Category Archives: Safety

Time to Keep What’s Worth Saving?

“Bam. Bam. Bam!” That’s the sound of the police officer banging on my door. Our apartments didn’t have doorbells, so knocking, or in this case, banging, was the only way to announce oneself.

The sound of urgency in the banging startled me awake; especially since I didn’t know at the time it was a police officer at my door. It was the middle of the night and I’d only lived in that complex for a few months. As is my way, I spoke through the door, trying to verify who was there and why. Once I learned it was law enforcement, I opened the door to a female officer who was demanding that I exit the apartment right away. There was a car on fire right in front of my building, and they needed us to evacuate in case the fire got out of control and jumped to the building.

The officer wanted me to vacate immediately, but I refused to leave without going back into my bedroom to grab my purse and something to cover up with, and put on some shoes.

The car fire ended up being contained and we were allowed back into our apartments about an hour later.

As a child, I’d been through several real emergencies and only drills, especially when we  lived in Kansas. Whenever there was a tornado warning while we were home, we went down into our basement. I never had to worry about anything because my mom had taken care of everything. We had blankets, flashlights, candles and matches; snacks and water already in place. All we had to do was get downstairs, and then we’d listen to the transistor radio and wait for the all clear. Our basement was also the game room, so there were couches and chairs, and stuff to do as we waited it out.

As an adult, there have been plenty of potential emergencies — severe storms, flooding, ice storms. And watching things unfold on television, like the wildfires out west, and hurricanes in the south, made me start thinking, what if I only had moments to prepare to evacuate my home, what would I have the time to gather and what would be worth saving?

We don’t like to think about things like that; natural disasters or man-made catastrophes. But there’s a reason they call them “emergencies!” We don’t expect them or invite them, but you never know when something may happen. So when it does…how prepared are you for it?

ash-blaze-burn-266487

We have watched this play out in real time in the news. A forest fire gets out of control destroying everything in its path,. Mudslides, flash flooding, hurricanes heading straight for your community.

Or maybe it’s an unexpected doorbell ring from the police after a 911 phone call from a (possibly) mentally disturbed man, claiming to have sat on a bomb in his house.

That happened recently in a small community outside my town. The neighborhood was evacuated with no notice. Parents barely having the time to grab their children and leave. Fortunately, it was a false alarm, but what if it wasn’t. What if after you vacated, the block really did blow up, and everything in your home with it? 

So if you had only five minutes to load your car before having to escape out of town, aside from family members and pets, what would you put inside?

What if you only had 60 seconds? What would you grab?

Most people would panic, because most people don’t have a plan in place in case something happens. They are trying to make that decision at the time of the emergency, instead of being prepared for that decision in advance. Sadly, most of us want to live with the “what are the chances that will ever happen to me” syndrome. So when it happens to them, they exit the home with the clothes on their backs and little else.

I’m not suggesting in any way that anyone should risk their lives or those of their family going back into a home when flood waters at at the steps, a wildfire is in the backyard, or theirs the possibility of a bomb going off. What I am suggesting is this. Make a plan. Share that plan with your family. Be prepared to follow it.

Recently, part of New York City had a power outage that last over five hours. I watched as one family who was visiting the city was being interviewed. They were in good spirits, however, they had no way to reach two of their kids who were off touring apart from the rest of the family. Why? Because ever single family member left the hotel without taking a phone charger with them, and then from a full day’s use, had allowed their batteries to die! Certainly, as they left for the day, no one could have predicted the city would experience a blackout. But then, why would you plan a full day of touring, and not plan for how you would power your devices, even IF there wasn’t an emergency.

Firemen speaking at schools often encourage kids to go home and ask their parents to not only put together an escape plan for the family, in the event of a house fire, but to also practice it. I know one mother who discussed with her daughter about the plan, but never practiced it with her. I asked once why they had not physically gone through the steps of what to do when exiting the home. She really didn’t have an answer, though I chalked it up to being lazy, not wanting to be inconvenienced, and again, the old, “this is’t never going to happen to us,” mindset. But at least they had a plan, because many families do not.

So what can you stop and think about doing right now to prepare for that possible knock on the door or phone call? Make a list. Create a plan. Communicate with your family. If you live alone, decide which neighbor or friend you’re going to reach out to so they know what’s going on.

Here are a few other things.

  • Make a copy of important papers and documents and keep them somewhere safe, like a fireproof safe, or a safety deposit box away from your home. You can also scan the documents and email a copy to yourself that way if your computer gets destroyed, you can access them from any other computer.
  • I recommend also scanning your sentimental photos (family events like weddings, graduations, baby pictures). There are numerous cloud based services you can back your photos up to as well. The originals may get destroyed but at least you’ll have a saved copy. 
  • Always keep your car keys and purse or wallet somewhere you can find and grab quickly.
  • Keep cash at the ready. Remember, you can’t get to the ATM if the town loses electricity.
  • Know where your phone chargers are located.
  • Decide in advance what items you would pack if you have more time — like 5-10 minutes versus seconds to vacate. If you have a day or more notice, like an incoming hurricane, go ahead and pack the bags and leave by the door. Wouldn’t you’d rather spend time unpacking suitcases you didn’t need to flee with than fleeing your home without any extra clothes or shoes?
  • Keep an emergency bag of non-perishables, water, first-aid, and other emergency items somewhere you can grab on the way out the door. 
  • Watch the news and keep up with the weather report. Don’t wait until the last minute to pack your car if you’re leaving.
  • Keep gas in your car. Never park it in garage or driveway near empty.
  • Decide in advance how and where all family members will meet up or check in with each other in the event of an emergency.

No one wants to think that something tragic might happen to them. But every month, there’s some type of disaster or emergency somewhere, with news footage of someone talking about how they didn’t think this or that was going to happen. We can’t predict or in some cases can’t avoid many of the emergencies that might happen to us. But we can at least try to be prepared for them, if they do.

Why Don’t People Lock Their Doors?

It’s 2019. Is it really that hard? Do they even make cars anymore that don’t have an all–doors lock device on the driver’s side of the car? One click of a button on your way out the door, and your car is locked up.

So why do I keep hearing people complaining about their cars being broken in to and/or stolen. Technically, most of the thefts aren’t really “breaking into” anything. They’re simply opening the door that people leave unlock, and then rummaging through the glove compartment, under the seats, and maybe even the trunk. Week after week, I see a posting from someone on our Nextdoor app in my neighborhood area, who have either had their car ransacked, or someone who knows of someone else who did; or someone whose home security video camera captured people in the act of going through cars. I would say the majority of those who post actually admit to leaving their cars unlocked!

But why?

I think there are three kinds of people who leave their car doors unlocked on their house; whether it’s in their driveway or on the street. 

The Forgetful One! These are the people who either have so much on their minds, they forget the small stuff. Maybe they’re trying to get the groceries and the kids inside, and they forget to take care of that too. Or perhaps they really are just scatterbrains who don’t even think about locking the doors when they get out.

Then there’s the Lazy One! These are the people who are just too lazy to stop and lock their doors; as if pressing a button exerts so much energy out of you that you just can’t bring yourself to do it. They are the ones who get inside their apartment, remember that they didn’t lock the door, but are too lazy to go back outside to take care of it. They would rather take a chance that no one will break into it than to put their shoes back on, walk back outside and go lock their door.

And finally, the Arrogant One! They are the people who convince themselves that no one is going to break into their car; as if that’s a dare to anyone considering it. Despite the statistics, they actually believe that their neighborhood is so safe and crime-free, that “stuff like that” just doesn’t happen there.

In my hometown, the Metro Police statistics showed that in 2018, car thefts were up by 200 percent! The police statistics further report that the majority of the stolen vehicles not only had unlocked doors, but 60% of the stolen vehicles were left with the keys inside the car! In some cases, the car was literally left unlocked and running!

You have to know that you’re inviting someone to come in, go through your stuff, and take what they want!

Open sign at business

There was an artist who had their car stolen while they were unloading it for a show in town. The artist claimed they were only gone for a moment, but their definition of a “moment” was 20 minutes! What clock are they looking at when they think “it happened in the blink of an eye,” is the same thing as leaving your car unattended, unlocked, and with keys inside for 20 minutes? I can leave my house and drive to work in that amount of time!

I don’t know about you, but I work way too hard for the things I have to make it that easy for someone to steal my stuff; especially my car! But as if losing a car to theft isn’t bad enough, I’m even more surprised every time I hear about a home break-in where the homeowners either left a window or a door unlocked, or they didn’t have a security system.

I’ll be the first one to say that if someone really wants what you have inside, an alarm system isn’t going to keep them from breaking in. If that were the case, no banks, expensive art galleries, or gun shops would ever get burglarized. But it can slow them down; may make them rethink the risk, and notifies law enforcement when t happens. Over the past week, a popular entertainment news show that I watch reported that there has been a rise in the number of burglaries in Los Angeles. Every time I heard about another celebrity break-in, they did not appear to have an alarm system inter home. And I don’t get that. Certainly they can’t argue they don’t have the money to pay to secure their property? And especially for celebrities and sports figures who broadcast times when they’re out of town, either online, or simply by knowledge of a musician on tour or an athlete playing an away game! So not investing a few hundred dollars a month for a top of the line security alarm system just baffles me. Even for the rest of us, those who can afford a few less trips to Starbucks or the movie theater in order to pay for a system, there’s just no excuse not to have one. And when you do, ARM IT!

And I have visited multiple people who have alarm systems that they don’t actually arm. Others make jokes about their Smith & Wesson, or large German Shepherd. But you can’t use your gun on someone if you’re not even home when it happens. And the only thing your neighbor is going to think about your barking dog is about how annoying they are. Mostly, I think it goes back to the Arrogant One. They live in a false sense of security where if they think since no one’s broken in yet, then no one’s ever going to. Or back to the wrong belief that their neighborhood is rich enough, safe enough, that they don’t have to worry about stuff like that. Which brings me back to celebrities; some who even live in gated communities, who get robbed. How hard is it, really, to set up an alarm system for your home?

blue-gray house with lights

Personally, I can think of a lot of things I would like to be doing with my money each month, other than paying for my alarm system. But for me, it’s worth the investment for the peace of mind when I’m at home, that if someone does try to break in, I’ll at least be alerted and able to take necessary steps. And also the peace of mind when I’m away, that if someone breaks in, the police are alerted (plus the best, noisy neighbor one could ask for), and hopefully get there before they get away. If nothing else than perhaps a preventive measure for the thief who can so easily break into someone else’s home with out having to worry about tripping an alarm and trying to get away.

Did you know that there are some insurance companies that won’t pay out a claim if they find out that you left your keys in the car, your car doors were unlocked; or for some, you own an alarm system that you didn’t have set when the burglary happened?

So, lock your doors people!