Insurance Declassified: H is for Home Security
We’ve already told you how installing a burglar and fire alarm is a great way to save money on your insurance, and protect your home. But even the most sophisticated alarm systems are sometimes no match for a determined thief. With a few easy modifications, you can make your house much more secure against an intruder, reduce the likelihood your valuables will be found or stolen & greatly increase your peace of mind. These home security tips are all minimally invasive, which also makes them a great resource for parents sending their children off to college apartments, or young adults settling into their first property!
- Reinforce all door jambs and deadbolts with steel backing and 3″ wood screws. For less than the cost of an extra large pizza, and the time it would take to be delivered, you can make your front door much harder to kick open. For most burglars, not being successful on the first attempt to gain entry means they abandon their efforts entirely.
- Install motion detector lights. If you’re renting, find a solar or battery operated pair online or at a hardware store that can be installed with minimal effort. This is a great deterrent from anyone who might enter the back of your property, attempt to break into your car, or surprise you as you unlock your front door.
- Does your home have sliding doors? Have a 2×4 cut to fit between the frame and the sliding door to prevent it from being forced open.
- Any spare keys should be kept in a lockbox outside, not under a potted plant or rock. The combination should not be anyone’s birthday, and only family members or tenants of the apartment/home should know the code. Keep a separate lock box if you may need to have a friend or significant other enter the home in your absence. If the relationship sours you can remove the lockbox, and their ability to enter your home, without inconveniencing family members or roommates.
- Consider installing window and door alarms. This is especially relevant if you have roommates who may be leaving doors unlocked while you’re home. This is also a great way to keep teenagers or young adults from leaving (or coming home past curfew) without your knowledge.
- Consider an unconventional “safe” to prevent valuables from being stolen if a burglary occurs. Some extremely cheap and easy options for jewelry are empty paint cans which have been washed out and placed in the garage, or use cream colored spray paint inside an old mayo jar to hide in the back of your fridge! For important documents or cash a pocket can be sewn to the back of curtains, or have a piece of wood cut to match the interior of a drawer to create a false bottom. Another super simple option is hanging a manila folder in the space between upper cabinets; use large binder clips to make sure the folder doesn’t fall through the crack. You can also purchase fake electrical outlet safes, or even safes designed to look like the contents of a medicine cabinet! If it can’t be easily spotted it can’t be easily stolen.
- Consider reinforcing an unused garage side door, and always lock your garage doors before any vacations. Garages provide excellent cover for a criminal, and people frequently leave their interior garage doors unlocked.
- Garage door openers should never be kept in your car. If someone breaks into your car, chances are they can find documents with your address. If this occurs at an airport or while you’re at work, thieves are all too aware that you won’t be at home. Always remove the garage door opener before having your vehicle serviced.
- Everyone knows about stopping mail before their vacation, but consider purchasing a secure mailbox. Identity theft is all too common, and even seemingly innocuous mailings like DSW coupons or J.Crew catalogues give criminals information about your spending habits, increasing their chances to make purchases before you or your bank notice.
- Avoid advertising an empty house on social media. You might be proud of your fitness regimen, but no one should be aware that you’re routinely absent from your home every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 5-7pm. Additionally, pictures of your vacation that your friend or co-worker likes can be seen on their timelines as well, advertising your absence to complete strangers.
- Make sure your children have a plan in the event an intruder attempts to enter, or is successful in entering, your home when you’re absent. Verify that they know at least one neighbor well enough to run to their house in the event of a serious emergency, and be sure to inform the neighbor of how you’d like that situation handled
- An out of town team flag out front or a bumper sticker advertising your favorite vacation spot are all ways a criminal can make a note of when you’re more likely to be absent from your home.
- If you’re home and hear strange noises outside, such as water running from your outside taps or a child crying, do not investigate the sound of the disturbance. Call the police and have them come out and take a look. Criminals use these sounds to entice people into exiting their homes to look for the source of the disturbance and then attack when the person is distracted.
- Make sure that your alarm system is not visible from a outside door or window. No one should be able to peer in and see if your system is armed or not.
- Burglars more routinely enter homes during the day and will often knock on a door to see if anyone is home before they attempt to gain entry, so always ask questions about unexpected visitors. Remember, innocent people will not become offended if you attempt to get information from them before you open your door. If anyone seems suspicious, becomes argumentative or is evasive when asked to identify themselves, contact the police.