This is the third of our four-part series on emergency preparedness. Shelter is the third component of the preparedness triangle, which we covered last week. To review, the four critical basic needs for survival are:
This week we'll talk about how to protect yourself and your shelter in the event of a disaster or emergency. You can find our previous articles on water, food, and shelter by following the highlighted links. (We’re also working on a bonus article about preparing your vehicle for emergencies so check back next week for that.)
Home security is always important, but in a widespread natural disaster, extended power outage, civil unrest, or other turmoil, keeping your home protected is paramount. This article goes beyond simple home security and reviews strategies for enhanced defense in dangerous situations where looting or an attack on your home is a possibility. If your home is breached, your emergency supplies and your life are at stake.
To preface this article, we are not looking at doomsday scenarios. Anytime a natural disaster hits an area we see amazing people helping and assisting in the recovery, but also see the predators come out of the shadows looking for easy prey. These ideas are to help you protect your home and your loved ones. Usually (unless things get very desperate), the bad guys are looking for the easiest opportunities. If you make your home look like a difficult target, they’ll move on to somewhere else.
Identify and Reinforce Entry Points
The first step in fortifying your home is to identify all potential entry points. You should have a strategy for any doors or windows on the basement or ground level as well as any second-story windows, decks, or doors that can be accessed with a ladder or by using your home’s natural structure to climb. You’ll have two categories to secure – doors and windows.
Doors are the primary entry points and should be reinforced. There are many online articles about reinforcing doors but here is a quick overview:
- Replace hollow-core exterior doors with solid wood or sheet steel with a solid wood core.
- Examine all locks and deadbolts. Tighten all screws and replace any locks or strike boxes (the hole that the deadbolt slides into) that are worn or low quality with high-quality deadbolts that can’t be jimmied or opened with a pry bar.
- Reinforce the hinges and strike plates with wood screws that go all the way into the framing studs.
- Reinforce the door jamb by screwing 3” screws through the jamb and into the framing studs every 8” (drill a pilot hole first).
- A simple rubber door stopper (the wedge you use to keep a door open) is incredibly effective at keeping a door closed. Someone would have to kick it off the hinges to get it open. And if you’ve reinforced the door, that won’t happen.
- If you have a sliding door, a dowel cut to length makes those impossible to open (although the bigger concern is the glass in a sliding door – see below).
Windows are a much easier, although nosier, entry for bad guys. If you’re home and they know it, they may avoid breaking a window to alert you to their entry. But again, desperation requires us to predict where weak points may be.
Replacing standard glass windows with polycarbonate, security glass or metal grates may be an option but is most likely out of the realm of what most of us will do. In the scenario we’re looking at, the best way is to board up any glass that can be broken to gain entry is with plywood. Don’t expect to find any at a hardware store once the distress is obvious. To get prepared in advance, you should have a set of “shutters” for each window that would need to be protected. Preferably cut to size and identified in case you need to get them on in a hurry. A power screwdriver and grabber screws should also be part of your prep gear.
There are a million opinions on what the best home defense solution is. But the first decision you need to make is, are you prepared to use deadly force if someone is threatening your home or family? If not, there are some effective options covered below. If so, you need to commit to becoming efficient with your firearm. Understand its limitations, strengths, and weaknesses. Practice often and consider getting professional training. And most importantly, lock up your firearms and ammunition with a solution that keeps it available to you but not your kids or their friends. We can’t state this strongly enough – you are responsible for that firearm and its access. Also, these are a collection of ideas. It is your responsibility to educate yourself about the options, their effectiveness, and use. We’re not going to get into calibers, that’s a deeply personal issue for everyone. Our pros at the gun counter will give you great advice for your specific needs and objectives.
With the disclaimers out of the way, here are some of the options you have:
- Bear spray – If bear spray stops a charging grizzly, it will absolutely put an assailant out of commission.
- Shotguns – Shotguns provide a great option for home defense, especially if you haven’t had a lot of experience with firearms. They don’t require as much training to become proficient, generally don’t over-penetrate, are extremely reliable, and just the sound of racking a shell is terrifying to someone who is trying to gain access or is already in. They are point-and-shoot which is a significant issue for anyone facing these high-stress situations.
- Handguns – Handguns are a common solution to home defense. Using a touchpad, quick-access safe makes it easy to have ready access while keeping the firearm away from those that shouldn’t have it. Handguns are limited in their range and do require a deeper level of training and skill to effectively use, especially in a charged situation where adrenaline is rushing. If you choose this route, get training. You should know how to clear a jam, rack a new magazine, draw quickly and safely, and most of all, hit what you’re aiming at. You should also consider a night-sight, laser, or red-dot sight, and a flashlight attachment for encounters in dark or low-light situations. And like tactical rifles, most rounds will penetrate your home’s walls so role-play potential contact points and what’s behind them if you must pull the trigger.
- Modern Sporting Rifles – This is one of the most popular firearms in the country. If you are trained well, they are effective, especially for multiple assailants. They are much more accurate than handguns and provide greater range. They will go through walls so if this is your choice you should absolutely work through different scenarios, looking at shooting lanes and what’s behind the most probable areas of contact. . If you might make contact in a hallway, is there a bedroom at the other end? These firearms are also highly customizable for attachments like flashlights, red-dot sights, and laser sights.
In summary, focus on how to make gaining entry into your home as difficult as possible. No one ever wants to get into a home invasion fight. Do everything you can to minimize that possibility. Again, wolves look for the weak; project an impression that makes them move on. If defending your family and home does happen, get very good at whatever weapon you decide on. Because at that point, you want complete confidence in your abilities and skills.