One of the things that we always think about when traveling is personal security so I thought it would be worthwhile to write about our experiences and share my thoughts about security over the last year and a half that we have been on the road. Just for reference, right now we are spending about half of our time traveling and half here at our house in Brunswick. Security is always an issue in everyone’s lives, even more so in this post 911 era. Not because I think that we are going to be the target of a terrorist attack, but just because security awareness on all levels has increased. We certainly can’t afford to hire a security agency to handle our protection, nor do we need to. Fear shouldn’t rule our lives, and I think that a common sense approach to dealing with it makes us feel more in control of the situation, and feeling more in control of any situation put’s a person more at ease.
Even before we started rv’ing I have always tried to be aware of my surroundings, and have avoided situations that could result in a threat to our personal security or our property. I’m referring to a reasoned threat evaluation and not the “bad guy around every corner syndrome.” Practices that should be common sense to most individuals. I’m sure that my attitude towards security and my actions come from spending over 35 years in law enforcement. However, over the years I believe I have learned to balance our need for security with our personal freedom and that we approach our rv’ing adventures with little concern that we will not be safe. There have been a lot of posts on forums regarding both personal and property security while rv’ing. It is a big issue in many peoples’ minds and can be unsettling to some, especially when traveling and staying in unfamiliar places.
Before writing any security specifics, I would first like to say that in the time we have been on the road we have never felt threatened or had a crime committed against us or property that we own. There was one time when we were startled when our car alarm went off outside, but it turned out to be nothing – we think. More on that later. We have always felt safe in the rv parks that we have stayed in and have left things such as grills, lawn chairs, etc. outside without a problem. I have read online of theft problems that seem to occasionally occur, but have never heard of one first hand. There seems to be an unwritten code among rv’ers to respect each others property. We park overnight at Cracker Barrel occasionally and have always felt safe. Liz is a little bit skeptical of Wal-Mart because she thinks many of them are in a “seedier” part of town or draw people more prone to commit criminal acts. I have to agree with her to a certain degree. However, I have not heard of an rv’er having a problem at a Wal-Mart, but perception is reality so we have not stayed there. Finally, we will not stay at a rest area or just pull off the road even if we think it might be safe from traffic. There are way too many “unseemly” people traveling our highways to stay in that kind of remote place.
When I say a common sense approach to rv’ing here are a few examples of what we do:
- Just like you wouldn’t walk in a high crime area at night, don’t park your RV in an area that appears unsafe. If you have a sense of “uneasiness” about the place and you can, move somewhere else. If you have to stay there, maintain a heightened awareness of your surroundings. Make sure that the place is well lit and that it is not isolated. People intent on criminal activity normally don’t want a lot of people or traffic passing by.
- When you leave your rig, make sure it’s locked, including the lower bay doors, and leave a radio on. We don’t feel the necessity at this time, but there are rv alarm systems available if that suits your needs. Technology is made it easy to add small cameras to the corners of the coach so that you can have a 360 degree view whenever you want. Even without that, most motor homes have a rear camera that can be easily activated from the dash. Some folks put their outside lights on a motion sensor so when there is movement near the rig, the lights will come on. It really just depends on how much you want to do.
- Certainly, don’t leave anything valuable outside that might create a “crime of opportunity” for someone.
- In addition to 911, know the number of any 24 hour security for the property you are staying on. It is a good chance that they will be able to respond to assist before the police.
This brings me to the story about our car alarm going off that I mentioned earlier. We were staying in the Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino RV park which is less than a year old and moderately well lit. It is situated next to the casino/hotel parking lot but on the fringe of the property next to some homes that have bars on the window. Bars on the window ? In law enforcement we call this a “clue.” A clue that maybe the neighborhood has, at least on occasion, a problem with break ins. Anyway, it seemed safe enough and quiet. A shuttle is available to bring you to an from the casino if you want so there didn’t seem to be any concern. The park has 20 sites and only 3 or 4 were being used, plus it was mid week so the casino parking area was fairly empty. It was about 10 pm and I had just gone to bed, when suddenly, the car alarm went off. Liz hollered at me and I got up and told her to turn the lights off and stop the alarm with the key fob. I also told her that whatever she does don’t go outside or open the door (I guess I’m good at giving orders??). I turned on all the lights that we had available outside. The car was parked directly in front of the motor home so I turned on the headlights and opened the front shade slightly so I could see out. Everything appeared ok, but our car alarm has never sounded before so this was really unusual. I had Liz call the casino desk, as she had the number, to have security come by. Within minutes the Tribal Police arrived and checked the area. I then went out and it didn’t appear that the car had been tampered with. The police said that they have not had any problems in the park. I’m not sure what happened, but I’m glad we had the right phone number available.
- Outside security lights are important so that there are no real dark areas around your rig where someone could hide. Even if you don’t keep them on all night, you will have them to light up the area should you perceive a problem. You can also honk your horn. There is nothing like the piercing sound of an air horn to break the silence of the night. Not sure what 5th wheeler and travel trailer owners might do. I guess, if you feel it worthwhile, you could install a horn of some type that is activated from inside your rig or use your truck alarm horn, if it isn’t what has alerted you, by using the key fob.
- I know that not everyone wants a dog, but we have one and he is not a barker unless he hears something out of the ordinary. That helps to alert us of a potential problem, plus I think he provides a deterrent when we are not home. It’s not 100 percent that no one unwanted will enter, but burglars aren’t anxious to deal with a dog and will probably move on to another target.
- Close the shades so people can’t easily see inside when you’re gone. When we are home we have day shades that allow us to look out, but make it difficult for someone to see inside. We don’t use them all the time, but they do provide a certain level of security if we choose to use them.
- We don’t usually carry a lot of cash (unless Liz hits it big at the casino), but we do have some. We also have important documents such as passports, and Liz may have some jewelry with her so we have a built in safe where we keep those items. It is certainly not burglar proof, but it adds another layer of security that has to be breached.
- One other thought to keep in mind is that there are a limited amount of key combinations for each model of rv, so it would not be difficult for a determined burglar to gain access to a set of keys that would allow easy entry. These locks can be changed and is something to consider, if you feel it necessary. We have not changed our locks yet, but we have a key-less entry system that we have changed the numbers to. The factory sets a default for the keypad which you should immediately change, but there is also an authorization code that will allow entry and it is used by the dealership and/or the manufacturer to gain entry. If they have it, others could too. We have changed that number.
- Boondocking or camping in remote places such as the desert out west or some remote forest is fun, but provides additional challenges. Certainly, the remoteness violates one of the main rules about parking in well lit, traveled places. However, the remoteness also limits the number of people you will be exposed to that may have a desire to commit a criminal act. The percentage of potential victims in these remote areas is too low for the criminal. We haven’t experienced enough of this type of camping to really have many suggestions. I think, here again common sense about staying in such a place should dictate what you do. If you feel uneasy or worried about it, move on. However, I haven’t heard any reports of people being the victims of crime in any of these areas.
- Finally, no one ever really mentions fire safety. If you haven’t seen an rv on fire, you need to watch the video below of one that caught fire in Florida. Once the fire gets started, it burns hot and creates a tremendous amount of smoke. You only have minutes to get out so you need a plan. If the fire starts up front, many times your only other emergency exit is a small window usually located in the bedroom. You should make sure it is operational. However, be careful if you try it as many are not hinged and if you go to test it, it could fall to the ground and break. Not a problem if there is a real fire, but it would make for expensive testing. In 2016 Newmar started providing an escape door in all rear bath models. It certainly makes it easier for my fat butt to get out in an emergency. Fire is one of Liz’s biggest, fears so the full door rear emergency exit was icing on the cake for our motor home.
- Fire extinguishers are another safety item that needs an upgrade in most rigs. That small extinguisher by the door isn’t nearly enough to keep you safe should you have a fire. I’ve attached another video that gives a brief overview of the types of fire extinguisher’s and the number recommended. The guy talks pretty quickly, so I had to play it a couple of times but it is at least a good place to start if you have little knowledge of rv fire suppression.
The security and safety recommendations made in this post are based on our experience and are certainly not meant to be all inclusive. There are other ways to insure that you stay safe that I have not mentioned or even thought of. The purpose of this post is to get you thinking about your own situation. Below are links to some articles I found on the internet regarding security that I thought were an interesting and thought provoking read especially the one regarding whether or not to carry a firearm. This is a controversial and even emotion invoking issue to many that goes beyond the rv community, but is relevant since the rv is our home. The problem is that it is also our transportation through numerous jurisdictions with laws that vary greatly. I have my own opinion on this matter, but it really deserves a post all its own so I’m only throwing it out here as one more item to consider for your personal protection. When it comes down to it, the decisions made regarding your personal security on the road, is just that – personal. How much or how little security and of what type is totally up to you. Deciding whether or not to carry a firearm is, in my opinion, one of the toughest decisions you can make.