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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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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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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