The afterglow of the new year is a great time to reevaluate the security of your home and those new presents from the holidays. Make sure every gift you worked hard to give is protected. Whether you own or rent your home, there are easy steps to protect yourself and your belongings. Many of these tips cover both.
We’ve compiled a list of security methods to help you assess how protected you are. Whether you are just starting out or improving your existing methods, every single box you tick adds more peace of mind and decreases risk.
Let’s start with home security. Security systems have come a long way, both with technology and affordability. Companies like Simplisafe offer a complete customizable security system you can purchase and live monitoring that competes with some of the higher end companies. They not only have door and window sensors, they also offer video cameras, video doorbells, glass break sensors, and motion detectors built into the same great system. The added peace of mind whether you are home or away is the biggest benefit, but the second is that there are often discounts on home and rental insurance policies for having a live monitored security system, with more discounts for monitored fire and carbon monoxide alarms. Once you have it installed, use it. Those same surveys1 revealed that some victims had security systems but weren’t using them when they were burglarized.
One great benefit of Simplisafe alarms is their installation with 3M Command strips; that means no matter if you rent or own, the system leaves no marks and easily moves with you. If you are a renter, check your state and local tenancy law for which security measures the landlord is responsible for. Note: It’s important to note that for renters, belongings are not protected by the owner’s policy.
Some of the greatest deterrents of a home security system are the signs and stickers that show a legitimate security company name. Several surveys1 of convicted burglars point to the same conclusion- 60% or more would avoid a house with an alarm system. The studies also confirmed that the time-honored security alternative, a large dog, is still effective.
One of the most basic upgrades you can make to your physical security is making sure there are 3-inch screws in every exterior door’s lock plate. There are great videos on YouTube that demonstrate the difference in strength of a door that has reinforced lock plates- they are difficult to kick in and buy time for people inside in the event of a home intruder.
The other thing to consider with doors is when to open them. One of the same surveys1 of convicted burglars showed that all surveyed inmates said they would first knock on a door to see if owners were home and have a false cover story ready. Never let children answer the front door, and use discretion when opening the door to someone you don’t know. A video doorbell can let you talk to visitors without having to answer the door OR even be at home.
Another simple prevention tool is a secondary window lock, which you can install on any window to add another line of defense. The idea is to make a break-in as difficult as possible.
Having adequate exterior lighting makes it much easier to detect problems outside at night. You can save money and time by automating your exterior lighting using dusk-to-dawn LED light bulbs in any standard fixture. Motion activated lights are another good deterrent for someone tempted to approach that shouldn’t be. In addition, walkway lighting minimizes the chances of slip-and-falls for you and anyone else approaching your home at night like visitors or delivery people.
Maintain your lawn and keep overgrowth of trees and bushes away from your house. Keeping growth away from the house improves fire safety, but it also reduces the places to conceal criminal access to your home.
Having a car alarm is another good deterrent for keeping your home safe and here is why- if you keep a garage door opener, spare key, or anything with your personal information on It in your car, those items make your home or identity more susceptible. If you keep your car parked outside or in public parking, make sure to not leave any of these items or other valuables in it.
If you can, get a locking mailbox. They aren’t impervious but they are more likely to prevent a casual thief from taking mail with your sensitive information. When leaving your home for more than a couple of days, it’s a good idea to use the free hold service from your post office to hold off mail delivery until you are home. Arrange for neighbors or friends to pick up packages and newspapers off of your porch and driveway if you are at work during normal delivery hours or on vacation. Another effective deterrent while being gone for an extended time is leaving a radio on, and per one police chief, put it on a country music station.
Sometimes the best preventative security tool is discretion. There are some easy changes to help your home attract less attention.
Consider keeping important documents and valuables in a waterproof fireproof safe for emergencies. Protecting hard-to-replace items can save invaluable time. Keep documents secured like social security cards, insurance policy documents and inventory, birth certificates (as well as marriage, death, and divorce), titles to homes and cars, life insurance policies, passports, bank and retirement account info, health records, and living trust, will, and power of attorney documents in it. Consider installing the safe in an unconventional location instead of the typical place a thief would look- the master bedroom and office. Another option is using a safe deposit box at a bank or credit union, though this option has pros and cons. No matter where your valuables and documents are stored, making sure you are protected with insurance is central to every option.
A home inventory is a great way to keep track of your belongings, both to know the estimated value for insuring your personal property and as a resource if you ever need to replace your belongings. The best place to store your home inventory documents and video is in a safe. If you have items of value that need specific protection, you will want to discuss adding a policy rider and possibly having the item properly appraised.