|Ornamental but very functional security bars.|
The first concern can be taken care of with curtains/blinds. In normal times, your basic home window coverings will work--and make sure to draw them, especially at night. A lit room at night stands out like a beacon to the dark outside work; your every move is visible, while you can't see a darned thing outside. Shut the blinds and pull the curtains.
After TEOTWAWKI, you will want to beef up your window coverings, especially if you have light sources inside. Maintaining a low profile is of prime consideration in any emergency, so avoid being lit up like a Christmas tree for every would-be looter or brigand sniper. Limit light use to a small portion of the house, and cover those windows with heavy blackout curtains.
For the second concern - people gaining entry via windows - the ideal would be a windowless bunker - or maybe a bunker with narrow, castle-style firing ports. You probably can't pull that off though and will have to settle for a boring regular home. So you will have some sort of windows, and you'll need to harden those.
I've got several good solutions for you. Interested? Click the link below!
The classic window security measure are burglar bars - prison-style bars over windows. These will definitely slow an intruder down or persuade them to move onto a softer target. They're not exactly subtle, though, and may attract more attention than they're worth. You can certainly invest in more decorative bars, like those pictured earlier in the post. If done on a limited scale and with the right home, a few security barred windows could fly under the radar. If you opt for bars, make sure that bars over any bedroom windows can be released from the inside in case of fire.
In many areas, storm or hurricane shutters are fairly common. These are great--you can batten down the hatches and cover any window with a sturdy, storm-proof metal shutter. If they're not already set up on your house, they will be a big chunk of change to install.
If storm shutters are out of your price range, you can get pre-set up for plywood boards like those seen during hurricane evacs. Measure your windows and then add eight inches to both height and width; you want four inches of overlap on every side. The plywood boards should be 5/8 inch thick, exterior rated stuff. Pre-drill your plywood boards - 2.5 inches from the edge, holes spaced 12 inches apart) and drill/set corresponding wood/masonry anchors in your home. Secure with 1/4" to 3/8" lag bolts. For pressure relief purposes, four holes are drilled in the middle of each board. Mark/number each board and store. While plywood boards can be defeated, they will slow an intruder down considerably, provide protection from storms and give your house that "abandoned" look. If you're in hurricane (or zombie) territory, you should have these at a minimum. If you're less concerned about your windows and more concerned about people prying the boards off, install them inside the window. More info here.
Window security films are another option. These can be applied to any ol' window and don't alter the appearance - they still look like regular windows. These films hold the glass together when it's shattered and make it harder and more time consuming to bust through a window. There's lots of demo and real life video out there - here's some of security film protecting against rioters during the Toronto riots. Here's some more about 3M Film standing up to bomb blasts.You can get the film installed professionally or buy a roll and apply it yourself; I'd start with the ground level, most vulnerable windows. Big rolls for DIY are available on Amazon for around $50-$75, though it appears to be no-name stuff and I can't vouch for the quality.
Finally, mesh screens over windows are also helpful, especially if you will be opening the window up for ventilation. A mesh screen isn't much, but it's better than nothing and keeps out bugs to boot. Heavier weight mesh can do a decent job of protecting against thrown objects, too.
So there you have it - burglar bars, storm shutters, plywood boards and security films are all possible ways to secure your windows. Security film is the best option for most of us, and can be paired with any of the others for added security.
Next time around, we will delve into a topic that I'm sure will generate a bit of interest - firing positions! Stay tuned!