Security measures to make sure the season stays festive
Category Home advice
Criminals never seem to sleep, and nor do they take summer holidays – especially when there is a prospect of rich pickings from homes left empty and unprotected while their owners are off enjoying themselves.
“So if you don’t want to have your holiday spoiled by the dreaded phone call to tell you that your home has been broken into, burgled or vandalised – or even if you just anticipate spending extra time out shopping or visiting friends and family this December, you should evaluate your home security measures now,” says Berry Everitt, CEO of the Chas Everitt International property group.
He says the following have been noted as the most important measures recommended by security experts to improve your chances of enjoying a crime-free holiday season:
* Install a dual-link alarm system supported by a reputable security company. This will offer you and your family year-round protection and you may also pay a lower household insurance premium if you have one.
* Another form of security that’s great for bigger properties, especially, is the infra-red perimeter beam that helps you detect intruders before they even reach the house. Such beam systems can be linked to your alarm system and will be set off when a beam is interrupted by someone passing through it.
* Developments in CCTV technology mean these systems are now also widely available to homeowners and can also be linked to your cellphone so you can see and capture photos of intruders even if you are not at home.
* Band together. Tell at least one of your neighbours you are going away and ask them to immediately report the presence of any strangers on your unoccupied property, or the activation of your burglar alarm, to your security company and the police. And be prepared to offer similar help when it's their turn to go away – it’s even better to keep criminals out of your neighbourhood than out of your house.
* Check your locks. Good quality door-locks are still the first line of defence, and they are usually quick and easy to install. Don’t forget to also fit locks to the top and bottom of all sliding patio doors to prevent them being lifted out of their tracks, even if you have security gates that go across them.
* Go over your garage. Garage doors are prime targets for intruders, and you should not rely solely on the lock fitted to the door. Sink a strong hasp and staple into the concrete floor and if the garage leads into the house, fit a strong security gate to the inner door. You should also double secure outside laundries, storage rooms and sheds in this way.
* Get light on the scene. Replace switches for outside lights with photocell switches or lightbulbs that will turn on automatically at dusk. Consider fitting some additional exterior lights that switch on when movement is detected and will light up your whole yard – and any night-time intruders.
*Make it look like someone is at home. Install programmable time-switches on existing outdoor and even indoor lights so these will come on at night while you are out or away. These handy and easy-to-use devices can also be used to turn the TV or radio on and off to give your home that lived-in look even if you don’t have a “smart” home security system that you can run from your cellphone.
* Stop thieves from “window-shopping”. If you are going away, unplug computers, sound systems, TVs and other electronic equipment and lock it up out of sight. This will also prevent lightning damage.
* Move things around during the year. Holiday “toys” like boats, ATVs, trailers and caravans that are stored in the same place for most of the time and then disappear for two weeks are a dead giveaway for burglars. Rearrange them regularly during the year and if possible get a few of your friends and neighbours to park different vehicles in your driveway on different days while you’re away.
* Keep things tidy. Stop any home deliveries like newspapers at least a week before you go on holiday, and ask a friend or neighbour to clear your mailbox regularly while you’re away. Mow your lawn and clean your pool before you go, and if you’re planning a long trip, arrange to have someone maintain the garden. Knee-high grass and dead flowers are a sure signal to burglars that there’s nobody home.
You should also, Everitt says, make a checklist on your cellphone of what needs to be done to activate your security systems. By glancing at this each time you leave home to visit friends this summer, or set off on holiday, you can rest assured you won’t miss anything.
“And finally, although it might seem obvious, many people need to be reminded not to put messages on their answering machines advertising the fact that they are on holiday – or to openly post pictures and updates on social media while they are away. You never know which “friend” of a friend might take this as an invitation to drop around - and help themselves to your belongings.”
Meanwhile for those who are staying home for the holidays, he has the following advice:
* Be vigilant about keeping your gates and doors locked – even if you’re just out by the pool, sitting watching TV, taking a shower or quickly popping out to the local shop.
* Remember that intruders often work in pairs or groups. Don’t be duped into talking to a stranger at your front entrance while others enter the back of your property.
* And if you intend doing some gardening or DIY work this summer, don’t leave your lawnmower or power tools lying around, or in an unlocked shed or garage, even while you just step inside for a cooldrink.
Author: Meg Wilson