Every prepper needs to take home security seriously. If you have spent the time and money to prepare, you need to make sure that what your efforts are protected from people who may want to take what you have.
Preppers can secure their homes in a variety of ways. Some methods are passive and won’t make your home stand out. Those can be implemented immediately. Others are more aggressive and should be done only when needed.
This article is broken down into three sections. In the first section, I will go over basic home defense philosophy. The second section goes over things that you can do today before a disaster takes place. They won’t draw attention to your home or require much change in your daily life. The third section has steps you can take when things get really bad. Those may be pretty extreme and should only be done as a last resort.
Layered Home Security Philosophy for Preppers
Any defensive plan should be structured with multiple layers. Doing so will provide you with the greatest amount of protection to you and your family. It will also prevent you from having to use more force than necessary to defend yourself.
Think of a layered home defense plan as a bullseye target, with your neighborhood being the outer layer and your safe room being the one furthest in the center. Having your home defense plan set up in this way allows you to know what is going on around you and have more control over your situation.
Another great source of information about prepper home security is Jim Cobb’s book, Prepper’s Home Defense. It is my favorite book on the subject and can be found by clicking here.
Layer 1: Your Neighborhood
The outermost layer of your home security plan should be your neighborhood. If your neighborhood is safe, then your home should also be relatively safe as a result. This is the reason why most people try to rent or buy in a nicer part of town.
You want to know what is going in your neighborhood as much as possible. Start by getting to know your neighbors and other people who live on nearby streets. Having neighborhood cookouts and events is a good way to build relationships and maybe even find other preparedness-minded people. Just be sure to not share too much information. Some neighbors aren’t trustworthy or have big mouths.
My neighborhood uses Nextdoor.com to communicate concerns about recent break-ins and other relevant events. It’s a good way to know what is going on in the neighborhood. If your neighborhood doesn’t have something like this or occasional gatherings, consider organizing them yourself.
Layer 2: Your Yard or Property
The next layer of a home security plan is your yard, or if you have land, your property. A yard or property should be set up and maintained so that it’s safe for you and your loved ones and is an unappealing target for thieves.
You can use various methods to help secure your property, ranging from the types of plants that you use for landscaping all the way to high tech security systems and sensors. Your yard or property should also be set up so that you can monitor as much of it as possible.
Layer 3: Entrances to Your Home
The next layer of your prepper home security plan consists of the entrances to your home. These include doors, windows, and attached garages. The goal here is to make it as difficult as possible for intruders to gain entry. This can be accomplished by the types of doors and windows that you choose as well as reinforcement techniques.
As far as garage security is concerned, I have an entire article that details things that you can do to secure garages from break-ins. You can see How to Secure Your Garage Door from Break-ins by clicking here.
Layer 4: Inside Your Home
The next layer of your prepper home security plan is the inside of your home. It can include things like storing valuables securely and strategically placing weapons and escape tools around the home.
You want to make it difficult for thieves to find what they are looking for while giving yourself options to defend yourself. If you have children, making sure that they can’t access any weapons you have staged is important as well. Your home should be a sanctuary for you and your family but a shop of horrors for intruders.
Layer 5: Your Safe Room
The innermost layer of your home security plan should be your safe room, bunker, or the most defensible portion of your home. This is where you and your loved ones will take shelter if intruders are able to gain entry into your home.
This final layer should be safe from physical attack and be able to resist fire, smoke, and chemicals. Most bunkers and safe rooms should meet these criteria fairly well, however, a regular room in your home may not. In this case, your safe zone should have an escape route so you can retreat if needed. However, this is a good idea, even if it is hardened.
A safe room should have backup weapons and ammunition in case you do not have access to other supplies. This will allow you to defend yourself even if you are not able to access a weapon beforehand. If you need to use a regular room or closet for this purpose, make it more secure by replacing the hollow interior door with a solid rated for outdoor use.
Ways Preppers Can Secure Their Home Today
There are many things that you can do today that will help make your home more secure. Many of them are free or very low cost. Doing the tasks listed below will make your home a less appealing target to potential thieves and make it harder for them to get inside if they do target your home.
Any home that isn’t secure while times are good will probably fare poorly during bad times. Do what you can today while supplies are readily available.
Have Home Invasion and Fire Plans
Having a plan for what you and your family will do in the event of a fire or home invasion is extremely important. This is especially true if you have kids that would not have any idea what to do otherwise.
These plans should address where to go during a home invasion (safe room) as well as how to evacuate the home and where to meet if there is a fire. You should have multiple contingencies in case primary routes or locations are inaccessible. Once you develop these plans, you and your family should practice them to ensure that everyone knows what to do.
Keep Escape Tools in Closets
Having escape tools, such as pocket knives, stored in closets is a good way to make sure that you are able to escape detainment. This may be necessary in the case of a violent home invasion. Although this isn’t the most likely thing to occur, keeping a small knife and universal handcuff key in each closet could save your life or the lives of your family members.
*Note: This should go without saying, but knives and other sharp objects should not be stored so that they can be accessed by small children. That was my disclaimer. I hope you enjoyed it.
Get to Know Your Neighbors
One of the best ways that you can make your home more secure is to develop a relationship with your neighbors. There are two main reasons for this. The first one is to make friends since people are more likely to watch out for their buddies than strangers. The second is so you can get an idea of which of your neighbors are trustworthy and which ones are not.
As you get to know your neighbors, you may even discover that some of them have a prepper mindset. That isn’t to say that you should tell them about your preps (OPSEC), however, it could be a good starting point for cooperative agreements later on.
Unfortunately, some neighbors aren’t trustworthy. They could have poor moral fiber or just have a big mouth. Letting those kinds of people know too much about you could put you, your family, and preps at risk. It is best to know about them as early as possible.
I have a neighbor, who the first time we met, proceeded to tell me all the dirt on everyone who lives on our street. Needless to say, he isn’t someone I would tell about my vacation plans or much of anything else.
Install a Home Alarm System
Another way that a prepper can make their home more secure is by installing a home alarm system. You can even install one yourself, like this one by Simplisafe.
Having a home alarm system comes with several benefits. The first is that such a system will deter many burglars. Low level, opportunistic thieves are unlikely to want to mess with disarming a system or taking a chance on getting caught. A system that has cameras can make your home very unappealing to them.
Another advantage of having a home alarm system is that they notify emergency personnel if your home is burglarized or on fire. This will make a quick response more likely, especially if it happens when you are away from home. Contrary to popular belief, most burglaries happen during the workday, when most people are away from their homes. A quick response will increase your chances of getting your stuff back.
Probably the biggest advantage of having a home alarm system is that it will let you know if someone has broken into your home or it is on fire. In either case, it gives you a warning that you may not have had otherwise, allowing you to act by arming yourself or evacuating the home, depending on the situation.
Display a Security System Sign
Even if you can’t afford a home security system, there is nothing saying that you can’t have a sign that says you do. This will deter many low-level criminals from breaking into your home.
Get a Dog
Dogs make great pets and can also serve as a deterrent to people who may want to break into your home. Big dogs can act as physical deterrents, while small dogs will make breaking into a home less appealing due to their incessant barking.
Even if you don’t have a dog, placing a dog’s food bowl or toys in your yard or on your porch can deter thieves as well. Some of them will assume you have dogs because of the presence of these items.
Click here to see my article, Best Dogs for Preppers. It goes over which dogs preppers can use for defense, hunting, and as alarms.
Cover Doggy Doors
If you have a pet, do not use a doggy door. The larger ones are big enough for an intruder to squeeze through or at least reach through and unlock your door. The slide-on covers that close them are worthless from a security standpoint.
I know this from experience. I was in the backyard, and my wife went for a walk. She locked the back door and then the front door’s knob as she left. Unfortunately, neither one of us had our keys.
I was able to slide the doggy door’s cover out of its slot and then reach through and unlock the back door. It took me a minute or two, but an experienced burglar could probably do it in just a few seconds.
That experience, even though it allowed us to regain entry to our home, showed me how vulnerable our home was. I bought some 3/4-inch plywood, painted it, and bolted it to the doggy door.
Install Security Lighting
Having outdoor lighting is a good way for a prepper, or anyone else, to make their home more secure. Lights around entry points will reduce the places that intruders can hide as they are trying to gain entry to your home. Motion-activated lights are excellent choices for this.
Install Motion Alarms
Motion alarms give you advance notice when someone is traveling down your driveway or sidewalk. These sensors made by Guardline allow you to connect multiple sensors to a receiver so you can cover different areas.
Most burglars and home invaders enter dwellings through either the front or back door, and it isn’t as hard as you may think. Many people leave their doors unlocked and many doors that are locked can easily be kicked in.
Fortunately, there are a couple of things that you can do to make doors more difficult to breach. The first option is to use long deck screws (at least 3 inches) to replace the shorter ones that came with your door, specifically those that secure the strike plates to the door frame.
For a little more money, you can add a reinforcement kit to your door and door frame. These make it much more difficult for someone to kick in your door and are fairly easy to install.
As far as locks go, having multiple locks installed, preferably deadbolts, can make a door much more secure. Doorknob locks are much easier to shim than deadbolts, and other devices, such as chains, offer very little real security. This is especially true if they are held in place with the small screws that come with them.
The second most common way for intruders to gain entry into a home is through the windows. While you can’t (and shouldn’t) keep your windows boarded up all the time, there are ways to give them a little extra security.
One popular way to make windows harder to break through is by installing security film on them. This will help hold the glass together if it is broken, making it more difficult for people to gain entry.
You can also install locks on your windows. This will help keep people out, but if you lose the key, it could prevent you from being able to escape your home if you can’t find the key.
Keep Good Records
Although this won’t be useful if the world completely falls apart, keeping a good record of your valuables is a smart move. Doing so will allow you to have proof to submit to your insurance company regarding what you have lost. This could be useful in a wide variety of situations, including theft and fire.
For my records, I like to keep a document that includes an item description, serial number, multiple photos, and estimated value. If you have a lot of valuables you could use this as a checklist to determine what was missing, in addition to having documentation for insurance purposes. Be sure to store this so that it is unlikely to become damaged or stolen.
Another important step that preppers need to take to secure their homes is to securely store what they have inside of it. This includes preps, firearms, jewelry, and other valuable items. This can be done by hiding them, locking them up, or some combination of the two.
The most basic thing that you can do to secure your belongings is to hide them. Thieves tend to go straight to the master bedroom when looking for valuables. Hiding things in other areas, such as the laundry room may be a good choice. Hiding valuables under beds or in medicine cabinets isn’t a good idea since thieves expect things to be hidden there.
Diversion safes look like household items and are used to hide small items like cash and jewelry. You can either purchase them or simply repurpose old containers. Avoid buying the ready-made ones, especially if they look fake. Thieves know all about these, so anything inside will likely be taken.
If you choose to use a safe (or safes) to secure your belongings, be sure that you use the right kinds of safes. Portable safes are almost completely worthless, since they are, well…portable. The only purpose that they may serve is keeping kids away from stuff they don’t need to get their hands on.
Safes should be heavy, and ideally, bolted down to the floor. Placing the safe in a recess that surrounds it once it is bolted down is even better. This will make it harder for thieves to break into the safe by cutting into its side with an angle grinder.
Thieves want to be in and out of your home quickly, especially if they choose to break in when they think that nobody will be home. Placing decoys, such as small amounts of cash, in open areas may make the thief feel like they have scored before tearing up your home.
You can also do something similar with food storage and gear. Small caches could be sacrificed to preserve your primary food supply and gear.
Practice and Train
If you plan to use any sort of weapon for home defense, be sure that you can use it proficiently. This is especially true for firearms. Fortunately, finding training courses isn’t too difficult in most areas.
After you have received training, practice what you have learned on a regular basis. Continue to train by taking advanced courses as well. Weapons should be well-maintained to ensure they will operate reliably.
Everyone in your home should have at least a basic understanding of safe handling and how to use any weapon in your home. While young children may not be able to handle weapons, they should be taught how to be safe around them. (Don’t touch, tell an adult, etc.)
Practice Good Habits
Unfortunately, many break-ins are made much easier, not because of faulty equipment, but because of human error. Here are some habits that you can exercise to keep your home secure and make it a less appealing target.
Lock Doors and Windows
Keep doors and windows locked, no matter how safe you think your neighborhood is. Do this whether you are at home or not. If you have sliding doors, brace them with a rod to prevent them from moving if the lock is defeated.
Don’t Keep Spare Keys Outside
Sticking a key under a rock or in a “cleverly disguised” box does one thing: give a thief a noise-free way to enter your home.
If your yard has a privacy fence, be sure to lock the gate when not in use. This will make it a little harder for someone to get back there. I prefer to lock my gates from the inside.
Park in the Garage
If you have a garage, use it. Consistently parking in your garage will make it much harder for thieves to tell if you are at home or not. If your garage door has windows, consider covering them.
Take Garage Openers Inside
If you are unable to park all of your cars in your garage, avoid keeping the garage door opener in the car overnight. A thief could break into your car and use the opener to gain entry to your home.
Close the Garage Door
Much like unlocked doors, open garages are an easy way for intruders to enter your home. Keep the garage door closed whenever it is not in use. In addition, be sure to lock any doors that connect the garage to the rest of your home. If those doors aren’t solid exterior doors, replace them with some that are.
Be Careful Who You Let In Your House
It is a sad truth that many burglaries and home invasions are perpetrated by people that the homeowner knows or has at least let into the house. This could be anyone from a family member to the vacuum salesman you let in. Make sure that you only let trustworthy people in your home.
Answer Your Door Carefully
Many home invaders will knock on the door and then rush inside when someone answers it. If you don’t recognize who is knocking, talk to them through the door without opening it. This may seem a little paranoid, but I always have a gun on me when I answer a door, even during the day.
Trim or Eliminate Shrubs
Having shrubs and small trees near doors and windows gives potential intruders excellent places to hide. They can use these hiding spots to buy them more time to gain entry into your home without making noise that could alert someone.
Remove any plants that could provide an intruder with cover. If you must have plants under your windows, choose something with thorns that will provide a deterrent.
Utilize Police and Friends
If you are going to be away from your home for several days, consider having a friend come by to get your mail and check on the place. My wife and I have a trustworthy family member house sit for us while we are gone.
If you don’t have anyone that can do this, inform the police that you will be gone. Some departments will be willing to have an officer drive by every once in a while to make sure that everything looks normal.
OPSEC, or “Operational Security”, is when you limit the amount of information that potential adversaries may have about you and/or prevent them from being able to use it. For preppers wanting to secure their home, the main purpose of OPSEC is to avoid giving out information that could cause their home to be targeted by thieves or other criminals.
The phrase “Loose lips sink ships.” is a great illustration of this principle. However, talking isn’t the only thing that could signal to bad guys that our home could be a potential target. Here are some things that you can do to improve your home’s OPSEC:
Secure Your Trash
Avoid leaving boxes next to the trash that could draw attention to your home. This includes boxes that held expensive items such as televisions. It is best to cut them up with a utility knife and place the pieces in a trash bag. Mail that contains sensitive information, such as account numbers, should be shredded.
Wait to Post Vacation Pictures
We all love to share our vacation pictures with our friends and family on social media. However, advertising that you are away from your home could make it a target for opportunistic criminals. Instead of giving everyone a daily update of your travels, do it all as one big post when you get home.
Don’t Let Mail Build Up
Having mail falling out of your mailbox and a big pile of papers in your driveway is a surefire way to tell criminals that you are away from home. In addition, mail can contain sensitive information that could be used to steal someone’s identity if it fell into the wrong hands. Have your mail and paper put on hold until you get back or have a friend pick it up for you.
If you get something new and expensive, it can be tempting to tell everyone you know about it or plaster it on social media. While many people tend to brag about new cars or electronics, preppers tend to be proud of things like food storage and firearms. Bragging about any of these could get you unwanted attention.
Ways Preppers Can Secure Their Home During a Disaster
Home security tactics during an emergency are, many times, very different than the ones that you employ during everyday life. Some of these won’t make your home look different from the outside, while others will drastically change its appearance. Others could result in legal action being taken against you and should only be used during an absolute worst-case scenario.
If your area has become really dangerous and you can’t leave, one of the first things that you should do is barricade your doors. You can do this by installing a barricade bar or door jammer on them. You can make these yourselves or buy ones like these. If you choose to make your own, don’t just use a 2×4. They are pretty easy to break. Instead, use screws to sandwich two 2×6’s together.
If you choose to barricade your doors, be sure that you can still get out quickly. Failure to do so could prevent your family from being able to escape from a fire or retreat from an intruder.
If your door has any glass, you will want to cover that, preferably from the inside. You could use plywood and furring strips to prevent people from being able to access locks and knobs after breaking the glass.
Board up windows
Boarding up windows is most commonly done to mitigate storm damage but it can also be done to secure your home from intruders. There are a few different ways to do this, but any method that involves attaching the plywood via screws should be avoided. Most fasteners used for this purpose are easily removed with a socket or Phillips screwdriver.
If I had to board up my windows, I would probably use the same method as Jay Blevins on Doomsday Preppers. (I know that show can be goofy, but there is still some useful stuff on there.)
The Blevins method involves opening the window and using a large bolt to secure a piece of plywood on the outside of the house to a 2×4 running across the window inside. Nuts thread onto the bolt so that the 2×4 and plywood are held in place.
As with barricading doors, make sure that when you board windows, that you can escape quickly if necessary. Only board up what you have to and keep tools nearby to take the boards down if needed. This is another advantage of the Blevins method since the nuts are threaded onto the bolt on the inside of the house. A cordless impact driver or impact wrench could quickly remove the fasteners, allowing you to escape.
Area denial devices are meant to make it harder for intruders to access your property or stay on it. Things such as caltrops, spike strips, and ground spikes, are a few examples. Depending on what kind you use, they could cause injury to people, damage to vehicles, or possibly both.
Area denial devices can be used on driveways and other access points to prevent vehicles from entering your property. They are especially useful for funneling intruders into areas where you can engage them on your terms by denying them cover and concealment.
Area denial devices can injure others and cause damage to property, and will most likely be considered booby traps if someone you use them against decides to lawyer up. Because of this, they should only be used in the direst situations and with the understanding that you will likely face consequences for their use later on.
This video does a good job explaining area denial devices and how to use them.
Eliminate Hiding Spots
If you are worried that your home may become a target, eliminate hiding spots on your property that could be used as cover and concealment. This will allow you to monitor and defend your home much easier.
Common hiding spots include things like trees, bushes, outbuildings, and other man-made and natural structures. Smaller ones, such as bushes, can simply be uprooted. For larger ones, such as trees and buildings, use area denial devices like those described above. This will give you an upper hand if you have to defend your home.
Black Out Windows
If you are in a situation where you don’t want people knowing that you are home, black out your windows. You can use trash bags, tarps, or other coverings to prevent light from escaping and giving away your position.
Mess Up Your House First
If other homes in your neighborhood have been hit, it may be a good idea to make your home look like it has as well. This may make thieves assume that all of the good stuff has already been taken.