Home Security After The Collapse: The Ultimate Guide

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Estimated reading time: 27 minutes

Home Security After The Collapse: The Ultimate Guide

When civilizations collapse, one of the most common ways that people die is violence. When people get hungry enough, they get desperate—and dangerous. Someone who has never stolen a thing in his entire life will break into his neighbor’s home if it means finding food for his children.

Then there are the everyday burglars who already steal on a regular basis. Without the police around, the entire city is like a buffet. All they have to do is choose the right target. If they choose your home, the only way to deter them or stop them altogether is good home security.

If you’re worried about societal collapse, then home security should be a top priority. You can’t wait until the lights go out, then head down to the store to buy deadbolts and window alarms. By then it’s too late. You have to start working on home security measures now.

In this article, we’re going to discuss home security after the collapse. We’ll cover doors, windows, bulletproofing, fireproofing, alarm system, safe rooms, weapons, and more.

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Are We Approaching a Perfect Storm?

There’s a lot in the news about how infrastructure around the world and especially in the United States is failing. The world is headed for a new global recession, supply chains continue to reel under multiple challenges, and our healthcare system continues to be in bureaucratic shambles.

It’s hard to imagine any country suffering a societal collapse without warning, but as history has shown, it has happened in the past and the signs are bleak for the future. In some instances, countries have fallen apart in less than 2 months. 

Searching for Solutions

There’s little most of us can do to correct or address threats on a global level let alone on a national level. All we’re left with is an occasional election where we can continue to vote for politicians of all stripes who see their election as a new path to personal power and financial gain.

That essentially leaves us on our own to take care of and protect our families in the hope that things can at least stabilize if not get better. What’s becoming apparent is the need to respond quickly to events and anticipate the possibilities. 

Finding Security

Security comes on many levels: financial security, healthcare security, even food, water, and electric power security. If you think about it, it’s all about preserving and protecting those things that are both important to us and necessary for survival and much of that survival begins in a place most of us call home.

But before we get into home security and defense, it’s worth remembering that basics like food, water, medical supplies and other fundamental basics are just as important. In actual fact, many of the things we may have assembled and stored are the very things we are defending, in addition to our families.

The more you have, the more you have to protect. 

What is Home Security?

The answer to effective home security isn’t simple. That’s why the willingness to make a significant investment can help. If you can hire the pros to do your security installations, they will work fast and efficiently.

To determine how much you spend, keep two factors in mind that affect home security whenever a disaster strikes: location and duration.

Location

Location has a direct affect on any level of home security. The differences between an urban, suburban, rural, and wilderness location are significant. 

Urban locations are the most problematic in the event of anything approaching a societal collapse. This is driven mostly by the demands of a large population. Historically, photographs and other documentary evidence of civil unrest and violence appear in urban environments. 

Suburban locations fare somewhat better than urban, but there is still a measurable population to increase the demand for many supplies and services that may be unavailable or in short supply. The lack of supply of many things is the primary factor driving demand to desperation. 

Rural locations see less of the most obvious effects of unrest or collapse in terms of rioting and violence, but the smaller population often results in fewer services and supplies in the general area. There are more opportunities to achieve a self-reliant lifestyle but any remote area can be an inviting opportunity for scavengers and criminal activity. 

Wilderness locations often seem like the best environments due to their isolation, but that isolation can affect general security. When you and your family are living alone in the wilderness, you are literally, “on your own.” That has both benefits and disadvantages. 

In some respects, location is a Catch-22. Someone living in a rural and wilderness location won’t have a lot of people around to make trouble. Then again, someone in a rural or wilderness location won’t have a lot of people around to offer help if they’re in trouble. It’s a balancing act, but the preparations you make for home security can help to balance that out.

Duration

The duration of any disaster complicates survival in all locations. The simple fact is that survival rates go down the longer the duration following any disaster.

Survival after a natural disaster is usually measured in days, sometimes weeks, and on rare occasions, months. Survival after manmade disasters like a societal collapse is typically measured in years, decades, and even generations.

War in Paris Illustration

Survival Assumptions

Before we get into home security and defense, we’ll make the assumption that you either have taken some steps to stockpile supplies and equipment, and given some thought to how some of those items can help you pursue a self-reliant and sustainable lifestyle.

These preparations include fundamental needs related to:

Each of the above subjects has been linked to further information about rapid preps to stock and sustain supplies and equipment for these needs. 

It also assumes some measure of preparations for a self-reliant and sustainable lifestyle including:

If it’s starting to feel like making all of these preps in addition to securing your home is beyond your ability, you just have to patiently stick with it. The fact is that many have already taken positive steps to make some of these basic preparations. Some have also taken steps to secure their home and property.

But for most of us, our preparations for disaster take place quietly as we stockpile in our basements and gradually learn and acquire new skills. 

12 Steps to Home Security

What follows are 12 steps to consider for enhanced home security. The degree to which you pursue any one of the 12 steps is dependent on your location, your budget and your ability to engineer some of these solutions. Try to avoid doing this on the cheap but if that’s impossible, do your best.

1. Perimeter Considerations

Perimeters vary. 

  • For someone living in an apartment in a city, their perimeter is defined by hallways, courtyards, and surrounding buildings. 
  • For someone in the suburbs, the perimeter is defined by their yard, driveway, and the sidewalks and streets surrounding their house
  • For someone living in a rural area, the perimeter is defined by the surrounding landscape, roads, farms, and fields. 
  • For someone living in a wilderness environment, the perimeter is defined by rough roads, lakes, river and streams, logging roads and the surrounding hills, trees and valleys. 

It’s worth taking the time to assess the perimeter around your home and understand the possibilities as it relates to threats. 

  • Many apartment dwellers assume the primary threat would come through the front door, but many instances have occurred where someone has used an exterior balcony either above or next to another balcony to gain access to an apartment. 
  • Many people living in suburban homes assume the backyard and the back door are the most vulnerable areas, but insurance companies report that most burglars begin their home invasions by checking the front door or using a portable ladder to get into seldom locked, second-story windows. 
  • A primary focus for many people living in rural areas is the road running in front of their house, but surrounding farms and fields are easily traversed in the dark.

  • Ironically, remote wilderness locations may be the most accessible and at risk as surrounding hills, trees, and shrubs make a stealthy approach from any direction possible day or night. 

All of this points to the importance of some level of perimeter defense. 

  • In some instances, a fence will be enough to at least discourage trespass but most fences are easily climbed or cut. Fences also take time to install but professional installation can usually be done in a matter of days. 
  • Video surveillance is an excellent way to monitor a perimeter whether it’s someone standing at the front door to an apartment or suddenly appearing on a balcony, or approaching from any direction in any location.

  • Some video surveillance cameras have built-in, heat-sensing capabilities that will trigger an alarm and both begin recording and displaying any movement or activity in an area. 
  • Posted trespassing signs and even signs alerting trespassers to video surveillance will deter some but not all from approaching a home or structure. 
  • A gated driveway entrance barred by a gate, chain or cable will also deter some from entering at least in a vehicle. Video surveillance at any driveway entrance also makes sense.

You can order many of these items online or purchase them at a home center and install them over a weekend or two. Some video cameras are wireless and solar powered, while others require running a hard wire and are powered by standard electricity. 

2. Doors and Windows

Burglar Breaking Open Window

The vast majority of home invasions take place through doors and windows. It’s alarming to see how easy it is for someone to kick in a door, and even as kids we often learned the hard way how easy it is to break a window. Both represent the most vulnerable points of entry to any home, and there are various ways to secure them to increasing degrees.

  • Locks are the first step to securing doors and windows, and while most are installed with locks as a standard addition, there are additional locks that can enhance security. 

  • An extreme measure is a bar across the door that can be easily achieved with a couple of metal brackets supporting a length of 2×4. It’s not cosmetically attractive, but on back doors and entry doors for barns and garages, they fit right in. 

  • A length of wood or metal can be used to brace the interior of a window preventing it from being raised.
  • A length of wood or metal can also be dropped into a channel in a sliding door to prevent it from being opened from the outside.
  • Burglar bars on the exterior or interior of a house are the only way to prevent someone from breaking a window for entry. Many recommend that any burglar bars be installed on the interior so they can be unlocked or removed in the event of fire and a necessary escape through the window. It’s an extreme measure and unsightly but in many high-crime neighborhoods they are common. 

  • Windows can also be replaced with bulletproof glass but they are very expensive and require professional installation. They could still be installed in a 4-week time-frame if you can afford them and are so inclined. 

3. Walls and Roofs

You can have cast iron doors and prison bars on your windows, but if you live in a wood frame home with aluminum siding, a man with an axe can get through any wall in less than a minute. With a chainsaw, it will take seconds. Anyone who has ever erected a stud wall with sheathing on the outside and drywall on the inside knows the materials are easy cutting for an axe or chainsaw. 

Roofs are just as fragile with sheets of plywood over rafters as the primary structure. It would be unusual for anyone to take this brutal approach, but an unoccupied home particularly in a remote area would be an easy target for this level of forced entry. 

Securing a framed wall with wood construction is difficult and sometimes requires demolition. Here are varying degrees of wall and roof reinforcement that could be implemented. The best solution is a brick or stone home.

  • Sheet metal applied to the exterior of a home underneath any siding can be a surprisingly effective deterrent to a wall entry but require the removal and replacement of siding.

  • Rebar run through the open stud walls of a garage, barn, or shed with spacing of 4 to 8 inches to prevent entry could be done in a day. The coarse interior of most detached structures make the cosmetic appearance less of an issue.
  • The simplest solutions are outlined in part 11 of this list under firearms. The fastest solution to anyone violent enough to chop or cut their way into a home through walls begins and ends with extreme defense.

It’s hard to fathom forced entry at this level but in countries from Ethiopia to Colombia, this level of violence is not unusual. Hopefully it never comes to that in most other parts of the world.

4. Bulletproofing 

It’s not uncommon for people who live in wilderness areas where hunting is both popular and frequent to apply some level of bulletproofing to their homes to protect from a hunter’s errant shot.

It’s also common in many urban areas in South America, the Middle-East, and Africa where urban violence is a regular occurrence. It’s also starting to show up more in more in many American inner-cities where gangs continue to treat the streets like a warzone.

Once again, there are varying levels of bulletproofing that can be applied to any home. 

  • The application of adhesive and transparent sheets of bulletproof material to a window on the inside and outside (which we already mentioned). The glass will still break, but the material can stop and catch a bullet or at least slow its velocity.

  • Bulletproof doors are easily installed but they tend to be expensive. 
  • Bulletproof windows are also expensive but are the only full-proof alternative to the fragility of glass. 
  • Bulletproof metal sheeting that can be applied to interior walls are another expensive and somewhat extreme alternative. They are very heavy and require professional installation. 
  • A cost-effective solution is to fill walls with sand and gravel to slow or stop bullets. The stony filling will add significant weight to a wall, and dry wall may need to be reinforced. Floor supports under walls will also need to be sturdy or reinforced due to the added weight. 

  • Once again, a brick home has some built in bulletproofing, but doors and windows are still vulnerable.

Bulletproofing is another extreme step but in many neighborhoods and parts of the world, it is another unfortunate and common practice.

Brick Wall With Metal Bars On Window

5. Fireproofing 

Wildfires continue to be a threat to many as a natural disaster, but the threat of fire during a manmade disaster comes from arson. As a mob mentality takes over in the streets, violence and looting for some reason always lead to arson. It’s probably because it’s so easy to start a fire as an act of raw rage. 

Quite often, the threat of fire to someone’s home is not a threat directed at them but the side-effect of neighboring buildings or neighborhoods in flames. Fireproofing a home is best done during the construction phase and a brick home emerges once again as a good defense against fire. 

Then again, there are some simple steps that can help prevent a fire from spreading to your home and many of these examples are a standard practice for people living in areas prone to wildfires.

  • Clear all flammable brush, scrub and bushes that are growing in close proximity to your home. 

  • Avoid stacking firewood against your home or in close proximity to any flammable materials around your home like a wooden fence, garage or gazebo. Keep any stacks of firewood at a safe distance or indoors.
  • Think twice about where you build that wood deck or any other exterior, flammable structures. 
  • There are flame retardant roofing shingles that have been specially treated to resist fire. They’re more expensive than standard roofing materials and would involve reroofing a home but many fires start from flaming debris and embers from neighboring fires landing on the roof. 
  • Make sure you have sufficient fire extinguishers throughout the house and step up their size and effectiveness. A kitchen fire extinguisher is always a good idea but is not effective against a sizable fire. 

  • Smoke alarms both inside and outside make sense to alert you to a fire you may not be aware of immediately. 
  • Garden hoses hooked up to every hose faucet inside and outside can provide immediate fire dousing capability. It’s frustrating to have to find and hookup a length of hose while a fire is in its early stages. Try to make sure you have a hose attached to all exterior, garage and basement hose faucets…just in case.

A call to 911 should be a rapid first step, and if the fire is raging, it may be best to get your family out of the house and away from danger. Put out the fire yourself if you can but know when it’s beyond your capabilities and get out. 

6. Detached Structures

It doesn’t take a natural disaster or a societal collapse to have a problem with break-ins with detached structures. These structures include garages, sheds, barns, livestock pens, or any other out-building that is typically unoccupied by people and away from the main home. 

These structures also tend to be coarsely constructed and finished doors, windows and locks are often not as robust as those found on a house. The good news is that the coarse construction is more forgiving for security measures that would be cosmetically unattractive in or on a home. 

Most of the added security features on a detached structure are relatively inexpensive and easy to engineer or install.

  • Install large throw bolts and deadbolt locks on all entry doors. If a detached garage depends on an electric garage door opener, make sure you can still access the garage if the power is out so have at least one door with keyed entry on all locks. 
  • Bar the doors to prevent a kick-in. 
  • Bars or even a length of chain link fence on the interior of windows can be an effective deterrent to any forced entry through a window. They’re not pretty but very effective. Traditional window locks are worth having but there is less hesitation about breaking a window on an unoccupied detached structure than an occupied home. A sheet of trimmed plywood on hinges with a hasp and padlock over a window is another approach. 
  • Exterior lighting is highly recommended. Darkness is an open invitation to a vandal or thief. And make sure you light both the front and back of a structure at any point of potential entry not only for detached structures but the main residence as well. 

  • Motion detectors are another effective deterrent, but make sure all lighting is at a sufficient height so that someone can’t simply reach up and unscrew a floodlight. Motion detectors are an effective, all-around deterrent for all structures on a property. Some are powered by small solar panels so they can be installed anywhere. 
  • Alarms that sound a loud siren or alert are another possibility. In fact, they may be more effective than lighting or motion detectors. Loud alarms startle intruders and alert anyone in the vicinity to someone on the property. They’re best used on door and windows. They can be connected to motion detectors but any wild animals passing in the night will not only keep you awake but result in more than a few complaints from neighbors if your alarms go off with every passing raccoon. 
  • Arson is an unfortunate occurrence particularly with a detached structure. If you store gasoline or propane, make sure it’s stored in a detached structure a good distance from the main residence. Ideally, it is a dedicated shed for fuel storage only. That way, if it does succumb to arson, the damage is limited to the fuels rather than filling a garage full of tools, vehicles and equipment with flames. 

7. Vehicles, Boats and ATV’s

Vehicles are often parked or stored outside. Cars are usually stored in a garage if we have one, but boats are often stored on trailers next to or behind the garage along with motorcycles, snowmobiles, jet skis and ATV’s. Regardless of the situation they are at risk if stored outside and particularly at a time of civil unrest or societal collapse.

There are steps to consider, and most fall in the category of common sense to at least prevent theft.

  • If you have a garage, keep as many vehicles inside as you can. Even in a garage, lock the doors on any vehicles. Most modern cars and SUV’s have varying levels of alarm systems that will at least cause the car horn to beep repeatedly. 

  • If you don’t have a garage, make sure you don’t leave any valuable items in any vehicle or boat, and lock them up the best you can. Park them in a space with the most available light. 
  • If you have a barn or large shed, think about any extra room in those structures to securely store a boat or recreational vehicle. It may be inconvenient to some degree, but in desperate times, inconvenience is a new fact of life. 
  • If you have a boat or other recreational vehicle stored on a trailer outside, look closely at the trailer hitch and lock the hitch connection with a padlock if it has that feature. While you’re at it, run a padlocked chain or wheel lock through the spokes in the wheels of motorcycles and bicycles to make them impossible to ride. 

  • Run chains through and around boats and trailers and padlock them to nearby structures. Even wrapping a chain around a large tree to make it difficult to haul away a trailer or boat can be enough to deter a thief. 
  • Place motion detector lights above and around any boats or ATV’s parked and locked outside. 

8. Alarm Systems

Alarm systems are not only designed to alert you to an intrusion but to sound a loud alarm to scare or deter any intruder and, in some instances, alert an alarm detection service via phone line, Internet or wirelessly. The service will sometimes call the home to speak to the homeowner who must then recite a pre-determined code to reassure the service that the alarm was either accidentally tripped or confirm the emergency. 

If the alarm is a genuine emergency the service will contact either police, fire department, or emergency services. If no one answers the phone, the police are automatically notified. The alarms can also be connected to smoke detectors. Most home security alarms also have a panic button that can be triggered at the discretion of the home owner. 

Alarm services will do the installation and will sometimes include the cost of equipment installed, but in return will require a subscription of their service with a monthly fee and a contract measured in months or years. 

The alarms are usually connected to doors, windows, and motion detectors on the first floor. The services are not cheap, but the installation can usually be done in a day or two.

  • There are also alarms that are not tied to a service that can be installed on doors or windows. They are either powered by electricity or batteries and usually feature a simple, magnetized switch that will trip the alarm when a door or window is open or broken. This approach gives you the option to selectively choose windows or doors that are armed in addition to detached structures. They come in a range of prices but are relatively inexpensive and can be easily installed by a home owner. 

  • An independent panic button connected to a loud alarm can also be installed. The sound of a police siren is one option and while it’s not connected to an alarm service or police it will alert an intruder to the fact that you are aware of their presence and prepared. 

9. The Safe Room

  • A safe room is a dedicated room in a home that can be securely locked preventing any entry even after someone has broken into a home. 

  • Some safe rooms are simply reinforced rooms in a home to protect from natural disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes
  • More robust safe rooms are designed to protect from home intrusions, fire, toxic gases and are self-contained survival shelters with outside communication options and video surveillance. Safe rooms at this level are professional installations and actually add to the value of your home. 

10. Non-Lethal Personal Defense

The use of force is justified to varying degrees in different states if someone breaks into your home in a violent fashion. However, trespassing is sometimes an accidental occurrence and just because someone approaches a home from any direction does not mean they are a threat.

The point is, you have the right to defend yourself on your property, but if you shoot somebody who turns out to be innocent or deemed harmless, the consequences can be severe.

In an instance when the intention or motivation of a person is unknown, non-lethal defense can protect you from the potential for criminal prosecution or legal action if you overreact to a situation you don’t fully understand. Various options are available.

  • Pepper sprays are relatively inexpensive and can be purchased online in various sizes. They are usually used in close quarters although some bear sprays have the ability to spray at a longer distance.

  • Tasers are another option and can fire at a distance up to a few feet but can cause a heart attack to someone with a compromised cardiovascular system.
  • Tactical flashlights have an intense beam that can be switched to a blinking mode that will temporarily blind someone and cause them to become disoriented. These are also used on wild animals approaching a home, pet or person. 

  • Get a dog. Dogs have been man’s best friend and our first line of defense for thousands of years. German Shepherds have often been ranked as the best dogs for personal defense but other breeds as well. Even the smallest dog will provide an alert with any amount of barking when an intruder is in the vicinity of a home. Quite often, the sound of a dog barking will be enough to turn away a possible intruder. 

Dogs are portable as well and can easily accompany you if for any reason you need to travel from the safety of your home.

House On Fire At Night

11. Firearms

In an environment where violence is common, any home invasion is a direct threat to personal safety. The laws governing the use of lethal force are well defined in various states. but most will justify the use of firearms for violent entry to someone’s home. Unfortunately, there is great risk of misunderstanding a situation and over-reacting or escalating a situation.

Owning a gun is not an automatic guarantee of home safety and security. but in a desperate time. it may be necessary. Which weapon or weapons you choose to own depends a lot on your situation and location. 

  • A shotgun is often recommended for home defense. particularly in urban and suburban areas. 
  • Handguns are also a consideration and are easily concealed and reached in a bedroom location given that many home invasions occur at night. 
  • A rifle is common in rural and wilderness areas and is often used for both hunting and potential home defense. The type of rifle is up to the individual.

  • Additional weapons are a consideration if multiple family members are of sufficient age and maturity to effectively and responsibly handle them. 
  • Ammunition is important to properly store, and large quantities should be stockpiled, especially if any collapse has the potential to be of a long-term duration. Ammunition is a traditional source for barter and, at a time of severe unrest, may be either unavailable or extremely expensive. 
  • Training is important for the use of any firearm in addition to equipment and the ability to clean and safely store them. More important is learning when and when not to use them. There are too many occasions where somebody has accidentally shot their neighbor who was simply walking through a backyard to find their dog in the middle of the night. Make sure you have the knowledge and the discipline to know when and how to use any firearm for self defense. 

  • Resist the urge to display firearms in hand as a show of force. Even in a rested position, they can be perceived as a threat and draw fire, or mark you as a future target with a valuable item at a time when firearms may be scarce or hard to acquire. Firearms are a defense of last resort at a time of societal collapse and social upheaval. 

12. Communication

It’s hard to predict the degree to which electricity, Internet, and cell phone service will be available in a desperate time. The most important consideration related to communication is situational awareness. There are multiple options to consider for communication alternatives. Some are simple and others more complex.

Regardless of the complexity, communication affords you the ability to monitor local news broadcasts to understand what is going on in your area and the world at large, and to communicate with your family, friends, and neighbors to assess their health, condition, and well-being.

This level of two-way communication is also important if someone needs to travel away from home for more supplies, medical equipment or treatment, or to bring aid and assistance to a family member or friend at some distance away from home.

  • Remember your car radio will still function when the power is out. It can allow you to monitor local news broadcasts for events in your immediate area. 

  • The Internet may still be functioning, but make sure you have the ability to use backup power from car batteries with power inverters or solar power banks to operate computers and modems.
  • Landline phones may still operate even when the power is out and the Internet is down. Even an old landline that is no longer in service may allow a call to 911 if you still have an old land line phone you can plug in. 
  • Various two-way radio options can be purchased online and in multiple sets allowing small groups to stay in touch.

  • CB radios are still available and can operate not only in homes but vehicles as well. Transmission distance is sometimes limited by the size and height of antennas so test the reach before any emergency.

Conclusions

It would be comforting to say that societal collapse and civil unrest is an unlikely possibility in the United States, but there’s growing indications that some events are going from bad to worse. 

  • This includes the risk of economic collapse due to inflation and increasing supply chain failures. 
  • Domestic terrorism has been identified as the number one threat the nation’s security by the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Infrastructure failures are appearing in the power grid and water supplies, to say nothing of failing bridges, roads, and dams.
  • And then there’s that pandemic that just won’t seem to end. 

We’re seeing some ominous signs already. Food prices are going up at every grocery store, shelves are empty from Costco to Walmart, homicides are up 30% since 2019, suicides are up 30% over the last 20 years, and deaths directly and indirectly related to COVID-19 are at 1.5 million in the U.S. and continuing. 

There are growing signs that the stock market and housing market bubbles have burst, and some ominous economic indicators has economists looking over both shoulders. 

It’s probably a very good time to think about intelligent stockpiling, acquiring tools, supplies, and equipment along with knowledge for a self-reliant and sustainable lifestyle, and seriously thinking about a fast path to enhanced home security.

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