Home defense is a concept never far from the minds of preppers. A home invasion is extremely dangerous, and while certainly not as spectacular on a large scale as a major disaster, societal collapse or some other SHTF event, you has better believe it will be disaster enough for you and your family. The stakes will be high, and your preparation and response will directly affect the outcome.
A strong home invasion defense plan entrails more than just grabbing your trusty shotgun or a sturdy piece of lumber and going to see what’s causing that rattle.
A proper home invasion defense actually includes multiple interlinked protective assets and layers, some designed to deter, deflect and slow, while others are intended to actually put the horns to the bad guys if they make it inside.
Before you do anything, though, it will pay to understand what ingredients are necessary for a good defense in depth of your home, as well as what the criminal element is doing when he is preparing to execute his nefarious work.
Armed with this guide, some study and diligent application, you can turn your house into a hardened target, sure to thwart any assault if you do your part.
Table of Contents
A Few Home Invasion Statistics
Before we begin, I think it’s important I give you a few stats on home invasions that should get you to take the threat seriously if you are not already.
- Over 1 million home invasions occur yearly; some areas worse than others, but rate of incidence of home invasion to conventional burglary is growing.
- “Home invasion” denotes entry of criminal while occupants of home are present!
- Home invaders number between 2 and 5 individuals.
- Occupants of home assaulted over 25% of the time. Criminals seek to overpower occupants using shock tactics to gain control of home.
- Home invaders are typically armed with firearms and knives.
- Entry is accomplished most often via force, but 30% of burglars enter a home through an open door or window,w. and mostly at night.
Understanding Home Invader Psychology
As you read above, over 1 million home invasions are reported and codified yearly with an unknown number going unreported.
If you are unlucky enough to be one of them, you will have a 1-in-4 chance of being violently victimized. This is a gut-wrenching thing to consider, being attacked where you should be the safest and most secure.
As you might expect, the majority of home invasions occur in times of darkness, with almost all of them taking place between the hours of 9PM and 3AM.
Curiously, this is the opposite of a common burglary, which usually takes place during the daytime.
The reason for the difference is that burglars don’t want a confrontation, they just want your stuff, and if you are at work, school or out and about they’ll have a much easier go of getting in and out with a sack full of ill-gotten gains.
Your average home invader is a far bolder criminal than a thief, and often more dangerous. Even so, do not ever assume that a home invasion will not occur just because it is daylight outside.
The crucial question you must be asking yourself is: : Why my house? This is a fantastic question.
Keep reading because you’re going to discover the things that cause your home to stand out and make it a “good” mark among the other houses a home invader might choose.
Oftentimes, it’s not the house itself, per se, but the neighborhood that makes it a good target. Maybe there are a lot of vacant houses and poor lighting, any burglar’s dream.
One other thing you should do is take a good look at your house at night. Maybe it’s easy for anyone to see what’s happening inside and even take a peek at some of your valuables. In this case, installing some curtains is the least you can do and you have to do it fast.
Before going farther, it pays to understand the selection process that all criminals employ for choosing their next mark. Being essentially predatory in nature, but also human and so using human problem solving techniques, we can better understand their ways.
Consider below the Criminal Planning Cycle, brought to you by StratFor. The criminal planning and execution cycle is comprised of six elements, which repeat on a loop as their sort of “work flow”.
- Exploitation – The criminal will obtain some piece of information that shows them a potentially valuable mark, or one that is vulnerable. This could be a social media post that you will be away, a large consumer electronics box by your curb, a conspicuous display of wealth, a particularly concealed or screened property, or something else.
- Target Selection – Sifting and comparing exploitative intelligence allows formulation of a list of possible targets. Depending on the scale of the crime and habits of the criminal, this can take place over days, weeks or even months, or it might take place in seconds.
- Surveillance begins. The criminal will intently observe the selected target to gather as much useable info as possible, looking for vulnerabilities, signs of a trap and potential for resistance. This will continue through the planning and early deployment phase.
- Planning – The criminal will begin to formulate the best way to close with, gain access to, and secure the target so he can get what he wants, be it loot or blood. Again, depending on the sophistication of the criminal and other factors, like timetable, risk and so forth this could be accomplished in seconds or days, weeks, etc.
- Deployment – The plan is finalized: the criminal begins to execute. It is at this stage you have the best chance to flummox him with passive defenses, e.g. one that will slow, stall, or entirely prevent entry. Stress and fear will be high for the criminal for this phase, and any major curveball may force him to abort.
- Crime Occurs – If not stopped immediately prior too, the crime is committed.
- Escape – Successful or not, the criminal now seeks to escape unharmed and without attracting undue attention or pursuit.
After they make good on their escape, the criminal will go back to work and the entire cycle starts again from number one.
Looking over the elements above, what do you notice? If you were going to disrupt the cycle at one of the steps that would result in the best possible outcome for yourself, where would it be?
If you thought that perhaps your best bet was trying to bust the Exploitation or Target Selection phases, you are quite right! The acme of fighting skill is to avoid it.
In the rest of the article, we’ll learn how to do just that and also deal with the bad guys should they break in anyway.
My Top Tactical Home Design Tips: Hardening the Home
Have you ever heard of CPTED? It stands for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, and it’s another way of saying: defending your home by making the surroundings look too daunting for the invaders to even try.
That’s a mouthful right there but, when you think about it, it makes sense. If you can get the bad guys to come to the conclusion that it’s too hard to attack you, they will likely forget about it and move on.
And if they don’t, you’ll at least be in a better position because when they come, you’ll be there, waiting for them with time to spare.
To harden your home in this context does not mean replacing your house with some concrete and concertina wire behemoth that would look more at home on the Maginot Line.
Instead we are going to alter our grounds and add some smart upgrades that will essentially earn us a big, fat, red ‘F’ on our Juicy Target report card with the criminal. Remember what we just learned above; the best way to win the fight is to disincentivize yourself as a target in the first place.
We’ll assess and harden our home in four phases:
- Entry Points
The assessment part is easy enough if you are intelligent; simply look at your house from the bad guy’s perspective. Go outside and ask yourself how you’d get inside, questions like if I were the bad guy, how would I get in?
If I really wanted something that’s inside this house, what would I do and how easy would it be for me to do it? Rest assured the answers are going to come.
Look at every visible element including trees, doors, windows, etc. and ask yourself: which one of these is vulnerable. Which of these are my house’s weakest points?
You might notice you could jump over the fence, then head to the back door, break that small window, and open the door from the inside. Or you might go through that hole in the fence, then cut the screen and go in through that open window.
You’ll see numerous ways to get inside. The key here is to not rush it really think about this. Don’t game it and take your time; a burglar has probably already assessed you house before…
The next sections will cover each in some detail. You can also find elaborate articles covering all of the above right here on Survival Sullivan.
The perimeter of your dwelling is the edge of your property inward, unless you establish a secondary barrier forming an inner perimeter.
If you live in suburbia, the perimeter starts where the sidewalk ends and continues all the way up to the walls of your house.
The terrain features-trees, bushes, grass, etc.- and decorative installations- fences, walls, sculptures, rocks, etc.- both feature heavily into your perimeter’s suitability or lack thereof for defense.
Traditional fencing is great for privacy, but terrible for hardening your home since it works both ways: it provides visual cover for potential intruders.
Aside from being entirely too short at any usual height to keep people out of your yard, it has no real deterrent capability unless it is crowned with wire of some kind, and the only wire worth having for defense is concertina barbed wire or good ol’ razor wire.
Good luck getting either past your neighbors and HOA.
Compared with fences, hedges and other plants work even worse, unless they are of extraordinarily thorny and aggressive type.
They block line of sight, but are easily surmounted. Plants can play an important role in defense, though. We’ll get to them a little later.
Walls can offer better defensive utility and are capable of blocking or impeding vehicles and gunfire, but they are otherwise functionally identical to fences; they need to be topped to truly slow or impede intruders.
You should also take care that you trim back or remove plants that can serve to conceal a bad guy in a strategic spot or allow them to approach the house under cover.
Do make sure you have perimeter lighting installed. Criminals hunt and work in the dark, just like most predators do, so denying them the cover of darkness is important.
At the same time, we must take care that any installed lighting does not cast shadows which could be used against us, forming a perfect concealment against which our eyes cannot penetrate.
Consider 360-degree security lighting with motion activation to be the standard. Especially focus it around windows and doors. You can complement this lighting with softer landscape lights farther out in the yard to eliminate hiding places on your property entirely.
Bottom Line: Keeping your property bathed in light will significantly reduce the chances you’ll be chosen by a criminal.
You can install cameras to cover corners and stealthy approaches to your house. Being able to check your perimeter and near exterior before leaving is invaluable.
Do know this, though: cameras can raise your target status with some criminals because they think your obvious security measures mean you have really valuable stuff worth protecting in there. You might consider low- or no-profile cameras to kill two birds with one stone. Ultimately, cameras are a nice feature, but not mandatory.
Now we get to a part where plants can shine. If you want to increase your defensive apparatus without reducing the beauty of your home you can look into cultivating one of any variety of plants and shrubs featuring wickedly sharp spines or thorns near your home’s windows and even alongside the doors.
It doesn’t matter where you live, any region will host or at least be amicable to the growth of a few of these spiny shrubberies. While grown cultivars are pricey and transplanting them is risky, you can save time and some effort in exchange for patience by growing them yourself.
If you don’t want to deal with the punctures, pricks and scrapes of tending to and keeping healthy an aggressively defensive species, you can substitute a plant that is of a rattly, noisy type, in effect serving as an early warning system should anyone try to approach the windows or hide flanking a doorway.
The same considerations apply for plants of this type as their thornier cousins. Whichever you choose make sure they are dense and wide enough so they cannot be easily sidestepped or bypassed.
If the exterior and perimeter enhancements you made did not persuade the bad guys to break in somewhere else, anywhere else, you’ll have to rely on entry point fortifications to keep them out entirely or slow them down.
These upgrades to your home’s defensive plan are especially valuable since they will be the ones keeping a determined adversary at bay.
They are also universally applicable for most preppers since many of them work equally well for apartment dwellers as they do house owners or renters.
Your typical M.O. for home owners to gain access to a home is to kick in a door or break a sliding glass door. Alternately, a window will be shattered by some convenient tool.
These both assume, of course, that the scumbags don’t just let themselves in via a completely unlocked and unsecured door or window, which happens an appalling 30+% of the time! Keep your windows and doors locked at all times when you are home, no exceptions!
Every door that enters into the home, including the garage exterior door, should be heavy-duty hardwood or metal. Many home invaders gain access to the garage surreptitiously and the use the concealment to breach into the house proper.
But what most people miss in upgrading their doors are the hinges and just as importantly the screws fastening the hinges to the walls. It is the screws, not the doors, which bear the brunt of the impact force when a door is kicked or rammed.
Special note for our apartment dwelling brethren: many of you may be nervous about doing any DIY upgrades to your domiciles security apparatus, lest you void a security deposit or your lease’s code of conduct.
If you are too skittish to do something as no-impact as swapping screws in hinges and locks, then you can kindly bribe one of the complex’s maintenance men to help you out. A kindly tip won’t hurt either!
At the minimum, if you are on a budget, upgrading all door hinge and lockset fasteners to high-quality, extra long ones will significantly increase your protection.
Upgrading fasteners alone will probably not give you a door impervious to kicking, but it will buy you time, which is just as important to allow you to mount an effective defense.
Also don’t forget that too much resistance and “time on target” at an entry point makes home invaders justifiably nervous of being caught or bushwhacked. Try to find the highest grade fasteners you can and get ones at least six inches long, and preferably eight.
The next step up from upgrading screws is to install an anti-kick device, of which Door Devil makes one of the finest.
A Door Devil is a low- to no-profile set of frame inserts that absorb any kick or ram attempt by transferring the force from the vulnerable screws of the hinges and lockset to the strong metal of the Door Devil.
Best of all, there is almost no door they won’t work on, so they are perfect for apartment dwellers also.
Next to doors, the most likely way intruders will gain access t your home is through a window. While windows are harder to secure overall than doors, there is plenty you can do to increase their defenses.
The first, thought the most laborious and time consuming, is to replace all old or shoddy windows with modern high-strength frames equipped with modern locking systems.
The next best thing you can do is to have a window film like mylar applied. Mylar and similar coatings are commonly used for protection from tornado and hurricane blown debris, and work by turning regular glass into a sheet of safety glass, one that can absorb impact and hold together.
Thicker varieties have shocking impact resistance and will even offer defense against blunt and cutting tools. While no commercial varieties are bulletproof, the thickest and best will significantly impair handgun rounds.
Aside from that, the best thing you can do is keep your windows shut and locked. Window bars are an option, but are a high-vis option, and one that can severely imperil you in the case you need to evacuate from the house for any reason.
The most typical of interior security measures is an alarm system. It’s nice if it is monitored and can summon help while you deal with the issue at hand, namely getting your family to safety and repelling boarders, but their real value for a savvy prepper is their shrill alarm.
This alarm draws lots of attention in residential settings, putting invaders on notice that the clock is ticking and that the home’s occupants are now doubtless awake and making ready to defend it.
All windows and every exterior door should be rigged to trigger the alarm whenever the system is armed. Also be sure to adjust the keypad’s too lengthy “bad code” timing from 30 seconds or a minute down to something like five seconds, or even dispense with it entirely.
Alarm systems can be has in all kinds of flavors and complexities, from the old-school monitored systems to DIY wireless camera setups.
These wireless camera setups are especially popular with preppers for a low-cost and self-contained system architecture, but you must remember that in our day and age criminals have increasingly impressive knowledge of such Information Age contrivances, and they can be hacked, or even turned against you.
Of course, you can go really old school and invest in one of the oldest alarm systems: a doggie! You can use any pooch that has a propensity to completely lose his shit whenever he detects something near or in the house.
A big dog with a rumbly, bass bark can serve as additional deterrent, but a yappy ankle-biter is acceptable as long as his caterwauling wakes you up. Either of them works about as well as an alarm in the minds of the intruders: “barking equals alerted homeowner”.
Now, not matter what kind of impressive physical specimen your dog is, do not delude yourself into thinking he is as good as a trained protection dog, or that he’ll even get in a good chomp or two to help protect you.
They aren’t, and they might not. A dog’s value is in his senses. If your dog is not protection trained, assume that he won’t be any help in a scrum.
Whatever early warning system you choose, they are at their best when they give you as much advanced notice as possible to get ready to repel boarders.
Physical Defense in the Home
There are two basic types of scenarios you need to prepare for. One is the common home invasion, when one or two intruders decide to pay you a visit and ransack your home whether they find you home or not.
The other is the one we all fear most, a true home invasion, maybe after a major SHTF event has been declared and your town has been taken over by gangs of angry rioters.
The good news is, you will defend against both exactly the same way. You’ll have some advantages that you wouldn’t have in a public place, but you’ll also have some disadvantages you’ll need to train around. Let’s deal with the disadvantages first.
The most obvious is that retreat will be difficult or unthinkable when dealing with a home invasion. It will be unthinkable if you have a family with you or nowhere else to run to in a SHTF event.
Statistically, most home invaders also bee-line for the master bedroom in a bid to stuff any resistance before it can be mounted. This means you’ll probably have to fight.
But on the other hand, if you have to fight then, make sure you are preparing now. You have as much time as you need now to get ready for tomorrow’s fight. Here’s hoping it never comes, but if it does, you will be rehearsed, practiced and prepared to deal with it.
You have total control over your home’s layout, the lighting the placement of cover points and everything else. The baddies will be, in all probability, going through your house one time, the night of the attack, and have to get everything right to succeed. If they fail to overcome your resistance in very short order, they may give up and flee.
Weapons and Equipment
Any good defensive plan includes weapons of some kind. I don’t care how good you are, you are not going to punch and kick multiple armed attackers to sleep in time to keep from getting shot or shanked. The obvious best bet for home defense is a gun.
What flavor of gun you want depends on lots of factors that we have covered extensively right here in Survival Sullivan, but includes your level of skill, living arrangements, other people in the home and proximity of neighbors. More on that in a moment.
Other options include blunt or bladed weapons, and chemical sprays, specifically good, old-fashioned high-test pepper spray. O.C. bay-bay! For most people that cannot or will not own a gun, pepper spray may very well be the best choice.
It has the advantage of range and can leave a fog of spray that the attackers have to advance through. Don’t kid yourself: quality pepper spray is an absolute nightmare to fight through, and will famously knock the starch out of most people in seconds.
Knives are okay if they are all you have, but have the enormous disadvantage of you having to close with your attacker to bring them to bear.
Longer weapons, like clubs, axes, spears and so forth can work for home defense, but anything you have to swing or wind-up with to strike can be a liability in close quarters.
All also require more than affair bit of training with to use effectively, training time that is much better spent on a low-investment, high-yield weapon like a gun. Only guns have the range, ease of use and power to really shine in a close combat scenario with multiple attackers.
For many preppers, the quintessential home defense gun is a shotgun. Shotguns are the classic choice, and afford you immense effectiveness against unarmored targets along with being very easy to hit with, but they are heavy, low capacity, have potent recoil and their spray of shot increases downrange hazards if you miss.
If you opt to use slugs and reduce the chances of a miss hitting someone else, you’ll be dealing with excessive penetration.
A handgun will be the next logical choice for many, since most folks have some sort of handgun for self-defense outside the home. Handguns are very easy to maneuver in confined spaces and can nominally be used just as well with one hand as with two meaning you can use a phone, open doors, or carry a child to safety and remain effective.
Disadvantages for handgun include being difficult to shoot well and all of them lack the power of even a modest long gun.
Rifles are an increasingly popular choice, as the proliferation of AR and AK style “pistols” has made over the counter short rifle actions a reality with no loss in control. Any rifle will bring show-stopping power to bear against an invader, but overpenetration is a concern with most calibers and loads. Fullsize rifles and longer carbines can also be tough to maneuver in close confines without significant practice and training in doing so; it is easy to lead through a doorway or around a corner with the barrel and let an adversary get their hands on it. Also any long gun requires two hands to operate effectively.
For most, handguns will be more than adequate if you maintain your skills with one, though you’ll never be wrong in bringing the power of a long gun so long as you consider your home layout and potential shoot-through hazards.
Assess and Improve the Interior
Consider your home’s interior through the lens of a gunfight. What is important, and what is not? Do you have anyone else in the home with you? If so, where?
Where will they end up along your point of aim based on the likeliest places you’ll make a stand or have to take a shot? Are their mirrors or reflective glass surfaces that can let you cover blind spots? Can they be used against you?
Identify which installations in your house will stop or degrade bullets. Drywall does not. Modern furniture does not. Appliances are sketchy. All of the above will hide you, though.
Brick or concrete of significant thickness will impair handgun and some rifle rounds. A bookcase makes a surprisingly good cover point so long as it is full of books and the rounds are being caught on the front or back covers of the books.
Your living arrangements above will largely dictate your plan. If you have children, assume you will be heading for them at best speed. If you live alone or have a significant other with you and no one else, you can opt instead to hole up in the master bedroom, often the better choice.
Everything in the house is replaceable except your lives, and it is often tactically advantageous to wait for a foe to come to you.
This is a bunch to figure out, and it is not easy, but you have to do it now! “I’ll wing it,” and “Never tell me the odds!” works in movies, but nowhere else.
What you should do instead is arrange your house and living arrangements in such a way that it compels the attackers to take a certain route to get to anyone in the house.
Consider keeping all family members on the same end of the house on the same floor. Little will they know that they will be funneling into a tight cordon covered by guns if they want to harm anyone.
Next, you have to think of a way to sound the alarm, so everyone in your house knows that there is danger. An audible alarm works, obviously, if you have one, but you could use a whistle or even a bell. Another idea worth considering if you don’t have an alarm is to place bells on each door as a shopkeeper would.
Sure, this might be a little annoying during daytime when everyone’s coming and going but it’s 99% sure you’ve got trouble when you hear it at 2 o’clock in the morning.
Last but not least, you need to designate and practice with all family members what they should do in the event of a home invasion. All should know by heart the plan and all your escape routes. The most important thing to remember is to never block those routes. If taking a route would place someone in danger, they should stay put and get low behind something that will stop bullets.
Safe rooms should be your last chance when trapped inside your own home with nowhere else to go. While you can stash everything you want or need in one to ride out an unfortunate disaster, thinking human adversaries will have you trapped like rats unless you have an emergency escape hatch.
If you’re building your house from scratch, you’re very fortunate. You decide where you want a safe room, how big you want it, and you don’t have to sacrifice your second bathroom or master closet in order to have it.
If your house is already built, you’re going to re-purpose an existing room to be your safe-room. Either way, you need to make sure you have supplies and weapons inside the safe room, just in case your attackers are successful. The weapons will become useful if they do the exact opposite and force their way inside the safe room.
Drill, Drill, Drill
If you really want to be sure something is working, you need to test it, right? I’m talking, of course, about doing family drills to make absolutely sure everyone knows what to do in case of a home invasion.
There’s a wide variety of home invasion scenarios you can try. The easiest one is to simply pretend that someone’s broken into your home at 2 AM in the morning and that you’re all upstairs sleeping.
Your goal should be to get to safety using your pre-planned routes and doing so as quickly and quietly as possible. You can mix things up by adding curveballs and unforeseen events. Start out slow and easy, don’t blow them out of the water and try to make it fun.
This is going to be a true learning experience for you and your loved ones because you really get to see what’s working and what’s not for whom. Serious deficiencies will need to be planned around.
Home Security Best Practices
Just because your home can withstand any invasion, this doesn’t mean your work is done. Remember what we talked about waaayyy up in the section about the criminal planning loop? The part about exploitation? Yeah, here’s the part where you cut that crap out of your life to deny them even that.
Your home life, house and habits should be as much an enigma to outsiders as humanly possible.
Keep your mouth shut!
OPSEC (operation security) and PERSEC (personal security) is crucial. The less people know about your “fortified” house, upcoming vacation and family details the better. Everything is intel! Little Johnny plays baseball and darling Sally has band? Ah, there are multiple times you won’t be home on any given week. Nice NRA badge and Thin Blue Line sticker on your truck. It would be a shame if someone tailed you home to know where they can find some guns…
Take that crap off, shut up and stop advertising.
Keep them Out!
Try to keep all strangers out of your home. This includes service personnel. A lot of times, the burglar is someone who’s already been inside and saw something they like. Think plumbers, electricians, and so on.
What? You don’t know how to repair any of those things? Well, that’s an even better reason for you to skill up and become even more self-sufficient!
Now I’m not saying you should never let strangers inside your home if the situation is unsalvageable or an emergency, but if there are things you can repair on your own, then why not?
Social Media Lockdown
One last thing: never talk or brag on Facebook about going on vacation. Thieves use social networks to track owners who leave their homes unattended for longer periods of time because this will give them plenty of time to operate with no fear of discovery.
Always keep the doors and windows locked!
It bears repeating again and again and again. I am constantly disgusted by how lax people are on this. Since a good percentage of these invasions occur when either a door or a window is left open, it’s critical that you and your family create the habit of always locking everything up, even if you go to the store for just five minutes and even when you’re at home.
Always make it a habit as the protector of the home to inspect every door and window as part of your nightly bed-down security checks.
Defending against a home invasion is more than just grabbing the musket and repelling scallywags. A proper defense is holistic and includes every element of your property, house, plan and skills.
It is a tall order going from ripe-for-the-picking to impossible-to-poach but if you start now and remain diligent you can drastically improve your home’s defensibility in comparatively little time.