Is Your Home Safe? 10 Ways to Defend Your Apartment

It’s your home, it’s comfortable and cozy although it’s only a studio apartment, but is it safe?

It may be impossible to leave your small urban apartment during crisis, and you might be forced to survive in there for months. More, a break-in situation is not necessarily connected to a crisis these days, so facing an intruder in your own home might turn into an unexpected reality.

You can make some simple modifications to ensure that your apartment remains safe, and also take advantage of some other ideas that make your entire area safer. If you start making these changes now, you stand a better chance of being just as safe if you decide to bug-in instead of bug-out.

It should be noted that not all landlords will allow these modifications, and also that you should always make sure you are secure enough in financing your apartment so that you do not wind up having to leave long before a large scale crisis occurs.

1. Family Defense Versus Group Defense

Is it wise for your family to be the only member of an urban survival and defense group in your apartment building? Would it be better to have multiple families in different apartments all working together for the common good? Let’s see what the answers would be.

The Single Family’s Defense for a Small Apartment

Some individuals believe that a safe room with electronic surveillance is the best choice for the family’s safety during a time of unrest. In theory it sounds good, but in reality it could be a death trap. Once the safe room doors are closed and locked, you must wait for the intruders to leave before exiting the room.

Without electric power, most of the surveillance equipment will not be working, and your group will be blind with regard to what is happening outside of the safe room. Intruders may have left, or they could be waiting to ambush those who had taken refuge in the safe room.

Multiple Small Apartments Working Together for the Good of All Apartments Involved

To be part of this survival group, each member must have special talents or abilities that will benefit the group. This includes medical training, experience in food production/storage, and security/defensive training.

When using multiple apartments for defense, it is advisable to have the apartments over each other on different floors and apartments side by side next to each other. Each of the apartments would be connected with ladders or stairs hidden in closets.

You should be able to travel between the floors or hidden doorways to connect apartments in the building. All of these passageways should have heavy steel doors with high quality heavy duty locks, deadbolts, and steel door braces. The braces should be attached to the door and anchored to the floor to keep these areas safe from attack or being breached.

Have at Least 2 to 3 Emergency Escape Routes that Are Unseen and Unknown by the General Public

If you must retreat from the apartments, the use of emergency escape and evade routes will be a life saver. One of the escape routes could be an entrance to the apartment building’s utility (example plumbing or electrical) service areas. Here people could either climb up or down to safety.

If they climb down this route could lead to underground utility conduits, storm drains, or other service areas. If climbing upward, this route could take you to the roof or to other floors to safety. Old fire escapes that are no longer in use should be replaced with retractable safety ladders or rappelling stations that could be deployed when needed.

2. Use Booby Traps Smartly

Is it wise to use booby traps as a deterrent to scare off unwanted trespassers?

Clever booby traps can be used to deter unwanted people. Keep in mind that these traps should look like part of a stairway or a hallway floor with old rotten wood that finally broke under someone’s weight.

Use old carpet to cover holes in the floor or in stairwells. Once a person steps on the carpet covering the hole, they will fall through it.

If you wish to use booby traps as a last ditch defense, use traps that will collapse the ceilings and hallways around the defensive apartments. This effectively cuts certain areas off from the rest of the building, but does not damage them. The debris field should be one that is large and very heavy so that intruders will leave the area to look for easier picking.

3. Secure Your Entries

Window Upgrades

Windows that are not necessary should be removed and bricked up to add to the apartment’s security. Remaining windows should have double pane safety glass. These new windows will use longer and heavier anchoring bars, and more of them to hold the window in place much more securely than the old windows could have been.

To add more safety to the windows, use a swing down steel bar window system that bolts in place on the inside of the windows that cannot be readily seen from outside. Finally there will be the use of black out curtains and black out protocol to keep the apartment’s light from being seen outside of the building.

Door Strengthening

All exterior doorways should be upgraded. Steel doors with upgraded locks, bolts, and other blocking systems makes it harder for unwanted individuals to access the building without cutting torches or heavy hammers. More, they will not burn if the doors are set on fire.

The first thing to do is remove all the old doors and frames. Replace them with heavy steel doors and steel frames. These doors need to have extra heavy duty steel anchors that go deep into the surrounding walls to make it harder for unwanted trespassers to gain access to the apartments.

Extra heavy duty locks and deadbolts will be needed to keep the doors locked and securely closed. An armored peep hole should be installed to observe outside of the doorway and the hallway beyond.

The Use of Steel Plating

Steel plating can be used to strengthen around windows and doorways to keep away people using axes or other heavy tools used in an attempt to break in. To add extra strength, use steel plating on the floors and walls in the closets where the entrance way doors are located.

Steel plates can also be used to build defensive weapons firing stations within the apartments in the event trespassers do break in. You will be protected in a gun fight and the intruders will not. You could also use them to reinforce roof top doorways, or build field of fire towers on the roof.

Roof Defenses

What about the roof of the apartment building? It should be modified with steel plates, steel doors and frames, barbed wire, and other defensive anti-trespassing upgrades instead of saving the money and do nothing.

If any of the multiple apartments are located on the top floor of the apartment building, it would be a good idea to add roof modifications incorporating steel plates, steel doors and frames, upgrade all locks, use barbed wire and any other anti-trespassing upgrades that would meet the defensive needs of the building.

Barbed Wire

You should also use barbed wire, because

  • It is very hard to climb over without getting cut or tangled in it.
  • It will last a long time before needing to be replaced.
  • Makes a strong cheap fence to keep trespassers off the roof.

Video first seen on MrMuscleBilly.

4. Don’t Be Afraid To Use Firearms Or Other Weapons For Defense 

But would long guns like shotguns, AR-15s, or AK-47s be a good choice as defensive weapons in a small urban apartments or would handguns be the better choice? Would other weapons like crossbows, spears, or knives work better?

The use of either AR-15s or AK-47s would not be a good choice of weapons for primary defensive weapons in a small urban apartment. Both of these rifles rounds will have too much penetration power and would be dangerous to others in other rooms. As a secondary weapons these rifles would be a good defense if and when the apartments are breached by heavily armed rioters.

A good choice of defensive weapons in a small urban apartments would be 20 Ga. or 12 Ga. shotguns loaded with either 00 or 0000 buckshot. With these loads there is excellent stopping power without over penetration of surrounding walls. Semi auto handguns with high capacity mags in 9mm, 40 S&W, or 45 ACP would be another good choice. They have good fire power in small spaces and can be used to engage multiple targets.

As for the use of crossbows, spears, or knives, they would be a poor choice of weapons to defend your urban apartments. These weapons are no match for modern shotguns, semi auto rifles, or handguns. The odds are that all the individuals in the apartments would be killed or left for dead.

5. Learn The Use Of Fields Of Fire

Survival decision point: Can the apartments be better defended with the use of fields of fire or shooting from any location from within the apartments?

The best solution is to use known fields of fire from steel defensive firing stations. If any trespassers do manage to break into any of the apartments they would be met with accurate deadly fire power. The fields of fire should be over lapping so that multiple defenders would be covering the area.

If shooting from anywhere within the apartments this would be very dangerous because the defenders could accidentally shoot one of their own. Also the accuracy of the defensive fire would be poor with shooters not concentrating their fire in known fields of fire to neutralize the threat.

6. Hide Your Emergency Food And Water Supplies

Why should I hide the food and water supplies?

Each of the apartments will have hidden storage areas for emergency food and water supplies. In a time of crisis or social unrest, food and water will be in short supply due to rioters trying to steal, or the government trying to confiscate it for the common good.

Each of the apartments will have on hand about one year’s supply of food and water for each person living in that apartment.

Places to hide the food and water mainly include little cubby holes in walls and in closets that are camouflaged with false walls or doors. These storage areas should not be in the defensive fields of fire due to the possibility of stray bullets damaging the supplies.

7. Use Roof Top Food Gardens And Rain Water Catching To Replace Used Supplies

Are roof top gardens and water catching systems a good idea to supplement the group’s emergency supplies?

To help replace the groups used emergency food and water supplies roof top food gardens and water catching, purification, and water storage systems will be needed. These gardens will grow fruits and vegetables that grow well in the climate of the city that you live in.

Some of the fruits and vegetables will be eaten fresh with the majority being either canned or dried. The water that is caught will be treated and stored for drinking or stored for use in watering the gardens.

8. Be Smart When Buying Supplies

These are secret projects: this means no building permits, outside contractors, or outside help. Everything must be done by the group members, which means that you should be smart and untraceable. Considering this, keep in mind a few simple rules when buying your supplies:

  • It is much safer to use cash than credit or debit cards. You do not want to leave a paper trail that could alert the authorities.
  • Buy the needed supplies in small amounts and at different locations.
  • Always buy just the needed supplies for the projects you are working on now. Do not stockpile for other projects unless these items are in very short supply.
  • There are at least 3 critical modification supplies that you need for your safety, but there are others that may be needed in your specific situation: steel plates, steel doors, and barbed wire.

9. Apartment Project Communications

Don’t forget about communication when planning you apartment defense. But here comes the question: should I use my smart phone to make arrangements for apartment defense related communications, or do I use other methods?

All communications dealing with the apartment projects should be done in person. Never use phones, emails, texts, regular mail, or other distant communications. Here’s why:

  • Too easy for the government or others to eavesdrop and record!
  • Communicating at a distance can give a false sense of security.
  • Members of the bug-in group will be located and tracked. When a crisis occurs, members of the group may be hunted down and eliminated by experienced shock troops, drones, or anyone else with an interest in eliminating your group.

Keep in mind some useful tips for using phones when it’s impossible to avoid:

  • Never use or own smart phones. If it is absolutely necessary to communicate by phone, use older style cell phones or unlocked phones that do not utilize contracts (i.e. disposable phones). When using any type of cell phone, deactivate GPS (Global Positioning System) and 911 locator systems. When cell phones are not in use, take the battery out so the phone is off the grid.
  • Do not use the same cell phones or number for long periods of time.
  • Never buy disposable replacement phones at the same location, company, or outlet.

10. Internet Usage

Internet is one useful tool, but is it wise to use my own computer or should I use public access computers that are located in public libraries, colleges, or computer cafes?

  • If possible do not use your own computer since they can be tracked and recorded.
  • Get rid of the Windows operating system on your computer. For the best security, use a Linux variant that only boots from a thumb drive, and then keep your critical data on a different drive.
  • Use public libraries, college computers, or computer cafes for your internet research. Transfer information to thumb drives for safe keeping and storage.
  • For very important parts of the apartment’s projects, use actual hard copy books not information gathered on the internet.
  • When at a remote internet site, never log into a social networking account, or any other account that can be tied to you. Make it a habit to never access apartment defense related information at home in conjunction with these accounts, since your entire browsing history is very easy to snoop on regardless of the operating system used on your computer. As a rule of thumb, consider everything transmitted over the internet fair game for spies.
  • Buy books at second hand book stores. Conduct private sales with cash, or obtain discarded library books.
  • When searching the internet for project supplies, use older technologies that use supplies and components that do not draw attention to the group. Older technologies are also harder to trace by various agencies that rely on newer, incompatible technologies.

In a time of crisis some preppers will attempt to bug out, but for most people living in urban cities this may be impossible and they will have to bug in.

Choosing the best way to survive will depend if you and your family want to try to go it alone in your apartment or have several apartments and families working together for the common good. Whatever you choose, I hope you’ll make the right choice for your particular needs in this time of crisis, so you and your beloved ones would survive.


Written by

Fred Tyrrell is an Eagle Scout and retired police officer that loves to hunt, fish, hike, and camp with good friends and family. He is also a champion marksman (rifle, pistol, shotgun) and has direct experience with all of the major gun brands and their clones. Fred refers to himself as a "Southern gentleman" - the last of a dying way. He believes a man's word is his bond, and looks forward to teaching others what he has learned over the years. You can send Fred a message at editor [at]

Latest comments
  • Fred Tyrell,
    for quite a while now have i have been
    reading your articles and hope you keep up the good work!
    Always interesting.

  • Good article. For in-home/apartment a .410 shotgun w/ short barrel or ‘the Judge’, a handgun/revolver which will shoot .410 shells or .45 long Colt pistol ammo(you can alternate rounds if you want, not a bad idea). Low penetration, ie, walls to the next room or apartment) and up close, ie across the room, will do a lot of damage, even with bird shot. They do make, however, different kinds of defense loads for the .410. The .410 also has the advantage of low recoil for small women or teenagers.

  • This is an awesome page. I wie some way I could be an affiliate marketer with you, as I would love to feature this stuff on my website

  • This whole article might be moot if the APARTMENT OWNER isn’t also one of the preppers. How does one get the property owner (who is usually NOT living there) to accept all the modifications to the building that you are proposing?!!!

    • I think if you showed him what you are doing, and included him in all the plans preps, you might be able to win em over. Just have everyone involved ave a meeting, and have the owner there.

      • what you can and can’t do with your apartment is usually always in your lease. I’m not being pessimistic, i just have a lot of pragmatic experience with apartments, landlords, leases, etc.

        If you have a meeting or ask if you can ‘bunker-up’ and fortify ‘in the event’ of something, i’ll not bet you cash, because i don’t want to take your money, But i’ll promise you that you have a better chance winning Powerball than having the owner/landlord allow you to prep up your apartments. It has to do with insurance liability. They’ll think that you would be having too much ‘dangerous’ equipment in your apartments and they might even end your lease ‘contingent upon’. Or worse, drop a dime to the cops that you are ‘suspicious’.

        That’s already a ‘legally’ encouraged practice in New York.

  • Some of the pointer I do agree with. Do not be fooled on the shotgun NOT over penetrating. That is a MYTH. If you have a sawed off shotgun, you might get away with it. Birdshot will go through a sheetrock wall with no problem OO/OOO Buck will go through several walls. Im confused when you said to use 9 mm, 45,40 First you have to hit your targets, and unless a firearm owner practice enough most likely you will miss. then with the Fight or Flight junk kicking your butt, you will miss unless you are conditioned to deal with it. These are poor choices for apartment living. They will go through the whole apt complex.
    For apt defense with weapons I would use FRANGIBLE rounds , and for a AR Low velocity varmint rounds.
    This is why the cops went to the 223/5.56 AR’s over the MP5 9mm, to avoid over penetration.
    Booby traps are great. But you better know the law in your area before you use them. Some places they are against the law. But when Kayos hits who gives a rats butt.
    With my Tactical Shotgun course I go over what shotguns will do to drywall walls, plywood, car doors glass. and what the effects are on the human body. (PORK RIBS)

  • You want knock down capability first and foremost, which would include with proficient practice 38 Spec’l, 357 Mag, 9 mm, 40 S&W, 45 acp to 44 mag and both an AR & AK and 20 or 12 Gauge shotguns with 00 buck and slugs would be good for shooting down a hallway, out into one’s yard or the street while the two rifles are good to well beyond across the street. I would strongly recommend that they should have at least 3,000 rounds per rifle w/12-15 30-round magazines for each as well and 100 shells for each shotgun and 300-500 rounds per pistol. Those would be minimum’s to start with. Also a semi-auto 22 rifle for foraging, rats & mice, and head shots on game birds and several 1,000 rounds of 22 LR’s up to 5,000 or as high as 10,000 would be wise as they can also be used for barter. Home defense when it comes to weapons one need’s to realize its not for just one set of events, but anticipate many firefights over a 2-3 year period in your planning because when the SHTF you won’t be able to get any more guns, ammo, or cleaning supplies and also laying in a coup[le fully stocked trauma kits is very prudent along with 2-way radios for your household members along with ample water supply and at least a full year’s worth of long-term stored (freeze dried) food!

    Pre-filling some sand bags to position in one’s home or apartment would be a plus and 2-bags thick barricade will stop about any size and velocity bullets!

    The above would cover most situations short of being burned out of your residence which one should also have a contingency plan and escape route for.

  • I enjoyed Fred’s article, but he is wrong about the AR-15 over-penetrating. A 9mm will actually over penetrate more than a 55 gr., soft point, .556 round. I am also a retired police officer, and work at a police academy where we test these things all the time.

  • Re: booby traps… illegal in most municipalities.

  • Good article Fred, There was no mention of the use of Lexan sheets over windows, walls and doors. I am pretty sure it is fire resistant and resists bullets and explosions better than steel of the same weight. it is less intrusive when modifying an apartment. Because of the flexibility of Lexan it needs to be anchored to a solid structure so when it is struck by an ax, sledge hammer, or battering ram, it does not pop out of a frame. Anyone with any experience with Lexan for advice on its use?