When we say “structure hardening,” what we mean is putting in place security measures to prevent break ins. While no structure can be made totally impregnable without the use of some very hi-tech and expensive gear and supplies, there are many things the average homeowner can do to greatly improve the security of the home.
Today, we’ll concentrate our discussion on the most common means of entering a dwelling, the doors and windows.
All exterior doors should be solid wood or steel encased. Doors that have large windows in them should be replaced if at all possible.
If the hinges on the exterior door are accessible from the outside, the hinge pins should be welded or glued in place. Hinges should be attached to the frame using screws long enough to go through the frame and into the stud.
The strength of a door comes from not only the material it is made of but how many points of attachment there are to the frame. These points of attachment include hinges as well as the door knob and deadbolts. The more points of attachment, the stronger the door. Adding three deadbolts, at the top, bottom, and near the door knob will increase the strength substantially. At a minimum, make sure you have one near the door knob and ensure the bolt goes into the frame at least a full inch.
If need be during/after a disaster, you can fortify the door from the inside to prevent it from being kicked in. Purchase metal brackets and install them on either side of the door, making sure you are screwing the brackets into the studs rather than just into drywall. Lay a 2×4 or 2×6 in the brackets so it goes across the door. The effect is not unlike what you’ve seen in countless Westerns where the heroes place a large plank across the inside of the fort gate. You need not install these brackets until their needed, just have them, the board, and screws stashed in a front closet until they are needed.
Windows are problematic. Glass is easily broken, of course. There are materials available though, such as Lexan, that can replace the glass and are virtually unbreakable. Although pricey, there are also kevlar type materials that can be added to the panes of glass to result in the same effect.
Consider purchasing plywood to place over the inside of the windows and be screwed in place. Obviously this will prevent you from seeing out but it will be very difficult for someone to easily break through and gain entry. Cut the plywood to size, label each piece with which window it is for, then stash them in the garage until they may be needed. Again, as with the doors, make sure all screws go into studs for strength.
There are a wide number and variety of shutters available for most types of windows. Generally, these are designed to be used during hurricanes but will work well for our purposes too. Of course, there are different configurations of bars you can install as well but many homeowners would want to shy away from that due to their unsightly appearance.
Double hung windows can be secured by drilling a hole in the window frame, then sliding a nail that is slightly thinner into the hole. The nail prevents the window from sliding open but you can remove the nail to open the window for ventilation when you’re home.
Sliding windows, the ones that move from left and right rather than up and down, can be secured by placing a dowel in the track of the sliding pane. This same tactic can be used on patio doors.
Casement windows are the ones that crank open by turning a handle. When closed, they are almost impossible to open from the outside. Left open though, the metal arms are accessible from the outside and could be removed.
Keeping curtains in place over the windows when you’re not home and at night will help keep prying eyes from seeing what you have inside. Post-disaster, to prevent light from escaping at night and thus advertising your presence in the home, consider tacking up a couple layers of landscape fabric over the windows.
Don’t forget to put in place security measures on outbuildings as well as the main dwelling. If a burglar or other ne’er do well didn’t bring a crowbar or sledgehammer, you don’t want him picking one up in your shed to use. Keep doors and windows in outbuildings locked when you’re not using them.
Your assignments this week:
1) Determine whether these options could be applied to your individual situation and begin implementing them. Purchase the necessary supplies and ask for installation assistance if need be.
2) Continue working your way through the site security survey we discussed last week. Pay particular attention to how people generally approach your home (driveway, front walk, etc.) and what they can see as they do so, as we’ll talk about those in detail next week.