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Three Layers of Effective Home Security: Simple Ways to Protect Your Castle

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If you’ve ever had your home broken into, you know the feelings of sadness, anxiety, anger, and being violated. In fact, according to the FBI, burglaries of residential properties accounted for 62.8 percent of all burglary offenses in 2019. Yet, when we talk about home security, it seems as though many people are just concerned with stockpiling weapons and ammunition. The reality, though, is that it takes a layered approach to address the issue of home protection and defense adequately.

image: hand inserting green-topped key into deadbolt of brown door as layer of home security


What Effective Home Security ISN’T

Any real and effective security isn’t accomplished just by:

  • Buying a loud, scary-looking dog
  • Putting bars on the windows
  • Posting a “This house protected by Remington” sign on the front door
  • Planting thorny bushes under each window
  • Paying for an expensive security system

Your home security plan might include some of these (the gun sign is definitely not a good idea!), but other steps as well.

Bear in mind, too, that we’re not just talking about security and defense in a grid down, no “rule of law” situation. This stuff applies to our day-to-day lives as well.

There are different ways to look at and approach the home security puzzle, but I like to boil it down to three basic layers – Deter, Delay, and Defend.

The First Layer: Deter

Deterring an attack means convincing possible intruders that they should seek a better target elsewhere. Human beings generally make decisions based on risk versus reward. The higher the perceived reward, the more risk they will take to obtain it. Of course, the flip side to that is also true – the lower the perceived reward, the less they are willing to do to get it.

Let’s look at a few ways to limit the perceived reward.

Keep Things Out-of-Sight

From the standpoint of securing a home, much of deterrence involves keeping things low-key and hidden from view.

For example, you finally saved enough money to buy a new TV. But after bringing it home and setting it up, don’t just toss the box out with the trash bins! Doing so tells every person walking and driving by that you have a brand-spanking new TV, just waiting for someone to steal.

Instead, either cut the box up and put the pieces in your recycling bin or do what we do and reuse the cardboard for projects around the house. The basic idea with the deter layer is to limit the perceived reward, so ne’er-do-wells look elsewhere.

Here are a few other tips:

  • If you must leave a key outside, don’t put it in an obvious spot near the door it opens. At least make the thief work for it a little.
  • Close your garage door when it isn’t required to be open. And keep the garage door opener out-of-sight.
  • You may want to share with everyone on social media what fun you’re having on vacation, but so do burglars. Don’t announce your home will be unoccupied.

Shine a Light on Things

Install motion-activated exterior lights. They have the potential to spook a would-be intruder. Just make sure they are aimed to light up the burglar’s face rather than the neighbor’s house. The jury is out on their effectiveness on their own, but when used in conjunction with other measures, could be useful.

Adopt a Dog

Getting a dog is another form of home protection to make your home a less-attractive target. Burglars are less likely to hit homes with a loud yappy dog. Even better are the deep, throaty barks of a big dog, like a German Shepherd.

Install a Home Security System

Another home protection strategy for some people is to buy a home security system but then let the subscription service quietly expire. Sometimes the sticker or sign out in front is enough to keep a potential thief away.

When selecting a home security system, consider the following:

  • What kind of system are you most comfortable with?
  • How much can you spend?
  • What is the cost of installation (and potential repairs)?
  • What is the warranty?
  • What is the risk of it being disabled, hacked, or otherwise compromised?

While wireless home protection is convenient, it is more susceptible to nefarious intent, like spying or a digital peeping tom. No one is going to watch a remote feed from a wired unit.

That said, if you decide to go wireless, just don’t connect it to the internet. Instead, use a WiFi router that isn’t hooked up to the internet. Also, use encryption and deactivate SSID broadcasting.

The Second Layer: Delay

The next goal in protecting the home is to delay any intruders. The objective is to give yourself as much time as possible to react to the threat. You want to be aware of the intruder as soon as possible while at the same time slowing them down. The delay layer utilizes things like alarms and cameras as well as keeping entry points secure through the use of locks and such.

One very easy thing you can do today is to strengthen your outer doors. Because most doors are installed with fairly small screws on the hinges, replace the hinge screws with longer, stronger ones. You don’t want to install an expensive deadbolt only to have the doorframe fail first. Kinda defeats the purpose.

Therefore, go to the hardware store and pick up a handful of screws about 2.5 – 3″ long. Open your door and, one at a time, remove and replace the screws affixing the hinge to the door frame. The longer screws will go through the frame and into the studs, making your door stronger.

Oh, and if you don’t have a deadbolt on your exterior door, consider buying and installing one.

The Final Layer: Defense

The final layer of home protection is the one entirely too many think they should start with – defense. Taking physical action against an intruder is your last option. Simply put, it means your other security layers failed.

Defense involves using weapons such as firearms, pepper spray, stun guns, and even improvised things like baseball bats or wasp spray. In a pinch, pretty much anything can be used as a projectile weapon, including cans of soup or books. It really boils down to what you are comfortable using to defend yourself and your family.

While firearms are generally seen as the best option, if you aren’t trained in their use or, even worse, are deathly afraid of handguns, then don’t buy one! Without training and proper respect for the weapon, you’ll likely do far more harm than good. Far better to use a defense weapon with which you are reasonably comfortable. Practice using it to such a degree that you’ve ingrained some muscle memory. This will help prevent you from freezing up should the moment arrive you need to use it for real.

I also highly recommend looking into some form of martial art or other self-defense class. Not only are the skills taught useful, but it is also great exercise. Knowing Karate is often a deterrent in itself; most Martial Artists who have studied for decades have never needed to use their skills for defense. Read up on how to choose a Karate Dojo here.

READ MORE: What will you do if a catastrophic disaster has occurred, one that destroyed hundreds or thousands of homes and businesses and destroyed a community’s way of life, and you discover intruders have taken over your home in your absence? Read more about how to retake your home from intruders.

The Final Word on Home Security

Tackling the problems of home security properly requires a layered approach. Investing all of your time and energy into only one of them leaves you far too exposed to danger. Common sense will go a long way, too. Read this post for a few more tips that will help improve your home’s security.

What types of home security measures have you put in place?

Originally published June 1, 2016; updated by The Survival Mom editors.

Jim Cobb, Liz Long, and Beth Buck contributed to this article.

6 thoughts on “Three Layers of Effective Home Security: Simple Ways to Protect Your Castle”

  1. My 88 year old mother still lives in the house we grew up in in NY and the neighborhood is changing. She was not willing to get a dog or alarm system so we did a little staging.
    On her back porch, we placed a pair of old men’s size 13 workboots outside her door. Near the sliding door ( which has a pole in place) is a giant dog bowl (I wanted to personalize it with “Kujo”!). I got a yard security sign from my alarm company and put it at the top of her driveway. We also put motion sensor spotlights around the perimeter. Spotlighting is a huge deterrent. We cut down her overgrown bushes in the front of the house ( in front of the garage windows) . And she found these fantastic solar powered, light sensored window candles that go on automatically every evening, even if she’s not home. Lastly, we are about to install a video monitor at her front door ( which additionally decreases her need to go down the stairs to answer the door), where she can communicate without actually opening the front door.
    One other thing: at our home and her’s , we only use repairmen, contractors, etc. who we personally know or have been referred to us by friends/family. Last winter, our furnace stopped working during single digit temperatures and I opted to wait the two weeks before “my guy” could get the parts and repair it. We have a wood burning stove, and all was well. But our furnace is adjacent to our food storage pantry which has over a year’s supply of food, 55 gallon water barrels and 40 emergency food supply buckets ( Auguson’s). Op sec is just as important in home security!
    When we are out of town, we always have someone stay at our home. We have a dog and chickens and various other critters, so it serves a twofold purpose. If we cannot get someone to stay overnight, we have multiple lights and the TV on timers to simulate activity in the house. We also let our town police know, and they incorporate our house on their evening patrol.

  2. Jacob @ Preppers With a Plan

    Really good article. I don’t think enough focus is given in most people’s planning to your first bullet point about deterrence. In almost all situations coming up with a strategy to avoid the problem is usually the best solution, but often the least practiced.

  3. Please clarify or expand the reasons for not posting signs. In rural areas signs from no trespassing, hunting,atv use etc is quite common & generally honored. It’s also a given that one does not simply show up without a courtesy call first- especially after dusk. In an emergency onehonks their horn remaining in their vehicle until the property owner comes out.
    Any clarification or input appreciated

    1. He’s referring to signs like “Protected by Remington”, or “Due to the high cost of Ammunition, no warning shots will be fired.” In the event an intruder is injured or killed on your property, the existence of signs like the above can be used against you in court by the intruder or his/her family, because it shows that you are “predisposed to violence” and indicate that you’re more of a predator than a victim. Even if you’re not, the court could twist it that way. A “jury of your peers” is not much protection in this regard.

      Normal signs like “no trespassing” are fine, and actually do give you some legal cover if someone is injured on your property.

  4. Heraclio Arcoverde

    Linda´s comments above, add to the text exactly what I think. I would emphasize spotlighting and cut down overgrown bushes. Greetings from Brazil!

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