In part 2 of our series Protecting Yourself we touched on the complex issue of abusive relationships and steps you can take to mitigate that risk as well as securing doors to make it more difficult for a predator to get inside. In part 3 of our series Protecting Yourself we will cover securing windows, alarm systems, and dogs.
Your first line of defense when it comes to windows is have them in plain sight and very well-lit. Alarms (which we will cover a little later) are another great deterrent when it comes to windows if you have an alarm system make sure you use the window stickers that came with the system. Avoid using a generic sticker you bought at Lowe’s unless there is an alarm system that backs it up, professional thieves and predators can spot the generic sticker and know that in all likelihood there is no alarm system to worry about.
Adding storm windows to an existing window is another great deterrent. Not only does it add valuable insulation it is another layer of defense that a predator would rather not have to deal with.
Basement windows with a casement are a predators dream. They allow them to drop down and work unseen. If you have basement windows with a hand crank remove it and keep it near the window, you can simply place the crank back on and open the window if needed. You should also reinforce these windows with steel bars at ground level that prevent a predator from dropping into the “well”. Make sure that when you place these bars there is some sort of “cable release” that you can operate from the inside so you don’t eliminate an emergency exit.
As we stated earlier, replace any windows within 44″ of a door with Lexan to mitigate the chances of the window being broken and the predator just reaching in and unlocking the door. The same goes for skylights, they should be Lexan to prevent breaking. Remember that privacy is a key defense for your home. Make sure your window treatments don’t allow for someone outside to easily view what is inside but allows you to see out, especially at night.
Consider replacing flimsy sash locks on windows with a stronger key type lock, just remember to keep the key handy for when you need to get out. If you don’t want to replace the sash locks you can drill a small hole through BOTH sashes and insert a nail into the hole.
Don’t assume that just because a window is on the second floor or seems inaccessible that a predator won’t use it. Some predators specialize in 2nd story entry and don’t think for a second that someone intent on getting into your house or getting to you won’t use a ladder to reach that “impossible” window. You should reinforce all 2nd story windows and doors that lead outside just as if they were on a ground floor to mitigate that risk.
Never rule out using a second story window as an escape route. Keep a “fire ladder” near each second story window that you can just hook to the window sill and toss out in order to climb down to safety. If you have bars on your windows make sure they can be opened from the inside in case of emergency.
Alarms should accomplish two tasks:
- Serve as a deterrent to predators
- Provide you with a warning.
In order to accomplish these goals an alarm system should be fairly obvious (that is why they come with so many stickers and yard signs) and they should be obnoxiously loud and bright when they are tripped (think Clark Griswald at Christmas again). A silent alarm, like the kind businesses use, can backfire on you and fail to chase the predator away. that is why any alarm system you choose should not only alert you but your neighbors and police as well by way of loud horns and bright lights. If the alarm only sounds inside the house it isn’t going to do you any good if you aren’t home because the only person to hear will be the guy stealing your 60″ flat screen and laptop.
At a minimum your alarm system should be loud, bright, offer 24 hour monitoring, control pad, panic button, battery back-up, door and window sensors, window stickers, and yard signs. Don’t forget to make sure that garage doors and any skylights are monitored as well.
Just because you have an alarm system don’t fall into a false sense of security because of it, always remember that no alarm system provides any type of PHYSICAL BARRIER to increase your security.
Dogs, in particular large formidable breeds, are one of the best deterrents to attack there is next to a firearm. Even a small breed of dog that may not cause much, if any, damage but that barks and sounds an alarm is an excellent deterrent to predators.
Most families have no need for a trained attack dog, contrary to what you may see on TV. These dogs cost upwards of $5000-$7000 once fully trained and quite often do not do well with children or people other than their “master”.
The prefered dog is one that is a “walking burglar alarm” that is good with kids and family members. Don’t buy the hype that the only dog suitable for keeping you safe is a “purebred” dog, that hype is there to get you to spend $1000-$2000 on a dog that someone has to sell and no other reason. You would be better served going to your local shelter and adopting a dog.
The typical “mutt” you find at the shelter is often a much more loyal dog than that expensive “purebred’. While everyone loves a puppy, you might be better served getting an adult dog because you can have a good look at his temperament and personality to see if he will fit in with your family and security goals. By going to a shelter you are not only adding a layer to your security your are often times saving a life.
If you truly feel you must have a “Watch Dog” look for qualified dog trainers in your area or better yet go to the library or look online on how to do it yourself and include ALL the members of your family in the training so you have a dog that will protect everyone and not just you. At a bare minimum you should praise and encourage your dog every time they bark at a stranger.
If you travel for a living consider taking your dog with you when you do. If you do take your dog make sure you have plenty of food, water, and cool fresh air for them.
A safe room is a room in your home that you and your children can go in the event a predator does make it into your home. It should protect you from a predator for an extended period of time and allow you to communicate with the “outside world”once you are inside. Your safe room can be a single bedroom, large closet, or even a bathroom that has been “hardened” to make getting in from the outside extremely difficult.
To build a safe room be sure that it is virtually inaccessible from the outside. It should have a single entry door that is solid core, preferably with a steel skin, that has at least two solid core dead bolt locks spaced 18″-24″ apart (refer to part 2 of our series for more on doors) that are keyed on the OUTSIDE and not the inside, and a 180 degree “peep-hole” so you can see what the predator outside is doing without having to open the door.
Make sure that large portions of your safe room’s walls are not accessible from the outside since most walls are simply 2×4’s covered with sheet rock that can easily be penetrated with a good kick. For this reason place your safe room at the end of a hall, in a closet, or master bathroom. Ideally your safe room should be on an upper level with a window (that has a “fire ladder’ for quick escape if necessary.
Make sure you have a cell phone in your safe room, or make sure you take one with you when you enter. Do not rely on your house phone because they the line can be cut or the phone simply taken off the hook making it impossible to place a call.
In Part 4 of our series Protecting Yourself we will look at ways you can protect yourself at work and “on the street”.
I look forward to seeing you comments and as always, Train to Survive!
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