Home intruders are a major concern 24/7 in this country. The US averages about 3.6 million home invasions, and about 30% of them happen with somebody home. The average loss is about $2,300, and they most often happen during the day when somebody is at work. So what can we do about it?
If you are alerted of an intruder, you have a few options for actions you can take. The best plans involve a combination of these actions. Here are steps you could take when alerted of an intruder:
- Gather your family in a secure room. Pick a location that can only be entered from one direction. Pay special attention to children, the elderly, or the disabled as they will need extra help.
- If you have a weapon, get it ready. This could be a firearm or even just a blunt object. You have to plan for the worst and hope for the best. Always assume that intruders mean you harm.
- Contact the authorities if possible. Ideally, you should have somebody other than yourself designated to call 911 in this situation. If this is a large scale survival situation, you may need a neighbor to contact in place of the police.
- Focus on a choke point. You want to have a narrow channel between you and the intruder. Hallways and staircases are great for this. It forces the intruders into a small, exposed area allowing you to easily defend your family. It also is one of the few situations where one person can defend against multiple intruders as they are forced into a one on one situation.
Dos and Don’ts for Your System
You DO want to have the choice of how to deal with the intruder once alerted. You DON’T want the system to act as a booby trap and automatically injure or kill the intruder. This may look cool in the movies, but in most cases it is illegal and dangerous. It is easy for a family member or friend to accidently trip the system.
You DO want a system that covers all windows and doors for your building. You DON’T want it to be difficult to escape if you need to run. Early warning systems should be passive and non-obtrusive so you can run out a door any time you need to.
You DO want your system to reliably trip when somebody tries to break into your home. You DON’T want your system to be so sensitive that it has regular false alarms.
You DO want your system to provide thorough, hassle free security. You DON’T want it to require constant monitoring.
You DO want to use technology if you can afford it. You DON’T want to spend your life savings on a system.
Types of Systems
Standard Security Systems – These are your normal systems that many urban and suburban homes have installed. They normally have magnetic sensors on the doors and windows. The alarm has a keypad to disarm it and is tied to the authorities by either phone lines or a cellular signal. You can even set up these systems to remotely lock your doors, close your garage, and turn on your lights if you are willing to pay the fee.
Pros: Well advertised to deter thieves, loud, reliable detection, unlikely to have false alarms, can be controlled when away from home
Cons: Have high maintenance, dues, and installation costs, no better than an alarm during a widespread emergency, lines can be cut and signals can be blocked
Cameras – These have been used for years to deter crime, alert of crimes, and catch criminals. You can install digital cameras over your entrances to catch intruders. Most can be set to sound an alarm when motion is detected. You can also stream the video to your phone or computer, but there is typically a fee required.
Pros: Shows who the intruder is, no ongoing cost, easy to install
Cons: Somebody must monitor the feed, motion causes false alarms, notifies authorities
Silent Alert Alarms – These are fairly new systems that detect either motion or body heat and send a text message to your phone. There is no sound so it is not intended to scare away the intruder.
Pros: This works well if you are away from home, allows you to catch them in the act, allows you to check out the situation for false alarm, inexpensive
Cons: Does not alert the authorities, has an ongoing fee, prone to false alarms, does not scare off the intruder
Standard Motion Sensors – These have been around for a while and are typically tied to an alarm or a flood light. The light is much more subtle in just letting intruders know you are watching, while the alarm is much more direct. They can be installed easily and have virtually no ongoing maintenance. You can also take motion sensors with you in bug-out scenarios.
Pros: Inexpensive, the light is ideal if you expect false alarms, detects all movement including people, animals, and vehicles
Cons: No ties to authorities, prone to false alarms, cannot be shut down remotely, does not alert you when away from home.
Pepper Spray Systems – These systems are much more aggressive, but are still perfectly legal. They have the same motion sensor or door sensors that you would find on a standard security system, but in addition to an alarm they discharge a blast of pepper spray into the doorway. If security is a major concern, this is one way to keep criminals away.
Pros: This system will almost certainly get an intruder to leave your property, can still be tied to the authorities, can still be controlled remotely
Cons: False alarms are much more serious, can be very expensive to set up and maintain
Dogs – These pets are one of the oldest early detection systems man has ever used. When intruders approach, dogs can intimidate, alert, and even attack. No matter how aggressive a dog is, it is legal until it bites a non-intruder.
Pros: They develop a sense of loyalty, even their appearance scares most intruders, they can detect intruders before security systems, can physically attack intruders, require no power, work when you are away from home
Cons: Expensive long term costs, can turn on their owners, no connection to authorities, could get hurt while defending home
Trip Wires – We are not talking about hooking up trip wires to explosives like you see in the action movies, but trip wires are effective early warning systems. You can rig wires near doors and windows and attach several noise-making devices. You can hook it to a loud electric horn, or can just use bells or a can with rocks inside. This is just designed to give you enough noise to let you know somebody is there. Trip wires are also ideal for bug-out situations where you may be sleeping in the woods. They will detect animals as well.
Pros: Inexpensive, reliable, easy to set up, low tech
Cons: Prone to false alarms, no ties to authorities, can be cut if seen
Other Early Warning Systems – These systems are not only designed to warn against home invasion. Here are some other early warning systems you may want to consider:
- Carbon Monoxide – This should be in every household, and you can buy portable ones for camp sites as well.
- Smoke Detectors – We have one in almost every room in our home.
- Low Temperature Alarm – This can be helpful during the winter to ensure against frozen pipes, especially if you have an old heater.
- Water Sensors – These devices detect water or added moisture that could result in safety concerns or property damage. They are ideal for flood zones and hurricane areas, but can be helpful anywhere.
A Note on Large Scale SHTF Scenarios
There is one note of caution I must make on these early detection systems. Most of them are not nearly as valuable in major disasters. What I mean is that most rely on some combination of power, available emergency services, and a cellular signal or working phone lines. Think about that for a second.
If we face a large natural disaster such as a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado, our system could be useless. Even if we are not directly hit, cell towers could be taken out, power lines dropped, and emergency services overloaded. The roads could be flooded or blocked with trees. If you still have power the alarm may go off, but blowing or falling debris will cause false alarms as well.
If we face any type of foreign or domestic military action, there are issues. Ties to emergency services may be severed as well as normal communication lines. You may choose to get off the grid and use a generator, but you likely will not want to use your juice on cameras or motion sensors when you have a family to feed and keep warm. Any type of EMP blast would take out the system completely. Military would also be trained to disarm these systems before breaching a structure.
Of course if you feel the need to leave your home, most of these systems will not come with you. Chances are that if you fear a home invasion, you may consider bugging out. You will still need to protect your camp against invasion, so low tech may be the way to go. Whether you are securing your home or heading for the hills, trip wires, motions sensors, and dogs will always help. Be aware that motion sensors typically require batteries, so extras need to be packed.
In the end the choice is yours. Do you want to focus on the guy trying to steal your television over the holidays, or do you want an early warning system that would be effective in any scenario? As always, a combination of these solutions is the best answer. Hopefully this guide will help you find the right option for your household.