Security and Safety
Is It Safe???
People have often asked us do we feel safe when we travel. We often feel lost, bewildered, confused, frustrated, out of place and yes we do feel safe BUT we are always cautious. Whether you are in your home town or traveling in foreign countries there are always people with the wrong intentions and we have found that no country is more threatening than others. Books have been written on the subject but what I will explain below is our experience and advice. In our many months of traveling and driving through over 30 countries we have had only one real incident and that was at the end of a 6 month trip in 2009.
The French Break-in
In France on our first trip we had our motor home broken into, after driving for 6 months without a problem we had become complacent. We had parked in an overflow car park near one of the Normandy beach landing spots of D Day. Mistake 1. We should have parked up closer were there were other vehicles and more activity. But we had already parked and were lazy not to move it up closer. We parked with our side door next to an embankment and we parked in the corner of the car park. Mistake 2. We should have had our side door facing the traffic and where other people are. We left our motor home and the route to the beach and back was approx. 30 minutes. The thieves knew they had at least that time before we would be back. They broke in through the side door unseen as we were dumb and parked in the corner next to a hill. Mistake 3. The lock on the side door was made of plastic and the cylinder was of poor quality. I should have known better being a locksmith by profession.
Overall we were lucky as they only made a bit of a mess and the loss was only 20€. After about 20 minutes of cleaning up we were on our way again a bit shaken up but determined to be more cautious in future. What we have learned from our experience.
When you plan to leave your motor home it is a good idea to always park with the side door to where there is the most traffic and visibility. At supermarkets we always park with the side door facing towards the entrance to the supermarket as people are always coming and going from there. If anyone wants to try and force the lock they will always be in view.
Make sure the lock you have on the side door is adequate. We had trusted a plastic lock with a flimsy cylinder and it let us down. Since then we have installed a Fiamma Lock with has a tubular cylinder and is made of steel, much harder to force and for the cylinder to be picked or screwdriven open. The more modern motorhomes have better locks but even then the cylinders are still very flimsy and basic.
Inside door latches
On our rear door we two door latches that only operate from the inside, we use them when we are asleep inside and also when we are driving through towns and cities. These are not keyed locked and it allows us to get out quickly if we need to but prevents others getting in easily. At night it gives us piece of mind and when we are driving it means that we don’t get any uninvited visitors jumping in our back door when we are at traffic lights or going slow. We haven’t heard this happening but we think it’s a simple precaution.
Storing valuables in the motor home
We met a couple in Riga [Australians] who had just been broken into and had all their electrical gear stolen along with the cables and chargers. They had placed it all in one bag and put it in the wardrobe. All the thief had to do was break-in open the wardrobe, say thanks for gear and providing me with a handy carry bag and he was off. Don’t make it easy for thieves to get your stuff. They don’t know who is about and when you’re a likely to return, the longer it takes them the more chance that they will leave empty handed. We met another couple in Spain south of Barcelona who had also been broken in and had their laptop stolen, they had put in in the cupboard above the sink. They had a new motor home and the thieves put a screwdriver in the lock cylinder and opened it easily. Having our goods in a well hidden, hard to get at place saved us when we were broken into in France. Even a simple metal box under a seat with a padlock ,bolted to the motor home would make it difficult and take valuable time for the would be thieves. Most thieves are opportunists.
I was toying with the idea of building my own safe , a steel box with a lock on the inside with only the keyhole showing. I had even drawn up some plans and had decided to build it next time we were in Holland where I had access to a welder and some tools. But before I could do that we found a safe in a hardware store in Copenhagen. We took the measurements and headed back to the motor home to find that it was a perfect fit. The price was only about 60€ so a real bargain, the lock itself was worth more than the safe. I bought the safe and some bolts and armed with my trusty cordless drill which cost me all of 10€ in a supermarket in Poland I proceeded to install it. We put it in a cupboard under a seat and bolted it with 2 bolts underneath and four bolts through the side. The joy of having an old motor home and not worrying about drilling a few holes in it. The head of the bolts are on the inside of the safe with rounded end on the outside. To open the safe there is a digital keypad and it has a tubular lock on it as an override in case the batteries run low or we forget the number. It is big enough to store our computer, Tablet, Tom Tom, book readers, Camera’s and other valuables. I have not seen a safe for the cheap price that we bought it for but there are plenty on the market. For the money it gives us peace of mind when the leave the motor home unattended.
Nothing is Burglar-proof
I have worked as a Locksmith for over 20 years and have broken into hundreds of houses and cars [Legally I might add] and have come to learn that nothing is burglar-proof but what we can do is minimise the risks.
Gas Attack [Urban myth or fact??]
As you travel in your motor home you will no doubt here the story of people staying in their motor home at night and getting gassed. The story goes that they pump the motor home with gas that makes you sleep then break in and steal your valuables. I have listed a few sites to visit so you can make up your own mind. Personally I am in the myth camp and think that the sellers of gas detection equipment are the ones who perpetuate the myth.
On our front doors we have a set of chains attached to the seats that can be wrapped around the door handles to stop anyone opening the doors from the outside. Even though they are there I must admit that we seldom use them. I have seen also a bar that can fit between the front doors and also extra bolts that can be installed on the inside. They are sold by Fiamma and I have seen them in camping shops. The lock we have on our side door can also be seen on the same site It is called the Fiamma Safe door Frame.
A book which I have found on the internet simply called The Motorhome Security Handbook is available as a book and also an E-book to download. I have not read it so cannot comment as to its worth. The site is Motorhome Books.