1. KING OF YOUR CASTLE
THE ENGLISHMAN’S HOME IS HIS CASTLE, AND ANY INTRUSION IS AS WELCOME AS A FART IN A PHONE BOX. HERE’S HOW TO DEFEND WHAT IS YOURS.
YOUR HOME AND HOW TO MAKE IT SAFER
- Burglars and unwanted visitors: what to do and what not to do
- Forensic-style tactics: what to do if you suspect that you’ve been burgled
- Security: locks, alarms, lights and cameras
- The garden and yard: how to keep thieves out
- Fire in the home: how to survive disaster
Every 40 seconds someone’s home is burgled in Britain. It’s one of those crimes that can leave you feeling angry, violated and frightened. Every one of us has the right to feel safe in our homes, protected from the world of intruders and thieves, but it’s down to us to ensure that our properties are up to the job of keeping undesirables out and our loved ones safe indoors.
Technology has brought us a huge array of security gadgets designed to deter even the most determined of burglars, but the real key to managing and averting this sort of crisis is to utilize common sense precautions.
In this section, I’d like to show you how some simple safety measures can help you navigate your way around any number of emergencies and disasters. Follow my tips and you can make your home safer than Superman’s pants.
BURGLARS AND UNWANTED VISITORS: WHAT TO DO AND WHAT NOT TO DO
Arriving back to a ransacked home is an experience we all dread. Wondering whether your prized possessions – often those with more sentiment than value – are gone forever is a stress we can all do without, not to mention the mess left behind. I have witnessed some proper hovels in my time, but nothing compares to a burglar’s looting.
I was burgled once just before Christmas. Although I wasn’t there at the time, I could tell from the moment I put my key in the door that something was wrong – I couldn’t unlock the door. The burglars had broken in through the back and had dead-locked the front door in case they were rumbled.
Real burglars are opportunists who’ll look for an easy way in. Forget the artful cat burglars of the movies or the geezer with a striped top, mask and a bag labelled SWAG – modern burglars are only interested in a trouble-free break-in. It’s your job to make it as hard as possible for any unwanted intruder to gain access. Ensure your property is the one that the ‘scrap metal guy’ doesn’t return to – this time to rob you.
Burglars will invariably recce a potential target, looking for telltale signs that the owners are away or that there’s something valuable to steal. Be aware of anyone who visits your house that you don’t know and only let them see what you want to and no more. Unfortunately, anyone can be a suspect: bin men, postmen, paper boys, delivery men, workmen (and their female counterparts), canvassers, fast-food couriers, even your children’s friends. This was how my house got burgled – my son told his mates we were going away.
Post or junk mail sticking out of letter boxes, even a milk bottle left outside for more than a day or two is a dead giveaway of your absence.
Keep valuable possessions hidden from the outside world. Showing off your brand-new sixty-inch widescreen television and being ﬂasher than a rat with a gold tooth to the neighbours might boost your ego, but you may as well stick up a sign to every thief in town saying ‘please rob me’. In fact, leave the door open; it will save paying for a window.
Grafﬁti or a strange symbol in the street outside your house may not be the work of vandals, but part of a burglar’s code to tip off other criminals that your house has something worth stealing. An ‘X’ means that your home is a good target and a sign to you to move any temptations out of view.
Curtain twitching SAS style
Having a good nosey can help you stay one step ahead of burlgars and bored teenagers intent on vandalism. Just remember: it’s good form to be observant; poor form to be discovered. Here are some simple precautions to avoid any unpleasant reprisals.
Choose the most unlikely window to engage in your spy fest. I would sooner use the cat ﬂap than be seen. It may reduce your ﬁeld of view, but it will lessen your chance of compromise.
Never proﬁle yourself. Make sure the lights are off and always view some distance back from the curtain. Don’t wear bright coloured clothes: aim to blend into your surroundings.
Net curtains offer the perfect cover. Your view may be slightly diminished, but your prescence will be obscured.
Keep noise and movement to a minimum. Talking or dashing from room to room will act as a red alert to any burglar.
The rogue trader and distraction burglar
Crafty and well practised, these individuals are masters of manipulation and will use every trick in the book to worm their way into your house. If you can, before opening any door, check who it is and look for a recognizable vehicle. Stay alert and don’t fall for any of their stage-managed performances. They may say they’re from your gas or electricity company, pose as a market researcher or a police ofﬁcer. Some will feign illness and ask for a glass of water, others might even claim that there’s an emergency and that they must have access to your property to protect you from harm. Remember: this is all part of their act. Here’s how you can spot when someone’s trying to pull a fast one, and send them packing.
Keep your door on the chain, or if you don’t have one, wedge your foot up against the corner of the door when you open it – this will buy you valuable time if they try and force their way in. If you have a window that overlooks the doorway, have a discreet butcher’s before you go to answer the door, and if you’re not happy simply ignore them.
Stand ﬁrm and always ask to see some form of identity. Check it over carefully and, if you’re still doubtful, tell them to wait outside until you check their credentials. Always call the organization yourself directly and don’t accept any mobiles or numbers that they try to give you. If you’re not happy, call your local police non-emergency number and provide a description of the caller and their vehicle.
Some burglars will brazenly knock on doors to see if anyone is at home and, when answered, use the ruse that they’re in the area cleaning gutters. They’ll look for the tiniest sign of vulnerability, from a window left ajar to a door with only a single cylinder lock. They’ll also be trying to see where you keep your keys. Don’t give thieves the chance: keep your valuables out of sight and out of reach.
No matter what emergency they’re claiming, check it out. You can conﬁrm a real crisis by having a look from your windows, with the door shut. Offer to call the emergency services and assess their reaction. Just ensure the 999 services know that you are making this call on behalf of someone who has come to your door for help, otherwise, if it’s a fake emergency, you’ll be in the shit. If you do let someone in, never leave them on their own anywhere other than the doorstep, and always do a 360-degree search of your property afterwards to ensure nothing has been stolen.
How to protect yourself and your loved ones
If you’re woken by a strange, unrecognizable noise at 2 a.m., it can only mean one of two things: your partner has chronic indigestion or you have an intruder in your house. The question is: what do you do? Do you investigate and potentially put yourself in harm’s way? Or do you wait for the intruder to reach you and pretend you’re asleep?
Confronting a burglar is not something to be taken lightly. Burglars are known to carry weapons and you don’t want to end up the victim. The last thing a burglar wants is a confrontation with the owner, but force on him and the consequences could be dire. Your immediate aim should be to form a barrier between you and him, but try to get all your family into one room ﬁrst. Shut your bedroom door and lock it, place a chair back underneath the handle or push some heavy furniture against the door. Call the police and then attract attention outside by making as much noise as possible. Open your window and, if necessary, throw something through it so that you can attempt to alert a passer-by.
If you awaken to ﬁnd an intruder inside your bedroom, feign sleep. Remember: at night, you’ll be the sleepy one and not them. Most professional burglars just want to grab what they can and get out, but the less experienced can be nervous and trigger-happy.
If you ﬁnd an intruder standing over you, act immediately. You need to raise the alarm as soon as possible.
Throw any objects handy – alarm clocks, a drinking glass, books, even your laptop – and aim them at the intruder’s face and head.
GET OUT OF TROUBLE – BIG PHIL’S TIPS
IN BRITAIN, the law currently states that it is acceptable to use reasonable force to protect yourself or others in order to prevent a crime. However, you must only do what you believe is necessary in the heat of the moment and not use force which a reasonable person would consider excessive. My personal feelings on this are that I would sooner be judged by twelve than carried by six. If an intruder should attack me and I feel my life is threatened, I will use whatever I can lay my hands on to defend myself, and with luck remain alive to explain my case. One of the most effective methods I use is to sleep with a powerful torch near my bed. One blast of light from this will temporarily blind an intruder, giving me time to strike out at them and also move away more easily.
**Temporarily blind the intruder with a powerful torch – this will buy you time to make your next move.**
FORENSIC-STYLE TACTICS: WHAT TO DO IF YOU SUSPECT THAT YOU’VE BEEN BURGLED
Nothing equips you better for the unexpected than to be prepared. An intruder in your home can be a frightening experience that can turn nasty at any point, so it’s down to you to do all you can to defend your own safety and that of your loved ones. Here’s how to use precaution as your armour and give yourself a hassle-free time dealing with the insurance company.
How to effect the ‘drive-past’
If you’re coming home one night and see movement in your house or a light that you know you never switched on, it’s possible that you may have an intruder. As a safeguard, consider a drive-by recce.
The rules: If you SUSPECT that there is someone in your house, do not enter. CONFIRM the situation from a safe distance and RETREAT to your car, or, if you’re on foot, to a place of safety such as a neighbour’s house or a nearby shop. Raise the ALARM and call the POLICE. Your ﬁrst thought should be for your safety and that of your family. A burglar that is surprised may lash out and the consequences could be fatal.
How to know if you’ve had an invader in your home
Sometimes it pays to act like a crime scene investigator, especially when you return home and you know something just isn’t right. Knowing the exact position of all your valuables around the home is vital: it will tip you off if you’ve been burgled and it’s also important for your insurer in the event of a claim.
Always take photos of your rooms and your possessions as a useful record of what you own. The average break-in will be revealed by an open window, a broken pane or a smashed lock, but not all burglars are so obvious. On closer examination, a lock may reveal tiny scratch marks indicating that it has been picked. You may even ﬁnd lock-picking tools discarded nearby.
Treat your house as a crime scene if you suspect you’ve been burgled. If the Old Bill stands any chance of catching someone for the crime, you must preserve as much evidence as possible. Even a cigarette butt may contain enough DNA to identify someone. Once you are safe, try not to move or touch anything.
Have furniture and other items in your home been rearranged?
Some burglars will take smaller items that are less noticeable. Footprints or signs of soil, gravel or grit near entrances could indicate that someone has been in your home.
The most popular items stolen in a burglary include:
- Home entertainment equipment
When my house was burgled, I realised that something was wrong when I couldn’t get my key in the lock – the burglars had broken in at the rear and deadlocked my front door so they wouldn’t be caught in the act. Once I knew that I’d been burgled, I started to preserve any evidence, but not before securing my family in case the burglars were still around. The last thing you want is to go bowling in and end up getting a beating from a burglar or junkie.
SECURITY: LOCKS, ALARMS, LIGHTS AND CAMERAS
Before you start to install security devices, take a walk through and around your house and do a 360-degree assessment of your weaknesses. Imagine you’re a burglar; what would you look for?
What can you see from outside, through the windows? Are there tempting goodies on display? Around thirty-eight per cent of us are guilty of this – showing off what we have – and then we wonder why we get burgled.
Don’t hide keys under doormats or inside ﬂower pots, leave a spare set with a trusted neighbour or relative or buy a push-button operated key safe. Those that are police approved built like a tanks, so a big deterrent.
Is there anything left lying around that a burglar could climb on to, so giving them access to an open upstairs window? Always keep all windows closed and doors locked when you’re out. About twenty-nine per cent of us regularly leave our homes unsecured.
Remember also to cancel newspaper or milk deliveries if you go away: seventy-ﬁve per cent of us fail to do so.
If you have only a single cylinder lock on your door, a burglar will be in your house quicker than one ﬂap of a hummingbird’s wing. Most insurance companies regard anything less than a ﬁve-lever mortice lock or an anti-snap cylinder lock as a security risk.
Ensure that you also have a dead lock on your doors, to be opened from the inside only. Consider internal locks on doors – time-consuming to use but massively effective – and ensure all of your windows have locks, and that you use them.
Despite the nuisance of being woken up by the neighbour’s cat tripping the motion-sensor burglar alarm, these are a deterrent. Modern systems allow you to choose from a vast array of services from a simple alarm to sophisticated maintenance and monitoring contracts, all at a cost of course, but they can bring peace of mind.
Don’t be fooled into pretending you have an alarm, though – burglars aren’t stupid and know the telltale signs. The same goes for the sign ‘Beware of the dog’. Unless you actually have a dog, don’t even bother – burglars will simply call your bluff.
Motion-sensor lights around the outside perimeter of the house are useful. A burglar isn’t going to want to announce his arrival under the equivalent lighting of a football stadium, but they can be a nuisance if the local wildlife and pets trigger them on and off all night. The alternative is daylight-sensitive low-energy lighting. It provides a continuous subdued illumination, is cheap to run and ensures your house is always illuminated after dark.
When you’re out, use timer switches on lights and even radios or TVs. This is an easy way to give the illusion of your presence and, let’s face it, there’s nothing like the nightly soap to scare off the burglars.
CCTV that is kept operational is a worthwhile investment, and while it doesn’t always deter burglars (some seem to forget that the little red light means they’re being ﬁlmed!), the footage could help the police identify the thief.
THE GARDEN AND YARD: HOW TO KEEP THIEVES OUT
Most of us want to enjoy some peace and privacy in our garden or yard, but all too often our open spaces become an invitation for unwanted visitors. Don’t get caught out – with a little thought, you can make your garden and yard a deterrent to all those with bad intentions.
Bins, collections and deliveries
Bins should be placed outside only on collection day – and not days before – preventing anyone from having a good snoop through your stuff. If you don’t want them to be used as a ladder by a burglar, chain them up (away from the house). If you are leaving items for charity or scrap collectors, take them to the gate. As with the bins, you don’t want anyone unknown having access to your garden. Try to ensure that any delivery people only have access to where you want them to have access and prevent them from seeing more than they should.
One man’s waste is another man’s gold. Don’t put sensitive information like bank and credit card statements in any bin unless they’ve been shredded. Burglars are usually well networked and you could ﬁnd your information being used by identity thieves to commit fraud and worse. The golden rule is to shred any personal documents.
Sixty-ﬁve per cent of all UK fraud cases in 2012 involved the use of identity details such as those found on bank statements. Be careful what you throw away in the rubbish.
Theft from gardens is a growing problem. Expensive garden furniture, children’s toys and even plants and garden ornaments are all potential rich pickings for a passing burglar. Insurance companies will conﬁrm that the minute the clocks go forward and the days get longer, claims on garden theft soar. Most crooks would have the ﬁllings out of their dead relatives if they got the chance, so don’t ever think anything is safe.
Some of the most popular items on burglars’ lists include power tools such as drills, saws and planers, followed by forks, rakes and spades, and ﬁnally ladders and electric lawnmowers. That’s not to say that they won’t remove your barbecue and your patio furniture if you let them – some might even take your garden gnomes! Always identify your property with your name or postcode, either with a UV marker pen or labels, and take photographs – it helps when the insurance company wants proof of what was stolen. Remember: putting your name on items doesn’t mean they won’t get stolen, it just means that the thief knows who he is stealing from.
An untidy, overgrown garden says you’re away. Long grass is useful to a burglar who wants to hide out of sight. If you can’t maintain it yourself, it pays to hire someone who can, or do as I do and cut everything back to the bare minimum. Keep all furniture and tools covered, stored away, locked or bolted down, and keep the children’s toys and bikes inside when not in use.
Don’t promote things like your next holiday abroad. It’s all well and good showing off down the local, but you don’t know who is listening: loose lips sink ships. You could well be giving someone a heads-up of your impending absence, so do your gobbing off when you get back.
FIRE IN THE HOME: HOW TO SURVIVE A DISASTER
Most of us never give enough thought to what we’d do in an emergency, but I’d strongly advocate that everyone considers the most likely escape routes, should the worst happen. Again, a little forethought can prevent a tragedy.
Surviving a fire
Time is of the essence in a ﬁre. In thirty seconds a small ﬂame can grow into a major ﬁre. In two minutes the ﬁre can become life threatening. In ﬁve minutes, an entire home can be engulfed in ﬂames. Remember: the heat and smoke from a ﬁre can be more dangerous than the ﬂames. Temperatures can rise to 100 degrees at ﬂoor level and to 600 degrees at eye level. Poisonous gases can make you disorientated and sleepy, and eventually kill you. If you wake to a ﬁre, your only thought should be of escape: there is NO TIME to grab valuables.
Get out fast, as soon as you hear your smoke alarm – seconds count. Aim for your ﬁrst exit, testing any door handles to see if they’re hot. If they are, use your second exit. If smoke is blocking the door, or coming around the door, use your second way out. Open any door slowly. If heavy smoke or ﬁre is present, shut it quickly. Your ﬁrst thought should be to avoid the thick smoke and poisonous gases which accompany all ﬁres. Get as low to the ground as possible and crawl under the smoke. It will collect along the ceiling ﬁrst.
If you can’t escape, close all doors and cover gaps and cracks with tape or cloth. Stay at the window to attract attention using light coloured clothing or a torch.
If you catch ﬁre, drop to the ground and roll back and forth until the ﬁre is out – never run: the air will simply fuel the ﬁre. Cover your face and hands. If others are on ﬁre, but unable to get to the ﬂoor, smother the ﬂames with a blanket or towel.
If someone has lost consciousness and they’re too heavy to lift, tie their wrists together with a sheet or a cord, loop your head through their arms and use your body weight to pull them out of there.
When and how to tackle a fire in the home
Successful ﬁreﬁghting relies on the speed of the response and the appropriate action. If you cannot put out a ﬁre within seconds, chances are that it will burn out of control, leaving you with no means of escape.
Two of the best items you can keep in the home are a ﬁre extinguisher and a ﬁre blanket. Choose a ﬁre extinguisher that is appropriate: electrical ﬁres require a very different extinguishing agent to those involving cooking oil. Only use pressurized water for putting out ﬂames on carpets and furniture. Always ensure that any ﬁreﬁghting equipment is easy to access in the area it’s most likely to be needed, and that it’s kept in good working order.
The ﬁre blanket: These come contained in a wall-mounted box. Keep in the kitchen and use to extinguish chip-pan ﬁres or to wrap around someone whose clothing has caught ﬁre.
The dry powder ﬁre extinguisher: This is a multi-purpose extinguisher that is effective for most items, including textiles, electrical ﬁres, ﬂammable gas and liquids BUT NOT COOKING OIL.
The wet chemical ﬁre extinguisher: Used for tackling ﬁres involving oil, such as deep-fat fryers. Equipped with a long nozzle, it allows you to coat a layer of foam on top of the burning oil from a distance.
Excerpted from Real World SAS Survival Guide by Big Phil Campion. Copyright © 2014 by Phil Campion.
First published in Great Britain in 2014 by Quercus, 55 Baker Street, 7th Floor, South Block, London, W1U 8EW. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided by Pan Macmillan Australia solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.