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What changes can I make to the outside of my home to prevent a violent attack by a stranger?

Home Invasion Prevention

Chris McGoey (President, McGoey Security Consulting) gives expert video advice on: What changes can I make to the outside of my home to prevent a violent attack by a stranger?; What is the most important thing I can do to prevent predators from entering my home?; Should I keep a gun in my home? and more...

What changes can I make to the outside of my home to prevent a violent attack by a stranger?

You can make your home much safer just by spending a little time planning for how you use your property, the times of day that you come and go, and how you approach your house. For example, if you normally work during the day and you come home after dark, it's a good idea to anticipate that and have the lights on outside your home. Now, rather than leave the lights on 24 hours a day, you buy an inexpensive light timer at a home improvement centre that will turn the lights on at 5, for example. Or, take your garage; if you pull into the garage you have an automatic opener; you have one that's such where the door opens, and the light comes on automatically. This makes the approach to the house much safer. If you approach your house to your front door, you want to make sure that your foliage and your bushes are trimmed back. Some standard rules of thumb for that are keeping hedges and bushes trimmed down to about 3' in height. It's very difficult for someone to crouch or hide behind it. If you have trees that have a lot of leaves on them, trim those up from the bottom about 6' up from the ground, again, so you can see anyone standing. It takes away all those opportunities. So, when you come home late at night, park on the street and walk up to your front door and your lights are on, you can clearly see before walking up to the door with key in hand that there's no one around. You can make your environment a little safer just by a little preparation; a little planning.

What is the most important thing I can do to prevent predators from entering my home?

The best way to protect your home from burglars is to look at it from the burglar's point of view. You're going to start off looking at it from the street; how easy it is for them to approach your house, what kind of cover they have, if there are lots of trees and bushes that allow them to get close to your house without being seen. That's a very important factor for them. The bottom line is a burglar's going to come into your house through either your doors or your windows. Think of a house like a box. It has four sides, a roof, and a floor. There are openings to the box. Those are the doors and windows. Burglars prefer to come through the front door, believe it or not, because that looks most natural; they can approach your house from the street and not look suspicious walking up to your front door. It could be a guest. It could be some sort of service person. They'll knock on the door and they'll ring the bell to verify no one's home. Then they'll start, basically, by checking the door to see if it's open; sometimes it is. Sometimes they'll put their shoulder to it, and the door will simply fly open. Most commonly, they will kick your door. One or two good, swift kicks and most doors will just fly open, and in they come. Once inside, they close the door behind them, and then they think they have all the time in the world, and the privacy of being inside your home. So, how do you make your home more secure? You focus on that front door. You get a good solid-core or metal door, first and foremost. You put good, solid, heavy-duty locks on that door. I like deadbolt locks, grade 1 or grade 2, that are attached to the door jamb with a heavy-duty strike plate. That's a little metal device that screws into the door jamb that holds that deadbolt in place. You want to have long, 3-inch wood screws that go all the way into the door jamb to prevent that door from being kicked open easily. That will stop most burglars in their tracks, just by having that solid entryway door.

What is a "safe room" or "panic room" and do I need one?

For some people, it's important for them to have an area within their house where they can retreat in emergency. If someone's breaking down their door or a stalker is coming at them, they want to be able to retreat to a location in their house that is fortified. Whilst in this location, they will not only feel safe but also have the option of calling the police, if appropriate. These are typically called a "safe room" or a "panic room." The first step in making a "panic room" is to find a suitable door, often replacing an existing interior door with a "solid-core" door. This door should then be equipped with a lock, much like an exterior door, in order to allow you to safely take action against the intruder or stalker. The room should also be stocked with a variety of items which you may need in the event of an emergency. Pepper spray is something that should be considered and it's necessary to house a cell phone there also. The cell-phone should remain permanently on charge and ready-for-use. A phone attached to a landline may be vulnerable to disconnection. It may be a good idea to have defensive weapons in there, possibly a golf club, baseball bat or even a handgun. The idea is, by running to that room and closing the door behind you that you have all of the means and methods able to defend yourself and call for help.

Should I keep a gun in my home?

If you're going to have a gun in your home, you need to focus on safety. Gun safety instruction should be provided to everyone who could possibly have access to that gun. Guns require practice and should be treated with respect. If you're going to be irresponsible, if you're merely going to buy a gun and hide it under your mattress, then that's not an appropriate way to maintain a gun in a household. I don't support people who approach gun ownership in this way.

What common household items make good makeshift weapons?

Short of having a gun, there are lots of ordinary household items that make perfectly good weapons. Any type of impact device works very well. Baseball bats, golf clubs, canes, anything like that. Certainly household knives, cutlery, could be very effective. Surprisingly a fire extinguisher works just like pepper spray. Everyone should have a chemical fire extinguisher at least in their kitchen. There's lots of devices in the garage; there's hammers, there's scissors, there's shears, any type of device that you can imagine, can be used. Again, the thought process, part of the family plan is thinking if someone breaks into my house, what do I have around me that I can use as a weapon? Think about it in advance, identify where it is located, or maybe position these items around the house and agree as a family that these items are to be left here for maybe this purpose. So you talked about it and you planned it and when the emergency arises and you need it; it's going to be where you expect it.