Nov 192013

Every little bit helps. From a deadbolt being used to having alarms and surveillance systems installed, the more you have helping you protect your home, the better off you’ll be.

“It’s all about protecting yourself with layers of security.” So says Detective Andy Mehl and it’s good advice from someone who knows.

Last week, three detectives and Sgt. Mark Marsh from the Edmonds Police Department shared their knowledge about home burglaries, identity thefts and scams at a meeting in the city council chambers. Dozens of residents learned about ways to protect themselves from common crimes and how to be proactive post-invasion. Read more here:

The crowd listens to the police department presentation.

Jun 102013

Securing the garage is just as important as securing the rest of the house. For those of us who use their garage as their workshop, complete with expensive tools and such, it is vitally important to keep things under lock and key.

There are three ways a burglar can enter the garage.

Secure the service door just as you would the entry doors to the home. Have a solid door, rather than a flimsy hollow-core one. Use a good, locking doorknob as well as a heavy-duty deadbolt. Make sure the hinges are installed using screws long enough to go into the studs. If you have an attached garage, take these same security measures on the door coming into the home from the garage.

The overhead door should be closed when you’re not in the garage working. If you just leave the door open all day long, what you are really doing is showcasing your good stuff to any burglars looking for good scores. If you have a garage door opener, unplug it when you’re not going to be home for a few days. You could also lock a padlock through one of the holes in the tracks to keep the door from moving.

Windows need to be secured as well. I honestly don’t know many people who actually open the windows in their garages. They are just for letting in light. If that’s the case for you, run a few wood screws through the frame to keep them closed permanently. Also consider putting security film over the windows to keep prying eyes from checking out the merchandise.

Jun 052013

I always advocate keeping shrubs to a bare minimum near doors and windows. Reason being, if they are large, they can hide an intruder as he or she works on breaking into the home. However, another approach is to grow plants in those areas that will help ward off the bad guys.

Growing a climbing rose along a window is a great way to keep folks away. Install a trellis under or next to the window and train the vine to follow it up and then along the window sill. The Voodoo rose is a great one for this as the thorns are very sharp.

The Washington Hawthorn is another great security plant. With thorns that can be a couple inches long and VERY sharp, few people will traipse through one. As it grows, keep it trimmed as they can get very large.

The thorns on a Washington Hawthorn.

Blackberry vines work well too and have the added benefit of the fruit.

Pyracantha, also known as the fire thorn bush, can actually sting a person, leaving a burning sensation that lasts quite a while.

Pyracantha thorn.

Any of the above, as well as other thorny vines and shrubs, will work well in deterring potential intruders from coming in the windows.

Jun 042013

Many people choose to have one or more firearms in their home for defense purposes. I’m not going to tell you that’s a bad idea. Provided a few elements are kept in mind, and the owner completes adequate training and regular practice, I highly recommend firearms for this purpose.

The number one rule with firearms is you should treat every gun as though it is loaded. Firearms have a nasty habit of loading themselves when no one is looking. The second rule is to always know what is behind your target. This brings us to today’s topic — overpenetration.

Consider your home. How big is the largest room? What is the likely maximum distance you could expect between you and an intruder? Unless you live in an open rectangle, you aren’t going to need to shoot from one end of the home to the other. Odds are pretty good you have walls in between, right? Even if you were at one end of a hallway, I’m betting most of you probably wouldn’t have to shoot a target more than, say, 50 feet away. At that range, an average .45 caliber bullet is going to have enough velocity to not only hit but go completely through an intruder, through the wall behind him, and into the next room, possibly hitting a family member.

This is called overpenetration.

You can avoid this by adjusting your thinking a bit when it comes to defensive firearms. There are people who will say a .22LR bullet is no good for personal defense, it doesn’t do enough damage. For those who believe that, please line up and let me shoot you in the knee with my Ruger 10/22 from about twenty feet away. We’ll see if that helps put things into perspective for you.

Another option is a shotgun loaded with birdshot. You’ll visit plenty of hurt onto an intruder without having to worry much about injuring or killing your son or daughter in the next room.

Just some food for thought as you plan your home defense strategies.

May 302013

Windows are notoriously difficult to secure. Because of this, you might consider alarming them. A window alarm will alert you when the window had been opened.

There are two basic types. The first uses magnetic affinity. You install the alarm on the window frame and attach a small magnetic piece on the window itself. As long as the window is closed, the magnets touch. Break that connection by opening the window and the alarm sounds. These work particularly well on sliding patio doors.

The second type uses vibration detection technology. This device is placed on the window itself. If the alarm detects any movement or vibration, such as from someone breaking or cutting the glass, the alarm goes off.

In addition to alerting you to a break in, window alarms are also excellent for helping you corral young children.

If a child opens the patio door while you’re in another room, you’ll immediately know it and can respond.

Another option is to go with something like the Multifunction UFO Alarm. This devices is sort of the best of both worlds in that you can use it to alarm windows, doors, drawers, even yourself!

May 292013

True fact: I don’t personally know anyone who has ever hired a nanny. In fact, I don’t even know anyone who has ever worked as a nanny.

Yet, I know all sorts of people who have benefited or would benefit from using a nanny cam. For example, I know a guy who worked out a trade with a woman whereby she’d clean the house and do laundry as “rent” for a bedroom in the home. After some time, it became apparent things were coming up missing here and there. At first, it was little things like handfuls of loose change or a couple dollar bills. Didn’t take long though before it was missing jewelry and prescription medications.

The local sheriff’s office installed a nanny cam and within a single day had enough proof to arrest the woman. The case is still pending in court but that’s just a matter of working out the plea agreement at this point.

Of course, the guy will never see the jewelry again, nor get any of his money back. Sure, restitution might be ordered by the court but that won’t replace the rings and bracelets that were family heirlooms, y’know?

Nanny cams aren’t going to prevent theft. The idea is to have a way to detect it quickly so you can take whatever action might be necessary. Had the guy in my example had his own nanny cam, he could have found out much sooner that he was letting a thief live under his roof and called the police, giving them the video as evidence.

Nanny cams are also great for keeping an eye on things when you’re away from home. Perhaps you have a teenager who you suspect might be planning just a small, intimate get-together with a couple of his closest friends. You know, the type of thing that quickly escalates into the party of the year? It’d be nice to know exactly who broke that Faberge egg, wouldn’t it?

May 242013

They say practice makes perfect and that is certainly true with security plans. You and your family should know, without even having to think hard about it, what to do if the smoke alarms go off in the middle of the night, if there’s an intruder, or if for any reason they need to evacuate the house in an emergency.

For example, let’s talk about fire drills. Schools do these all the time, businesses perhaps a bit less often. Few people practice them at home, yet a fire is far more likely to break out there than anywhere else.

The first step is, of course, to have a plan you can practice. Sit down with your family and draw one up. It should include evacuation routes from each room, instructions on how to crawl along the floor rather than walk through the smoke, covering the face with a piece of clothing, and where to meet outside.

Fire drill

Once the plan is figured out, it is time to practice. Start by doing a run through during the day, maybe on a Saturday afternoon. Tell your family about it ahead of time and have them get into place before starting the drill. Talk through the plan as you go, reminding them where to go and how to get there. Run through it a few times, until they are comfortable with the plan.

Then, on a regular basis, spring it on them at random times of the day or night. Time the drill with a stopwatch and work on improving the time with each drill.

Go through the same process with your other plans, practicing and practicing until it becomes rote memory. This way, when panic hits, the mind and body will remember what to do.

May 232013

The following is taken from Prepper’s Home Defense.

Aside from just kicking in the door, another way intruders may try to gain access is to saw through the door around the deadbolts and doorknob. This can be done quickly if an electric “Sawzall” is available, marginally slower if done manually. Prevent this by installing metal rods into the solid wood door. This requires the use of an electric drill, a 12” thin bit, a hammer, a nail set, and ¼” unthreaded steel rods seven or eight inches long.

Drill holes in the edge of the lock side of the door. Space them such that you have a couple of them above and below every deadbolt and the doorknob. The holes should be deep enough to contain the steel rods with about ½” additional space. Once the holes are drilled, drive the steel rods into the door and use the nail set to drive them past the edge of the door. Fill the remaining bit with wood putty.

You can further strengthen the door by installing one or more removable bars across the inside. You’ve probably seen this concept in any number of movies set in the Old West. Affix metal brackets on either side of the door frame, using long screws or lag bolts to go into the studs. Then, lay a 2×4 or other thick piece of wood into the brackets. Of course, this only works on doors than open to the interior. This method is an excellent option for those who live in apartments or other rental properties where the landlord would probably frown on someone installing additional deadbolts and such. Just purchase the materials, including a cordless drill, drill bits, and screws, and have it all sitting in a closet for when they may be needed. The brackets can be screwed to the walls in a matter of minutes. Be sure though to keep the cordless drill charging at all times so you don’t end up with a dead battery when you least need it.

Jim is the author of Prepper’s Home Defense. Prepper’s Home Defense may be found or ordered from anywhere books are sold.

May 172013

It is the middle of the night and the sound of something crashing to the floor downstairs wakes you up. Or, perhaps wakes up your wife who then shoves your shoulder, saying she heard something. Either way, you need to check things out.

Rule #1 — Don’t turn on your bedroom light, not even a night-light. Doing so will ruin your night vision as well as possibly alert an intruder that you’re on your way.

Rule #2 — Grab a flashlight when you grab your weapon. Not only will the flashlight allow you to see what’s going on when you get downstairs, you can use it offensively. Shine it right in their face to blind them. Another tip is to hold the lit flashlight away from your body. An armed intruder might instinctively shoot at the light.

Rule #3 — Don’t silhouette yourself. Doing so just provides a really nice target outline. Leave the lights in the house off, at least the ones behind you. Ideally, you should walk from darkness into light, not the other way around.

Remember too that you know, or should know, the layout of the home better than any intruder. Try to use that to your advantage as well.

May 152013

Bear in mind that while there are many breeds that historically make great guard dogs, canines are as individual as people. We may know the Mayans were brilliant mathematicians but I’m willing to bet there were at least a few of them who couldn’t count to 21 without dropping their shorts. Likewise, you may find yourself owning a German Shepherd that through some genetic quirk happens to have low intelligence. This is why it is important, if purchasing a purebred dog, to visit the breeder’s facilities and see the parents of the puppy you are selecting. However, if you still end up with a dog that doesn’t quite meet your expectations, I am of the strong opinion that owning a dog is a lifetime commitment. Unless there is a genuine safety issue, the dog deserves to have a home where it is welcome, regardless of capabilities. Just like people, dogs can surprise you by performing admirably when it would be least expected.


Whether you are considering a guard dog, a watch dog, or just a canine companion, they all need at least a modicum of training. Your dog should know, at a minimum, basic commands like sit, stay, come, and heel. As you progress through the training, you’ll also want to teach your dog to stop barking once you are alerted to a problem. Doing so will allow you to concentrate on the problem at hand without being distracted by continued barking. Further, there might very well be a time when it will be imperative your dog remains quiet.

One way to teach the “quiet” command is the following. Every time your dog barks, tell it to be quiet, then call the dog over to you. Reward it immediately with praise and a small treat. Keep at it and soon the dog will develop a habit or even a reflex of barking, then going directly to a family member. This, like any other command training, may take time to develop. In the beginning, it may be difficult to get the dog to cease barking long enough to hear and recognize a command to be quiet. If that’s the case, use what trainers call an interrupter. This is a device you can make yourself that will create noise and momentarily distract the dog. It can be as simple as a soda can with a few pebbles in it. If your dog is barking incessantly and won’t respond to you, shake the can briefly.

With the “quiet” command in particular, it is important the command is given in an even and firm tone of voice. Trying to shout over the dog’s noise may cause it to think you are “barking” right along with it. The end result is just more noise from both of you, with nothing accomplished.

Don’t forget to teach your dog a release word. This is the command you’ll give when the dog has completed the tasks you’ve instructed it to do. For example, if you tell your dog to sit and stay, obviously at some point the dog should be released from those commands. When choosing a release word, use something that makes sense to you but is not something that would likely come up in every day conversation, such as “ok.” The reason I mention this is, let’s say you put your dog in the sit/stay command while you’re talking to your spouse. He asks you how work was today and you reply, “It was ok.” The dog hears that and figures it has been released from the sit/stay, even though you weren’t even looking at it.

I highly discourage people from trying to teach their dogs to attack. It can be very difficult to do this effectively without having first received proper training in it yourself. Going it alone on something like that is running a big risk that your dog will bite a family member or innocent visitor to your home. Given that such occurrences can bring criminal charges to the dog owner in many areas of the country, it is something you should work hard to avoid.

Jim is the author of Prepper’s Home Defense. The above article is taken from the book. Prepper’s Home Defense may be found or ordered from anywhere books are sold.

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