Coming from a quaint and sleepy suburb in the deep south, it’s no surprise I used to find myself cringing at the thought of having solid metal bars on the house windows, or a gate on the front door. This sort of thing was normally reserved for, “the bad side of town.” You know, the place where crack dealers and gangster thugs insist on holding their stolen Glocks sideways when posing for Facebook pictures. So one could imagine my shock upon first arriving in South Africa at my girlfriends house.
“Those bars don’t look decorative, sweetheart.” She winced slightly. “Would you rather wake up to a house full of thugs?” I frowned and pulled at the white, crisscrossing pieces of metal. “Huh.”
Okay, so I hadn’t had much experience in the real world. And by real world, I’m referring to most countries outside of our own. Places where safety and well being aren’t necessarily guaranteed on a day to day basis. The police pitch up fifteen minutes after being called, not two, so citizens take measures to buy themselves time.
One of the easiest ways to go about this is making their homes hard targets. A criminal is not going to expend any more energy than is necessary to get what he wants. Why spend an hour trying to hack through bars at one house when he can simply go next door and smash a window? This line of logic applies beyond the everyday criminal to a drifter or looter in a TEOTWAWKI scenario.
Those of us that can’t afford multimillion-dollar compounds out in the sticks will likely be forced to hunker down in the suburbs if and when the balloon goes up. Unfortunately, it is likely the hordes of refugees flooding out of major city centers will pass through our quaint little neighborhoods looking for anything they can to survive.
How will those glass windows hold up against a mob who has spent the last month watching family members and friends die of starvation? What about the wooden front door with the decorative glass pane? They don’t care you’ve already given until it hurt. They’re taking your provisions and with it, the lives of you and your family. Scary thought? Those bars aren’t looking so bad now, are they?
Adding this extra layer of protection to your suburban castle isn’t as much of an eyesore as you might think. With a bit of paint and the correct pattern, sometimes they’re even hard to notice. The view from our house doesn’t scream prison.
Our bars, that have been placed on the inside of the windows, are secured to the frame at multiple points. If you decide to fortify your vulnerable glass, I would highly recommend going the inside route.
Bars on the outside are not only more noticeable, as seen in the shot below, but they are also more easily damaged without the home owners knowledge. If a burglar or looter wants anywhere near our bars, they’re going to have to smash a window and alert the entire house before doing so.
Keep in mind that your castle is only as strong as its weakest point. Unless you’ve done some heavy modifications, the doors on the average home are not up to scratch. A few kicks as least, and a hand held ram at most, will render it useless. This is where metal sliding gates shine.
The slam lock variety allow for the home owner to quickly secure a door without the need for fumbling with keys. These doors are also built to take extremely high impacts. Can your door take a hit from a wrecking ball? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lanoiRUieZ0
There are also the more traditional gates, but these require a padlock that can be more easily cut through.
There are obviously some concerns about the possibility of a fire and an inability to escape the house quickly when needed. If you feel you don’t have enough quick exit points, consider having locks and hinges installed on a couple of key windows so the bars can be opened in case of an emergency. Common sense dictates they should swing inward towards the house.
One last point is concerning the interior of the home. Sliding gates can be mounted almost anywhere! If someone were to make their way inside your house, having a barrier between the living and sleeping area would be invaluable. It effectively transforms one quarter of your house into a safe room. When collapsed down to the wall, the gate protrudes about eight inches and causes no inconvenience to hall traffic.
Just because you might not need the extra protection now, doesn’t mean you won’t need it the future. Consider this as another way to stack the odds in your favor.
I think it’s a pretty common feeling among the prepping community that we’re “ready for anything.” I mean, when you’ve planned for an end of the world scenario, a bit of crime in the neighborhood or a hurricane knocking out the power seems quite minor in comparison. Hell, I thought the same thing … all the way up until I heard my neighbor let out a scream that made most horror movies sound like Saturday morning cartoons.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let me set the scene for you. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m from the southern United States, but I’m currently living in South Africa. As you may or may not know, crime here has reached epidemic levels. I don’t consider it safe to walk down the street outside of our complex after dark. Most houses have bars on the windows and doors, as seen in our previous articles, and complexes of flats generally sport eight to ten foot walls with electric fencing on the top. It’s not exactly Mayberry.
All this being understood, our area is par for the course. We have a large concrete wall with electric fencing, an electric gate, and armed private security that responds faster than most police departments in the United States. The regular police here normally take anywhere from fifteen to thirty minutes to pitch up after being called.
Well on this particular night, I was sitting at my computer reading over some prepping material. It was around one in the morning, and my better half and the dogs were snoozing away. Deep in thought, I was suddenly jarred as a scream the likes of which I had never heard echoed down the stairwell of our four flat, one hundred year old house. The hair stood straight up on the back of my neck and both dogs started barking furiously. “What in God’s name … “
I stood up and tried to quiet the dogs so I could hear what was going on. My mind was racing. Another scream and a door slamming open. “Someone . . help … (scream) … flat … knife … (scream)” I absentmindedly thought to grab for a pistol that wasn’t there. Between the human rights violating gun laws, and the fact that I’m not a citizen of this country, my .40 is still sitting in a gun case in the US. Our biggest dog was trying to muscle his way out of his crate. “Better than nothing,” I thought. I popped the latch and put him into a down/stay in the middle of the living room. The barking was painfully loud.
There was a fumbling and banging of feet coming down the wooden stairs in the main hallway along with more screaming. “Help! Please help! Let me in! Please let me in! He has a knife! Help!”
I was calm and collected right? I was a forward thinking, trained for stress, ready for anything, not going to be the victim, prepper.
Wrong. My mind froze. I panicked. Where had I put the keys to the front door? I scrambled to the key rack, patting my pockets, looking desperately for one of the two sets of keys that would open the doorway to the hall.
“Help! Open the door! Help me! Please!”
The keys weren’t on the hanger. “Oh my God!” I screamed in my head. “She’s going to get stabbed!”
“Where are the keys?!” I yelled to my now fully awake partner. “Aren’t they on the rack?!” she screamed back.
“Please help!” My neighbor continued to pound on the door.
As if someone pulled the blinders off of my eyes, I looked down on the couch to see both sets of keys side by side, in plain view. How many times had I looked directly at them?
I quickly fumbled to unlock the door, pulled it open just enough to squeeze a person through, yanked my neighbor inside and threw all my weight back against it. The auto lock latched as I turned the deadbolt.
She was white as I’ve ever seen a living person. By this time, three of the four panic alarms were going off. Out of breath, she collapsed onto the couch and managed to get out an abbreviated version of events. I later received the whole story.
Her flat is on the second story of the house, and has a decent sized balcony.
She decided to go outside for a last cigarette before bed, and after opening the door, came face to face with a burglar who had manged to bypass a wall, electric fencing, razor wire, and a two story climb. He grinned and took a step towards her as he reached into his jacket and pulled out a knife. That’s when I heard the initial scream. Stepping back, she slammed the door to the balcony, rushed out her front door, down the stairs, and started banging on my door.
The private security company was in the hallway within about forty five seconds of the whole ordeal kicking off. They had been down the street patrolling after a series of break ins, apparently committed by the same two guys that had tried their luck with my neighbor. Guns drawn, they cleared the stairwell and the entire upstairs flat. The police showed up twenty minutes later. I’m told they caught the guy that was the look out, but the one on the balcony jumped into the garden and made away into the night.
At the end of the night everyone was fine, though shaken, and I even managed to get a bit of sleep.
So what can you take away from this story? The amount of time that transpired while I was frantically searching for the keys was no more than ten seconds. It seemed like an eternity though, and I was still shocked, and a bit ashamed of how my constitution seemed to have utterly failed me when faced with an actual emergency. If the intruder had been pursuing here, the situation could have ended much worse.
No matter how cool and collected you think you are. No matter how many articles you’ve read, videos you’ve watched, books you’ve highlighted, and imagined scenarios you’ve rehearsed in your head, never assume you’re totally prepared for an emergency situation.
On that night, I had a rude awakening. I implore you to learn from my experience.