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This year, one in thirty-six homes in the United States will be burglarized. Each burglary means stolen goods, broken property, and emotional harm to the victim.

While burglaries have been getting less frequent over the past few years, they’re still too common. Here’s how to safeguard your home from burglary:

  1. Secure the doors and windows

34 percent of burglaries occur through the front door. Windows on the first floor are the next most common point of entry, followed by the back door. As simple as it sounds, securing these entry-points can deter burglars looking for an easy mark.

Lock your doors, and reinforce them. Make sure to lock your windows when you go out, and consider shatterproof glass for windows near the door. Installing thick doors (at least 1.75”) and steel doorjambs can also go a long way towards deterring criminals.

Obviously, none of this does any good if the burglar can just stroll into an unlocked house. Always lock up before bed and when you leave the house.

  1. Set up a security system

They can be pricey, but if you’re worried about burglary a security system is a good investment. Homes without security systems are 2.7 times more likely to be targeted by a burglar; the prospect of being recorded the moment they enter the house is enough to make most criminals think twice.

But many alarm systems, which are silent and alert the police when an intruder’s detected, may not be worth the cost. They’re just a middleman that calls law enforcement for you.

Instead, we recommend a system that will scare the intruder. Guard dogs are a good investment. Safety Technology International has a more creative alternative—they sell a device that releases vicious-sounding barks when an intruder crosses the electronic radar waves. Very visible security cameras, which let the criminal know he’s on record, are an excellent deterrent.

And, while security systems are pricey, being burgled costs a lot more—both monetarily and psychologically.

  1. Buy a handgun and get training

If deterrence doesn’t work, having a handgun can mean the difference between being at the burglar’s mercy and sending him or her packing. A shotgun or a pistol is generally ideal for home defense.

But having a gun isn’t enough—you need to be trained to use it. Find a good training course in your area and learn how to hit your target, how to reload under pressure, and how to force yourself—no matter how much stress you’re in—to look and think before you shoot. The last thing you want is to accidentally shoot one of your kids instead of the bad guy because you’re panicked.

In terms of storage, it’s important to keep your gun easily accessible but safe from the kids. On the one extreme, you absolutely don’t want to leave your pistol lying next to your bed and have your 6-year-old son find it. On the other, you don’t want a safe that takes 30 seconds of concentrated work to open. When you’re stressed and an intruder’s coming up the stairs, that 30 seconds can be an eternity.

A good option is a biometric safe: it’ll open immediately to your fingerprint, but stay locked if someone else tries to access it. Mount it on your nightstand for easy access.

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  1. Find a non-lethal weapon

Lethal force is always a last resort, to be used only when it’s them or you (or your family). But at the same time, being defenseless when a burglar enters your house is not an option; especially if you have children or a spouse to protect.

So in addition to (or instead of) a gun, buy a metal baseball bat or a can of mace. Neither is as effective as a firearm, but both can get the job done without ending a life. Having both a gun and a non-lethal alternative gives you options: you can choose, based on the level of the threat, whether to use ultimate force or to merely knock the criminal unconscious

But, just like with the gun, training is essential. Enroll in a basic self defense course. Be prepared, both physically and emotionally, to take the fight to the bad guy if that’s what the situation calls for.

A flashlight is also essential. You don’t want to be flicking on lights all over the house and giving away your position. Handheld flashlights have the added bonus of being able to blind an attacker if used correctly.

  1. Practice

Don’t be that guy who’s suddenly facing a burglary and has no idea what to do. Practice now. Role play scenarios with the family to get in sync and make sure you’re all ready for the real thing. Make sure you know who’s going to do what if you’re ever in this situation. And make sure to practice every 6 months so you don’t get rusty.

The time to make a plan is now, not at 2am when you hear the downstairs window break.

  1. Bonus tip: Set up a private emergency response system to discreetly alert your neighbors.

You might be wondering why 911 isn’t on this list. Unfortunately, most of the time police will not show up in time to protect you from an intruder. The average burglary takes under 10 minutes, and in many areas police can take a lot longer to reach your house.

Calling 911 can be risky: being on the phone with a dispatcher can take time and attention you could better spend securing your family. Additionally, phone calls are loud; the last thing you want is the voice of the 911 dispatcher to give away your position.

This is why we created Peacekeeper. When you install the app on your phone, you can add friends, family, and neighbors to your “Tribe” and alert them with the touch of a button when an emergency is going on. Your Tribe can respond immediately; neighbors can be at your house in seconds, ready to help defend your family. Additionally Peacekeeper is absolutely silent and won’t give away your position. If you need an efficient, almost instant response, Peacekeeper can be a better option than 911.

Download the Peacekeeper App from your app store now:

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The Free Thought Project is not affiliated with the peacekeeper app, we simply see potential in it and wish to spread this potential.