Prevention is the single most important step you can take to survive a home invasion. The more difficult it is for a criminal to enter your home, the greater the likelihood that individual will move on to an easier target. An actual invasion is most likely to occur when homeowners fail to take basic precautions. The prevention techniques listed below serve as a basic guide and should be utilized to form the basis of your own comprehensive prevention plan.
Every external door around the home with direct access to the outside should be solid core. Hollow doors are easily susceptible to being kicked in or destroyed by aggressive invaders. Each of these doors should be reinforced with heavy-duty locks, deadbolts, and steal strike plates. Assure that all the door frames are strong and in good condition.
If your front door does not have any glass panes or bordering windows that allow you to see clearly onto the porch, install a wide-angle peephole. It is vitally important that you are able to view whomever is at the door before you make the decision to open it.
Doors should be locked at all times while you’re at home. This includes secondary screen doors and glass viewing doors as well. While an invader could easily rip through a screen door if it is locked, consider such an act an audible warning versus having an invader quietly slide the screen door open unnoticeably. Fortify sliding glass doors by placing a security bar or sturdy rod down on the inside track to prevent the door from opening in case it is left unlocked or becomes disengaged.
The door leading to the garage should not be taken for granted. Many homeowners make the mistake of believing this area is secure if the garage door is closed because it adds another barrier. However, most garages are used for storing items, not vehicles. As such, homeowners park at least one vehicle in the driveway but still enter their home through the garage. This typically means the garage door opener remains in the vehicle. Criminals can break into the car and retrieve the opener to further access the home. If your car is parked outside of the garage, do not leave the garage opener inside of it.
The same precaution should be taken with the door leading from the yard into the garage. Many homeowners believe that if the yard is fenced in and the gates are locked, then this door doesn’t require much reinforcement. Invaders looking to sneak into a home will focus on rear entry points. Don’t get complacent with your perimeter enclosures and leave your external doors unsecured.
When it comes to most homes, the windows are the weakest security points. They can be easily shattered and permit enough room for an intruder to gain entry at ground level. Windows must be locked when not in use and screens should be installed for an extra security buffer. The glass must be able to withstand physical attacks by weapons or other tough instruments. Consider double-pained laminated glass. You can also reinforce its strength by adding a security film that will make it shatterproof. Be sure all windows are fitted with quality locks and connect them to the alarm system.
Window coverings of all types provide a layer of privacy and simultaneously serve as a security measure. Curtains, blinds, shutters, and shades all do their part to minimize visibility into your home from the outside. Any ability to see clearly through a window gives an intruder the opportunity to plan an attack. All windows should be covered at night as well as during the day when nobody is home. While at home, consider only uncovering windows in the rooms being occupied. Alternatively, only furnish windows with blinds and shutters as they can reflect light at an angle that darkens the interior when viewed from the exterior. They also serve as a natural obstruction should an invader break a window and attempt entry.
Some fences have aesthetic designs that allow them to be easily traversed. This is due to a combination of the material pattern and height. Many wood fences have scalable beams and some stone combinations create natural footholds. Rod iron fences permit visibility through the yard and subsequently into the house. A fence should be made of materials difficult to bend, break, or manipulate and be high enough to eliminate climbing or traversing.
Gates should be fitted with durable hardware such as heavy-duty latches reinforced with padlocks or key locks. They should also be equipped with heavy gauge springs that retract to full closure without assistance. Make sure no stones, bark, or other obstructions prevent a gate from fully closing. Inspect the ground underneath the fence and gates to make sure no pits or erosion gaps exist that would permit access.
Trees and shrubs work to an advantage and disadvantage. They provide a layer of perimeter protection along the home making it difficult for an intruder to reach the windows. However, they can also provide cover for intruders willing to hide until their timing is right. The key is to cut back trees and shrubbery in order to maintain complete visibility through the window out to the exterior perimeter. This will also reduce potential hiding places. However, allow the shrubbery to grow thick enough to establish a barricade and create more distance between the windows and the yard. Consider planting bushes that have pointed leaves and thorny branches. This will function as natural barbed wire against intruders seeking ground level access.
There are a few key items that should be upgraded or added to your existing security infrastructure – lighting, alarm, and cameras.
Proper and effective external lighting cannot be overstated. All porches, entrances, and perimeter areas should be well lit during all hours of the night. This includes the driveway, garage, gates, walkways, side yards, patios, and any perimeter zone that is dark in the evening. Position lights to eliminate the dark spots where invaders can hide and take away their ability to be stealthy. Check bulbs regularly to ensure their coverage and brightness. Motion sensors can spook an intruder away and alert you of activity outside. Be careful of solar powered lighting as they frequently don’t receive enough daytime charge and operate much more dimly at night than what is required. Give attention to your internal lighting as well. Install timers for your absence and consider motion lighting for common rooms and hallways if you live in a large home.
Your home alarm system should be comprehensive. The sensors should cover all entry points including windows and sliding glass doors. Other critical features needed are panic buttons, noise sensors, and motion detectors. Install panic buttons in multiple locations around the home so you can alert the authorities immediately in an emergency without having to reach for the phone or run to the opposite side of the house. Noise sensors trigger the alarm from the sound of breaking glass. This is an excellent tool for reinforcing window security. Motion detectors form an invisible barrier for stealthy intruders who manage to breach the system at an entry point. Always arm the security system when you are home. Many home invaders rely on the fact that most inhabitants only set the alarm when they are away.
The term “security camera” is extraordinarily misleading as it does very little to provide actual security. At best, a camera can deter a potential invader with a conscience, but cameras are ultimately for evidence collection. They truly only serve surveillance activity. However, it is important to install a camera system in order to capture suspicious activity and the identities of criminals. This information is vital to law enforcement authorities and it benefits your entire community. For this reason, it is fundamental that a camera system includes a DVR with a huge memory capacity that retains its recordings for 3-6 months, not the usual 30-days. Often times, law enforcement investigators get a tip about a suspicious person or activity long after it has occurred. Your recordings could provide the necessary intelligence or evidence in a case.
The camera system should be the best quality you can afford. Clarity is the number one priority. This includes accurate color balance and object recognition. Infrared is imperative for nighttime recording. Motion activated cameras begin recording once movement is detected allowing for efficient capture and review, however movement at some distances will not cause the camera to operate and valuable imagery can be missed. Each camera should be set at an angle to capture the face of an oncoming intruder. Additionally, each angle should overlap the path of the adjoining camera angle.
This produces contiguous coverage in the event of an occurrence, which will acquire a fluid image from different perspectives. Camera placement should be arranged much like the lighting to eliminate any gaps.
The best defense for your family is to hold an education and planning session that discusses all aspects of home invasions. Begin your planning by thinking like a thief and breaking into your own home. Analyze the perimeter and then evaluate the interior. Look for weak points and hiding places. Any areas requiring attention or upgrades should be handled immediately.
Next, develop an escape plan for your family members. Each person should be given a directive of where to go and what to say, especially children. Assess 911 procedures, panic buttons, hiding places, and surrounding neighbors. Designate or build a safe room where family members can retreat to during an invasion. This room should be lockable with an external window and have communication capabilities to law enforcement and neighbors. A panic button should be installed in this room. Finally, hold the family security meeting and conduct a complete overview of the home. Everything in the plan should be rehearsed and reviewed again multiple times a year.
The next group to involve in your planning is your neighborhood. Get involved in your community and foster excellent relationships with your neighbors. Take initiative to keep an eye on everything. If you witness something suspicious, notify your neighbors and the police. This is particularly important for strange solicitors. Holding monthly meetings or generating a newsletter for alerts is critical for community vigilance.
Of all the preventative steps that can be taken, remaining aware of your surroundings at all times is by far the most essential. Being aware of the present gives you vital time to make crucial decisions. Keep track of who is around your neighborhood. Get familiar with the people and their vehicles. This will help you to easily identify a new face or strange vehicle. When you are arriving home, scan your street for suspicious activity and look around your home for any disturbances. Make sure everything is the same as when you left it. If something is noticeably out of place, go to a neighbor’s home. Keep in mind that many home invaders scout their targets well in advance of initiating their attack. Change your usual routine and break up your schedule if possible. Any deviation from your normal behavior can throw off a potential intruder.
Preventative measures cause home invaders to look elsewhere. However, none of these procedures matter if they are not properly utilized. Ensuring deterrence is built upon unwavering habits. Hardening your home and refusing to open the door for suspicious persons is a daily routine that can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a target. Any of the aforementioned safeguards will slow down, if not completely dissuade, an intruder and give you and your family extra time to call the police or plan an escape.