Friday, June 7, 2013

CYA: Cover Your Ass... ets!

This is a topic I began to write about quite some time ago, but I was recently reminded by a post over at A Girl and Her Gun after a friend of hers lost most of what they had in a house fire. The risk of losing our assets, whether they be our firearms, prepping supplies, or other property is always a concern. Most folks have insurance on their home and vehicles, but often they don't have adequate insurance or security measures in place for other assets.

We experienced a burglary of our barn several years ago by a fairly professional crew. They were hitting out-buildings such as barns, sheds, and un-attached garages specifically taking dirt bikes, generators, compressors, construction grade tools, etc. They would come in on foot, hit several places in an area over about sixty minutes, set the items they wanted outside, usually to the rear of the buildings... then they'd come back fast and hard in four-wheel drive trucks driving up, throwing the loot in the back and taking off. They hit us and nine other places on a cold, windy, ten-degree night in December between one and three in the morning.

We lost three Yamaha dirt bikes in terrific condition as they were only used for trail riding and our good 18-volt power tools. They mus have had too much loot from the neighbors since they left one of our generators sitting in the yard near the barn. We carry a thousand dollar deductible on our home-owners insurance we had to eat the loss of $800 plus in tools. The motorcycles were insured, but three dirt bikes minus $500 deductible each, minus depreciation - which is significant per the "blue-book" for dirt bikes... we lost $12,000 in dirt bikes and promptly received a check for $4,600 from our insurance company. We also spent/invested $800 in extending our home alarm and security system to the barn afterwards. The neighbors up the road lost a four-wheel ATV, but did not have separate coverage and since it is a separately insurable item, their home-owners did not cover it.

So, how to you handle your risk of losing some of or all that you have? Well, isn't that why we carry conncealed or prep in the first place... to minimize and mitigate our risk to adverse conditions or circumstances? First, you have to understand that you can NEVER eliminate risk or loss, only mitigate or reduce it's possibility or impact. We are not perfect at it and have been working on it for years, but here are some considerations for you:

Don't keep all your eggs in once basket.

We have well over one-hundred firearms... but only about half are in our fire-resistant gun safe. Some are stored in readily accessible places, some are stored in caches both on and off our property, some are kept off-site under other circumstances. I think a quality, fire-resistant, and tamper-proof gun safe is one of the best investments you can make. Make sure it's bolted down and not in plain sight.  If you can see your safe in the back of your garage from the road while the garage door is open, you're just inviting thieves. Maybe you just need basic security of your firearms to keep them from young children.

Many of you live in states where if you lost your firearms or full-capacity magazines to fire or a thief, you couldn't legally buy or replace them right now assuming you could even find them in-stock under the current circumstances. Also, if everything you own is in your home... you're just one fire or tornado away from losing everything. Do you have a trusted friend or relative to store some items at an off-site location?  Do you have a safe and secure cache location? Don't get me wrong, a house loss due to weather or fire would be devastating to us, but we won't be without access to firearms and ammo and supplies if it happens.

While most of our preps and supplies are stored here at home - including our main Bug-Out-Bags, we have Get-Home-Bags and supplies stored elsewhere too. We had to make a recent change last year to some off-site storage as my mother sold her home and moved to a retirement community. Even our computers have off-site back-ups. We back-up all the computers the first Saturday of each month to two Tera-Byte portable hard-drives that are encrypted and require a password to access.

Layers of security where two is one and one is none.

Your security should be in multiple layers as there is no one, single thing that will eliminate (which can't be done) or minimize most of your risk of loss. Consider your location and environment.  Someone in a high-risk urban environment will have different considerations than someone in a suburban situation or those of you like us that live out in very rural areas. We have multiple complimentary and stand alone layers in place and they still will not eliminate all problems or concerns.

We keep our home closed up most days. You can't see what's in our garage or barn when the doors are closed. Friends who are not neighbors, but pass by fairly regularly often comment that they'd stop in, but they never know if anyone is home. We have bushes planted in front of ground level windows to make physical access more difficult. We have an alarm system with visible notification and multiple, large internal and external sirens to deter those who breach our home's (and now our barn's) alarm system. The alarm system is cellular and runs off battery back-up units for up to a week. So, cut our phone line and nothing happens.

We have two larger dogs that are alert and bark at strange and unusual activity. We keep our doors locked when we are at home. Our doors have had both the hinges, dead-bolts, and jambs reinforced, but I'm sure they can still be breached by determined folks... although it won't be an easy one-kick access. Our locks are pick-able - as most standard household locks are - as I've picked them all, but many don't have those skillsets and the cost to upgrade locks is not in the current budget right now, but it's in the long-term plans.

Many items are hidden in plain sight. We do not have a basement, so our main gun safe is in the kitchen.  It dwarfs our refrigerator, but from the front door, it looks like a refrigerator and most do not realize it is there unless they are welcomed into our home and then into our kitchen.  The safe is also bolted to the wall and floor with some specially built support and anchoring structure in the crawl space.  We store some documents and cash in a portable, fire-resistant box that is then stored in the gun safe, but... if you want the majority of our cash or other valuables... you won't find them there.  They are not in the house... or the barn. We also have our food preps divided up. Some friends of ours lost most of their food preps last year when their basement flooded with over six-feet of water while they were on spring break vacation for two weeks.

We have other security measures, alerts, processes, and hindrances in place, but I will not discuss them here. You each need to access your situations, educate yourselves, and make some determinations of plans, provisions, and tactics for your family and home. We can suffer loss, but it's highly unlikely we will lose everything if we lose our home.

OPSEC because loose lips sink ships.

We are probably not the best at Operational Security, or OPSEC. I'm an NRA, CCW, and 4H Shooting Sports instructor. I participate in hunting, Skeet, Trap, Three-Gun, 4H, IDPA, and other shooting activities regularly. There are hundreds of folks that know we have guns... that we have multiple guns. We are active in our community through church, the schools, 4H, and other activities... therefore many folks know where we live and what vehicles we drive. Our mail carrier sees the mail and magazines that arrive each month. Even my UPS and FedEx drivers know about us by the shipments that arrive and the vendors we use. I'm sure it wouldn't even take you very long to figure out who I am through my blog.

With that being said, there is still a lot of information about us, our property, and our lives that are not known to many. My daughter has been raised from a young age to guard her speech and that there are things we discuss and do in the house that are not discussed or done outside the home.  We try not to be creatures of habit, although everyone is to some extent. We even practice systematic dis-information because we are known by so many. Our jobs allow us flexibility to leave and arrive at different times during the week and on weekends... even though the best time to hit our place is probably Sunday mornings as that time away doesn't change each week... except our neighbors are friends and know to watch the place on Sunday mornings.

All that being said, you need to be aware of how easily most of us can be profiled and tracked by amateurs and criminals. Break up your habits. Do you know at least three routes to get from home to work and back... and do you use all three regularly and randomly throw off those who might be watching? Do you know who your neighbors are? Do you know who that new guy at the IDPA match is that you just bragged about your seven Glocks to? Think about what you say and who you say it to if you want to minimize your risk of loss.

No problem, it's insured.

Most folks, in my humble opinion, A) do not understand the purpose of insurance, and B) do not have adequate or appropriate insurance. Insurance will not bring back, replace, or cover one-hundred percent of what you lose. Never has, never will.

First, you need to self-insure you, your family, and your property... to some extent. That may be cash on-hand, it may be extra firearms or supplies, it may be two instead of one. We have a one-thousand dollar deductible on our home-owner insurance. We have five-hundred dollar deductibles on our vehicles. That means we are self-insuring for the deductibles. Why not have lower deductibles? Well, it costs more money... and... go ahead and pay for the $250 or $500 deductible on your home-owner insurance... about the third claim you make... you will pay for it dearly in your premium or you might be altogether dropped by the company as it's happened to many family and friends over the years who think insurance is for every oops they have.

Second, you need to read your policies, ask your insurance providers, and know specifically what is and is not covered and how much the coverage is.  We had to change home-owner insurance companies when we added our German Shepherd Dog to the family as Grange Insurance does not cover them... period... you can't even buy a rider. Most home-owner policies cover firearms for loss by something like fire, but are typically limited to $2,500 or so for theft... the same for jewelry and precious metals, etc. You can often add a rider to cover firearms and such, but read the fine print.  You might have to list your firearms... you may not. The NRA endorsed program only requires firearms and accessories over $2,500 in individual item value to be listed... but the NRA endorsed policy doesn't cover theft of your firearm from you vehicle if there is no breaking and entering of your vehicle... meaning if you left it unlocked... tough luck.

Often, separately isurable items are not covered by home-owners or renters policies. An ATV is separately insurable for most companies, so it is not covered. Now, our John Deere diesel tractor is used for up-keep of the property, so it is covered, but we increased our home-owner property covereage to adequately cover it and other equipment we have... and if you use ANYTHING for business purposes... like the zero-turn mower you mow your lawn with and use for your part-time business... your home-owner policy will not cover it.

Also, make sure you understand what is not covered. Sometimes perishable food items are covered, sometimes not. Three years ago we had friend who lost power at their home for three days in the summer and claimed $1,900 worth of food from their freezers since they had a $2,500 perishable food claim limit, but that was their second claim in five years and their annual premiums went up almost $380 a year after a claim to cover $1,500 of food (remember, they self-insured for the first $500 with their $500 deductible).

Finally, remember... you can sue anyone for anything at any time. The suit may or may not succeed, but defending yourself and pay any awards or judgements can riun you for a life-time.  Consider additional issuance as your situation dictates. My wife is a teacher, she had liability insurance through the Ohio Education Association. We have an umbrella policy on top of our home-owner policy for liability. I have NRA endorsed insurance as an instructor. We have additional insurance on our firearms through a separate company. We increased our content coverage on our home-owner policy due to our preps which covers items stored on-site and off-site... within the State of Ohio... read those policies!

The gals and I are not the experts on these matter, but like the God, Gals, Guns, Grub motto says, "We're learning a little more every day."

If you have something to add or educate folks about... please do so in the comments... so you can also help good folks with... CYA: Cover your Ass... ets!


  1. If it makes you feel better, I have a fairly rural homestead as well, and had a similar crew show up to rob me. They never mase it over the fence, past the Rottweilers, and up to the home alarm and me and the missus armed to the teeth.

    It was a warm July evening and the crew decided to come up my bottom field and rob me from the rear. They obviously didn't see the LARGE honey bee hive I had sitting just outside the gate (which was locked anyways). It must have been fantastic to watch, but the 2 Rotts will never tell. Those bees have NEVER stung me, but I guess that's reserved for me only.

    The only reason I know what had happened was due to my hitting something near the hive with my mower. i stopped and found a couple of crowbars, a hammer, several screwdrivers and a couple of flashlights. It took me a few seconds to realize what had happened, after seeing the beehive slightly off kilter on the stand. Had to turn the mower off for a bit as I couldn't mow straight through the laughter!

    They haven't come back, but I added a large camera system and a military grade set of motion/vibration sensors to my outer perimiter. They have a reliable signal sending range of over 1000 feet, so I feel better with my new force multipliers...

    1. @Anon... ahhh, the old bees on the perimeter trap... I bet that gives you a chuckle everytime you pass the hive...

      Dann in Ohio