EVERYONE PREPARES FOR SOMETHING.
ARE YOU PREPARING FOR THE RIGHT THINGS?
(What is a security prepper anyway?)
Have Sufficient Security Now, and Be Prepared for Later.
Security is all about your current situation.
As you spend a significant amount of time at home, I will start there. Do you leave your doors wide open all night? No? Then you already think about security. The next step is to recognize whether your locked doors can keep out someone intent on causing harm to you and your family, at least long enough for police to arrive. I have heard the saying ‘locks are for honest people’. They tell people you don’t want them to enter. But if they could easily circumvent the lock, either by kicking down the door or going through a window, they could be in your home in a minute or less. Do a walk around outside your house to see if there is enough lighting and if there are bushes that may hide a potential burglar and should be cut back, and how inviting/rich/accessible your house appears compared to the other houses on your block.
Why worry? I can just call the police, can’t I? Ask your neighbors and the local police about their response time. In an city/urban area, from when the police are called, if there are no other priority calls sending the police elsewhere, and the dispatcher recognizes that the issue is dire and prioritizes your call appropriately, police can arrive anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. In a more rural area, you could wait 30 minutes or more. That’s if you’re lucky! If the intruder means you or your family harm, you could all be dead or seriously hurt before the police arrive. Don’t take this the wrong way. I highly appreciate and support the police. But they are unlikely to arrive in time. So you need to harden your home to slow down the intruders so they either give up or the police arrive before the intruder gets in.
What about defensive weapons and training, you may ask? Yes, I highly recommend them. Whether that includes tactical firearm training, and the appropriate weapon on your person or in a quick-access mechanical safe bolted to the floor or wall, and/or baseball bats, kitchen knives, and sufficient martial arts training to use them effectively, your FIRST and most important objective when in your own home is NOT TO NEED THEM! The aftermath of a defensive shooting, while way better than violence against you or your family, can still be expected to be horrible. To paraphrase the saying, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Prevent a break-in, and you won’t have to try to stop one in progress.
So how do you improve your home’s security? The best options are to (1) live somewhere with a low crime rate if you have a choice, (2) replace your doors and door frames with ones that can’t be kicked down (unfortunately this can get pretty expensive, but it is well worth it), (3) window safety film to prevent easy access through windows, (4) window alarms and a general alarm, preferably with a doorbell camera, (5) Get quality security cameras. You might say “But cameras don’t keep anyone out!”, and you’d be right. But cameras are a great deterrence on a house. Unless you are being individually targeted, intruders look for easy targets. If they think they are more likely to be caught, they will go elsewhere.
The next step in Security, when outside your home:
You’ve probably heard of situational awareness, namely being aware of your surroundings so you are less likely to become a victim. If you are listening to music or on your phone while walking, an elephant could walk up behind you and you’d be oblivious. You don’t need to do a lot to be aware of your surroundings. Looking confident as you walk will help as well. I would say avoiding dangerous locations such as dark alleys in bad neighborhoods at 3am would also be a good idea. That said, you may not succeed in avoiding every attacker. So what should you do to improve your situation? Here are some basic ideas. Top priority when walking at night is to have a small but powerful flashlight, preferably in your hand (not just in a pocket). Don’t use a piece of junk, or something so expensive that you worry about it being stolen. A metal flashlight with a ridged end can be used as a force multiplier if shining it in their eyes is insufficient. Beware of cheap flashlights sold online which claim to have more Lumens than they really do. Go for quality every time.
If you live in a location that allows you to carry a firearm for defense, and you have the temperament and mindset to only use it as a last resort, do so. Recognize that to use it effectively you need training, confidence, and a lot of practice drawing from concealed holster, something you don’t get at the average indoor range. As in everything else, don’t get a piece of junk, and use quality defense ammo. Also, keeping it concealed allows the element of surprise, something usually only available to the attacker. Learn firearm safety, teach it to your children, and practice it always. Keep it in a quality mechanical quick-access safe when not on you. Those who think they would never make a mistake are more likely to do so. Safety first and always.
As a backup, I highly recommend pepper spray, but practice with it! If you don’t practice, you are unlikely to successfully use it when needed. Go outside in your back yard when there is nobody around, figure out which way the wind is blowing so you don’t have it blow back in your face, and practice pulling out and spraying the pepper spray until you are confident that you know what you are doing. A pocket knife would be useful, but there too, you need some training and practice, and check the laws in your area for what type of knife you can carry. Another option is bringing attention to the attack with a personal alarm, though don’t use it exclusively, as you can’t expect people around you to do more than call 911, if you’re lucky. As an addition to other items, it can be helpful, though it will hurt your ears more than anyone else’s ears. DO some research and find something that works, and is legal in your area.
When in buildings, such as shopping, kid’s school or house of worship:
Don’t just shrug and hope that nothing bad happens today. While you should not get all stressed about it, neither should you ignore the possibility. The first step is ensuring you know where all the exits are, not just the one you entered or just the closest exit. This is useful in case of fire, or a power failure as well. Of course, the more general recommendations above under ‘outside the house’ still apply when indoors but not at home. But in particular when in the types of places that have been targeted by bad people in the past, have a plan and stick to it. When possible, speak to the head of security and ask what they are doing to keep you and your family safe. Make recommendations, if you think they may listen. If enough people ask, they just might.
There are many similarities with walking, as you will frequently be walking to or from your car at gas stations, or from bus/train to another one, or while taking a break or stopped for the night at a hotel or other location. But as you aren’t near your home, you need to have planned your trip to ensure that you are less likely to put yourself in harm’s way and that you can recover from things such as having your suitcase or wallet stolen. Another example would be checking the weather each morning before continuing your drive, as that snow that’s coming down might not seem so bad until you’re on the highway and see all the trucks in ditches on both sides. That initial awareness will save a lot of headache.
Being prepared is all about the future.
Do you have a fire/smoke alarm? That’s a start. Only one? Don’t let your family rely on a single item that could fail. Carbon monoxide sensor? (If you rent and think there are fire/smoke alarms in the hallway outside the apartment, think again. If you didn’t change the batteries yourself, how can you be sure it works? Get your OWN! Keep the receipt and take yours with you when you move.) A reliable flashlight for when the power is out, somewhere you can find it in the dark (and/or add plug-in flashlights which automatically turn on when they lose power)? A sleeping bag for if the furnace is broken? These are the BASICS!
If you are prepared, an emergency can become just an inconvenience.
If you are NOT prepared, an emergency can become a DISASTER!
So where do you start? Start with small things. Picture being stuck at home for a few days or up to two weeks. It could be because of a snow storm or other bad weather, a safety issue such a news report of a dangerous felon on the loose in your area, or as simple as a twisted ankle. You can’t get to the store. What items might be at least inconvenient, if not really bad, to run out of? Toilet paper? Medicine? Food? Toothpaste? Garbage bags? Paper towels? Batteries? Your favorite beer?
Buying extra of everything seems so expensive! Don’t try to buy everything at once! Either you’ll run out of cash, upset your spouse, or burn out.
How do I recommend proceeding? Here too, we start small, a little at a time. Pick the most critical items first, and put an extra one or two of that item away. Add 1 or 2 extra items each time you shop. Then wait, and whenever you are running out of anything, buy a couple of extras. Get in the habit of buying a little extra, and putting the extra away. Don’t take it out of the ’emergency supplies closet’ unless you’re actually out, in which case make sure to replenish the closet right away. In the process, teach yourself to notice when you’re running low, so you never have to take anything from the closet unless it is something you are rotating (using the oldest one and putting the newly purchased one in its place).
What types of food should I save? When working on being prepared for short-term emergencies, make sure to save things you will actually eat. Having a closet full of 10-year-shelf-life meals-ready-to-eat will be a waste of money eventually if you have to throw it out. I really enjoy plain oatmeal with raisins or cinnamon, and those can be bought in large quantity at discount prices, and have a very long shelf life. Canned fruits, vegetables, and fish (such as salmon and tuna) won’t last as long as oatmeal, but again as long as you buy ones you will eat, and always eat the oldest ones while buying more to keep your supply steady or growing, you will do well there. Dried fruits and meats can give you a variety, but don’t buy too much of those unless you can really picture yourself eating them every day for a month.
The next step toward being prepared:
Once you’re prepared to handle being stuck for two weeks in your home if there is a snow storm or you twist your ankle. Now what? Plan for longer? Plan for something different?
Now plan for a bit more, the lack of electricity for some or all of the duration of the event, again planning for a few days or up to two weeks. What do you need to add or do differently? If during the winter, you might need extra warm clothing and warmer sleeping bags. During the summer, a nice USB-powered fan can go a long way towards keeping you more comfortable while your air conditioning is off. Use your flashlight or other devices without being able to recharge from the wall, and you will run through your batteries more quickly. Adding up the total number of hours in two weeks (336), how many battery power packs would you need to run your most important devices, such as mobile phones and flashlights the entire time? (Have a few regular ones, and at least one large GoalZero lithium battery, would be my recommendation.) Maybe you want to add a small generator and some propane tanks, but don’t rely exclusively on those, as the emergency may not allow you to run the generator outside, or they may be stolen if outside, and those things are deadly inside your house or garage! Consider what else, if anything, you might miss or be unable to do without electricity. Do you have an electric stove/oven, does your food need a toaster or microwave? Plan for food items which don’t need those.
The second step should now be to plan for a lack of other utilities as well, for these same few days or up to two weeks. The most critical item therefore is WATER! You will use it to drink, of course, though having fruit juice to mix with the water will probably be very helpful during what might be a very boring two weeks, especially if you don’t usually drink lots of water by itself. You will also need it to flush your toilets when municipal water is not working. Plan for a minimum of 2 gallons per person per day, and you’ll probably be fine for a few weeks. Be aware that water sitting more than 6 months in plastic containers is probably no longer drinkable, so make sure to rotate some of it, but the (initially very hot) water in your home’s hot water tank will probably be plenty for two weeks, though the next time you need to replace the tank, get the largest size you can fit in your home! Boiling kills bacteria, if that is the current problem, but it doesn’t get rid of dangerous chemicals. Filtering gets rid of chemicals but not all the bacteria, especially if the filters haven’t been changed recently. Filtering and then distilling is recommended by the Red Cross. You might wish to consider two types of water distillers. One which uses electricity but is much more convenient, and one for when your electricity is out.
Preparing for dangerous situations while stuck at home:
The next step after being generally prepared to handle up to two weeks stuck at home would be to add danger, such as riots, or negative information about you in the news (hopefully inaccurate!). This may be the cause of being stuck in your home, or a result of an ongoing situation, such as lawlessness during an extended power outage, or riots triggered by some event. If the power has been out for more than 24 hours, especially if not related to a snow or ice storm, the likelihood of this happening increases significantly. While everyone needs to decide what type of protection is right for themselves and their families, this type of situation usually is coupled with police inability to respond, such as they are dealing with a major issue elsewhere in the city. As such, you may be on your own during this time. Make a decision what you would do, and be prepared to follow through with purchases and training, as appropriate.
Preparing to leave home in an emergency:
At this point in preparing, you have to give thought to what you would do if you had to leave home in an emergency. Do you have places to go to in various scenarios? Family or friends in the neighborhood, if the situation only affects your home? A place in a suburb if you need to get out of the city? How would you get there if you can or can not use your car? What do you need to bring with you? Will they be expecting you if communications are down? There are many ‘bug out’ bags sold online. They typically are geared toward survivalists in great physical strength, and weigh 20 pounds or more, and include all sorts of items you are unable to need, or not sufficiently knowledgeable to use. Unless you are truly willing and able to carry 20 pounds while you walk for 3+ days into the wilderness, small and light is critical.
The discussion above has focused on short-term emergencies, not long-term disasters. Why? Because if you aren’t prepared for the short-term, you are unlikely to survive long enough to matter. Also, short-term emergencies such as major storms or regional disasters such as a major earthquake or major flood have happened and will likely happen again. EMP, Solar Storm, Civil War, Alien Invasion, or Zombie Apocalypse are much less likely. Start small, focus on short-term, and if/when you’re done with that you can decide what else to consider. We can help! Please call us for details.
Is that all I need to do?
Listen to the recommendations and I’m good?
Nope! But the above is much more critical than planning for the zombie apocalypse, and forgetting everything else. Start small, and prepare first for more likely and short duration emergencies.
You’ve started down the road to being safer and better prepared.
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