Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Home Security in the Suburbs

     This is a topic I believe very strongly in. One of my primary responsibilities as a parent, and husband, is to protect my family. If you think it through, that's a very broad statement which includes everything from putting on seat belts to carrying a concealed weapon. I won't pretend to be some super qualified, special forces trained, junior g-man, security expert. I'm just an average guy, living in an average subdivision, in an average metropolitan area.....who just happens to have an above average interest in the safety and security of his family.

    Some of you are familiar with the Cooper Color Code. For those who are not, it defines levels of awareness in dangerous situations. It's referenced many many times in discussions around self defense and security. You can learn about it on the Wiki page about it's founder Jeff Cooper, which can be found  HERE.

   The purpose of this particular post is to bring up some ideas for security of your home, not DEFENSE of your home.....those are two totally different topics. Home security covers what you can do proactively to prevent intrusion into your home. Home defense covers how you react to unwanted intruders in your home, or to repel them before they get in. I'll write about my ideas on defense of your home in the next post. Be advised, as you read these posts on security and defense, that I may not live in the same state as you. Your state and local laws are almost certainly different than mine. It's your responsibility to adhere to those laws, as I adhere to the laws in my arera.

Lets look into WHO you're wanting to keep off your property.
    The Professional: You should understand that you're probably not going to be able to repel a professional theif. They're professionals, who have already staked out your property, know what they want is inside, have a good idea about where it is probably located, are taking a calculated risk based on reward,  and will be in and out in under 5 mins. The cops might (MIGHT) catch them, but in all likelyhood they're going to get in.

     The Common Criminal: Your typical opportunist. Looking for the easiest target, crimes of opportunity. Might pass your home many times and do nothing until you leave your garage door open, windows open, or laptop on the car seat while you're not home. This guy you can defeat 100% of the time if you take moderate precautions.

     The Idiot:  The vandal, the drunk, high school student skipping school looking for somewhere to steal beer or smoke pot, the casual passerby, the rogue contractors helper doing work 4 houses up the street, etc. Again, this guy you can absolutely defeat 100% of the time by taking moderate precautions.

     The Home Invader:   This guy is going to try to either trick you into breaching your defenses for him, a,bush you before you enter your home and force you to breach your own defenses, or brute force his way into your home. Eventually your doors or windows will fail, but you can buy yourself some precious reaction time to arm yourself, flee to a safe room and prepare your defenses there, trigger your panic alarm, or flee the house.

     They ALL have a few things in common. They ALL hate things that make them visible like lights and cameras. They ALL hate things that make their presence known like alarms and dogs. They ALL hate being exposed to public view and having nowhere to hide.

     So, with all that being said, lets start with perimeter security. In the suburbs perimeter security is pretty tough to accomplish without a fence. There's lots of legitimate activities going on like people walking by all the time, kids playing, a fair amount of  drive by traffic, solicitors canvassing the neighborhood trying to earn a buck, workers doing everything from cutting grass to remodels, etc, etc. I have developed more of a sense of perimeter awareness than perimeter security. By working out in the yard, and being outside as much as possible, I learned who's kids play where, who walks when, who's having work done and by what companies, who drives what cars and parks where, etc etc.  In short: Know your people, know what they do, and know when they do it.

     I have created a buffer zone inside the perimeter of my property. It's about 10 feet deep from the boundary and begins with an invisible dog fence which keeps my dog (known to the world as The Dalmatian Alert System) 15 feet or so inside my property. Anyone crossing her boundary gets scrutinized and barked at. Motion activated lights are an absolute necessity for home security. Spend the money and get some good ones. If you have to go outside to either investigate something or engage a bad'll appreciate the light. Anyone looking out of their windows to see what the disturbance is at your house, will appreciate the lights also.

   I also keep ALL of the shrubs around my house cut well below the bottoms of my windows. This serves two purposes, it lets my family SEE our property from inside the house, and it reduces places for people to hide from me or the Dalmatian Alert System.  I have a wireless video camera covering all of my doors and the garage doors. You can view them from any computer, ipod, ipad, monitor, or wireless capable TV in the house. They are powered by AA batteries, and are motion triggered. So to me that addresses my needs of making the bad guys visible. Knowing who is outside your door before you open it is very important, them not knowing you see them can be an advantage as well. Once you're near the door, you're more vulnerable to attack.

     Fortify your door frames and window frames as much as you can within reason. I'm not putting iron bars over my doors and windows, being able to get out of a bad situation is as important as keeping a bad situation out of your home. I put 3 1/2 inch steel screws into my door frame at the strike plates and door hinges to reinforce my entry points. This costs about $6 and took all of 20 minutes. All of my exterior doors are metal and two have storm doors on the doorways outside. ALL outside doors should have dead bolts with as long a bolt as will fit in your door frame.  They can still be breached, but it's not as easy as a hollow core door with 1 inch screws holding everything together. Again, you're buying yourself time to react. How you react is for another post altogether.

     Get a good alarm, and get it professionally installed. Alarms vary greatly in quality, features, monitoring options, and price. Again, consult a professional....know what your money buys you.  My alarm also beeps once anytime a door is opened, whether it's armed or not. This lets me know someone has opened a door. Usually it's a kid going in or out, but how many times have you thought to yourself "did I hear someone open a door?" Now you'll know.  It also has an outside siren, which will wake the dead and draw the attention of all of my nosey neighbors. Hopefully they'll get pissed off enough to come outside and see what the ruckus is.

Here are some tips for increasing your security:
  • Have a plan. Have a plan for fire, robbery, natural disaster, etc.  Practice them twice a year.
  • Have your house number painted on the curb in contrasting colors next to your mailbox. Make sure the mailbox also has your house number prominently displayed on it, as does your front door. If you HAVE to call for help, make sure first responders can find your house. 
  • When you pull into your driveway, look around for a few seconds before you do anything. Then gather your belongings, unlock the door and get out of your car. Don't get ambushed in the driveway and forced into your house.
  • If you have a garage, take a moment to look into your garage before you pull your car inside. Take another 5-10 seconds to look around before you close the door. You don't want to get locked into the garage with someone who is hiding in there.
  • When you first enter your home, again, take a few seconds to gather your wits and observe your surroundings.  
  • Trust your instincts. Instincts have kept the human species alive for millions of years. Your instincts work at a subconscious, basic, and visceral level. If your "gut" tells you something is wrong, something is most likely very wrong.
Again, I'm not an expert, and I don't play one on the Internet. I hope this will motivate you to at least consider your security, and explore some options. Above all else, stay safe and live to fight another day.

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