be able to execute that plan without confusion or hesitation.
It is difficult to provide specifics on this point, because your plan depends on your particular situation. You must consider the size and layout of your home, how many other people live with you, the ages and abilities of each member of your household, and so on. However here are a few basic considerations.
First, it's wise to have a “safe” room. The relative strength of this room depends on how much money you can spend. It can be nothing more than an extra bedroom that you've secured with a heavy door, thick hinges, reinforced frame, and a deadbolt lock. Or it could be a custom “vault” with hardened walls, survival supplies, weapons, and independent systems for power, ventilation, and communication.
Second, it's vital to be realistic. Your plan should take into account at least 3 different scenarios: 1) the break-in happens when you're home, 2) the break-in happens when you're not home, and 3) the break-in is ongoing when you arrive home.
In each of these scenarios, you must ask yourself vital questions that will affect how you react. Is it day or night? Are you armed? If you aren't carrying your gun, can you get to if quickly? How many attackers will you face? What other family members are involved and what part do they play? Should you escape or run to your safe room?
Finally, practice, evaluate, and make improvements. The simpler your plan, and the more scenarios it covers, the better. Run your plan the way you would a fire drill. Get the whole family involved so that everyone knows what to do. For children, this can even be turned into a game to see how fast you can execute your plan. Just as with anything else, only repetition will enable you to execute your plan efficiently when your home is breached.
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Brian LaMaster is President of Innovative Tactical Concepts and a nationally-respected expert with more than 25 years of experience in armed and unarmed combatives. Brian teaches a variety of firearms and self defense courses to civilians, military, and law enforcement, including Indiana and Ohio concealed carry (CCW), home defense, and tactical rifle and shotgun. He also provides instruction in unarmed self defense and defensive knife tactics. As a Personal Protection Specialist, Brian has provided security for celebrities such as heavyweight champion boxer James “Buster” Douglas and Dave Canterbury, co-star of the Discovery Channel's Dual Survival.