[JWR’s Introductory Note: I’m presenting this book excerpt as a guest post. His book is available at Lulu.com.]
The prospect looms of an economic collapse caused by the enormous sovereign debt of the United States and moves by China, Russia, Brazil and others to dump the U.S. dollar as a reserve currency. If they succeed, America will be dethroned from its position as the middle-man in world financial affairs and the dollar will begin to reflect America’s true financial position. In short, America will become the new Zimbabwe.
This devaluation will create massive disruptions in domestic economic activity, banking, public services and food distribution. In turn, the lack of purchasing power will cause rioting, looting, arson and mob violence. After that, expect armed gangs and the end to the world as we know it. What we don’t know is how soon, how long, or how generalized, the disruption is likely to be.
A few years ago, I wrote a book about home invasion prevention, called just that: Home Invasion Prevention. It was based on more than two years of research and interviews with gun owners, police, and security experts. I was thinking about normal society in peaceful times, but a lot of the advice in the book still makes sense in the apocalyptic scenario I’ve just sketched.
So what I’m about to say is aimed at the period between the start of the economic crisis and the point you bug out of town in the middle of the night with a backpack and a 9mm.
Home security is really composed of two elements; symbolic protection and physical protection. It’s because Canadians and Americans don’t discriminate between these two concepts they’re continually surprised at burglaries, robberies and home invasions when they occur.
Symbolic protection is made up of objects and procedures that speak to the ownership of a piece of property, or a dwelling on that property, and which say or imply, that this ownership should be respected. Physical protection is made up of objects or procedures which prevent or deter entry onto that property or into that dwelling. Let’s look at some examples.
Remember the kind of low picket fence surrounding suburban front yards in movies from the 1950s? The fence would rise from a height of two feet to gate posts about three feet high on which a swinging gate would be latched. To enter a home, you would have to walk along the sidewalk until you reached the gate, then unlatch the gate and walk up to the front door. Once there you would use the bell and wait for the door to be answered.
This is an example of symbolic protection. The fence is not physically stopping you from stepping over and onto the lawn, but symbolically asking you not to do so. The gate doesn’t stop you from entering the yard, but symbolically reminds you that you are going onto private property. And the door bell is not just to call the resident inside, but also to force you to wait for the resident to open the door. It’s all symbolism. You could, if you wished, have stepped over the fence, ignored the bell and (this was the 50s after all) opened the door.
Consider, on the other hand, a traditional home in North Africa. It presents a smooth, solid wall on four sides, broken only by a small and sturdy entrance onto the street. The entrance door leads through the house to an iron gate which blocks access to an inner courtyard. From the courtyard you can see an external staircase that goes up to the flat roof of the rooms surrounding the courtyard. This roof runs around the house and is bordered by a wall about chest height with a rounded edge.
Here we have an example of physical protection. The lack of external windows means an invader would have to scale a 15 foot wall to gain access. The rounded edge of the wall would prevent a grappling hook from getting a purchase and, in any event, a night watchman, stationed on the upper level, would immediately be aware of an assault. Down on the ground, the narrow door would prevent a large group of men from attacking the door altogether, while the inner gate would allow the residents to fight back against an armed attack. The upper level would also provide a firing point to defend all four quarters of the house.
The basic difference between the two concepts is that in the mid-century American setting, the homeowner expects other members of society to understand and respect the written and unwritten rules governing private property. The North African, on the other hand, expects raiders will ignore the rules and that, as a result, he will have to fight to enforce his rights.
Canada and the United States, at the start of the 21st Century, present a mixed picture between these two extremes, less socially uniform than fifty years ago, but not as lawless as, say, modern Afghanistan. This means that while most North Americans respect the social and legal norms regarding property rights, a significant minority does not. This, in turn, means that relying exclusively on symbolic protection is no longer sufficient for home security.
Some people reading this will say they have never been the victim of a home invasion and they never expect to be in the future. I sincerely hope they’re right. However, it’s universally the case that actual victims of home invasions, if they survive, express exactly the same sentiments. They say they had never been victims in the past and they are amazed and astonished to have been targeted this time.
The key question you face as a homeowner is deciding how far you wish to go along the physical protection route before your security measures become oppressive or even obsessive. While you consider this, consider your front door. You will be surprised when I tell you that a front door locked with a consumer-grade deadbolt is more symbolic than practical. The same goes for typical window locks and sliding door latches. All of these can be smashed or jimmied open, in seconds.
If you want to provide real physical security, you will have to do more.
Home invasions invariably fall into one of five types, with the first three being by far the most common.
In this scenario, the home invader approaches the front or side door and simply kicks the door in. A well-aimed kick just below or above the door knob will break open most doors, even those with a properly installed deadbolt. This approach can take place day or night.
The home invader approaches the front door and poses as someone needing assistance, wanting to use the phone, or go to the bathroom. He, or she, may say they’re doing a survey, have a parcel for you to sign for or may tell you a tree branch has fallen on your car. There are any number of reasonable excuses that can be used to get you to open your door. Once open, the invader or her accomplices, push the door in. This type of invasion usually takes place during the day or early evening.
This is a more traditional approach where a home invasion starts much like a burglary. The assailant uses a lock pick or pry bar to defeat a door or window lock, slips into the house and surprises the homeowner in another room. Again, like invasion by force, this can take place at any time, but is most frightening at night.
Invaders first drive around a neighbourhood looking for a house with a garage door open, or a homeowner in a garage with the door open. They then come back, drive up the driveway, get out and assault the individual in his own garage. With him under control, they close the garage door and continue the assault inside.
This is extremely rare, but has occurred in both Canada and the United States. The home invaders first carjack an individual and force him (or her) to drive home. Once they get there, the home invasion proceeds in the same way as a Garage type invasion.
Clearly these are five very different techniques, but a defence is possible for each one. I’ll sketch out the responses.
Defeating the force method of entry involves hardening the exterior of your home. This means security film and deadbolts on the windows, an anti-kick strip on the doors, cross-door reinforcement, double deadbolts and reinforced hinges.
The key to beating the deception form of attack is a security doorstop. This device, which you can make yourself or purchase commercially, acts as an invisible barrier after you open the door. The assailant has no idea the door is braced and will then make his move.
Dealing with a stealth attack is similar to preventing a burglary; external hardening. However, our wrinkle on this is another device you don’t hear much about, an internal security gate. Even after you harden your home, you have to assume a clever and persistent home invader will find a way to defeat a window or door somewhere in the house. An internal security gate gives you time to collect your thoughts and take other actions as necessary.
Because homeowners don’t expect to be assaulted on their own property and in their own garage, and because the neighbours don’t see, or hear, anything amiss, this kind of invasion is one of the easiest for home invaders to pull off. The short answer to the problem is to keep your garage door down and locked.
A very few home invasions start with a carjacking blocks or even miles from the home. You need to create a response plan now, before it happens.
There was one phrase in the last group of points you may have passed over without taking it in; an internal security gate.
You need to put a steel gate attached to steel plates attached to wall studs in a position between the public part of your home and the private part. Usually it should be at the start of the hallway to the bedrooms. The gate needs to have a push-button mechanical lock on one side accessible to the other.
The point of the gate is to set up your home invaders. Because you have your gun in your bedroom, you can retrieve it, load it and get into position at your bedroom door while the home invaders try to get through the gate to attack you. If they do, you can open fire knowing the range down to the inch. It’s polite to have a solid wall at the other end of your hall so overshoots don’t exit your house and injure neighbors or passers-by.
As I said earlier, this advice is adapted from my book, Home Invasion Prevention, available from Lulu.com as a paperback or eBook. Good luck to you, and to me; we’ll need it, no matter how well we plan things.