How to Handle Home Security When You Live Alone

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(Editor’s note: Today I am reposting an excellent article which was part of Jim Cobb’s National Preparedness Month series. This one happens to be Survival Tip #14, and he has one for each day this month. Jim has written several best selling books, available on Amazon. For more of his posts, follow Jim at jimcobbsurvival )

Written by Jim Cobb

Living by yourself can have some significant advantages. No one drinks the last of the chocolate milk before you get a glass of it. The thermostat is always set right where you want it. You can be fairly certain that if you leave your sunglasses on the kitchen table, they’ll still be in that same spot come the next morning.However, you’re also the only person available to respond to bumps in the night, knocks on the door in the middle of the afternoon, and mysterious morning visitors. You have to be your own backup, so to speak. This isn’t entirely impossible. It just takes some forethought and planning.

Force Multipliers

Quite often, when you hear the term force multiplier, the first thing that comes to mind is some sort of offensive weaponry. However, what we’re talking about in this case are things that allow you to sort of be in two places at once.

One of the goals here is to decrease the amount of time it will take for you to learn someone is trying to enter or has entered your home. The faster that happens, the more time you’ll have to react accordingly.

A security service is one option, of course, though they can be pricey. There is also the chance that communication lines between your home and the service can be interrupted, whether by accident or intention.

There are numerous DIY approaches to alarms. A very simple one is to hang an obnoxiously loud wind chime on the back of your exterior doors before you retire for the evening. If the door is opened, the movement will cause the chime to sound. It isn’t a perfect solution, of course, but will also only cost you a few bucks if you haunt the thrift stores in your area.

Keep in mind that with any alarm, professional, DIY, or some combination thereof, guests, pets, and others will likely set it off more than once accidentally. In the case of cats, probably deliberately.

Even putting up a few signs or stickers that purport to advertise you have XYZ Security System in place can be a deterrent to many would be home invaders.

Dogs are an excellent option, if you’re inclined to make a lifetime commitment to one or more of them. They will guard the house when you’re home and away. Their sense of smell is thousands of times better than yours and they can detect trouble coming a long way off. Understandably, this isn’t an option for everyone.

One more consideration is some sort of camera or surveillance system. These have come way down in price in the last few years. They can be hooked into your home network, so you can monitor your home from anywhere on the planet. If movement is detected in your front hallway, for example, an alert is sent to your phone via an app. With just a couple of taps, you’re looking at a live video feed, letting you know exactly what’s going on, whether that’s a burglar sneaking in or your dog doing his best to protect the premises from the evil mailman.

Alarms and cameras allow you to be alerted to trouble without having to be standing in front of the door or window as the psycho drifter or neighborhood junkie comes through.

Perimeter Defenses

Of course, ideally the intruder would be stopped before they enter the home, right? So, let’s talk a bit about perimeter defensive measures. For some people, this can be a little tricky. I mean, we want a safe and secure home but, at the same time, we don’t want to feel like we’re living in a prison. So, it can be a bit of a balancing act. Here are some suggestions at which most people will not balk.

Take a good, hard look at your front and back doors. They should have adequate lighting after sundown. What’s adequate? You should be able to easily read newsprint while standing near the light. If you can’t, the light isn’t bright enough. Remove any bushes or shrubs that are immediately adjacent to the doors. There is little sense in providing an easy hiding spot for someone.

Make sure the locks on each door work and actually use them. Deadbolts are recommended, too. The door hinges were probably attached using screws that are an inch or less long. Replace them with 3-inch wood screws. Doing so will afford a much higher level of protection. The easiest way to do this is to replace each screw one at a time. Otherwise, you’ll be trying to balance the door with one hand while driving screws with the other.

Planting shrubs with long thorns, such as hawthorn, under all ground level windows will deter someone from crouching there to try and break in.

You might consider applying security film to the inside surface of your windows, at least those on the ground floor of the home. What this does is keep the glass together when it is struck, rather than shattering into pieces. The best way to install it is to remove the glass from the window, apply the film, then reinstall the glass. If that’s not feasible, then apply a bead of clear caulk around the window after applying the film. This helps to anchor the glass in the frame.

While this sounds straight out of Home Alone, keeping knickknacks and such on windowsills may provide a small degree of advance warning if someone comes through. If nothing else, it will slow them down as they quietly move the trinkets around rather than knocking them to the floor.

Armed Defense

Okay, so let’s say that despite your best efforts, you find someone breaking into your home in the middle of the night. You heard the wind chimes on the back door and when you peeked into the room, you saw two people standing there, loading up with your laptop and such. What do you do?

There are two basic options. First, you can retreat back to another area of the house and call 911. Tell the dispatcher your location and that there are intruders in the home. Let the professionals handle it from there. Lock the door of the room you’re in and keep your head down until help arrives. There is absolutely no shame or embarrassment in this approach, either. Discretion is indeed the better part of valor.

The other option is to go on the offensive. If you have a weapon, ideally a firearm, and have been trained in its use, do what you feel is necessary to resolve the situation. However, a few words of caution.

Make sure you have a good, working knowledge of the self-defense laws in your state. The ideal would be to consult with an attorney to ensure you know exactly what is and what is not allowed in your state with regards to armed self-defense. Neither the judge nor jury can change the laws, they can only interpret existing ones as they apply to your case.

One of the advantages of living alone is that anyone in your house at 3:00a.m. who wasn’t there when you went to bed is probably not welcome. Parents may have to wonder if the noise they heard is an intruder or their 17-year-old sneaking in after curfew. That said, it would be the height of uncool for you to ventilate your best friend who was just hoping for a quiet place to crash after he had a fight with his girlfriend. Be certain of your target before pulling the trigger.

When the dust has settled, make two phone calls – 911 and your attorney, not necessarily in that order. Home security can be easier when there are multiple people on your side. More sets of eyes and ears are always welcome. But, solo security isn’t impossible, provided you take the time to plan accordingly.

About Jim Cobb:

Jim Cobb has been a prepper since long before that term ever came into use. He’s been studying, practicing, and now teaching survival and preparedness for about 30 years. Jim has written several books on the subject, including Prepper’s Home Defense, Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide, and Prepper’s Financial Guide. He the Editor in Chief for both Prepper Survival Guide and Backwoods Survival Guide magazines.

Follow Jim at

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  1. Good article. Thank you. One thing I would add (and its more abou living alone than security) is have some tools in the bathroom. Why? Because last week I shut the bathroom door to isolate & feed my 2 elderly cats so the pigasaurus cat couldn’t get their food. When I went to open the door the doorknob just spun! I live alone, phone was elsewhere and I’m trapped. Luckily I found a small pair of plyers and sacrificed my tweezers to unscrew the screws holding the doorknob on. Now I have those pliers and a multi-ended screwdriver in the bathroom cabinet.

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