A frank reality is that home defense is something everyone needs to plan for.
Although crime may be very low in your area, that can change quickly. Plenty of high crime areas started as nice safe communities.
Many factors have contributed to areas becoming unsafe. The economic conditions due to COVID-19 have pushed many people into precarious financial straits. And when people are desperate, they’ll do things they would never have previously considered.
Similarly, the opioid crisis is directly linked to a rise in various crimes in communities and cities throughout America where use of these drugs is high.
Making the situation worse, a growing number of police officers are quitting due to lack of public support and/or open hostility towards them (e.g., “Defund the police!”). Fewer officers mean slower response times.
And for some crimes, police departments have informed residents that they won’t even send an officer out. Theft under $1,000 is not even considered a major crime in most cities and towns now.
The two epochal events of 2020 — the coronavirus pandemic and the nationwide protests over police violence — were likely factors in the increase in slayings, two of the report’s authors said. The pandemic limited proactive anti-crime strategies by both police and social workers, commission director Thomas Abt said, and reduced focus on urban hot spots known to be large sources of violence.
The same article above points out that other violent crimes are down, but these statistics are misleading. If a crime (e.g., robbery or rape) escalates to murder, it’s counted as murder. So it’s improbable that other forms of violent crime haven’t risen, too.
If you live in a rural area, it can take more than 30 minutes to get any help at all if you find yourself in a violent situation. This is why it’s so important to take the initiative to have a good defense plan in place.
Reaction To Violence
Many Americans are familiar with physical violence only through moves, television and video games.
Unless employed in the military, the police or a hospital, the closest most may come to it is perhaps a childhood fistfight at school.
Understanding how many modern American’s may react to violence is critical to keeping you and your family safe. Because they don’t understand it well, they don’t take it seriously.
A recent example of this is shown in this graphic video from Pennsylvania (warning: graphic subject material):
Neighbors start out fighting verbally, and then one pulls a gun. The woman in the video doesn’t run or take cover; in fact, she continues to taunt the enraged man and pulls out her cell phone to video everything. She lost her life.
We can learn from this incident the importance of backing off and not escalating the situation when someone is clearly acting irrationally. While there was a lot of name-calling and taunting before the couple was gunned down, there was plenty of time for them to run to safety or call law enforcement if they’d so chosen.
If you watched any of the live broadcasts of civil unrest during the spring and summer of 2020, you would have seen many similar incidents where people ignored just how dire the situation was.
One video that particularly stood out to me is this one from Atlanta back in June:
This was Atlanta last night. pic.twitter.com/0tCsOUcAXX
— Grace (@reallygraceful) June 20, 2020
Even with people yelling “get down” and the sound of gunfire all around, the unfortunate girl in this video appears to have kept walking towards the danger rather than taking cover.
She wasn’t the only one. Only after the girl gets shot do you see the majority of people sheltering or running.
You need to remind yourself and your family that violence is chaotic. They’re not safe just because they aren’t the initial target. Bystanders or family members of intended targets get hurt or killed all the time.
Don’t go towards the violence! If you find yourself near it, take cover or getaway as quickly as possible, depending on the situation.
Security Solutions For Home, Farm Or Office
I like to think of defense in layers.
Your first layer is your property line. A lot of people like to have a fence along this perimeter as the first layer of defense.
Inner layers can consist of driveway alarms, gates, dogs, and finally, well-fortified doors and windows.
In-home defenses include alarms, safes, your weapons of choice, and maybe even a safe room if you want to take things to another level.
Window Security Film
Over the years, I’ve often recommended window security film as an inexpensive and straightforward way to make your home or business more secure.
The film consists of a thick plastic that prevents the glass from breaking into dangerous shards. This makes it useful not only for preventing robberies and intruders but for protecting your family from projectiles during hurricanes, storms, and civil unrest.
Some of you may remember that massive explosion that happened at the docks in Beirut. A lot of injuries came from broken glass. But if windows with security film on them don’t turn into extra sharp shards when blown out, thus greatly reducing the potential for injuries.
This film is usually transparent, but there are mirrored or tinted options so that people can’t see into your home or car, but you can see out.
Major online retailers like Amazon sell many different alarms that attach to windows and make loud high-pitched noise if the window is opened. These alarms are inexpensive (so renters or those living in dormitories should buy them, too).
Know Your Access Points
The more points of access there are to your property, the easier it is to breach. You want at least on security feature in place at each access point.
Don’t forget to consider easy non-traditional approaches, either. If someone can walk through an area easily and stay concealed, consider that a security threat.
Any exterior door is a security hazard.
Luckily there are plenty of inexpensive ways to prevent your door from being pried open or busted down. For extra security, you can use a combination of the options listed below:
Armor Concepts is a company that sells easy to install door reinforcement kits for regular and mobile home doors. All you need is a good screwdriver, but the job is a lot easier with a cordless drill.
This is a solution that renters can use without causing any unsightly or noticeable changes to the door.
A modern door bar is an improved version of a board slid into two holders across a door. One doesn’t cost a lot and greatly multiplies the force needed to break your door in.
A doorstop attaches to the floor (see photo above) and like a door bar, makes it substantially harder for a burglar to force your door open.
Some versions feature a floor plate with a separate piece that slides in when you want to secure your door, while others have a heavy piece that drops in.
Replace the screws on your door hardware with longer ones
Replacing screws can be accomplished for just a few dollars per door and adds a lot of strength to your door.
Chain Locks & Deadbolts
Don’t underestimate the power of a good chain lock.
Sometimes a chain lock is the last lock that fails on a door. I was amazed to learn this on a MythBusters episode. I had fully expected that a little chain lock would be the *weakest* link.
A good deadbolt is a significant help, too.
In areas where crime is on the rise or is a continuing problem, multiple locks and door reinforcements are a good idea.
A lot of robberies occur via the door of an attached garage. These doors are generally easier to get open than the front or rear doors of your home.
So the door that goes from your garage into your home needs to be well reinforced, too, and kept locked.
Also, a more robust and secure garage door is advisable if you own your home. If you rent, consider what you store in your garage wisely.
Garages are also a tempting spot for criminals to hide and wait on you. There have been cases of people waiting outside and running in as the door is opened and closed. You need to be alert and observant during these times, which can be difficult when all you want to do is take your shoes off after a long workday.
Motion Sensors and Lighting
Lighting that comes on when motion is detected can deter trespassers from going any further. It also allows you with a well-lit area when you return home after dark.
There is a huge selection of security camera systems out there. You should get one, though I will say no single model is perfect.
For example, wireless cameras connected via wifi can be hacked, which means that someone could use your security system to spy on you — exactly the opposite of what you want.
Cameras that alert your phone when there’s a potential break-in or someone’s at your door are useful.
I have a friend who installed a Nest camera at her business. Within two days, the camera reported someone at the door with burglary tools. Even though she lives 40 miles from her office, she was able to alert the authorities and the culprit was quickly caught before doing any harm.
Some people use a combination of real cameras and fake ones to give the impression of a robust security system.
Whatever set-up you choose, remember that camera placement is important. Cameras are subject to damage if thieves can see them. So consider a combination of visible and hidden placements.
People and animals tend to follow the path of least resistance.
While practically any fence can be breached if someone is determined enough or has the right tools, a fence can encourage someone to find an easier target, buy you time to react to the threat, or force them to use another point of access that might be better defended.
Fences act as a funnel when dealing with frequent foot traffic as well, moving the “flow” away from invading your privacy.
Some people go so far as to put spikes or wire atop their fences. If you’re in a particularly high-crime area, that may be worth considering.
(We added a German Shepherd puppy in September. He is just 5 months old in this pic. Now he is 9 months old and knows many commands and how to put the sheep in the barn. We also have 2 Great Pyrenees and a Labrador Retriever mix.)
Many people assume that they need a huge dog to make any difference in their home security. That’s not true.
While larger dogs have their advantages, any dog that makes a lot of noise when someone enters their territory is beneficial. Their barking makes it a lot harder for someone to catch you unawares, and it draws other people’s attention in the area.
Consider a German Shepherd, Great Pyrenees, or Doberman Pinscher if you have the space for larger dogs. These breeds make great family dogs as well.
German Shepherds are easy to find in the US. I recommend the Czech and DDR bloodlines. They have a lot of good instincts and have a longer lifespan than American German Shepherd bloodlines.
A driveway alarm is an excellent alert for anyone approaching your property or pulling into the driveway. If you have a long driveway, it can allow you quite a bit of time before someone arrives. Some driveway alarms are hardwired, while others are wireless. The terrain and topography of your property can affect how well an alarm works. I live in the mountains and have discovered that some alarms do not work so well if there are many barriers like trees or hills between the point of the alarm and the house where the signal has to go.
Ensure that you read any product descriptions thoroughly and measure the distance you need to consider between the sensor and receiver. When in doubt, burying some cable will work but requires some work.
Some plants can make it harder for anyone to enter your home through windows, and some can make it easier. Spiky and thorny plants underneath ground floor windows are an excellent deterrent, and some can be quite beautiful!
- Devil’s Club
Taller trees that are near windows can provide a method of entry for a determined criminal. Consider trimming any trees that could help provide access to 2nd and 3rd story windows.
In 2020, a record number of firearms were sold. Many of these were sold to new gun owners. Regardless of what the media says, people from across the political, racial, or gender spectrum became new gun owners.
My Vietnam veteran father raised me on his own and taught me how to handle firearms safely and shoot when I was around six years old. I started with a .22, and then he helped me shoot AK-47s and SKS rifles.
I think that every home should have a firearm and hope they never have to use it. Firearms are equalizers. If someone lacks strength or ability, a gun can help even the playing field. There are plenty of people that look for people they perceive as weaker so that they can take advantage of them.
A good 12g shotgun is a reasonable solution for a basic and affordable gun for home defense. It is easy to use even if you are relatively inexperienced. A shotgun blast is less likely than a bullet to travel into adjoining rooms or homes, so they are a better option for those living close to other people.
Handguns are easier to conceal and take up less space. They also cost more than an inexpensive shotgun. Concealed carry laws vary by state or city.
A handgun in the following calibers is most common: 9mm, .380, .357, or .45. Choosing a common caliber means it is easier to find affordable ammo during regular times — though at the moment, practically all ammo is expensive or hard to find.
I’ve spoken with several dealers, and they stated that it will likely be several years before ammo availability and prices have any hope of returning to normal. Of course, that is dependent on no restrictive legislation passing in the meantime.
If you’re new to this topic, Peak Prosperity has a truly excellent Selecting A Firearm guide. It’s extremely comprehensive; the best I’ve seen on the internet.
Non Lethal Methods of Self Defense
Generally speaking, non-lethal weapons are anything that isn’t a gun or a knife. Here’s a brief list of things you can buy to defend yourself:
- Baseball bat ( Some people say that it is wise to have a glove with the batt so you can claim it is just sports equipment)
- Pepper Spray (Pepper gel works better and is less likely to form a cloud that incapacitates the person using it) You can get larger canisters for mounting in cabinets or walls of your home for easy access.
- Kubatons and other keychain weapons
- Tasers or stun guns
- Any everyday object that can be used as a bludgeon
Never forget that just because something is considered non-lethal doesn’t mean it can’t kill when wielded with force. People can have underlying conditions that make them more susceptible to cardiac problems if they are pepper-sprayed, for example. “Non-lethal” means that it is unlikely to cause death if used to buy enough time to get away from the danger.
Consider A Bug Out Bag For Each Family Member
It’s a good idea to have a bag packed with essentials if you have to leave your home for any emergency.
Bug-out bags are useful if you have to evacuate for natural disasters or if conditions get so unsafe that you feel your life is in danger. While many people have the intent of standing their ground and defending their home, there can be a point when temporarily leaving your home is the one thing you can do to significantly increase the odds that you will not be harmed in some way.
What Information Are You Sharing With The World?
What assumptions can someone make about you based on the appearance of your home?
Do you fly any flags, post-political signs, or have any décor that makes a statement?
While I believe in free speech and freedom of expression, I have to point out that sometimes you have to choose between risking others’ wrath to make a point or taking a more discreet approach.
Is it essential that everyone that drives by your home knows what political parties you support? Do you need to have signs up that say other things that could rub someone the wrong way?
It is certainly your right to express your opinion. Make your choice, but be aware of potential consequences during tumultuous times and how that could affect your loved ones.
What you put on the back of your car can tell someone a lot about you. If you care about security, don’t put stickers on your car that shows how many family members you have or where people work or go to school. I realize that some stickers are required for employee parking and cannot be avoided, but anything beyond that is giving away unnecessary info to strangers.
I never post anything on social media that tells anyone that I will be leaving my home for any length of time. Avoid letting the world know that you are on vacation or away. You should consider how many people you tell that you are reasonably close to. Just because they would never steal or do something doesn’t mean they won’t unwittingly mention that you are away so that others know.
While it is always tempting to show off photos of what you are up to, you should wait until you return home. Most things are not so important that they cannot wait. Don’t Livestream every aspect of your life so that someone that wishes you harm has an easier time planning.
Talk to your kids and teens about what they reveal online. Texting among close friends is a lot different than public posts with lots of details. During the pandemic, I heard plenty of parents complaining that their kids had told friends about how much food and cleaning supplies they had on hand. That type of info sharing can lead to trouble during a real long-term emergency. There were cases of robberies in areas where shortages were worse.
Shared info can be used to manipulate vulnerable household members into dangerous situations.
When Conditions Get Worse
Unfortunately, many people have recently experienced some dangerous situations due to rioting and unrest in cities and suburbs. Regardless of your political or moral opinions, it is easier than you might think to find yourself in a danger zone.
This section will concentrate on defensive methods if you are in an area where civil unrest is rampant and conditions do not show signs of improving. Hopefully, you never have to experience a situation like this.
Protection From Projectiles
Projectiles are a significant problem during times of civil unrest. There are several ways to gain some protection:
Remove any lawn furniture or decor that could be used as a projectile or weapon.
During times of civil unrest, anything that is easy to pick up could get damaged or be used to inflict damage. Small lawn statues and chairs are particularly tempting.
As mentioned before, this protective film will prevent your windows from easily shattering.
Good old-fashioned chicken wire is available at any farm and garden store. When it is stretched tightly over windows, it can deflect some projectiles, including Molotov Cocktails.
You see window grilles in many cities, especially in areas where crime is a problem. Typically these are only found on the first-floor windows. They are not pretty to look at, and staring out of them can feel prison-like. The advantages are that they are very effective. They are made of heavy-duty iron. The cost to purchase and install is prohibitive if you just want some basic security.
Keychain Perimeter Alarms
Giving yourself extra time to react to a perceived threat is helpful. You can purchase keychain alarms and use string or fishing line to make tripwires. If someone crosses the line, the alarm will sound.
If you keep a roll of barbed wire on hand, you can use it to make it harder for someone to gain entry through windows, doors, fences, and more. Sure barbed wire can be cut, but most people are not walking around with the tools for that.
Create A Safe Room
Rooms that face streets or have a lot of windows are the least safe in your home. A room towards the center is safer from projectiles. You can even fortify it with mattresses and other large objects.
Here are FEMA’s guidelines for creating a safe room.
While it’s unpleasant to think about crime or violence happening to you and your family, it’s a good idea to get outside your comfort zone and plan for some of these scenarios.
Taking control of the security and well-being of your family is empowering and worthwhile. The average person can do a lot to prevent becoming a victim. Many criminals look for the easiest target. Anything you can do to make yourself a more difficult one increases the odds that you won’t have any major problems.
Talking to your family about how to react if they find themselves in or near a potentially violent situation is important. The faster they can get to safety, the better. Delayed reactions or standing around to get “proof” by filming is not a good idea when your life is on the line.