Sunday, January 18, 2015

Silent Sentinals

It's just as well to know if you have visitors coming, of whatever persuasion.  The fewer the routes of ingress to your place there are, the easier and cheaper it is to do.

In my case, there's the jeep trail which goes down to the old forest service road, which eventually leads out to a one lane paved road. That's how individuals approaching my place would probably come. It's unlikely they would try to come up the mountain side, or down the mountains through the national forest, in winter.  It would be virtually impossible in summer when the undergrowth is thick and tough to get through.

In order to have a little warning if unexpected visitors arrive, there are some things you can do.

1. Motion detectors.  They come in all shapes and sizes. My experience has been that motion detectors you get at big box stores are not going to hold up for long under extreme weather conditions. You can, however, order these devices that are purpose built for exposure to the weather.  If you go that route, you need a receiver unit that will let you monitor at least 4 sending units, both by audio alarm and flashing light on the receiver unit.  You need a range of transmission based on your own specific case, and the sending units need to be battery powered.

Dakota Alert 2500 Dcma

The Dakota Alert 2500 Dcma would be a good set to look at in terms of price and capability. Like anything else, there are cheaper units and more expensive units.  Sportsman's Guide sells a good basic unit, with one receiver and one sending unit, for $75.00.  You can buy up to three more sending units to interact with your receiver.  It's really a matter of determining what you can afford, and what you need.

Sportsman's Guide. 1 Sending Unit, 1 Receiver. $79.00
You can get three more sending units to work with it.

If you have a lot of money to spend, you can buy surplus military equipment that will do the job. As always, you get what you pay for.

There used to be "flash bangs" you could set out.  These were units with a trip wire, that fired a small black powder charged cartridge when someone or something hit the wire. The noise was certain to wake you up, because it sounded like a 12 gauge being fired.  I had problems with these, though. After they had been out in the weather for awhile, the cartridges sometimes failed to fire. If you can afford to replace the cartridges every month of so, it's a good piece of gear.

You can use trip wires with light sticks, but since there's no sound, they aren't worth a lot unless you happen to be sitting out on the porch at night and see them go off.  There are trip wire units with flares, but for obvious reasons they are not a good idea in a forest, especially during a dry summer.

If you have dogs, you can string wires across an area you are concerned about, and hook cans with marbles in the wire. Everybody has seen the old WW2 movies where the soldiers do this. I use copper bells, myself.  Something hitting those causes a racket, which gets the dogs going, and that clues you into the fact that it's time to get up with the flood light and a shotgun. If you put these across a route you use, you have to be willing to unhook them, drive through, then hook them up behind you. 

I use a security camera system with infrared lights. Works good, wasn't cheap. I like to be able to look around outside, day or night, and see what's going on.  There are so many of these systems out there to choose from that it's impossible to do much more than say choose one with the features you need in your particular situation.

I use a night vision device, so my security lights at night are all red.  This does not blind the system and it helps you see into dark nooks and crannies without turning on the infrared floodlight on the night vision unit. Someone with a night vision unit can see the beam from the infrared floodlight on another night vision unit like a search light shining out on a dark night. I prefer a passive and less detectable setting.

Not so much for intruders, but for fire, I have monitors in each building, which transmit a constant sound signal to a receiver in the house.  If the fire alarms go off out there, I know I have a fire and can get out with an extinguisher ASAP.  Without that, the first inkling I'd have that one of my buildings was burning would be the sounds the wood gave off as it crackled and popped. 

All of these things help me remain in control of the situation here on the mountain, and let me act when necessary, as opposed to having to react to a situation already way beyond my comfort levels. The more money you can spend, the more sophisticated your overall security system can be. However, my much quoted Russian proverb still applies. "The best is the enemy of good enough."


  1. I've been experimenting with plumbing parts from Lowes and Home Depot to create bolt-it-to-the-side-of-a-tree trip flares that use the 26.5mm flares on the market. You can also make pretty decent trip flares using a rat trap and some SkyBlazer emergency flares.

    I have a couple of the old military Vietnam-era PSR-1 seismic intrusion detectors, and one of the new TRC-31 detector sets. One is wireless, the other is wired. The little geophones that come with the old set are excellent for tinkering to build your own system and they can be found on eBay.

    1. My concern is that the flare may come down in the trees and create a conflagration. My other problem is that there is nowhere except my meadow that isn't under the canopy, and the flare would get snagged in that. If an intruder hit a flare late at night, it might frighten them off, but if it didn't set the dogs off I'd probably not even know it went. I'd really like to use flare launchers, because I think they have a lot of shock value, but I can't think of a way to over come these issues.

      I'd like to have some of that old seismic intrusion gear, but I have never found any that didn't either have a battery problem (required military batteries I couldn't get) or required the unit be manned to be effective.

      I don't know the particulars of those units , so I am not sure if any of those drawbacks apply. I do know military gear is much more robust than the average off the shelf stuff.

  2. We have a Dakota unit with two transmitters. They work slick and we like them. Extreme weather does not bother them....the only problem we have had is with mud daubers trying to build a nest, but occasional inspection takes care of that.

  3. I have never heard anyone say anything negative about those. Oddly enough, I've had the same problem with mud dauber nests here. We also have a spider here that likes to weave egg sacks in front of camera lenses or sensor apertures.

  4. I have motion lights on every corner of the house and barn, but they do little to prevent vandals. I suppose if I set up a rat trap with a 12 ga shell and someone got hurt I'd be in a heap of trouble. But I'd love to see the bastard explain away what he was doing on my property when he got a face-full of turkey shot. I think I will look in to a critter cam.

    1. Lights will only be useful if they somehow alert you to an intruder. Crazy people are not deterred by lights by and large. I read your post, and I don't really know what you can do in a situation like that. If you catch the guy on a trail cam, or on a security video, you could press trespass charges but he'd just get a misdemeanor, pay a twenty dollar fine and be right back out there even more enraged.

  5. Hey Harry,


    I live in a semi-rural, suburbia setting with houses all around but with open land and some Longhorn Cattle on a small farm (25 head) about 400 yards away so remote living is not possible.

    I thought about of them 'Dakota Alerts" on my porch and with detectors also placed in other locations.
    Living where I live, I have neighbors dogs that bark at anything as well as some really good, trusty neighbors that watch out for things that don't look right.

    I don't know if I ever told you, but one old man up the street sits out late at night on his porch with a shotgun.
    There are a few advantages to where I live. Having the respect and trust of several neighbors can act as great 'Humint Intel" (If I got the term 'humint' right) You gotta understand that I scored to high on my "absvab test" to get into 'Military Intelligence" so I don't know all the lingo.

    Back to what I was saying though. It would be much safer to live in the middle of nowhere but that's out of the question at the moment so I gotta play the hand that I was dealt. Who knows, maybe its the best choice even if the 'Poop hits the fan"

    1. Take a look at the post over at M. Silvius and see what you think.

  6. It looks like you are well prepared! In the city we don't have to have too much. There's lights everywhere, most people have cell phones (no problems with signals), and there's gas stations within walking distance everywhere. I take things for granted. We've traveled to no man's land, and I had forgotten how I should have had this, or that. Food, water, a good flashlight, and a weapon of some sort are always something one should have plenty of!

    1. In some respects, it's less complicated to live in a city. My kids prefer it. Everything a person wants is close and easy to get to. Here, it seems sometimes like nothing is easy. On the other hand, I honestly don't think I could get along in a city with lots of people around me. As you point out, where ever you live it's good to have a few basic needs covered. Who knows what will happen tomorrow?

  7. The biggest problem with motion sensors is false alarms. Obviously if you have motion lights, you can ether have a switch that will operate an alarm, or two systems operating in parallel.

    If you are going the trip wire approach, barb wire with noise makers in low foliage is a nice surprise.

  8. Most motion sensors I've owned were tunable in terms of sensitivity, so you could prevent blowing leaves, etc. from activating them. That's another reason I don't buy the cheaper units from the big box stores, they tend not to have that capability and it degrades the value of the equipment.

    I have considered barbed wire, but a lot of wildlife crosses my property and I don't want to injure any animals by inadvertently entangling any of them. I do have barbed wire stored in my barn and if the day comes that things are dire enough to merit extreme measures that's one I can put in place.

  9. Harry,

    We use those solar powered motion lights, the dog, high velocity lead poison, and a few other UN-mentioned items.

    1. It's the one's you can't talk about that are generally the most effective. I honestly believe that the most important part of a good home security set up is a few good dogs.