Home Defense, part 1

Congratulations, new homeowner! You’ve just purchased your first home, you’re all moved in and unpacked, but now you’re concerned about security. Good for you. You, and you alone, are responsible for the safety and security of your home and family, and it is important to take steps to ensure their safety.

Today I want to focus on home-security measures that don’t involve firearms/other weapons. We’ll cover weapons on Monday. For the record, there is no “one perfect” home-security solution. You can use all the methods below, or just cherry pick the ones that work for you. The advice below is for people with or without guns.

The Outside
Before anyone can enter your house, they have to be on your property first. While you could lay claymores and tripwires to prevent people from trespassing on your lawn, I’m pretty sure the homeowners association would frown on that activity. It’s unfortunate, but there isn’t a whole lot you can do to prevent people from walking up to your house; but there are some decent measures.

Take a walk around the outside of your house. One of the things that you don’t want is for someone to be able to approach your house and have concealment the entire way. If you have large bushes that obstruct ground level windows, consider trimming those back to allow a clear view from the inside out. Another good idea is to install motion sensitive floodlights to illuminate poorly lit areas. It is possible to have these calibrated so that small animals won’t set them off; however you should check your local ordinances on the legality of said floodlights. The usual logic about having a good fence applies as well; like I said, it’s good to put obstacles in the path of an intruder.

One more thing to watch out for on the outside of your house applies if you’re the owner of a two story house. Generally, try to avoid having trees or other climbable objects that could give an intruder access to second floor windows – too many people secure everything on the ground level, but have a giant old tree that leads right up to a 2nd floor window.

Doors & Windows
These are the most obvious points of entry to your house, and special care should be taken to ensure that they’re secure. All ground level doors and windows should be alarmed; I recommend also alarming 2nd floor windows as well. Additionally, if you have a sliding glass door to your backyard, a glassbreak sensor tied into the alarm system is a must as well.

Lock your doors. Don’t just lock the handle, make sure you have a good deadbolt and a solid frame, and USE THEM. Having a bank vault door doesn’t do you any good if you don’t use it. Also, if you have the aforementioned sliding door; it doesn’t hurt to drop a 2×4 into the track to make sure it can’t be forced open. Doing so forces them to break the glass, which sets off the glassbreak sensor.

Alarm system
I recommend that every homeowner have an alarm system. I have it for the same reason that I have a gun in my house – having it and never needing it sure beats needing it and hot having it. An alarm is both an active and passive deterrent to a home invasion. Smash my window, kick my door in, and that sucker starts whooping up to raise the dead. That’s the active deterrence. The passive deterrence is that I have that little sign that says “brinks” in my front yard – while I don’t bet my life on it, a potential home invader could see it and think “I’ll go somewhere else”.

If you do decide to get an alarm, here are some guidelines. At the minimum, you’ll want all the ground level doors and windows to be alarmed. In addition to that, I recommend glassbreak sensors for glass doors/windows, as well as an internal motion detector. On the off-chance that someone gets into your house and doesn’t set off any of the alarms, the motion sensor is your “last line of defense”, unless you’ve mined the stairway or something.

Finally, it’s worth looking into the extra cost to have your alarm system run on a dedicated phone line. Have your primary line for voice calls, but set up your alarm on its own dedicated line.

Kingdom Animalia
According to my homeowners association, I can’t have trained attack leopards, or a moat that is filled with sharks with laser beams on their heads. However, I can have a dog. The trouble with a guard dog is that it has to be exceptionally well trained – I am not an expert on dogs, nor do I purport to be. If you’re thinking about getting a dog, there are plenty of excellent resources out there to help with your choice.

Burglars aren’t the only threat to home security. You’re statistically much more likely to have to deal with a home fire than a burglar. At the minimum, and I mean bare minimum, you should have smoke detectors in every room, and check them regularly. It’s also worthwhile to have at least two fire extinguishers. You should put one in the kitchen, and then place the other one where you see fit. The master bedroom isn’t a bad idea. For the kitchen fire extinguisher, ensure that it’s the type that can be used safely on oil/grease fires.

Little Things
Sometimes, it’s the little things that make a difference. Have a cell phone and a flashlight in your bedroom; if your phones are out you still need to call the police.

Make sure you have a plan – whether or not you have kids, you and any other occupants of your home need to know what to do in the event of an emergency. On Monday, when we discuss weapons, we’ll also take a look at tactics and different types of emergency plans.

It’s important to remember that you’re the only person responsible for the security of your home. Floodlights, a big dog, and an alarm don’t guarantee that the police will arrive in time to do you any good – when it really comes to do it; you are the first and best line of defense against an intruder.