This article doesn’t address When The Schumer Hits The Fan (WTSHTF). No, this is just about preparing for everyday life, and everyday hazards to your property.
Life will always be a higher level of importance than property. However, in this article we will be discussing property and how to mitigate its loss. When we think of being prepared, we think about the worst things imaginable happening, EMP blackout, Nuclear war and civil unrest are just a few. But more likely than not, our individual lives can be affected more frequently by smaller-scale incidents that can have a huge impact on us. A fire, flood, tornado or even a residential burglary. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reported 1.3 million fires in 2017. And according to the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics of 2015, 11.2 households out of 1,000 will be a victim of a property crime. Add to these, the unpredictable number of tornadoes and flooding or even earthquakes that can occur from year to year in the United States. Being prepared for these is just as important as preparing for any other critical incident. These types of events can happen to anyone, whether you still live in an urban environment or have established a retreat further out from your neighbors.
When thinking about preparedness, one might fall into the trap of tunnel vision. Tunnel vision is explained as being so focused on a result or goal that we lose focus on everything else around it. I have developed the mentality of being an All-hazards preparer rather than focusing on just one incident. Much of the time, the cross-over from one to another only adds a couple of steps, but being mindful to look at what can occur everyday to you or your neighbors is just as important as navigating the larger picture.
During our lifetime, we accumulate a vast variety of items; electronics, tools, jewelry, not to mention any equipment you might have collected to help you prepare for those larger scale incidents. As a police officer of more than 20 years, I see burglary on an everyday basis. Living in tornado alley, I’ve responded to several incidents where entire neighborhoods were ripped from the earth. I was activated into service as a National Guardsman to respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In each of these cases, families had lost some or all their possessions. What steps can you take to protect yourself?
Obviously, your mind goes to protecting your homestead and with just cause. Consideration needs to be given to proper security, deadbolts, long screws, security systems, etc. as the first steps in protecting your property. You’ll find several articles on this topic alone. This article isn’t about how to fortify your home, but about preparing for the eventuality of being a victim of either a property crime or mother nature. Whether it’s against fire, flood and mother nature these steps do very little. In the case of property crimes, they go a long way, but as you watch the evening news, you see time after time, a determined thief will get past defenses and leave you feeling vulnerable. Facing the inevitable, some reading this have or will be a victim of any one of the scenarios I’ve laid out before you. What you’ve done before this happens determines how well and how quickly you can recover. We’ve spent an enormous amount of time, energy and dollars preparing ourselves for when the Schumer and the fan come together. Let’s discuss how a small amount of time and energy and a cost of little to no money can minimize the impact.
Inventorying is Crucial
Over the years, I’ve taken hundreds of police reports from residential and business victims of burglaries and larcenies. I’ve always recommended that these individuals purchase a spiral notebook to record what they have in inventory. It is obviously too late at that moment, but for the next time. I’ve told them, no one will steal a spiral notebook, they don’t need it or want it. You could document all you own and have it in stored on a laptop or tablet but you run the risk of having that laptop or tablet stolen, lost or destroyed. Start with any room in your home or business, and list everything that has a make, model and serial number or is of any value to you. It’s also a good idea to document the date you purchased it and how much it cost.
Start a new page and inventory the next room. Remember to include the garage, any vehicles and any outbuildings. There are two reasons for doing this; first, if you are the victim of a property crime, you will have a precise idea of what’s missing. Having that information for the law enforcement officers allows them to enter the items into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). This helps in recovering your property and making an arrest. Second, in the case of a burglary, fire, flood or tornado, your insurance company will want exact information from you to replace those lost items. It is important to make several copies of this list and keep at least one copy outside of your place of business or home. You can of course have these copies on paper, disc or thumb drive, just keep them protected. With the mindset we have already established as a prepared individual, this should be the easiest step we have to take.
Owner Applied Number (OAN)
Although most electronics and power tools will have a model number and serial number, many other household items will not. An indelible ink marker or a $20 engraver from a local hardware store gives you the ability to positively mark your possessions with a unique identification sequence. Some states, like California, are now offering an OAN consisting of 10 digits. In California, the participating counties will assign you a 10-digit number that identifies the state, county and business. These are stamped or engraved using 1/8” or ¼” inch stamps. If your state doesn’t offer a program, you can use a combination of letters and numbers to create your own. Two letter abbreviation for your state, the first three letters of your last name and the last four of your driver’s license or state id. Ie: TXJON1234. Typically, there is no set pattern you must follow. The key is to make it unique and identifiable to you. Using an OAN allows you to have one distinguishable identifier to put on all your vehicles, tools and electronics.
Don’t hesitate to put an OAN on items that already have a serial number, redundancy in place is a hallmark of the prepared individual. Try to have a standard location to place it, and this will help law enforcement when they recover items. Also, use the OAN liberally. I have engraved a power tool, the battery and the charger, this ensures it can be located and used in recovery and prosecution.
Having insurance can be a blessing when disaster strikes, but not planning correctly, sets you up for another disaster. Whether it’s homeowner’s, business or renter’s insurance, we need that level of assurance that this protection gives us. Research your insurance company and have a firm grip on what they will and will not cover. Insurance companies typically want you to prove you owned something that was stolen or destroyed.
When possible, keeping the receipts or scanning them to a file will provide the proof of ownership needed. The next best way to do this as we have discussed, is to have an inventory of the items with enough details that it covers this issue. If an item doesn’t have a model and serial number, and is too small to place an OAN on, then it’s best to document with photos. This comes in handy with jewelry. Take photos of rings, bracelets and necklaces. Most jewelry tends to be unique in production anyway, and this will also help law enforcement when such items are stolen.
Use model/serial numbers and OANs to positively mark your property. Keep a detailed list including where it is stored, how much it cost, and when you purchased it. Just as you do with your other lists and inventories, update it as needed. Take photos of anything unusual that law enforcement or insurance companies might not be familiar with on a regular basis.
The whole mentality is hoping for the best, but preparing for the worst. Sometimes it’s not the boulder in the road but the pebble in your shoe that can bring the most discomfort. Don’t let something so common as an auto burglary, home burglary, fire or flood destroy everything you’ve established to protect yourself and your family from larger concerns. Keep it simple, there is no need to be cryptic and confusing when making these lists. It comes down to what you want to recover or replace without breaking the bank again. Good luck in all your endeavors and I hope this was a useful article in helping you be better prepared for all of life’s adventures.