Thursday, July 26, 2007

Home Safety

You must be thinking about the safety of your home and family after hearing the news of the home invasion in Ct, where 3 of 4 family members were killed, after being tortured for hours. The chances of this happening to you may be slim, (regardless of how "little" you have, you still have more than many people) but there are many (low cost) ways to protect your home when you are away and to protect your family when you are at home. My almost 30 years in the security industry has provided me with lots of info which I am happy to share. Having a plan and knowing what to do prior to any problems will get you through with as little trauma as is possible.

Have there been four or more burglaries in your neighborhood in the past few years?
Do you live within a few blocks of a major highway or adjacent to a wooded area?
Is your home unoccupied at regular times each day?
Do you have valuable jewelry, artwork, collections, or electronic equipment in your home?
Do you live on a cul-de sac?
Does your neighborhood have a program for keeping an eye out for criminal activity?
Do you keep a spare house key under a mat, in a flowerpot, or elsewhere outside your home?
Do you have any hollow-core doors leading into your house from the outside?
Are all of your exterior doors secured by a heavy-duty dead-bolt lock and a reinforced strike plate?
Can your expensive stereo or computer system be easily seen by looking through a window?
Is your pet door large enough to allow a person to squeeze through?
Could a tree limb give an agile climber access to a second-story window or balcony?
Do overgrown trees or shrubs prevent any of your doors or windows from being seen from the street or from a neighbor’s house?
Are all sides of your house well-lighted at night or equipped with motion-sensitive lights?
Are your lawn and yard well maintained, even when you are gone for a week or more?
Do you leave valuable items; mobile home, boats, jet-skis or lawn and garden equipment in your yard?

When No One Is Home
Do you use timers on some lights?
Do you leave any doors or windows unlocked?
When you’re away is your mail or paper on hold or picked up every day by a neighbor?

Choose metal exterior doors. If this is not possible, choose a solid wood door.
Make sure door hinges are located inside so doors can't be removed from the outside.
If your mail slot is in your door, make sure a hand can't reach through the slot to the doorknob or locks.
For sliding glass doors, install a device that secures both the sliding and stationary panels of the door by pinning them together where the frames overlap.
Change your locks when you move into a new or existing home. You never know who had access to the home or who may still have keys to it.

Don't use only crescent or "butterfly" latches to secure double-hung windows. They can be pried open easily with a knife. Use a do-it-yourself nail or bolt window stop instead. Drill the hole for the stop at a slight downward angle to prevent a burglar from jiggling the pin out of the hole under pressure. Crank out windows are the safest, when closed, they cannot be forced open.
Laminated-glass windows, which can only be cut from one side, foil another burglary method: Quietly cutting glass to gain entry. Laminated security glass products may be specified for virtually any application, regardless of concurrent requirements for heat-transfer, visibility, or aesthetics. They are especially appropriate for front-door windows and sidelights.
Windows that are never used -- unless they are a means of escape during a fire -- should be fastened permanently shut.

General Tips
Trim hedges short so would-be burglars have nowhere to hide.
Pay attention to items that could allow easy access to second-floor windows or balconies. If you're remodeling or painting the exterior of your home, put ladders away at the end of each day.
Motion detection lights on all sides of the house also can help make your home less inviting to burglars.
Don't hide your house key outside. If a family member habitually loses or forgets his or her key, develop a better strategy - perhaps giving a set of keys to a trustworthy neighbor, hanging the key on a long chain that a teen can wear around the neck.
Lower the volume of your telephone's ring so it can't be heard outside your house. (An unanswered phone tells a burglar casing your house that no one's home.)
Don't enter your home if it appears to have been burglarized; call the police from a cell phone or neighbor's house.

Alarm Systems
According to the FBI, homes equipped with centrally monitored alarm systems are 15 times less likely to be targets of break-ins. These steps will help you choose one that's right for your security needs.
Determine how much protection you need. If you install an alarm system, teach the whole family to use it.
The goal of a residential security system is to detect an intruder as early as possible, alert the home's occupants to his presence, and scare him away before he does any harm. Progressive layers of protection accomplish this goal. Imagine four circles around your house, with your family and your most valuable possessions at the center. The interior is the second layer, the exterior shell is the third, and the property is the fourth.
For most people, a system that protects the second and third circles is both effective and cost efficient. This involves sensors or glass break detectors on the windows and exterior doors, with interior motion detectors as backup to the point-of-entry protection. The additional cost of protecting the innermost circle adds spot protection for high-value areas, such as a security closet or safe; at this level the system will include 24-hour panic buttons. At the outermost circle of protection, motion sensors let you know when someone has come onto your property. Unless you live in a remote or hidden location, this protection is likely more than you need for the costs involved.
Decide how you want the system to respond. At a minimum, include one interior siren to scare off the burglar and alert you to the situation. You may (or not) want to add an exterior siren so that the neighbors know when your alarm is activated. Also, the key to any alarm is having the system monitored by a central station, meaning a system sends a signal to a central station where operators notify local police.

Choose a type of alarm system
A basic alarm system is a low-voltage electrical circuit with sensors installed on doors and windows. When the flow of electricity through a sensor is interrupted because the door or window is opened, a siren sounds or a light flashes. Many systems also include motion sensors. When something moves within the sensor's range, an alarm sounds.

Electronic alarm systems come in two basic types:
* Wired systems require running low-voltage electrical wires from a master control panel to doors and windows, motion detectors, keypads, and sirens. The wires are usually concealed inside walls and in crawlspaces. Professional installers can hide the wires.
* Wireless systems use miniature radio transmitters instead of wires, so very little drilling and no special tools are required for installation. You can take a wireless system with you when you move.
Both wired and wireless systems can be enhanced with a variety of options -- from motion detectors that aren't tripped by pets to remote access that allows you to check the system by phone.

Compare prices
Get bids from two or three reputable security companies (I actually know some). Be sure to compare not only the installation charges but also annual warranty costs and monthly fees for monitoring. Also, check with your insurance agent to get a discount for installing a certain type of system.

Use it right
Alarm systems are only a part of good home security, and electronic systems have to be used properly to be effective.

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