Hardening Your Home Or Apartment Against Looters

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Survival Diva here to give you some tips today on how you can harden your home in an urban or rural setting, and you can Test Your Survival I.Q by clicking on the Quiz at the end of this post!

Recent crisis have shown us that human nature goes from one end of the spectrum to the other.  Disasters bring out the Mother Theresa in some people and inner monster in others.  Hardening your house is something that you can quickly and easily do that will both protect your house from robbers now and looters after a disaster.

(David’s note:  Hardening a house is an exercise in cost/benefit analysis.  Rare is the house that I couldn’t get into by stealing a dump truck and driving it through one of the walls–and it isn’t cost effective for most people to try to defend against that.  What you want to do is get the most bang for your buck/time and do things to prevent the most common and costly attacks.)

Since doors and windows are the most common method of entry for thieves and looters, we’ll start there…

An important statistic to keep in mind is that 32% of burglars gain access to homes and apartments through an unlocked window or door!  As obvious as it seems, your first line of defense is going to be to keep all entry points securely locked.

Alarm systems are great, but they won’t stop a determined attacker and they will only work as long as you have battery capacity after a grid-down disaster.  Alarms (and alarm signs) are good for when you’re not home, but they’re particularly good for giving you a few seconds advance warning (and cause your intruder to pause) when you ARE home.

Window Security

Ordinary multi-pane windows ARE tough, but not tougher than a brick, rock, garden tool, tire iron, or other readily available tools that an intruder can grab and use.

Tempered Glass is an improvement over regular glass, as it is four times as strong as ordinary glass…but for the best security (and one that can ruin a looters day), head straight for security film, storm windows, storm shutters, or Lexan. The following descriptions will better explain why they are a superior choice for security than regular glass.

Security Film

Security film is applied much like window tinting film and is applied to the inside of windows. How it works is that although the window may break when something like a large rock is thrown at it, the glass pieces are held in place by the security film.

The cost of security film is around $5 – $10 per square foot and should be professionally installed.  3M is the biggest player in this market and you want a security company to install it rather than a window tinting company…unless they understand security and how to install this specialized film.

Storm Windows

Many storm windows have been engineered to withstand impacts of 100 mph, and can withstand winds of 200 mph. Typically, they are made of two layers of glass with a middle layer of polyvinyl butaryl (PVB) sandwiched in-between. The glass portion of a storm window may shatter with a sufficient impact, but the layer of polyvinyl butaryl will stop a holes from forming in the window, where a looter can get a purchase and get inside your home or apartment.

The price of storm windows varies, depending upon the manufacturer and the size of your windows, but a rule of thumb is around $65 per square foot. On the bright side, storm windows can reduce your insurance costs, but check with your insurance provider first.

Storm Shutters

There are many styles for Storm shutters to choose from; accordion-style, or the style that swings open and closed, and then there is the style that rolls into place, which from a security standpoint is quite popular.

For the purpose of security, installing storm shutters from the inside is a good approach. The cost of storm shutters varies from $7 – $30 per square foot depending upon the style you choose and the manufacturer.


Lexan can be purchased in different strengths—from impact resistant to bullet proof and as you’d expect, the cost goes up for bullet proof Lexan. The negatives of Lexan is it isn’t as user-friendly for those who plan to heat with passive solar and the price is prohibitive for most of us mere mortals at around $2,200 for a 48” width by 96” length sheet of 1.25” thickness bullet-resistant sheet. Plus it typically needs to be professionally installed.

You’re probably familiar with Lexan and don’t even know it…it’s what Nalgene made it’s rigid bottles out of until 2008.

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If you are on a budget and the above suggestions strains the pocket book too much, there’s a sure-fire way to deter would-be looters from gaining access through windows for those with yards. All it takes is a length of 2X4 and long nails. Pound the nails through the wood, spaced several inches apart, then place the nail-embedded board face up and cover the board with a bit of surrounding dirt. Anyone landing at your window to gain entrance will be hobbling away. This same approach is used as a bear-deterrent. I’ve used it myself in Idaho after a bear decided to investigate my cabin by pressing his nose against the sliding glass doors. In this instance, I put the nail embedded 2 X 4’s on the stairs leading up to the porch.

(David’s note:  I’ve used a similar method…also for bears, and one time in an attempt to keep raccoons out of trash…except I use sheets of plywood cut into 1′ or 2’x4′ sections instead of 2x4s.  Use whatever you have, but I prefer sheets over studs because the sheets are less likely to tip over and have more surface area.)

Along these lines, you might plant thorny bushes below your windows if your windows are on the ground level. Rose bushes work well.

You might also consider pre-cutting plywood to fit your windows. Although they wouldn’t be optimal for ordinary times because installing them will advertise your prepping and block light coming in to your home or apartment, they’ll work in an emergency if looting and unrest grows out of control.

Sliding glass doors and sliding windows can be made more secure by cutting dowels and setting them in the track. This will not keep an intruder from shattering glass, but it will make it harder to open the door.

Door Security

There is plenty that can be done to beef up your doors and the good news is it doesn’t have to cost a  fortune!


Door security should start with a stout door which means a solid wood door, or one made of aluminum or fiberglass. Ideally, the door will not have a window installed in the door or glass side lights.  If it does, consider installing security film to the window(s)), and the door should have a peephole, one with a wide-angle feature that will allow you to see who is on the other side before opening.

Door Frames

The door frame is just as important. When possible, consider installing doors on a metal frame, which will make it more resistant to a burglar or looter trying to force their way in.

Deadbolts, Strike Plates & Hinges

When it comes to deadbolts, look for an ANSI level 1 deadbolt. But the deadbolt is only part of the equation because security measures should include a secure strike plate and hinges. Look for a strike plate with as many holes as possible to allow for more screws that will help to secure the door from attempted break-ins. When installing strike plates, using 3” screws will secure the strike plate MUCH better than shorter ones that can fail when being battered. Likewise for hinges—they should also be installed with three screws and should always be installed to the inside of the door.

Extra Steps You Can take To Beef Up Doors

Installing a door to swing outwards rather than inwards makes it much more difficult for the bad guy  to gain entry, BUT this must be weighed against your regions climate conditions. To wake up to discover a heavy snowfall has blocked your doorways with snow drifts and you’re unable to get your doors open would not make for a great day!

(David’s note:  Personal experience in multiple states has proven to me just how difficult it is to buy an outward swinging residential door.  It’s fire code for commercial buildings, but it costs more, is a custom order, and when you ask for them, you’ll get blank stares like you’re speaking Klingon.  If you can find them at a decent price, jump on them…but don’t get too caught up on them.)

One thing that you can do to help secure inward swinging doors is to use bars to reinforce the door.  David has and still does suggest and endorse the Buddy Bar Door Jammer and the Katy Bar.

Consider putting secure locks on your bedroom doors as well. If an intruder gains entry into your home, the additional security of a lock will give you additional time to prepare to defend yourself.  Keep in mind that you want to balance the lock and other hardware with the actual door.  If you’ve got a hollow core door, you don’t need to go too crazy on the locks & hinges…they just need to be strong enough that a leg/arm goes through the door instead of busting the door open.  This is actually one of the beauties of a hollow core door and hopefully, your attacker’s limb gets stuck, punctured, or gives you an easy target if you’re prepared to capitalize on the opportunity.

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Other Deterrents

A dog will alert you to a stranger’s approach and that will give you time to protect yourself. A large dog may have them running the other direction. I’ve spoken to several police officers about what they felt was the # 1 deterrent against looters. Each time they recommended a big dog with a no-nonsense bark. It’ll have an intruder retreating in no time.

Having said this, all bets may be off during a time of civil unrest. If food, water and supplies become scarce, folks will be desperate to survive. In such circumstances, chancing a bite from a dog who is guarding their property may pale in comparison to starvation. For that reason, a dog alone may not be enough protect you from looters, but it is another layer you can add for home protection.

(David’s note:  Most dogs are “watch” dogs and will bark and watch while bad guys do their thing.  Dogs don’t need to be “guard” dogs to have value…they have tremendous value in giving you a few extra seconds to respond to intruders.)

Installing barbed wire or razor wire atop fences would be an effective deterrent against looters. Although it is illegal now, when SHTF and things heat up to the point where the police and the National Guard cannot respond to emergencies, it would offer a buffer against intruders.

(David’s note:  Loose coils of barbed wire on the INSIDE of the fence is much more likely to be legal than on the top of the fence.)

As a quick note, many of these tips came from David’s course, The SurviveInPlace.com Urban Survival Course.  To learn more about the course, as well as many more tips, tactics, and techniques for hardening your house, go >HERE<

Chapter 13 of Implant is now available. You can Click Here to continue reading.

Have you taken measures to protect yourself against looters. Have any great tips? Please share by posting below!

God bless and stay safe,

David Morris and Survival Diva

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  1. With the national average response time for police to home break in of 11 minutes, a lot can happen in seconds. You may want to consider perimeter lighting with motion sensors especially in recessed doorways. I was surprised to learn that you are 300% more susceptible to break-ins without surveillance and/or alarm system. Do you have any recommendations?

    • Survival Diva says:

      In my opinion, the best “alarm system” is a big dog that can back up his or her bark. They don’t fail in a natural disaster that takes down the grid : )

  2. Got glass on most doors n many windows-if the shoe drops (as opposed to TSHF) 3/4 ext plywood will be installed over all glass surfaces secured by 1/4 inch carriage bolts (less than $2 sq ft)-theyll need something bigger than a brick. Lower hinged 4×4 ports w small gate locks on top installed on openable windows for site seeing n boom-boom! Outside metal doors and all inside rooms metal w peep sites and through hole size of Ur favorite piece on outside (covered w door colored tape) n inside lower-hinged flap w upper small gate locks. Coil of razor wire suspended w 1/4″ dowel rod, high over all entrance doors 2′ wider than door on each side. Ends of rods attached to suitable nylon string brought thru house to allow deployment on strangers. Once engaged one cannot exit this in a timely, non-hemmoragic manner! Of coarse “welcome mats” under each door n window. Good hunting.

  3. I have a 9′ Anderson garage door what steps can I take to harden my garage door!

    • Survival Diva says:


      Mechanical locks are the best bet because most garage door locks are flimsy. If your garage door is an up-and-over style door, look into sturdy hasps and padlocks for the outside and the inside of the door. These will help to prevent the door from being forced open. Make sure the hasps cover the installation screws so the burglar can’t simply unscrew the whole unit. If you use padlocks to secure your garage door, they should have a laminated or forged body, a hardened 9/32″ double-locking shackle, or a 5-pin tumbler lock.

      Another security measure for overhead garage doors is to drill a hole in one of the tracks, the door, or both, and placing a hook or other device in the hole to stop the door from being opened. You can also install bolts in the runners that can be locked from the inside. If you’re serious about keeping intruders from forcing open your up-and-over garage door, try the Garage Defender(TM) lock. This is a lock with expandable security bolts and a concealed armored padlock that fits on the bottom of the garage door to prevent it from being opened.

      If you have double side-hinged garage doors, installing cane bolts can make them more secure. A mortise lock with a rim latch is another good addition.

  4. Good quick quiz of the essentials. I suggest pulling down the Army survival guide on your phone or tablet. It’s free and loaded with more on survival tactics.

  5. SoCal Suburban Prep Dad says:

    Good stuff thanks. I remember reading someplace about how military living in town in high crime areas in Italy (Naples) or Sicily have to deal with the common problem of burglars just breaking thru walls, to get around locked doors and windows- so theres only so much you can do, short of building a fort, and that makes you a target too.

    So deception, aka “gray man” approach makes sense. Especially like the TV broken screen fake out, and the practical strorm shutter plywood covers. One might consider adding the orange “x with numbers” painted on garage door/front door, window, like what FEMA/National Guard first responders use when clearing a neighborhood designated as evacuated, maybe with a big bio hazard like sign saying “INFECTED” or something scary in addition…. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urban_search_and_rescue#United_States_FEMA_marking

  6. Joseph L M says:

    Thank you for this article it has given some new ideal .
    I have layers of barriers between me and my neighbor’s in front of my house – rose bushes along the side walk growing close together first layer,2nd layer 2-1/2 tall picket fence reinforce with rust proof metal framing, 3rd layer -roll of thick hedge bushes trim at 3-1/2 tall. Finally – a foot high limestone flag stones , loosely fitted – so if you step on them you will fall. The sidewalk to the house a 8 foot arbor over the sidewalk with a 6 foot wooden gate most the time it open but when it closed it has a chain link reinforcement backing that locks into a metal framing. I also have in plans to make nail mats to put on the side walk behind the gates and on the front lawn.
    The rest of the property has a 8 foot wooden fence with a 6 foot chain link fence backing.
    The entire property is wirer with sensitivity lights with a bank of batteries with a solar recharging system with 2 panels that receive on average of 8 hours of day lights. 2 years ago I add a panic room on each floor of the house if everything else fails.
    This is not all my preps for home security but the basics that I will share. I like some of the comments so far they also give me some ideals. I just added 2 more pages to my wish list to protect my family and home. Thank you

  7. RightSide Ray says:

    for outward opening doors from garage into house or a closet where you have a safe or other “secure” storage, replace the middle screw (of three) in each hinge with a long (2 1/2 -3″) screw but grind the diameter of the head down so it will fit into the opposite hole in the other side of the hinge. leave the screw protruding enough to clear the hinge plate when the door closes but still catch in the empty hole. Even if the hinge pins are removed, the screw will hold the hinge side closed and a good lock/bolt on the other side of the door will provide a deterrent to easily opening the door.

  8. You can rescue people from a house fire by breaking through the exterior wall. Sometimes it doesn’t take much effort or requires a sledge hammer or an ax. Some thieves use a chainsaw because it’s a normal sound during the day.

    Bolt safes to the floor. However, a $200 fire safe can be opened with a circular saw.

  9. One of the best home defence pets, if it’s legal in your state, is a skunk. When raised properly, a skunk is quite affectionate and very clean. And just think, a person with one foot through your window sees a black and white striped critter waddling tword them sniffing. They ain’t gonna think, “Ah, someone’s pet,” they’ll be thinking, “Oh, poo,” and you’ll be able to find them by following the brown streak on the ground.

  10. What do you think of security bars? We have those on all our windows and doors to the outside. These are the vertical, “wrought iron” type bars, spaced ~ 5″ apart, and are bolted to the wall with fasteners that need to be cut off if you need to take the bars down (then new fasteners installed). The door ones open outwards. (Snow is not a problem here…).

    Also, are “double paned” windows pretty much the same as “storm windows”? We’ve had 3 installed so far, as we’ve upgraded rooms, although we were mainly concerned re: heat and sound insulation when selecting them. They all have slide openings, with screens, and locks; the two bedroom ones can be locked partially open.

    • Survival Diva says:


      As long as you’re able to open them quickly for an emergency like a house fire, they’d be very effective in keeping an intruder out.

      • The bars on the bedroom windows have “pop out” release levers inside the rooms (half the bars swing outwards to open), but the doors are all “need a key for either side of the lock” type fastenings.

  11. We installed these on all our exterior doors and the door from the garage to the house.

    http:// www. a safe home. net/

  12. For windows, if you want protection and light to come in too, get some hardware cloth (some call it rat wire or incorrectly ‘chicken wire’) with about 1/2 inch squares and use fencing staples (lots of them) to secure it over the windows. It will prevent thrown objects from penetrating and keep bad people out for a while. It could be supported with a couple of pieces of strapping underneath to help keep the glass intact from rocks and impacts. You still get light in and can see through it, you can open the windows from inside for fresh air without removing it, and you can fire your choice of “varmint” repellants ( pepper or hornet spray or something a little more convincing for those too dumb to take the hint) through it without weakening it. A stack of sandbags inside in front of it would also make it a hardened guard post

  13. Here in South Florida the building codes require outward-opening doors and have for several years. Many of us actually change these to inward-opening so we can install screen doors, etc. Whatever you choose, be sure you aren’t trapping yourself in your home while keepin others out. Gas leaks, fires, etc. don’t leave a lot of time for dismantling your secure perimeter to get out.

  14. John Baker says:

    Having a periscope to be able to see out a window, what is going outside and in the street, without exposing your head or body would come in handy in a riot/looter situation.

  15. GrouchyJohn says:

    You mentioned pre-cutting plywood for windows. Excellent Idea, but lets go a bit further. Cut the plywood where it fits within the outside window casing so that an edge can’t be grabbed and pulled on. This plywood can at least be nailed or screwed in place. BUT! If you have a window that can be opened some, preferably to where you can access close to the middle of the plywood, go to the hardware, buy carriage bolts that are long enough to go thru the plywood, thru the opened window (plus nuts. and washers) and thru a (best option) 2×4 or at least thru a 1×4 or 1×6. The inside piece of lumber needs to be cut long enough to reach several inches (on each side) past the framing on the inside of the window Drill a hole large enough to stick the carriage bolt through, then one through the lumber. Place the plywood, insert the bolt with washer through the plywood and lumber. Tighten the nut. The round headed carriage bolt will give no surface to grab or hit and the board inside will keep anyone from being able to pull the plywood out. This method enables you to quickly install or remove the plywood without having to remove any screws. Even 7/16 inch OSB plywood is tough (thicker plywood is better, less flex), someone beating it with a sledge hammer is going to find it hard to bust and almost impossible to remove from the outside. This will give you time to arrange the necessary method (9mm, .45, .223, 7.62, bear spray) to get them to leave asap. I do not recommend shooting thru the plywood, it will weaken it.

    • Great idea! I have windows that slide to the side, which are perfect for this setup you have suggested. Thanks for the input!

  16. samnjoeysgrama says:

    Interesting idea from a little watched docudrama on TV: If your neighborhood has active looters and it is the SHTF scenario, , take your least valuable TV and throw it down outside your front door and visibly break it. If it is an EMP, you TVs won’t work anyway. Leave it there. Break the front screen door if you have one and let it swing wildly in the wind. I.e., make it look like you have already been looted. If it looks like the good stuff is already stolen, you are somewhat safer. Get a small gun safe and keep it in your bedroom. Running to the basement to get the gun out of a big safe and searching for the ammo is not an option.
    Something that occurs to me as a dog owner: if you find your dog poisoned and dead in the backyard, as sad as you may be, assume that was done by someone who wanted to remove one barrier to breaking in and they may be back soon. This is a problem in other countries with high crime rates. Most dogs will eat meat thrown to them and in a disaster situation, they would be hungry, too. Also, you may want to give your dog the run of the house at night, not kennel him.
    If you are planting thorny bushes under your windows, try raspberries or blackberries. You end up with a food source as well as the thorns for protection.

  17. Gordon Shumway says:

    I’m going to have sensitivity-adjustable motion detectors all around my home. When the system is armed and any one of the detectors is tripped, it will start a 2-minute tape loop of a very large dog barking. The system resets after 10 minutes. And I don’t have to feed it, walk it, or get it shots.

    • If a person wants in they will find a way to break glass and climb in if glass. Safes can be opened too as I just witnessed a 700 lb safe turned on its side and pried open loosing all precious items inside. Then chemicals are dumped all over to erase finger prints.
      Nothing is safe anymore.

    • Love the idea of baking dog tape and wished I knew how to make that work perhaps.

  18. I have seen this product work effectively in the field.

    Not too costly. EZ Armor can be installed by homeowner.

    Perhaps worth looking at.


  19. Eric Seberg says:

    Re: outward opening doors, the cost difference is usually about 25% and as you noted they are hard to find, usually special order which would add shipping, setup, etc. The simple solution is to use a regular door and mount it backward (outward opening is just the jamb, the door is the same). The threshold looks a little strange (who cares), you need to pay attention to the deadbolt as the strike will be farther forward but strapping should solve that problem and the hinges will have to be peened (but you’d have to do that anyway).

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