Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Homeland security begins at home...

We're fortunate to live where we want to live.  It's not as remote as a retreat in Idaho, but it's not as congested as a city or suburb.  We do our best to take care of our own and we love being part of a tight-knit, small town, rural community with good neighbors, friends, and an active local church... but even out here we have our share of two-legged varmints, meth-heads, and other idiots.  We have a good sheriff's department, but with budget cuts and a large rural county, they can't be everywhere and response times vary from minutes to half-an-hour.

We've been the victims of theft and burglary a couple of times in this life, the most recent was three years ago when some two-legged varmints broke into our barn and stole three dirtbikes and some nice powertools.  Total real-dollar loss for us was around ten-grand... total insurance coverage after deductibles, depreciation, blue-book value, etc.; was about six-grand... but luckily it was just "stuff"... my main concern is my gals and so far... the varmints have left the house alone.

Now, I'm no home security expert... but a few years of experience in law enforcement, a sheepdog mentality, and a life-time of continual learning... we've taken steps to protect ourselves and our "stuff", but mostly ourselves as you can always get more "stuff".  I like the physical barrier provided by the ditch and the two-hundred feet of yard between the road and the house.

We have bushes planted under the exterior windows of our home and a fenced area for the dogs behind the house, all of which provide more physical barriers for those who want to access our home when they're not welcome.  Yeah... trimmin' those bushes is still on the honey-do list this for this spring.

Our exterior doors have regular door knobs with locks plus deadbolts and chains.  The traditional short screws used to mount the hinges to the weak, soft-wood door frames have been replaced with three-and-a-half inch screws that go all they way into the studs beyond the door frames... probably the cheapest security you can do for your home.  We've replaced the light-weight strike plates with heavy-duty strike plates from Ace Hardware, again using the long screws.  Even the door chains have the larger, longer screws attaching the hardware and securing it into the studs beyond the door frames. 

A security system for the home has two internal and a large external siren that will practically deafen an intruder and you.  We want to make a lot of noise as the typical response time for the sheriff's department is not ideal with the large area they have to cover.  We've posted the security system stickers at every door and likely entry point to the house... and as of three years ago... the barn too.  It may not deter everyone, but it may deter some.

Our system is wireless, working off the cell towers in the area and has battery back-up, so cutting the phone lines or electricity to the home does nothing to disable the system... and we haven't had a "land-line" for telephone use 'round here for years.  Our system, like many, allows you to call fire, police, EMS, and if someone ever has a gun to your head and you're under duress... and they're asking you to disable your alarm system... you can enter a code that appears to turn the alarm system off, but actually sends a silent panic alarm to the alarm company.

And break the habit... I've found my wife... when we first installed the system years ago... and other friends and family who have alarms seem to have an immediate reaction to stop the siren rather than look at the alarm system and see what alarm sensor indicates a problem or breach.  Let the siren scream, until you know why.

Our one car, used primarily by my daughter who is now sixteen, sits outside.  We do not leave a garage door opener in the car for any thief to access by an unlocked car door or breaking a car window.  We installed a wireless Genie Intellicode key pad which we are able to re-program and allows my daughter, us, or our neighbors to access our garage.  The door from the garage to the house is still alarmed and kept locked.

I'm always surprised by how may people leave their home wide-open when they are at home or even away for short periods of time.  If we're home, the doors are usually locked.  If we're working around the yard... and move to the back or even are in the field behind the house... we don't leave our front door or garage door wide-open.  You might run to get some gas for the lawn mower... you'll only be gone for ten minutes, but you leave the garage door open, the door from the garage to the house unlocked, and your wife wonders how the stranger confronting her in your kitchen or living room got into the house... well... duh!

Another area you might consider is exterior and interior lighting for security.  We have multiple exterior lights on the house and barn we can use to light up our area which tends to be very dark at night without the typical ambient light found in town.  Do you have flashlights or weapon lights ready at hand?  Do you know which lights to turn on and not turn on if you suspect an intruder?

The lights in the photograph are right next to our sliding glass patio door that leads onto the deck behind our house.  They're purposely mounted at eye-level which might seem low to some folks, but at night, when they're turned on... you can't look at our sliding glass patio doors without being blinded... which gives me visual concealment when looking out the patio doors.

Of course, I can't mention anything about home security without mentioning that many two-legged varmints are more deterred by the presence of a dog than just about anything else.  Sorry cat-lovers... most folks are not scared of a cat.  Our dogs are not trained security dogs... they're trained family pets, but you learn to watch and listen to them... and they are definitely our first-alert system.  Thank you Sasha and Ruger... good dogs and good security.

This is not a comprehensive home security discussion.  My intent was more to get you thinking about you and your situation, maybe consider some of the more basic, less costly things we've attempted to do, and maybe some of you folks will provide us some good tips and thoughts as we're always learning too.

No matter what steps you take... Homeland security begins at home...


  1. Good points all! Great post.

  2. Excellent food for thought!

    ...could use some extra garlic, but that's just me.

  3. A great post with some excellent advice for all of us.

  4. Great post. I like the idea of installing the motion lights at eye level to blind an intruder. My husband always gets mad at me for locking doors, but I do it anyway. Home invasions are becoming more frequent - not in our little town, but too close for comfort. My doors are locked when I'm in and when I'm out. Three dogs help too :)


  5. You might have gotten better security with cams in your house and also security alarms will work.

  6. Your goal to spread awareness is plausible. From the wide scope of security systems and setups to choose from, how can people decide which to get and which to skip? What is enough? When do we know that our security system is secured? Well, the answer is research. And if the curious is to stumble on your blog, they’d get lucky because of the great insights you’ve shared.

    Meri Berger