I had a frightening awakening on the Labor Day long weekend at the house where I live.
First off, in case it sounds like I’m describing a really nice house – you are correct. It’s about the nicest house I’ve ever lived in, and is way out of my budget to own or rent. The company I work for owns the house and I’m housesitting until it’s demolished.
It was Saturday morning, September 3, 2022. My day to sleep in. Unfortunately for me I woke up around 6:20am. After a couple of minutes I decided to get up, use the washroom, and send my dog, Shadow, out to pee. When we came back in the house, I reset the house alarm.
I don’t always reset the alarm on the rare times I let Shadow out and then get back in bed. But I was hoping to sleep for another hour or two, and usually set the alarm when I’m sleeping.
Read my post Do You have Trouble Falling Asleep and Staying Asleep to see why I sleep with earplugs.
I wear earplugs when I’m sleeping, but if the noise is loud enough, I’ll hear it. So I’m lying there and think I hear the house alarm’s warning buzzer.
If a door opens, the buzzer sounds off for 30 seconds, and then the alarm screams if the code isn’t punched in. And it is an extremely loud horn that blasts inside the house and outside the house through a siren system. A couple of times I’ve accidentally set it off.
I pull out one ear plug and indeed the warning buzzer is sounding. Almost immediately the siren starts blaring.
Holy crap! It’s just after 6:30am on a long weekend. I’m going to be Miss Popular with my neighbors. A frightening awakening for all.
In my half asleep state I must have screwed up resetting the alarm before getting back into bed. As fast as I can I punch in the code to stop the alarm.
Whew! I hope I was fast enough that the awakened neighbors wouldn’t figure out which house alarm had rudely awakened them.
Then I punch in the code to bypass the motion sensor (in case me or Shadow is walking around) and then set the alarm.
Except it won’t reset.
I tried a couple of times but a red light stayed on beside Area 1. What is that? I’ve never seen that red light on before and it’s hard to read in the dim light.
After about a minute I figure out Area 1 is an entry door, but I don’t know which one. I’m not sure what is going on, so I grab my phone and head down the hallway.
First stop is the front door, which are double doors. It looks like it should – closed and deadbolt in the locked position.
One down and more to go
I continue down the hallway. On the other side of the kitchen is an interior door I always keep closed. The room on the other side is a busy little area. Inside this space is a door leading to a bathroom, a door to the sauna, a door to the front yard, a door to the backyard, and the door to the garage. The other alarm panel in the house is beside the garage door.
To my left is the door to the front yard/driveway and I see it is locked.
But what’s this? It’s not closed. It’s out about an inch or so. How did that happen? In my groggy state I rationalize that somehow the wind must have blown it open.
Here it’s important to note that no windstorms were going through the area that morning.
I push the door closed. Then all of a sudden it hits me. The deadbolt is in the locked position. How can I lock a door that is already locked?
I pull the door out a bit to take a closer look and it has been damaged, probably with a crowbar.
I dialed 911 and asked for the police. I’m usually pretty good in an emergency and I calmly gave my name and address and explained what happened. The 911 operator stayed on the phone with me until the police arrived. The longer I was on the phone, the more alert and shaky I became. Reality was setting in, and truly a frightening awakening.
I wear shorts and T-shirt to bed when the weather is warm, so I was more or less decent for when the cops arrived. But I couldn’t move. I was frozen to the spot. The only thing going through my mind was I can not secure this door so I need to stand guard here.
The first officer arrived and spoke with me for a minute before leaving to do a perimeter search of the house. I live in a sprawling 3100 square foot rancher on about an acre.
More police cars arrived, patrolling the nearby streets because at that time of morning on a long weekend not too many people are moving around.
The K9 officer arrived and tracked the intruder’s scent around the house. Apparently the intruders were trying all the doors and windows. Then the dog lost the scent which means the intruders left by bike or car. If homeless, the intruders likely left by bike.
The police say it was probably someone homeless looking for a place to crash or steal from. My car was inside the garage, so the intruders may have thought the residents in the house had gone away for the holiday weekend.
And yes, probably two. There was a very good footprint left on the door, so one person was probably using a crowbar to pry the door away from the deadbolt and the second person kicked two or three times before the door broke.
Seeing as how the alarm panel is in the room they kicked in, as soon as the door opened, the warning buzzer went off. And the little buggers booked it out of there.
One of the police officers checked out a nearby property where homeless people live. It’s an abandoned house and outbuildings with dilapidated vehicles, boat, and camper. There were two men there and the officers checked their shoes. Worn out tread not matching the footprint on my door.
The last police officer on site told me they had called for the forensic team who’d be coming out and to photograph and take the footprint. He asked me not to touch the door until forensics arrived. He said it would be awhile because forensics was currently at a murder scene.
Yeah that sounds a little more important than a busted door.
I was skeptical. What are the chances the cops are going to arrest the intruder (for another crime) and he just happens to be wearing the same shoes he kicked in my door with and they can make a match.
Forensics called that afternoon and said they were still tied up at the murder scene and asked if they could come on Monday instead.
Oh sure why not.
If you’re curious what a door looks like after it’s been fingerprinted, here you go.
Seeing as how the house is owned by the company I work for, I tried to find someone to help.
Not easy waking people up early on a long weekend.
Shortly after the police arrived, I sent a text to a contractor who has been out to my house before.
No response, but maybe he’s sleeping.
After a bit I send a text to my co-worker who is responsible for property management. Good thing I put his number in my phone!
No response. Maybe he’s still sleeping.
After a bit I sent a text to my manager. As with the other two, I sent a photo of the damaged door.
He got back to me first to make sure I was OK. He told me to call whoever I could find to replace the door or get it secure and submit the expense to be repaid.
Then the property manager phoned me and gave me the name of a company for door replacement.
Eventually the contractor I’d texted, sent me a text, saying he’d sent 8 texts to me already but none were going through. He was out of town at his cabin with spotty cellular service.
The joys of trying to find help first thing on Saturday morning on a long weekend.
He called one of my neighbors who came over to see me and said he could replace that lock and secure the door. As it turned it, another neighbor came up with a different plan.
Neighbor to the rescue
At some point I’d texted my neighbor across the street asking if he was awake yet. Apparently he was not because it took him an hour to text me back saying he was awake now. Followed by a second text asking if I was OK. I was talking to the police and didn’t respond immediately so he phoned me.
And then I became choked up with the reality of the situation and could barely get the words out, but then I found my voice and told him what happened.
He came over to assess the situation and what he’d need to make repairs. What a nice guy! I’m really lucky to have a neighbor like him. He’s helped me out with other situations too.
When he returned he screwed the damaged door shut and screwed a 2 x 4 barricade on it so it’ll be very difficult to kick in again. Once the door was closed, my alarm was able to be activated. He put the same barricade on other doors I don’t normally use. Can you believe the garage has two doors that open to the backyard?
He screwed L shaped brackets into the sliding doors so they can not be opened. Yes, I have more sliding doors in this house than you can shake a fist at. There is plenty of natural light coming into this house from all the windows, sliding doors, and a couple of skylights.
He installed kick plates on the doors that I come in and out of, and told me to lock them when I’m inside the house.
More security measures
That Saturday was pretty much a wash for me. I had to stay home and guard the house I couldn’t secure. On Sunday I made a few purchases, and I recommend you use some of these suggestions to make your house look more lived in and secure.
Disclosure: I’m an Amazon associate. If you click the link and make a purchase, I’ll receive a small referral fee.
I bought signs that say BEWARE OF DOG and UNDER VIDEO SURVEILLANCE and put them in the front windows and my bedroom window.
Next I bought some dummy security cameras from Amazon and placed them on windowsills inside my house. They’re battery operated. Many security cameras are wireless so these flashing lights will make someone think twice before breaking in, thinking they’re the real deal.
I also bought four of these Amazon Blink cameras that are motion detected and will record or give a live view. It works with the Alexa app that can be installed on smart phones and sends motion alerts.
Make the house look more lived in
To keep my car secure, I’ve been parking it inside the garage since I moved in. The Greater Vancouver Area has a lot of auto theft, items stolen from cars, and catalytic converter thieves.
However since I had a frightening awakening, I’m parking the car in the driveway so potential intruders can see someone is home. However, anyone keeping an eye on my routine can now see that the car is gone when I leave for work. Or is it maybe in the garage?
Dogs live here
Seeing as how I put up the beware of dog signs, I decided to make sure it looks even more like dogs live here.
People walking by often see Shadow when she’s in the yard. She likes to snooze under a tree near the fence at the road. She’ll bark if anyone walks by with their dog. These are people who are probably not planning to break into my house.
I bought two dog bowls, filled them water, and put one outside each of the sliding doors in my bedroom. Yes, I have sliding doors on each side.
I noticed that the water was getting filled with dirt, so I clean and refill them regularly. I figured birds are coming in for a dip and a drink.
One day I was home and spotted a squirrel drinking out of the dog bowl, and then he ran around the house and drank out of the other one. Mystery solved on the dirty water bowls!
If you don’t have a dog, but are using a beware of dog sign, put out dog dishes and a couple of dog toys.
Plants and outside decor
Even though I have a black thumb, I bought potted plants for outside the front door and the bedroom sliding door that faces the street.
Seeing as how Halloween was coming up and I had a chance at free pumpkins, I got two for the front door. They have now been donated to someone who has pumpkin-loving goats.
I bought a Halloween windsock and my handy neighbor brought his ladder over and put it up. It’s still hanging on out there through recent strong winds. I need him to bring his ladder back and bring it down.
I bought a snowman windsock that is going up next. It’s not Christmas specific so that snowman can hang out there for awhile.
This is not the snowman I bought. I’m just using it as an example. I believe my snowman is now sold out.
I like nautical themes and have my eye on this lighthouse windsock for the New Year.
With Christmas coming up, I’ll put up more decorations to avoid a frightening awakening over the holidays.
How can single women stay safe if an intruder enters the house?
Unfortunately Canada does not have an equal law to the Second Amendment. A recent law makes it illegal to buy, sell, or transfer guns in Canada. Like this is really going to stop violent criminal activity. All it does is piss off law-abiding citizens and legitimate retailers of firearms.
If I could, I’d have a gun.
Instead I bought this Sabre pepper spray on Amazon and keep it in my nightstand. The next time I have a frightening awakening, I’ll be carrying this with me.
I haven’t actually tried it to make sure it works. The instructions seem pretty simple. Slide it to the on position and press down. According to the reviews, it seems to be more of a guy thing to give it a test run. That usually doesn’t end well for the tester, but makes the onlookers crack up in laughter.
There are other types of pepper spray that are more compact and attached to key rings. I’m thinking about getting two more.
A frightening awakening
This situation might have turned out more frightening because I don’t always reset the alarm when I wake up early and send Shadow out to pee. When she comes back in, I often just lock the door and flop back into bed.
I also try to be more diligent about keeping the alarm on whenever I’m in the house, not just for overnight.
The police said it was likely the intruders were homeless people looking for an unoccupied place to sleep for awhile and then steal what they could carry. It was unlikely their intent was to harm me.
The other frightening thing was I had just gone out in the backyard with Shadow, and later found out the police dog tracked the intruders scent around the house. I must have just missed them by a minute or two in the back yard. If I’d seen them I’d have yelled at them and called 911. That would have scared them off before they’d had a chance to break in.
If I’d been more awake, I’d have realized any mistake I made while resetting the alarm would have made it squawk after 30 seconds, and I’d been back in bed for a few minutes before the buzzer sounded. So it couldn’t have possibly been my error.
Us single women need to be more conscious of taking safety measures. Some things we can do on the cheap and others we need to spend more money on. There is no price on our safety.
1. Make the house look more lived in. Park the car in the driveway. Pick up a few potted plants. Get a few yard or front door decorations.
2. Use a house alarm. Whether or not your house alarm is monitored by a security company or just makes a lot of noise, it’s a good thief deterrent. I have the security company’s sign in my front garden and a security sticker on the window beside the kicked in door. Thieves are stupid.
3. Use window and door stoppers. Put a stick in sliding doors and windows, or use other locking measures to prevent them from being opened.
4. Warning signs are cheap to buy. Whether or not you have a dog, security cameras, or alarm system, buy signs that say you do.
5. Dogs live here. If you don’t own a dog, make it look like you do. Buy dog bowls and toys at the dollar store and keep them outside next to the doors.
6. Security cameras. A package of four dummy surveillance cameras shouldn’t cost more than $30 depending on what they do. Blinking red lights is enough. Real security cameras like Blink can be purchased inexpensively and set up to send an alert to your phone if motion is detected. $30 and up depending on what you need.
7. Weapon. At the very least, get yourself pepper spray. Depending on the brand, it shouldn’t cost more than $30. I wouldn’t rule out a trained guard dog either, but then I’m a dog person. Everyone has different comfort levels on how to protect themselves.
I hope you never have a frightening awakening like I did, but please think about preparing yourself.
Just. In. Case.
Have you had a frightening experience? What did you do to make yourself more secure?
Published by Cheryl @ The Lifestyle Digs on November 6, 2022.