Be Prepared – Home Security

Posted at 4:33 PM (CST) by & filed under General Editorial.

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A small dog and a large junk yard guard dog with bad attitude plus a recent delivery of long shelf life food, just in case.

My Dear Extended Family and Friends,

Home security is a matter to be considered by everyone. Home security is not the same as personal safety of home/personal defense. Think of home security as a passive endeavor and defense as active and usually more immediate undertaking. This article does not touch on home and personal safety and defense, but that subject needs to be addressed. This article is only an introduction to Home Security.

Home security varies significantly based on where you live and your resources. If you live in New York City your home security needs will be quite different than if you live off-grid in rural Montana or in Tanzania, Africa. What you need and what could occur depending on your home’s location varies significantly.

Most home invasions occur when no one is home, so the passive security which functions whether you are home or not is the best choice. No one being home makes a burglar feel safer upon entering your home. Make sure all doors and windows are not only securely locked when you are out, but also at night when you are sleeping.

HOME ENTRY AND ACCESS POINTS:

LOCKS AND DOORS:

Although locks truly only protect against honest people, locks are still important. Have good locks which can’t be disengaged with a plastic card or jimmied with a metal pry bar. This usually means deadbolts are a good choice. On the inside of exterior doors brackets can be placed on either side of a door which will accommodate a 2”x4” piece of lumber across the door. There are more aesthetically pleasing types of door jams available on the Internet, but the lumber jam is cheap and easy. This is a security back up for a lock to be used when you are home, or for doors not normally used as entry doors. If you have a door between your garage and your home, don’t forget to secure that door too. Also, locks don’t work if they aren’t used, so practice locking your doors and windows when you leave home, even if it is only for a few minutes. Peep hole lenses can be installed in solid doors, and the wide angle peep holes will give you a larger field of vision. Be sure that everyone who may answer the door can see through the peep hole. Solid metal doors are best, or metal clad doors, but even solid wooden doors are preferable to doors which contain glass windows, or have glass windows connected to them. If your doors have window glass on or near them, then the glass can be reinforced with film to help it be less able to be breached or shattered. Spare keys may be needed at some point or another and it is best to leave them with a neighbor who is trusted. If that is not an available option, then hide a key outside, but not near the entryway, and don’t tag the key for its lock location. Don’t forget to lock garage doors. Garage doors can provide an opportunity for a concealed access to your home if you have an attached garage.

WINDOWS:

Windows should be locked at all times, even when open. Ventilation is important, but bars which limit exterior access can be installed inside on the window frames. In cities these are used to keep children from opening windows too much and prevent children from falling out. Screens are no protection and even a cat sleeping up against a screen can push it out. Bars on windows in cities are an option, but for emergency egress, these bars either need to be specialized for opening from within or run only half way up the windows. Most fire codes in the USA require 5 square feet of available opening to be compliant, so check with your fire department before installing barriers of any kind.

Sliding glass doors are more like windows. They not only allow a large access, but they also have a large area from which the interior of your home can be viewed from the outside. These doors need to have a pole bar which fits into the track. Sliding glass doors are easily jimmied and can then be lifted off of the wheels which slide the door on the track. A blind over this door can be used when you are not at home to prevent peeping into your home and all windows are best to be covered when you are not at home for this reason.

ALARMS AND DETERRENTS:

Many households around the world have sophisticated alarm systems. Some are silent and notify authorities and private security companies and some are loud and noticed by everything outside in the vicinity and deter an invader from proceeding into your home. Intelligent security can be electronic with back up power and remote access, or a dog, and everything in between. If you already have a significant alarm system, this information isn’t aimed at you. This information is for the consideration of the average person who either can’t afford, can’t get or hasn’t considered home security.

DOGS:

A dog, large or small is a deterrent to a home invader. Dogs are territorial and most tend to guard their spaces. A large dog with a small dog is a good choice, if you are inclined toward dogs. A small dog will usually sound the alarm and the large dog will usually handle the guard duty. The greatest deterrent to burglary in the USA is a large, black dog. The Tibetans kept small dogs with their Mastiff’s for this purpose. Today, a barking chihuahua dodging, jumping and barking all the while around inside your home may not seem like much of a threat, but a home invader armed with a 45 ACP could probably unload it in the direction of the dog and never hit it.

Bear in mind that if a dog is your choice for intelligent home security that you must be prepared to feed it, care for it, train it, walk/exercise it, vaccinate it, etc. Dogs are great alarms, guardians and companions. Dogs require love in order to thrive. If you are considering a dog for home security, and you have room in your home, but not in your heart, a dog may not be the highest choice for you, and there are other alternatives. Most dogs desire to be family members, so consider your level of commitment carefully.

Electronic dogs are a great choice if you don’t want or can’t keep a dog. Dog alarms are easy to find on the Internet, and some are very good. Some will detect movement for 25 feet and through walls and floors. The motion sensitivity can be set and so can the volume of the dog alarm. Some will bark one time when motion is detected. If motion continues, three barks follow. Thereafter if motion doesn’t cease, the electronic dog will bark continuously as long as motion is detected. These range in price from $60 USD and up. A home invader only needs to hear a dog once to be deterred, and that is what is needed. Some dog alarms have sirens which follow the barking and other features, like remote activation, etc. so look online for what is available.

Dog bowls are a great deterrent. In general people don’t want to mess with a dog, especially a large dog. A large dog bowl placed outside will act like a sign which says, “A large dog lives here, keep out.” If you can’t have or don’t want a dog, consider a $3 investment in a large dog water bowl and keep it filled with water. If you have snow in winter, be sure to clear snow from around the bowl, or an absence of doggie paw prints will indicate that the bowl is only a prop.

SECURITY LIGHTS:

Security lights usually come on when motion is detected. These are a good choice, but are normally dependent on electric power to work. There are battery operated units, but then you have a problem if batteries are not available. These lights should be placed strategically around your home, and at a height where the bulbs cannot be easily removed or unscrewed. Burglars don’t want the light as it draws attention to a property and may illuminate their activity. Although security lights are great tools, if you live in a rural or remote area, having outside lights on all the time, may pose a different threat. Continuously on lights act like a beacon in attracting attention. Since no amount of darkness can blot out the light, a light in a remote area will act like a sign which says, “Hey, we have a home here and you can find us if you follow the light.” This can be a use of light which disadvantages you in a rural area by signaling where you are in the middle of nowhere when your home would otherwise be hidden.

Backup solar security lights are easy to obtain and the price of them has significantly reduced in the past few years. They aren’t as bright as electric flood lights, but they do the job. They will turn on when they sense motion, but most of the less expensive models only remain on for 15 seconds, and only stay on while there is motion. Be discriminating if you buy these lights for off grid applications or for back up for your electric security lights. Some of these lights do not turn off completely in the dark, but remain on at low lumens and become bright when motion is detected. Lights which remain on, no matter how dim, may present the problem addressed in the preceding paragraph. Most of these lights are LEDs and have long lasting bulbs and are durable and reliable in terms of weather as long as the solar panels are appropriately facing and angled to the sun and obstructions like snow are not permitted to occlude the solar panels. Use creative problem solving skills for their placement if you don’t have the right orientation for the sun. These can be attached to you home, to a fence, or on a post in order for them to serve your needs.

SIGNS:

Signs can serve a good purpose in securing your home. All manner of signs are available on the Internet. A “No Trespassing” sign is ok, but a “No Trespassing – Beware of Dog” sign is better. It provides more information and a warning. “CCTV” and “24 hour Surveillance” signs are good, but “Smile – You’re on Camera” may seem friendlier for the people you choose to visit your home and still provide the message you need. In addition, having a visible camera which can’t be easily seen works well in combination with signs.

Window stickers which indicate a security alarm is present at the property can be a good deterrent, but will not dissuade a professional burglar, since they are aware of these mass produced stickers and recognize them when they see them.

CAMERAS AND FAKE CAMERAS:

In this day and age, there are actual CCTV and other cameras everywhere. Real remote cameras are not very expensive. Many hunters us game-cams and these can just as easily be used for home security.

If you can’t afford a real remote camera, consider some of the many dummy cameras available on the Internet. You can get 4 of them for around $20. These are cheap and can do the job if you conceal the names on the cameras and don’t use the blinking red light which comes with most of them. Most real security cameras don’t have blinking red lights, and the lights can be somewhat of a giveaway that your blinking light is part of a phony camera. This will also save you money in maintaining batteries. Cameras, and camera dummies can be placed near the sign. Since actual cameras are so prevalent today, a would-be burglar will probably not want to risk it and seek a less threatening location to rob.

ALARMS:

In addition to, or as an alternative to a dog, there are many cheap and easy alarms. The cheapest and easiest alarms to install yourself without the need for tools can be obtained on-line or in dollar stores. These alarms come in two pieces with magnets on each side. If the magnets are separated (for example when a door or window is opened) a 100 db alarms sounds. (Google – window door alarms) These alarms run on watch batteries which are (usually) included when you buy them. These alarms can serve a few purposes. The first purpose is to surprise the burglar who will normally run from the sound. If you happen to have a dog, it will alert your dog that there is a potential intruder. If you are home, and don’t have a dog, it will alert you to prepare to defend yourself, protect your property and call for help. These alarms stick to either side of a door or window with double sided tape and are very cheap and easy to install. There are other cheap alarms which sense vibration on the surface of a door or window, but these are visible through glass and can also be set off by pets and are a nuisance if accessible to children.

Less conventional alarms for rural areas, remote areas and off the grid areas are Guinea fowl. These birds are amazingly loud when someone they don’t know or a predator approaches where they live. These birds are from Africa, but are kept around the world. They have some of the same drawbacks people have with dogs. They require shelter, protection from predators, food and water. The benefits of these birds is that the hens lay eggs during the Spring, Summer and Fall months. They can be consumed like chickens, and they are tick, weed, weed seed and bug eating machines. During months without snow, these birds don’t need a great deal of feed since they forage for much of their food on their own. They need to be trained to return to their coop at night. These birds have an eagle eye and keen hearing, so little escapes their notice. If interested in Guinea Fowl definitely do some reading up and research. Also, if you live in a populated area, check your local laws and also with your neighbors since these birds do not respect property lines and they fly.

MISCELLANEOUS DETERRENTS:

There is a lot you can do to deter people from looking at your home as a target for invasion. Lights which go on and off with timers are extremely useful. A radio on a timer is also a good deterrent. A burglar doesn’t want to enter a home where there is noise. Noise is a sign that someone is, or may be present. The sound of a radio alone will prevent a burglar from hearing if someone is present or someone is coming, so a radio and lights turning on and off when you are away from home can be important to your home security.

A TV simulator is a small box that projects moving and colored lights which can be seen from outside your home through windows and appear to be a functioning TV set. These simulators usually have various settings for on and off or be put on a timer, or both. Some will go on automatically at dusk and remain on for 4 or 8 hours. These features accommodate time changes for day and night. TV simulators sell for around $20 and are a good investment in your home security set up. The simulator must be located in the room where it can’t be seen, or the device will be seen for the prop it is.

CONCLUDING SUGGESTIONS:

If you live in a town, suburb or urban area, get to know your neighbors and form a neighborhood watch group. Your neighbors can be a valuable asset to your home security and you can provide the same services for them.

Be smart about your trash. A huge cardboard box outside that shows the picture of a 60 inch flat screen TV, home entertainment system, new high tech electronics or other valuable can be like a sign on your property for an invitation to a robbery. Cut up boxes and turn them inside out, bundle them and dispose of them.

Don’t leave ladders around the outside of your home. This could invite someone to gain access to your roof, or check your second floor windows for a point of entry. Don’t leave valuables outside which make people think you probably have valuables inside. Tools, grills, lawn mowers, etc. should be secured away in your garage or a shed and out of sight. Bicycles are a very popular item to steal and easy to take away. Keep bikes locked up when not in use. Even when using a bike, have a U-bar brace with a heavy lock and airline cable to secure it when in public.

Be sure every entry door has a bright working light for anyone who comes to your home at night. If you are in a neighborhood where houses are in view of each other, trim shrubs so there are no hiding places for prowlers and the area surrounding your home can be seen by neighbors. In a neighborhood you can consider photo cell lights which come on at dusk.

If you live in a rural area, plant multi-flora rose bushes, raspberries and other prickly shrubs and vines around your property which create an impassable barrier for humans and even some animals.

If you go on vacation or are not home for a period of time, be sure mail and newspaper do not accumulate and that your yard is maintained. Ask a neighbor to keep an eye on your home, or see if your community has a house alert list with your local police or law enforcement department.

This article is by no means exhaustive of home security measures and further research needs to be done by you. A lot depends on where you live and what your budget is. This article is a mere introduction to home security.

Take good care. Use good common sense. Assess your risks. Be Prepared. Secure your home.

Respectfully yours,

Jim Sinclair