How To Prepare Your House Against Looters

Fergus Mason
By Fergus Mason September 25, 2018 08:50

How To Prepare Your House Against Looters

Editor’s note: Back in August we posted an article on how a veteran would prepare their home for a SHTF scenario. It would be fair to say this article generated some comments, and they weren’t all agreeing with what it said. Quite a few people pointed out that preparing a house for defense, military-style, is pretty obvious. If you’re screening your windows with chicken wire, putting barbed wire obstacles in the yard and digging foxholes in an outer defense ring, everyone’s going to know you’re prepared to fight to keep intruders out of your home.

Of course, some people are going to wonder what you have in your home that you’re so determined to protect. If you’re bugging in, the answer is pretty much everything – your gear, your food supplies, your water source and your home itself. That’s a tempting target for looters or desperate refugees; is fortifying your house, and showing the world you’re ready to fight for it, actually going to put you in more danger?

That’s a question that probably doesn’t have an easy answer. At the point where your home is attacked, you’re more likely to successfully defend it if it’s been prepared like the article describes. Soldiers know how to defend a house; it’s part of their training, and the techniques they use work. But in some circumstances those techniques could draw attention and make an attack more likely.

If you live way out in the middle of nowhere the odds are you can turn your house into a fortress and nobody will know. Any gang of raiders that does stumble on it is in for a nasty surprise. But what if you’re in a more populated area? Giving your house the Stalingrad look will probably both annoy your neighbors and draw the gaze of people you’d rather not attract. So can you still prepare your home for a crisis without too many visible changes?

The good news is that yes, you can. In this article we’ll look at a few things you can do to prepare for a secure bug-in without breaking out the chicken wire. I’m not going to make any promises on sandbags, though.

Securing The Area

You can’t keep your home secure unless you can control the area around it. If bad guys can get right up to your walls, you’re likely finished. The trick is controlling the area without being obvious about it.

The first thing you need to do is work out the dead ground around your house – anywhere you can’t see from at least one of your windows. Those are locations where attackers can form up for an assault, so they need to be defended. Letting them get overgrown with brambles is a good way to do it; you can also put in a low wire entanglement – short stakes with barbed wire strung between them – and let the grass grow to conceal it. These are discreet, passive measures that will deny the dead ground to attackers.

Noisemakers, whether it’s a tripwire that fires a 12-gauge blank, a flock of geese or just some old cans strung on a wire, will let you know intruders are around and might even deter them. They’re also not that unusual, and shouldn’t draw too much attention (until someone sets them off, of course).


Of course, you’re not going to be able to keep the bad guys far enough away that they won’t be able to shoot at your house. A few people made great points about modern building methods after the last article; the way most houses in the USA are built these days, they’re not even going to stop a .22 or a handgun round. If someone opens up with a rifle, chances are the bullets won’t even notice your walls as they zip through.

If there’s any chance of your house becoming a target, you need to have protected areas inside it. That’s going to include the windows you use as firing positions, and possibly a redoubt for noncombatant family members to shelter in. Sandbags are the best material for this, but heavy furniture or stacks of books will also give some protection.


Screening your windows with chicken wire will reduce the risk of someone burning your house down with a Molotov, but it’s pretty obvious. If you want to keep things discreet you’re going to have to accept a higher risk of fires, and that means being ready to put them out before they get established. Keep fire blankets in every room. Buckets of sand are also good – but never use water to put out a Molotov. It’ll just help the burning gasoline spread.

Outlasting A Siege

Something else that was mentioned in the comments on the last article was what tends to happen in a siege. Historically, most sieges did end with the fortress surrendering or being successfully stormed – but that doesn’t really apply here. Anyone attacking you after the SHTF is after your supplies, and maybe your home itself. It’s not like your house is a strategic location that has to be captured to win a war; if you make it a tough enough target, looters will eventually move on and look for easier pickings.

There are two keys to lasting out a siege. One is to be well enough defended that the price of an assault is too high for the potential reward. If a gang of thieves can see that an attack will leave a significant number of them dead and wounded, waiting you out becomes their only viable option. How long will they wait for? Probably not long. If you don’t come out with your hands up in a couple of days they’re most likely going to go looking for a softer target.

So the second key is being able to hold out for that vital couple of days. When you add up your supplies, what counts here is what you have inside your inner defense perimeter – which, most likely, is the walls of your house. That’s the reserve you’ll rely on to wait out besieging raiders. It doesn’t matter if you have a well in the yard that can provide unlimited clean water; if you can’t reach that well without getting shot at, you’re stuck with whatever water you have stored inside the house. Even if you have a safe water supply close to home you should keep enough for at least a week in the house; that should be more than enough to last through any likely siege.

Water is the main priority; it’s unlikely any attackers will stay around long enough for you to actually starve. However they’re likely to steal any supplies they can get their hands on, so as much as possible of your other resources – especially food and medicines – should be inside that inner perimeter too.

Related: Shocking Foods That People Ate During the Leningrad Siege

Home Sweet Home

Finally, don’t forget one of the most important things about using your home as a bug-in location; you have to live in it. How comfortable will it be without electricity, running water and all the other luxuries that will vanish when the SHTF? Can you light and heat it without electricity? Will you be able to have a bath or shower? If you believe in self-sufficiency the answer to these questions should be yes, but does that still apply if you’re confined to the house itself for days or weeks? To successfully bug in, it needs to.

Preparing your home for a bug-in doesn’t have to be obvious, and apart from a few things like building reinforced firing points it doesn’t have to get in the way of everyday life either. Just a few simple steps will help keep bugging in open as an option, by making it a lot less likely you’ll be forced to leave. And, if you have to, you can get it pretty well prepared without your neighbors noticing.

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Fergus Mason
By Fergus Mason September 25, 2018 08:50
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  1. Doc Fields September 25, 14:18

    In the area where I live, there are getting to be more and more vehicle and home break-ins, and we’re not even in a big city! Right now it seems to be motivated for drugs and such, but what if later for food, guns, or even family?

    One thing that I have done to prepare, somewhat, is an alarm system that is affordable and easy to use. No, it’s not hooked up to ADT, the police or sheriff. But it DOES let ME know when someone is on the property. I don’t use outdoor motion-sensing lights, those can be shot out anytime day or night before a break-in commences, and then becomes useless when the break-in actually occurs.

    Here is what it is. At Harbor Freight, they have a drive way or wireless security system, which normally retails for $14.99. You can get it on sale for $9.99 if you watch your sales there. There are three different part or item numbers for this system. The item numbers are 61910, 62447 and 93068. You want the 93068, ONLY. The item numbers are usually up in the top right hand corner of the box. The reason you want the 93068, is that on the front of the box, you’ll notice a small round sticker imprinted with CH17, or CH19. The receiver inside and it’s transmitter work on their designated CHannel 17, or whatever number follows. So far, I have found only four channels they use, 17,18,19 and 20. That gives me four motion detection sensors I can put around my property to keep an eye on it. The downside is you have to use four receivers, one for each of the transmitters. No one receiver can accept and designate which sensor tripped.

    The receivers run off 3 C batteries, with an optional external power inlet to run off house current, and the sensors use a 9 volt battery. You’ll want to be sure to use good alkaline batteries to operate sensor and receiver.

    That’s my one idea I’ll share with you all…………………Doc Fields

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    • left coast chuck September 25, 16:23

      Good suggestion, Doc. Thanks for the post and the part numbers.

      Reply to this comment
    • Doc Fields September 25, 16:45

      Clarification: “No one receiver can accept and designate which sensor tripped”.

      I should have said, “No one receiver can accept multiple sensor signals, except for it’s designated channel.” That’s why you have to use one receiver with the sensor it comes with, and for that channel imprinted on the sticker as mentioned above. That way, when the CH17 sensor trips in the driveway, only that receiver for CH17 gives the alarm, and you know someone is in the driveway, not the back porch steps.

      Reply to this comment
    • Clergylady September 25, 20:23

      Have one on the driveway. After dark we and neighbor seldom go out so the sound is an alarm. Have 3 more ready to set up.

      Reply to this comment
  2. JJ September 25, 14:29

    This helps me sleep better–are they fool-proof? No, but I will hear them trying to break in.

    The screws are 3 inches into the frame work.

    Reply to this comment
  3. TruthB Told September 25, 15:05

    How about this:
    Making your home look like it has already been looted.
    Leave some morsels around so they will be satisfied and move on. The “hiding in plain sight” idea.Make the area appeared to be trashed out. This should be done after TSHTF. Have the procedure down to less than 45 min.

    Reply to this comment
  4. left coast chuck September 25, 17:08

    Since medieval times the cheval de frise in some form has been used up to and including WWII.

    You have seen pictures of the defenses during the War Between the States with the sharpened wooden stakes pointed toward the enemy.

    As recently as our Vietnam follies the VC used punji sticks with great effect on our troops. We used barbed wire, but punji sticks were cheaper. Both are a form of cheval de frise. You can do the same. Any area that you want to protect can be protected by a field of punji sticks. They can be metal or wood, it doesn’t matter. You may have read prepper novels where the home defender drives nails into a piece of wood to protect windows and other approaches. I suggest preparing punji sticks ahead of time. They can be stored in the garage or in a yard shed for placement when needed. If you need to protect your back yard, a field of punji sticks placed 6 inches apart in a field six feet deep extending the entire perimeter of the area you want to defend will at a minimum slow down an attack. I would recommend a two foot stake sunk a foot in the ground for stability. They don’t have to be hidden. In fact, exposed they would appear more formidable. Certainly an attacker could knock them over and eventually be able to penetrate the field, but while that is happening, it certainly gives the defender time to take defense measures against the attacker. It also strongly encourages the attacker to remain standing erect while traversing the field, making a much better shooting target. Surrounding your house on three sides with such fields would allow the home defender to only have to be primarily concerned with defense on one side.

    Any trap must have a means for the defender to traverse the trap, otherwise it serves to trap the defender. A narrow path that zigzags through the field would enable the defender to escape. Certainly such a path would be accessible to the attacker but would be designed to channel the attacker into an easily defended path.

    Rebar cut to length and sharpened on both ends could certainly be a low cost, quickly installed punji field. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just needs to be installed so that no one can step down between the stakes. That’s why I recommended six inch intervals. Use your imagination. I would recommend designing it on paper ahead of installation so that you have a clear idea of how many stakes you need and how to place them ahead of time and installation can proceed much more quickly when needed.

    I have been saving tin can lids for some time now. I cut them with jagged points. Here in SoCal, wooden fences around the yards is a must-have in order to sell a home. I haven’t checked the building codes, but it may even be that some cities’ building codes mandate fences. Tin can lids don’t take up much room. They can easily be cut to sharp points with a pair of tin snips. Nailed to the top of the fence so that the points stick up, in a SHTF situation, makes grabbing the top of the fence to jump over more challenging, especially in after dark situations. Sure, they can be bent down, but unless the attacker is wearing gloves, he is going to be cut in the process. Just another easy, cheap defense method that can be installed after the SHTF.

    Tin cans can be cut in half with a hacksaw and the cut edges snipped into sharp points and the cans strewn around like punji sticks also. I have successfully used that method to discourage cats from frequenting garden areas in my yard. In the back yard they are invisible to neighbors. They are cheap and it doesn’t matter if they are rusty, they remain sharp even crusted with a coat of rust.

    Just some additional thoughts about home defense in a EOTW scenario

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    • Claude Davis September 27, 19:44

      There’s some good stuff in there, Chuck, but I’m not sure punji stakes are an easy alternative to razor wire. How long is it going to take to cut and sharpen all those lengths of rebar? Personally I’d say stringing some wire is going to be a lot quicker. Punji stakes can definitely do more damage, but wire is pretty good at delaying people – especially if you put a low wire entanglement in some long grass.

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      • left coast chuck October 2, 04:41

        Claude: You must have missed this part of my post: “I suggest preparing punji sticks ahead of time. They can be stored in the garage or in a yard shed for placement when needed.”

        You can buy a six or eight foot length of rebar each time you visit your big box hardware store. Cut it to length with a diagonal cut on each end. If you cut it at a 45 degree angle, that gives you two fairly sharp ends where you make the cut. If you feel ambitious, you can turn them down to needle points on a grinding wheel. But they will inflict a nasty cut with just the hacksaw cut end. Tied bundles and stored in a shed or the garage, they don’t take up much room and when the ETOW happens, unless you have caliche in your backyard, with two sharp ends, you should be able to drive them one foot into the ground in short order.

        I haven’t researched purchasing razor wire, but have not seen it in the yard section of the big box hardware stores when I have been in that department.

        Heck, you can buy lengths of dowel and put it in a pencil sharpener to sharpen both ends and have the same thing. I just happen to like rebar a little better. You can use small branches from your yard trimmings to make punji sticks. They don’t have to be pretty to be effective. A half inch branch from the apple tree sharpened on both ends so that it is easy to force into the ground is pretty near as effective as a 1/4 inch piece of rebar.

        Reply to this comment
      • left coast chuck October 2, 04:56

        Okay, I went on line to shop for razor wire. Guess where I found it? WallyWorld has a large selection of razor wire for sale including faux razor wire for Halloween. Whodda thunk?

        Wallyworld even has NATO razor wire for sale and they have concertina for sale too. Well, you learn something every day if you are not careful.

        I am not sure however that laying out a double apron of razor wire is going to be quicker than driving in a field of exposed punji sticks. But I definitely am going to lay in a supply of razor wire. It beats tin can lids on the top of the fence for making the top of the fence inhospitable for leaping over and a couple of rolls of concertina razor wire would certainly be a nasty surprise for someone hopping over the fence in the dark.

        Not to let on-hand supplies go to waste, concertina wire supported by punji sticks for a double whammy.

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        • Nicholi October 7, 07:31

          If you want to get really medieval, get a roll of plastic chicken wire. 5′ X 50′ is around $25.
          Get a bunch of bulk treble hooks, salt water fishing hooks, and every kind and size of fishing hooks that you find at flea markets and garage sales.
          Stretch the plastic chicken wire over likely paths of approach and not so likely ones. Cut lengths 1ft wide at groin level, face level etc. Secure it with zip ties or fishing line to trees and brush.
          Tie a bunch of fish hooks with 5lb test fishing line in to the plastic chicken wire.
          Want to get even more medieval? When you get the above part done, spray the fish hooks with adhesive and toss ground up mouse poison or spray with insecticide or weed killer.

          Reply to this comment
  5. Doc Fields September 25, 17:33

    Ever seen a burnt out home that’s still standing? Windows have black smoke marks rising up above them to the roof line, doors also. This can be duplicated with some flat black spray paint, painted in a pattern above all your doors and windows. Broken glass can be placed around these areas, and blackened a bit too. Old yellow tape from a crime scene or recent fire can be gathered up, and used around your place like something really did happen there.

    Boards and plywood can be placed over the “burnt out” windows and doors, adding some realism, leaving some glass showing so you can see out. Things you will not be able to ever use again can be tossed outside as in a real fire, blackened and maybe even burnt some with a torch to add more realism.

    Doors that open outwards are less likely to be breached with a light battering ram. Outside door knobs can be removed and hidden somewhere nearby for your use. But a missing door knob means they can’t wrap a chain around it and try to yank the door open with a vehicle.

    These are just some thoughts, you’ll have to use your imagination to fill in some of this as I don’t like giving all my ideas out……………………Doc Fields

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    • Doc Fields September 25, 17:41

      I’m sorry I didn’t make it clear, but the purpose of my comments is to make your house less appealing to looters.

      Reply to this comment
    • red September 27, 03:21

      wisdom. When I used to travel to New York, I wore old clothes, not new duds like most travelers. Panhandlers avoided me as did muggers. When moving home to Arizona, I ran the truck thru a few mudholes first, darkened one marker light (front, the cops won’t stop you for that), made a bad job hosing off the mud, and packed everything in garbage bags and cheap plastic crates, even using an old barrel (for breakable stuff), and tucked it all under an old tarp with cheap rope. No problems even when sleeping near a city. Had they looked past the dirt, it may have been different. And the brand new tires. Like a bro taught me, city folks never look up. They’re not trained to.

      Reply to this comment
    • Johnctee October 20, 22:00

      The fun part of all this is anyone that wants to can read these so basically all the “Secrets” and everything else is read by the looters too.

      Reply to this comment
  6. Dee September 25, 17:58

    What to do if you live in a garden apartment complex? Would be helpful to hear some suggestions about this…

    Reply to this comment
    • left coast chuck September 25, 20:16

      If you are on the ground floor, see my punji stick layout above. This isn’t something you do months before the event, it is something you do after the event. You can lay in sand bags. They don’t have to be filled with sand. That is optimal, but just plain old dirt will do. Again, if you are on the ground floor, you can make punji pits and use the dirt from the pit to fill the sand bags.

      If you live on upper floors, save your wine and beer bottles. Break the tops off and cover your patio with the broken bottles with the jagged edges up. You can put the broken glass on top of the railing around the patio.

      Lay in some 1 x 12s as long as your windows are wide. drill holes slightly smaller than the size of the nail. Hammer the nails through and lay the boards just inside the windows. Make these in depth so that someone will have to leap over them in order to access the room.

      If you have sliding glass doors on your patio, have a window company install protective film on the sliding glass doors. They will have to remove the glass in order to get the film all the way to the edge of the glass. It is expensive, but it will keep the glass from breaking. If your landlord won’t let you do it, then you need to go to Costco and buy several dozen rolls of 3M packing tape. When the SHTF, apply the packing tape to both sides of the glass doors. Go from one corner to the diagonal corner and repeat. Then divide those triangles. Continue dividing the triangles until you have the glass covered. It’s not as secure as the film that covers the whole glass down into the frame, but again, it doesn’t have to be done until the SHTF. By the way, this also helps in tornados and hurricanes.

      You can also do the same to the windows in your apartment. Again, it is not foolproof, but it will cut down on shattered glass from bullets and hand thrown objects.

      If you only have one entrance to your apartment, you need to be able to exit some other way. If you are on upper floors, you need a rope with knots in it for hand holds or a rope ladder. There are ladders made for fire escapes that you can purchase. Sporty’s Tool Shop is one on-line source for them. I am sure if Sporty’s carries them, Amazon does too. You keep them in a closet and throw them out a window when you need to exit some way other than out the front door if you only have a front door.

      I don’t remember the name of the knot off the top of my head, but there are knots you can use to make loops in a long rope if you need footholds to climb down the rope. Check a knot tying book — you do have one, don’t you? That is an essential book for your ETOW library — any decent knot tying book will have that knot in it.

      Personally, I think the escape ladder is the best choice, but sometimes we have to make do with what we have.

      Hope this get you started thinking about ways to fortify your garden apartment without getting your landlord’s panties in a knot.

      Reply to this comment
    • Clergylady September 25, 20:30

      Motion detector as described above near any entrances or windows. A string of can lids inside areas easily entered such as slidinding patio doors. Hang when you aren’t using it youre self. Simple things are often effective. Harbor Freight also has door and window alarms. Make it a habit to use them and add that layer of safety.

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      • Mark September 28, 19:46

        Motion detectors can also be used as fire alarms for hot garage fires that aren’t creating much smoke

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    • red September 29, 04:13

      Study the complex. Do they have eatable gardens? Canna lilies, orange trees, cactus? Citrus trees and cactus have thorns, which are a defence. I have desert roses under the windows in the front. Not my idea, but plenty of thorns and rose hips, as well. Plenty of cactus in the front, and ocotillo, planters with peanuts and sweet potatoes, fire ants, bees, purslane all over, and plenty of stuff down back in the brush. I like mesquite, as well, for the beans and the thorns. Space between wall studs and joists are great areas to store dried food, weapons, ammo. Dried food will slow, not stop, bullets fired thru the walls. heavy furniture should be along the outer walls. We have oak, but our walls are concrete brick (not blocks), with a heave gage metal roof. The windows are sliders, and not easy to change. We’re looking at small pane, steel frame windows with a crank. Doors are steel over wood. The place sits on a concrete slab (this was a company town with company housing). No cellar, but they only seem to attract spiders and rattlers, anyway.

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  7. MarkM September 28, 19:43

    Rather than use chicken wire or hardware cloth on my window I just screwed 1/8” Lexan or
    polycarbonate to the inside of the window frame. If some one shoots out my windows it will look like the windows are broken but except for the hole in the plastic the windows will still be functional

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    • Claude Davis October 1, 10:38

      They’ll be functional as windows. How functional will they be as fire positions? If raiders get right up to the window you’re in trouble, because they WILL manage to break in quickly enough. To stop them you’re going to have to shoot through the Lexan, and that’s going to mess it up in a hurry.

      Reply to this comment
  8. Stormeagle October 7, 13:45

    I see a lot of mechanical device means to protect an area but maybe a little psychological warfare may help or even chemical.. It will be hard to stop everyone but making it as difficult as possible so they look for easier targets is a prime objective.

    This may deter some – Caution tape and medical caution signs posted warning of contagious disease along with your other protection devices. Caution tape and signs are easy to erect quickly and some pigs blood smeared around can look very daunting. Just don’t post out the “Happy Halloween” sign.
    Chemical warfare is for those who totally understand how to use it and the possible consequences if something goes wrong with the setup and you have the full protection to handle it if it happens. Example: the wind changes and blows your homemade gas back at you.
    One of my defenses is some bird houses placed around the property but birds can not occupy them because they are filled with something else..A glass jar with the right stuff and sealed with beeswax, Be inventive, the human senses are self deterrents to keep us from danger, so using those senses that all attackers have might help keep them out. My wife can not stand the smell of skunk and strong enough will make her sick. Others can not handle the sight of blood so pigs blood can be a good deterrent.
    In short, use attackers senses and psychological fears against them along with the other mechanical protections that are done. “Happy Halloween”

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  9. Philr March 13, 09:13

    There is one major issue with protecting your home when SHTH that most writers miss. That issue is simply that most houses today are stick built and bullets can easily penetrate outside walls. The same is true of mobile homes. if you have a basement, you can always evac to it when the gunfire starts. If you have a crawl space, create a discrete trap door to it.

    Regarding Molotov cocktails, any wire on or in your windows is a giveaway. a better solution is to replace the glass with lexan or a cheaper solution is to purchase and apply window security film to each window. If your home decor is such, you can also install indoor shutters. In hurricane prone areas, hurricane shutters can also be installed and they are made of metal.

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  10. red March 13, 20:05

    Good advise. One thing I love about this house is, it’s built of adobe-block-sized concrete bricks (not block). Built in the 50s, it was designed to take a lot of abuse from the weather. the roof is low, made of sheet steel and painted white to reflect summer sun. Only the back porch and garage are built of modern matchwood. Am thinking, what if we nailed forms to the outside and filled with stone and concrete. A foot thick would do, then remove the 2-x-4s. Soil is about 24 inches deep, but no foundation, but it all sits on a slab, then sandstone. The vinal siding was punctured last summer during a hail storm (did not do a lot of good for a neighbor’s car–one piece of ice broke his rear window). I’d like a basement, but, too many scorpions and the things that hunt them. niio

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