In the previous post of the Home Defense 101 series, we talked about deterrence with a focus on actions one can take to make a home a less appealing target and therefore stop a potential intruder before they begin to attempt entering the home. However, that’s not always enough to deter an intruder from starting their intrusion. In my mind, fortification is the next logical home defense aspect to discuss as it serves as an additional opportunity to deter an intrusion after it has begun.
Before we get into the details, I want to remind readers that criminals most often prefer an easy payday. They would rather not meet resistance. They would prefer to not get caught. They certainly don’t want to get shot. As Tom Givens mentioned in the Combative Pistol class I attended, “no one goes into a fist fight thinking they won’t take a punch, so no one should go into a gunfight thinking they won’t get shot.” As such, defenders should remember the adage of “a fight avoided is a fight won”.
With that in mind, let’s get into fortifications. Fortifications harden the home by reducing entry points and making entry points hard to breach. I find that most folks tend to fixate on the boundary between the inside of a home and the outside world when thinking of entry points. While that boundary is certainly important, there are additional boundaries to consider including, but not limited to, the community boundary, the property boundary, and even boundaries inside of a home. Combined together, these boundaries provide layers of resistance and each of them provides an opportunity to change an intruder’s mind. Time to peel the onion.
The community boundary is the outermost boundary that one may have some extent of influence over. In an urban setting, this boundary might be the condominium building entrance or the boundary to the residential floors in a building. It might be entrance gates and fencing that surrounds an apartment complex or a gated community. Not all communities have a man-made physical barrier, but even these can benefit from “tactical landscaping” to help control or influence the ingress and egress of the community. It should be noted that the presence of a physical barrier, man-made or otherwise, can serve as a deterrent in of itself because the barrier presents an additional effort to overcome, increases the risk of detection, and limits the exit options which increases the chances of getting caught.
It’s important to know that community boundaries aren’t always hard to defeat. As such, they can create a false sense of security for some community residences which, in turn, may influence those residents to take a more relaxed approach to fortifying boundaries to their properties or dwellings. Take a moment to observe those boundaries. Note that not all entry points have security detail posted and are often opened or unlocked by residents with remote or a digital keypad. It’s not difficult for an outsider gain access to the community by simply following behind a resident. Some communities leave those entry points unlocked or open during high traffic hours as a convenience for their residents or to deduce repair costs resulting from wear and tear caused by regular use. Even if the community invests in posting security detail at those community entry points, consider how far the security guards are willing to go to protect a community they are most likely not a resident of.
Moving closer to the home we reach the property boundary. This is more applicable to single family homes in suburban environments and abodes in rural settings. Suburban homes may be limited in what can be done to fortify the property boundary due to limitations imposed by homeowner associations, but it’s worth exploring this boundary anyway. Like community boundaries, this boundary can be fortified with man-made or landscaping barriers both of which can be a very effective deterrent. Man-made barriers include fencing and walls. This can be as simple as a white picket fence or a tall stone or concrete wall. Taller and sturdier barriers require more effort to defeat, but can also limit an inhabitant’s visibility beyond the barrier. Another thing to consider is using materials that pose the promise of pain such as barbed or razor wire. A common tactic I noticed during my past travels to places like Mexico was decorating the top of concrete walls with shards of glass that had been cemented to it. Larger properties can benefit from multiple layers of fencing. This is actually very common in rural properties. Especially properties that manage livestock, although the primary function of most fences there are specifically for livestock management instead of security.
While landscaping barriers can be effective, it is important to recognize that landscaping can also be utilized as a means of concealment by an intruder. As such, selection and placement are critical along with maintenance and pruning. The promise of pain from a barrier can be accomplished by selecting thorny vegetation. However, that promise is present to both potential intruders and those who maintain the landscaping.
The next layer is the exterior of the home which can be fortified a number of different ways. For example, we can once again leverage “tactical landscaping” and place thick thorny bushes in front of accessible windows. This makes windows “harder to breach” because an intruder would be forced to overcome the obstacle and pain endured by overcoming said obstacle. In fact, an involuntary verbal ouch response to the pain could also alert an inhabitant to the presence of an intruder depending on the inhabitants proximity to the entry point and the volume of the verbal response. Here are a few other things we can do to fortify the home:
- Keep doors and windows closed and locked as much as possible so intruders can’t simply walk in
- Install exterior security bars on the windows to increase entry effort required
- Install security film on windows to make it harder for them to be smashed
- Install security doors on exterior doors to increase entry effort required
- Replace door hinge screws with 3″ screws make it more difficult to “kick a door in”
- Replace door locks with locks that use advanced tumblers that are harder to pick
- Adding a fence around the entire perimeter of the home increases the effort required to approach the home especially if the gate is locked
Fortifications inside of a dwelling are something that I see a lot of folks overlook. The two things to consider are “safe rooms” and safes to secure valuables. I won’t dive into safes since they pertain less to home defense and more to deter theft of valuable property or minimize unauthorized access to firearms, but it is certainly something to consider. Safe rooms can be a heavily fortified panic room complete with walls that are hard to penetrate and a vault door. However, these are expensive and a rare thing in a typical average American home. That said, a common home defense tactic is to designate a room as a safe room. Like a panic room, the designated safe room is the room which inhabitants can (and arguably should) retreat into in the event of a home invasion. That room can be fortified in several ways:
- Placing large heavy furniture (like bookshelves) anchored to studs along adjoining walls to make breaching the safe room through thin interior walls more difficult
- Replacing the thin hollow interior door with a heavy sturdy door (like an exterior facing door) which is harder to break
- Using heavy duty door hinges reinforced will long 3″ screws to make it more difficult to “kick in”
- Adding door locks with advanced tumblers that are harder to pick
I’m sure I’ve missed plenty of fortification ideas in this post. As such, I encourage readers to share their tips and tricks in the comments below.
Between this post and the previous one, we have covered home defense aspects that primarily give an intruder opportunities to decide against beginning or continuing their intrusion. Nevertheless, a motivated enough intruder may decide to proceed anyway as I stated in the opening of this post. The next post will explore the aspect of detection which is essential in order to buy time for inhabitants to initiate a response. Stay tuned.