Editors Note: A special thank you to MSGT Russ Ware who helped Stacey with the information in this article. He has worked with Security Forces for over 23 years. We appreciate your contribution and your service.
Deployments are not easy. Especially when you PCS to a new base and have a new house, new town, new neighbors, new roads and new routines to learn. There are times when being alone can be unsettling but there is no reason you should not feel safe. Here are some ideas to keep you, your house and your deployed spouse safe. These tips are also good for everyday, not just during deployments.
– Always lock your doors and windows, even when you are home. Keep shades drawn/blinds closed when you are not at home. Keeping your house secure is the first deterrent to any potential threat.
– Get to know your neighbors and your neighborhood. Introduce yourself to your neighbors as soon as you move in. You might even find someone willing to help out with tasks/chores your deployed spouse usually takes care of (yard work for me). Find some free time to “get lost” in your neighborhood. See if you can make it back to your house without the help of a map or GPS. This is also helpful if you ever need to give directions to your house.
– Maintain your yard and house: cut the grass, trim hedges, take in garbage and recycle cans, etc. We all know what it is like to suddenly become a single person/parent but make it appear as if both you and your spouse are home.
– Have emergency numbers readily available or on speed dial or both. Have important numbers centrally located so that they are visible to all who might need to access them. In our house we post a one-page “Important Phone Numbers” document on the fridge. These numbers include “911” and non-emergency police, local military installation numbers, new neighbors, grandparents, and any other number we might need (such as the local pizza place). When the kids were younger we put this page low enough for them to read the numbers. We also taught them proper phone etiquette and what to do in an emergency. Luckily this document was only consulted when we really needed pizza. When you move to a new location make sure to update the new local numbers in your cell phone and home phone.
– Keep your phone charged and in reach. I only use a cell phone. We no longer keep a “land-line” or home phone both for convenience and cost. We don’t have to change phone numbers every time we move and we don’t have to pay for a phone that is never used. My cell phone is a smart phone so I also use it to search the web, Skype with my hubby, check Facebook, play games, and as my alarm clock. Since I only use my cell, I use it often. It is either in my back pocket or my bra. Laugh all you want but I know where it is at all times. This also means that the battery dies before the end of the day. I have a charge “station” in the main room (kitchen/living area), on my desk at the office and on my nightstand. I also have a back-up battery I can take with me if I will not be near a power source. You may say this means I am tethered to my phone, but really, what military spouse isn’t? I am always waiting for a call or a video chat while he is deployed. It also means I have at least a half-full battery at any given moment.
– Get a dog (or two) of any size. You may have already heard about getting a large dog to protect you but small dogs can provide protection as well. We have two miniature schnauzers weighing in at 18 and 15 pounds. While they are small, they are mighty and will greet anyone who comes near the house, myself included, with boisterous barks and howls. They are both protective of me and while they are friendly once they get to know you, I do feel safer walking around the neighborhood with the two of them at my side.
– Have an alarm system installed. If you are able. Most alarm systems are tied directly to emergency response (police/fire/EMT) and typically lower your home owner’s insurance rates.
– Install motion detector lights outside (front and back). If you are able. No intruder wants to be seen.
– Turn off the GPS (locator) on your cell phone. When you post to social media sites like Facebook and Twitter from your phone it will tag your location, allowing anyone to track your whereabouts.
– Be mindful of your posts on social media. Russ often tells our daughter, “Do not post your likely activities and whereabouts to the whole world.” This is especially true of any routine activities or anything that shares specifically when you will be out of the house. For example a post like “On my way to see this year’s holiday movie with the kids. – at Movie Times, Anytown, USA” tells potential intruders that your house will be empty for more than an hour, your car’s location, and that you will be too distracted to hear the car’s alarm.
– Secure your posts/tweets. There are ways to secure what you post on Facebook and Twitter and other social media accounts. Take the time to learn how to hide your information from people who don’t know you or who aren’t friends or followers.
– Secure your digital life. Install antivirus, anti-spyware on all your personal computers. Shut down all computers when not in use. Use special characters (!, @, #, $) in your passwords. Change your passwords routinely. There are several techniques to secure your personal information online.
– Maintain OPSEC OPSEC means Operational Security. During World War II there were many helpful propaganda posters to “Keep Your Trap Shut” and to remind us that “Loose Lips Sink Ships” among others. The same is true today. Do not disclose information about your spouse’s deployment. Do not share details about when he/she will be gone. Be vague, especially when talking to acquaintances. Make sure that all family members and friends are also trained not to disclose any details. This is especially difficult with social media and the digital age. Keep logistics, travel times, locations and all other details to yourself. Silence means security.
– The last thing is the one phrase I constantly hear my husband use: situational awareness. Know where you are and what is happening. Look out for potential threats. Find the emergency exits. Listen to the flight attendants as they give their spiel. If you feel unsafe, leave the area or call someone to come join you. It is better to be safe than sorry.