Defending Abandoned Homes During Emergencies
By Naomi Broderick
Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pellesten/6111177757/
Whenever disaster strikes, it pays to be prepared. Many preppers invest in making their home a sustainable environment in case the worst happens. Keeping a variety of sustainable food and water sources, alternative power supplies, and home security equipment are all great ideas for making your home a sanctuary – no matter what happens. But all resources deplete eventually, and even the most prepared home cannot thrive without resources once weeks, months, or even years pass while off-the-grid and isolated.
For this reason, every household’s emergency plan should include an exit strategy for when resources have been spent. But while your foremost concern should be for your family and for yourself, abandoning your home can make it ripe for picking from looters. If an emergency is widespread and you cannot rely on neighbors nearby to help keep an eye on your property, your home could be a dire situation. History has demonstrated that whenever a large scale catastrophe happens, such as with Oklahoma’s tornados or Hurricane Katrina, there will always be looters to take advantage of the chaos.
But how can someone defend their property once it’s abandoned and out of power?
- Limit access to all entries of your home
Since an off-the-grid home cannot maintain a home security system for an extended period of time (and the effectiveness of a such a system during a state of emergency is questionable), the most effective way to keep trespassers away from your unattended home is to make it more difficult to enter. The first step to accomplish this is the make simple adjustments to prevent easy access to all of your entries.
Your first line of defense is fencing of an adequate height − which is six feet to keep people out. Choose durable termite-resistant materials that aren’t easily scaled, such as tightly boarded pressure-treated lumber or metal sheeting. Your entryway should be tall likewise and include a strong lock. The benefits of a good fence are twofold, since they’ll prevent intruders from both accessing and seeing your abandoned property. Any property which has been obviously unattended for any length of time is a prime target for looting, which is why foreclosed homes are hotbeds for criminal activity.
Further features to consider in preventing easy access to entries of your home are:
- Garage and porch entryways
- Low balconies that may be accessed via ladder
- Scalable materials on the house, such as latticework or vines
- Unmaintained trees that allow access to higher story entries and windows
- Secure your windows with modifications
Criminals see windows as one of the most easily accessible vulnerabilities in a home and often break through to climb through or disable a lock. Every window – even those on higher stories that might be accessed with ladders or other tools − should have a long stop screw installed to prevent windows from being opened more than a few inches, which leaves crooks unable to jimmy open windows and gain access.
But besides this simple modification, make your windows more difficult to break through with modifications such as storm windows, shutters, and security bars. For those with the resources, replacing standard windows by installing shatter-resistant windows is an essential way to make your home more of a fortress than an easy mark.
- Foolproof your locks against lock-picking and bumping
Biometric locks, such as fingerprint scanners, are a increasingly popular and highly secure type of lock. They can be a useful and surprisingly affordable option if power is available − but beware that they can be unreliable if electricity isn’t a certainty and when they’re installed in exterior entrances. To foolproof your traditional doors to lock-pickers, try applying WD-40 liberally to your locks before departing. Installing a lock upside down so that your key’s ridges point downwards is very easy way to make the task even more difficult. These tricks will deter more inexperienced burglars.
But to improve your home’s resistance to more seasoned lock-pickers, invest in higher-end locks. Some locks are designed to resist a popular trick called “lock bumping,” which is a technique in which someone uses a specially cut key along with a torque to bump the pins of a lock to their shear line. These special keys are widely available online and have become widespread even among would-be criminals. While a little pricier than standard locks, bump proof models are a sensible asset.
- Consider break-resistant door design
Your locks are only as strong as the door, so make sure your exterior doors are of a sturdy construction. Metal doors are the sturdiest choice, though they can be wedged open with a carjack. Heavy, thick wood or fiberglass are additional materials to consider. Replace any doors that have windows installed, since these allow easy access through to your door locks. Sliding doors are generally inadvisable, but if replacing them isn’t an affordable or timely option, installing a long length of wood along the interior track can keep criminals from jimmying the entry open. Screw-anchored chain locks are one of the greatest affordable ways to make breaking a door more difficult, though they should be just long enough to allow setting from outside.
Install deadbolts; even those that might be easy to bypass with a card increase your door’s ability to withstand punishment. Most deadbolt strike plates should be upgraded to at least a four screw strike box and include screws that reach the wall’s frame. This might be more labor intensive, but you’ll vastly improve the odds that your door will withstand more than a few kicks. While boarding your entrances can be effective if a long stay away is certain, this can be an immediate tell that your property is vacated − which is inviting to looters.
What other ways can a homeowner defend their abandoned property in the case of an emergency?
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