This time of year always seems to cause a bit of extra stress and chaos in our lives. From ensuring we buy that all important gift, finding the right outfit for your holiday parties, and spending time with family and friends things can become a tad overwhelming. Sometimes it might mean that we forget things that usually are second-nature to us. For many of us, Thanksgiving kicks off the start of holiday travelling which means our homes will be left unattended. As we embark on one of the most highly traveled holidays of the year there is no better time than now to take a few minutes to ensure that your home is secure.
Before you start packing, take some time to reexamine your home and make sure that it is secure. Don’t let living in what's considered to be a safe neighborhood give you a false sense of security because crime happens everywhere. This is the time to take a look at your home the way that a criminal would. Remember, a home that is an easy target is also going to be a more likely target.
There are simple physical security measures you can take now that can help be a deterrent against crime.
- Make sure you have solid exterior doors. Then take it a step further and install high quality locks or deadbolts. Additionally, consider reinforcement plates to protect locks and door jambs.
- If you have a sliding door or window make sure they can’t be lifted from their track. A quick and effective solution for sliding doors is to place a rod in the track.
- Keep your valuables from being in plain sight and move them away from the view of any exterior windows. Don’t make it an easy decision for a burglar to break-in.
- Reexamine your exterior lighting. Replace any dead light bulbs. Consider replacing original exterior lighting with new models that have motion sensors and other new features like solar powered panels and brighter/higher wattage.
- Don’t hide your spare keys outside. I know you think that the faux rock that hides your key blends in, but criminals know these tricks too.
- Put gravel outside of exterior windows so you will hear if anyone is getting close to them. Alternatively, small bushes and shrubs placed in front of windows will provide a barrier to make it more difficult to open and get in or out of. However, if you have any overgrown shrubs trim them back so they don't become place for criminals to hide.
- If you have an alarm system, make sure you turn it on while you’re home and away. If you don’t have an alarm system, then think about buying a camera or two that you can be placed strategically near main entrances or windows. Most of these cameras have an app for your phone that will immediately send you a notification if there is any motion detected. Based on this notification, you can then see from within the app what is going on in your home.
- If you just purchased a new home or have moved into a new rental apartment, then consider replacing your locks or getting new keys made. You don’t know who had keys from previous owners, tenants, or workers.
Good security is achieved by developing good habits. An alarm system is of no use if you never turn it on. The brightest motion-sensor floodlights won’t help if you don’t replace dead light bulbs. Think about your home security in both day and night settings to make the most effective improvements. This can help build your confidence that your home is a harder target.
When thinking of your overall personal security, consider apply these easy practices to your life:
- Carefully control your keys. Who absolutely needs a key to access your home? Does your child or children need keys? Does the person you just gave a key to have a habit of losing things? If you give a key out to others make sure they are responsible.
- Be extremely cautious in giving access to your home to any unknown person. This should be common sense, but scam artists are out there using tactics that they know work to get access to your home. For example, if someone is posing as a utility company employee that wants access to check a gas leak, then confirm their identity by calling the utility company before giving them access. Don’t be afraid to challenge their need to be there.
- Be alert when a stranger shows interest in you and your home or asks for personal information. We all want to be nice to each other and there are lots of friendly people in our communities but does the person really need to know the information they are asking about?
- Only hire workers from a reputable, licensed company and get personal references from people you trust. Be careful when hiring services like a dog walker, a cleaning company, or landscape services. These workers might need access to your home when you’re not there to keep an eye on it.
- Limit your social media use and limit what you reveal and when. Only publish what you would feel comfortable revealing in a public setting to what are essentially strangers. We tend to have the need to overshare so think over these tips before sharing on social media. Also, think about turning off location tracking features so others can’t see when you’re not home or if you've "checked-in" at some other location.
- Get to know your neighbors so you can look out for each other. We are always told that if we see something, say something. It’s easy with cell phones now to let your neighbors know if a stranger is taking an interest in their property. Join the neighborhood watch group or set up a group text to notify others of suspicious activity.
Take the time to discuss your security and security routines with your family. You're not home 24 hours a day to make sure that the door is locked and alarm is on. Run through some practice scenarios with your family so they know what to do should the alarm get triggered. It's important that each family member knows their responsibilities to ensure that you keep a secure home. Put in these measures now so they become part of your travelling plan. This will keep you at ease and give you the peace of mind while you are on the road so you can enjoy, relax, and do what really matters - spend time with family.