Writers in the Storm

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April 19, 2024

5 Home Defense Techniques for Any Character

by Piper Bayard of Bayard & Holmes

Many genres involve characters who at some point experience fear, and it is common for them to want to hide in their homes. Everything from creepy shadows, to hang up calls, to ominous social media posts or threats by mobsters can have our characters holing up. 

Today, my military and intelligence veteran writing partner, Jay Holmes, and I are going to explore effective ways our characters can protect themselves in their homes when an antagonist is coming after them.

#1 -  Perimeter Lights

Dark houses are much easier targets for all crimes than well-lit houses. Porch lights and motion-activated lights are great for a starting point, but perimeter lights that surround the property and illuminate dark spaces on the house and the grounds are better at deterring criminals. Lit grounds also give someone inside a dark house the advantage when a threat is outside. 

I know what you’re thinking. . . . What about the neighbors? What about the HOA?

Landscape lighting at home

The way to deal with those potential obstacles is “landscape lighting.” 

Good decorative solar lights can brighten driveways, highlight shrubs, define fence lines, etc. As for the house, strings of small white LED lights can line porches and roofs, providing enough illumination to be a deterrence. Landscape elements such as trees or water features are also great opportunities to place strategic spotlights for the sake of aesthetics.

My own HOA objected to the white lights surrounding the outside of my house. In response, I tucked them up to the roof of the porch where only the actual light is seen from the street, and I increased the number of solar landscaping lights. Now it’s compliments from my neighbors instead of complaints, and you could land a plane in my yard.

Keep in mind that perimeter lights can also be “holiday lights.” One obnoxious neighbor of mine has a 12’ skeleton in her yard year-round. She fights back against the HOA by putting different colored lights on it every month or two and calling it a “holiday decoration.”

Holiday lighting

The HOA has yet to find a way to force her to take it down. If you don’t mind changing out your perimeter lights every few weeks, this is another route to take. Not the massive skeleton . . . please . . . but the perpetual holiday lighting.

#2 - Doorbell Camera

A doorbell camera is not only useful for checking to see who is on the porch, but it also keeps a character from having to look through a peep hole in the door. 

As soon as a peep hole is covered, a nefarious individual, such as an assassin, will assume it is covered by a face, at which point it’s easy to kill someone through a door. Our characters will have to do better than that.

A word of caution

While doorbell cameras are great for seeing who is outside when you are at home, a character that is worried for their safety should NOT put the app for their doorbell camera on their phone. Instead, link it to a computer inside the house. 

This is because when people go out into the world with their phones in their pockets, their phones and apps can easily be hacked. The doorbell camera that lets the character know who is at the door will also allow the hacker to spy on the character.

Hacker spying on doorbell camera

#3 - Security Cameras

Security cameras inside the house can be helpful for our characters, as well. Our characters can use these cameras to make sure no one entered their property while they were away, and they can use the cameras to keep an eye on other rooms and spaces while they are at home.

The same caution we applied for doorbell cameras goes for indoor security cameras. 

If our characters can use cameras to spy on others, others can use the cameras to spy on them. That’s why our characters need to take some precautions if they are going to use inside cameras at their homes. 

Three ways to do this like a pro:

A. Like the doorbell cameras, it’s best to link the indoor cameras and recorders to a computer rather than to the phone in our character’s pocket. Otherwise, predators can hack into the cameras rather easily to spy on our characters.

B. When our characters enter their own property, they need to turn the cameras away from the living spaces. They should do this not only to keep hackers and other bad actors from spying on them, but to keep governments and electronics corporations from spying on them, as well. 

Data is the new oil, and electronics corporations are infamous for using all of those “smart” devices to glean data for themselves and for foreign countries. (See Spycraft: Essentials by Bayard & Holmes.) And yes. Contrary to popular belief, regular people are that interesting.

C. Conceal cameras and any recording devices. If an antagonist enters the home and sees the cameras or recording devices, they can destroy or steal the electronics, thus obliterating the evidence.

#4 – Dogs

Dogs are a great deterrent to crime, particularly to random crimes where a specific person is not targeted. Even if the dogs are a bit friendlier than Cujo, solid barking will most likely keep our characters from being surprised in their own homes.

Notice I use the word “dogs” in the plural. That is because studies show that two or more dogs are far more of a deterrent to criminals than only one dog. Apparently, per Holmes, while one dog can be a threat to a bad actor, two or more dogs are far more psychologically intimidating.

Barking doorbells can be great for the allergy sufferers who, unlike me, do not let dogs into their space. *sniff* *cough* *pets the dogs* 

These devices can sound exceptionally realistic, and the barks can be randomized so that it’s not the same pattern of “woof, woof” playing every time the bell rings.

#5 - Brains

In other words, our characters should think before opening their doors. They should stay away from the peepholes. They need to spy on the people at their doors before unlocking. Our characters need to embrace the sad fact that no matter how tasty those Thin Mints are, it’s probably not a Girl Scout ringing the bell at 1 a.m. Situational awareness is always the best defense.

Our next article will give more tips on how frightened characters can protect themselves in their homes. Until then, what questions do you have about home defense? And definitely please share any home defense techniques you already use down in the comments!

* * * * * *

About Bayard & Holmes

Bayard & Holmes

Piper Bayard and Jay Holmes of Bayard & Holmes are the authors of espionage tomes and international spy thrillers. Please visit Piper and Jay at their site, BayardandHolmes.com. For notices of their upcoming releases, subscribe to the Bayard & Holmes Covert Briefing. You can also contact Bayard & Holmes at their Contact page, on X (formerly Twitter) at @piperbayard, on Facebook at Piper Bayard, or at their email, BayardandHolmes@protonmail.com.

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15 comments on “5 Home Defense Techniques for Any Character”

  1. I replaced my exterior doors with steel doors and installed commercial-grade security locksets and put those flip-over latches (not sure what they're called) on the doorframes. Then I sank lag bolts into the door frame on the hinge side, and drilled corresponding holes in that side of the door. Even if someone blew off the hinges, they wouldn't be able to get the door open.
    We have security grilles on every window and door in the house.
    I also have a rapid-access gun safe bolted to the studs in a corner of the bedroom with a shotgun and two handguns in it.
    One of our cats thinks he's an attack cat, but I don't think he'd succeed in terrorizing anyone.

  2. I had to deal with a home invasion attempt in the first novel in my mainstream trilogy - the main character who is a writer lives in happy isolation until accepting a slot as a representative of her illness, ME/CFS, on a late night NY talk show - by which an unhappy fan tracks her down on her hill in rural New Hampshire.

    Self-defense, ways to try to break into a house, snow, and a panic room - an angry fan can be terrifying, especially when you live alone. Lots to think about, and a drawer full of sharp knives in the kitchen for our former physician to ask herself if she will use.

    The final effect on the story becomes a remote activated gate set in a narrow enfilade near the entry - very useful in the rest of the story.

  3. Excellent post, thank you. I'm dealing with baddies in my historical novel. How would one protect their home in the 1920's? My character is a Great War veteran and has several dogs, but I'm interested in other ways he would protect his home and family.

    1. This is an intriguing question, Kelli. I can't wait to see how Bayard & Holmes answer it.

      I do think of all the things people did in those times for castle and fort defense -- moats, traps, shells and rocks on windowsills and balconies. The other interesting thing to me in cities like London were how many of the baddies traveled and spied by rooftop. It was fascinating to read how few of the posh homes protected their service entrances, their back garden gates, or their upper story windows.

    2. In the 1920s, he would definitely have guns and know how to use them. I'm guessing he would probably have picked some tricks during the war. I'll talk with Holmes and get back to you on what those might be.

      1. Oh, that definitely makes a difference (LOL)...I read that on the fly as 1820...so I was thinking Europe (obviously). All those fabulous tricks of the Great War and of the migration westward would be in play here. Definitely there'd be guns.

    3. According to Holmes: "He would own a Winchester pump shotgun if he is a combat veteran from WWI. They were iconic at that period of time. He would likely also have a bayonet and be good with it, known as a "trench knife." They would also likely have a sense of perimeter and perhaps rig trip lighting around the property and in the house. (String a line across a path that would trip a light at night if they had electricity.) A trip wire attached to a flare is also a possibility. That could be done with or without electricity. Overall, he would definitely be more aware of his surroundings and the people in them than someone who had not been to war."

      Hope this helps!

      1. This is very helpful, thank you! This character is also my great-grandpa and he did like guns (thank you for the specifics), they had electricity (I can easily imagine him setting up a trip wire) and he was always aware of his surroundings. Your input really helps with the details. Thanks again!

  4. One more question, if I may. What was the standard issue weapon for the U.S. National Guard who served on the border during the Mexico Punitive Expedition of 1916-1917? I have looked, but have not been able to find the answer.

  5. Great ideas.

    BTW, in some circumstances, those skeletons are actually political statements, and that's the real reason people leave them up all year.

    Just might be harder to prove to the HOA.

  6. I enjoyed your post. Lots of useful information! I also can relate about the skeleton. Our neighbor puts theirs at Halloween, doesn't come down until Valentines Day.

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