Where to Hide Valuables in an Apartment

Recently, one of our awesome readers, Sara, brought up a great question:

I was wondering if you could advise me for a particular apartment security measure?
I live in an apartment, but I am unable to drill holes into the floor. I am wondering what kind of safe I could buy and how I could secure it? This safe would ideally house a laptop and a few files. 
Hypothetically, if a thief were to access the safe in an empty house they could pick it up and carry it away if it is found, right?
I thought this was a timely question, as I have been thinking about writing about this subject.  Thanks for the question Sara!
Know What You’re Up Against
Ideally, a sturdy, hidden safe that is bolted to the floor would be a great place to hide valuables, but is not feasible in an apartment due to lease restrictions.  Normal safes are available, but can easily be picked up.  I used to have one, and it only weighed about 20-30 pounds – easy enough to carry.
Before getting into good hiding places, first we have to consider what motivates thieves:
1.  Their goal is to steal money and valuables.  If they had time, they would turn the place upside down looking for stuff.
2.  They need to get in and out quickly.  We’ve read before that a robber takes 8-12 minutes to steal as much as possible in that short amount of time.
3.  They also know the most common hiding places:  in the master bedroom, in the back of the closet, under the mattress, the medicine cabinet (prescription drugs may be attractive as well)  or in a toilet tank.
Knowing the above, it might be a good idea to leave a small amount of money or jewelry that is easily found; they may just rush out and take that, leaving the rest alone.  The small loss would also spare you having the entire place torn apart.
Here are a few ideas for hiding spots:
Safety deposit box
Many people still keep a safety deposit box at their neighborhood bank, but the downside is, you can only access your stuff while the bank is open.  There is always a chance the bank would be closed when you need you items the most.
Furniture with a hidden compartment
Furniture with hidden areas have been around for a long time, and they are still around.  The downside is they tend to be on the expensive side.
Here are some examples:  (Note:  we are not affiliated with this company-just pointing out the product)

Hidden in plain sight

Oil can safe

Oil can safe

Also known as diversion safes, they are fairly inexpensive and come in many varieties.  They tend to be small so you can only hide a few things.

Of course you’d have to hide the diversion safe among like items in a book shelf, kitchen or tool box.

Tip:  Don’t hide the item in another attractive item even if it’s in plain sight.  I’ve seen some mantle clocks that have hidden compartments – some a very pretty and eye-catching, and extremely portable.  I’d also stay away from hiding stuff inside radios or other electronics – they may steal that too, taking your item inadvertently and discovering it later!

Do it Yourself

  • Make a book safe  You can keep it among all your other books, and you can take it with you even while traveling.
  • Hide your item among frozen food in your freezer; maybe in a baggie within frozen raw meat that is large enough
  • Conceal item within a vase that has dusty fake flowers
  • Hide in a toy that is in a large toy box

The key is to remember where you hid it.  I’ve hidden a few items so well I couldn’t find them for months!

You should also tell someone you trust, to avoid them accidentally throwing the item away or selling it in a garage sale.

How to Think Like a Thief

Jogging in the park

It looks peaceful but don’t get lulled into a false sense of security.

A couple of weeks ago, there was a crime spree at a well known park not far from where I live.  News reports started coming out that joggers had been mugged, and a female jogger was sexually assaulted before being robbed at one of the park’s restrooms.  These incidents all happened during the day.

I was talking to my friend Jim (yes the same one who had a shooting in his building, but has since moved to another apartment) because he frequently runs in that same park.  He said, “They won’t get much out of me, I only carry my keys and cell phone.”

A few days later, the two robbers were caught.  And do you know why they were robbing people at the park?  Because these thieves wanted cell phones!  They said it was an easy and quick way to make some money.  Even though cell phones may seem like “not much” to us, they were exactly what the thieves were looking for.

Normal people see things a certain way, but thieves see things differently.

What attracts their attention

Even if you think your stuff is not valuable, there may be something that attracts their attention:

  • Your purse looks fat and heavy, therefore it must contain a lot of goodies
  • You have bags in the back seat of your car, therefore, you must have gone shopping.  Nevermind that you might have bags full of containers for recycling back there; having someone break in your car will be mean expensive repairs whether or not you have something valuable.
  • If you have shiny jewelry, you may attract their attention.  Yes, your jewelry might be fake, but surely you have a wedding ring or a nice watch that will have some value.

Opportunity – Don’t make it easy for them

  • I pay attention to people around me at the park, and the majority are not paying attention to their surroundings.  Many joggers have their headphones on, talking on the phone or listening to music, oblivious to everything.
  • Thieves will take any opportunity presented.


  • Some thieves create a distraction to send your attention elsewhere.  When I was 10 years old, I had $15 Christmas money burning a hole in my pocket.  I was at a store, choosing the ice cream flavors, when someone dropped a bunch of coins.  I looked over and helped out, and when I got done, I went to buy my ice cream.  I reached into my pocket and found all my money was gone.  Tough thing to happen to a kid, but it was a lesson learned.

Trust your gut and act on it

  • The first victim at the park felt he was being followed but did not look behind him.  Before he could act the two thugs were already pointing a gun at him demanding his stuff
  • If you get that weird feeling something is not right, trust yourself and do something right away.

Thankfully the crime spree at the nice park is over, but I am sure it won’t be the last.  Try to think like a thief and see what makes you vulnerable.  Doing so may keep you from becoming a target.

© Apartment Prepper 2014

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Criminals are Targeting You

While everyone is busy trying to make a bright Christmas, criminals are targeting people, ready to pounce on the unsuspecting.

  • At a time of year when people are ordering and sending a lot of gifts, thieves are stealing delivery boxes sitting in front porches.
  • Women are being victimized as they are putting gas in their cars by “sliders.”  The thieves park in the next space, quickly open the unlocked front door, grab the purse and drive away.  
  • Even large stores are not safe:  a Walmart at a large intersection was robbed during busy daytime hours, as the pair peppersprayed a cashier and grabbed the cash out of her cash register.

Don’t let your joy be stolen by taking a few precautions:

  • Many apartment buildings have leasing offices that will accept deliveries; let them know you are expecting a package and pick up your items as soon as you get home.  If that is not possible, use “Signature delivery” for orders or gifts that are being sent for delivery.
  • Always lock all your packages in the trunk.  Thieves walk around parking lots looking for cars with packages that are left on the seats in plain view.
  • Be aware of your surroundings and don’t be walking around texting or with a cell phone stuck to your ear.
  • Don’t wear flashy jewelry or carry a large expensive purse when you are out and about – this will just attract unwanted attention.
  • If you are paying cash, be discreet about it and keep your cash in your front pocket.
  • Don’t announce to social media such as Facebook or Twitter that you are planning big purchases, going out shopping or leaving for the holidays.
  • When you park your car anywhere look around to see who is hanging around the area
  • Pay attention to the ATM machine that you are using.  There have been several cases of ATMs being altered to capture passwords and account numbers.  In all the cases, the ATM machine is described as slightly off or different from others.
  • When arriving home, shut your garage door quickly before unloading any packages.  You are still vulnerable in your driveway, as you start to let your guard down.
  • Lock your car at all times, even if you are just running in to pay for gas, or even if you are standing next to your car filling up the tank.
  • Tear up all boxes especially big ticket items such as TVs and computers.  Don’t just leave these boxes in the curb during trash pickup; this is advertising to thieves that you just unpacked some fresh loot.

Some people may say this is paranoia but I say it’s not being paranoid you if you really are being targeted.  Christmas is a time of goodwill to all, but it is not the time to drop your guard.  Pay attention to safety and security at all times.

 © Apartment Prepper 2013

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Security and Home Alarms for Your Apartment

Guest Post by Michael Williams

Home security isn’t just for people who own homes. Although you live in an apartment, you can also enjoy the security and peace of mind a home alarm provides. And when you move you can easily take your alarm system with you.

Keeping your belongings safe and your peace of mind intact isn’t out of reach for the apartment dweller. In fact, there are a variety of options to choose from when it comes to maintaining the safety of your home. Your choices vary from very effective and user friendly wireless alarms to simple timers to deter intruders while you are away.

Wireless Alarm Systems

You don’t need uniformed professionals to install a home alarm system. Many inexpensive models are do-it-yourself friendly and can be installed in a relatively short period of time. However, if you prefer, many alarm companies can also install wireless systems for you in an apartment. For an extra monthly fee, these companies can even provide a monitoring agency to monitor your system around the clock.

Many alarm systems that you can install yourself rival those of a professional alarm company.  These systems come with multiple sensors which include small devices for monitoring your doors and windows. Some even include motion detectors, which are great for placing in a hallway, unless you have pets. To install a wireless system usually requires nothing more than a roll of strong double sided tape.

All of the components of this type of alarm are wireless and rely on Wi-Fi or other wireless technology.  Some systems even come with wireless cameras.  Prices for a complete security system range anywhere from around $100 for a basic system up to over $500 for an elaborate system. Good systems can be found for around $200.

Additional Security Measures

If your landlord is opposed to even the simplest security system, you still have a number of solutions to help protect your apartment from intruders.

Safety entry alarms.   For a few dollars, you can place an alarm on your door. This battery operated device sounds an ear piercing alarm if the door is opened.

Video surveillance. You don’t need a complete security system to monitor your apartment with a camera. Web cam manufacturers are getting into the home security business with cameras that will keep an eye on you apartment.

For a very basic video surveillance system, look into downloading free software that will turn the Web cam on your computer into a remote monitoring device. Some will automatically send email messages when the software picks up unusual activity.

Electronic watchdog alarms. Keep an angry dog in a little box. All you have to feed it is electricity. These alarms detect a person’s presence through doors, glass, and walls. When the alarm is triggered, the sound of a ferocious dog bark makes the intruder reconsider his plans.

Fake TV deterrent. This small device simulates the flickering light and colors of a television.  It comes with a light sensor and timer and looks like someone is watching television while you are out of the apartment.

Light timers. These inexpensive units plug into the wall. A light is then plugged into the unit and the timer is set to come on and off.

The author of this article, Michael Williams, is an enthusiastic purveyor of home security supplies. He has been writing about home safety, security and theft prevention, while also supplying home alarms to those who need them.


Three Ways Thieves are Targeting You

This past week we had three news items that grabbed my attention:  potential ways that you could be robbed while going about your day:

1.  Thieves called “Sliders” can steal your purse or emergency backpack right out of your car while you’re filling up your tank

I’ve talked about things I’ve witnessed in the gas station before; another thing I noticed was many people do not bother to lock their cars when they get out to pay and pump gas.   They feel like they are right next to the car so why should they bother.  I may be called paranoid about locking the car even when I am just standing outside but this report has given me more reason to do so.  Several gas stations have footage of thieves actually parking next to cars that are being filled then having an accomplice crouch down, open the car door to grab purses or other items while the driver is filling up the tank.  The news reports are calling them “sliders”  

All they do is sneak in and grab whatever is in the front or back seat that is within easy reach, all without anyone noticing until it is too late.

Avoid being victimized:

  • Lock your car doors even if are next to it while filling up the tank.
  • Lock your “go-bag” in the trunk.
  • If you have items in the seats, cover them up or hide them underneath the seats.

2.  Crooks are breaking into storage units

Many preppers who don’t have a lot of space in their home or apartments may rent storage units to keep their supplies.  Storage facilities can be useful, but you have to be choosy about where you decide to rent your unit.


  • Choose a unit that has 24 hour surveillance, with a manager on-site.
  • Use locks that are not easy to break.
  • Find one that requires pass-codes for every entry way into the premises

3.  People being followed and robbed after visiting the bank

This is not a new trend, but I’ve been hearing an increasing number of reports of victims being robbed after going to the bank.  If you operate on a “cash only” system as many of us do, you need to be careful.  There was a local retiree who withdrew her life savings and left the cash in a bag in her car as she stopped at a Whataburger.  When she returned, thieves smashed her car windows and took all her cash.  They must have been following her from the time she left the bank.

  • Keep a watchful eye on who is around you when you park your car to visit the bank, visit the ATM machine or even as you are returning to your car.
  • After you pull out of the bank parking lot, check who is behind you and may be following you.
  • This sounds like common sense, but it bears repeating:  Do not leave your belongings in plain sight when you leave your car, AND if you are carrying a lot of cash, do not leave your money in the car while you do your errands.

Whenever I post about safety, invariably, someone points out that “crime statistics are going down, don’t be an alarmist”  Well, I’d have to say, they may be going down in some areas, but robberies and burglaries are also on the rise in others, and it doesn’t really help is someone gets victimized no matter how low the statistics might be.


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Beware these Pitfalls when Using Pepper Spray

We keep prepper spray as part of our overall defense strategy.   We have tiny key chain  sprays, as well as bear spray which we purchased for camping.   Pepper spray comes with expiration dates because of the likelihood that the nozzle will clog and no longer work when you need it.

Because the bear spray canisters are now a couple of years old, and well past expiration, we decided to test whether the spraying mechanism will still work.  We also wanted to check how many seconds it takes to un-holster the spray and actually activate the spray if a bear or an attacker were approaching.

Mr Apt Prepper and I went out behind our unit on a sunny day to do our test.

Safety Precautions:

  • We made sure there were no other people walking around nearby.
  • The test was done on a day it was not windy – there was an occasional slight breeze but no wind.
  • We checked the direction the breeze was coming from.

Here is a photo of the item we were testing – the UDAP Bear Spray:

Bear Spray

First, we tried to simulate an attack scenario:

An average bear can run about 30 miles an hour; while a fast one can run 40 miles an hour.   Pepper spray is actually effective if you can spray the bear while it is 40 to 50 feet away, to create a barrier of pepper spray mist between you and the bear.

It only takes a few seconds for a rampaging bear to get close and in that time period, the test is to release the safety and press the nozzle to spray before the bear gets within 40 feet.  When I first tried it, I was way too slow.  The bear would’ve gotten me before I could even position the spray.

That was quite a realization, that although you may know how to use the spray, you need to do it fast enough.

Next we actually tested that the spray works.

Bear Spray TestEven after two years, the spray was strong and steady.

That’s when things got interesting.  The slight breeze that we checked earlier changed direction ever so slightly.  That small change was enough to disperse some of the spray toward our direction, maybe a drop or two.  But these two drops were enough – Mr. Apt Prepper felt his eyes stinging and I felt a sudden urge to start coughing.  We quickly ran to the faucet to wash it off.

Considering it was only a few drops, there was enough to feel some discomfort.  Imagine if you were actually getting attacked outside, and you use the spray while neglecting to check the wind direction.

I’m not saying you should not use pepper spray – I still think it’s a good non-lethal method of protection.  You just have to be careful and make sure you are aware of a couple of factors:

  • How fast you need to be when you use it
  • Even a slight breeze can cause a “blow-back”

And of course, I should point out I am hardly the expert when it comes to weapons, but do recognize the need for some kind of protection.  Just like other weapons, beware and use at your own risk.  However, I’m glad we tried this exercise, now I am more mindful of possible pitfalls should I ever have to use it.


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Apartment Hardening

I saw an interesting segment on Apocalypse 101, a new survival show featuring the team at Forge Survival Supply.   I’ve only caught parts of the show, but this one caught my attention, because it was about an apartment dweller in Manhattan who lived in the second floor.  She wanted to bug in and barricade herself in the apartment, in the event of TEOTWAWKI.  The team showed her how to harden her apartment so she could survive as well as possible in a society collapse.

The team asked the lady to show them all possible entrances and exits to her apartment.

They then went to the hardware store where they picked up lots of nails, tools such as hammers, wire cutters, heavy duty staple gun, chicken wire, wood, etc.  I actually thought it would be a good idea to have tools handy in the apartment, before anything happens.  In a collapse, these tools would disappear from shelves very quickly.


First, the team reinforced the windows on the outside by stapling chicken wire all around.  The chicken wire would protect the windows from shattering in case bottles, rocks or even a Molotov cocktail was thrown at them.

They then covered the inside of the windows with black trash bags so no one outside could see in.  In a grid down situation, light will attract attention, which should be avoided.


In front of the doors that would most likely get broken into, the team hammered a bunch of large nails on a piece of wood, thereby making a doormat of nails.  If an undesirable someone were to step inside, they would “accidentally” step on the nails.

Fire Escape

In a dangerous, grid down scenario, the fire escape could be used to get into her apartment so they showed her how to make the ladder slippery by slathering on grease, and wrapping barbed wire around the area.  Of course, in “normal” times, rigging the fire escape and interfering with access would be against fire codes and therefore must not be attempted.  Again they were showing her tips to protect herself in case of TEOTWAWKI.  Another reason for the barbed wire was to deter attackers by giving them the perception that this unit would be a hard nut to crack and hopefully they would move on to something else.

I’m not sure how long these deterrents would hold up during an extended disaster; however, having these protections certainly would be better than nothing.  I would also make sure there is an escape route planned ahead of time, if all else fails.

Of course the most important factor to survive is the right mindset, and the lady featured seemed to have what it takes.

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Stun Gun Vs. Taser

 Stun Gunstun gun

With all the talk about personal defense, it seems even tasers are being debated in one state.   The article got me thinking about people who are not comfortable with firearms or are not licensed to carry concealed, but may still want some kind of personal defense options.   We covered pepper spray in a previous post; today we’ll talk about stun guns and tasers.

I used to think they were the same, but there are several differences:


How They are Similar

  • Both the stun gun and taser are electronic devices
  • Both are fairly small and can be carried in your pocket or purse.
  • Both use some type of battery for power
  • Both are designed to incapacitate the attacker, giving you time to run away and get help

 The Differences

The stun gun requires direct contact between the metal prongs and the attacker.  Ideally, a half second contact will surprise the attacker cause him to let go, two seconds should give muscle spasms and three seconds will cause loss of balance, a dazed mental state.  However, I have also found that in some cases, depending on the type of stun gun, you may have to hold contact for up to four seconds to get the desired effect.  Four seconds is a long time when it comes to an attack.  Furthermore, it was found that a person in a drug induced state or someone with a high tolerance for pain may be able to resist the effects of the stun gun.

The taser works by releasing two fish hook type prongs toward the attacker.  It works by delivering electrical pulses along the wires and into the body.  This affects the sensory and motor functions of the peripheral nervous system of the person.  The general reaction is incapacitation, which could then cause additional injuries when dropping to the ground and/or hitting something.  The reaction is not related to pain tolerance since the muscle contractions are involuntary.  Also, each taser probe can penetrate an inch of clothing, including leather.

Law enforcement personnel carry tasers that have a longer range than commercially available ones.

Price-wise, stun guns cost much less than tasers, with stun guns priced below $100, while tasers run in the mid $300s.

I’ve heard some self defense experts on podcasts mention they “layer” their defense plans by having various self defense methods at their disposal:  pepper spray spread around in inconspicuous areas around the house within easy reach (this won’t work with kids around), stun gun or taser on their person, before having to resort to lethal force.


Before considering either a stun gun or taser, check the laws in your state.  While legal in most states, there are some states that prohibit them, or may have restrictions regarding carrying or using stun guns or tasers.


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8 Ways to Protect Your Home or Apartment from Threat

8 Ways to Protect Your Home or Apartment from Threat is a Guest Post by Tracy Meyers*

It’s always important to be active in your own home security. There are plenty of ways we protect ourselves from the damages we incur after a tragedy, such as renter’s insurance or home insurance for fire or break in. Hiring a security company is another great way to be proactive and put your money where your mouth is when it comes to home safety. But not every security measure can be covered through a home security provider or backed up by an insurance provider. There are some things that we, as homeowners and renters, need to be doing on our own to protect our property, prevent theft, and ward off break-ins. Not only will this make you and your family more secure, but you will also have the peace of mind that comes without doing it yourself and knowing it’s been done right.

Here are some of the top ways to secure your domicile beyond the middle man:

1.  Install window locks.

Window locks are extremely important, yet many of us settle for the same shabby locks that have been on the windows for years. There are many different variations on interior window locks, so head to a home improvement store and ask about which types would be best for your windows. Take some photos of every window in your home beforehand.

2. Close blinds and curtains.

Never leave the house without fully closing your blinds and your curtains. It’s best to have both, so criminals are not tempted to peek through the slats on blinds or look for silhouettes or shadows through curtains. Get blinds that will close fully and curtains that are thick. The more a criminal can see inside your home, the more information they will be able to ascertain about how to break in.

3. Request security light installation.

If you own your home, install your own security lights. You may need to hire an electrician to wire them. Timed lights work well, as do movement sensors. If you rent, contact your landlord about installing more lights. Go so far as to suggest the exact brand and model of light you want installed. Offer to pay for part of the installation to get the best quality lighting.

4. Block sliding doors.

Sliding doors can be one of the biggest security breaches, and many homeowners forget about them. The tiny locks on sliding doors can be easily picked. The best thing to do is place a long piece of wood or a metal rod inside in the area where the door slides to block the door from opening.

5. Install deadbolts in all entrances.

Install deadbolts in every entrance to your home, including back doors and garage doors. This is an extra level of protection, and these locks are much less difficult to pick or break.

6. Keep a light on.

Never leave the house without some lights on. When you’re out of the house, you should never make it seem like your home is deserted. It should seem as though, even if it’s clear no one’s home, someone will be returning shortly. In fact, timed lights inside your home are a great way to make sure it always seems as though someone is home.

7. Never let your front door or exteriors look shabby.

Criminals will assess every part of your home before attempting a break in, even if the break in is spur-of-the-moment. If your front door and yard are in pristine condition, it will send a signal that your home may not be easy to break into. Keep your front door freshly painted and the locks rust-free. Keep any bushes or trees trimmed, the lawn maintained, and the driveway and sidewalk free from cracks. If you rent, get on your landlord about these things.

8. Buy front door alarms for nighttime.

There are many versions of travel door alarms that work well in a pinch. Connecting an alarm to your front door that will go off if the door is opened is a good line of defense. The same goes for the windows. If you do not have a home security provider or want extra protection, having some portable security items around is a good thing.

*Tracy Meyers is a regular contributor for www.homeinsurance.org among other home and insurance-related blogs and websites. She prides herself in writing for today’s audience and providing the most accurate and up-to-date information available.







Would Your Car Doors Protect You from Bullets while Driving?

A couple of weeks ago, when the Los Angeles police were searching for Christopher Dorner, the ex-cop who went on a shooting rampage, they mistakenly shot at innocent civilians who had a similar truck to the suspects.  See a photo here.  

This incident made me think about how much protection your car really gives you, should you get shot at while driving.  In the same way, I wondered about bullets and apartment walls, I had to look into cars as well.  We’ve all seen cop shows where the characters hide behind an open car door to avoid getting shot during a gun fight.

Concealment or Cover?

Concealment is just being able to hide from view, while cover means you are protected from getting hit.

This is not something I’d want to test myself, so I did some research online and watched a Mythbuster episode where the the hosts fired into an old Cadillac.

It turns out, most pistol calibers will pass right through a car door, possibly even through to the opposite side.  See Pistols and Car Doors from The Box O’Truth

The truth is, car doors do not offer protection against bullets.  Car doors only give you concealment but not cover.  Glass windows may or may not shatter immediately, but will weaken enough that subsequent bullets fired will most likely get through.

Short of bullet proofing your car, how do you protect yourself?

  • Be aware of your surrounding at all times
  • Wherever you are, have an exit plan.  While driving, keep an eye on the positions of cars around you and where you can maneuver to get away from the shots.
  • Avoid driving through unsafe areas, especially at night.
  • In a SHTF situation, body armor while driving through dangerous areas may be a consideration.  It’s not a guarantee of safety, but offers some degree of protection.


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