Protecting Your Home or Camp with Early Warning Systems, Part 1

In just about every crisis I can think of, security will become an issue. When Hurricane Harvey hit our town and the surrounding areas, criminals and shysters of all types arrived along with the floodwaters to take advantage of hurting people. (You can read about our experiences here.)

“We shoot looters on sight” becomes a familiar sight after natural disasters, and along with your prepping plans, it’s easy to see how important it is to consider home security plans as well.

In a real emergency, it doesn’t matter whether you are bugging in or out, you may need to be warned of intruders.  Today many of us sit at home with the doors locked, the windows closed and air conditioning keeping the temperature under control, but after a disaster, we may have to keep all our windows open, to try to stay cool. We found this to be true in the days and weeks following Harvey.

With windows open and strangers flowing in and out of neighborhoods, some helping with the recovery, others with ulterior motives, this eliminates some of the security we normally have. If you have people, who are trying to take advantage of the situation by looting you may need to rig up some early warning systems.

Simple security systems are best

Fortunately, there are many simple ways to give you early warning of intruders. Dogs are great, one of the best early warning systems. Often smaller dogs are more alert and will be quicker to bark. If a dog or two are part of your early warning system, be sure to get your dog ahead of time and get to understand your dog’s reactions. With a bit of training your dog can be a very effective early warning system.  In addition, depending on the type of dog they can discourage prowlers.

Another of the simplest early warning systems is to set up tripwires. Tripwire systems are very simple to put up and use. You just have to be sure that the tripwires blend in well with the surrounding.  Some types of fishing lines work well, you can get fishing line in different colors.

early warning systems
Fishing line should blend in.

These can be used at your home, bugout location, or at a campsite, and they can be as simple as a tin can hanging on a line with rocks in it and tripwires. Because my hearing is not very good, I recommend cowbells. You can often find them in thrift stores or garage sales and they make lots of noise. I recently saw cowbells on sale at a local feed store for $2 each. Depending on the size of the cowbells, they can be quite loud and may scare someone off.  Just remember if you have one tripped you need to make changes to your layout as the intruders may come back from a different direction and route.

See also  Protecting Children During TEOTWAWKI or Other Emergencies

Using YoYo fishing traps for early warning systems.

YoYo traps are a spring-loaded wheel with approximately 12 ft of 60 lb test line with a swivel on the end.  For most uses, you tie the reel to a tree or other solid anchor point.  You then stretch out the line, which turns the wheel compressing the spring.  When you get as much line as you want out, there is a small latch that you place in one of the notches in the wheel.  When the line is disturbed, it trips the latch and the spring-loaded wheel reels in the fish.  You would normally add more line to the trap.

early warning systems
YoYo fishing reels or traps

However, they have an alternate use.  They will work well as early warning systems.  Simply take a can full of rocks and stretch the string across the area you wish to protect.  Set the string at ankle height so that any disturbance will trigger the YoYo fishing reel. You can add fishing line to lengthen the string.  When the YoYo fishing reel retracts, it will cause the can to fall or shake, warning you that someone is in the area.  There are many other ways that you can use this to trigger a warning, even using it to trigger electronic devices.

This early warning system can be used anywhere

Another simple alarm that can be used in your home or even a motel room is to put an empty glass jar upside down on your doorknob. This will fall (and make a loud noise, except on carpet) should someone simply turn the doorknob. (Warning- the bottle can break leaving glass fragments on the floor). The advantage here is that it just takes the turn of the doorknob to alert you — the potential intruder doesn’t even have to enter your room or push against the door lock for you to be warned ahead of time.

ealry warning system
A jar hanging from a door knob

A soda can filled with loose change balanced on the doorknob will make a lot of noise if someone attempts to enter.  Windows are also easy to create a trap with cans of change or jars.

You will notice that these are all noise-making devices. I am not recommending any devices that can cause bodily harm. These are just a few of the many possible ways you can rig early warning systems to help protect you from intruders.  Today we have just discussed low tech methods, in the future, we will post an article on higher-tech methods.

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21 thoughts on “Protecting Your Home or Camp with Early Warning Systems, Part 1”

  1. X-10 home security systems have excellent motion detectors for indoors or outdoors, and Amazon and Harbor freight have some good motion detectors that work well.
    When my brother was in the Marines, they used empty K-ration cans (two together) tied to fish line and surrounded their camping spot with this system. However, the rodents liked the empty cans, and kept them up all night by jumping on the cans to get at the leftover food.

  2. You may want to ad bubble wrap that gives off the snap sound that doesn’t blend with any noise in nature. It is cheap for it costs a dollar at the dollar store. under the center of a throw rug that is normal in a home it wont be detected like the fishing line that can reflect the tight beam flashlight.

  3. I use cheap sensor lights which I removed the bulbs and attached wires inside my house, to a diagram of my property, with small indicator lights representing where the sensor is located. When one, or more, of the twenty-six lights come on a quick glance at the diagram will tell me where something may have triggered the sensor. If there is a power failure, I plug it into an inverter attached to a four twelve volt batteries as a backup. I buy these at hardwares store when on sale. Some of them sell for less that three dollars each.

    1. I wish you would explain this in more detail as I can’t visualize how you’ve done this. This is what I have been wanting to do for some time, but haven’t figured out how to do it.

    2. Hey Jim – I agree with John’s reply. This sounds like an awesome setup, would love to learn more about how exactly you did this & how well it works for you.



  4. Any terrier will be your best alarm. We have Jack Russells & they are loud & tenacious. They’re also very smart, easy to train. We’re with ours almost constantly & we can tell the difference in their barks; there’s “oh, mama’s home”, “yippee, squirrels”, and then there’s “I’m gonna rip your leg off!”. They’re small, quick, & difficult for an intruder to see long enough to neutralize.

  5. Just came across this article and it reminded me of another article on home security (can’t find it right this minute). Anyway, the author was talking about a mil surplus item that could be used to “fire” .22 cal blanks when a trip wire was disturbed. This is a great idea, especially if you’re setting these outside your home or the perimeter of your property. They won’t hurt anyone, but, can be heard quite well from a distance (or inside your home).

    I too would like to see a follow-up to the post on the diagram to indicate intruder locations.

    Keep up the great articles!

  6. Set your trip wire to a rat trap (large mousetrap) that strikes onto nails driven through the trap. On top of these nails fit percussion caps that are used on black powder firearms. When the tripwire is struck it will set off the rat trap striking the percussion caps. Bam!!

  7. As a cheap method of early detection, the jar on the doorknob method is something I have never seen and is fantastic, essentially it’s a early detection device you can carry and use at a moments notice. Thanks for this tip!

  8. I use battery operated driveway motion sensors. The inside base unit run off electricity or battery if unplugged. It has up to eight sensors. I have them surrounding my home. The base will beep the number times according to what sensor is tripped. Works great for camping or any other security situation. The AA batteries in the sensors last about a year. I live just north of New Orleans so they come in real handy after the power goes out from a hurricane. Not real cheap but last many years. I’ve had mine for 8 years. Also, I have battery operated motion sensor lights around my house and a very large dog.

  9. To secure your door that has a deadbolt, you can back out one of the screws just enough to prevent the bolt from backing out all the way. This helped me keep my husband out long enough for me to escape when he was becoming violent.

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