03 Nov 2014
The next easiest step in home security is getting to know your neighbors. If there is any kind of disaster, the people right around you are the most likely ones to come to your aid. The bigger the disaster, the longer it will take for the outside cavalry in the form of FEMA and the Red Cross to arrive. This doesn’t mean that you need to — or should — make all your neighbors into your nearest and dearest friends. It does mean that you should recognize them and they recognize you as living in your house in your neighborhood. That is, you are not some stranger squatting in one of the foreclosed homes. You belong.Walking Muffy regularly and at all different times of day means that I now can recognize many of my neighbors on sight. And certainly, they can recognize me. They may not know my name, but they all know that we have a dog. I always smile, say hello, and make basic conversation about the weather or gardening. That’s all. But it means that I am not a stranger.
If your neighborhood has regular get-togethers, then start attending them. Meet people. Be part of the group. It will be that crotchety retiree with the big vegetable garden who calls the fire department when your house starts smoking while everyone is away at school or work. It will be that nosy dog walker who calls the police when she sees that something isn’t right at a house where all the lights are on and the mail is piling up and the grass isn’t being mowed.
Be civil, be polite, ask questions about how someone’s’ tomatoes are growing. If you are starting a garden yourself, most of the longtime gardeners on your street will be happy to tell you all about the soil, and which plant nursery they use. If you hear of a break-in, pass along the word! If your car gets its side mirrors broken by the trash truck, tell your neighbors! It shows that you care and you may find out that someone else has been having the same issues as you. This kind of contact can lead, eventually, to neighborhood watch organizations.
If you have a neighborhood watch group, then join it. If you don’t have a group for your street, and petty crime seems to be rising, then you may want to see about starting a group of your own. What neighborhood watch groups are supposed to do, is watch. Not guard. Not defend. Instead, they are extra eyes and ears to see what is happening on a day to day basis. If there is an issue, such as seeing someone walk down the street trying house doors or car doors, then call the police. Since you are paying attention to your surroundings, get a description of the offender and any vehicle associated with him. Be the security you want to see.
Beer bottles strewn along the roadside? The guts of a deer left in the grass? Stolen stop signs and street signs? All of these should be noted by the neighborhood watch (or you, if you don’t work with such a group) and reported to the police. It never harms the security of a neighborhood to have a patrol car drive down it a little more. Again, word gets around that there are eyes on the street and criminal activity will be noticed.
As you get to know your neighbors, opportunities may arise to talk about disaster preparedness. The better prepared each house is, with some stored food, water, etc, the safer the overall neighborhood will be. Hurricanes and ice-storms and the like are great opportunities to talk about the importance of flashlights, batteries, and sleeping bags.
You certainly don’t need to go into detail about your year’s supply of rice or your gold coins or your arsenal. That’s nobody’s business but your own. You do want to be seen as a reliable, upstanding, law abiding citizen and not that kook in the tin foil beanie. Clued in neighbors are more likely to be told about potential problems (the house down the street is turning into a drug den!). Helpful and reliable neighbors are more likely to be listened to when they suggest basic disaster preparedness such as what FEMA and the Red Cross recommend.
If you seem like you don’t care about anyone else, then why should anyone around you help you after the tornado comes? They will have plenty of problems of their own. But if you are a valued part of your neighborhood, then you will be far more likely to get the help you need, when you really need it.
The best possible outcome in dealing with your neighbors is that they begin strengthening their lives too. And then, you may find households, close by your own, with the same concerns about the future as your own. People you can work with and rely on during a disaster. The more likely outcome? That you are perceived as a solid citizen and that your neighborhood is a little safer and that more households around you keep at least the Red Cross minimums for disaster preparedness. Still a pretty good outcome and one that you can help make happen.
Next Week: Protecting Your Personal Security