A RATIONAL APPROACH TO HOME SECURITY: A FEW TIPS FOR PEACE OF MIND
“Follow these home security tips to find peace of mind and keep your home, belongings and neighborhood safe.”
Today, are you safe in your own home? Years ago, in 1976, when the actor Dustin Hoffman was in his prime and his acclaimed film Marathon Man had just been released, the movie’s famous quote was often repeated by my neighbors in jest: 'Is it safe?'
The quote seemed humorous then because most people in the 1970s didn't appear concerned with home safety. Many of us rarely locked our doors at night, and we left garage doors wide open.
That was suburbia in the ‘70s. Neighbors, by and large, felt safe even though crime rates were not too different from those of today.
According to the US Bureau of Justice (graph above), the total property crime rate is lower today than it was throughout the 70s. And, it's much lower than it was during the 80s and 90s when it reached its peak at almost double what we now see in the 2010s.
Perhaps, one reason we feel less safe today is this legacy feeling of vulnerability which we experienced in the recent past. Or, maybe it's due to increased reporting on crime rates or the changing demographic composition of our towns and neighborhoods.
Yes, statistically, it does seem that we are safer today than we were a few decades ago. However, we still should consider ways to improve home safety through easily-adopted strategies.
Why are these strategies important? The answer is that, by making minor changes in the ways you protect your homes, you can improve your feeling of peace of mind. And, by increasing your feeling of peace of mind you can lead a more stress-free and happier life.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ALARM SYSTEMS IN HOME SECURITY
When most of us think about home safety, burglary and property theft, the first technological solution which comes to mind is the home alarm. And, there's a good reason why.
What type of alarm system should you have?
Installation of an alarm system can provide an important added sense of security. But what type of alarm system should you consider?
There are two main categories of alarm systems for home use. You can use either a monitored or unmonitored alarm system.
An unmonitored alarm is not directly connected to an alarm company monitoring service or a local police station. Meaning, you must rely on your neighbors to phone the police should a break-in occur.
A monitored alarm system, which connects to an alarm service company, can be much more secure. This is especially true if the system also incorporates video capabilities. For example, our SafeStreets home security system comes with one video camera and 24/7 monitoring by ADT.
Some additional benefits offered by our SafeStreets home security plan include:
- Entry door contact sensors
- Pet immune motion detector
- Backup system battery
- Remote access
A capable alarm service company will advise you of the best ways to install a home alarm system. This includes how to position to prevent potential intruders from cutting power or telephone lines. Discuss these considerations with the alarm company to obtain the most secure and effective system.
HOME SAFETY UPGRADES YOU SHOULD MAKE
Alarm systems are best installed in combination with simple security-related home improvements. This makes home alarms even more effective at providing protection against home intrusion and property theft.
Simple home security improvements should include the following considerations:
Windows and Sliding Glass Doors
Most windows installed by builders are generally considered vulnerable by security analysts. Windows can easily be broken or forced open from outside the home. Also, they can be lifted off their tracks and easily removed by intruders using simple painters’ tools.
Pay close attention to your windows near the ground or those that provide easy access from porches, ledges or fire escapes. Ensure that they do not become a quick point of entry for intruders.
Consider making modifications to vulnerable windows using these simple techniques:
- Permanently fasten any windows that aren't used as emergency exits. You can use nails, screws or special fasteners designed for this purpose.
- Secure sliding windows and doors. This can easily be done using simple, readily-available materials.
- For example, placing a long block of wood in the lower track prevents the glass window or door from sliding open. And, to prevent the door from being lifted off its track, simply drill a hole in the upper track and insert a screw.
- Fit basement windows with bars to prevent entry. Home improvement stores provide the shapes and sizes to fit most basement windows.
- Consider replacing more vulnerable windows with tough Plexiglas sheets which do not shatter. Plastic sheeting will crack but not shatter during an attempted forced entry.
- Install proper outdoor lighting so that areas around the basement and first-floor windows are well lit. This will discourage intruders.
- Also it's important to remember to keep windows locked because, too often, we do forget.
Secure your Exterior Doors
Choose exterior doors made of high-quality, solid wood or steel. Make sure they're fitted snuggly to prevent prying open.
Ensure that any glass around the door is either not within arm's reach of the door lock or is made of Plexiglas or other shatter-resistant material. Use high-quality deadbolt locks. And, consider adding steel reinforcements to wooden exterior doors to increase their strength.
Remove or Trim Bushes, Trees and Other Obstructions
Trees planted close to the home provide two security risks.
The first is that they give easy access to intruders who can climb to the roof and enter through upper-level windows or porches.
The second is that they block the view from the street. If the home alarm signals a possible intrusion, police and security personnel need to see all areas around the home. Consider removing or trimming bushes and other obstructions which might block their view.
Choose the Right Locks and Keys
Fit all exterior doors with deadbolt locks. Deadbolts cannot be slipped with a card or tool and can only be opened with a key. Choose deadbolt locks that provide maximum security. Install them according to recommended specifications.
Consider electronic deadbolt locks with security codes which you can lock from a keypad or remotely.
Secure your Garage
In addition to windows, home garages present another important security vulnerability. If an intruder gains entry to the garage, then often there are connecting doors from the garage to the home.
Garage windows should be of unbreakable Plexiglas or have bars or grills added to prevent easy entry. Always keep the garage door locked, even if people are at home.
Consider installing an electronic garage door opener so that you don't need to get out of the car to open the garage door. And, when on vacation, disconnect the door opener before leaving.
Protect Your Home with Video Surveillance
In combination with an alarm system, closed-circuit television (CCTV) technology can significantly improve home security and improve your peace of mind. The good news is this technology is no longer costly.
With minimal DIY experience, you can place wireless cameras on exterior walls in strategic positions to provide views of areas just outside the home.
Often, just the presence of cameras can cause a potential intruder to choose against breaking into homes.
And, just one or two cameras placed outside exterior doors can provide you with a full clear view of unexpected visitors. If exterior door areas are well-lit, CCTV cameras work well, either with or without a recording device.
A WORD ABOUT COMMUNITY AND NEIGHBORHOOD SAFETY
Building a more interconnected community can add to both real and perceived benefits for every homeowner.
These benefits can improve your sense of community and wellbeing, as well as offer security and protection from home invasion and theft.
Enhancement of home security and community quality of life can be simple. Some suggestions for getting started on the improvement of neighborhood security include:
- Focus on getting to know your neighbors and make the effort to become more involved and familiar with their daily routines.
- Take part in crime prevention programs which often may include police participation.
- Stay vigilant and be aware of strangers who do not seem to belong and activities which are out of place such as unscheduled work or service providers.
- Complete routine neighborhood maintenance designed to improve the overall upkeep of the community. Even a few broken windows which go unrepaired can lead to increased crime in any community. Therefore, maintaining well-tended neighborhoods will make them less attractive and vulnerable to criminals.
THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF INCREASED HOME SECURITY
The average homeowner unsurprisingly feels concern about issues related to home security. You've invested a sizable part of your wealth and income into buying your homes. You've filled your homes with possessions that are valuable and sometimes even irreplaceable.
When you leave your homes unattended, you worry about the chance that the possessions which mean most to you could be missing when you return.
For example, how devastated would you be if upon returning home from work you found that your phone or laptop was stolen. And, on top of that, you forgot to backup family photos or important work-related data?
A quality alarm system, in combination with home and neighborhood security improvements, can provide you with ongoing peace of mind. In turn, you'll also receive a reduction in avoidable stress.
A LITTLE FORETHOUGHT GOES A LONG WAY
As a conscientious homeowner, you should practice preventive measures to keep your property secure and your families safe. And, keep in mind that crime rates show that in the 2010s, with a little forethought and help from your neighbors, you can be safer today than ever. This thought, alone, can afford you better health and fewer worries.