When a military service member is deployed, the family they leave behind often faces new concerns about home and personal safety.
Suddenly finding yourself alone when you’re used to having your military spouse at home takes adjustment. It can be a challenge to be a military spouse or family member living in new places while your loved one is deployed. In terms of military spouse safety, you may even feel uneasy or unsafe about being alone.
Whether you’re being deployed or holding down the home front, here is a simple safety checklist of things you can do to protect your home and loved ones.
While you’re both still at home, take time to double check your current security measures and make any necessary upgrades with these home safety tips.
Inspect locks, doors, and windows
Ensure that all of your windows, doors, and locks are in working order. If needed, install additional deadbolts or window locks. If you have sliding doors or windows, you may want to add a steel bar or dowel for extra security.
Check out landscaping
Make sure that there are no hedges or trees obscuring the view into the house. If potential intruders feel like they’ll be on display, they’re less likely to try breaking in. In addition, make arrangements to keep up on landscaping while your partner is deployed. Neglected yards are a signal to criminals that a home may be vacant.
Shine a light
Take a look at your outside lighting and make sure all your lightbulbs are in good working condition. You may consider installing a motion-activated light if you don’t have one already.
Evaluate your home security system
If you currently have a home security system, review your plan and service. If you don’t have a system, it might be time to think about adding one. Review your services to make sure your level of monitoring makes your family feel safe.
Even when you prepare, it can be difficult after your loved one is deployed. Here are some things you can do to ease your mind during the transition.
Know your surroundings
If you move a lot because of various deployments or base reassignments, it’s a good idea to have an “Adventure Day” — either on your own or with your kids. Check out what is around the base and your new home. And, while you’re out, consider becoming familiar with the following people and places:
Streets leading in and out of your neighborhood
The closest police and fire stations
The closest community center
An “Adventure Day” can be fun and will also show your family what is immediately surrounding your new home. Plus, knowing what is close by will help you feel safe in cases of emergency, such as natural disasters or trespassers.
Monitor your space
Monitoring your new home with the help of security equipment can also help you feel safer in an unfamiliar place. You may not want to purchase a traditional security system and sign up for an extended contract if you move a lot, but there are several new systems on the market that allow you to monitor your home without a contract. Many of these systems offer advanced security options:
See video of what is happening inside your home
Monitor comings and goings of people around your home
Control lights and door locks via apps on your smartphone
Even though technology and social media give military families the ability to stay connected more than ever before, it’s best to keep some things private. Avoid scenarios that involve oversharing:
Do not publically post that your soldier is being deployed
Do not publically post where exactly your soldier is deployed
Do not disclose combat-related information on private group pages
Information about a soldier being away could be compromising both for the unit and for you as a family member at home alone. Private information like that should remain private, for everyone’s safety.
Keep your routine
If you and your soldier have been in the area for some time before he or she deployed, try to stick to your same routine. Each routine will differ, but here are some common tricks for keeping up the appearance of your normal routine:
Have friends and family come and go as usual
Leave cars in front of the house when appropriate
Start using lawn care and gardening services when made aware of deployment
Don’t tie yellow ribbons or hang wreaths with yellow ribbons after deployment
Be aware of strangers
When your serviceperson is deployed, don’t feel like you have to stop talking to strangers (especially if you still want to have pizza delivered on Friday night) — but do be more mindful of who is on the other side of the door when the bell rings. When the doorbell rings, ask yourself some simple questions before opening the door:
Are you expecting someone?
Can the person at your door provide proper identification, like a government-issued ID?
Is the person at the door wearing a company- or government-issued uniform?
Does your HOA allow door-to-door salesmen?
Have you seen this person in the neighborhood before?
Be aware of who is at the door and teach your children to use the peephole before opening the door. And, don’t forget that it is never wrong to simply leave the door shut and locked if you feel uncertain.
Keep things private
Discuss the deployment only with close friends, family members, and others who need to know. Keep information about the deployment and your new situation off social media. Educate children to ensure they don’t disclose that their parent is away.
Use the buddy system
Now that your significant other is no longer present to check in daily, it’s time to bring in backup. Set up a system with friends, family, or neighbors to communicate regularly. If your neighborhood has a Neighborhood Watch program, get involved. Forming these alliances will help you feel more secure and less alone.
Get rid of extra keys
If you normally leave an extra key somewhere outside your house, it’s time to move it. Instead of using a hide-a-key or sticking it under the mat, give the key to someone you trust who lives nearby.
Maintaining the safety of military families is important for both those at home and those abroad. You have enough to think about during a military deployment — you don’t need to add home security to the list. Use these savvy tips to prepare before deployment and keep your family safe until your loved one comes home.
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more