Front Door Security – Three Cheap Ways To Reinforce & Home Invasion-Proof Your Entry Door

SoBertGummer.com shows you three cheap and easy front door security tricks to reinforce your entry door and make it more difficult for a home invasion to happen. Get these three things:

 

Nightlock Security Lock Door Barricade:

http://amzn.to/1o7VTCf

Safe Homes International 55724 Door Reinforcer — This one is probably better than the strike plate in the video:

http://amzn.to/241GQe0

MINTCRAFT HSH-004BN Security Strike– I believe this is the one I showed in the video
http://amzn.to/1Wimh7n

We suffered a home invasion while living in Costa Rica, despite having deadbolts and an iron front door and front patio gate. They pulled in hot and fast and drilled out the front door lock. Some of the devices in this video could have prevented (or at least slowed them down) if not altogether prevented them from getting in.

Fortunately, everything worked out okay and I didn’t have to kill anybody.

 

Neighborhoods That Will Survive

I think back to many of the neighborhoods I’ve lived in over the past 25 years.  Most of them were pretty similar: Nobody talked to one another.

Sure, there was a cursory wave when you drove by or pulled your car into the garage.  But for the most part, that was it.  People would get home from work, drive their cars into their garage… and then close the garage door and walk into the house.

I’d imagine that if there was ever a real SHTF scenario, people would probably get to know each other pretty quickly.  But you’re going to be at a distinct advantage if you already know who’s living in your neighborhood… before the SHTF.

The neighborhood we live in is different.  It’s an older neighborhood and everybody knows everybody else for the most part.  Unlike the neighborhood I grew up in, in Southern California– everybody owns guns here and it’s not uncommon to see a gun safe in a garage as you drive by.

Same thing with gardens: The guy behind me has a green house.  The guy across the street has a garden.  So does the guy on the corner, and on the corner across from him… the fellow’s whole yard is nothing but rows of vegetable crops.

Neighborhoods That Will Survive

The guy next door to me has an eight year-old kid.  He and the kid watch our chickens while we are away.  When we return, we made chit-chat and he casually mentioned that he was waiting on his CCW (concealed carry permit).  He’s also a private airline mechanic and an avid off roader with two jeeps and a toyota truck in his yard– all custom built.

“Think a guy like that will be helpful to the neighborhood when the SHTF?”

The woman who lives next door to him has an adult son who lives with her.  He spends all of his free time fishing.  Across the street (the guy with the row garden) is an avid hunter and his wife is a veterinarian.  Across from them is a retired iron worker.  Next to the iron worker is a retired National Guardsman.

I was chatting with the Guardsman and he told me that: When an area a few blocks away flooded, lookie-loos were driving by to see the flood damage.  Every time they drove by, it caused a little wake that pushed water into the residents’ houses.  Two old guys who lived on that street got pissed off and started sitting out in lawn chairs with their shotguns.  If you didn’t live on that street, you weren’t getting in.

Eventually the police came and set up a road block.

A block and a half from the corner where the iron worker lives are two twin sisters.  They’re in their 60’s.  They are master gardeners.  Their backyard looks like Disneyland.  Literally… master gardeners.  Talk about a real asset to the neighborhood if there is a long term crunch!

One of the sisters has an adult son who lives on the other side of the neighborhood with his Dad.  The son is a handyman extraordinaire.  That guy (the son) has a brother who is a green beret in Afghanistan currently.  His father was a drill sargent for the Marines, if I remember correctly.

Across the street from the two sisters is a guy who built a canoe… from a log… in his garage.

You get the point.

The people who live in this neighborhood have skills.  Real, tangible skills.  Contrast our neighborhood to so many typical suburban neighborhoods filled with lawyers and accountant and insurance salesmen.

Now, you’re probably wondering: “Sobert… you’ve only lived in your neighborhood for less than two years!  How do you know so many of your neighbors?”

It’s a good question.

For starters, it’s an older neighborhood with a lot of retired folks.  I don’t mind living around retired folks: They’re around during the day so they can keep an eye on things.  And they’ve all lived in the neighborhood for so long that they know all of the details about the topography and history of the area, too.  These people also have more time to socialize with each other, compared to your average yuppie who spends most of his time at work.

Secondly, I have a dog who I take for a walk through the neighborhood… every day.  At pretty much the same time.  When you walk your dog a lot, the neighbors get used to seeing you around.  That makes you “familiar”.  And once you’re familiar, you’re no longer a stranger– which makes it safe to come up and talk with you.  Plus: Just the fact that you’re walking a dog means– to most people– that you must be a nice guy.  Sure, it’s a ridiculous conclusion to draw.  I’m sure there have been several mass murderers in history who’ve owned dogs.  But regardless: People will come up and talk with you when you walk a dog.

Try it yourself and you’ll see I’m right.  Maybe not the first time, maybe not the second time… but after awhile, people will start coming up and talking to you.

And that’s how you learn who is an asset in your community and more importantly… who is not.

Confessions Of A Burglar

There are some good tips in the first part of this ABC 20/20 piece that interviews an ex-felon on what he looks for when targeting a house to break into.

http://abcnews.go.com/2020/video/confessions-burglar-19106837

The troubling part is the second half of the segment, where the woman wakes up to find a man standing at the foot of her bad wearing a ski mask and holding a baseball bat.

What’s her survival tactic?  She… pretends like she’s falling back asleep.

Now, I don’t know about you but in my book, that’s a pretty big gamble that she took, hoping on a wing and a prayer that THE GUY STANDING AT THE FOOT OF HER BED ISN’T A RAPIST!

If you’re at the point where a guy can easily break into your house in the middle of the night and is standing over your bed with a baseball bat… and you’re only alerted to his presence when he’s at the foot of your bed… then you’ve already lost.

So, what do we do to make it more difficult for somebody to sneak into your house in the middle of the night?  For starters, locked gates, tall fences, defensive shrubbery and house doors and windows that are securely closed and locked is a good start.  I’ve written about the Night Lock before: It’s a good product.  We use one on our front door and I check to make sure it’s on every night before I go to bed.    A bedroom door that has it’s own lock on it will add another layer of defense.

However, even if all of the above are inferior in keeping you safe at night, there is one easy line of defense you should have: A good dog.  Or even better: Two dogs.

A good friend of mine, an ex-cop, owned a Doberman Pinscher that he bought as a puppy several years ago.  I hooked him up with a breeder that I had bought a dog from, so I knew they were good bloodlines from working dog stock.  But it had been several years, and the dog was now a senior, suffering from poor hearing and sleeping much more deeply than he had in younger years.

A man broke into his house.  The Doberman continued to sleep.  The intruder came into his master bedroom and… his wife’s little Shih Tzu jumped up and started barking a ruckus.

My friend got out of bed and pulled a shotgun on the robber and held him until they were able to call the police.  The police came and arrested the robber, who had already broken into several other houses in the area.

Could have ended a lot worse.

Having a dog sleep in the bedroom is not a bad idea.  Having a dog sleep in the hallway that leads up to the bedroom is an even better idea.

Be safe.

Hidden Electrical Outlet Wall Safe Looks Like an Ordinary Outlet!

This is a pretty good way to hide things (to prevent theft). Not so great if there’s a house fire.  Might be a good way to store things when the Mother-in-Law’s sticky-fingered new husband flies into town for a few days.

Daily Steals has it on sale today for $6 (Retail price is $84, if the ad is to be believed?)  For $6, it’s hard to go wrong.

http://www.dailysteals.com/heist/7691/Hidden-Wall-Safe?utm_source=DailySteals.com+-+Deal+of+the+Day&utm_campaign=091752649e-04_03_13_Home_Security_H&utm_medium=email

(Not an affiliate link)

Fake TV Burglar Deterrent


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This is kind of a cool idea: You put this thing behind a curtain and if somebody is looking at your window from the outside, it gives the appearance of a computer monitor being on, as if somebody is working at the computer. It’s a plugin unit the size of a coffee cup and it uses less electricity than a real monitor. Combine it with a cheap AM radio left on a talk radio channel and a would-be thief ** might ** be fooled. It would also help if you left a couple of Rottweilers in the house, too.

FakeTV FTV-10 Burglar Deterrent

FakeTV FTV-10 Burglar Deterrent Rating:
List Price: $34.95
Sale Price: $24.95
(as of 03/19/2013 03:49 UTC - Details)

Availability: Usually ships in 24 hours

Product Description

FakeTV is an effective burglar deterrent because it simulates the light output of an operating television. Viewed from outside after dusk, FakeTV makes it look like you are enjoying your favorite programs, rather than out for the evening. Most burglars would rather not break into a house they think is occupied. FakeTV uses 12 super-bright, computer-controlled LEDs to make constantly changing light effects, such as scene changes, motion, fades, color-shifts, and swells. Recommended by numerous police departments and neighborhood watch groups. A built-in light sensor turns the unit on at dusk, and it can be set for 4 hour, 7 hour, or constant on operation. Includes AC adapter.

Details

No features available.

A Low-Cost Way To Install A Wireless Alarm System In Your House In Less Than 20 Minutes

When we moved into our current house, it already had an ADT alarm system in place. I never activated it because I don’t like the idea of having to spend $40-$70 a month on their monitoring service, not to mention the cops showing up at the house with guns drawn every time the dog accidentally trips the system. If you want to cancel? Too bad, you’re locked into a multi-year contract.

No thanks.

I still wanted an alarm system for the house, though– especially for when we travel. Layers of protection, at least in theory.

If you do any research online, you’ll quickly find that the Simplisafe wireless alarm system is the dominant player in the market. The reviews sounded good. In fact, they sounded a little too good and made me wonder if perhaps they weren’t shills for the company. So, I ordered one and figured that if it sucked, I’d send it back for a refund and at least have some interesting review material for the blog.

First Impressions: The Simplisafe Wireless Alarm System Came In A Small Box

20130217-192021.jpg

The entire system came in a small, clean package. Be aware that shipping took about seven days to arrive (ordered from the Simplisafe web site… if you order from Amazon, they’re saying that shipping takes 1-2 days) so if your house has just been burglarized, don’t expect overnight delivery. Upon opening the box, each component is packaged individually. My system came with: A cone-shaped base station (the brain of the system); several magnetic entry sensors; motion detection sensors; an entry keypad; a couple of keychain remotes, a thin manual and a few window stickers.

One of the keychain remotes doubles as a USB thumb drive. You plug that into your computer and it auto-runs the set up guide that walks you through the process. It was all pretty intuitive and easy.

20130217-192034.jpg

 

How It works

You put the base station on a shelf, preferably near a window. It’s got an auto dialer cell phone built inside so if you’re using their monitoring service you’ll get better reception next to a window. Plug it into an outlet (yes, it’s got a built-in battery backup, too) and the unit starts to talk to you and walk you through the set up test.20130217-192117.jpg

Next, place the entry sensors on your doors and windows. Each entry sensor has two parts: One a magnet and the other the sensor. When the magnet gets more than two inches away from the sensor (for example, when the door opens) it triggers the base station that then sounds the alarm after 30 seconds. (You can adjust the duration of the delay from the auto-run set up, when you plug the USB thumb drive into your computer which downloads the settings. Then you plug the USB into the top of the base station and it downloads the settings to the brain of the unit).

20130217-192124.jpg

I found it all to be very intuitive and easy to set up, and I’m far from a whiz kid with this kind of stuff. The sensors have 3M double sided tape on the back that you use to adhere to the door and the door frame. It’s small and inconspicuous. The back side of each component (entry sensors, motion sensors, keypad) all have a tab that you pull that activates the internal battery, too.

20130217-192045.jpg20130217-192109.jpg

As soon as you do this, the base station will talk to you and let you know that it’s now active.

The motion detectors work pretty much the same way: If you’re going to mount them on the wall then you first pull the battery activation tab and then peal off the backing from the double-sided tape. However– we just placed them on book shelves. They’re small enough to be inconspicuous. I called the company to ask about our dog. Since the online advertising mentioned that dogs less than 30 lbs. would not trigger the sensors, I wondered about what would happen when The Giant Schnoozer woke up from his nap to find that we weren’t home and triggered the motion detectors.

20130217-192057.jpg

What the guy from Simplisafe told me is that the sensors view a 90 degree angle and then downwards, so he recommended turning them upside down and mounting the motion sensors at about five feet off the ground.

I asked him what would happen then if a band of midgets broke into my house? (Anybody remember the movie Time Bandits?)
All I heard on the other end of the line was crickets.

Whatever.

The alarm system has a test mode and it seemed to work well.

We’ve now used the alarm several times and the dog hasn’t tripped it once, so it doesn’t seem to be a problem.

As for the keypad: It mounts the same way. Pull the battery activation tab and then stick it to the wall next to your entryway

20130217-193450.jpg

Some Things About the Simplisafe That I’m Not Crazy About:

  • The siren isn’t loud enough and it only comes from one easily identifiable location: The base station. Simplisafe does sell a louder add-on siren (actually, you can add as many sirens as you like!) which I’m planning on doing. From their web site:

    SimpliSafe 105 Decibel Auxiliary Siren

    The SimpliSafe Auxiliary Siren delivers ear-blasting siren power. This siren will ensure any foolish burglar knows you’re protected. Get two or more and your entire neighborhood will peek out their windows. Look out burglar – the sheriff’s in town.

    • Weather resistant for outdoor use
    • Easily screw mount under an eave outside or adhere to a wall inside
    • Wireless, with a 1-2 year battery life (4 AA batteries included)
    • Compatible with all SimpliSafe systems
    • Add as many as you want. You’re in charge

 

  • The LED display on the keypad is nowhere near bright enough.
  • The entry sensors need to be placed right next to each other. If you have an alcove doorway where the door and the door frame are not flush with each other, it can be a problem. Our only door like this is the one to our garage, so I placed the sensor on the outside of the door frame (still in the garage but not in the house). In theory, somebody could break into the garage, rip the entry sensors off the door, kick in the door… but they’d still trigger the motion detectors… so I’m not too worried about that scenario.
20130218-105919.jpg

Alcove doorway. This entry sensor is from the ADT system that was already installed in the house. You can see they had the same problem, but solved it by drilling a hole and then running a wire so that the sensor could be placed on the outside of the door frame. You can’t do that with with the Simplisafe, because it’s wireless.

20130218-105933.jpg

Simplisafe sensor I placed on the outside of the garage door (still the interior of the garage). Not optimal. Simplisafe could improve upon situations like this by letting you increase the trigger distance of the sensor from the control panel.

 

 

So, What’s The Verdict?  Should You Buy This Thing?

Heck yeah!

Bottom line: It works and it works really well.  It’s inexpensive compared to an ADT-type system, installation takes less than 30 minutes and the product does what it says it does.  ** Note: If you’re not using the monitoring service, turn off the voice prompts so that it doesn’t blast “Monitoring Service Is Not Being Notified” when the siren goes off.  LOL.

We’re really happy with this system, overall.  Once we receive the auxiliary sirens (I’ll probably buy two, just because I do everything overkill) it will be even better.

You can order directly from the company’s web site.  If you order from Amazon instead, then I get a small affiliate commission and the benefit to you is that the product is shipped in 1-2 business days rather than the seven days I had to wait for mine.  I mention this just in case you’ve recently experienced a break-in and you’re worried about them coming back, you should be aware of the difference in shipping times.

Feel free to share your experience with the Simplisafe Alarm System in the comments field, below.

How I Made My Front Door Virtually Impenetrable For Less Than $100

When we moved into our current house I was a little uneasy about someone being able to walk up and kick in our front door.  Sure, we live in a good neighborhood and a safe community.  But let’s be honest: Stuff happens and it doesn’t just happen in bad neighborhoods.

“Can You Imagine Waking Up In The Middle Of The Night And Hearing
Your Neighbor’s Drunk Ex-Boyfriend Trying To Kick Your Front Door In?”

I’m sure you can imagine a scenario where your neighbor’s drunkard ogre-of-an-ex-boyfriend gets loaded up on whiskey and blow and tries to kick in her front door to profess his love at four in the morning.

Except he’s so doped up that he mistakes her front door… for yours!!

No thanks, I’d rather not have to shoot anybody if having an impenetrable front door will prevent the situation from happening in the first place.

I looked into heavy-duty steel front doors, but they cost an arm and a leg.  Literally thousands of dollars.  If I lived in a multi-million dollar home, I might choose that option. But even if I did, I’d probably still use the gear I bought (below) as it provides much more security at a very low cost.

I researched both security doors and storm doors that fit in-front of your current door. Storm doors didn’t seem to provide that much true protection against intruders and security doors would make the house look… how shall I say… less appealing?  I’ve spent enough time living in houses in Latin America that had bars on the doors and windows to know that it makes you feel like you’re living in a jail cell.

Good luck talking your wife into putting one of these on the front door.

Good luck talking your wife into putting one of these on the front door. Fugly!

So, I went to Home Depot and bought a couple of door bar braces.  These cost about $20 a piece.  The problem is that they had a tendency to slip on the floor, so if somebody tries to push the door in, they slide backwards.  I experimenting with changing the angle.  Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.  The other issue is that they’re made of aluminum, which isn’t exactly confidence inspiring.

I began to get nervous about their reliability when I did further research and read stuff like:

“I just bought this bar at Home Depot and tried it.  I am about 200 pounds and I hit the door with 50% of forth, and it just broke.  Don’t rely on it.”

and

“I bought this after my house was broken into. Sure enough a week later they kicked in my back door and I had this brace firmly planted so that it could not slip out and they broke it with a few good kicks to the door. The adjustable mechanism was to blame. Cheap metal construction. If the metal was thicker or harder it wouldn’t have bent to let the metal positioning lock slip through. I would never buy this again. Worthless. I’m going to try to return it.”

So, I did more research and purchased a better designed product that actually worked.  I got two of these, which was a big step in the right direction.

Buddy Bar

The Buddy Bar is similar to the Master Lock Security Bars I had bought at Home Depot, except that it fixes their design flaws — namely, it’s made of steel and the rubber foot on the end doesn’t slip.  ** We currently use this on our back kitchen door.

Then I Found Something Even Better… And Cheaper, Too!

I initially bought two Buddy Bars, one for the front door and one for the back door.  But then I found something even better.

I was up late browsing the internet one night and I stumbled across a product that inconspicuously anchors into the floor to create a brace that prevents your front door from being kicked in.  I wasn’t sure about it, so I sent the link to my father who owned a locksmithing company for several years.  He’s seen it all when it comes to home security devices.

Then I got distracted with other projects and forgot all about it.

A couple of months later I was at his house and remembered the link to the Nightlock product I had sent him.

“It’s brilliant,” he said.  “It’s such a simple idea I’m amazed nobody thought about it, before.”

“Does it really work?” I asked.

 “Even with a battering ram, you’d likely have to
physically break the door into pieces to get through it.”

He took me over to his front door and showed me the Nightlock he had installed. The floor plate was so inconspicuous I had completely missed it.

“I just don’t see how anybody could get through the door with this thing on it, since it’s anchored into the floor,” he said.  “Even with a battering ram, you’d likely have to physically break the door into pieces to get through it.”

I tried it myself.  I pushed and pushed but the door wouldn’t budge.

The Nightlock has two primary pieces: A bottom part that anchors to the floor and the upper part that slides into the bottom part when you’re at home.  When you leave or when you open the door, you simply slide the second piece out of the anchored piece and set it aside.

nightlock3

I ended up buying two for our house after seeing how it worked on my father’s door.  We sleep a lot better at night knowing that our doors are 100% secure.

My father also bought a Nightlock that works on sliding glass doors, too:

nightlock5

The only problem with the Nightlock is that it doesn’t protect your front door while you’re out of the house.

When we bought our house, it was a fixer-upper.  So I had the contractor install three inch screws into the strike plate, until I could find a better solution.

After we got settled into the house, I bought this reinforced strike plate off Amazon.  For just a little over $6, I figured… what do I have to lose?

reinforced strike plate

But to be honest, after it arrived I kinda had buyers remorse that I didn’t spend the extra money on the StrikeMaster ll PRO door frame and hinge reinforcement that covers a larger area of the door frame.

strikemaster

I also purchased a Simplisafe wireless alarm system that comes with an entry sensor that will also go on the front door.  But it hasn’t arrived yet, so I’ll have to post a separate review on it, after I’ve had a chance to play with it.

The final piece de resistance is our 70 lb. dog who sleeps near the front door and barks like the devil when anyone walks up the driveway.

** We weren’t able to install the Nightlock on our back kitchen door because when we had our hardwood installed, the subfloor had to be raised and that reduced the amount of clearance between the floor and the bottom of the door, preventing the door from clearing the Nightlock floor plate.  On our front door we didn’t have that problem.