A big part of being prepared has to do with planning for the unexpected. That not only includes prepping for a natural disaster, but also coming up with a strategy for coping with the day to day challenge of petty crime and burglary.
This comes into greater focus for preppers because we have a lot at stake in terms of our cache of emergency preps. Whatever you want to call them, burglars are bad guys. If someone breaks in to your home – be it a seaside cottage in Washington State, an apartment in the city, or a garden home in a planned community – a break-in is a break-in and is therefore a violation of your most sacred space: your home.
Today I share with you 12 things people commonly do to roll out the welcome mat to invite the bad guys to pay them a visit. I also offer some suggestions of things you can do now to make your home less attractive to these uninvited visitors.
Is Your Home a Target for the Bad Guys?
1. Leaving the doors and windows unlocked while you are home inside.
You would be surprised at how many folks dutifully lock up when they are away but leave their doors and windows wide open and unattended when they are home. When I first moved to my current location, strangers would simply walk up to my house and walk right in – supposedly curious to see what it looked like from the inside.
I now leave both the front and back doors locked so that all that these unwelcome visitors get is a rattling door knob and the barking wrath of Tucker the Dog.
2. Hiding a key under the mat, over the door frame, in a barbecue or some other place that every crook in the county knows about.
This is something else that smart people do, They hide a key in the most obvious place they can think of – probably so they will not forget themselves. The problem with this is that everyone else knows about these hidey holes as well. Fake rock with a well built in for a key? Jeesh – everyone knows about those. Instead, invest in a secure key safe such as this one that is mounted outside my back door.
Key Box mounted at my back porch
3. Using Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites to advertise your whereabouts.
Many Facebook and Twitter aficionados post their every movement on these and other social networks. Going to the mall? It is on Facebook. Going to a movie? It is on Twitter.
Believe it. The thieves are watching. It is not too difficult to become a friend or a friend of a friend and before you know it, your security is compromised because the world knows you are not at home. The solution? Stop broadcasting your whereabouts except on a need to know basis.
4. Showing off all the good stuff in your house by leaving packaging and empty boxes from your new electronic toys outside at the curb.
Say a burglar is scoping the neighborhood looking for target. He sees that big empty box at the curb. You know – the one your new 50” flat screen came in. You can bet that this guy is going to case your place, waiting until you are away to come on in and help himself. Now that 50” flat screen may be too big for him to cart away but if you have that flat screen TV, his assumption is that you are going to have a lot more goodies.
Moral of the story? Don’t advertise that you have expensive new stuff.
Bonus: Many online vendors, including Emergency Essentials, will ship your order in a plain, unmarked box. All you need to do is ask.
5. Keeping the place in the dark.
For a few cents a day, you can invest in some economical lighting for your outside area. The newer light bulbs last forever and can brighten up a porch or yard, deterring not only the prowlers but the four legged critters as well. You can put the lights on dawn to dusk timers making the lighting a set it and forget it operation. Personally, a well-lit home is more important than a new outfit or some other trinket. And that – in a nutshell – says a lot.
Lighting in my backyard – powered by my Harbor Freight solar kit
6. Putting up signs indicating your home has a silent alarm, whether true or not.
Let’s get real. The silent alarm goes off and how long does it take for the cops or the sheriff’s deputies to arrive? Ten minutes, twenty? As a former city dweller, I had one of those high-end monitored alarm systems. That was okay and offered a bit of comfort but in looking back, just how useful was that silent alarm? When the silent alarm went off, so did a very loud alarm – one so loud that it would wake up the neighbors.
These days I have the loud alarm, my dog, and a shotgun.
7. Going on vacation without stopping the mail or the daily delivery of the newspaper.
While you are gone, stop the mail, stop the papers, and have a trusted family member or neighbor know you are gone. Better yet, do what I do and have someone stay in your home and house-sit. If you live in a planned community, let the security people know you will be gone.
One other thing: hold off on posting those vacation pictures online until you are back at home. Why advertise that your house is empty, tempting the burglar to drop on by?
8. Leaving the garage door open or unlocked.
This is so easy to do, especially if you have a detached garage like I do. You are running in and out many times a day and it is a pain in the neck to keep unlocking the door then locking it up again. The problem is two fold: first, with the door wide open, passersby (and this includes thieves looking for their next target) can see your stuff. All your tools, your sporting goods, your stored canned goods and your garden equipment can look awfully attractive to someone who covets those things.
It make take a few extra minutes to close the door and lock things up, but that is exactly what you should do. And while you are at it, how about some curtains or mini-blinds for those garage windows?
9. Crappy locks are good as no locks at all.
The bad guys will simply bypass your home if it requires too much effort or requires more skill and tools to get in than they possess. Invest in quality dead bolt locks with at least a one inch throw. Also double check the throw plate since most are pretty flimsy. Upgrade to a four-screw, heavy-duty, high security strike plate which should be available in any hardware store.
If you have a sliding glass door, get an inexpensive wooden dowel to fit insider the railing or track. This will deter the door from moving, even if the latch has been compromised. while you are gone.
And, once again, let me remind you that for your own safety, lock those doors!
10. Leaving cash, jewelry and other precious items out in the open for everyone to see.
Consider a home safe. Home safes are coming down in price and are a wise choice for keeping cash, jewelry, precious metals or guns from inquisitive children, snooping babysitters, and of course, the smash and grab burglar.
11. The yards a mess, the bushes are overgrown, and the hedge keeps things nice an private.
Your yard may be shouting out an invitation: come hide here where no one will see you. The burglars and thieves don’t want to be seen so what better choice than to find a yard full of clutter where they will blend right in with the chaos. Or, even better, how about a yard full of over grown bushes that make sneaky hiding places? Or trees that have thick, sturdy branches that reach out to second story windows and the roof?
Now is the time to get out those clippers and trash bags so that you can clean out the excess brush – and the junk – making it more difficult for the thieves to hide in plain sight, right outside your front door.
12. Your neighbors are grouchy, too old, too young, too persnickety or ???
Whatever feelings you have about your neighbors, find at least one that you can trust and be a good neighbor. Good neighbors will look out for each other. If you can, get to know your neighbors on each side of your home and at least one neighbor directly across the street. Invite them into your home, communicate often, and establish trust. Good neighbors will watch out for your home or apartment when you are away and they can report suspicious activity to the police or directly to you while you are away.
The important thing here is to get to know your neighbors and learn whether you can trust them now, before you head out for an extended vacation. (See 9 Simple Ways for Preppers to Be a Good Neighbor.)
The Final Word
When it comes to security, it is easy to focus on security after the disaster or after the collapse, when thugs and looters are running rampant and desperate to take whatever they can from others. Doesn’t it make good sense, however, to include present day home security as part of your preps?
Enjoy your next adventure through common sense and thoughtful preparation!
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Bargain Bin: Today I have selected some great items that will help you secure the home front. Except for the keypad deadbolt, I own all of these items.
Kidde Access Point Key Safe: This key safe is similar to mine and holds five keys. The best thing about it is that I am always losing my house key in the woods or on the trails and this allows me to get back inside. (And, so far so good, I always go back on find my key which is on a brightly colored flex bracelet so it is easy to spot.)
Keypad Deadbolt: Here is another good security option,. With this, you will never have to worry about locking yourself out plus, you can secure the deadbolt from inside the house.
Dorcy LED Wireless Motion Sensor Flood Lite: This light is awesome. I use mine downstairs and on my stairwell. When I get up in the middle of the night, the lights come on automatically. It is quite unobtrusive (I own two in black) and gives off a ton of light. Runs for a year on 3 D size batteries.
First Alert Digital Anti-Theft Laptop Safe: Nothing beats a home safe for storing away valuables including cash (which I hope you have), precious metals, your small firearms and other lockables. This is the model I own and in addition to the items above, it holds my laptop and other electronics. I like the size – it was easy to bolt down and of course, to hide among my other belongings.
Holding Your Ground: Preparing for Defense if it All Falls Apart: This is a really good book from Joe Nobody – a book you should read if you care about defending your homestead.
Sabre Family Home & Property Protection Pepper Spray: This small fire extinguisher-style pepper spray delivers a strong blast covering an entire doorway. Offering extremely practical protection, SABRE provides distance from your threat with its 30 foot range. I like that it includes a wall mount. For a more economical solution, visit your local hardware store and stock up on wasp spray. Very effective.
Midland 36-Mile 50-Channel FRS/GMRS Two-Way Radios: These are the handheld radios that I own. There are lots of good uses for the these radios. Handy while hiking, traveling, or simply keeping in touch with your partner while out shopping. Note: the true range for this type of radio is actually 4 to 6 miles, regardless of brand. Don’t be fooled.
Two-Way Radios and Scanners For Dummies: I will say it again. Yes, I love these books for “dummies” even though I actually think I am quite smart.
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