Checklists are great for any procedural operation, especially when the task is high-stakes. Pilots, astronauts, submariners and your author all use checklists to ensure nothing of importance is forgotten before commencing operations. Where even the keenest mind may forget, paper remembers even in a stressful situation.
Checklists have much utility for your average prepper, from tracking your needed acquisitions of food, materiel and other daily or weekly tasks to codifying your step-by-step bug-out or shelter-in-place plan. In this week’s article, I will present a checklist that you may adopt (or modify) to serve as your pre-SHTF home security guide.
Within you will find measures that will help you make your home as unappealing a target to looters and thieves as possible before, during or after a disaster.
This list is not a guide to actual home defense procedures. The tactics techniques and procedures entailed in that would make up many articles on their own. Instead, this checklist is a guide to preparing your home before it is at risk of invasion to hopefully prevent invasion from occurring, or if it does, make it as costly, slow and difficult as imaginable for your attackers.
This list is intended as a set of generalist guidelines to help keep your house secure before, during and after a crisis event. Some of the items on this list are material, and others are procedural, meaning some are things you’ll need to buy or install and others are things you’ll need to do or practice. Not all of these items will be practical or even viable depending on your living space and situation. As I mentioned above, you may need to modify this list.
Some of the items will directly harden your home against any kind of illegal entry and others will serve to sustain it in a long-term situation where you might be more vulnerable to looters or other desperate people. Now, let’s get to the list.
Your Pre-SHTF Home Security Checklist:
The following items are presented in an itemized format with commentary to expand on the necessary concepts and preps.
#1) – Address Your Property Grounds: Optimize Visibility and Reduce Approachability
A huge part of home security is making your home a hard target. I don’t be roving searchlights, landmines and barbed wire (though that would surely work!), I mean making your home as unappealing as possible to a potential invader.
You can do this by keeping fencing/walls/ hedges below chest level to improve your sightlines out of the property and increase the bad guy’s concern for witnesses, and removing or moving anything that would allow him to approach the property under cover or concealment. Trees, overgrown plants, boats, sheds, etc. can all be used to mask an approach. Deny their use to an adversary!
#2) – Install and Direct Exterior Lighting for Best Effect
Bad things happen in the dark. Darkness has been used by predators to hide from their prey for millennia, and humans are no different. Why do you think so many crimes happen in the dark? To help secure your home, you can pull the rug out from under would-be attackers by smartly using light around your home’s exterior.
You should have lighting covering the perimeter of your home, with no gaps, paying special attention to any possible hiding spots. Take care that you do not cast any deep shadows that may be used in ambush by a clever scumbag, and keep in mind that once your night-adapted eyes are hit by bright light, any area beyond the light will be very tough to see into.
#3) – Use Defensive Flora around Windows and Certain Doors
Plants that are sufficiently thorny, spiny or noisy are excellent deterrents for any home invaders that would make an attempt on a window. Aside from decorative appeal, certain plant varieties are positively dangerous, and have ferocious barbs or other defensive adaptations that work on hungry animal or lurking humans alike!
In any given area there will be some breed of prodigiously thorny plant suited to grow in your biome. You might install defensive shrubbery under any first floor window, and to the sides of any exterior door with a blind spot to prevent any intruder from lying in ambush.
Unless you will be transplanting mature (and expensive) plants, these silent sentries will need time and care to grow, so get started as soon as you can!
#4) – Install Exterior Surveillance Cameras
Being able to monitor your home’s exterior without exposing yourself is a Godsend for assessing any stranger at the door or just checking to see what is moving around outside the walls of your home. Connected to a remote monitor or even your smartphone, these systems are cheaper and easier to DIY than ever.
You may choose from more obvious cameras or low-profile, even concealed ones. Obvious security cameras may have some value as deterrents, but also could attract attention from audacious thieves.
Whatever models and system you choose, be sure to have them covering all entry points to your home as well as likely approaches and hiding places around your property.
Used judiciously, a surveillance system is an excellent intelligence gathering and early warning tool.
#5) – Reinforce Entry Points
Doors and windows are the main points of entry into any dwelling during a home invasion. Sadly, very few will stand up to a forceful attempt and opening or breaking them. If the bad guys cannot gain entry into your home, you will have gone a long way to prevailing in the fight, if it occurs at all.
Exterior doors should be of sturdy, solid wood or metal construction, mated to an appropriately beefy jamb, and anchored with strong hinges and locksets, and those attached with long, high quality fasteners. This will resist kicking and some mechanical attempts to force the door open.
For even better reinforcement, install an anti-kick device like a Door Devil. These low-profile kits spread the force from a kick over a much wider area than the lockset screws alone, and will stand up to repeated, brutal kicks and rams with ease.
Windows’ frames should be reinforced as much as you are able, or if they are very old replaced with modern ones.
The glass itself can be treated to a mylar appliqué that will increase the shatter resistance of the glass in thinner applications or even provide a measure of ballistic resistance with thicker ones. Mylar and other material applications may not be a DIY project, so consult a professional for advice before proceeding.
With doors and windows reinforced, there will be few easy, quiet or quick modes of entry for intruders.
#6) – Install an Alarm System
Now that we have our perimeter cleaned up, entry points protected by thorny plants and our doors and windows hardened, we can sleep soundly. Or can we? Well, yes, but it pays to have an alarm all the same. An alarm serves two vital functions: it puts pressure on the intruders knowing that help will likely be summoned and the occupants of the home awakened, and it, well, awakens you, the homeowner!
A shrill alarm going off will awaken the soundest of sleepers with vigor, giving you a few extra seconds to rouse and arm yourself in order to respond to whatever set the alarm off in the first place. Of course, an alarm sounding has a non-zero chance to convince whoever was attempting entry that the juice is not worth the squeeze and they should abort their break-in.
Alarms should be rigged to trigger on disturbance of all exterior doors and opening or breakage of any windows, with very little delay for entry, if any. If you do have a delay to allow night owl family members access, keep it very short, around 10 seconds or so.
Another time-honored alternative is a barking dog. Big and bassy, or small and yappy, the keen senses of dogs will rarely be foiled by break-in attempts, especially if you reward the dog for nighttime vigilance and supplement that with training, and will easily awaken you from a sound sleep.
Larger dogs may also serve double duty as a bonafide helper during a home invasion, and while expensive a protection trained dog has often has the well deserved moniker of “fur missile” for their efficacy against people.
#7) – Own and Obtain Proficiency with a Firearm
For repelling boarders from your home, a firearm is your best weapon. Possessing terrific power, range, and ease of use in close quarters compared to a longer swung weapon, firearms are the defensive tool of choice for preppers.
Handguns, rifles and shotguns all have their merits, but if you are uncertain of your ability to wield a long gun in tight spaces choose a handgun. Though harder to shoot at a high level of proficiency and not as powerful as its larger cousins, a handgun is a cinch to utilize in cramped confines and also has the benefit of being simple to keep on or about your person.
A gun is never merely a lucky charm: you must have the skills to pay the bills when your life or the lives of your family are on the line. Seek training from a reputable teacher and practice to keep your skills sharp. Nothing else will do when all else has failed and the wolves are past the walls.
#8) – Keep a Large Can of Pepper Spray Handy
For situations brewing outside your home, or inside the home when a gun is either not an option or you do not have full confidence lethal force is required, a large can of pepper spray is the perfect solution when “Go away!” is not getting the point across.
Contrary to the popular opinion of macho-tough tough guys, quality pepper spray is no joke, and works to take the starch out of rowdy fighters and probable combatants about 90% of the time. It also has the advantage of range, and as we all know keeping our distance from a threat increases the odds of a good outcome in our favor.
Compared to the little, slightly wimpy canisters designed for concealed carry and joggers, a large jug with wide-area nozzle (party sized!) is perfect for hosing down a group of massing rowdies in your front yard, or pre-seasoning rooms with a choking cloud of spicy gas if they enter your home.
Pepper spray causes serious pain, and more importantly significantly debilitates the fighting ability of most people who get a good dose to the face. Don’t dismiss this powerful tool as something “less” than a gun; it is simply optimized for different solutions.
#9) – Assess Your Interior
Our work has not ended outside the home. On the inside, we must take the time to stack all advantages in our favor. If using a gun for defense, you must know what surfaces and objects in your home will stop bullets, and what won’t, both to employ cover to best defense against our adversaries’ bullets, but also to hopefully deny the use of cover to them.
Of equal importance is recognizing likely lanes of fire and assessing whether or not any walls between you and someone else in the home will be sufficient to contain stray rounds. This is a great time to bring up the importance of marksmanship, as any round that misses the bad guys will wind up somewhere else and you are responsible for every, single one.
If you need to add a cover point at a strategic location in your home, a bookcase full of books is highly effective against small arms fire and does not look out of place almost anywhere. Note that for best results the bullets will need to impact the books on their cover sides, not the spine or opening.
During your assessment you should also be taking note of any mirrors and other reflective surfaces that can give you a peek around corners or into rooms without committing to entering the room. If you cannot see into a room the way you want, or don’t like the fact that someone could see you in return, move or obscure the mirror or other surface.
#10) – Practice Your Response Plan for Dealing with a Home Invasion
Assuming all other defenses have failed, you will have to grab your weapon, saddle up and prepare to engage intruders. Don’t plan to wing it; analyze what your priorities are and practice your response until it is second nature. Do you live alone? Is it just you and your partner? Do you have children or others in the home? If yes, where? Are they near the master bedroom, across the house, or on another floor?
All of these variations will affect your response. If you have children in the home, your obvious concern will be for their safety. The question is how you will furnish it. If they or others are near the master bedroom, you might be able to dominate the approach to it, keeping the bad guys away, or you might bring everyone into the master and barricade the door.
If you have family across the house, you will certainly not leave them to their fates; you’ll be charging across the house to interdict and neutralize or repulse any invaders with prejudice. The chances that you will be able to get to them without encountering a hostile will be slim for most residences, so prepare to ID and engage if necessary.
#11) –Plan to Deal with Darkness
The chaos of a home defense scenario will be severe. Shouting, screaming, shooting and worse. To make matters worse, you can count on all this going down in hours of darkness, or at least low light. No matter what happens though, you must be sure of the identity and disposition of anyone you are preparing to engage with lethal force.
This is a necessity not just for legal reasons, but moral ones: more than a few poor souls have accidentally shot their loved ones or unexpected guests in the home (daughter’s boyfriend/son’s girlfriend). To properly ID and ascertain the threat a person presents in the home we need light. How we get the light is up to you.
For some, if the electricity still works, flipping on the lights is a valid idea. It will certainly let you see with full visual acuity and deny the darkness to the intruder, but is also lets them see you just as easily. Not the best play if they are armed.
A better solution may be use of a powerful handheld or weapon mounted flashlight. These super-bright lights pump out more than enough lumens to temporarily turn dark into day, and also work to temporarily overwhelm the vision of who you point it at.
Used well, a handheld light will let you ID someone without making yourself an easy target, but is tricky to use in conjunction with a firearm without a lot of practice. A weapon-mounted light (WML) conversely is very simple to operate in conjunction with a firearm, but also an easy target, since it will more or less be centered on your body at all times.
All methods have advantages and disadvantages. It is up to you to assess which will work best in the context of your home defense plan, your own skills and resources.
There you have it. An 11 step home security checklist to help you beef up your readiness. Using these steps as a guide will help you address the biggest areas of concern around most any residential home.
Take these, assess your home security status honestly, and then correct any other deficiencies you discover in the meantime. If you work diligently, you can take a veritable “sitting duck” of a house into a low-key fortress within a reasonable outlay of time, effort and money.
Charles Yor is an advocate of low-profile preparation, readiness as a virtue and avoiding trouble before it starts. He has enjoyed a long career in personal security implementation throughout the lower 48 of the United States.