Last month, I talked about guns you might consider when defending your home. Maybe what I should have talked about first was how to keep your home from being invaded in the first place—or if it is, what you should plan and prepare for. Using a gun in defense of your home, like anywhere else, should be as a last resort.
Shooting too quickly could still land you in some legal trouble, depending on the state you live in. As always, check your local laws and abide by them.
PREPARE THE OUTSIDE
Look at your home in terms of security zones. The first is your outer security zone—the perimeter of your property. Next is your middle security zone. This is the area immediately around the structure of your home. The last is your inner security zone—the area inside your home.
FORTIFYING YOUR CASTLE
Putting up signs, fences and motion sensors can help with your outer security. Lighting and protective plants can help with the middle security. Alarms, strong door locks, cameras and guard dogs will help with your inner security.
You want to make your home uninviting to the criminal element. Take a walk around your house during the day, as well as at night. Look for any entry points that are easy to get to. Low windows, glass-paneled doors and dog doors are easy places to gain entry. Your outside should be lit up at night—especially any of those entry points.
FORTIFY YOUR HOME
It would be nice to have bars on all your windows and doors, but that can be an inconvenience, and it makes your house look like a prison. Instead, what you might do is reinforce all your outside door hinges with 3-inch screws that reach the frame of the house and not just the flimsy door frame.
In addition, put those screws on your door lock faceplate and striker plates. The lock on your door is only as good as the connection it has to your door and the frame of the house. Finally, solid wood or steel doors are a must for exterior doors.
When lighting the outside of your home, make sure to place lights high enough to prevent tampering, and replace lights that burn out as soon as possible. Arrange lighting to overlap coverage of your home to prevent dead spots. I like motion-sensing lights, but they need to be set so they don’t pick up every stray bird and squirrel.
With modern technology, you can now have a system that can connect to your smartphone and alert you when a light goes off. If your budget allows, cameras are also a big plus. If it’s a wired system, make sure to protect the wires from tampering.
If your house is already landscaped, you might only need to trim things back to make sure you have not created a blind spot that allows an intruder unfettered access to your home. If you are looking to provide protective landscaping, think about placing thorny bushes or plants below windows and other access points. Finding a plant that can make it more difficult and/or painful for entry or concealment will help to protect your home (after all, concertina wire might be going overboard, and it can raise the collective eyebrows of your HOA). Check with a local landscaper about what grows in your area.
There are many companies that can install a whole-home system and provide monitoring. If you are a DIY kind of person, you can find systems you can install. Either way, you should consider what the response time is if monitored.
Install an outside alarm to draw attention to your home. It also helps to direct law enforcement when they arrive. If you have a safe room, make sure you can activate the alarm from there if it hasn’t already gone off. Most new systems run off cellular service to prevent deactivation by cutting phone wires.
DEVELOP YOUR PLAN
FIRE DRILL – Now that you have taken care of all these tasks, you need to make sure you have a plan in the event it actually happens. You should also practice your plan.
I recommend that you do not share your plan with others outside your family. Studies show that most homeowners know the home invader. Casual conversation can lead to others knowing your preparations. Be careful who has keys or codes to your home. Make use of one-time visitor codes for alarms. Do not leave house keys on your key ring when servicing your car; also remove your garage door opener. Both can be copied.
ALONE OR WITH OTHERS
Your plan should cover how you are going to get to others in the house to protect them. It should also include what they will do if you can’t get to them in time. Are they going to try and escape, hide or join in defending the home? If they are joining in, the plan becomes more complicated so that no one is shot by friendly fire.
If you must make your way to others, do it slowly. Be careful using lights or lasers rounding corners, because they can give away your position to intruders.
As annoying as your squeaky floor is (and maybe worse, your spouse complaining about it), those squeaks let you know where an intruder is in your house. This gives you the advantage. In addition, think about placing bells or chimes on door handles. (As an added benefit, the one on your front door will let you know your dog needs to go outside.)
If you’re reading Gun World, I will make the leap of faith that you own a gun and that it is part of your home-defense plan. If it is, you should know where it is when you are at home. More importantly, you should be able to get to it quickly. Many home invasions happen while the homeowner is home. If you have to cross an entry point to retrieve your gun, it’s not doing you much good. Whether you have it on you or stored in one of the many other devices available, you need to practice getting to it.
Practice from wherever your routine has you in your home and whatever you might be doing, whether sitting in your recliner, lying down in bed or eating a meal at the dinner table. Don’t simply go over scenarios in your mind … physically practice!
FIGHT OR FLIGHT?
If you have a safe room, get to it, and secure yourself and loved ones. If not, try to barricade yourself where you are and wait for law enforcement. Put a solid-core door on a room that is also serving as a safe room. You might also want to replace drywall on the exterior of that room with plywood or another solid material to make it more difficult to gain entry.
If intruders make their way to where you are, attempt to discourage them from entering. Let them know you are armed and will fire if they enter. In this case, you have the advantage. Most rooms offer one entry, and your assailant must come through that to get to you. Commonly referred to as the “fatal funnel,” it highlights the person upon entry.
Hopefully, you are in contact with 911. Keep that person on the phone until law enforcement arrives. The recording made of your phone call might also help you during an investigation if there is a shooting.
For most situations, if you can escape, do so. The number of variables during a break-in is enormous. There could be multiple assailants; they could be armed; and the time for help could be 15 to 20 minutes away (or more). Your plan should include where everyone is going and how you will account for your loved ones.
The Justice Department cites more than 2 million homes broken into each year. Of that number, over one-third happen while someone is home. Many of the intruders are armed with either a firearm or other type of weapon.
While there is always danger in the world, you can do things to lessen the chance that you will be a victim. Most break-ins happen because that target is easy: quick in and quick out.
If you are prepared and do things to make your home a “harder target,” chances are you will be bypassed in lieu of an easier victim.
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the June 2017 print issue of Gun World Magazine.