Home Defense Tips & Fortification For SHTF

home defense tips

Knowing how to defend your home from home invasion and attack is an important survival skill and one that you should master so you can protect yourself, your family and perhaps, your community from the roving bands of the unprepared after TSHTF (the shit hits the fan).

This his article is meant to be a crash course in home defense tips for preppers however the information is also vital for anyone living in rural areas where help from police may be 30-minutes or more away or even non-existent because of a lack of phone service where you and your family will be the frontline of defense for your home and property.

Well, let’s get started…

OCOKA is a military term that stands for – Observation and fields of fire, Cover, and Concealment, Obstacles, Key Terrain, Avenues of Approach. When setting up retreat and home defenses OCOKA should always be kept in mind and each principle addressed when considering ideas for DIY home security for preppers.

Following these five key principles, you will greatly improve your home security and survivability. Let’s take a quick look at each in more detail.

Observation and Fields of Fire

You need to be able to see a potential threat at the earliest opportunity if you can see the threat early, and hopefully, before that threat see’s you, then you can make the correct decisions to either make contact, hide, or prepare to defend your area with force.

Can you observe all avenues of approach from your retreat? Do you have a full 360 degrees of view around your property? Are there areas that intruders could exploit to get close and possibly steal from, loot or attack you without being seen?

If forced could you fire upon an attacker from all angles without them being able to hide from view or without you possibly accidentally, shooting your neighbors or damaging key resources? If not then you need to get to work clearing obstacles that limit your view and ability to fire upon an attacker if you’re forced to do so.

Cover and Concealment

Cover is protection from bullets and concealment is something you can hide behind where an attacker cannot see you, but concealment offers no protection from gunfire. No matter what you’ve seen in the movies, car doors, kitchen tables, typical home entry doors, or the bed mattress isn’t cover and will not reliably protect you from being struck by bullets as they pass through.

If there isn’t any natural cover at your retreat, then you’ll need to get to work now constructing something that will protect you from bullets. You could build some decorative concrete or rock walls, tall raised flower or garden beds. These could provide effective cover and still allow your home to bend in with other homes around you and not look like a fortification.

It’s also a good idea to have a supply of sandbags on hand that can be filled with sand and/or dirt to provide an effective way to put up cover quickly in needed areas. Even unused trash cans that are filled with sand or dirt can work well if you have several to work with. Just remember that the area between the cans doesn’t provide effective cover, only concealment, no matter how close that you push them together.


Home Defense TipsObstacles are meant to slow or stop an attacker or to force him to go in a different direction either away from you or into a position where he is more vulnerable to you; preferably, into an area that offers him no means of cover or concealment.

One of the simplest and effective obstacles that you can put up is a fence. Don’t wait until a disaster; get to work putting up a fence now. It will increase your security and probably, your property value. The key, to success here, is to take a look around at the other houses in your area and note what types of fencing is already in use and put up a similar type around your property. The key is to blend in with everyone else; this will help you to avoid becoming a target.

Obstacles can also be used to stop vehicles from entering your property or neighborhood. For example, falling several trees close together in an interwoven pattern can be a very effective obstacle that can even stop tracked vehicles, if done correctly.

No matter how strong the obstacles that you put in place are given enough time an attacker can work through and remove that obstacle if given enough time by being unchallenged, meaning that key areas and avenues of approach should be blocked by obstacles and covered by observation – this will give you and your group early warning and time to escape or mount an offensive attack against the trespassers.

Key Terrain

Key Terrain is any piece of terrain that offers an advantage to whoever controls it. Think the high-ground. If you can take the high-ground it can drastically increase your observation and offer an advantage if your area comes under attack. Take control of and retain that key terrain, you don’t want a potential attacker to gain control of that area and be able to use it to watch you, or worse use it to attack you or your area. One lone sniper could use the advantage given by such key terrain to wipe-out your entire family, group or community, with a few well-placed rifle shots.

Even if you’re in an urban area or the ground for miles under your feel is flat any taller than normal buildings can be viewed as key terrain or the high-ground. Control these and use to your advantage.

Avenues of Approach

This goes hand-in-hand with observation and fields of fire – look around and note the most likely avenues of approach that an intruder or attacker would take to reach you. Watch roads, pathways, waterways and open areas that lead up to your property, key terrain as mentioned above will offer a huge advantage here. And remember the father you can see the threat the better, the distance will give you more time to decide what needs to be done and how to do it, depending on the threat presented.

OKOKA: Observation and fields of fire, Cover, and Concealment, Obstacles, Key Terrain, Avenues of Approach. Memorize it and use it when setting up your retreat defenses. Now let’s look at a few more key defensive strategies and points.

Staying Hidden

No doubt about it; the surest way to survive a fight is to avoid getting into one in the first place. Too many preppers have an offensive mindset when it comes to retreat defense. Sadly, many will suffer for it. Forget about the macho BS, there is no shame in hiding until a threat passes by, in fact, it’s the smart thing to do.

As a family, or small survival group you cannot afford to risk injuries or worse casualties because you let your ego driven Rambo fantasies to guide you into taking offensive action when it could have been avoided it. However, you should be ready to violently, defend your area and retreat if a confrontation cannot be avoided.

Combat Multipliers

A combat multiplier is anything that makes you and your group more effective or more difficult for an attacker to defeat. You should amass as many combat multiplies as possible now, before the time of need. You don’t want to wait until the marauders are coming through the window to start thinking about it, then it will be too late – don’t put off until tomorrow what should be done today, your life depends on it.

Things like knowing your terrain, improvised alarms and boobie traps, holding key terrain, having long-range weapons, night vision equipment, body armor, two-way radios, semi-automatic weapons, putting in obstacles or reinforcing natural ones, camouflage, mobility, trained guard dogs etc. are all combat multipliers and should be considered in your retreat defensive plans.

Funneling the Attack

Funneling the attack in the simplest terms means using roadblocks (both natural and man-made) to “guide the attacker(s) into a place of your choosing and where you have a definitive tactical advantage.

Ambush and the Element of Surprise

An ambush can be used as both an offensive and defensive tactical maneuver, for example, an ambush could be used to attack a convoy in an offensive maneuver outside of your perimeter, and also to defend against an attacker or attackers, that have entered your property or home. Hide and wait until the attackers have reached a predetermined position where they are most vulnerable, then spring the ambush.

An effective ambush doesn’t always mean shooting and killing those being ambushed, while gunfire is an option depending on the circumstances, you can also us an ambush to capture potential attackers and then make a decision on what to do with them after you’ve gained more knowledge through questioning or interrogation.

Early Warning is a Must

home defense tips

This is the last thing that you want to wake up to a 3:00 AM – effective early warning systems are a must!

The sooner you know an intrusion is going to happen the better, time will allow you and your group to make a decision to stay and fight or make a speedy get-away. If you decide to stay and fight, early warning will hopefully allow you the time to get into the best possible defendable positions, or to plan an effective ambush.

Early warning for trespassers or attackers can come from a number of different options. For example; informants, lookouts placed in key locations that lead up to your retreat, dogs, motion activated lights, improved alarms, spotlights, security cameras etc.

It’s best not to rely on just one type of early warning device because it might be bypassed or could fail. For example, you could have a lookout a mile or two away with a two-way radio overlooking a road or trail that leads into your location, and then improvised alarm devices a little further in, and then guard dogs on the outskirts and perimeter of your property or retreat location.

Layered Defense

You should divide your area into three layers of defense – the outer layer, intermediate layer and the inner layer. The outer layer could be the area as far as you can see out past your property line, the intermediate layer could be anywhere inside your property-line and the inner layer would be your home. With each layer providing increasing levels of security and protection.

You will have a plan of action for each layer of defense. For example your outer layer could be a watch and report area only with no action being taken against anyone that wonders inside that layer – unless, of course, you know that they are planning to attack and loot you at your location, then defensive action could be taken to prevent them from ever reaching your second or third layer of defense.

Your second layer would probably be your property line; this would preferably be marked by a chained link or barbed wire fence. Anyone crossing into this area is probably up to no good and should be dealt with aggressively; the extent of your aggression will depend on the depth and length of the disaster.

Your third layer would be inside your home and in most cases, deadly force can and should be used here.

The key to an effective layered defense is for you and your group to know where each layer begins and ends and to have a predetermined plan of action for each layer when that layer has been breached, and to practice each scenario until it can be done effectively, even when you’re tired and hungry.


Misinformation is simply, leading anyone your group to believe something that you want them to believe that isn’t true. Let’s say for example that you know or suspect that someone or a group is listening in on your two-way-radio communications, to gain Intel before they loot or steal from you. You can use this fact to your advantage, by feeding them false information via your two-way communications or through know informants.

For example; you could make them believe that your group is larger or better armed than you are or lead them to think you’re going to be in one place but in reality, you’re setting an ambush, or planning your escape. The key is to make it believable and have a workable plan where you can use their response to your false information to your tactical advantage.

False or misleading information could also be used to make your neighbors think that you are worse off than they are. For example; you could show up at their door begging for food, when in fact you have a well-stocked pantry.  Just don’t be too aggressive by demanding that they share whatever they have with you because you might get shot if they mistake you as a threat.

Official looking signs can also be used to good effect when planting seeds of false information, for example; you could post official looking “Food and Water 5 Miles” with an arrow pointing down the road and away from your location. Use your imagination and I’m sure that you can come up with other ideas for signs that will mislead and confuse strangers that wander into your town or onto your property.

Defensive Positions

defending your home

Most homes were not built to defeat gunfire and bullets will pass right through the walls and riddle anyone caught in between. It is best to defend your home from the outside where you have more visibility and mobility. This is where your early warning devices come into play, by knowing when someone is approaching your location but before they get there, you and your group have time to get into a defensive or ambush position.

Sandbags are very useful and effective when setting up defensive poisons that offer ballistic cover. They are cheap enough (or can be improvised) that you can stock up on hundreds of bags for under $100 and can be filled with sand or dirt that you dig up from your property.

Although; you don’t want to defend your home from the inside it’s still a good idea to build up the area around and near the windows with filled sandbags. This will offer cover if for some unfortunate reason you were surprised and trapped inside the structure.

Lining the area inside your pouch up to the railing with filled sandbags is also a good idea. This will offer a protected shooting position that can be occupied quickly if an attacker or trespasser were to get inside your second layer of defense before you have time to man your main defensive positions away from your main living structure.

Your main defensive positions should be set up in key locations around your property and can range from hardened pillbox type structures with thick reinforced concrete or rammed earth walls to simple spider holes, or a mixture of both.

Don’t Look Like an Easy Target

Don’t be an easy target, and even if you are, you can use misinformation to make would be looters or attackers think that you’re far stronger and better armed than you really are. If they think you are a hard target hopefully they will think that going up against you is not worth the risk and move on in search of an easier target.

OPSEC – Operational Security

We hear this all of the time in prepper and survivalist circles, OPSEC aka operational security and it is very important now and will be a major factor toward keeping you and your group secure after the balloon goes up. The number one rule of OPSEC is to keep your mouth shut – everything should be done on a need-to-know basis and most people don’t need to know anything about what you and your group are doing.

A Plan of Retreat

No matter how well prepared or strong our defenses, we could be faced with a superior force that greatly outnumbers and outgun us, where staying and fighting would be suicidal. You need a plan of retreat, preferably, a way to retreat without being seen or confronted by the superior force. An escape tunnel from your home that leads to a hidden and safe evacuation point would be ideal. But most preppers don’t have the room or the resources to put such a plan and tunnels into place.

Again; this is where early warning by lookouts with two-way-radios and alarms can save your life. If you know a threat is approaching you have time to evaluate the threat and make a decision of whether to stay and fight or retreat. You should have a predetermined destination where everyone in your group knows to meet up if you’re forced from your retreat area.

Also having caches of first-aid, water, food and ammo along the way and at the safe location is a good idea. Get those into place now, before the time of need. Also, each member of your group should have an escape or “bug out bag” that can be quickly grabbed as the escape plan is being put into action.

I know many survivalists/preppers will resist the thought of retreating from their retreat, preferring to stay and fight even if defeat and death are certain. You know; take out as many of those SOB’s as possible before they take your location and while this is admirable, it isn’t the best decision.

The escape can be used to buy you time to get better organized and plan for a counterattack where you can ultimately, take your property back from the aggressors. I’ve talked to several preppers who have their main food caches hidden on their property while having a separate smaller cache out in the open for looters to find if they make it that far.

But the surprise is that those preppers have poisoned their “decoy cache” of food items ( I don’t advocate doing this but it is what some preppers are doing). So they plan to retreat, wait, then come back and remove the looters/attackers after they have died of the poison.

Well, folks, there you have it… my best ideas for DIY home defense tips for preppers when the shit really hits the fan…

M.D. Creekmore

I've been interested in self-reliance topics for over 25 years. I’m the author of four books that you can find here. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about prepping, homesteading, and self-reliance topics through first-hand experience and now I want to share what I’ve learned with you.

16 Responses

  1. Arizona says:

    MY FRIEND,The LORD has shown me this war coming,it didn’t turn out to well for anyone out in the country,WE were searching for chinese military to attack them,every house we went to the chinese had already been there,everyone was dead,including their pets and children,then in another vision we were searching for remnants of russian military,They were easer to find,they were mainly hiding out in the mountains,we got them,we had a group of eight men and were combing the countryside ,and most of the time hungry,the russians always had plenty of food,just not good smarts…..ITS coming very soon ,take care….

  2. Bluesman says:

    Good points to ponder on home defense . We just don’t talk about “our stuff”, what goes on at our house stays at our house. We don’t tell people how much we grow, can, dry or buy .We think “need to know” or ” want to know”. There is definitely no need to know for outsiders period .The old adage of loose lips sinks ships is a good anaolgy.
    We build good friendly relationships with our closest neighbors . We think that 24 hour security will be our biggest problem. Perhaps I will begin collecting bells ,and some barb wire to hang them on . A little rustic decor may enhance the brush .

  3. Jack says:

    MD, an excellent article that should motivate folks to prepare their individualized plan. We own a property in a gated subdivision with armed guards at every entrance. The recent flooding in our Philippine province should have taught the unprepared a lesson if they had only looked and listened. By the end of day one, the guards on duty had already put in 24 hours. None of the other guards from far away could get to the subdivision to do a shift and most of the guards that were here remained on-site for the entire duration. To me, it was rather obvious that tired, overworked personal would be less than effective. Add in the nasty way some residents treat these first lines of defenders, it is no wonder to me that some issues may occur at these times. In serious SHTF scenarios, who could blame these guards for bailing out to go home and protect their families? Maria and I have put in place many small lines of defence and plan to lie low with our preps. We also backed that up with alternative locations (fully stocked) in the event things get too wild near our home. Urban subdivisions are certainly not the kind of terrain I am used to operating in but we must make do with what we have to work with.

    • Jack,

      Thank you. I hope that it does motivate folks, because while lots of folks seem to think that all is well when all it takes is to watch the “news” a few times in a week to see that the reality is far different.

  4. J. Smith says:

    When using OCOKA always assess with regards to yours and the postulated threats anticipated, or better yet known weapons systems, observation and device capabilities. Blue team it, and red team it. Postulate a most likely enemy course of action, and a most dangerous enemy course of action, build contingencies with tactics, personnel and equipment against them and you should be able to cover-down on anything in between the most likely and most dangerous courses of enemy action.

    For security, apply the principles of deterrence, detection, delay and response; from the outside in, early and often. Layered defense, external and internal perimeters, barriers and security. The goal is to increase your “blue-line” (meaning the time you have to respond) as much as possible from the detection/delay phase to your response phase; meaning detect early, implement as much delay against a tango en-route to your key area (s) increasing the amount of time you have to react to your tango before they get to your key area (s). This does not mean that you have to make your place look like a fortress, it just shouldn’t look vulnerable and freedom of movement, permissibility of environment, tactical advantage, etc…should favor you.

    Deterrence: No Trespassing signs, Beware of Dog, This Premise is under video surveillance. Cameras both fake and real that are quite obvious. Ideally an outer perimeter fence. Motion lights. Planting plants/bushes on potential secondary avenues of approach and from areas of observation that make entry into the perimeter difficult or even painful and observation difficult.

    Detection: Perimeter motion sensor alarms like driveway sensors. Cameras with motion sensing capability, ideally small surreptitious cameras with audio. Motion lights. A DOG that runs the perimeter. Neighborhood watch participants. Tripwire alarms.

    Delay: A DOG! (see a pattern yet?), plant/bush barriers, fences, gates, increase distance from outer perimeter to key area (s) if possible, slalom path to your house with natural barriers that obstruct direct view and ingress. If in a permissive area, dig a trench across the main driveway, 2-3′ deep; 3-4′ long, 8′ wide with no way around it with natural barriers that are only recognized as such when the trench is filled with an unwanted vehicle. A surreptitious trench if correctly done can stop an MRAP. Build a removable cover for the trench, under normal conditions that can be driven over. Once needed replace with dummy cover.

    Response: Scalable to the size, nature and disposition of the potential or actual threat. Meet the threat early with a choice of responses, even a small UAV, and have fixed fallback positions that provide cover that can be abandoned, design them so as to not give the threat forward cover positions if they gain the advantage, and you have to retreat as they advance on you. Make them earn every inch. Always keep a reserve contingent to back up the main response effort as you canalize the threat into a kill box, and always have escape routes/paths/avenues along your entire response route forward all the way to the protected key area (s).

    It is easy to make a safe room, build in an interior space like a walk-in closet, build walls and fill with 2a or 2b gravel roughly size of a quarter, this will disrupt most rifle caliber bullets, and once a void is made by a bullet striking the wall the gravel moves to fill it so essentially it doesn’t break down. A good interior barrier to seal the gravel in is HDPE (high-density polyethylene plastic) sheets as the walls. Get them up to an 1″ thick. I’ve seen 1′ 8’x8′ sheets for about $200 a sheet, more or less. They can provide a significant ballistic protection capability, especially used in layers with other material like the gravel. The key is to disrupt the bullet, slow its velocity, decrease energy, make it deform, expand, then use additional materials like HDPE to stop it once disrupted. General purpose HDPE is not bullet proof, it is bullet resistant once the bullet is disrupted. See Professional Plastics website for other ballistic panel options. Unless you want to just put AR500 steel all around the room. Yeah right. Consider ballistic blankets as well. They are multi-purpose and can be used hastily in many situations at home, in the car against bullets and explosive threats.

    Learn and practice OODA looping. Have multiple contingency plans.

  5. Thor1 says:

    Good article, think about vehicles entering your house. Smash and grab tactics. Metal pipes filled with concrete in bushes. How about a gun safe next to the front door, ARMOR !!! How about ballbearings on smooth floors or nail boards by windows ??? Don’t forget a lot of fire extinguishers and ammo and improvised munition on top of what MD already stated. You want to make them think about you being their worst nightmare…… 😉

  6. Thor1 says:

    Good article, think about vehicles entering your house. Smash and grab tactics. Metal pipes filled with concrete in bushes. How about a gun safe next to the front door, ARMOR !!! How about ballbearings on smooth floors or nail boards by windows ??? Don’t forget a lot of fire extinguishers and ammo and improvised munition on top of what MD already stated. You want to make them think about you being their worst nightmare…… 😉 .

  7. Greg M. says:

    M.D., Very good review for any kind of defense. OCOKA is a great tool for assessing a situation and establishing a defense, regardless of where you are. Thanks for a good refresher.

  8. Forrest Mosby says:

    I prepared in advance over 200 treble type fish hooks hanging 2 inches apart at various heights from lines precut to hang in gaps in the forrested area behind my house with lanes to allow for egress by us if needed.The hooks are strung on monofilament fishing line and can’t b seen at night.
    Anyone trying to approach from that angle will find themselves ensnared about their head, neck and shoulders.
    Easy to precut and have ready to string at a moments notice.
    Anyone hitting that wont be quiet for long,giving my night guard a heads up.

  9. Oren says:

    I like this article. It’s one of many from this site that will be saved or future reference. I have a home with way too much glass, a number of blind spots and some areas I not sure how I’m going to secure. Probably won’t get a guard dog, my wife feels sorry for dogs who have to stay in the yard. My response…why do they have to stay in the yard? My son and daughter-law had a mastiff who stayed in the house!
    Anyway, I have a lot of work to get done. This is the work plan. Thanks for taking the time to put it together.

  10. Prepared Grammy says:

    Great article! I’m going to reread and study it. It’s full of excellent information. Thanks.

  11. Cndnate says:

    I think it important to mention fire resistant roofing an siding , as well as hurricane film for glass window, plus fire extinguishers. They have small temporary sprinkler kits now that mount on your gutter and run on your garden hose (or could be waters permanently)

  12. thatldo says:

    We have small cactus all over on our property, you have to watch your foot placement. The tires on our garden tractor has to have sealant otherwise I would put solid tires on it. Usually end up pulling cactus off my boots. Up by the house I’ve cleared it out, so not an issue. Plus, over the years we have reinforced the fence line, and planted trees around the perimeter. But you are right about needing more lighting, not much around our place.