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Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Latest TSA SNAFU (Or, How to Protect Your Home and Yourself)

If you've been online in the past few days you probably saw this article about a couple of TSA agents who went to two blogger's homes and intimidated them, threatened them, and even took one guy's computer. TSA stupidity notwithstanding, this would have never have happened if the bloggers had followed a few simple rules:
  1. Your home is your castle so treat it as such.
  2. Whether you are at home or away, your doors should ALWAYS be locked. Unless you are using a specific door (ie: you are barbecuing so the door to your deck is open or it is hot and you leave your doors open--with very secure screen doors which are locked) always keep your doors securely locked.
  3. The only people who should be allowed into your home are friends, family, and people you specifically invite into your home (ie: the cable guy whom you have made an appointment with).
  4. You should have a low tech (peep hole) or high tech (closed circuit camera system) way to ascertain who is at your door.
  5. It is your right to not open your door to ANYONE. The only people you may want to consider opening your door to are law enforcement IF they have a warrant with your name on it (it's your choice to open your door or not but if they have a warrant, they are legally allowed to break your door down if they have reasonable suspicion that you are in the house or the warrant is to search your residence) or, if you see that there is local law enforcement standing there with a coroner and chaplain (it won't be good news but you should probably hear what they have to say). Everyone else (door to door salesmen, Girl Scouts, TSA agents shouting threats, "official" looking people from the utility company, or anyone else you do not know) should make an appointment or you should just let them think that you are not home. Personally, if I don't know the person at my door, I don't answer the door. They can think I am not home. If it is very important, I figure they will leave me a note or a business card so I can follow up later.
  6. Note that if you do let people into your home, you should delineate where they are allowed to be in your home. If a repairman needs to fix your furnace, they don't need to be upstairs in your kid's rooms.
  7. Anyone else (life insurance agent, friends of friends who just came to town, etc) should contact you by phone to set up an appointment and be met at a neutral location such as their office, your office, or a coffee shop.
  8. A couple of caveats: someone may be ringing your doorbell to see if you are home before they break into your house, in this instance, watch what they do. If they don't leave after you didn't answer the door consider calling the police...and prepare to defend your home. If someone from the utility company shows up at your door, call the utility to find out what they want before you decide whether to open the door to them or not.
  9. Make sure everyone in your household knows these rules and make sure they are enforced. Your home is only as secure as you make it.
  10. NEVER open your door to people who are threatening you. Whether it is the TSA, local law enforcement, bill collectors, or anyone else, if they are threatening you and don't have a warrant IN HAND, don't open the door. You may want to call 911 and have these people removed from your property.
This may all seem a bit paranoid, but these are simple safety precautions. Unless you have developed some level of trust with someone, there is no reason for them to be in your house. There are more than enough news articles about strangers who entered someone's home under pretense to either scope out their home for a future burglary, stole prescription meds out of their medicine cabinet when they asked to use the bathroom, or worse, figured out the age, gender, and bedrooms of the homeowner's kids then came back and kidnapped them. The security of you and your family far overrides the need to be polite to strangers.

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