The 10 Best (AND WORST) Places to Hide Valuables in Your Home

Burglary is a crime of opportunity.  And burglars don’t want to spend a lot of time looking through a home to find things of value to steal, which is why there are obvious locations that they always check.  That means that there are ways to outsmart them by hiding your valuables in not-so-obvious places, and sometimes even in plain sight.

Depending on the size and type of item, the best places to hide valuables are those that burglars don’t want to search through or wouldn’t bother with, including places that are inconvenient or difficult to search, messy, or uninteresting.  On average Burglars spend 8-12 minutes inside of a home and they know where to look to make the most of their time.  Here are a few ideas on where to hide your valuables to keep them safe.

Here Are the Top 10:

  1. Dog food bin: If you store your pet food in a large bin, it can double as a handy hiding spot. Wrap up important items and place it at the bottom of the storage bin surrounded by dog food.

  2. A false VHS tape or VHS carton.  Who watches VHS tapes anymore?  Keep them in a stack with lots of others.  A few can be a clue, but many can be a time-consuming distraction.
  3. False containers in the kitchen cupboard, the fridge, under the sink, and in the 51dZsioyuVLbathroom, such as fake food cans and boxes, false cleaning product bottles, and personal hygiene items, and even in a heavy tub of “cat litter.”  Some false containers available on the market today actually look like false containers, so you might want to save yourself the expense and create your own.

  4. In the false bottom or under the plastic liner of a bathroom or kitchen trash can.  No one wants to go pawing through your trash in the slim hope of finding something worth pawning.
  5. Wrapped in plastic and aluminum foil and stored in the back of the freezer.  This is also a good place to store documents and paper currency in case of a house fire.
  6. In a floor safe in the bedroom closet.  While this location may be obvious, a burglar would have to exert a lot of time and energy—and create a lot of noise—trying to break into a floor safe, which is also generally of the heavy variety, making it not only hard to open, but hard to steal whole, if the thief had plans to break into it later.
  7. Inside a house plant.  Using the same method as for trash containers, a plant’s soil can be contained in a waterproof liner that can be lifted up to hide items underneath.  Just make sure the items you’re hiding are in a waterproof container, too.
  8. Inside a false wall outlet.  Make sure it’s not a live receptacle or in the way of any electrical wiring.
  9. Within hollowed-out/removable building components, such as wainscoting, floor panels, door jambs, window sills, and cabinet doors.
  10. In the garage inside boxes marked with mundane labels, such as “Xmas Ornaments,” “Kid’s Clothes,” “School Projects,” etc.  Again, the more boxes you have, the longer the burglar will have to search—if he’s so inclined—to find something worth stealing.

Hiding Places to Avoid:

  1. Areas that can damage your valuables with water or invasive matter, such as the water tank of a toilet, inside a mayonnaise jar that still has mayonnaise in it, or a paint can filled with paint.  There are high-quality waterproof containers on the market that will allow you to hide items in water (and possibly other places), but err on the side of caution.  Documents, jewelry and electronics that become wet or permeated with chemicals or food matter may be damaged beyond repair in your zeal to outsmart a tenacious burglar.
  2. A jewelry box.  This is a good place to store jewelry that you can afford to lose, but not your diamond tennis bracelet or your grandmother’s antique wedding ring.
  3. Your desk drawer, bedside drawer, or underwear drawer.  Too obvious.
  4. Inside CD cases.  It’s true:  burglars still prefer CDs to MP3s.
  5. Inside DVD cases.  DVDs and Xbox-type games are worth between $2 and $10 at pawn and re-sale shops; count on being cleaned out of your collection during a home burglary, regardless of the titles.
  6. A wall safe.  Unless it’s high-end and professionally installed, a wall safe can be dislodged by cutting the drywall seam around it, and wall safes are typically small and light enough to easily transport off site to be opened later.  Opt for the heavier and harder-to-access floor safe.
  7. Inside picture frames with false backs/interiors.  These tend to be thicker than typical picture frames, so they’re easy to spot as a hiding place.
  8. A cookie jar.  Put cookies in it, not your grocery money.
  9. An electrical item or heated area, such as a lamp base, toaster oven, or HVAC duct.  You could accidentally ignite your valuables and put your entire home at risk for a house fire.
  10. Any locked box or locking file cabinet.  A box that has a lock on it will be stolen regardless of what’s inside, and the lock on a file cabinet can be popped out with the right tool and a little effort.

Other Precautions

For valuables that you can’t hide or lock up, such as a flat-screen TV, stereo system, and computers, make sure they’re insured through your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance.  Unless you invest in a home security system (and sometimes even if you do), it’s not possible to protect every item in your home.  But you can take precautions to password-protect and GPS-activate laptops and smartphones so that their recovery is more likely, should they be stolen.

Also, firearms should be properly locked in an approved gun safe that is stored out of reach for the safety of the home’s occupants, as well as to deter theft.

Place a pole in the bottom track of your sliding glass patio doors so that they can’t be forced open wide enough to permit the entry of an intruder.  Install burglar-proof window locks that will allow you to leave your windows open slightly for fresh air, but not wide enough to allow a person to get through.

Remember that burglary is a crime of opportunity, so don’t tempt fate by leaving any exterior doors unlocked (including sliding glass patio doors, and the door between the garage and the living area), hiding a spare house key outdoors (under the “Welcome” mat, a large potted plant, statuary, or a solitary or fake rock), leaving the doors to your attached garage open (even when you’re home), or leaving the curtains or drapes open so that your valuables are in full view of prowlers and passersby.  Your personal safety is at risk as much as your personal property.

Also, don’t over-share personal information with the world by advertising your absence from home on social media.  When leaving on vacation, have a trusted neighbor, friend or family member monitor your home and bring in the newspaper, mail, and random take-out menus hung on your doorknob.  Install light timers indoors and security/motion detectors outdoors to illuminate your property’s exterior.  And go ahead and apply security company stickers to your windows/doors that advertise that your home is professionally protected, even if it’s not.

In short, do what you can to make your home a difficult, inconvenient and time-consuming target that will force a would-be burglar to move on.  And do your part to keep your neighborhood safe by reporting suspicious activity on your street to the police.

Its a Twister!!! Tornado Safety: Myth vs Fact

Tornadoes, also known as twisters or cyclones, are whirling columns of air that form with little warning and carve unpredictable paths of destruction through communities worldwide. America’s “Tornado Alley” – roughly the area between the Rocky Mountains and the Appalachian Mountains – where tornadoes kill dozens and cause billions of dollars in damage annually, sustains the majority of these storms. The extreme danger posed by tornadoes to families and their homes justifies the need for InterNACHI inspectors and their clients to learn some basic tips concerning tornado behavior, preparedness, and
post-storm damage inspection.
What Causes Tornadoes?

Tornadoes form from giant storms called supercells, which are fast rotating updrafts created when colder polar air meets warmer tropical air. Changing wind speeds and direction can cause rising air to rotate vertically, creating within the larger supercell what is known as a mesocyclone. For reasons not yet understood, columns of strong rotating air can develop within the mesocyclone, eventually extending from the cloud base to the ground in the form of a tornado. Their size, shape and color vary greatly, from transparent, narrow funnels several hundred feet across to dark wedges wider than they are tall.

Tornadoes damage small areas and thus cause less damage nationwide than hurricanes and tropical storms, but for those caught in their path, tornadoes can wreak havoc unmatched by any other weather phenomenon. Most tornadoes have wind speeds of less than 110 miles per hour and dissipate after several miles, but larger storms can exceed 300 miles per hour and devastate communities hundreds of miles apart.

Facts and Figures

  • Of the 50 states, Florida experiences the most tornadoes per unit area, while Oklahoma is hit by the strongest tornadoes per unit area. Bangaldesh, due to its poor building construction and general lack of tornado awareness, has the highest annual tornado death toll of any country.
  • Tornadoes in the northern hemisphere generally rotate in a counterclockwise direction, while the opposite is true in the southern hemisphere.
  • Supercells spawn land tornadoes.  Dust devils and gustnadoes appear similar to tornadoes but they are distinct and far less dangerous phenomena.
  • A waterspout is a relatively weak tornado that forms over water as a result of cumulus congestus clouds.
  • Tornadoes are intense and can be long-lived. Consider the following extremes:
    • The Bridge Creek-Moore tornado that happened just outside Oklahoma City in 1999 had winds of 301 mph, the highest wind speed ever recorded.
    • The Great Bend tornado in Kansas that occurred in 1915 hurled a sack of flour 110 miles and a cancelled check 305 miles.
    • In 1925, the nicknamed Tri-State Tornado that affected Missouri, Illinois and Indiana holds three records for traveling 219 miles at 73 mph and killing 295 people.

Classifications

Tornado strength is categorized by the following Enhanced Fujita Scale, whereby the storm receives an “F” rating from 0 to 5 based on the severity of the inflicted damage:This photo shows the aftermath of an EF0 storm, the classification for the weakest tornado.

  • EF0:  The weakest type of tornado can cause superficial damage to structures and vegetation.
  • EF1:  This rated tornado can cause major roof damage, with mobile homes seriously damaged.
  • EF2:  This stronger tornado may result in roof loss and wall collapse, with mobile homes destroyed and smaller trees uprooted.
  • EF3:  This is the maximum level that allows for reasonably effective residential sheltering in a first-floor interior room. Small cars can become projectiles and large trees can be snapped.
  • EF4:  At this level, most homes are completely destroyed, leaving a pile of debris on the foundation. A storm shelter is required to ensure safety. Trains and large trucks can be pushed over, and cars and large trees can be flung long distances.
  • EF5:  As the result of this strongest and most dangerous tornado, well-built homes can be lifted from their foundations and shredded in mid-air, then dispersed as coarse gAn E5 tornado leveled this home to its foundation.ranules over large areas. Large trucks and farm equipment can be smashed into their components parts, skyscrapers may actually be deformed, and entire communities may be leveled. At a rate of occurrence of just 0.1%, EF5 tornadoes are extremely rare, yet they have caused more than 20% of all tornado casualties.

While no two tornadoes are alike, the anatomy of a tornado’s attack on a house is as systematic as it is fierce and is defined as “a progressive failure [that] begins top-down, then outside-in,” according to Timothy Marshall, a tornado expert who writes for Popular Mechanics. Within the first second, pummeling debris tears away a structure’s roof shingles and decking, while wind shatters and rushes through windows and raises the internal pressure. The upward force of the wind on the underside of the already weakened roof, combined with the uplift forces above the roof caused by the high wind, quickly overcome the relatively weak connections between the roof and the walls. The roof tears away from the house, leaving the exterior walls unsupported. In another second, the exterior walls blow out – first, the side walls parallel to the straight-line winds, followed by the windward wall, and finally the back wall – leaving the interior walls unprotected against the maelstrom. An EF4 tornado needs only four seconds to wipe a foundation clean.

Myth vs. Fact

Knowing what not to do can be just as essential as taking the proper safety precautions. Misconceptions concerning tornadoes persist in the media, which may lead to avoidable damage and even unnecessary injuries and deaths.

InterNACHI would like to dispel the following tornado myths that may harm building occupants:

  • MYTH:  Open windows to equalize the barometric pressure between the interior and the exterior pressure caused by a nearby tornado, thereby preventing damage to the building.

FACT:  While a pressure imbalance does exist, it is not great enough to cause a building to explode outward, as was once hypothesized. Damage is primarily caused where wind breaches the building from the outside, which is why windows and other openings should remain closed. Moreover, openings on the windward side of a building actually increase internal wind pressure, resulting in additional uplift force on the roof.

  • MYTH:  The safest location in a house is its southwest corner.

FACT:  This notion originated in the 1887 text Tornadoes, from which it became conventional wisdom until a 1966 study indicated that the southwest corner is actually the most dangerous place to be during a tornado. The safest part of a structure during a tornado is the lowest central room, especially a bathroom or the area beneath a stairwell.

  • MYTH:  Tornadoes always travel in a northeasterly direction.

FACT:  While in most areas, tornadoes tend to follow their parent storms to the northeast, they may stop, change direction, or suddenly backtrack, seemingly at random. Local geography plays a part, too, such as in Minnesota, where tornadoes sometimes travel northwest, andA conventional home may withstand the effects of an EF2 tornado, but it destroyed this mobile home. in coastal south Texas, where they sometimes travel southeast.

  • MYTH:  Tornadoes are “attracted to” mobile homes.

FACT:  The inordinate severity of damage inflicted on trailer parks, compared to conventional homes, can be attributed to the weakness of the building materials commonly used in mobile homes, their lack of foundations, and their small size.

  • MYTH:  Large auditoriums are safer during tornadoes than houses.

FACT:  Many studies have concluded that large-span structures, such as auditoriums and gymnasiums, are vulnerable to high winds because of their high surface area. As such, these buildings should be avoided.

  • MYTH:  Tornadoes do not strike cities.

FACT:  This myth is based on the comparatively small area occupied by downtown areas, which make them uncommon targets for tornadoes. Also, the urban heat-island effect may discourage the formation of weaker tornadoes. Significant tornadoes are unaffected by turbulent warm air, however, and EF4 and EF5 tornadoes have struck Atlanta, Georgia, Lubbock, Texas and even London, England.

  • MYTH:  Mountains, lakes and rivers are significant barriers against tornadoes.

FACT:  Tornadoes have formed over rivers and lakes, and more than a dozen have crossed over the Mississippi River. Twisters have been observed as high as 12,000 feet (3,700 meters) above sea level and ascend 3,000-foot (910 meter) ridges without slowing down.

Damage to Homes

While much tornado destruction is obvious, some of the damage is only apparent upon closer inspection. Even an insurance adjuster can miss critical structural and safety defects that may cost the homeowner a fortune to repair.  According to CNN, a jury found that a major insurer acted “recklessly and with malice” while handling insurance claims resulting from the 1999 Oklahoma tornado, which posed serious safety defects to the building’s occupants. An unbiased and comprehensive assessment of the damage inflicted on a home by a tornado can be obtained by hiring an InterNACHI inspector. Read InterNACHI’s article on Emergency Preparedness to find out what to do after an emergency

Specifically, the following elements should be inspected for damage:

  • gas leaks. Uprooted trees may have damaged underground gas pipes, which can lead to deadly fires;
  • electrical damage. Electrical equipment should be dried and checked before being returned to service. If you see sparks or broken or frayed wires, or if you smell burning insulation, turn off the electricity at the main fuse box or circuit breaker. If you have to step in water to get to the fuse box or circuit breaker, call a utility repairperson or an electrician first for advice;
  • plumbing. Tornadoes can easily shake and rattle a home, causing plumbing lines to twist and crack. Following the storm, homeowners can check their plumbing by turning on all plumbing fixtures, checking cabinets for signs of water damage, and checking ceilings from below for staining. Avoid using toilets if sewage lines have been damaged;
  • roof and siding. Cracking, tears and gouges caused to the roof and siding by flying debris will eventually allow for the entry of rainwater and snowmelt. Gable roofs are especially vulnerable to damage from the high wind generated by tornadoes. For additional support, attach wall studs to roof rafters using hurricane clips, not nails;
  • chimney damage. Chimney damage may slow or stop the ventilation of carbon monoxide (CO) – a poisonous, colorless, odorless and tasteless gas – allowing it to accumulate in the living area. Inspect the chimney closely for damage in a tornado-damaged house. For more information, read InterNACHI’s article on chimney inspection;
  • windows and gutters. Flying debris can smash windows, damage windowpanes and shutters, rip screens, and dent or tear away gutters;
  • foundation. Strong winds can cause foundations to uplift. Check the perimeter of crawlspaces for any changes and inspect masonry for signs of separation or cracking;
  • interior. Inspect for stress cracks in the corners where walls and ceilings meet, and especially the areas above windows and doors. Use a level to check for cupping of the floor and bowing of the walls. Water stains and mold on interior walls may appear some time after the tornado, indicating overlooked damage to the roof that has permitted moisture intrusion; and
  • garage doors. Due to their large surface area, garage doors can be damaged or blown in before other parts of the house are damaged. The wind may then damage the interior and accelerate the home’s collapse. Garage door system technicians can be hired to install horizontal bracing, impact-resistant coverings, and strengthen weak hinges and glider wheel tracks. Old or damaged doors should be replaced.

Tips for Clients

If a tornado is in your area, immediately take shelter indoors, preferably in a basement or first-floor room, closet, hallway, or the void beneath a stairwell. Bathrooms are generally safe, as plumbing fixtures strengthen the walls and anchor them to the ground, and bathtubs can protect against flying debris. Crouch face down beneath a heavy table or workbench, and cover your head with your hands to protect against falling debris.  Do not leave the building until the storm has passed. If possible, cover yourself with some sort of thick padding, such as blankets or a mattress.

Also, avoid the following areas:

  • rooms with many windows. Before any other part of the house fails, windows typically shatter and allow the entry of dangerous projectiles, such as broken masonry and gravel, in addition to glass shards from the window itself;
  • rooms with exterior walls. Exterior walls will fail before interior walls, which often survive intact;
  • under heavy objects that are located on the floor above. A piano or refrigerator may fall through a weakened floor and crush anything below; and
  • mobile homes. Only 10% of Americans live in mobile homes but nearly half of all tornado fatalities happen in them. Mobile homes that are not tied down can be flipped in 60- to 70-mph winds, and even small tornadoes can cause them to completely disintegrate, leaving occupants unprotected. Leave a mobile home immediately and seek shelter elsewhere. If none can be found, lie flat in the nearest ditch with your hands shielding your head.

InterNACHI Inspectors may pass on the following tips to their clients:

  • Watch for atmospheric conditions that accompany tornadoes, such as a dark, greenish sky, large hailstones, a cloud of debris, a roaring noise, or a lowering, spinning storm cloud.
  • Monitor the Emergency Alert System (EAS) on the radio or TV and listen for tornado advisories. A tornado watch means that conditions are favorable for a tornado to form, while a tornado warning means a tornado has been sighted or detected on radar.
  • If a tornado is approaching, shut off the water either at the main meter or at the water main that leads into the home.
  • Before a storm, shut off the electricity, as sparks from electrical switches could ignite gas and cause an explosion.
  • Keep all hazardous materials, such as poisons and chemical solvents, stored in a secure area away from emergency food and water supplies.
  • Arrange furniture so that chairs and beds are away from windows, mirrors and picture frames.
  • Secure top-heavy, freestanding furniture, such as bookcases and China cabinets, with L-brackets, corner brackets, eyebolts, flexible cable or braided wire, and place heavy items on the bottom shelves.  This is an advisable safety precaution in general for families with small children and those who reside in earthquake-prone regions.
  • Keep a disaster supply kit on hand. It should include a first-aid kit, a flashlight with extra batteries, essential medicines, a battery-operated radio, emergency food and water, and a hand-held can opener.
  • Install a safe room or storm shelter in or near the house. Read more about these in InterNACHI’s article on Safe Rooms.
  • Following a storm, do not use matches, lighters or appliances or operate light switches until you are sure there are no gas leaks. If you smell gas or hear a hissing noise, open a window and leave the building as quickly as possible. Turn off the gas at the outside main valve if you can and call the gas company from a neighbor’s home. Wait for a professional to turn the gas back on.
  • Read InterNACHI’s article on Emergency Preparedness to find out what to do before and after an emergency.
In summary, tornadoes are devastating and unpredictable, but a little knowledge concerning their basic behavior can save lives.  InterNACHI inspectors and their clients can benefit by being aware and prepared in order to protect both their families and their properties.

Did You KNOW? House Numbers Matter

 House numbers should be clear enough so that police, the fire department, paramedics, etc., can quickly locate properties in an emergency. House numbers are often the only way that first-responders can identify their intended destinations. A number of jurisdictions have begun enforcing laws through strict fines for homeowners who do not comply with laws that impose requirements for house numbers.

 

Local Regulations
 

Many municipalities and counties have implemented ordinances requiring property owners to standardize the display of house numbers on buildings. The city of St. Martinville, Louisiana, for instance, is considering requiring its citizens to display street numbers in block numbering that is at least 4 inches tall and is either illuminated at night or has a reflective finish. If the ordinance is passed, the city will fine offenders $200, plus hundreds more in court fees. In Florida, the cities of Clearwater, Largo and St. Petersburg have begun enforcing their own municipal codes that regulate the visibility of house numbers, imposing fines for violators.

Common Requirements

In order for house numbers to be visible from the street, InterNACHI advises that they should:

  • be large. Jurisdictions that regulate the size of street numbers generally require that them to be 3 to 6 inches tall. Many jurisdictions require that the numbers be of a certain thickness, such as 1/2-inch, as required by New York City;
  • be of a color that contrasts with their background. Reflective numbers are usually helpful because they are easier to see at night than numbers that are not reflective;
  • not be obscured by any trees, shrubs, or other permanent objects;
  • face the street that is named in the house’s address. It does emergency workers no good if the house number faces a different street than the one the workers are traveling on;
  • be clearly displayed at the driveway entrance if the house is not visible from the road.
According to 6.5.12 of the International Standard for Inspecting Commercial Properties, inspectors should:

Inspect the address or street number to determine that it is visible from the street with numbers in contrast to their background.

Future Adjustments
Even if a house number is currently adequate, it might need adjustment in the future. The following are common reasons for future adjustment:
  • The numbers assigned to houses by the municipality occasionally change, and homeowners must adjust their house numbers accordingly.
  • The trees or shrubs in front of the house have grown so much that the number is no longer visible. House numbers installed in the winter may be visible during that season but become blocked by budding vegetation by spring or summer.
  • House numbers will require maintenance when they get dirty. Numbers may not be reflective or contrasting if they are covered in mud.
  • Snow piles created by snow plows during the winter may be high enough to cover the number. If this happens, the number should be raised so this situation does not repeat.
In summary, house numbers serve a critical function for emergency personnel and should be clearly displayed.

The Home Can Be A Dangerous Place

Home Inspections and Safety Issues
There are many systems and pieces of equipment in a home that can cause injury or even death if not respected and maintained. These items include mechanical appliances such as garage doors, combustible equipment such as gas furnaces and fireplaces, pressurized equipment such as water heaters, electrical equipment, trip and fall hazards such as improper stairways, safety glass, firewalls, and many more.

Some safety items can be very serious. A improperly installed TPR (temperature and pressure relief) valve or TPR drain line on a water heater could result in the water heater exploding. Faulty electrical wiring or electrical grounding could result in electrocution or fire. Others items such as the picket spacing on a railing may be of less concern if the home owner has no children living or visiting the home.

Some safety items may not have been known issues or required by building standards when the home was built. Other items such as asbestos or lead may have been installed without any knowledge of the safety issues. Improvements in home construction, upgrades in building standards, innovative new equipment and just plain experience in the housing construction has resulted in home safety constantly changing and improving.

Your home inspection may reference some of these safety items and make recommendations for maintenance, further evaluation, repair or upgrades. Many of these recommendations are just that, recommendations. Older homes are not required to upgrade to newer building standards. It is a home owner’s decision on whether to upgrade and what safety upgrades they choose to implement. Keep in mind that safety items are concerns. There is a risk involved in not implementing repairs or upgrades. No home can be 100% safe but, ultimately, each individual must determine the amount of risk they are willing to assume for themselves and their family.