The Price of Home Security: You Can Pay a Little Now, or Pay Much More, Later

I’m often amazed to hear some of my relatively wealthy consulting clients tell me that they don’t own a home gun vault or safe room. I ask why not, and they make excuses like: “I’ve been too busy at my job to shop for one” or, “A gun vault is too heavy to move, and I seem to move every three years”, or “vaults are too expensive.” Yes, they are expensive but not nearly as expensive as having some of your key survival tools stolen. In essence, you can pay a little now, or pay much more, later.

A burglary can be psychologically devastating. I have good friend in California that was burglarized three years ago. By God’s grace, only a couple of his guns were stolen, since most of his battery was either cached elsewhere or locked up in his gun vault. (He had a few too many guns for them all to fit in his vault.) The burglars also walked off with several thousand rounds of ammunition. Despite the fact that his loss was relatively small, my friend still talks with anger and bitterness about the event. Burglaries are especially devastating for survivalists, since most of us carefully and systematically stock up tools, communication gear, optics, guns, ammunition, and precious metals. These are all choice targets for residential burglars.

A built-in basement walk-in safe room is ideal. They can serve multiple functions: As a vault for guns and other valuables, as a storm shelter, as a fallout shelter, and even as a “panic room” for use in the event of a home invasion. In areas with high water tables where a basement is not practical, a safe room/shelter can be built on the ground floor of a newly-constructed “slab” house, or as an addition to an existing house, with a reinforced poured concrete floor, walls and ceiling. Regardless of the design that you choose, it is important to specify a vault door that opens inward, so that it won’t be jammed shut by debris in the event of tornado, hurricane, or bomb blast. The folks at Safecastle (one of our most loyal advertisers) can do the engineering and source the vault door for you.

I realize that most SurvivalBlog readers cannot afford an elaborate walk-in safe room, but 95% of you can at least afford a heavy duty steel gun vault with an Sargent & Greenleaf dial lock with re-locker. Be sure to bolt your vault securely to the floor, and if possible build it into a hidden compartment or hidden room. There are a lot of vault makers in the U.S. and Canada, so it is a very competitive market. Do some Internet research and comparison shopping and you can save a lot of money on your vault purchase. Vaults are quite heavy (typically around 700 pounds) and shipping them is expensive, so it is generally best to buy one that is made within 200 miles of where you live. One exception to that guidance is for folks that move often: The brand of free-standing gun vault that I highly recommend (and that I own personally) is Zanotti Armor. Zanotti makes vaults that can be taken apart into six pieces for ease of transport. (They are held together by large steel pins, inside the vault.) They cost only about $100 more than comparable vaults that are welded together in the traditional manner. The nice thing about the Zanotti vaults it that even with their largest model, no single component weighs more than about 150 pounds. That makes them much easier to install in a confined space such as a basement. Assembly is a three man job, since extra hands are needed to get everything lined up before the pins can be noisily driven into place. Assembly only takes about a half hour, and disassembly only takes about ten minutes.

Alarm and Camera Systems

No matter what sort of vault you choose, you should definitely supplement it with a home security system. Monitored alarm systems can be expensive–especially with monthly service contracts. But these days, “web cams” are dirt cheap. Buy several of them, and mount them in locations where they are not likely to be spotted immediately. (Such as up amongst books on your bookshelves.) Unless the motion-triggered images captured are immediately uploaded to a server that is off-site, then it is essential that the computer that controls the cameras and the hard drive that stores the images be housed inside your gun vault or safe room. Otherwise the burglars will walk off with the evidence. (They love to steal home computers, too.) Don’t forget that any disruption of phone service or grid power will nullify the protection of a monitored alarm. Anyone living off grid or anyone that foresees a period of extended blackouts should get a battery-powered self-contained camera system, such as those sold by Ready Made Resources. Photographic evidence is crucial for both tracking down perpetrators and for substantiating insurance claims. Don’t skimp on this important piece of your preparedness!

Another must is fire and theft insurance. Given enough time, determined burglars can penetrate even the most elaborate vault. As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, many homeowner’s insurance policies have specific limits on firearms, often absurdly low dollar figures unless you get a separate “rider ” to your policy, at additional cost. If you aren’t sure about your coverage, then pull out your policy and read through it in detail. I should also mention that the National Rifle Association (NRA) offers a modest dollar value firearms insurance policy that is free with each NRA membership.

Insurance Records
As previously mentioned in SurvivalBlog, I also recommend taking a list of serial numbers and detailed descriptions of each gun, camera, and electronic gadget that you own. I have found that using 3″x5″ index cards is convenient for updates, since your inventory will change over time. Also take a few detailed photos of each item. Store the 3″x5″ index cards and hard copy pictures annotated with each item’s serial number in a vault belonging to a relative or a trusted friend, and offer to do likewise for them.