7 Tips For Protecting Your Bug Out Property While You’re Away

by Dakota Murphey

There are many different reasons why you might find yourself with a vacant property. Maybe there’s been a bereavement leaving a property empty and you need time to sort out the estate, or it’s a rental property without a current tenant, or perhaps you’re spending some of your time abroad, or it’s a bug out property that you can’t live on full-time because of work or some other reason.

Whatever the reason, protecting vacant property can cause a real headache, especially when you’re not in the vicinity to keep a check on what’s going on. Fear of vandalism, arson, squatting or theft can be a constant source of worry, but there’s plenty you can do to keep potential problems at bay.

  1. Keep the garden pruned, and waste and post collected

Nothing draws more attention to a vacant property than an overgrown garden and a whole load of waste sitting outside the front door. It doesn’t take long for waste to build up around the building from littering and adverse weather conditions. That, coupled with a pile of post on the doormat, gives a sure signal to unwanted intruders that the property is unoccupied.

Consider employing a friend, neighbor or local gardener to regularly keep weeds and rubbish cleared from your garden and doorstep, as well as to collect any post. The tidier your garden and property look, the less likely the property will appear unoccupied. If there’s a sense that the property is occupied, that in itself is a great crime deterrent.

You may wish to set up mail re-direct to avoid excess post accumulating. There’ll still be some junk mail delivered, along with advertising leaflets and possible the local newspaper, so it’s still worth asking a trusted neighbor or friend to pick that up.

Remove any expensive garden furniture and bins as these provide something a criminal could climb on to. Cut down high bushes and hedges as these provide places for thieves to hide and stake-out.

You may want to consider an exterior clean and inspection before you leave your property vacant. Cleaning gutters will help with upkeep and ensure there are no minor maintenance issues with rainwater drainage while the property is empty.

  1. Keep doors, windows and outbuildings secure and locked

Make sure you have approved locks on all doors and windows. If you regularly have contractors entering the building, consider changing the locks after the work is finished. Keep a track of who has a set of keys. Check your gates, garage and sheds to make sure they are also secure and in sound condition.

  1. Neighbourhood watch and Guardians

Getting trusted neighbors to keep an eye on your property is an excellent idea. Ask them to contact you (or a designated guardian) if they notice any suspicious activity or weather damage. That way you’ll be able to deal with any problems straight away. For example, dealing with a broken window quickly could prevent squatters or theft. A regular visitor parking on the driveway can create the illusion that the property is occupied. You could even ask a neighbor if they have more than one car if they would park one of them on your drive.

  1. Warning signs

Sometimes it’s pretty obvious that a property is empty. You may, for example, have extensive work being carried out or have had the windows boarded up. In this case, you’ll need other deterrents. Even if you don’t have an alarm, a warning sign that you do could be enough to ward off potential intruders. Even a sign saying Beware of the Dog could make the difference between someone choosing to break in or not.

  1. Alarm and CCTV

Paying particular attention to security is definitely worthwhile. While signs alluding to an alarm will go some way as a deterrent, there’s nothing like the real thing for peace of mind. Alarm systems with movement sensors will help to alert you of any intruders, so the situation can be dealt with immediately. CCTV will not only act as a deterrent, but could provide useful evidence if you do find yourself the victim of property vandalism or theft.

Monitored alarms is one thing you may wish to consider, although this will add to the cost of the upkeep of your vacant property. However, it does mean that someone will notify you and/or attend the site to check for any security breaches.

  1. Fencing

If your vacant property is in a remote or industrial area, security fencing may provide some of the protection your property needs. It will make it harder for intruders to break in. The more you do to prevent crime, the less likely it will be to occur. The visible presence of a security fence, coupled with signs, may be enough to deter an opportunist.

  1. Barriers and bollards

If there are large open spaces around your property, you’ll want to protect against fly-tippers, vandals and intruders. Blocking vehicle access is important as the getaway options for thieves will be high on their agenda. There are many different types of barriers, from concrete road barriers to plastic, water-filled options. They come in all shapes and sizes and can be arranged to best protect access to your vacant property. Simple metal bollards are also an option in preventing vehicle access.

Bio: Dakota Murphey is an independent writer, working with Protect Vacant Property to put together these 7  tips to help keep your bug out property protected from crime and damage.


  1. what is a fly tipper? thanks!

    • j.r. guerra in south tx. says:

      Illegal trash dumping. I never heard of that term either – looked it up on internet.

      Bollards at either side of road entry with locked steel cable across opening would help prevent vehicle entry. Anyone can climb over or under fence, but it limits what they can carry away from the property.

      Google maps / Bing maps make gaining what is actually on property easier for thieves. Blocking view of this (I believe) is possible if you know how – I wish I did. Planting vegetation near buildings can help conceal the straight lines of buildings and shadows cast by them. So can stacking your stored items in ’round’ shapes, vs. square – rectangular piles.

      Good topic.

  2. mom of three says:

    Yup, we do all of this week live 20 minutes away via the freeway, but there are time’s a month goes by that we haven’t been out there. We have friends, twice a week driving by to check and pull in for a while one work’s for a alarm company , that’s great for us. Winter, is harder for us since we have more rain, and snow and there is not much for us to do in the winter, because I have closed everything off and put everything away until Springs.

  3. I may or may not have tipped a cow or two in my much misspent youth but my first thought before looking up fly-tipping was that flies sit too low to the ground to be tipped even if you could get them to sit still long enough. 😉

    Good article and tips! (heheh no pun intended)

    • LOL I’m betting a number of us thought about cow-tipping and wondered wtf is ‘fly-tipping’, before looking it up. I know I did.

  4. In the case of a residential home, a friend of mine posted this on his door, “Mr. Plummer, I provided you with a key the other day but please do not come in. My pet rattle-snake has escaped from his pen and I haven’t been able to find him. If he bites you it could be fatal. I will call you when I catch him and reschedule the job.”

  5. Chuck Findlay says:

    The simple truth is:

    Nothing can protect a vacant property, it must be lived on or guarded by people.

    All the above ideas sound great, but they won’t work as people will break in and take what they want. Only the threat of death (guns and the will to use them) or the threat of jail.

    Take these 2 away and you get ripped off.

    Fort Knox would get broken into and scavenged within a few days if people were not on hand at the ready to kill, jail and or repel them.

    And alarms are only good if there is a police force to come to the rescue.

    Find someone (or move there) to live there to guard the place. Anything less then this you are fooling yourself and putting your life in danger if you expect to have supplies and food there post-event. Heck it will get plundered today, let alone post-SHTF.

    • Chuck Findlay,

      In all fairness, the article is talking about protecting your bug out location now before a collapse. If there are no police force and that would mean that a MAJOR collapse or disaster has already happened and in which case the owner would have already bugged out to and be living at the location.

      • Oldalaskan says:

        M. D. I must disagree I have an Industrial yard and am broken into regularly. I call the police and they say a lock is to keep an honest person honest and they don’t have the manpower to drive by once or twice a night. At Costco and Sam’s you can get a camera system that when it detects movement it will call your cell phone and broadcast a picture from it’s cameras.
        As for bollards with a locked cable, how fast do you think my DeWalt 18V cutter can get through either the lock or cable? As said earlier the only way to protect your property is to be on it with the will to kill and the people know it.
        Rattle Snakes don’t scare me I have caught many for Laboratory use.

      • Chuck Findlay says:

        MD I have read a few stories about vacant homesteads being stripped clean so I would say it’s a big concern today pre-shtf.

        Other then to have someone living on the property 24/7 I just don’t see how a person can expect it to not be pillaged.

        Alarms can help make the person living there more aware of intrusions, but I don’t know that they are of any use for a distant homestead that on one lives on.

  6. Don’t forget “No Trespassing” signs. The reason is that with the sign you have a recourse to police, without the signs simply being on your property is not a police matter.

  7. Babycatcher says:

    This is the reason we are doing ” on site” bugging in. We have a friend who had a hunting lodge in a nearby state. It was built of cinder block, with iron casement windows and steel doors. The family kept putting stronger and bigger locks and deterrents to keep from getting vandalized. After the 4th break-in, they put metal over the windows as well. The next time they went to visit, it was a burnt out hull. Those thieving jerks couldn’t get in. So they burnt it to the ground.

    • HTF do you burn down a concrete building?

      • j.r. guerra in south tx. says:

        By burning the wood joists / roof deck that sit on top of the concrete block walls. The entire structure (I don’t think) was made of concrete.

        • Chuck Findlay says:

          Lots of castles got burnt down in the Dark Ages as they were full of tapestries, furniture and all kinds of other things that burn or don’t react well to lots of heat and flames, people being one of them.

  8. Oldalaskan says:

    Protecting a vacant property is difficult. In fact you are really at the mercy of the locals who are usually the thieves. With a DeWalt 18V grinder with a cutting blade I can be through any padlock in 30 seconds or less. With pry bars that I can get at Lowe’s or Home Depot or even a fence post pounder or a good sledge hammer I can be through your front door in seconds. I have an 8″ chain link fence with 3 strands of barbed wire around my industrial property and it gets climbed regularly. Now that it has snowed I see where they come in and placed 1/2 inch by 4 inch boards with long nails dipped into my dog deposits. Does it stop them? NO, but I hope they get a good infection. I have a security system that calls me and I have spent some nights there and yes I am angry enough the do the unpleasant. The local police are undermanned and cannot do anything. Can you completely secure your property? NO, but the best you can do is either make it look lived in with lights on rotating timers, auto tracks and foot prints in the snow, things that are moved around a mound of topsoil being moved to another location is good or difficult to enter. My BOL is about 2 miles from where I live, I drive by two or three times a day now and in the summer I’m in the garden there almost everyday, I will have my storage shed rebuilt there this summer with an added greenhouse/rabbit hutch & chicken coop an one side. I’m fortunate in that I have neighbors on 3 sides that keep an eye on it and motion actuated lights at night. I realize I am at the mercy of thieves and don’t keep items of much value there except for my garden tools and no thief will steal a shovel, rake or garden hoe, it means work. For remote properties board up the windows from the inside. It’s harder to remove. Your door is the prime entry point and put a dark painted sheet of plywood with lag bolts, they take longer to remove, over it. Think like a thief, if it takes too long or is too hard to enter they may move on.

  9. Use game cameras and motion controlled lights. Game cameras should be well hidden and of course won’t stop someone from stealing or damaging your property. But they will make it possible to catch the perp and there is deep satisfaction in that. Motion lights also won’t prevent someone from damaging or stealing your property but it will do a couple of things. It can unnerve them and make them decide to leave. It can provide better lighting for your cameras. It can alert neighbors if they are close enough. It also distracts trespassers in a couple of ways. It may make them leave more quickly rather than take time to look for something worth stealing. It may make them look into the camera as a reaction to the light (not of course because they see the camera). It may make license plates more legible to cameras.

    Two other ideas are a motion detector at the entrance to a building that triggers an audible, but not excessively loud, alarm. The intent is to let the perp know he is being tracked not as a loud alarm. The other idea is a sign or window sticker implying/stating that the premises are under surveillance and police may be called.

  10. the problem with high fences is that lets others know you have something that you want to protect and gives em all the more reason to get in and see what you have

  11. When I was a kid (in the 40’s) a local small manufacturing building had a neon sign that said “gun trap set”. I didn’t fully understand it so asked my dad. He of course knew exactly what it meant as would any burglar. Probably you couldn’t get away with such a sign today I don’t know. Certainly you couldn’t legally set an actual gun trap. But I suspect some combination of warning signs and motion sensor driven alarms and lights might put a little fear in the mind of a would be burglar.

  12. I once spent some time talking to someone who got caught stealing scrap metal. The property owner had some trail cameras trees and that was how he was caught. He said that he was going to go back and take the trail cameras too. I haven’t talked to him since so I don’t know how successful he was. Locks only keep honest people honest. If it looks like something valuable is there somebody will come check it out. So don’t go over board on security measures. But do make it look lived in. Maybe leave an old pair of work boots in plain sight either on the porch or just inside the door. Men’s work boots the bigger the better. Nothing works better at discouraging a would be thief then the threat of physical violence by somebody much bigger. I’ve also heard the work boots work well if a woman lives alone. Because it won’t look like she lives alone. Most thief’s are opportunists and want easy pickings.

    • The key point is that he was caught. A pair of boots won’t catch you. Perhaps not the worst idea but a lot of properties you may want to protect don’t have a place to put boots that wouldn’t seem out of place.

      I have seen news stories from my area where crooks have stolen $50k valued heavy equipment, work trailers, trucks, etc. and have been caught within a week simply because of cameras. I would suggest a couple of the cheap fake cameras placed obviously and a variety of real cameras (trail cameras, camera and recording setups, internet connnected cameras). Make the potential thief afraid they would be caught. AND make sure that if they do steal something that they are caught.

  13. Ron Melchiore says:

    Good Article, Thanks! Some interesting feedback. I’m intrigued on the game cameras. I have no experience with them. Any recommendation on a good one? I assume some have better resolution than others? What’s the range to trigger the camera? Are they only good if the subject is within 10 feet, 20 feet, 100? Thank you for any feedback on the topic.

    • IMHO buy a cheap one and preferably on sale. Try it. Mine will detect movement out 50-60 feet or more. I have pictures of deer, coyotes and a car or two in my driveway in the middle of the night. Not always “clear”. Will the more expensive cameras give you clearer pictures? Maybe but in general good lighting helps so set up some lights that come on when someone enters the area. My first thought about the expense of the camera is how much can you afford to lose if someone spots it and steals it?

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