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I grew up in a pretty small town, and it took me longer than I care to admit to get comfortable with big-city living. It was a necessity for work but living in an apartment was an eye opener for me. In my first building there were three break-ins over the space of six months, and after I moved out there was a pretty nasty home invasion that made the news. Trouble is, by the time the police arrived it was too late. And this wasn't even during a disaster. It was a Tuesday night.

That's just scary. In your own home you deserve to feel safe. But you can't simply assume that everything is hunky-dory once you move in. Especially in an apartment block. Today I'm going to run through a list of easy steps to follow to better secure your apartment against a home invasion. Because once the SHTF the police will no longer respond. It's on you.

Do your research

Before moving anywhere, it's important to consider the neighborhood you'll be living in. Look at the crime statistics, and talk to the people living in the building. They'll be able to give you an insight that the management may not be willing to say. Also pay attention to the security of the apartment. Do the windows lock? Is the door strong and sturdy? The key is to find a place that doesn't need a whole lot of upgrades that the landlord may not agree to.

Fortify the entry points

Most apartments only have a single door, and another if you've got a balcony or a fire escape. The first thing you need to ask your landlord is to change the locks, it's a simple step but it reduces the chances that the creepy guy downstairs will be able to walk right in. While you're asking, see if they're OK adding a barrel bolt you can use as another layer of protection when you're at home.

Use makeshift alarms

If someone is trying to break in you want as much notice as possible. There's simple alarms you can install on doors and windows that you can arm while you sleep, and the racket they make when activated will certainly give an intruder second thoughts. You could also hand bells above the door so they chime when it's opened, and line your window sills with vases and decorations that will create a lot of noise when they fall.

Don't showcase your stuff

If you've ever wandered around after dark you know that having your lights on without drawing the blinds is a bad idea. Anyone on the street can see what you're doing and what you have, and it could be the deciding factor they use to break into your apartment. As soon as it starts getting dark ensure you've pulled your blinds closed.

Install camera surveillance

Wireless cameras are getting more and more cost-effective, and they are easy to install and setup. Ensure you buy the ones with a motion-activated alarm and night vision, and put them at key points around your apartment. The ones I use come with an app that allows me to see what's going on via my phone, so if I hear a strange noise I can see what's going on without even leaving the safety of my bedroom.

Remember the power of lights

Most bad guys like operating in the dark. Not only does it give them the element of surprise, it helps to conceal their identity from the authorities or anyone watching. The simplest way to overcome this is to install motion-activated lights on all entry points. You will need to get your landlords approval in a rental apartment, but it's worth it.

Be a friendly neighbor

Forget the cops. In a real home invasion, they won't make it in time. Instead, make friends with your neighbors. Put in the effort to learn their names when you move in, go around and introduce yourself, and make a little small talk when you see them. The key is to get them to like you, as they're much more likely to look out for someone they have a good relationship with. This also has an ulterior motive, as you'll also be able to judge for yourself if there's anyone suspicious living in your building.

Learn to defend yourself

If all else fails, it's important you know how to defend yourself. Get a firearm and take classes down at your local shooting range. Buy pepper spray and store it at key points around your apartment. Keep a strikelight as both a torch and a weapon. And stay fit. Those looking to break in are after easy targets, so do whatever you can to develop your fighting skills and make yourself a less-attractive target.

Have an escape plan

In a small apartment a safe room is usually impossible. Especially if you're in a one-bedder or a studio. So it's important to have an escape plan. Know exactly what you will do if someone comes barging through the front door, whether you're on the ground floor and can run straight out the back, or you've got a fire escape or a rope ladder you can use to get out of a window quick. Plan now, just in case.

Being safe in your apartment isn't something you need to get paranoid about. Follow these steps to ensure you've done your best, and consider if there's anything that's missing for your specific situation. Take a critical look at your apartment like an outsider would and think about how you'd break in. Then fix it. That's the key to staying safe, being one step ahead of those trying to break in.

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