Greetings Mr. Rawles,
I read your blog everyday and am learning so much. Thanks for your dedication to helping prepare us for the future.
In reference to the recent article on home security, we lived in Argentina for three years and we could all learn from their security measures. The first house we lived in had steel shutters, as did everyone in the neighborhood, and they were all shut at night. The doors have locks that automatically lock when you leave the house. The small front yards usually have tall steel fences with the same height gates. The gates were also locked at all times. Homes that didn’t have shutters of some kind, had bars on all the windows. Big dogs were also the norm. The back yards were usually walled in by concrete block walls sometimes 10 feet tall. At our second house, one of our neighbors had concertina wire around the top of their walls.
It is a normal custom to clap your hands to alert someone you were at their front gate. It would be very rude to try to enter someone’s front yard without being invited first, and is usually not possible due to the locks and dogs.
But, as new houses were being built, we were seeing less and less of the shutters and bars, more American style houses were being built and that’s a shame.
It was very difficult at first to live with these kinds of security measures, but after awhile it became normal and comforting to know your house was secure. Gun control is very strict and very few folks have guns, so home security was very important.
Just wanted to share those observations with you. Thanks again for your hard work.
Warmest Regards, – Beverly A.
Hello James Wesley, Rawles:
Feed lot panels are extremely useful for hardening windows against dynamic entry.
For those who are not familiar with the product, feed lot panels are welded wire product. They are typically 16 feet long. The height varies but is typically 54″ high. The wire is very stiff (typically #4 or #6 gauge) and the wire is galvanized for long life. The panels are inexpensive and semi-rigid.
We recently replaced a 13′ x 69″ bay window with a 60″ by 60″ picture window (one pane) flanked by a couple of 60″ high by 24″ wide double hung windows. Our primary goal was to increase energy efficiency by reducing cold air infiltration during the winter and to improve our cross ventilation during the summer.
I had some fairly extensive conversation with the contractor regarding my desire to have sufficient “beef” beside each window to be able to run several 5″ x 1/2″ eye-bolts beside each window (with the eyes of the bolts aligned in the vertical direction), slide the trimmed-to-fit feedlot panel over the eye-bolts, and then drop a cane bolt through the openings in the eye bolts.
(Minor detail notes: Roof overhang requires that cane bolts be inserted from bottom, but “drop in from top” is a more natural word picture. Also desirable to use a cushioning material to hold panels away from frame of window to eliminate scarring. Rubber or vinyl garden hose is a possibility.)
He was very happy to comply. Each window is framed in with 2x4s next to the window frame, but then a 4×4 was bracketed into the top and bottom headers immediately beside the 2X4s on each side of each of the three windows. Wood is cheap.
Feed lot panels can be defeated. But defeating them requires time and tools…not something typical home invaders want to expend/lug around. Feed lot panels also help protect windows against airborne, flying trash during extreme wind storms. They may be ugly, but they are cheap, durable and relatively easy to install, given proper tools and some time and the foresight to have enough wood to bolt into. – Joe H.
I’ve already made numerous changes to my home and property to thwart / limit any would be thefts and boosting the overall security. A number of ideas came from your web site. Thanks.
Other than the simple measures of installing a Radio Shack microphone/speaker and, locking the doors of my barns with snap links and walking out the front and locking that door, I am worried for my horses if someone should try to force their way inside and manage to stay very quiet. I’m very impressed with my $149 Radio Shack investment, you can hear everything and my house is 300 feet away.
Can you offer any additional advice on making barns more secure? I’m more concerned about the horses than all of the tack and saddles. But those items aren’t cheap either. Thanks, – Pete in Florida
JWR Replies: I do have one specific recommendation: Buy a MURS band Dakota Alert infrared intrusion detection system. (Available from MURS Radio, one of our advertisers). Put one Motion Alert Transmitter (MAT) out at the end of your driveway, and one “watching” the front of your barn door. We use Dakota Alerts in conjunction with matching frequency Kenwood MURS band hand-helds here at the Rawles Ranch on a daily basis. We have been very satisfied with their quality and reliability. In our experience, this combination is ideal for detecting intruders on likely avenues of approach.
Dear Mr. Rawles,
First, as always, I am compelled to thank you for your service to all those who would learn from your knowledge and efforts. My 2009 10 Cent Challenge contribution is forthcoming, but it is only a small token of my appreciation in light of all that I have learned from your excellent blog.
I wanted to add a note of my reality to your recent excellent comments on the sorry state of home architecture in our country today. I live in a typical recent-construction, middle class, Metro Atlanta home with a brick front facade, and Hardiplank (a concrete-like product molded to look like wood siding) on the remaining three sides. It is essentially three stories, with a “daylight basement” comprising the first story. Many of the “weak links” that you pointed out exist in my home, but we did install a fairly comprehensive alarm system.
Last February, while my wife was at work and I was taking my son to daycare (it was 11:15 a.m.), thugs broke into our house by kicking through the basement wall! Evidently, the crooks suspected, or noticed, our alarm system, and tried to bypass it by going through the wall. It would have worked if the dummies hadn’t opened the basement door preparing to depart with their loot. Of course, opening the door set the alarm off, and they fled never having made it out of the basement. They did steal an old rifle that I had recently bought, and had left in a storage closet awaiting a good cleaning. All in all, we were very fortunate.
I write not to simply share my story (which is, unfortunately, not very uncommon), but to point out what I learned:
1. Though Hardiplank, and similar products, have many virtues, resistance to invasion is not one of them.The concrete feel and appearance gives a false sense of security. I was shocked to learn that the only thing between my “inner sanctum” and the bad guys was the Hardiplank, fiberboard sheathing, and drywall! Even if your 1st story sheathing were 5/8″ plywood it would present a much more formidable barrier!
2. If I had heeded my instincts, the burglary could have been avoided. I try to live in “condition yellow”, though I slip into white more than I would like. That morning, while buckling my toddler into the car, I noticed a rough-looking young man walking slowly up the sidewalk. By the time I had buckled my seatbelt, he was ambling back down the street in the opposite direction. All of the alarms in my head went off, but I didn’t call the police to investigate (something that they encouraged me to do in the future while discussing the event). I did, however, step back inside and turn on the alarm, which I didn’t usually do for such short trips (things are different now). If I hadn’t turned on the alarm, I would have probably walked right into a home invasion in progress (stupidly in condition white!) after dropping my son off. As it was, as soon as I got the call from the monitoring service, I knew exactly what had happened, and who had done it! During the frantic 3 mile drive home, my main concern was, “what will I do if I arrive before the police?” At the time, I had no firearm with me, which leads me to my final point.
3. Any time you walk into your home [after an absence] in condition white, with no way to defend yourself, you invite disaster. Yes, I know it can be terribly stressful to admit to yourself that our society has “come to this”, and some people would rather just play the odds and hope it doesn’t happen to them. I feel that God was watching over me that day (by the way, the police were on site when I got home – it had only been 20 minutes since I left the house) and gave me a second chance. I guess I could remain in condition white, and hope it doesn’t happen again, but I have responsibilities. God gave me a second chance, and I am committed to learning from this experience. You’d better believe that I will arrive home in condition yellow to orange, looking for any hint that something is awry – especially if my family is in tow! Oh yeah, and my next house is going to be as solid as I can afford, and then some!
I hope you and yours had a wonderful Christmas, and will have a terrific new year. Best Wishes, – SH in Georgia
I have been an advocate for survivors of violent crimes. I would like to point out some things that I have been tracking for almost a year now. (I have ‘home invasions” as a google search alert and get messages on this topic many times a day). First, I have noticed that most of these invaders are not so much interested in carting away ill-gotten booty from the residence that they have invaded as much as the first object is to terrorize and torture those in the dwelling. This is a major change in the high level of deprived violence of these burglars who are now being reported as “home invaders”. The attacks are sadistic, whereas, twenty years ago true sadistic attacks were more rare as the goal seemed to be to steal and leave. Second, these sadistic home invasions are world wide. I have not yet figured out why this is so. It is, however, concerning that no place seems safe from this bizarre rise in sadistic violence. Perhaps it can be linked to violent video games? I am not sure what else could link these acts world wide. Third, unlike violent home crimes in years past, the home invaders are attacking during the hours when it is more likely that the residents are home. (Most of these invasions seem to take place between 11 PM and 5 AM). Clearly, unlike in early times when the criminal element wanted to avoid the residents, this new class of thugs want that violent encounter.
I think this does require that decent folks to have a change in understanding what is taking place. These criminals are not just getting the pleasure of taking your property but they want to cause you and your family extreme fear, terror, and pain. Passive conduct by the victims that might have allowed these thugs to rob your home and leave you alone might have worked twenty years ago, but I think today’s home invaders first literally will want a pound of your flesh. On a positive note, I have also read of numerous residents who have successfully fended off the invaders by being properly protected within their homes. I am ‘surprised” that the media doesn’t seem to do much coverage of these heroic deeds of the victim defending himself or family members from these sadistic invasion. – Advocate for Survivors of Violent Crimes
Dear Mr. Rawles.
Regarding your post on Tuesday December 30, titled “Letter Re: Home Invasion Robbery Countermeasures”. I would like to see you elaborate on the “Countermeasures” portion of the title. Specifically, could you show some real examples that people could use as “force multipliers” similar to this . Maybe you can do a post on with and without grid power in SHTF scenarios.
For example I live in a suburb of a city of about 80,000 people. I live on a corner lot and have a fenced in back yard. What low-tech methods could I deploy to allow full coverage around the perimeter of my property to signal of coming trouble. It would help if the ideas were designed to not create an abundance of false alarms and not alert the surrounding neighborhoods like a trip alarm.
I don’t have a retreat location but I’m getting my finances in order to allow a property purchase soon. If TSHTF tomorrow, I would need some simple ideas to keep my family safe as long as possible.
JWR Replies: A corner lot is problematic. Depending on the landscaping that is prevalent in your neighborhood, if it would not look too out of the ordinary then you might consider planting a “decorative” thorny hedge around as much of your perimeter as possible, and install a gate across the front of your driveway. Make both the maximum height that you can get away with, without being branded as the Neighborhood Paranoid Poster Boy. The gate should have a spiked top of some sort, to discourage gate jumpers. Just inside the gate, position a passive infrared Motion Alert Transmitter (MAT) for a Dakota Alert. You should also plant thorny bushes below each of your windows.
Motion-activated floodlights are inexpensive and very easy to install.(They are available at home improvement and hardware stores such as Home Depot and Lowe’s.) If the power grid goes down, you really should bug out ASAP, but if you are forced to stay, then solar-powered floodlights might suffice. (But note that their reviews mention that they have a short service life. So it is best to just test them but not mount them outdoors until needed.) Under those circumstances, a pair of night vision goggles would be a must. (And if you have those, you might want to retrofit your floodlights to use infrared bulbs. Being battery powered, your Dakota Alert system will continue to operate without grid power. But of course keep plenty of spare batteries on had for all of your flashlights and other home security and communications electronics.