Urban Survival and Home Defense

According to a United States Department of Justice report:

  • 38% of assaults and 60% of rapes occur during home invasions.
  • 1 out of every 5 homes will experience a breake in or home invasion.
  • Statistically, there are over 8,000 home invasions per day in North America.
  • According to Statistics U.S.A., there was an average of 3,600,000 home invasions annually between 1994 and 2000.

The lesson here is that we need to take our home defense serious. It’s not hard to imagine what the numbers will be when we’re WROL, knowing they’re this high during normal times.


I’ll be talking about home defense from the perspective of a guy living in a ‘gun free city’, since that’s my situation. Something that might resonate with you folks in DC or over in one of the European countries that banned private ownership of guns altogether. At first the thought of me not having a gun to defend myself against a (probably armed) home invader was a bit unsettling. There are however enough things you can do to secure your home, without the need for guns, and still have a good nights sleep. I’ll tell you how I’ve planned my defense.

But first you need to realize that a bit further down in this article I’ll be talking about actions you can take in a scenario where there is no more rule of law. Some of the things I’m talking about as an option are completely illegal in most, if not all states and definitely in European countries. For short, this is something you’d never want to do or prepare for in real life. This writing is pretty much just an exercise of the mind and applicable only in situations of 1) a zombie apocalypse or 2) some next level ‘without rule of law’ society where the notion of an EMT or First Responder is long gone from our collective memory.

Brantion over at Reddit.com pointed me towards an interesting website about home invasions, what you can and cannot do and the statistics of ’em. I recommend you go check it out.

My Three-pronged Home Defense System
The tactics here are meant for the (sub-) urbanite living in an apartment or at best a ground level urban house. These can be some of the most difficult to defend structures, since you don’t own (much of) the area outside. Your apartment opens to a hallway, which is not yours to change or put up defensive equipment in, for example. Or your ground level house opens up to the a pedestrian walkway, like is the case in older down town areas, which is also a challenge to defend.

First prong: Don’t stand out, don’t get singled out.

When you’re thinking of home defense in terms of what is the best weapon to shoot an intruder with, you might have lost the game already. Because home defense can be so much more. It starts outside the house, conceptually even far away from it. It starts in the mind of the intruder. You need to figure out what the intruder is thinking. What is he afraid of, what does he see as opportunities, what is it that leads him to single out your house in the first place? An intruder does those considerations mostly on the spot, its not some moths long planning process (fortunately, because someone planning for that long is probably going to take you down). There are however semi-pro burglars that take a little more time and patrol your neighborhood for a few weeks.

You might want to read Burglars On The Job. It’s a well researched book on burglars’ decision-making processes. In this book they present findings in the areas of motivation, target selection, methods of entering and searching a residence, and methods of selling stolen goods.

The more considerations you know of, the better you can deter an intruder before he singles you out. And remember, I’m a big advocate of prepping for tomorrow without forgetting today. So think of everyday scenarios as well. When you’re working to protect your house it needs to be effective, especially when there is no disaster at all.

The following are a few considerations for singling out a house:

  1. Are the lights on during a power outage? (you’re prepared and most likely have food)

    Urban Survival Home Defence - No light may escape
    Do Not Stand Out
  2. Can he look into the house/ through the windows? (determining possible loot and opposition strength)
  3. Is there some kind of cover to get close? (darkness, foliage, rubble, areas obscured from your view)
  4. Is there a guard dog? (burglars hate that)
  5. Do the windows have a sticker in the lower right corner saying “This house is protected by such and such security company”? (in normal times these are a strong deterrent for most burglars)
  6. Are there closed circuit cameras hanging outside? (sometimes that is a deterrent, doesn’t seem to be so at gas stations though)
  7. Are there any open windows? (to climb through)
  8. Does the house look nice and taken care of on the outside? (nice stuff outside probably means nice stuff inside)
  9. Is your home alarm set and not in view? (burglars look for alarms that aren’t set)
  10. — there are plenty more considerations, so do the research and don’t rely on one single article you’ve read online (mine included) —

Answer these questions and you’ll know what to do to reduce their will to even try your house. You’re far better of not having to go through a home invasion at all than you are to having to deal with one.

Second prong: You’ve been targeted but the attacker is not yet inside

Something went wrong, your house has been singled out. Now what? Remember, a burglar wants to go home after his day of work as well, just like you and me. So he isn’t looking for trouble, doesn’t want to be arrested and definitely doesn’t want to get hurt. I’m pretty sure that when the day comes that hungry people are looking for a home to raid for food they still have about the same instincts. When protecting your home you should use these instincts to your advantage as a natural deterrent.

At this stage we need to convince the intruder or attacker that the hassle ahead doesn’t weigh up against any possible gains.

Urban Survival Home Defense Fire Escape
Be Sure To Cover The Firescape

Normal Times
In normal times you would add lots of flood lights around your house, hooked up to motion sensors. You can do the same in an apartment by placing the flood light inside the window frame and have the sensor, set to go of only when motion is detected very close to the window (so it doesn’t go of every time somebody walks by). Also when you have a firescape you should place sensors on it, also connected to your floodlights. Whatever is necessary to cover every square inch around your home in light.

Consider placing closed circuit cameras preferably covering the entire space around your home. You might think that doesn’t do anything, but you’d be wrong. First of all it helps you. Cameras providing you with a 360 degree view around your home give you accurate information necessary to react adequately to the situation. Secondly, it deters. An old friend of mine who’s income comes from — how shall I say this — less honorable methods once told me he was arrested for walking around the docks. The warehouses were equipped with cameras and when he was scoping out the place one day the police decided to arrest him, just to let him know they were on to him. That worked. It also had as a side effect that he now is weary of cameras and tries to avoid them whenever possible.

Other non-electronic deterring measures are placing clearly visible signs to indicate that this house is protected and so is buying a dog like a German Shepherd.

Everything I wrote above is about discouraging a burglar/invader/attacker from entering your home after he singled it out initially. The effectiveness of deterring is overseen or ignored by most people, even by those who should know better. I personally think that might be due to the fact that it is easier to convince people of the effectiveness of a head shot with a 12 gauge shotgun than it is of what I’m talking about here. That and the fact that you’re led to believe that you have to choose between the two approaches, which you don’t.

Now for the gear, things you install to physically stop an intruder, to deny him access.

  • Be sure to install deadbolt locks on all your doors as these are very difficult to open without the correct key.
  • Be sure to install rods and tracks to protect glass sliding doors.
  • Install door security guards
  • Buy a home alarm system that includes sensors on all doors and windows, checking if they’re locked and signals when they’re being opened.
  • Install locks on windows, both big and small.
  • Install tiny hidden cameras outside the home, covering all doors giving access to your house. Especially in general excess hallways. Stay away from the kind that needs the internet to function. They need to run on in house power and a home network.
  • Get yourself a loud megaphone.
  • Use 2×4’s to make two, easy to use cross bars per door.

When you’ve installed the things described above you will have made you home a tough fortress to take, for any intruder. It will at the very least slow the intruder down to the point where you will have ample time to respond.

Normally a burglar will make a run for it as soon as he knows he’s been detected. Now that’s not a guarantee. Some burglars will want to hurt you for whatever reason and you’ll have to prepare yourself for that. But first lets talk about the running kind. They need to know that they’ve been detected otherwise there’s no reason to run. The best way I can think of is to let them know by using a megaphone. Simply set it to the loudest level and say something like (remember, you’re watching him on your closed circuit cameras): “You in the dark blue jeans and black shirt. Yeah you. Stop what your doing immediately and leave the premises. If not, force will be used against you. The police has been alerted and is on its way.” I doubt if you’ll ever get to finish all that before he turns and runs. You could use something more sophisticated like an intercom of course. Only an intercom can be broken from his end as to shut you up. This won’t be possible with a megaphone. And since you’re living in an apartment or small home, he will hear you.

In case all your efforts fail and he persists you better make sure you or your spouse did indeed alarm the police. If he doesn’t leave you will need them to actually grab him for you. In case you think the home invader will breach your door before the police arrives you can use pepper spray from one floor above him. In case he is armed and shoots (or just threatens to), you get to your safe room within the house and let the in-house traps, covered below under the third prong, do the work for you.  Wait it out in your safe room.

Up to this point everything is strictly legal. You do need to check local laws, but you’re behaving like a gentlemen really. You’re telling him to leave, you’re warning the guy that force will be used and if he persists all you eventually do is pepper spray him. Yes, you’ll probably spray him a bit more then is needed, but still. You’re being a roll model citizen here.

Doesn’t feel like heroism does it? Fortunately it doesn’t have to, as long as it works.

Which brings me to the ‘what if it doesn’t work or there is no police to call part. It has gotten to the point where its either you or him.

Abnormal Times

First a little something on explosives

As lifted from the FM 5-25 Explosives and Demolitions 1967 army field manual (pro tip: also read The Big Book Of Mischief):

a. Explosives. Explosives are substances that, through chemical reaction, violently change and release pressure and heat equally in all directions. Explosives are classified as low or high according to the detonating velocity or speed (in feet per second) at which this change takes place and other pertinent characteristics.
b. Low Explosives. Low explosives de-flagrate or change from a solid to a gaseous state relatively slowly over a sustained period (up to 400 meters or 1312 feet per second). This characteristic makes low explosives ideal where pushing or shoving effect is required. Examples are smokeless and black powders.
c. High Explosives. The change in this type explosive to a gaseous state-detonation-occurs almost instantaneously (from 1,000 meters per second (3,280 feet) to 8,500 meters per second (27,888 feet), producing a shattering effect upon the target. High explosives are used where this shattering effect is required-in certain demolition charges and in charges in mines, shells, and bombs.
d. Relative Effectiveness Factor. Explosives vary not only in detonating rate or velocity (feet per second), but also in other characteristics, such as density and heat production, that determine their effectiveness. They vary so much that the amount of explosive used is computed according to a relative effectiveness factor, based on the effectiveness of all high explosives in relation to that of TNT. For example, TNT, with a detonating velocity of 23,000 feet per second, has a relative effectiveness factor of 1, while tetrytol, with the same velocity, has a higher relative effectiveness factor of 1.20.

What I’m planning to do is to plant/set a series of directed explosive charges outside my home that are hidden from view, build into everyday objects, aimed at taking out human targets within the planned blast area. Basically I’m talking about small anti-personal IED’s. I’m saying small because you might think of armored vehicles being taken out by IED’s in Iraq and Afghanistan. Although the same principles are at work here, I’m not planning on the same blast size. You should think more of the power of a series of 12 gauge shotgun blasts. Strong enough to rip the intruder apart, but not so strong for it to also damage the house (other then the paint job).

Plan Out Al The Areas Around The House
Plan Out All The Areas Around The House

One of these devices will be placed facing the area right outside the front door. Anybody trying to break in and refusing to leave will be taken out by it. It consists of a pipe that is placed inside the wall with the back end sticking out into the house for easy operation and with the front end pointing out towards the intended blast area in front of the door. I’ll lightly plaster it over so you won’t even see its there. Although there is a point to be made that seeing it would very much deter someone who knows what he’s looking at.

The device (as I drew on the left) is pretty much just a serious pipe bomb with one open end making it function as a shot gun shell. The back can be screwed off (and back on) to allow easy reloading from inside the home. Firing these two devices with partially overlapping blast areas will create absolute mayhem. I’m advising installation at knee height since people sometimes use bullet or shrapnel proof vests, but rarely use protection for there legs, so these will probably be blown off. Whomever didn’t die there and then will definitely be running or crawling back to safety.

I will also place some across the hallway facing my door and some more strewn around the hallway to give me control over the entire space in case the attackers that didn’t die right away stage a renewed attack thinking this was all of it. The elevator exit and stairwell will also be covered. Elevators probably won’t work due to the lack of power, so that’s optional.

The stairwell will pretty much be the only way in and out of the building. Fun fact is that when you’re walking up the stairs your face will be level with each individual tread you walked on (except with the first lower ones near the ground). Making stairs from a defensive stand point the ideal place to set charges. A tiny explosion near the face will be enough to take a person out.

Sketch Your Ideas For Inspiration, It Helps

What you do is place a long, round and not very thick piece of explosive material along the entire width of a tread. Push it as well as you can up against the back of the tread, leaving an equal amount on the tread compared to what you pushed up against the back. The back is called the riser and is really part of the next step up. Now you cover the explosive material over the full width with a mixture of sharp debris and some kind of a gel or glue like substance to hold it all in place. The debris could be metal shavings, very small nails or screws, that kind of stuff. When you detonate the charge the back of the stairs will function as a shield and direct the blast out and up, either decapitating the intruder or blowing his legs of, take your pick. To take out an entire group at once you might considering using the full length of the railing that’s against the wall.

Other good places to consider are inside of small statues, flower pots, bird houses hanging in trees, in the yard like a type of mine, overhead above the ceiling, the options are only limited by your fantasy. I normally just sit down with a note pad and start sketching whatever comes to mind and use that.

PBS Newshour has a nice clip up on Youtube showing the pipe bomb and pressure cooker bomb in action. Look closely at the slow motion replay of the pipe bomb explosion, you can see that even the feeble wood table its placed on serves to direct the blast, this time upwards. If that would have been your concrete apartment wall, or the tread and riser on a staircase, that blast would’ve gone completely into the target area. Keep that in mind placing your charges.

Third prong: They are inside your home!

Okay, so we’re back in normal times again. No disaster, zombie apocalypse or anything like that. This first part of my third prong of home defense is again set in a ‘normal times’ scenario.

Your alarm system worked, you’ve detected the intruders before they got to your front door. You’ve alerted the police and you’ve told the intruder(s) to go away. But they are not leaving for some reason. You suspect that the reinforced door will hold them back for a while, but you’re not sure and decide that a tactical redraw to the safe room is the best idea. A little later they indeed enter your home.

Now what?

Almost every apartment has some kind of foyer people have to enter before they can go on into the rest of the house. In most cases that front door is also the only way into the apartment, which makes concentrating your efforts easier then when you own, say, a large free standing home. Either way, what you’ll have to do is stop these intruders dead in their tracks and make them want to leave. And you can.

I myself love the following products (I’m gonna sound like an advertisement, but I won’t make any money doing so) the Burglar Blaster, the Burglar Blaster Decintegrator and the Burglar Blaster Tripwire. The do it yourself home security system. They’re self contained electronic OC Anti Burglar Systems that require no wiring. Using a passive infrared detection system, a single Intercepter unit can control areas up to 4,000 square feet by flooding them with pepper spray.

These beauties are my answer to invaders. The mist that these things produce inside a room will hang for quit a bit before subsiding. This effectively turns that room into an unlivable space for a while and will definitely run an intruder out of there. The idea here is that you arm these and then retreat to your safe room. As soon as the intruders enter your house they’ll be greeted by a pepper spray fog incapacitating them immediately, forcing them out. The police won’t have a hard time seeing who outside of your house has just been inside your house.

What you do is place one Burglar Blaster in the foyer and one Burglar Blaster Tripwire up the hallway a bit, in case they run the wrong way. For the rare case that they even run their adrenaline rushed selves into the living room I suggest you hang a Burglar Blaster Decintegrator there. No intruder will stand the barrage.

To put all this in to perspective, you could do it all with just one of these magnificent devices. The smallest of the three, the Burglar Blaster Tripwire, is good for protecting up to 2,000 sq. ft. of indoor space. The average American apartment is 982 square feet, which is quit a bit less then the minimum coverage of these devices! So my dream system is absolute overkill, trying to fit 8,000 sq. ft. of protection into a 982 square feet apartment. But if you’ve been reading this far you should know by now that I’m not about half measures.

Burglar Blaster
Burglar Blaster
Burglar Blaster Tripwire
Burglar Blaster Tripwire
Burglar Blaster Decintegrator
Burglar Blaster Decintegrator

Abnormal Times

You know what I’m planning to do right? For starters, I’ll be using these devices in a WROL situation as well. These things incapacitate a person, no matter what the status of the country is. One thing I image would be different in abnormal times is that attackers will equip themselves better and start wearing gas masks, defeating any and all pepper spray traps you might have ready for them.

For that reason I’ll be implementing the same strategy I use outside the home, inside the home. Converting the trip wire from a pepper spray device to a trip wire explosive is a dead give away. Setting tripwire charges is one thing I’ll be looking to become good at the coming time.

Another great trick for indoors is to us the Burglar Blasters passive infrared detection system to set of one or several charges. It comes with a 0-40 seconds entry time delay and a non-directional, high pitched warning tone (to remind you to switch the unit off ASAP) so you can arm it every time you go to bed and disarm it when you wake up. Again, several of these at strategic points in the house will do wonders.

Be sure to take measures that keep your kid or your sleepy self from setting of the charges by accident.

I’d personally opt to move everyone into the same bedroom (which will be the safe room) as soon as the need arises to start arming these devices. No one can leave the safe room without unlocking the door first. So sleepwalking into your own defensive measures is out.


You don’t have to be defenseless when zombies arise and everybody that’s not infected turns nutty. With a few skills and your fantasy you can build a pretty well protected area for yourself and your family to be relatively save in.

But most importantly, you are not defenseless in normal times either. There are many, completely legal actions you can take to protect your home.

I hope I’ve inspired you to take action yourself and maybe even given you some ideas to ponder over. When you’re not sure if what you’re about to do is the right action to take, or if it is legal where you live, be sure to always confide a specialist. As I am not one myself, you should consider my writings informative and entertaining and not more than that.

Thank you for reading this far, I really hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. Please leave your thoughts and comments here below the article. I will read them and respond to you.

Till next time,


3 thoughts on “Urban Survival and Home Defense”

  1. Hey there,
    Living in south africa, this is a pretty good article. I employ quite a few of these… kinds… of techniques already, but got some more useful ones from you :-)

    Keep it coming. You blog has a way of seperating doomsday idiots from actual real-world preparedness.

    I just had a hard time with your use of there/their/than/then typos :(


  2. Hi Marlon, thank you for your compliments, and sorry for giving you a hard time reading the article :) !

    I’ll keep it coming for sure. Anything in particular you’d be interested in?


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