Passive Measures for Home Defense

Any type of emergency preparedness should take into account the need for home defense. There are active measures you can use, such as guns for home defense, various less-lethal self-defense options, or a good-sized dog. But in this post, I’d like to review some of the passive measures that you can use to defend your home.

Nothing is 100% secure. Good security offers layers of protection, with different degrees of effectiveness. For example, if you have a fence around your property, you don’t expect it to be impenetrable. But it does deter trespassers and present one of perhaps several obstacles to any robbery or home invasion. So the measures suggested in this post are best used as a set. Several passive measures together increase the degree of safety. But all these measures put together cannot make your home totally secure. So these measures do not make active home defense unnecessary. You might still want to own a firearm (and/or a dog) for active home defense too.


For home security, I think the best fences are those you can see through easily, such as a chain-link fence. Being able to see a potential threat while it is still some distance away is advantageous. If you have a solid wood fence, a criminal can approach your home unseen, getting as close as the fence might be. He can peer over the fence at intervals and move along its length, while you are unsuspecting. That is not what you want. Now I know that solid wood fences provide a privacy screen. But you are going to have to make some trade-offs for the sake of home security.

The fencing does not have to be 8 feet high with barbed wire. What we are aiming for here is a significant obstacle, not an impenetrable barrier. On the other hand, a nice low white picket fence is not as useful. Hedges provide a type of natural fencing. But they have much the same problem as a solid wood fence, they can be used by the bad guys for concealment.

Fencing, even minimal fencing like the proverbial white picket fence, MAY POSSIBLY give you a legal advantage if you need to use deadly force in self-defense. Under Florida law, according to the book “Florida Firearms Law, Use & Ownership” (seventh edition, by Jon H. Gutmacher) –

If the culprit entered a fenced yard around your dwelling, this is called “curtilage”, and is also considered a part of your dwelling. Thus, the crime is a “forcible felony” once the culprit enters the fenced area. (Florida Firearms, p. 293).

However, if the perpetrator actually tries to attack you before any entry is made, and you are not within a structure or within curtilage when attacked — the use of deadly force becomes somewhat “iffy” unless they also appear to be armed. Why? Remember, deadly force is normally not lawful except to stop or prevent a forcible felony, or to prevent death or great bodily harm. (Florida Firearms, p. 291-292).

So if a confrontation and use of deadly force occurs within a fenced area next to your home, you MAY have a stronger case for the use of deadly force — at least in Florida — because the crime is then considered a forcible felony. But this does not mean you can shoot anyone who trespasses into a fenced area. And the laws on self-defense vary a great deal from one State to another. Some States require you to retreat if you are threatened, even from your own property or home. As always, know your local laws and follow them.

Open Spaces

This next consideration is somewhat the opposite of fencing. Open spaces don’t prevent anyone from trespassing, but they do allow you to see a threat at a distance. If you have thick hedges, you might want to prune them back, so that you can see anyone who might be on the other side. If you have thick brush in a corner of your property, you might want to remove it, or at least cut it back. If you have a large property, it might be impractical or expensive to fence it all around. You might fence an area close to the house, and then use the opposite approach on the rest of the property, trying to keep clear sight lines in all directions.

Once you have clear sight lines, you might want some way to view possible threats at a distance: binoculars or even a moderately priced night vision device. I suppose you can use your rifle scope, but you might not want to point a rifle just to see what is out there.


Exterior lighting is useful for home defense. It prevents a trespasser from using the cover of darkness to do harm. Some exterior lights will turn on automatically, with a built-in motion detector. This can function like an early warning system, alerting you to a possible danger. It might also scare away persons of ill will. At the very least, the exterior lighting allows you to see the nature of the threat, so as to respond based on knowledge.

A strong flashlight offers much the same benefits. You can scare off potential perpetrators, and see what type of threat you are up against. Also, if it is strong enough, the light can make it harder for the trespasser to see you, and easier for you to see him. Some super cool flashlights have enough weight and even a beveled edging, to function as an ad hoc self-defense tool also.


When the SHTF, the police might be overwhelmed and their response times might be much longer. Of course, you can and should call 911 when there is a police or other emergency. But supposing that you are on your own, for one reason or another, a home alarm can still be useful. It alerts the neighbors to a threat. You might want to have a conversation with your neighbors, in advance, about mutual aid and defense. Sometimes there is safety in numbers.

A personal alarm can be useful if you have a large property, and some family members or kids might be out of shouting distance. Give the kids or the wife a personal alarm, that will emit a loud noise when activated. This type of alarm has a pull-pin, so that it is easy to activate, and makes a continuous loud noise. Shouting “help” is not nearly as loud as this type of 130 dB alarm. Vigilant makes a few different models, typically under $20.

Doors and Windows

There are a couple of different ways to secure the windows of your home. You can reinforcing windows with a security film. 3M and a few other companies make a thick plastic film that can be added to any windows to make them shatter resistant. The windows crack, but the plastic holds it together. This type of film is used here in Florida to protect against hurricanes. But it also makes forced entry more difficult. It can be added to sliding glass doors as well.

Another way is to add hurricane shutters. These also add an additional layer of security. You can put the shutters on any particular area of concern, like a sliding glass door or on any windows that offer easy access to your home. Then when the danger passes, you can remove and store them.

The doors of your home can be reinforced with a bar or with door lock reinforcements at the door jam. It is also worth considering whether you might want to replace a wooden door with a metal one, especially at a side or back entrance. Intruders prefer an entry point that is out of view from the street or from neighbors.

Doors that swing outward are of course more difficult (or impossible?) to kick in. The door hinges are then on the outside of the house, but they are difficult to remove without power tools. For a garage side door or a back door, you might want to consider installing a door that swings outward, and so cannot be kicked in.

– Thoreau

3 Responses to Passive Measures for Home Defense

  1. CEPTED Crime Prevention Through Environmemtal Design has been used by police departments nationally for quite some time. There’s a lot of good info on line on CEPTED that folks may find helpful in their preparedness.

  2. This is one area many people overlook. They tend to get tied up in Home Defense Weapons and forget about defense of the home.
    A couple things I would add concerns the doors.
    1.All outside entry door locks should be of the locking tongue type.
    2.All outside entry doors should have deadbolt locks (the type you can’t pound down with a hammer and jimmy with a screwdriver). Also if the doors have windows consider double keyed locks.
    3.Use bump-proof locks (ie Kwikset Smart Series). Don’t know about lock bumping? Search YouTube for it. Plenty of videos.
    4.Replace the striker plate with heavy duty ones that use 3 1/2 inch screws. Lowes sells a reinforcement kit for the whole door jamb.
    5.Replace the 3/4″ hinge screws with 3 1/2″ screws (predill them first).

    The 3 1/2 scews are to ensure that they tie into the 2×4 studs and these are available in various colors. I use deck screws and paint them after installed.
    A burglers worst enemy is time and noise. The longer it takes him to get in and the noisier he is the more apt he will be to get noticed and leave the scene.

  3. Don’t forget the metal security doors that go on the outside. When there is no light on in the house you can see out and cannot be seen. As a law enforcement office we hated them because you couldn’t see inside.