A. Home invasion
Home invasion is the act of breaching an occupied dwelling for the purpose of carrying out a violent crime as a means to rob, assault, rape or murder the occupant(s). It is not a legally defined offense (federally) in the United States. Home invasion differs from simple burglary in its violent intent, much the same way as the violent crime of robbery is differentiated from simple larceny.
Because home invasions are typically filed as a robbery, burglary, battery, assault, rape, or murder, keeping the public informed of the frequency of home invasions within their communities is difficult. However, thanks to data gathered by the FBI and Statistics USA, we’re able to get a better idea
of the prevalence of this sinister crime:
• From 1994 to 2000, an average of 3,600,000 home invasions occurred each year.
• In the U.S. alone, 1 out of every 5 homes will be victimized by a violent home invasion or burglary.
• Home burglaries occur approximately every 15 seconds in the U.S.
• Most home intruders force their way into homes through the front door.
With more and more commercial targets such as stores, banks, and gas stations taking preventative measures against robbery by increasing the security of their property, the occurrence of home invasions and burglaries is on the rise. This is because criminals have found that many homes and apartments aren’t equipped with alarms, video surveillance systems, protective window films, and other anti-crime devices that commercial dwellings use to deter criminals.
In fact, it’s the home without security devices that criminals seek out when deciding on their next target. These criminals also know that although a home may have a security alarm in place, homeowners typically don’t activate the alarm until they go to bed—the perfect setting for a home invasion.
Home Invasion Profile
Home invaders are usually bold-faced criminals armed with weapons. With just one forceful kick to the front door, a family is often at the mercy of the intruder, carrying out demands to hand over cash and other valuables, open safes, provide keys to vehicles, and even submit to brutal assault, rape and murder.
_a. Statistics show us that the most common point of entry is through the front door. If the door is locked, many home intruders will simply kick or slam the door open.
_b. Some home intruders will knock or ring the door bell and then force their way in when the resident opens the door to see who’s there.
_c. Home intruders are also known to pose as delivery men, maintenance workers, and even authority figures, such as a police officer, to gain the trust of their victims so they will open the door. Others will
claim their car broke down and request to use the phone. Some will even allege to have hit the resident’s parked car. As soon as the resident opens the front door, the criminal uses brute force and vicious threats to take control of the situation and instill tremendous fear within the victim.
2. Once an intruder gains access to the home, various demands are typically made to gain possession of cash, jewelry, and other valuables.
3. Some criminals will tie their victims up while they ransack the home.
4. Others will force one or more of the victims to leave with them, driving them to an ATM machine to withdraw cash, or even worse—to another location to be raped or murdered.
Home Security Precautions Can Reduce Your Risk
Make no doubt about it; home invasion is a terrifying and potentially life-threatening crime.
Being aware of the risks and dangers of home invasions and taking simple safety and security precautions can make all the difference when it comes to protecting your home and family. Remember: Criminals look for homes that allow for easy access. So don’t make the naïve mistake of depending on locked doors and windows as protection. Instead, make sure to add varying levels of security such as alarm systems, premium dead bolts, window protection films, and door braces to make it exceedingly difficult for thieves and possibly violent criminals to enter your home.
By being cautious and putting in place multiple layers of security, you can make your home less attractive to criminals and drastically reduce your chance of becoming a victim of a home invasion.
B. The Safe Room
A panic room is used in case of: a home invasion, for property protection during a burglary and as a bio-chemical refuge.
It wasn’t so long ago that panic rooms were thought of as little more than a plot line for a Jodie Foster film or an expensive eccentricity of the paranoid. No more. Nowadays, increasing numbers of homeowners are spending big bucks to have panic rooms, safe cores and other sorts of high-tech security systems installed in their home to ensure their family and possessions are kept safe from intrepid intruders and other calamitous events.
Safe rooms are the single most important means for reliably separating the home owner from intruders while providing a safe place to await the arrival of police or on-site security.
Interior steel doors
[Image right: interior steel doors]
For an apartment dweller, mobile home owner, or where ever construction of a armored safe room is not an option:
Replace your bedroom doors non locking interior door handle with a interior locking door handle. If the master bedroom has its own bathroom, replace the door handle with an ‘exterior door handle/lock. If a home invasion were to occur you would lock the bedroom door, grab your cell phone and run to the bathroom, lock the door and call the police.
While waiting for the law to arrive, you have two locked doors for protection, plus whatever other defenses that are maintained in the bathroom, ie.,
1) ‘bear grade’ pepper spray, [These are the about half the size of a can of women’s hair spray, not the small thumb sized pocket canisters sold every where; and they don’t just ‘spray’, but lay out a soaking steam of maximum strength Capsaicin. See ‘Guard Alaska’, ‘Frontiersman Bear Attack Deterrent’, and others at Amazon.com. $35 for about 20 foot range of stop ’em and drop ’em home defense. Mr Larry]
2) or have a pistol.
Meanwhile, you have water, sanitary facilities, a place to sit, and probably a flashlight, if the power was out.
[If you store valuables in other rooms of the house, i.e. an office, spare bedroom or closet, replace the door handles with keyed, lockable exterior door handle/locks. When your away for the evening, weekend or away on vacation, lock these core doors. They’re inexpensive from Walmart. Mr Larry]
Typically, you think of a safe room as the sort of thing that you really only need if you’re a high profile target, if you work as an ambassador or if you’re in a line of work where you make a lot of enemies. In fact, you don’t need a high profile career to make use of a safe room, just a high profile home or affluent lifestyle. If you live in a gated community or a very large house, your home is a prime target for crooks. A home invasion is almost always done on impulse by dangerous criminals just looking for some fast cash.”
Your goal is to deter or defeat the casual burglar, not a skilled and determined thief.
Skilled and determined thieves are few and far between, and you have home owners insurance. The overwhelmingly vast number of burglaries are committed by unskilled and unmotivated burglars (often teenagers), and anyone truly skilled and dedicated will probably be hunting in nicer areas than most typical town and city neighborhoods.
Make the Safe Room door secure against the most likely form of local burglary- namely, the casual felon who is just rolling around in a pickup truck looking for houses where the homeowner is at work and looking to kick in the door and ransack the place to feed his Oxy or meth habit. As such, it would need to resist the usual smash and pry tactics, but don’t anticipate skilled safecrackers, or someone motivated enough to saw through the floor of the room above to gain access. It would be nice to have it double as a safe room for the wife and kids while you’re at work. With a reinforced substructure, the Safe Room could be used as a storm shelter as well.
Remember that whatever you do, the best primary defense is a multiple layer “defense in depth” strategy. Relying on a single product or technique is less than optimal. You work from the most likely threat outwards towards less likely threats, as determined by time and your budget.
C. How to Prepare a ‘Safe Room’ at Home
In order to be fully prepared for an emergency situation, you should designate a ‘safe room’ or shelter in your home. This is the room that you can ‘seal’ yourself and your family into in the event of an emergency. The safe room will be useful in the event of a sustained crisis, but should also be prepared
for any kind of attack (short or long). The room you select for this purpose should meet these criteria as closely as possible:
• It should contain few doors and windows to the outside.
• The room should be easy to seal off in the event of a chemical attack.
• If you live in a two-story home, the room should ideally be upstairs (as gases are heavier than air and will remain closer to the ground).
• The room should be big enough for you, your family and your pets to be able to live together in relative comfort.
• You should keep your safe room in a constant state of semi-preparedness by keeping essential emergency items stored there. At the very least, you should keep an emergency survival kit (see next section) there at all times.
• Here are some of the items that you’ll need to store in your safe room or bring with you when you enter it:
__Gas masks and protective clothing if you have them.
__Strong duct tape to seal off doors and windows once you’re inside.
__A first-aid kit and first-aid instructions. Ideally you, or someone in your family, should take first-aid lessons.
__Emergency lighting (consider keeping an emergency lighting system plugged in this room at all times, so that it will come on automatically in the event of a power cut). Spare batteries.
__A radio capable of receiving AM/FM and ideally short-wave. A TV might be useful and would certainly help pass the time, but is not essential; fresh batteries.
__Comfortable seating for everyone as well as mattresses, blankets and pillows.
__Bottled water, juice, sports drinks or other beverages.
__Food that can be stored for a long time yet requires little or no preparation, such as peanut butter and crackers, peanuts or mixed nuts, energy bars, candy bars, pretzels, pudding packs individual servings of applesauce, etc. Even in the event of a short stay, hunger and thirst are likely to set in, so be prepared. You can find out more about preparing food and water stocks for a sustained emergency in other sections of this manual.
__Chemical toilets and other sanitation needs. Even if your safe room has bathroom facilities, there is always the risk that water supplies be interrupted or even contaminated.
__A telephone, if possible, for emergency use. Be sure to include a list of important telephone numbers (police, fire department, hospital, emergency coordinator etc.)
__Personal medicines and basic toiletries.
__Cleaning tools (broom, garbage bags, etc.)
__A portable fan in the event of hot weather. In case of a chemical, biological or radiological event, you must shut off the air conditioning to prevent it from bring outside air into the safe room. See the three posts in Survival Manual/1. Disaster/War-Chemical, Biological, and Radiological.
__A fire extinguisher.
__Toys, books, games and so on.
.You may also want to consider buying a room filter that has a HEPA and charcoal filter. These can be bought in most major department stores and are effective in preventing the buildup in most chemical or biological agents.
It is very important that everyone in your family is fully aware of the safe room and its function in an emergency.
Everyone should be given pre-designated duties to perform in the event of an emergency (one person is responsible for food, one for seating, etc.). Write out a detailed list of everything you need, so that in the event of an emergency, nothing will be forgotten.
You should start preparing the items for your safe room sooner rather than later and you should conduct emergency drills with your family every three to six months.
D. Safe room concepts
No Nonsense Self Defence
“There is an old cliché, “A man’s home is his castle.” Nothing makes that truer than a safe room, and it doesn’t matter what gender you are either. In essence, a safe room is any room you select that has been modified to withstand an all-out assault by a home invader or invaders. Although bedrooms are the usual choice, any room with one door that can be locked can be used. If you live in a multi-level house you can go so far as to have one on each floor, but that would only be if you are being actively stalked or rich enough to be kidnapped. (Although, if you are working in an unstable country where kidnapping of executives is common, that might not be a bad idea).
1) Why would you need a safe room?
The idea of a safe room is that in case of home invasion (for whatever reason) you have a fortified sanctuary that you can retreat to and summon help. It’s not to bunker down and have a shoot out, it is where a smaller, weaker (or unarmed) person can be safe while waiting for reinforcements to arrive. In one sense, it’s so you don’t have to have a shoot out between you and an intruder. In another, if the intruder does break through the room’s defenses, it is pretty cut and dried that it was self-defense — even in states with a duty to retreat statute.
The creation of a safe room is critical for women who are being stalked. It can be important for families with children of any age. First off, although a woman protecting her child can be the most ferocious guardian, realistically it is far more common for a woman to sacrifice herself in an attempt to protect the child — usually by curling around and shielding the child. This way she, not the child is damaged. The problem is you cannot effectively defend yourself, while protecting a child this way. A safe room makes this whole issue moot.
Second, no child can successfully fight off an adult attacker. The adult’s superior mass will overwhelm the child. However, a child can run to safety. Third, putting it bluntly teenagers do stupid things now and then. And if they do stupid things with not nice people, them having a safe room is a very good idea. (If nothing else it also gives squabbling siblings a means to end the fight).
While home invasion robberies are becoming more common, realistically, with a safe room, just closing your bedroom door at night is the best defense against waking up with a burglar in your room or a break-in rapist on top of you. This is especially true in bad neighborhoods and college towns where such break-ins are common.
2) An outside door, inside
There is a difference between inside doors and outside doors. In older, wooden doors the difference is between hollow core and solid core.
Primarily for insulation purposes, a solid core door is one solid piece. This also serves as a security measure, as it is difficult to break through three inches of solid wood. Hollow core doors are for use inside. Hollow core doors are far lighter than solid core and they are less effective for both insulation and security. The reason they are lighter is because they are designed like corrugated cardboard (like you see with larger cardboard boxes). In between the two flat surfaces there are thin struts holding them apart.
Hollow core doors are designed to provide privacy, sound buffering and climate control inside your home — not security. The problem with hollow core doors is that they can be kicked or punched through. Worse yet, they are easily shot through and quickly fold to either body checks or blows from a heavy object. As such they are not appropriate for a safe room door. If you are in a home with older style doors, the safe room should have a solid core door.
Most modern houses however come with decorative and molded doors. But again there is still a difference between an inside and outside door. The nice thing about this modern selection is that the same type of door comes in different thickness. To have consistency in the look of the house, the same type of door can come in both indoor and outdoor models. To start your safe room, you simply take an outside door and put it inside. That doesn’t mess up your decor either.
3) Reinforced doorframe
Any lock is only as good as what is around it. Most door locks can be simply by-passed by applying enough force until the frame breaks. Therefore, for your safe room you are not only going to put in a heavier door, but also reinforce the doorframe.
Doing this in older homes is described on the home security page in the door section. It takes some work, but if you do while re-painting the bedroom, you’ll never notice the embedded security measures.
With more modern homes, the doorframe is usually sold along with the door. So when you upgrade to an outside door, you are also upgrading the door frame. Although you might want to consult with the salesman about also upgrading the frame to something bigger and stronger.
Without going into metal security doors, the general standard you are shooting for is something that can withstand the full force of a 180 pound man repeatedly slamming himself into the door. That’s a lot of force and the salesman should be able to tell you how much force the doorframe is rated for.
We’re going to change tracks here. When it comes to personal safety, Hollywood is our greatest enemy. Not only do they promote the concept of unstoppable bad guys, but they credit them with super-genius. The evil stalker knows how to cut the phone lines and isolate the terrified woman. How in the blue blazes do you cut the “lines” of a cell phone? Cut the power so the alarm system doesn’t work? How does he know to do it exactly when you are in the shower so you don’t know your alarm system is down? Much less the fact that you might just notice the lights going out … even if you are in the shower. As such, you have warning that something is wrong. And yet, these fools were working themselves up into a frenzy because all these things “could” happen. And that is why you need to carry a gun in the shower.
When we mention safe rooms, most people’s minds flash to all the movies where a damsel in distress desperately tries to close the door against an evil attacker who is body checking it from the other side. Not to put too fine of a point on it, but that’s called “Drama.” That scenario is far more dramatic and vivid than heading towards the safe room while the attacker is trying to get in. You don’t wait until he is in the front room, you run when he is crawling through the window. That is what early warning systems are for! So you can get the door closed and locked before you end up in a shoving match over closing the door.
4) Multiple locks
First off you are going to be replacing indoor door knobs with heavier outdoor locking knobs. A one-sided deadbolt is also not unreasonable. After the doorknob lock is engaged you throw the deadbolt. Multiple locks distribute the impact over a greater area thereby reducing the chance of frame failure. They also share the load between locks thereby lessening the chance of lock failure.
Speaking of lock failure, we are not big fans of “different distance” locks. By this we mean secondary measures like chains or the flip style of locks that you find in hotel rooms. These supposedly allow you to open the door and peer out in safety. Unfortunately these locks consistently prove themselves ineffective against full body assaults; they tear out of the doorframe too easily.
The same physics make them unreliable for secondary lines of security. Any number of people will put these on after locking the door thinking they are added security. They aren’t. The truth is, if your primary locks fail, these will not stop the door from being opened. All it is going to take is another body check.
Therefore, any additional locks that you put on the door must further secure the door into the doorframe. Deadbolts are good, so two are floor bars and foot locks. What you want with safe room locks is once they are thrown, if you don’t have keys that door isn’t going to budge. Anyone on the outside trying to get in is going to have to take the doorframe out of the wall.
If you have kids in the house (or are currently being stalked) you might want to consider putting in a keypad lock. While they are not particularly attractive, they can be set so they automatically lock when the door is closed. If, on the rare chance, you find yourself in a race to the safe room all you have to do is slam the door. This is especially important for kids who might not remember to close and then lock the door. The keypad makes it a second’s work for you to get in without a key.
(This is also why we recommend them for the front door too…especially if your kids are always forgetting, a) to lock the door and, b) their keys). From the inside the door opens as easily as a regular knob so there is no hindrance getting out in case of fire or other nighttime crisis. A keypad lock is also useful for avoiding embarrassing explanations to your kids why the door was locked when you and your SIG want privacy. It was locked because the door was closed…next question?
If you are really determined that nobody is going to batter their way into your safe room there is the old style Fox Police Locks. In essence these are a steel bar contraption that you barricade the door with. One end goes into the floor and the other end into the door. The bar sits at an angle and serves as a brace. The nice thing about this kind of system is that when not in use, the bar sits unobtrusively behind the door.
The only thing you see is the groove in the floor and the slot on the door. Or there is the ugly side-to-side version that literally bars the door. In either case, nothing short of a police battering ram is going to come through that door.
5) Shatterproof glass
Going back to the movie Panic Room, Jodie Foster had an entirely enclosed, video monitored, high tech control room for her safe room. Well, unless you are a rich paranoid or you just won the lottery, it really isn’t necessary to go that far. However, since — for a variety of reasons — the bedroom is the most common choice for a safe room, you’re going to have to address the issue of windows in your safe room.
Instead of upgrading and reinforcing existing windows, you can buy complete security windows. These come with shatterproof glass and are a bear to break in through. While it would be ideal to replace all the windows in your home with such a system, realistically the only windows you really have to replace are in your safe room.
While it might not seem easier to replace an entire window, the fact is that what you will get by doing so is more complete protection than if you try to piecemeal a solution onto your current windows. If you do not want to go the expense of replacing the windows, then the window security information on the home security page should be followed. However, whatever else you do or don’t do, at the very least, we strongly suggest that you put shatterproof laminate on the windows. While security glass is better, this transparent sheeting prevents the window from being easily shattered. As such, he cannot reach through and open the locks.
6) Heavy curtains
It is important to keep an attacker from being able to see into your safe room. After his attempts to get through the door has failed, odds are he is going to go after the window. While for some unexplained reason there is a tendency not to shoot through doors and walls, the same doesn’t apply to windows — especially if he can see you. That is why heavy curtains or blinds are necessary. They not only cut his view off of you, but you of him.
Let’s take this to the worst case scenario. The odds are against him hitting you while firing blindly through the window — especially if you are either hunkered down or laying in a corner of the wall that the window is in. It may sound strange to position yourself against the wall closest to the shooter, but
figure that the bullets are going to be traveling down ever- widening angle lines from the shooter’s position. It is easy for him standing in one spot outside the window to spray bullets into the far wall from one corner to the other. That’s why you don’t want to be against it or hiding in a closet opposite the window.
However, in order to hit you when you are against the window wall he would have to run the entire length of the room firing blindly through the walls or stand back with an assault rifle and hose your home with banana clips worth of bullets — neither are particularly likely.
The heavy curtains blind him so he doesn’t know where you are in the room. Nor does he know if you are now armed and capable of firing back. While he may not know where you are in the room, you know where he is…just outside the window. And unlike you, he’s backlit. In another case, if he does manage to break through the window, while he’s trying to get past the curtains to look around and find you, you’re swinging a baseball bat…if he’s lucky. If not, what you’re swinging is much worse.
Those are the worst case scenarios. More realistically — especially when dealing with stalkers — they’ve juiced themselves up on liquid courage. Climbing through rose bushes or up to the second story windows or standing on a roof pitch/in a rose bush while trying to swing hard enough to get through shatterproof glass while drunk often becomes a self-solving problems. Alcohol and gravity are a bad combo, so are thorn bushes and booze. But in either case he won’t see you call the cops…or the ambulance.
There is a final factor as to why heavy drapes or blinds are important. It is a terrifying experience to be assaulted…especially in your own home. By cutting off direct visual contact with him, it is easier for you to remain calm and function. Yes you will hear screaming, yelling, pounding and crashes as he beats on the doors and windows, but you won’t be looking him in the eye, this significantly increases your ability to function. The safe room has bought you time to call the police, activate security systems and — if that is your choice — arm yourself. When and if he gets in, then you will be prepared.
The most important piece of equipment for your safe room is the phone. It is what allows you to communicate with the outside world. It’s what allows you to not only call the cavalry, but to communicate with them and direct them when they arrive.
Again Hollywood has filled people’s minds with lurid images of juggernaut murderers who cut the phone lines before chasing scantily clad women down the hallways of their own homes. The truth is most of these clowns wouldn’t know where to begin to look in order to cut the phone line. If they even had the brains to remember to do so. And quite frankly in these days of cell phones, roam phones, DSL lines, dish networks, etc, cutting a phone line doesn’t do all that much. You just pick up the cell or internet phone.
Basically, most home invasions rely on their speed and ferocity to overwhelm you before you can make
a call. Their problem with you in a safe room is that they can’t keep you from calling out.
When you get 911 stay on the line!
Not only will you be reassured by talking to the operator, but you will be able to tell the police where he is. It also creates a recording of the incident and what is happening. This will be used in court. Staying on line is especially true if you have some kind of home defense weapon. Inform the operator that you are in your safe room and armed.
Police HATE coming onto a property with an armed owner and an intruder, not only because of their chances of getting shot, but shooting you. The constant two way communication of where you each are through the 911 operator is going to go miles to keep lethal mistakes from happening. If they know you’re safely locked in the bedroom than the guy who is popping up with a gun isn’t friendly
8) Safe/Gun safe
We recommend that you have a safe — for a variety of reasons.
• First, if you have children the gun needs to go into either the home safe or a specially designed gun safe. Really, let’s be truthful, how often do your children listen when you tell them to do their chores? Do you really think they aren’t going to play with the gun even if you tell them not to touch it? Putting it in a safe, keeps that from happening when you are not home.
As the better modern safes have keypads, so too do the better gun safes. Gun safes come in all sizes, but the ones we recommend for home defense hold a single pistol, attach to the wall, have either glow in the dark buttons or are electronically lit (with battery backup) and can be quickly opened. A loaded pistol is in your hands in seconds, but not in your children’s. Even better, you can get these safes with a “three strikes you’re out” system. After three wrong codes are punched in, the system shuts down. This keeps kids from spending hours randomly punching in codes.
• Second, remember we’re talking safe room here. By definition you’ve bought time. So the need for instant access to blazin’ guns is non-existent. If because of kids and the potential need to come out of the safe room, then that wall mounted unit is the best way to keep your kids safe and give you quick access. Other than that, keeping it in the safe in the closet is nice way to soothe any concerns about having a loaded gun in the house.
• Third, it’s a good idea to have a safe bolted to your closet floor anyway. In the old days, burglars just grabbed jewelry, TVs and VCRS, now your biggest concern isn’t the burglary, it’s identity theft. If a criminal gets a hold of your important papers you’re in deep trouble. The problem is you don’t know where it will stop. The burglar who steals your papers probably won’t use them, but he will sell them to someone who will. A passport sells on the street for upwards to a $1000. Old driver licenses and credit card statements give an ID thief everything he needs. Boxes of blank checks? There’s an invite to not only having your account cleaned out, but lots of bad checks passed with your name on the checks. There’s even been cases of houses trying to be sold when the deed has been stolen. Keep your important paper work and your gun in a safe in the safe room.
The safe room and the safe give you an additional option for security, and that’s when you are on vacation or at work. Now you have layers upon layers that a criminal must get through before he can ruin your life — especially if you have a keypad on your safe room/bedroom door and you get in the habit of closing it when you leave.
9) Monitors/alarm system/cameras
As we mentioned on the stalkers solutions page advances in security technology have driven prices down to a rock bottom. We have seen a four camera, split screen video surveillance and recording system for as low as $150 dollars… at a SAMS Club. Such a unit can easily be patched into the TV in your bedroom to give you an exact idea where the intruder is and what he is doing. And if you are watching him on the TV, you can bet that you are not only recording it, but you are talking to the 911 operator about his exact location. And that’s being passed onto the officers. How cool is that? You’re both watching and involved in dispatching a real life cop show…from your safe/bedroom.
All you need now is popcorn.
Besides the cops really appreciate the information that you can pass onto them, like what he’s wearing, what he looks like, if he has friends and if he is armed. This last one is important because home invasion types tend to be armed. Which is why having a safe room should be making more and more sense.
In addition, most alarm companies make their bread and butter selling you not the system (which is cheap) but their service (which is not). If you have a safe room and a phone you don’t need them to dial the police for you. As such an alarm system can be rigged for internal warning (Remember early warning?). Where alarm systems that contact outsiders pay for themselves, however, is if you travel often and/or have a lot of valuable items that you could be burglarized for while at work.
On the other hand, it can be argued — whether you have an alarm service or not — that rooms with lots of expensive equipment should be turning into safe rooms as well. If you have more than $10,000 dollars worth of equipment, collections or financial investments, spend an extra $500 to $1000 to protect it.” Pasted from <http://www.nononsenseselfdefense.com/saferoom.htm>
E. Size of a combination storm shelter- safe room
FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) suggests there should be six square feet for every seated individual in the safe room. This recommendation is for US homes. It may differ in other countries. Note also that this measurement is the minimum required. Having a bigger safe room is always a good idea.
Requirements for ‘Hardened’ Safe Rooms
The room should be sufficient to house all the inhabitants of the house. The safe room must be able to withstand 75 mph to 400 mph winds. The safe room must also be strong enough to protect the people from the wind, rain and any objects hurled by the wind.
[Image right: Commercial steel safe room, AKA Panic rooms or storm shelters. Located inside the house its designed to protect the inhabitants from storms or tornadoes, also to be used to protect people from a break-in.]
No matter what the size of a safe room is, the room should be anchored properly so it won’t turn over even if your home is damaged. Both the ceiling and walls need to withstand the wind and pressure from debris being hurled.
The connectors on the angles have to be wind resistant. Any interior wall supports for the room have to be separate from the structure. In other words, any damage inflicted by the storm / tornado must not affect the room.
Construction and Design
The safe room can be located anywhere in the house. For many people the basement is the best option as it offers protection against hurricanes and tornadoes.
The design and size of a safe room varies. It can be simple or complex. A basic but effective safe room consists of four concrete walls and ceiling made of reinforced concrete. Other features necessary are good ventilation, heavy door and secondary exit.
The room can be fitted with all the necessary supplies. These will include food, water, medical kits, flashlights, radio and batteries, cell phones and other communications equipment.
Important Facts about Safe Rooms
The cost of adding a safe room to an existing home depends on how large it is. It also depends on the foundation where it will be constructed. The typical cost is between $2,500 and $6,000.
For existing homes, the safe room is usually added as a separate structure. But it can be installed in the basement or the garage. When deciding on the location of the safe room, consideration for any handicapped inhabitants in the house must be accounted for.
Anyone who wants to build their own safe room must be skilled. You can buy some pre-fabricated safe rooms. These will be easier to set up. But if you are buying one, make sure that it meets the standards of FEMA. Avoid buying any structure that doesn’t meet the standards set by FEMA or similar agencies in your country.
The size of a safe room needs to be considered thoroughly. There is no telling when natural calamities or other threats can take place, so it’s important you have one in the house.
[Images above: These are very strong F-5 rated multipurpose steel safe rooms at an affordable price. Tested and certified to meet FEMA 320 standards by the Texas Tech Wind Science and Engineering Research Center. These safe rooms can be installed in any home, garage or building constructed on a concrete slab as long as there is a ceiling height of 8 feet or more. Equipped with dual locks, they can also be used as secure storage as well as a panic/intruder room. Each room is constructed of 3/16” steel “C” channels on 1/4” steel frames. Each plate is mounted to the 1/4” steel roof and floor frames using grade 5 bolts. The floor frame is anchored to your foundation using the Red Head Anchoring System with anchors set every 16” for maximum stability. Each safe room comes standard with a 4 hinge, 32” wide, wheelchair accessible, low threshold door that opens to the inside. The door is equipped with 2 keyed deadbolts and can also be used for safe storage for your personal items. The door is also secured from the inside by 3 tubular steel cross members that are set in place easily once you are safely inside the room. Each cross member sets on steel mounts on either side of the door interior. We can place the door of your safe room in any wall as long as it is at least 8” from a corner. Available in many sizes: 4’x 4’, 4’x 5’, 4’x 6’, 4’x 8’, 5’x 5’ , 6’x 8’, 8’x 8’ . Lowry Construction, 1-866-95LOWRY,
(1-866-955-6979), http://www.lowryconst.com/saferoom.htm ]
F. Home security tips
No Nonsense Self-Defense ( an excellent website filled with information that can help you defeat the potential of criminal action)
“There is no such thing as a burglar-proof home. What there is, however — using a burglar’s double criteria of speedy entry and not attracting attention– are homes that are too difficult to break in to.
The enemies of the burglar are time and attention. The longer it takes to enter and the more noise
he makes increase his chances of being seen and caught. Homes not easily and quickly broken into are most often bypassed for easier targets.
Although the main focus of this is to deter burglars, what is talked about on this page is an example of “walk-aways” mentioned on the Pyramid of Personal Safety page. The same issues that will deter a burglar will also serve to stop a break-in rapist or stalker.
Tip #1 Make your home security system like an onion, not an egg.
Layers upon layers are not only the best deterrent, but the best defense against break ins.
Reason: It is easy for a criminal to bypass a single line of defense. Multiple layers not only slow him, but serve as a means to alert you or your neighbors that someone is trying to break in. Doing these “layered walk-aways” makes it more difficult for a criminal to meet his criteria of quick and unobserved
entry. If, like the tip of an iceberg, enough of these deterrents are visible, most of the time the would-be intruder will simply choose not to even try. If he does try, then the layers he did not see will impede him. A good example of a layered defense is rosebushes outside the window, double-locked, barred and
safety coated side windows and something difficult to climb over inside under the window.
Tip #2 Pretend to be a burglar
Walk around your property and ask yourself: How would I break in? Examine your house from the street, where are the blind spots? What are the most vulnerable areas and, therefore, likely to be attacked? Stand outside the windows and look in, make sure no valuables, like expensive electronics or artwork, are visible. If you can see your belongings doing this, so can criminals.
Reason: We on’t tend to think of our homes in these terms. So spend just a few minutes doing this. Find where “blind spots” are (areas where a criminal can work without being seen or would be screened from view of a neighbor looking to see what that loud noise they just heard). Also look for “weaknesses”(easy access points) are (for example, sliding glass doors, doggy doors or louvered windows). These are the areas that will be “attacked” by the criminal. That is also where you must focus your defenses.
Tip #3 Consider the area that the lock sits in
A lock is not enough, you must also address the area around it. You need to extend your thinking about security measures to 18 and twenty four inches around the lock itself. That is the area you must protect.
Reason: A burglar doesn’t care how much damage he causes getting in. The best locks in the world will do no good if he smashes the door in. A pinewood door frame will splinter and give way after a few savage kicks. The backdoor deadbolt can often be bypassed by just breaking a window and reaching through to unlock it. Windows can be broken and locks undone. Many locked gates can be opened by simply reaching around and over. A hasp-and-lock will swiftly yield to blows from a even a small sledgehammer.
Tip #4 As well as locking something, you must also protect the lock and its components.
A common combination of cheap locks and small construction flaws, that we tend not to notice, often give criminals the “cracks” in security they need to break in.
Reason: Many home door locks can be quickly bypassed with a knife or screwdriver slid in the gap between door and frame. After that the criminal can easily work the tongue of most cheap locks out of the door frame. A thin kitchen knife slid between sash windows can “tap” a normal window lock open. Hasps and locks can be hammered or twisted off in a few blows, or simply cut off with bolt cutters. Many sliding windows and doors can simply be lifted out of place.
• Door: Look at the gap between your door and your door frame from the inside – can you see the lock’s tongue? All it takes is a flip of the criminal’s wrist while holding a screwdriver while on the outside to break away the thin doorjamb molding and expose that same gap. From there, it is another simple wrist gesture to jimmy the tongue out of the faceplate. Total elapsed time for break-in, about 10
seconds — with minimal noise.
On ALL outside exit doors, buy locks that have locking tongues. Test this by holding the door open and locking the knob. Then attempt to depress the tongue into the door with your finger. Better locks will have a secondary tongue that doesn’t move. The best locks will have entire tongues that don’t move.
• Window: Put “window stops” on the first floor and basement window frames. These often functionally amount to secondary and tertiary locks. The best kind are those that go through a moveable frame and lock it into place. Something as simple as drilling a hole through both frames when the window is closed and placing a nail in the hole will lock the windows in place.
• Other: Use hasps with protective shrouds. These make it harder for the criminal to hammer away the lock. If for some reason you have an outward swinging door, not only get the best lock possible, but place a safety plate (a small formed sheet of metal) over the tongue so it cannot be seen or easily manipulated. These slow down the criminal and make him work hard to get in. This entails him making more noise for longer periods of time, thereby increasing his chances of being detected.
Tip #5 Brace doorframes and put multiple locks on all outside doors What he doesn’t know *will* hurt him. With a little extra work, the bracing can be hidden behind the
doorframe’s internal molding and will not be noticeable from either inside or outside. For the burglar, this is like unexpectedly hitting an invisible wall.
Reason: The most common means of breaking into homes is simply by kicking in the door. Most doorframes are made of 1 inch pine which saves the contractor money. This makes them vulnerable to this basic assault. Multiple locks and bracing under the molding make this kind of entrance unlikely and will not destroy the beauty of your home.
• Bracing: Take between a 2 and 3 foot piece of flat steel stripping (1/8 x 2 inches is good) and drill a staggered series of holes down its length. When you take the interior molding off the door — in most houses — you will see the 1×6″ (or 1×5″) pine plank of the doorframe. That is nailed to the 2×4″ studs of the wall. (You may or may not be able to see the studs because of drywall, but they are there). That thin 1 inch piece of cheap wood (it is usually pine) is all that was between your possessions and a burglar. A few savage kicks, and it usually breaks off in a 2- to -3 foot sliver and the door swings open.
• Fast and more secure version: On the inside wall, where the molding was, position the steel strip so that all the lock strike plates are behind it and its edge is along the edge of the 1×6. Screw it into place with long screws — leaving a few holes open. The staggered drill pattern should result in the screws seating into both the 1×6 and the 2×4 studs. Take the molding and shave or chisel out the thickness of the metal strip in the proper place. Replace the molding, using the remaining holes to tack it down over the strip.
• Putty and repaint: Slower, better looking, but slightly less secure: This version looks slightly better, but requires some precision Dremel or chisel work. Instead of abutting the strip to the exact edge of the 1×6, seat it between 1/16 to 1/8 of an inch away from the edge. When carving your groove in the molding, leave the same sized tongue running down the door side edge. This seats over and covers
the steel, making it invisible. Repaint.
• Strike plate: Just assume that they did it wrong — and odds are you will be right. Using the same length of screws that you are using for the steel strip, remove the shorter screws that are in the door frame strike plate and replace them with the bigger screws. It is not uncommon for short screws of less than a half inch to be used (or come with the lock assembly), such short screws are easily
ripped out after a few kicks. On the other hand an 1 1/2 or 2 inch set of screws that reach into the house’s very framing is not going anywhere quickly — no matter how hard you kick it.
Multiple locks: Deadbolts, rim locks and floor locks are your friends. All outside doors should have at least two separate locks. Doors that are on the blind side of the house or homes in high-risk areas should have more. The deeper the tongue goes, the better.
Tip #6 Find alternatives to normal deadbolts in doors that have windows (or windowed frames).
Talk with a locksmith about what is available.
Reason: Most burglaries occur during the day when you are away at work. Unfortunately, many back doors are decorative and windowed. It is easy for a burglar to punch out a small window, reach in and unlock the door. Since they are off the street and out of view this is why most break-ins occur through the back and side doors.
A single-key deadbolt has a key on one side and a handle on the other. After punching out a window a burglar can reach in and, with ease, open the deadbolt then the doorknob – elapsed time five
seconds. Placing a secondary lock (i.e., a floor lock) outside of the reach of the windows is recommended. If that is too much, a double-key deadbolt is recommended for non-primary access doors. This secures the door while you are not at home. If fire safety concerns you (and it should) at night put your keys in the deadbolt. This not only allows you immediate exit should a fire occur,
but you will also always know where your keys are.
Tip #7 Treat inside garage doors the same as an outside door: multiple locks and bracing.
Even though it is inside your home, it must be able to withstand a full out assault. Often, the doors that access the house from the garage are hollow-core and have cheap locks (if they are locked at all) which is why break ins through garages are so common.
Reason: Criminals often cruise neighborhoods looking for open garage doors. Once an open garage door is found, they pull in, close the door, park their car and then start piling your possessions into it. Although they might still do it occasionally, criminals no longer need to cruise the neighborhood with a stolen garage door opener and pushing the button to see whose door will open, and incredible number of people just leave the door wide open for them when “just running down to the store.”
For criminals on foot, the side door of a garage is a prime target, as it is often easier and offering better ease of access/escape than a back door. This is why you must treat the door into your home from the garage like an outside door.
If the inner door is locked it is usually hollow core and with minimal locks. Realize that with the garage door closed the criminals can unleash a sustained full out assault against that inside door. Usually the door will give way. By bracing it and replacing hollow core doors with solid core ones, you significantly lessen the chances of that happening.
It should also be noted that many home invasion robberies come through open garage doors and these inner doors. More so than the front door.
Tip #8 Plant rosebushes or cactus in front of all vulnerable windows.
Thorny landscaping not only adds beauty to your home, but makes even getting close to such windows an unappealing prospect
Reason: The second most common way of breaking into homes is through rear or side windows.
A thief can work on such windows with little chance of detection. Standing in the middle of a thorn bush to do it, however, is not a pleasant experience.
Tip #9 Look into safety-coating the most vulnerable windowsw
Safety coat is an adhesive plastic sheeting that makes breaking out windows difficult.
Reason: It’s not going to be fun for him, standing in a rosebush only to discover that the window isn’t easy to break either. Instead of a quick pop, he now has to stand there and repeatedly pound before he can even reach the lock. Wait until he discovers that the window has window stops as well.
If you can afford it, there are many quality windows that are not only good to keep inclement weather out, but provide serious burglar protection, as well.
Tip #10 Put a secondary lock that prevents the panel from being moved on all windows.
This is repeating what was mentioned earlier, but it is important enough to warrant such emphasis.
Reason: Put stops on the frame on all sash windows. This allows them to be opened, but only so far. On sliding windows and doors, the best type of lock is a pin that goes through both frame and sliding part. This prevents the window from being lifted out.
Tip #11 Get and close heavy drapes — especially on rooms where there is expensive equipment. Thin, sheer drapes –although attractive — also allow burglars to look inside.
Reason: It is often amazing how often a home intruder will walk up and look through the windows of a home to see if there is anything worth stealing. Sheer curtains allow him to do this. He knows what he wants to steal before he even breaks in.
Getting into the habit of closing heavy drapes not only keep your home warmer in winter, but lessen the chances of your home being targeted by a burglar. Without this ability to see into the home, there are less guaranteed results for him, which helps to serve as a deterrent.
Tip #12 In really bad neighborhoods, get safety bars on the windows.
In so-so neighborhoods, you might want to consider putting them on side windows — especially ones that are perfect break-in spots.
Reason: When it comes down to it, windows are always breakable. A set of regular bars on high risk, non-bedroom windows are not likely to destroy the looks or value of your home. And the added security is well worth it. On bedroom windows, it is advisable to spend the extra money and get the releasable bars that can be jettisoned in case of fire.
Tip #13 Make sure sliding glass doors and windows are installed correctly.
Not everyone in the construction industry is a rocket scientist. And their incompetence and laziness can cost you plenty.
Reason: An estimated one quarter of all sliding glass doors and windows are installed backwards (so the sliding part is on the outside track). This allows the criminal to simply lift out the panel and enter
Tip #14 If you use a pole in the track to secure sliding doors and windows make sure it is the right length.
It should be within an inch of the track’s length.
Reason: If the pole is not long enough to keep the criminal from slipping his fingers in, it is of no use. Staple or tape a piece of string to the pole to make it easy to pull out when it is in the track.
Better yet get a “track stop” or “track lock” that you can put in the tracks. They are far better than the “poor man’s version” of a dowel. Better yet get sliding window/door bar (jamb bar).
Tip #15 Install motion detectors in areas where no one should be.
This way, you know something isn’t right when they go off.
Reason: Most people put safety lights where they do the least good. While they illuminate your approach as you pull into your driveway, such lights are often hard to see if you are indoors. Put them along the side of the house or back, so that someone lurking there sets them off.
Position them so you can see when they go on. The lights are adjustable, so even if you have a blind
wall you can turn the lights so they will both illuminate an area and attract your attention. Put them high enough so that they cannot be knocked out of service by someone jumping.
Look into low voltage and/or solar powered outdoor lighting. This kind of lighting illuminates your property at very little cost.
Tip #16 Get a dog.
A barking dog, whether inside the house or in the yard is proven as the best deterrent to burglars.
Reason: It doesn’t have to be a 250 – pound Rottweiler named Spike, even a smaller yappy dog serves as an early warning system. Not only does the intruder risk a bite, but the barking attracts attention. And there is no such thing as a stranger intimidating a dog into silence.
We don’t recommend dog doors. It is not uncommon for thieves to bring small children and send them through these and have the child open the main door. Also, since many burglars are, in fact, teenagers, it is also common for them to bring a younger child with them to do this. If you do have a dog door already, either a) put the dog out and lock the door during the day or b) make sure the access gates to your yard are locked. That way the criminals cannot simply walk by, open your gate to let the dog out and then return when the dog has wandered away.
The truth is a dog, even a small dog, inside a house is not something a burglar wants to deal with.
Getting bit is not fun.
Tip #17 Create a neighborhood watch on your block.
Even just the signs often send would-be burglars elsewhere.
Reason: An alert and involved community is the criminal’s nemesis. It is often reason enough for him to try business elsewhere.
Even if you can’t create an organized program, get to know your neighbors, especially retired folks who are home all day. Let them know who belongs there and who doesn’t. Have them watch your property and pick up your newspaper when you are on vacation. It is also a good idea to hire a trustworthy preteen/young teen neighbor to do such mundane jobs as mowing your lawn or taking out the trash. Such kids then have vested interests in your property and they are home to watch your property when adults aren’t. The kids like it because they get spending money and you get to watch TV on the weekend instead of doing lawn work.
Tip #18 Make sure the gates are locked if you have a fence.
This is especially important with accesses to the alley.
Reason: Each layer serves as a deterrent. The more layers and hard work the criminal has to do, the more likely he is to pass by your home. A locked fence is something he must climb over while carrying objects. If the gate is left unlocked, however, he can just walk right through it.
Tip #19 Leave the stereo/TV on
An empty house “feels” empty. There is no vibration or noise inside that indicates someone’s presence. Put the “vibes” in.
Reason: Although this is not a guaranteed deterrent, it can serve as a “bluff” to young, inexperienced prowlers. Even though they have “checked” to see if anyone is home (e.g. knock on the door), the unexpected noise, especially from the back or upstairs (any place they can’t look into), indicates that they made a mistake on their primary recon. Maybe someone is home and just didn’t hear the doorbell.
You might especially want to consider this strategy for vacations. Close the drapes, turn the stereo/TV on in the room where the criminal is most likely to try to break in.
Tip #20 Etch your name on all electronic equipment and then video tape it
Etching, in and of itself serves as a deterrent in case of a break in, failing that it greatly assists the police in the recovery of your property
Reason: Items with your name and address cannot be easily sold. The reason for this is that anyone buying them is buying something that can easily be proven to be stolen property and they know it. What protects most buyers of stolen goods is the fact that it is difficult to prove something is stolen property. However, a name and address on an item combined with a police report is a fast way to end up in the county jail for possession of stolen property — even if the person who has it bought it off the burglar. As such, why steal something that you, a) can’t sell, b) if you are caught with you’re definitely going to jail for___s?
Although it is better to record serial numbers, a faster way to assist the police in recovery is to video tape every room and all the items in them. As you tape say what it is (for example Sanyo TV, Hitachi DVD player, etc.,) Title the tape something like “Family Reunion” or something you will remember and put it in your video collection. This way, if items are stolen you can give the tape to the police, video and the etching will identify your property when the police encounter it. Which quite often they do, being called to homes where stolen property is present, but without a means to identify it as such, they cannot prove it. Also send a duplicate copy to a relative.
Tip #21 Get a safe!
It’s not just cash and jewels that need to go in there, but your important paperwork.
Reason: Identity theft is the fastest growing crime in the US. Although many people think burglars are going to go for jewelry, silverware or electronics, what most people don’t realize is that the greatest damage to you will be if the criminal gets access to your personal identification and financial records!!! A criminal can clone your identity and steal everything you have, up to an including selling your property. Passports can sell for as much as a thousand dollars. And a passport and your checkbook…kiss all that money good-bye.
Make sure the safe is bolted through the floor and cannot be carried out. If you are in a situation where you cannot use such measures (such as an apartment) then invest in a large, heavy duty filing cabinet with locks. Do NOT leave the keys nearby.
Tip #22 On top of everything else, get an alarm system.
This is another layer of the onion. You can go anywhere from a basic system to incredibly high tech.
Reason: Now that you’ve made it slow and difficult for him to get inside, an alarm is far more effective since it gives the cavalry a chance to arrive in time. In addition, burglar, carbon monoxide and fire alarms do wonders to keep your home owner’s insurance down.
Know however, that the bread and butter of most security companies is the service they sell you in support of the alarm system (calling the police, paging you if there is a problem or even sending their own guards). While shopping around is important, do your homework on security systems, providers and services first. And remember, you are investing for the long term. That is how you must think when
investing in an alarm system.”