Despite what some people say, appearances matter.  When it comes to hardening your home, looks say a lot about whether a house is occupied or not.

Credit: WAVY TV

In this picture, one house appears unkempt while the one next door appears well-maintained.  If a thief was scouting the area, he would conclude that the house with the un-mowed grass was unoccupied, meaning it would be an easier target.  If a house had several days worth of newspapers sitting in the driveway or a trashcan sitting on the curb on a non-trash day, the same conclusion could be drawn. Consider another possibility;  a house with a clean, well-maintained yard, no newspapers or flyers laying around, a security system sign along with decals on the windows, a “Beware of Dog” sign by the back yard, and working exterior lights.  If there is an automobile parked in the driveway, high-quality locks, and door reinforcement so much the better.  In other words, a house that appears to be occupied. Which one do you think is more likely to get broken into? Appearances matter folks.

Who’s at the door?  There’s one easy and fairly inexpensive way to find out, its also a great way of hardening your home.  Here’s a clue…

Peep Hole

Having a peep-hole in an external door will allow you to see who is at the door.  This is crucial because only Superman can see through solid objects.  Knowing who is outside is critical information because the easiest way for a bad guy to gain entry into a home is for somebody to let him in.

I’ll admit that this was one of the last items I installed in my house, years after I put in my security system and exterior lights.  Looking back, it should have been the first item I installed, along with better locks.  Thankfully, my lack of a peep-hole never resulted in any problems but I don’t recommend putting this off.  If you don’t have one installed already, get one installed ASAP because the money you spend on this item (circa $20) can make your home much safer.

One of the first things I did when I moved into my house was install several exterior lights.

Exterior Light

This was done partly for looks but mostly for security.  Three of the lights had sensors built into them (the two by the garage and one by the front door) so that they would turn on automatically when the sun went down.  This illuminated my house at night, making it look occupied even when I was away.  This may sound minor but light is a powerful deterrent to crime.  Crooks have fewer places to hide at night where there is illumination, which is one of the reasons why streetlamps are installed in urban areas.

For around $300, I was able to purchase these lights and get them installed.  The energy costs are low since I use 15-watt CFL bulbs instead of incandescent ones, plus I haven’t had to replace one in the four years they have been operational.  Its a small investment that provides a large benefit to my home’s security.  So keep the lights on, its a great way of hardening your home!

If you don’t have a security system, I suggest you get one as soon as you are able to.

GE Simon XT Home Security System

First, a few caveats.  Owning a security system will not make your home impervious to burglars.  It also won’t decrease police response times if the alarm is triggered.  Plus, most municipalities charge fees for security systems and fine you if a false alarm is triggered.

So why have one?  The short answer is that it adds another layer to your home’s security.  An alarm system provides some additional benefits on its own, but combined with high-grade locks, reinforced door jambs, lighting, window security film, and other measures, it becomes an integral part of a robust domicile.  A multi-layered approach towards hardening your home is less prone to being compromised because a potential burglar would have to defeat all security measures before being able to break-in.  More layers means more time and effort, which makes a secure home a less desirable target for a thief.

There are a myriad of different systems out there but most use three techniques to detect an intruder.  These are:

  • Motion sensors
  • Glass-break sensors
  • Door/window sensors

Also, the security system will use two primary means of contacting the alarm company if these sensors detect a problem.

  • Landline (telephone wire)
  • Wireless (cellular telephone)

Which one is right for you?  That’s outside the scope of this article but any reputable security company will send out a technician to evaluate the proper setup for a given home.  There are a lot of different options to choose from so carefully consider your home’s needs before making a decision.  What is important is that you add a security system to your home if you don’t already have one.  It will help deter criminals and give you greater peace of mind.

Confession time, this series on “Hardening Your Home” is going to be a bit like a Tarantino movie.  No, these posts won’t involve snappy dialog coupled with bloody violence!  What I mean by that is the story will not be told in a chronological fashion.  For example, the deadbolts that are currently installed on my exterior doors.

Schlage Light Commercial Deadbolt

These were installed a few weeks ago, which was before I installed the EZ Armor I mentioned in the previous post.

While the timing isn’t important, the reason why I opted to update my lock hardware is.  Not long ago, I read some articles on lock bumping and decided to take measures to prevent this from happening.  Essentially, a criminal can defeat most locks in less than a minute using a bump key and a hard impact.  You can watch a video of it by going here, which shows how simple and fast this technique is.  Since my lock hardware was purchased from a big box retailer after I purchased my home, I decided it was time to upgrade and improve my defenses.

I decided to get Schlage Light Industrial deadbolt locks and passage handles.  These are only available from locksmiths and are constructed from higher quality materials than normal locks.  These locks are designed to be bump and pick resistant, which makes it more difficult and time-consuming for a would-be intruder to break into my home.  Another great feature is they can be re-keyed by a non-locksmith.  A set of these locks is about twice what a normal set would cost at a home improvement store, however the added security and peace of mind you gain is worth it.

Better locks combined with door reinforcement added an additional layer of security to my home.  In my next post, I’ll discuss how I use lighting to deter crime.

Believe it or not, most criminals break in to homes through the front door.  The reason is most residential doors aren’t strong enough to resist an attack.  The door jamb usually lacks the reinforcement necessary to resist a strong kick from a criminal.  This means even if you lock your doors, your home and family still aren’t safe from a determined onslaught.

Two weeks ago, I decided to do something about this by installing EZ Armor on both my front door and my garage door.  I’d spent some time researching these types of products and found that this particular product was the best one available for my house.  EZ Armor comes in a kit that reinforces the door jamp, hinges, and locks with powder-coated metal plates.  These are mounted with long screws that go into the frame of the house, which further reinforces the door.  Watch this video and see for yourself.

I liked it so much I decided to post a link on my website so visitors can order it.  If you have some time, check out the manufacturer’s website for more information too.  Its a great product from a company with a compelling story to tell so give it a look.

The last thing to keep in mind is that effectively hardening your home is multi-layered and has redundancy built in.  In upcoming posts in this series, I will mention how important locks, security systems, and lights are to your home’s security in addition to reinforcing the door jambs.  While there isn’t a single “magic bullet” that will make your house safe, there are several steps security-minded homeowners can take that will make their domiciles more resistant to home invasion.

Click here to purchase EZ Armor for your home

I’m working on a series of posts about how homeowners can make their domiciles more resistant to crime.  It will be called “Hardening Your Home” and is intended to give readers actionable security advice they can begin to implement immediately.  This will be accomplished by taking a multi-layered approach that adds redundancy to your home’s security.  I’ll recount my experiences with this process over the past few years as I have sought to increase my home’s security.  Hopefully my stories and advice will enable you to do the same and experience greater peace of mind as you take action to make your home safer.

I’m sure more than a few people said “oh snap” at Wal-Mart the other day.

When the EBT card system went 404 the other day, chaos ensued.

Now imagine if there was an EBT outage for a day or a week or even a month.  Bob Owens notes that agitators will use outages like this one to stir up trouble through disinformation and paranoia.  This made the problem worse and caused unnecessary waste as products were damaged or spoiled during the outage.  As Monty writes over at Ace of Spades, the nightmare scenario is when the cards stop working permanently because there is no more money to give out.  Think about what that would entail…

There is a larger issue though, that being the definition of “compassion” and the role of government in people’s lives.  As we saw with the EBT outage, there is a multifaceted dysfunction in government-run programs that is corrosive to independence.  Jon Gabriel over at FreedomWorks stated it best when he wrote:

It is immoral that so many poor Americans feel like they must rely on an incompetent government to provide their daily bread. There is nothing compassionate about turning able-bodied adults into helpless wards of the state or grocery store looters…A truly compassionate system would allow businesses to grow and hire, providing our fellow citizens with paychecks instead of handouts. A compassionate system would allow Americans to devote more of their money to effective charities instead of having so much seized by an incompetent government.

So what should a prepared person do to mitigate situations like this?  Here are a few actions you can take that will make you more resilient during an interruption:

  • Stockpile food, water, and other necessities now.  Have a supply (3-days worth, minimum) of essential items on-hand so that you don’t have to go to the store.
  • Have extra cash at home, preferably in a safe.  Electronic payments are great…when everything works correctly.  When they don’t, have some money in various denominations so you can get through the interruption.
  • If you find yourself in a food riot or other civil disturbance, be ready to leave the area as soon as possible.  Crowds can get violent when they are hungry and scared, you want to get away from them immediately.
  • Be ready to protect your home and family if there is a civil disturbance.  Take steps now to protect your domicile by purchasing high-quality locks, installing stronger doors, motion-activated lights, and reinforcing your door jambs.

There is more you can do, which I will cover in other posts.  The key takeaway is to know that civil unrest can take place anywhere when there is an interruption and to make plans now to deal with it.  You can ride the storm out by becoming better prepared and taking the initiative to plan for unplanned outages of all sorts.

Most of us have cards in our wallets and purses.  How many of us have a few of these laying around?

Metro Transit Authority MetroCard

If you live in a city, you might want to purchase a few transit passes to have on-hand in case you need them.  Most transit authorities issue daily passes that don’t have expiration dates, meaning they hold their value over time.  Some passes can be “recharged” with additional funds in order to keep a balance on the card.

But why would you need transit passes when you already have a car?

Let’s say your car breaks down or you are unable to get to/from work.  What do you do?  Sure, if a family member or a friend is nearby and has the time they might be able to take you.  What if nobody was immediately available and you had a schedule to meet?  Sure, you could call a cab or rent a car but for much less ($3-5 per day) you could take the bus/trolley/train to get around.

Having transit cards (plural) gives you options when your primary mode of transportation is unavailable.  It may not be the most convenient or the fastest way to get around, but it will get you where you need to be.  Consider it if you live in a major metropolitan area where there is a mass transit system.

For me, I have ten one-day passes for my local transit authority.  I have a few in my car, one in my wallet, a couple at home, a couple at the office, and one in my go-bag.  If nothing else, I will be able to get home if my automobile stops working.  Your situation may be different but give it some thought and act accordingly.