You arrive home after a long weekend away golfing with friends, approach your home and the persistent hangover from the previous night fades into insignificance as you realise your front door is wide open and your couch is halfway out.
The statistics on crime, and in particular home break-ins is staggering. For instance, authorities in the USA estimate that about 2,000,000 buildings are broken into across the country each year, and about two thirds of them are residential buildings. Other countries, including Australia, do not fair much better with opportunistic burglars taking advantage of residents who leave doors and windows open accounting for about a third of all break-ins. A disturbing new trend is where thieves enter a premises while the occupants are at home, usually in another part of the house, and steal their possessions. These brazen acts of thieving are especially worrying as they dramatically increase the chances of confrontation and violence and increase the risk of turning a bad situation into a tragedy.
With this in mind, it certainly makes sense to do everything possible to secure your home against intruders and I am happy to say that your first line of defence is pretty straightforward.
It will help, while doing the following, to try and think like an burglar. How do you imagine they pick their targets and what is likely to put them off.
The first step you might want to take towards the protection of your house is carrying out a survey or security audit. A home security survey will help you to identify the security weak points in your home. For instance, your house and garden should not appear to be neglected as this suggests to a thief that it is either vacant or that no one cares and entry may be easy. The gates should shut well and latch and the fence should be in good repair and present an effective barrier. Ideally, your house should be visible from the street and not provide cover for intruders to effect entry. This also means your neighbours can keep a look out for any unusual activity.The back of the house should be just as secure as the front and their are some special tips in this area that we will talk about later.
Lockable window locks are widely available and should be fitted to all windows paying special attention to the ground level.
Your home security check list must include a check on locks which should be in good condition and preferably be dead-locks. A dead-lock is lockable from both the inside and outside which, even if an intruder has entered your house by other means, will provide an effective barrier to them carrying off bulkier items. A deadlock (or bolt) is essential if you have glass around entry points that can provide access to locks when broken. Remember to check that your jams do not have a large enough gap to pry open as this can be a major weak spot.
As you may know, security devices added to your home can reduce insurance premiums and at least partially offset the costs. To what extent you install these systems depends on what I call the three w’s – who you are and what makes you feel comfortable – where you live and the crime in your area – when are you there and is the house vacant often.
Alarm systems have many benefits and are a highly visible deterrent with the external siren box and printed alarm stickers broadcasting the fact that you are prepared. Home alarm systems can be stand alone or “back to base” monitored where a telephone line is attached and a monitoring service is notified in the event of an alarm activation. They usually operate on a 12 to 24 month contract after which you own the alarm system, much like a mobile phone contract. The question you should ask yourself is if I were a criminal would I go for the Alarmed house or the house with no alarm? Home security alarm systems are activated by movement and heat sensors, reed switches, for opening windows and doors and broken glass sensors. A big bonus with a quality alarm system is that you usually also have an hard wired smoke detector, which may be back to base and also a panic switch which could be a lifesaver if you are unlucky enough to suffer a home invasion or medical emergency.
Lighting around the outside of your home is often overlooked but can also a great deterrent by lighting areas where intruders can lurk. Movement and heat activated sensor spotlights are the mainstay of outside security but garden lighting also works well and it looks great.
Here are a few tips if you are going on vacation and you don’t want to send an invitation to thieves :
- Leave some washing on the clothes line (old clothes will do)
- Leave an empty large dog bowl out (even if you do not have a dog) A “beware of the dog” sign is a good idea too.
- Set up a radio on a talk station (not to loud) and a lamp on a time switch. Set them to go on and off several times as others would expect them to do.
- Ask neighbours (if you get on) or friends to collect your mail and keep an eye on the place.
- Take your telephone off the hook so it doesn’t ring out and broadcast the fact that no one is home. Also, anyone calling will think the line is engaged.
I am sure you can think of many more. Stay safe and good luck securing your castle and all of your precious things.
by Richard Hollingdale