I’m back with more questions from blog readers about RVing, what’s happening in our lives since we hung up the keys, and all kinds of other things. While I try to answer all questions individually, I also share some here occasionally. This time around we are going to do something a bit different, focusing just on questions I have received about safety and security while on the road.
Q. We are about to become fulltimers and my husband is concerned about crime and our security. We are not gun people and have no interest in them, but my brother-in-law suggested we get a pump shotgun. He said even if we don’t load it, the noise of pumping it will make anybody on the outside of our door turn around and run. He said if they don’t, all hubby has to do is open the door and point it at them and they will leave in a hurry. What are your thoughts, Nick?
A. I have heard that sad story about the sound of someone racking the action of a shotgun frightening a bad guy off for longer than I can remember. I actually tried an experiment once, having Terry stand outside our RV in an RV park while I worked the action of my 12 gauge shotgun. Between the noise of vehicles going by and life going on around her, she could not hear a sound. We repeated this two other times in other settings, once at night with nobody around, and at no time could she hear what I was doing inside. As for opening the door and pointing an unloaded gun at somebody, I would suggest your husband oil that gun well, because when someone takes it away from him and sticks it up his rear end it’s going to hurt! Unless you are committed to getting proper training in firearm safety and use, as well as having the mindset that you will use deadly force if necessary, don’t even consider getting a gun.
Q. I’ve been told that in lieu of a firearm, wasp spray makes an excellent weapon if someone tries to break into our RV. Have you heard of this?
A. Yes, I have, and I think it’s ridiculous. At close range, if you can hit somebody right in the eyes, it might get their attention. Then again it might make them so mad that they beat you to death. I have known more than one police officer who used pepper spray while trying to subdue a subject and it had no effect on them whatsoever. I have also known officers who had the wind blow it right back in their own face. How are you going to feel when that happens to you while you’re dealing with a criminal?
Q. We can’t figure out a way to put a safe in our fifth wheel, and while we do have a fire proof lockbox for important papers, I have some jewelry and we usually keep some cash around. Any ideas on the best way to hide it, Nick?
A. There are a number of excellent storage devices disguised as everyday items that might work for you. These are usually referred to as can safes, but I’ve also seen them disguised as hairbrushes, books, and even tampons.
Q. My husband loves his guns and he had two wooden signs made that he proudly displays in the windshield of our motorhome. One says “Protected by Smith & Wesson” and the other says, “I don’t call 911, I shoot first and ask questions later.” These make me feel uncomfortable, and more than one person has commented on it in RV parks. My husband says it gives people fair notice that he’s not going to become a victim. I feel like it’s juvenile at best and may be inviting trouble. What are your feelings about signs like this?
A. So basically your husband is announcing to the world that he has a gun in your RV. If I am a prowler looking for someplace to break into and I see that sign and your car is not there, guess what I’m going to do? As for the other sign, heaven forbid you actually do have a situation where he uses the gun for self-defense. He just did most of the work for a prosecutor who may want to press charges, because he’s already publicly stated that he will use lethal force instead of calling the police. And even if he does not face legal charges, that sign opens the door for all kinds of civil lawsuits from the person he shoots or their family members if he do not survive.
Q. Sitting around the campfire the other night, someone said that a can of hairspray and a Bic lighter are all you need to handle anybody who breaks into your RV. He demonstrated that it could act just like a flamethrower. It looked pretty gruesome, but do you think it’s a viable means of self-defense?
A. Let’s think about this for a moment. Let’s assume that someone breaks in your RV while you’re in it (which almost never happens). First of all, you have to have the presence of mind to get your can of hairspray and your lighter out. Then you have to be able to push down the adrenaline rushing through your body to be able to get the flame going and then spray it at the intruder. If you can accomplish all of that, one of two things are probably going to happen – you’re going to set fire to someone inside your motorhome, which means now you have a huge Roman candle inside of a confined space with you, and/or the can may blow up in your hand and you’re the Roman candle.
Q. At an RV rally last month we purchased a nice redwood sign with our names and our hometown on it to put in the window of the motorhome when we are parked. Someone told me that might not be a good idea, saying it might be an invitation to robbers. Any idea what he was talking about?
A. Let’s pretend I’m a ne’er-do-well looking for somebody to rip off. It’s late in the evening and you’re watching television when I knock on your door and call out, “Hey, Bill, open up. It’s your old buddy Jim from Paducah.” (Insert your name and hometown). You don’t remember who Jim is, but he must know you, so you open the door. Oops!
Q. My husband is ex-Army (he was in for three years back in the early 1980s), though he was never in combat. We were dry camped near Borrego Springs in California this last winter when some sketchy looking guys pulled up in a pickup truck and parked near us. They sat there for a long time, making me nervous, so my husband went outside and confronted them. They said they were waiting for a friend of theirs to meet them so they can take him to their camp, and sure enough while he was out there the friend pulled up and they left. I was furious with him, telling him he could have gotten himself killed, but he said his Army training was all he needed to handle guys like that. Was I right to be angry at his foolishness?
A. I spent some time as a firearms instructor in the military, and also helped train people in unarmed combat. Basically, I was the dummy that got thrown and punched around. Trust me, the standard eight hours of hand-to-hand combat we gave our trainees was just enough to give them the confidence to go to town and get their butts kicked while they tried to show off their new skills. I’m sure the guys in that truck could have done the same to your husband with no problem. That’s assuming they didn’t shoot him, to save themselves the exertion. He would have been much safer staying inside with a cell phone and calling the police. NEVER go outside to confront a stranger who is acting suspiciously!
Q. I saw your blog post about your Honda generators and the way you secure them. We have just been using a bicycle lock cable for our generator, which is pretty thin. Do you think that’s enough?
A. If I thought that was enough, I would be using a bicycle lock, too. As I said in the blog, nothing is going to keep a thief from making off with something if he wants it bad enough. But it takes more work to cut a thick steel cable than it does a bicycle lock cable.
Q. When you and Miss Terry were fulltiming, did you ever carry much cash? We use credit cards for just about everything, but we have run into a couple of occasions when cash was required. If you did carry cash, may I ask how much, and were you worried about it being stolen?
A. There are times when only money talks. We tried to keep between $500 and $1,000 in cash on hand, with me carrying some of it and Terry carrying some of it. We never had a problem, but we were always glad to have it to fall back on if necessary.
Congratulations Marlys Shride, winner of our drawing for an autographed copy of Big Lake, my first novel and the book that made me a New York Times bestselling author. We had 126 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.
Thought For The Day – I’d take a nerf bullet for you.