For most of us, protecting our home is common sense. We lock our doors and windows when we leave, set the security alarm and trust that everything we own will be waiting for us when we get back. If there’s a problem, we’re counting on the alarm company to let us and the appropriate authorities know. Of course, this plan relies on things like electricity and emergency services infrastructure.
In a dire circumstances like an apocalypse, how can you protect your property if you can’t rely on police or the fire company to show up? Here are 10 creative ways to protect your home in a survival situation.
1. Upgrade Your Deadbolt
The deadbolt on your exterior doors helps to secure your home when you’re away, but if you haven’t replaced it in a while or upgraded your entryway, you could be putting yourself at a disadvantage when it comes to security. With an old door or a worn-out doorjamb, it’ll take a persistent thief less than five seconds to kick your door in and make their way into your home. According to FBI statistics, 65% of break-ins occur when a thief forces an exterior door open.
Check your existing deadbolt to see how far it extends. If it’s shorter than 1 inch or wobbles when locked, you should replace it.
Next, check the screws that secure both the deadbolt and the strike plate. If it still has the original hardware installed, chances are high that the screws are 1/2 inch or less in length. These screws will tear out of the doorjamb quickly if enough pressure is applied. Replace them with 3-inch wood screws to reinforce the jamb.
Finally, install a new deadbolt. Grade 1 or 2 deadbolts are ideal for home security. If you have any exterior doors that don’t have a deadbolt, make sure to install one. Without it, anyone can bend the doorjamb enough to get the handle’s latch to release with nothing more than a pry bar or long screwdriver.
2. Get a Dog
Robbers and looters are almost always opportunistic and looking for the easiest score. They want homes they can get into and out of quickly and undetected, which means well-lit properties and ones with security cameras are usually off-limits. In a survival situation, if using security cameras isn’t an option, a barking dog can be the next best deterrent. A news station interviewed 86 reformed thieves and asked them how they chose their targets. Most admitted that a large or loud dog in a home would discourage them from targeting the property.
While a dog isn’t a fool-proof solution to protect your home, especially if their bark is worse than their bite, it can discourage the casual thief from targeting your property.
3. Replace Lightweight Doors
While the exterior doors of your home might be heavyweight, the interior ones are often hollow and won’t provide much protection from home invaders. A determined individual can break through one of those doors with their fists or feet without too much difficulty. If you want to protect your home, replacing those lightweight, hollow doors with something more substantial can improve your home security.
Choose your doors carefully. Solid wood can help keep your house quieter because it prevents sound transmission from room to room. If you’re concerned about fire, investing in fire-resistant doors might be a good idea. These doors can provide up to 30 minutes of protection in the event of a house fire, giving you time to wake up and get yourself and your family to safety. And of course, if someone breaks in, you can easily block their path or protect yourself with a locked door.
4. Keep Your Landscaping in Check
If the world as we know it ends, it’ll be tempting to let your landscaping grow out of control since you won’t have a homeowners’ association breathing down your neck anymore, but that kind of unchecked growth can also hamper your security efforts. Keep any shrubs in your front yard trimmed down so that thieves can’t hide behind them.
You may also want to consider planting ‘barrier shrubs’ around your property. This term is a broad name for any plant with thorns or sharp leaves that will hurt if someone tries to crawl across or hide behind them. Even rose bushes can serve as barrier shrubs — plus they look gorgeous when they bloom.
An unkempt yard tells thieves that there’s probably no one home, so they may target your property if you leave your lawn unattended. Keep your landscaping in check if you want to keep your home safe.
5. Install Bollards
The strongest door in the world doesn’t do you a whole lot of good if someone drives a car into your foyer. Bollards, or steel poles filled with concrete, are something you usually see in front of businesses or other commercial buildings, protecting these facilities from a runaway car or truck that could cause thousands of dollars of damage. Why not install some of these protective devices in front of your home?
You’ll have a number of different options when you’re choosing bollards, but in this situation, you’ll want to opt for crash-resistant models. You can choose removable models if you’re going to need to get large vehicles in and out of your garage, but for the rest of your home, permanent bollards are the better choice.
6. Build a Fence
While having a white picket fence might be part of the American Dream, it isn’t going to do much to protect your home, especially in a survival situation. Skip the wooden privacy fences and other products you could install for aesthetics in favor of a fence that doesn’t offer hiding places, can’t be bypassed and is hard to climb over.
Our favorite option for home security is a wrought iron fence that’s at least eight feet tall. They look amazing, they’re difficult to scale and they’re impossible to cut through unless you’re bringing a welding torch with you. This kind of fence isn’t always an option, however, depending on the limits set in place by the relevant homeowner’s association or local building codes.
If you can’t surround your property with an eight-foot-tall fence, try a smaller fence. It might not be as intimidating as a taller option, but it still provides a mental barrier and makes it more difficult for burglars to get into and out of your home. That white picket fence can help discourage thieves and looters while making your house look great in the process.
7. Buy a Safe
Even if a burglar manages to get into your home, you don’t have to make it easy for them to get away with your valuables. Most home security experts recommend storing valuables, from cash and jewelry to important documents, inside a safe within the home.
If you opt for a small safe, make sure you anchor it to the floor or to a wall stud based on where you place it. If it’s small enough to pick up and move, it can’t do a very good job of protecting your valuables. A savvy thief can just walk off with it and open it at their leisure.
Keep your guns, if you have any, secured in a separate gun safe. Firearms are often targeted by thieves because of their high resale value and the fact that they can be used in a crime without law enforcement being able to trace it back to the culprit.
Safes don’t just protect your valuables from theft. If you invest in a waterproof and fireproof model, they can also protect your important documents and valuable items from damage in the event of a fire or flood.
8. Upgrade Your Windows
Your home’s windows are among the property’s most vulnerable entryways. While it’s noisy, it takes little effort to break a window and get into someone’s home. If you’re concerned about home security, your property’s windows should be your first priority.
Start by upgrading the latches on your existing windows. The sash locks you probably have on your home’s double-hung windows are easy to bypass with a thin blade inserted between the sash and the frame. Hinge-wedge locks will let you open the window partially without letting intruders in — which is ideal if you like to let some fresh air in — while folding locks are much harder to bypass. You can even install keyed sash locks that won’t open unless you insert a key.
You may also want to install bars outside the windows or replace the existing glass with safety glass to prevent someone from breaking in by shattering the window. If you live in a multi-story property, you may only need to protect first-story windows and any second-story ones that are easy to reach from the ground, as well as any windows that lead into the basement.
9. Secure Your Garage Door
A garage door is a great way to get in and out of your home, but it’s not the most secure thing in the world. In a survival situation, it might provide an easy way for thieves or looters to get inside. A thief can make their way into your garage in less than six minutes just by reaching the door’s emergency release handle with a coat hanger. That way, they can disable the automatic door opener and make off with whatever they can carry.
Fortunately, you can protect yourself and secure the garage with something as simple as a zip tie. Connect one to the loop on the emergency latch to prevent anyone from activating it. You’ll need to snip the zip tie if you need to open your garage in an emergency, but that’s a small price to pay to keep your garage secure and protect your family and belongings.
10. Keep Things Lit Up
This last tip might be challenging in a survival situation, especially if local electrical infrastructure has collapsed, but one of the best things you can do to protect your home is to employ sufficient lighting.
Having dark areas around your home is like an invitation to thieves, giving them shadows to hide in while they break into your home and make off with your belongings. Keep the area around your property lit up. Your lights don’t need to be the brightest ones in the world, and if you have neighbors, you probably don’t want to make them excessively bright or you risk getting complaints. Instead, aim for uniform coverage and as few dark spaces as possible.
Don’t give thieves anywhere to hide. Consider adding solar lights to your landscaping — these lights charge during the day when the sun is up and glow all night long, adding a subtle layer of protection around your home without you having to worry about running wires or managing your property’s lighting if the power goes out.
If you’re on vacation, either have someone come house-sit or put your interior lights on timers to give the illusion that someone is still there. Thieves are more likely to hit dark houses, especially if it looks like you’ve been gone for a while or won’t be back anytime soon.
[Editor’s note: If you’d like to know precisely what you can do to better secure your home right now, read my book: 28 Powerful Home Security Solutions, 2nd edition. It’s full of dozens of great ways to stop burglars dead in their tracks, plus you’ll discover the three most effective home security measures, hands down.]
Always Be Prepared
Whether you’re protecting your home on an average day or during a survival situation or emergency, there are plenty of ways for you to keep your property and family safe without needing to rely on security systems or emergency services. You’ll need to start making these preparations before you require additional security, but everyone can benefit from a little bit of mindfulness when it comes to home security.
Start by assessing your current security needs and seeing where you can stand to improve things a bit. You might be surprised at how much work your current property needs, from taking better care of your landscaping to upgrading the locks on your windows to make it that much harder for thieves to break into your home.
Don’t let these suggestions scare you. Instead, use them to make your house a safer place for you and your family regardless of what’s going on outside.
[Note: This was a guest post.]