Do you worry about how safe you are in your home? Burglaries, home invasions, fires and natural disasters are common concerns for homeowners, but you don’t have to live in fear. Advances in technology have taken home security to a whole new level, creating systems capable of monitoring every nook and cranny of your house and sending alerts to the proper authorities when something is amiss. With a range of options available from many different companies, you can build a comprehensive network to secure your entire home.
Statistics show how important it is to have a solid plan for keeping your home safe. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, 3.7 million homes are broken into and 1.03 million homes are invaded each year. Most burglaries take place between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., and at least one resident is in the present during 1 million of these incidents. About 58 percent of burglaries and unlawful intrusions involve some kind of forced entry, and burglars make off with an average of $2,251 worth of property each time.
Even if you live in an area prone to these types of crimes, it’s not necessary to turn your house into a fortress to avoid becoming a victim. These 10 security essentials can give you and your family peace of mind whether you’re at home, out for the day or away on vacation.
Home Security Systems
The growing popularity of smart home devices is making the burglar alarm a thing of the past. Basic alarms do provide some protection and can deter potential intruders, but true security comes from having your entire home covered by a system with multiple components working together to monitor everything going on inside and out.
Both wired and wireless security systems are available. One advantage of a wireless setup is it can’t be disabled by severing physical connections. These systems also require less work to install, and you can often set them up on your own.
Whether you choose wired or wireless security, look for the most comprehensive system possible. Basic home security includes a control panel with a keypad or touch screen and a few sensors to protect the most vulnerable places in your home. To ensure the highest level of safety, add sensors to detect when windows or doors are opened, glass is broken or valuable belongings have been tampered with. Make sure the company providing your system offers 24/7 professional monitoring services to guarantee the proper authorities are notified the moment a sensor goes off.
A smart home system with both security and environmental alerts is the best option if you want to know everything going on in your home when you’re not there. You can access devices in these systems using an app on your smartphone no matter where you are and set up customized alerts to inform you of suspicious activity. Environmental sensors warn you of fires, floods or carbon monoxide leaks. Other features may include the ability to control lighting, view live streams from security cameras or set special alerts to monitor the safety of family members.
Modern home security systems can be customized to cover homes of any size and protect a range of valuable items. Look into DIY options to get started on your own, or get quotes from highly rated professional security companies to have someone help you design and set up the right system.
Almost 30 percent of burglars enter homes through unlocked windows or doors, so the most basic thing you can do to ensure the security of your windows is to keep them closed and locked. Upgrade your basic locks to something stronger and more visible, such as a deadbolt or pins, to show burglars you mean business.
The material you choose for your windows makes a big difference in security. Look for tempered glass to reinforce windows against breakage, or invest a bit more for safety glass. Also known as laminated glass, safety glass consists of two glass sheets with a vinyl layer between them. Since it can’t be broken with a single blow, your security system will alert you to the presence of a burglar long before the glass gives way.
Plexiglass and polycarbonate are strong alternatives to regular glass. If you can afford the investment, polycarbonate is the most secure option. With 250 times the impact resistance of safety glass, polycarbonate windows are unlikely to be breached by the average burglar.
When setting up your home security system, be sure to include window sensors and alarms for additional protection. Alarms emit loud noises when windows are disturbed, startling burglars and letting you know someone is trying to break in. If someone attempts a home invasion when you’re out of the house, you’ll receive a signal on your mobile device. You’ll also be notified if you forget to close a window so that you never accidentally leave your home vulnerable.
In addition to these security measures, consider investing in heavy curtains or blinds to conceal the contents of your home from prying eyes.
Although burglars are often portrayed as sneaking around, looking for a stealthy way to enter a home, 34 percent actually come in through the front door. If this seems hard to believe, consider how little thought most homeowners put into the security of the door they use most. Many front doors have decorative windows with glass an intruder can easily break and simple lock mechanisms with no extra reinforcement.
If your front door or any other door in your home has these vulnerabilities, it’s time for an upgrade. Doors should be made of solid materials so that they can’t easily be kicked in. Strong wood is a common choice because it’s both sturdy and aesthetically pleasing, but reinforced steel is the most secure option. Choose a door without a window, but look for one with a peephole to allow you to identify visitors when they arrive.
Deadbolt locks with an ANSI grade of one are the highest quality deadbolts you can buy and provide much more security than basic locks. Biometric locks take home safety up a notch by requiring a fingerprint before letting anyone enter the house. You can create a backup system with a lock designed to operate only from the inside and lock it whenever you’re at home.
Decorative sliding glass doors should be made of the strongest glass possible and secured with a dowel or bar placed in the track. Special safety bars are also available. If your home is older and has a door a burglar could easily take off of the track, invest in a metal pin to hold it in place.
Adding cameras to your security setup lets you monitor activity inside and outside of the house. Cameras can cover any area, so you’re not limited only to obvious places like the front door or back patio. If your budget allows, install cameras in as many areas as possible for complete coverage, and opt for smart models so that you can tap into the feed from your mobile device whenever you want.
Outdoor cameras must be weather-resistant and should have infrared or night vision features to capture clear images in the dark. Look for cameras capable of delivering high-resolution images so that you’ll have clear footage to show the authorities should an intruder enter your home. Cameras with wide-angle lenses and the ability to rotate on their mounts give you the most expansive views.
Adding indoor cameras lets you capture more than footage of burglars. Unfortunately, sometimes the people you trust to clean your home or perform repairs are less than honest, and without a camera, you may not know what they’re up to until long after they make off with your valuables. You can also use indoor cameras to check on your kids if they get home before you do or to monitor the house when you’re away on vacation. Choose multi-room or whole-house cameras for the best coverage.
Simply having cameras installed can make burglars think twice about targeting your home. If someone knows he or she could be caught on tape, your house immediately becomes a less attractive prospect.
Home Security Lighting
Shadows are every intruder’s friend. Homes with limited outdoor lighting provide a lot of places to hide and make it much easier to slip inside undetected. However, being surprised by a floodlight fitted with a motion sensor is more than a little shocking and is likely to cause a burglar to panic and leave.
There are many other ways security lighting can be used to eliminate shadowy areas, including:
• Installing photocells designed to switch on when outdoor light levels are low
• Using landscape lighting to brighten up trees and shrubs
• Lining paths with decorative lamps
• Placing lights in entryways, over the garage, in the backyard and near the patio, pool or deck
When choosing your lights, make sure you get enough to cover the entire perimeter of the house. This not only serves to keep burglars away but also ensures you’re safe on days you come home after dark. Make sure all outdoor lighting can stand up to the most extreme weather conditions in your area.
For indoor lighting, consider investing in smart timers you can control with a mobile app. Standard timers create a predictable cycle of light, and observant burglars will quickly realize you’re not at home when the pattern doesn’t change from day to day. With smart timers, you can control exactly when lights turn on or off to mimic the regular activities of your family. The more you can make it look like you’re at home when you’re not, the safer the house will be.
Most homeowners purchase safes to protect important documents and valuable belongings from fires rather than theft. Both are important to consider when purchasing a safe for your home. The material must be flame-resistant and strong enough to endure an assault from a determined thief, meaning you have to look for two types of ratings.
Fire ratings communicate how long a safe can withstand certain temperature levels without becoming too hot inside. For example, a safe with a rating of “UL Class 350 1-hour” won’t exceed 350 degrees inside after one hour of being exposed to temperatures of 1,700 degrees. The rating you choose must be appropriate for what you plan to store inside, especially if some of your belongings are made from materials with the potential to be damaged in high heat.
TL ratings tell you how long a safe can be battered using common tools before it gives way. If a safe is rated TL-15, this means it will take a burglar at least 15 minutes to bust it open using force. The highest classification is TL-30×6, indicating a burglar would have to attack the safe for half an hour using everything from hand tools to drills before a breach could be made.
To keep burglars from breaking into your safe, choose an advanced lock mechanism with an electronic keypad or a fingerprint reader. Consider installing your safe in a wall or bolting it to the floor so that burglars frustrated with trying to break the lock don’t simply walk off with the whole thing.
Every room in your home should have a smoke alarm. Place these in easily accessible areas, and test them on a regular basis. Change the batteries once a year or whenever alarms fail to respond during testing. Alarms should be replaced every eight to 10 years or as indicated in the manufacturer’s instructions. When making fire alarms part of your smart home system, look for models designed to contact the local fire department when a fire is detected so that help will be on the way even if you can’t get to a phone to call 911.
Alarms can be ionization models to detect flaming fires or photoelectric to sense smoking or smoldering. Fires can be as hot as 100 degrees at floor level and 600 degrees at eye level, and smoke can be the deadliest factor in a blaze. Because of this, dual-sensor alarms are the best option for keeping you and your family safe.
Create an escape plan to get the family out of the house quickly if a fire ever occurs. Practice it often, making sure everyone knows at least two routes out of every room and understands where you should meet once outside. Never install locks you or your kids can’t open quickly in an emergency, and make sure your kids know how to escape through doors and windows on their own should it ever be necessary.
According to U.S. Legal, a home invasion is “an unauthorized and forceful entry into a dwelling.” More than half of home invaders use force to get inside, and all such intrusions involve the intention to commit a crime. Whether or not you’re at home when it happens, any instance in which someone goes into your house without your permission counts as a home invasion.
Criminals often gain entry into homes by pretending to be from legitimate companies or working with organizations collecting information or raising money. This is why you should never open the door for any unexpected visitors, even if they seem genuine. When you are expecting a professional to perform a service, always ask for ID before letting them in.
The best way to prevent a home invasion is to make all your security measures as visible as possible. When potential burglars see a house outfitted with imposing doors, strong locks and multiple cameras, they consider it to be a “hard target” and will look for an easier mark. Having a dog also acts as a deterrent, since dogs make a lot of noise and may be trained to attack when their owners are threatened.
If your home is ever invaded, you must have a quick way to contact the police. Keep your cell phone on hand at all times so that you can make an emergency call, or use the panic button on your security system. Some home security devices will automatically alert the police when a break-in occurs, and having a professionally monitored system ensures the proper authorities will arrive on the scene when you need them.
Knowing how to take a defensive position in the event of a home invasion is critical. Having self-defense skills means you can protect your house, your belongings and your family as well as yourself, and you’ll also be able to fend off potential attackers in other situations. U.S. citizens are legally allowed to use force to defend themselves from attackers, so you should never hesitate to do what’s necessary to prevent someone from harming you or other members of your household.
Some of the best methods for self-defense include:
• Getting and staying in good physical shape
• Taking self-defense or martial arts classes
• Carrying pepper spray wherever you go
• Carrying a tactical flashlight
• Keeping a club or baseball bat close at hand in your home
• Learning how to use a weapon, such as a tactical knife, stun gun or firearm
If you’re not comfortable with potentially lethal weapons, other options are available. Bean bag guns, for example, shoot bean bags at high speed to surprise and knock the wind out of home invaders without inflicting serious damage. Always check local laws and ordinances regulating weapons and obtain the appropriate permits for any defensive items you purchase.
Disaster preparedness is just as much a part of home security as the measures you take to prevent burglaries. You never know when a fire or wildfire may flare up, and severe weather like tornados, hurricanes or winter storms can plunge you into an emergency situation you didn’t expect.
Instead of panicking in these situations, you can respond with a level head if you make plans in advance. Understand the types of disasters you’re at risk for in your area at different times of year, and look at resources such as Ready.gov for detailed help in putting together emergency kits and other essentials. Basic emergency kits should include:
• First aid items
• Food and water
• Reliable light sources
• Extra clothing
• Copies of important papers
• Essential medications
• A multi-tool
• Work gloves
• A fire escape ladder
• Duct tape
• Nylon rope
• Baby wipes
Add emergency numbers to your cell phone, and always have a way to charge your devices even when the power is out. Outfitting your home with an automatic generator gives you a backup source of power on which you can rely, but it’s also a good idea to have a solar-powered charger tucked into your emergency kit to ensure you’re never without a connection to the outside world.
When you have a comprehensive plan for home security, you don’t have to worry about burglaries, home invaders or disasters. A strong security system and a plan to prepare you for emergency situations allows you to rest in the assurance of knowing your home is protected and you’re ready for any situation.
Putting all ten elements together takes work, but if you approach your security planning one step at a time, you’ll have everything in place before you know it. Determine the equipment you need, research home security companies and get assessments for the type of system best suited for your home. Get your family on board with disaster planning, and look for self-defense courses in your area. Remember to check your system and review your plans regularly to stay sharp and ensure you’re always protected.
Home security is a worthy investment for your safety and peace of mind. Choose your setup wisely to create a secure haven where you and your family can live free from fear and worry.