8 Home Security Tips for the Holidays
03/25/2019, 7:59 PM
The holidays have arrived. Many of you will be turning the heat down to 55ºF and hopping into the car, wisely outsourcing the festivities to a vacation spot or some charitable relative’s home. This consequently leaves your home vacant for days or weeks on end.
The holiday season floods our senses with messages of goodwill and generosity. This can leave us assuming the absolute best in people — and while we should strive to do so, the season of giving is also the season of taking for burglars.
Those who rob homes know that the end of the year is prime time for looting. Not only do many of us leave our homes unprotected, but we often unwittingly advertise them as such through social media and by making it clear that no one is home. Thieves are constantly on the lookout for vulnerable spots, and luxury homes make particularly luxurious holiday targets.
Ways to Keep Your Home Secure Over the Holidays
Protecting your home doesn’t have to be a scene from Home Alone. Luckily, it’s quite a bit easier than that — not to mention less messy. Let’s take a look at eight tips for keeping your house safe for the holidays.
1. Think Like a Thief. Where Are the Potential Break-In Points?
This exercise is kind of fun — simply walk around your house and imagine you are trying to break into it.
First, take a look at your doors. The front door should be secure, but put yourself in the mindset of a robber. Would you really try to break in through the front door, in plain view of the neighborhood? The most likely spot might be somewhere else around the house. Is there a basement door down a set of stairs or an exit to the backyard that is out of sight of the neighbors?
Next, inspect your windows. Are there any you could easily access from the ground? Often, there are second-story windows that might be accessible via the roof of a porch or garage. These can also serve as entryways because thieves know they are likely less protected than ground-level windows.
When thieves break into houses, they are often aided by our lovingly manicured landscaping. Tall bushes, trees and trellises might actually provide cover for burglars. Try hiding behind various bushes and having someone else see if you are visible. If you have complete cover from a certain plant, consider trimming it back so that no one can be hidden from view.
Locks, hinges, alarms and more will be discussed later — this is purely meant to determine where the most likely break-in points are. Consider where you would try to enter if you were hoping to avoid being spotted by the neighbors or by anyone passing by on the street.
2. Too Much Social Media Can Broadcast When Your Home Is Vacant
The world is a complex place. It seems that anything we say or post online is potentially liable to come back and haunt us — even an innocuous post of the whole family in Barbados for the week.
If your Facebook profile is not set to private, as many as seven million people might just be able to see it. Criminals adapt with the times, and they know that social media can be especially useful in finding out when people aren’t home. If one sees your pictures announcing your itinerary for the next week and a half, all they have to do is match your address to your name.
Burglars will even do a search of who has checked into airports to see if they are on their way out of town. Pictures can carry metadata that describes the location they were taken, allowing burglars to get an idea of where you are and how long it would take you to get back home.
To protect yourself on social media, a great technique is to wait until you’re home to post pictures — don’t worry, your friends will still be jealous. Also, turn off location sharing on social media. This will prevent you from being tagged in airports, restaurants or cities while you travel.
Also, share your information with friends only and not “friends of friends.” One degree of separation can let a lot of unknown eyes see your posts, and keeping it to people you know is a great start to staying safe.
3. Make Sure Your Doors and Windows Are Locked and Are Working Effectively
Having the right hardware for your doors and windows is an investment that pays off immeasurably. When you consider the grief and devastation of losing your valuables, memorabilia and prized possessions, those tiny metal pieces on the door suddenly gain a lot of value.
Your doors should have several important safety features. The first is a secure set of hinges that are not accessible from the outside, meaning no one with a screwdriver can come and detach your door from the frame.
Next, make sure each door has a sturdy handle. Those that are easily tampered with are security nightmares, and Premium Hardware has a great selection of handles that are both aesthetically pleasing and ship-tight.
Now come the locks. A key-operated deadbolt is a standard and effective safety measure, and modern ones are extremely tamper-resistant. Another great option is to install an additional Europrofile lock on the inside of the door. These sliding locks are sleek and stylish, and they provide an extra level of rigidity to a locked door.
Windows are, by the nature of their being both transparent and made of glass, more vulnerable than doors. They are also more likely to be overlooked when you do your final lockdown of your home, as they may be used less than doors. Having a high-quality, automatic window lock makes it easy to keep your windows closed tight.
Also, a set of metal bars across ground-level windows can be a visually attractive and effective deterrent. These bars sometimes get a bad rap for their unappealing presence in high-crime areas, but there are some truly beautiful options out there. Some look like forged iron gates, while others can be curved and fancy — whatever fits the aesthetic of your home.
4. Get Creative When You Hide Your Key for the Housesitter
Few things are more universal than that feeling of second-guessing yourself when hiding a key. However, we’re going to put out a few wildcard ideas for how to safely do it. Forget the doormat. Do not place it under the flowerpot by the door. Do not place it under the door sill, and no, don’t slide it up over the frame. Thieves know where we usually hide our keys.
Let’s look at the radical idea of hiding your key in plain sight.
Remember the first trick: Think like a thief. The longer a thief is lurking around outside the door, the more likely they are to catch the suspicion of a neighbor. Why not foil them by presenting a whole collection of keys to sift through? For instance, hang four large, keyring loops beside the door with thirty or so dummy keys on each. Your housesitter knows that it’s the twelfth key on the third ring, but it’s almost funny to imagine a thief trying out ten keys before getting scared.
If that is too bold for you, consider a key lock box secured to your door. These are fairly tamper-proof and will also add time to a thief’s break-in attempt, meaning they are less likely to complete the deed.
One great option is hiding the key as usual, except doing it in a place that is not right next to the door. The farther you get from the door, the more the potential hiding spots multiply. You can use strong glue to fix a tiny magnet to the key and put it inside your outdoor generator or propane grill. You can hide it under the eaves of a shed. Wherever you keep it, just make it unexpected.
5. Think of Installing Exterior Lighting
Exterior lighting is such an effective crime deterrent that it deserves an article in itself, but we’ll keep it on the simpler side here. From motion-sensor floodlights to those operated by an indoor switch, it is a wise idea to have the area around your home lit at night.
Outdoor lighting has been directly linked to a decrease in crime all around the world, and for good reason — criminals don’t want to be seen.
A motion-sensor floodlight does exactly what its name promises. When motion is sensed, it floods the area with light. If a thief wants to do their work at night, they will be quickly exposed in a way that not only catches them off guard, but that also catches the eye of anyone with a view of your house. Maintaining the element of surprise is a great tactic to scare away a thief.
Outdoor lighting also helps eliminate hiding spots. It is much harder to hide behind bushes when the area is illuminated, and it’s even harder to escape detection when scurrying across a well-lit yard.
Another advantage of outdoor lighting is that it makes it difficult to see inside a house at night. To see this for yourself, try looking out your window at night with the lights on inside — it’s extremely hard to make anything out when you are in the light, and the other side is in the dark.
6. Have a Plan With Neighbors to Watch Over Residences During the Holidays
DIY is never as effective as DIT — Do It Together.
A neighborhood offers inherent protection in that its tenants have a vested interest in keeping crime out. In the United States, the famous Neighborhood Watch sign can be seen at the entrance of many neighborhoods to warn off potential robbers. The basic premise of this idea is simple: Stay in touch with your neighbors to keep a watchful eye on each other’s homes.
Try setting up an email group, chat group or even a system in which you call each other to give notice that you’re leaving for vacation. If anyone sees anything suspicious, they can call the police immediately.
This also plays well in the long-term. If criminals get wind of the fact that your neighborhood is a particularly watchful one, they are likely to look for less risky targets elsewhere.
Note that neighborhood watches do not mean that anyone has to put themselves at risk by personally defending a neighbor’s home. Vigilante activity is not encouraged. It is always better to call the authorities and let them handle the situation.
7. Install an Alarm System and Arm It
Your alarm system should be thought of as the last line of defense. All of the other items on this list — identifying break-in points, monitoring your social media, making your doors and windows secure, hiding keys, installing exterior lighting and having a neighborhood watch plan — are there to keep your alarm system from having to do its job.
When it comes down to it, though, the alarm system is the ultimate weapon. It can be configured in many different ways to suit the needs of your home and family.
Alarm systems can be set up to get triggered by every window and door in your home. There are alarms that can detect glass breakage, and many home systems also have motion detection. Once the alarm goes off, the police are alerted. Typically, they will call your house and ask for a password. If the word is incorrect, or if the phone goes unanswered, they will come inspect and take action.
When considering a home security system it is recommended getting at least three estimates from different companies. Doing so will help you get a clear picture of which system would be the best fit for your home and lifestyle. Ask the experts questions such as if the system can be DIY installed or if it needs a professional to do so. Some systems come with default passwords and passcodes that could present a risk of being hacked if it’s DIY installed. Nonetheless, when it comes to making your home a safe space either while living in or on vacation, the effort is well worth achieving that peace of mind.
When you leave for the holidays, make sure to arm your alarm system properly. Motion detection is a great tool for those going away for several days.
8. Make It Look Like Someone Is Home
In addition to having a functioning alarm system, you can also make it look like the house is occupied. There are many different ways to accomplish this trick.
The first is through the purchase of light timers — these are tiny boxes that plug into your wall. By plugging your lamps in and setting the timer, you can have lights come on and off at certain times of day. To someone prowling the street for vacant homes, lights turning on and off will give the distinct impression of someone being home. There are even some timers that turn lights on and off at irregular intervals, which can throw off robbers who are looking for a pattern.
Get someone to do light maintenance work for you. This is not so much to have someone in the yard, but rather to keep things like leaves, newspapers, mail and trash cans from staying in the yard and alerting passersby that no one is there.
If you have a way to make a barking sound emit every so often — whether on a timer or some type of app — then you should do it. Most burglars will leave at the sound of a dog, even if it’s small, because it means someone is home.
Another trick is to have a neighbor park an extra car in your driveway. If neighbors are having guests over for the holidays, invite them to use your driveway as overflow parking.
Having a house-sitter is another great option for keeping your house safe. There are plenty of trustworthy people looking for house-sitting gigs, whether they are young people looking for a break from paying rent or someone needing a place to stay in between leases. One of the best ways to find a house-sitter is by asking friends — often someone will know of a good fit.
Trust Premium Hardware
No matter what, you need your windows and doors to be secure. If your door and window hardware is a bit questionable, it might be time to get some new components before you set off on your holiday excursions. Premium Hardware offers the quality, durable and attractive hardware you need to keep unwelcome guests out. Then, you can celebrate the season knowing your home is as safe as possible.