To be safe at home, pre-think home security

Home security is so much more than the alarm systems advertised everywhere. Home security should be a mindset in your family.

Start from the Outside

Go to the street and look at your house and the ones around it. If you were going to break into a house on the block which house would you pick and why? Is stuff left out in the yard?  Can you see attractive things through windows?  How hard would it be to hide in your yard, or get behind you house and hide?  Do hedges or fences block the view from the street?

Stuff out for the taking is a big invitation.  A thief likes to steal valuables that don't even require entering the house to nab. Open garages are the worst type of invitation but are all too common.

The easier it is to see into the yard from the street and from the neighbors homes, the more exposed a burglar is going to be and the more likely he will be to pass your house by.  Trim down the front hedge so that everyone can see into your from yard.  If you have a fence, make it see through (chain link, picket) not a solid surface.  We all like privacy, but so do the bad guys.  Trading a little privacy for safety makes sense most of the time.

What About at Night?

Motion detection lights are both convenient for when you or guests drive in, and very annoying to burglars.  If a series of lights pop on as a person walks from the street to the backyard, even better.  Neighbors, and you when home, will notice these lights.  The criminals will not light to be lit up.  Effective lighting is a great way to reduce the risk of break in, improve the functionality of your home and increase its value.  Buying motion activated lights is not expensive either.

Good Locks

The next line of defense to being robbed is good solid locks.  A good quality lock will stop most casual thieves (though a determined thief will go through anything).  Brass locks are great, and remember that some lock designs are much easier to pick than others are.

When chosing locks, however, remember that they are only as good as the door.  A super heavy duty lock is worthless on a flimsy door that can be booted in easily.  Also consider that a door with windows or sidelights can be defeated more easily by smashing the glass and reaching in than by trying to pick or break the lock.

Adding stronger strike plates and lock guards will enhance your home security.  A flip over intruder bar can also be very good in stopping the door from being forced open. 

Good Doors and Windows

Steel doors, or at least solid core wood doors are much more effective against break-ins than the hollow core doors are. If you are upgrading the locks, consider upgrading your doors.  

Windows are usually easy to break, with basement or ground level windows at the back or hidden sides of the house the easiest targets.  There are smash resistant films that can be applied over existing windows that are nearly invisible (they also often provide UV protection).  Consider placing security bars over vulnerable basement windows and steel roll shutters on if you live in a high crime or affluent neighborhood that invites break ins.

Security Alarms

Security alarms range from simple door contacts and a local siren to monitored alarms with motion detectors and laser beams.  If you have pets be sure the motion detectors accommodate the pet movements or you are in for many false alarms.  If you go with a monitored system, have the alarm company call list set up with cell phones and reliable neighbors so you can ensure a timely response to an alarm.  Also think about tying in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors to your alarm system for some extra protection. 

Marking and Securing Valuables 

If the bad guys do get in, what will they steal?  Electronics are a favorite target.  You can use aircraft cable and anchors to tie down your TV and desk computer.  This is more common in offices but works great in the home environment too. That will really frustrate the thieves.

Etching your drivers license number into tool, electronics, bikes and sports equipment and other items that may be stolen is an effective way to help recover stolen property.  When the police or a pawn shop sees that drivers license number, they know that the item is likely stolen and the police can trace it back to you quickly. 

For computers, there are programs that you can install that will report back the location of the computer and/or wipe it clean.  Some have caught and recorded thieves using the built in webcam on a stolen laptop.  

Safes and Storing Valuables

Cash, jewelry, passports and ids like birth certificates, as well as any precious metals all belong in a good fireproof safe that is secured to the floor or in the wall in an inconspicuous area.  Sinking a safe into the concrete floor slab is very effective.  A large jewelers safe that is very hard to move is also very effective for storing valuables.  (And if you are not filling it right up with valuables, maybe weight the safe down further with boxes of investment nickels).  Guns and ammo that you are not using for home protection should also go in secured safe.

You might also try less secure but harder to find common object safes.  Either buy commercially made valuable concealment devices or make your own from cans, books or other household objects.  

Use What You Put in Place for Security

If you don't lock your doors, close your windows when you go out and set the alarm, these protections are just useless expense.  Remember that home security is a mindset and that security needs to be instilled in every member of the family for it to be effective.  When you wear jewelery for a big night out, return it to the safe.  Put away those tools and lock the garage when you are finished.  Never advertise where you keep your valuables because often the thief is actually someone who heard there was something specific to steal.  Always remember to keep an eye on visiting neighbor children.