One of the scariest things that can happen to a homeowner is a home invasion. When it occurs, it’s frighteningly sudden. Often, there is little or no time to react. By the time a home invader is in the house, it could be too late to effectively keep him at bay. He may be there to rob you and quickly escape, or he could have other intentions, including kidnapping or rape.
The absolute best way to deal with a home invader (or a burglar if no one is home) is to make him decide — while he’s still outside — that your home is not one that he should try to invade. If you can convince that burglar as he’s scoping out your neighborhood that he will have a very difficult time accomplishing his goal in your house, you might actually save your life and that of your family members.
Some people believe that their home will never be the target of a home invader because there are more expensive houses in the immediate area that contain more expensive items to steal. The problem with that kind of thinking is that fact might not matter to a burglar. A burglar is equally interested in determining which houses he can get in and out of quickly without being detected as he is in what kind of loot with which he can escape. And a more expensive house is more likely to have a more elaborate security system that the burglar doesn’t want to mess around with.
Your choice — before something like this happens — is whether to make it easy for the burglar or very difficult for him.
Before we discuss what you can do to make a burglar decide to bypass your home, including locks, lights and landscaping, there’s something everyone should know. The weakest link in your home defense could be you or another person living in your home.
Yes, some home invasions begin when a burglar busts through a front door or breaks a window and crawls through it. But many others start with a seemingly innocent ringing of a doorbell. The burglar might pretend that he’s making a delivery or that he’s collecting money for a charity or informing you about a power outage or gas leak, or is just a person in distress who needs to use a telephone or bathroom.
When these deceivers find someone who buys their story, even for just a moment, they can either push their way into the house after the front door has been opened, or perhaps be invited in by a kind-hearted but naïve homeowner. Once they’re on the inside, you’re pretty much at their mercy because they will probably have a weapon and there will be no telltale sign of a forced entry that a neighbor or passer-by might spot.
So, you and your family members should have a plan in place for every time someone rings your doorbell or knocks on your front door. And that strategy should include not opening the door until you are absolutely sure you know who that person is. Make sure that a delivery person shows you an ID, and call the company if you have any doubts about that person.
Let’s move on to the top 10 ways that you can turn your home into a fortress. Remember, these are crucial for convincing a burglar that your home will be too much trouble for his treachery:
- Always keep your doors locked, whether you are home or away. Install solid wood or metal-clad doors, as these are the most likely entry points for an intruder. In addition, upgrade your locks. Grade 1 or Grade 2 deadbolts, accompanied by heavy-duty brass strike plates, should keep doors from being kicked in.
- Keep your windows locked. You don’t want windows that can be manipulated from the outside, so keep them from opening more than six inches. Consider installing mounting brackets now so that you could quickly install window bars later if necessary.
- Install a security system with a loud alarm and advertise that system with signs on your property. Even before your security system is in place, a loud alarm could scare away an intruder. Post a sign regarding your alarm near the entrances. Make sure everyone living in the house knows how important it is to keep alarm codes confidential.
- Make sure your front door has a peephole that gives you a good view of anyone on your porch. Your porch light should be bright enough to enable you to recognize the person before you open the door.
- Keep the inside of your house well lit at night. Put your inside lights on a timer when you are away. Make sure newspapers aren’t delivered while you’re gone, and try to keep a car in the driveway.
- Take a walk around your home — inside and out — and look for areas where someone could enter without a great deal of trouble. Assess these potential breach points and secure them. If there is a seldom-used door to the outside, install a 2 x 4 barricade on the inside.
- Safeguard the perimeter of your home by installing motion-sensor lights on your property. A fence can be climbed, but having one might be enough to make an intruder choose a different home. Keep your shrubbery trimmed in order to reduce the number of hiding places on your property.
- Whether or not you own a barking dog, plant a “Beware of Dog” sign near your house’s entrances. Dogs can be trained in defense, or at least to bark when they hear a noise outside.
- Keep tools that could be used to break into a home (ladders, crowbars, etc.) away from open view.
- Have a family emergency plan. Every family member should know exactly what to do, in advance, if an intruder enters the house. Getting out of the house quickly is best, but if that’s not possible, a previously designated “safe room” is where they should head. Always keep a pair of tennis shoes, a flashlight and a cellphone by your bed.