fortifying your home

UNDERSTAND HOW TO defend your castle and protect your tribe!

Part 2 – For people who own their home and/or can install permanent security upgrades

Fortifying Your Home – published on November 2, 2020

Fortifying Your Home, Part 1 is a must read for everyone who needs to upgrade their home security. It’s all about expanding your deterrence and detection capability outward to gain strategic depth and identify threats as early as possible.

In part one, we laid out these key factors for securing a rental home and they apply to anyone who wants to fortify your home as well:

  •  Building an impenetrable fortress is not realistic, but you can significantly enhance your home security.
  • We need to deter, detect, and determine intent at a distance.
  • We will do this by deploying concentric rings of deterrents and detection tripwires.
  • Deterrents are visual communication of immediate consequences for malicious behavior.
  • Detection tripwires are devices that are deployed at chokepoints that funnel people through small areas where they are more easily detected.
  • The worst case scenario is that a malicious person gains entrance to your home without detection.

For this article, we are assuming that you can drill, cut, and make permanent changes. Most of these are steps the average homeowner should be able to accomplish. If not, a contractor or a remodeler should be able do them easily.

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Fortifying your home, the sequel

We are going to rely on Part 1 for the external deterrence and detection. For this article we are concentrating on the goal of physically stopping people from entering your home. We will stop a malicious person from breaking a window, dropping a coat over the broken glass, and climbing inside. Part 1 was fortifying your home, Part 2 is the sequel: immediate entry denial.

The portals to your home are inherently insecure. Determined people have found ways to defeat the best locks and latches. Because of this:

  1. The portals to your home should have internal latch systems that cannot be defeated from the outside.
  2. We recommend adding security devices to doors and windows even if you have the best door hardware (hinges and latches).
  3. The additional step required to secure your portals reinforces the need to make security protocols into habits. These habits will resurface when you are under extreme stress and can only accomplish familiar movement patterns.
  4. These additional security devices will be noticed by anyone casing your house.
  5. In many cases, these devices are easier to install than upgrading the locks.

How long would it take a locksmith or a SWAT team to breach your front door after you install a new deadbolt lock and heavy duty hinges? The answer is both cases will be a minute or two. The locksmith will quickly determine the model of the lock and either pick or rake it. The SWAT team will use a jamb spreader and a battering ram. These are examples of people whose job it is to breach doors. Here’s a short video of someone who made a tool to unlock a deadbolt from the outside without a key. He gives detailed instructions on how to make this device:

Malicious people tend to have less training and tools, but they are highly motivated and need to be stopped.

What is a fortified home?

The definition of a fortified home includes physically stopping someone from entering.

  1. Unhardened – standard locks on the doors and windows. Easy to breach.
  2. Fortified – resistant to entry, includes window security shutters or bars. Immediate entry is denied.
  3. Hardened – fire and bullet resistant construction. Determined entry is denied.

In every case, you will have to interact with the attackers at some point. The only question is when and where. This article will show you how to promote your security from unhardened to fortified.

The walls

The envelope of your home needs to have a common level of security everywhere. Most stick built (wood framed) homes will prevent immediate entry by a malicious person, but they will not stop bullets and will ignite and burn under the right conditions. Even so, there is some utility in having ballistic and fire rated doors because the portals are commonly attacked. And adding a ballistic resistant door gives you at least one place with cover. “Cover” is something that stops rifle bullets. Examples of cover are 8 inches of solid concrete and 18 inches of wood. The only part of most vehicles that stops rifle bullets is the engine block. Cars aren’t cover. Neither are walls made of wood and drywall.

Inward swinging doors – front and back

These need to be commercial steel doors or steel security doors at a minimum. The optical “peephole” viewers should not be used. If the lights are on inside, they will give a signal that you are at the door when you look through them. When you walk up to the door from the inside and look through the viewer, this light will dim as your head blocks the interior light from reaching the viewer. Whoever is outside will see that dimmed light and know you are at the door. There are battery powered cameras that mount in the door that will prevent this. To further increase the security, we need a security screen door that opens outward. This will allow you to keep the doors open while still maintaining access control.

Locks and latches on a steel security door

Securing inward swinging external doors

We recommended a removable bracing bar for inward swinging doors in Fortifying Your Home, Part 1. These bars have a mechanical lock on the top end by straddling the door knob with a fork, but the bottom end relies on friction with the floor. For this article, we are going to step up the protection and use barricade bars. Barricade bars attach to each side of the door frame and span the door horizontally. They have a mechanical lock on each side so we are not reliant upon friction to keep the door from being breached. The regular door hardware (hinges and locks) are taken out of the equation as well.

Barricade bar

Alternatively, you can save some money by using brackets that allow a regular 2 x 4 board to be used.

Sliding glass doors

There is a section near the end of part 1 that discusses how to upgrade an existing patio door to increase its security. But sliding glass doors and their cousins, fully glassed French doors are almost impossible to upgrade to a comfortable level of security. They just have too much glass and are usually located in secluded areas in the back of houses. Part 1 was for renters and people who could not make permanent changes. If you have the ability to replace your sliding glass door, do so. There is an existing header above them that will make installing an inward swinging door and a window fairly easy. A header is a beam that carries the wall load around the door. All load bearing walls have headers above the doors and windows.

Fortifying your home – windows

Since the goal is to prevent immediate breaching of your home’s envelope, the impact resistant film we recommended for renters needs to be upgraded. We need actual bars on the windows. These will function as both a deterrent and a barrier. There are options available for mounting inside or outside of the windows. Each option has advantages, but you must be able to immediately unlatch the bars in case of a fire.

Internal window bars

The recommendations for windows in Part 1 still apply. They should have working latches and a bracing bar. Your family needs to be aware of how they work and be given an opportunity to open them several times. When adrenal glands dump their contents into the bloodstream, the subconscious falls back on familiar movement patterns. Practice emergency egress.

Other portals

If you have pet doors or firewood doors, be sure they are secured. Pet doors should be made of aluminum or steel, have a solid plate that can be secured shut, and be placed away from doors. Never put a pet door in a human door. Even if they are too small for someone to crawl through, they give good access for a burglar to insert tools through to reach the inside door latch.

The last redoubt

This is a hardened inner room that you can take refuge in when an attacker has breached your home envelope. This was where the system broke down for people who rent in Fortifying Your Home, Part 1. Hollow core interior doors cannot be made to withstand a determined attacker. If you cannot replace the door in a bedroom, bathroom, or closet, you do not have a barrier that will buy you very much time. They can be kicked in very easily. Even the hardware is privacy grade, not security rated. Let’s start with the door. It needs to be upgraded to a solid core security door at the minimum. Now put some serious hinges and an automatic latching knob with an interior only privacy lock. The final step is to add one of the same barricade bars that we recommended above for the exterior inward swinging door.

Internal security latch

Security systems

In Part 1, we made the case for separate systems for the exterior and the interior of your home. This is to provide a level of redundancy and keep your internet of things (IOT) exposure minimized. The driveway alarm and security system we recommended have no internet connection. They both also have a low power draw and internal batteries. These are important capabilities if the grid goes down.

If you work or travel and are concerned about burglary, we would recommend a third security system that has remote signaling when there is an intruder. This system will require an internet connection to signal your phone if there is an intrusion. Because of this, we are less concerned with power outages and having a dedicated frequency for communication between the sensors and the base unit.

Note that we’ve discussed the ideal panic room in a previous article. In that article, we link to a wired camera system that provides power to the cameras. If you keep the base DVR powered, the cameras will work. It has a fairly low power draw and you can keep it going for a few hours with a properly sized uninterruptible power supply.

The take-away

You can significantly increase the protection of your home. The keys are to detect intruders before they commit to attacking your home and physically stop them from breaching the envelope of your home.

Next article: Fortify your home – security upgrades for people who rent

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