Sonoma Ranch



Not too long ago I attended a personal safety presentation that was absolutely outstanding. The presenter was a retired Atlanta police officer who now heads his own security consulting firm. I’d like to pass along a few of his suggestions for minimizing your family’s vulnerability to neighborhood crime.

1. Exterior lighting is one of the most effective deterrents available. Use lighting liberally, especially around entrances. Programmable and dusk to dawn photo switches can automatically turn security lighting on/off.

2. Lock cars and never leave valuables unattended and in plain sight. Never leave spare house keys, security system disarming transmitters or garage door openers in your car.

3. Never open your door to unexpected strangers. Ask through the door who they are and what they want. Ask for identification and/or look to see if there is a commercial vehicle out front. Inside/outside intercoms are good ways to communicate from relative safety. The number one way bad people obtain entry during a home invasion is through the front door and many times the occupant actually opens the door for them.

4. Install and use deadbolt locks for all external entrances. Make sure the screws holding the latch plate to the door frame are long enough to reach into solid wood and not just the soft decorative trim. If not, replace them with longer screws. Get in the habit of locking external doors even when you are just over at a neighbor’s or cutting the grass out back. This is especially important during the day when people’s security awareness is down.

5. Encourage small children to play in a fenced backyard and keep a close eye on them. Children playing in front yards pose several risks including close access to the street and contact with passing strangers. Remember, driveways are vehicle traffic areas and they can be just as dangerous as the street.

6. Have a cellular phone charger in your bedroom and use it at night. That way, it will be close at hand should the regular phone systems be rendered inoperative by intruders.

7. Develop simple safety plans and make sure all household members are knowledgeable. As a minimum, everyone should know exactly what to do in case of fire, tornados, home invasion and medical emergency. Many security systems have panic buttons that automatically call for police, ambulance, and fire department assistance. Make sure all household members know how to use them.

8. Think about creating an emergency evacuation code word that is only used for real and very serious emergencies. Someone yelling this word means everyone must get out of the house immediately by the most advantageous exit available and go to a predetermined location such as a neighbor’s house. This word is never ever, ever to be used in jest.

9. Have an up-to-date and accurate inventory of all your possessions. This includes a record of all serial numbers, make, model and when/where purchased. This information is invaluable if you should need to file a police report and/or insurance claim. Also, visual documentation is very important. In this age of digital photography, this is easy to do. As a minimum, have pictures of electronics, furniture, firearms, jewelry, collectibles and anything else you may need to prove ownership. Video documentation is also a good idea. Keep your documentation in a safe place such as a safety deposit box, with a relative or trusted friend or, if you must keep it at your home, in a fireproof safe.

10. I saved the best for last. Probably the best safety resource available to any neighborhood is the residents themselves. Neighborhood involvement can be through either formal programs such as Cellular on Patrol or Neighborhood Watch or by simply paying attention to what’s going on around you and getting to know your neighbors. Ken Piland has been trying to get a Cellular on Patrol program going for quite some time. I think we now have enough HOA members to make this happen.

As a final thought, please remember, the best locks, lighting, family safety plans and home security systems don’t work if they aren’t maintained in good order and used effectively.

Mike Nichols
MGHOA Safety Committee

Posted by deemcgee on 01/15/2006
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