A home invasion is one of the most terrifying things that can happen to you or your family. Once an intruder is inside, it can be too late to prevent the worst from happening. A criminal might only be interested in taking your valuables, or he might have more sinister plans such as kidnapping, rape or murder.
The best way to defend against a home intruder is to stop him before he gets inside. If you can convince a criminal that he can’t get what he wants easily at your house, he’ll likely move on to another target.
Don’t make the mistake of believing burglars only break into homes that look expensive or have fancy cars in the driveway. In reality, criminals are just as interested in finding a home that’s easy to break into as they are about what’s inside.
It’s up to you how hard or easy you make it for someone to get into your house. With that in mind, let’s look at seven strategies for transforming your house into a fortress.
Never Open the Door to Strangers
The number one rule of home defense is never open your door to strangers. The person on your doorstep may have an innocent enough story, like collecting for charity or needing a phone. but it only takes a second for someone to force their way inside, and once that happens, you’re at the intruder’s mercy. There won’t even be any sign of forced entry to tip off neighbors that you’re in trouble.
Steps you can take to prevent this include:
• Making a plan for every single time someone rings or knocks. Everyone in the house should know the rule is to never, ever open the door to strangers.
• Ask for ID. If someone is delivering something, ask for identification and call the company if you have any suspicions.
• Use the peephole. Make sure you have a peephole with a good view of your front porch, and you’ll also want a bright light so you can see who’s there.
• Don’t trust a chain latch. An intruder can easily kick the door in and break the chain, so it’s not safe to even partially open the door.
Lock Doors and Windows
Keep your doors locked at all times, whether you’re home or away. While it would be nice to live in a world where we could sleep with the doors unlocked, we can all probably agree we’re not in Mayberry anymore.
Unsecured doors and windows are common entry points, so you’ll want to:
• Install solid wood or metal doors plus Grade 1 or Grade 2 deadbolts.
• Use heavy-duty brass strike plates, using longer screws to secure them.
• Install brackets to keep windows from opening more than six inches, and keep windows locked.
• Don’t leave your garage door open. You’re basically advertising things to steal (and another entry point).
Install a Security System
You’ll want a security system with a loud alarm, placing signs near entrances to tell potential intruders you have a security system. Key considerations for any system include:
• Maintaining system integrity. Some systems have technology that prevents intruders from disabling the alarm by smashing the keypad.
• Keypad location. You don’t want burglars to be able to see whether your system is armed.
• Motion sensors. Installed in strategic locations, motion sensors provide added protection at night or when you’re away.
• Keeping codes secret. It’s important everyone in your house knows never to tell anyone the alarm codes.
Protect Your House When You’re Away
Many burglars strike when people are on vacation, so it’s critical you take steps to hide the fact that you’re not home. Here are some important steps to take to fool criminals:
• Have the post office hold your mail, and ask a neighbor to remove any packages, newspapers or flyers.
• Put inside lights on a timer.
• Leave a car parked in the driveway.
• If you live in a snowy area, have a neighbor make footprints and tire tracks in the untracked snow.
Secure Your Perimeter
Walk around the inside and outside of your entire home to find places where an intruder could break in without much effort. For example, maybe there’s a rickety or unused door that could be reinforced with a 2×4 barricade, or perhaps you notice your garbage cans make an ideal step stool for breaking into a window.
Other ways to secure the perimeter of your home and property include:
• Mount motion sensor lights outside your home and throughout your property.
• Install an inexpensive alarm that beeps when someone enters your driveway or gate and/or use cameras.
• Put up a fence to deter potential intruders (even better if it’s a tall one that’s hard to scale).
• Trim shrubs to minimize hiding places.
• Landscape with thorny bushes. This discourages intruders and may also collect evidence like DNA or clothing fibers if the person tries to break in.
Think Like a Burglar
Obviously you don’t want to leave your curtains open at night so passers-by can see your massive plasma TV. The same goes for leaving tools like ladders and crowbars in plain view, which a burglar could use to break in.
It’s important to think like an intruder to make sure you’re sending the message that your home isn’t an easy target. Here are a few ideas:
• Get a loud dog, or at least use “Beware of Dog” signs outside doors and gates.
• Put an NRA sticker in your front window.
• Consider getting a shotgun. Not only are they easier to aim, just the sound of cocking your shotgun may scare off an intruder. Of course, there are other safety considerations when buying a gun for home defense, but that’s an entirely different topic.
Make a Plan
Finally, you’ll want to be sure that you have a family emergency plan. Everyone needs to know in advance exactly what to do in case of a break-in. That means identifying possible escape routes, as well as designating a safe room if escape isn’t an option. Your safe room should have a pair of shoes, a flashlight, cellphone and charger (even a disabled phone can call 911).
At the end of the day, the best way to keep your family safe from intruders is to make sure they never get past the front door. Take the steps outlined here, and you’ll be well on your way to making your home a true fortress.