Many people do not seek professional advice about home security, because there are many do-it-yourself resources available. This, coupled with a handful of common sense, can get you a long way in home fortification. Let’s talk about how to get these upgrades to work together in a synergistic manner that maintains a low profile but increases your security posture.
I have 15 years of military experience, 12 years of law enforcement experience, and four years of experience providing personal security for top U.S. government and foreign officials. I have traveled the world, working with foreign governments, militaries, and police forces. I want to share with you some of things I’ve learned.
The Three Rings
The first time I ever heard about the “three rings” was from the Israelis. The three rings is not a new concept, and you can Google a lot of information about it. In a nutshell, the three rings refer to three levels of security, each becoming more difficult to breach. For your home, the outer ring would be your perimeter. Your second ring would be the walls of your home, and your inner ring would be a hardened room within the home.
Not all barriers are physical; some barriers are psychological. A combination of physical and psychological barriers is the key to maintaining a low profile while maintaining a high security posture.
The Outer Ring
A lot of people reading this (including myself) would love to have an eight-foot-tall brick wall around their house. Your HOA, city codes, and neighbors may not be happy about it though. A low wall is a barrier, but it can easily be overcome, and having a gate that crosses your driveway is usually very unsightly. The only time I’ve seen driveways that are completely gated are on houses that are either really nice or in the middle of the ghetto. Most of us are somewhere in between. My recommendation is usually a 4-foot white picket fence with a hedgerow behind it. The fence with the hedgerow make a good physical and psychological barrier. People also like it because it usually gives the house a nice look too.
The mistake most people make with this fence-hedgerow perimeter is that they do not bring the fence up the side of the driveway to the walkway. Ideally, you can put a small, lockable gate at this threshold, but at a minimum you need to bring the gate up to the walkway. The purpose of this is to create a point that an intruder/attacker must walk through. This is the point where one of your security cameras will be positioned to get a good view. Ideally still, you will create a fatal funnel that keeps people on the pathway through your combined use of fencing and/or landscaping. Consider hiring a gardener to recommend options as well. If you want a more modern look, you can have boulders and rock brought in to make a barrier that is aesthetically pleasing and functional.
The Back Yard
Do not assume that an intruder will not come from the side or back of your house. Most people pay little attention to the back yard, because the fence in the back is usually a little higher than the front. In most places it is illegal to put barb wire up around your house to keep people from coming over your fence. (This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have some available if the SHTF.) You can, however, use environmental design to prevent people from coming over the fence. If it’s not feasible to keep someone off your fence (if they’re really determined), then consider what they are landing on– plants, rocks, boulders, thorn bushes, cactus. Unstable ground is a good deterrent to keep people from coming over. We’ll talk about dogs at the end.
The side gate is a commonly overlooked piece of home fortification. Many people leave their side gates unlocked. It goes without saying that you should lock your side gate. Also, consider getting galvanized trash cans for the side of your house. If someone wants to come to your side gate, then they will have to move the cans out of the way. This is generally a noisy endeavor. The cans can later be filled with water and used as barrier devices if necessary.
The Middle Ring
A lot of people put security screens on their front door, but they completely forget about the back door or the door in the garage. A security screen is not enough. You need to harden the actual threshold of the door and install a hardened door. I recommend the Armor Concepts high quality door reinforcement kit for your threshold. Install this when upgrading to a solid door. Do this upgrade at every entry point. Also, install pick- and bump-resistant locks.
All glass on your house should be lined with security film. You can do this yourself or hire a residential window tinting service. I recommend finding a professional who has experience installing security film. The film must be anchored properly or the entire window will come out of the frame in one piece when someone tries to break it. It goes without saying that we want to plant some type of bush under or around our windows. A lot of people think thorn bushes are best, but consider that you may need to escape out of a window at some point as well. What we really want to do with bushes around windows is keep people from being able to approach the window directly.
Probably the one thing no one considers is what is on the ground around your house. Is it nice soft grass or bark that an intruder can quietly sneak around on? Or, do you have rock? No one is sneaking around your house on rock. This doesn’t mean you should rock your whole yard, but consider installing nice 2-3” river rock on the pathways and perimeter of your house. Again, a good gardener is an excellent resource for this.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this topic. Everyone knows what CCTV is and generally how to use it. I will say that I don’t recommend wireless cameras, and I do not recommend a third-party monitoring system for your cameras. Wi-Fi is not secure, and I do not trust other people who could potentially allow me to be watched when I’m not aware of it. Install your own cameras and hard wire them to a recording device that is mounted in a gun safe. Do not connect your cameras to the Internet, ever. Also, if you install cameras inside your house, make sure you do not have audio recording. Audio/video recording has gotten people into big trouble with the law for unintentionally violating eavesdropping statutes.
Do you travel frequently? Do you leave loved ones at home alone for long periods of time? Aside from not giving a third-party access to CCTV systems, it may be in your best interest to hire a security monitoring company for other things. Third party companies can provide panic buttons, perimeter alarms, and motion detection services.
Rarely do people have hardened safe rooms like you see in the movies. You should however pick a rally point within the home that the entire house can retreat to. I usually recommend the master bathroom. Bathrooms do not have windows and are generally more structurally sound than other rooms. With that being said, you will need to harden the threshold and door to the bathroom or whatever room you choose. Within the bathroom or safe room should be a gun and a phone that is both secure, but easily accessible by those you want to have access to it. For the phone, buy an inexpensive pre-paid flip phone and leave it in the room on the charger. You should not need to pre-pay services for 911 calls, but I would still recommend leaving a small number of minutes on the phone at all times. If you choose a third party monitoring service, have a panic button installed in this room as well. Remember, if you’re retreating to this room, it is because there is a true emergency and your life is in danger.
Security Dog vs. Alert Dog
Remember we discussed installing rock around the house? This is one of the reasons why. The rocks are to alert you and your dog to the presence of others. Many people recommend traditional security dogs, like German Shepard’s or Rottweilers. If you go this route, spend the extra money and buy a dog from a reputable breeder. You do not want a dog that is overly aggressive. Personally, I would rather have a small alert dog. A Pug makes a great alert dog. They’re small and easy to maintain in an emergency. (They will eat little food compared to a big dog and they’re noisy!) They will bark at anything and everything they hear outside. Personally, I like that. I like being able to be alerted to the presence of potential danger and being able to make the decision about how to handle it. There’s also nothing wrong with having a mixed pack, but remember when the SHTF you will have more mouths to feed.
Hopefully, after you’ve read this, you will evaluate your own home security and fortification. The idea is to use a strategy or philosophy to achieve home security, not just buy a bunch of off-the-shelf products. Personally, I like the three rings. I’ve seen it used many times on government buildings, and it’s proven effective. The challenge for you and me is to maintain a high level of security while also not drawing attention to ourselves. Good luck, take care, and God bless.