General Home Security Tips

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Is a monitored security system affordable on a middle-income budget?

Demand Grows for Affordable Home Security

Advances in technology and greater awareness of crime are increasing the demand by Americans for affordable home security. Check out the reasons why home security is a growing option for the middle class and working families:

  1. Easy installation and portability. New wireless systems are so easy to put up and take down that many consumers do the job themselves.
  2. Low-cost connection to the Internet. With a broadband Internet connection, families can afford monthly monitoring services of their home security, which used to be a luxury only the rich could afford.
  3. Customized security packages. National retailers that you can find on the Internet offer customized brand-name packages that are effective and affordable. Some retailers allow you to build your home security system, piece by piece.
  4. Lower prices. Retailers are working hard to bring in a new generation of customers who want home security but thought they could not afford it. Creative pricing by some companies allows customers to pay only for the monthly monitoring services without purchasing equipment.
  5. More products. Home security companies offer an array of products and monitoring services that range from security cameras and wireless motion detectors to assistance when your basement floods or you have a medical emergency.

   
How do I know if I need a home security system?

Assess Your Need for Home Security

Most people need some level of home security to keep themselves, their family and their belongings safe. But is a home security system right for you?

Studies indicate homes are safer with security systems. Not only do they provide swift warning of intruders, they deter criminals from trying to enter your home in the first place.

Think about reports you read in the newspaper or heard on TV about burglaries, home invasions, even abductions. There likely was no mention of a security alarm. Residents were caught off guard. They did not know someone was breaking into their home.

Here are the top reasons people add home security systems:

  • Family protection.
  • Fear for personal safety.
  • Safeguard valuables.
  • Peace of mind.

   
What can I do to protect my home while I'm on vacation?

Take Precautions at Home When Leaving for Vacation

Protect your home from burglars when you are on vacation by disguising the fact that you are away. Follow these simple steps to securing your personal belongings and keeping your home safe:

  • Put your TV or radio on a timer, so it automatically goes on and off at key times during the day and night.
  • Stop newspaper and mail delivery, so papers and postal items do not pile up on your porch. This is an obvious sign that no one has been home for days.
  • Ask a neighbor to watch your house. Better yet, hire a house sitter -- a trusted student or senior, for example -- to stay at your home and earn some extra cash to keep a watch on things.
  • In the winter, make sure someone shovels the snow from your walkway. Summers, don't let the lawn grow out of control while you're away.
  • Leave an extra car parked in the driveway.
  • Don't leave a recorded message on your phone at home that you are out of town. Your message at work should simply say you are out of the office.
  • Don't close all the blinds and curtains, as if you are not at home.
  • If you have a housekeeper who comes weekly, consider asking him or her to come the week or weeks you are away. The housekeeper's presence is another sign that someone is home.

   
Where can I hide my keys?

How about my keys?

There has to be a better way to hide your extra keys than under the welcome mat!

Consider a couple of innovative alternatives. If you have a garden near the door, a company makes a hollow rock that can blend in with the rest of the landscape. Only you will know that when you turn that rock over, the back slides open to get your extra door key out.

There is also a flower pot safe. It is made of plastic and you can actually plant flowers in it. But the water reservoir tray unscrews to reveal a surprisingly large jar upside down in the dirt. You can put your valuables, keys, notes for the kids getting home or other nifty things inside and put it back where you got it. No thief would have a clue.

One more idea. There are cans of common products that have bottoms that unscrew to reveal that the interior is actually a safe. Consider a can of "engine cleaner" or ScotchGuard to hide in the garage with your extra door or car keys hidden inside. They will be safe from anybody tries to find them.

   
Is my home vulnerable to burglary?

Is Your Home Vulnerable to Burglary?

Take this quick quiz to find out if you home is a potential target for burglars.

1.) Do you live in a ground-floor apartment?

2.) Is your home surrounded by thick foliage and trees?

3.) Are the windows and doors of your home old and in disrepair?

4.) Is your street dark and without lights?

5.) Is your home unoccupied often because of business or part-time residency?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, your home may be a natural target for burglars.

If your home fits any of these descriptions, you may want to consider ways to improve home security and develop a burglar-prevention plan to keep your family safe.

Even if you live in a low-crime neighborhood, crime-reporting statistics and studies by insurers show that certain types of homes and neighborhoods are more vulnerable to crime.

   
How do monitored smoke alarms work?

Monitored Smoke Alarms Prove Key to Home Security

A comprehensive monitored home security plan should include a smoke alarm.

The monitored smoke alarm is not the standard kind you buy in a hardware store. These smoke alarms not only emit a loud noise when activated but also send a signal to the control panel of your home security system.

Most monitored smoke alarms allow for one or two short time delays, in case of a false alarm -- such as burning food on a stove. This gives users time to key in a code to disarm the system, or notify the alarm company by phone.

In the case of fire, the control panel of your home security system will activate a central alarm that is loud enough to alert occupants and nearby neighbors. The monitoring service automatically is contacted.

Many home monitoring services do not try to phone homeowners first for verification of a fire. Time is too critical for saving lives and your home. Instead your local fire department is summoned immediately.

Check with the home security company to find out if customers must pay fees for false fire alarms. Some cities and towns also impose fees on homeowners for false home security alarms, because of the cost to dispatch emergency services to your home.

   
What is the panic button on my home security system?

Expect Immediate Response With the Panic Button

Most burglar alarm systems come with a panic button on the keypad. The panic button is there for summoning immediate help.

When you press the panic button, the monitoring service dispatches authorities without first trying to identify the problem at your home. Expect to hear sirens of local police after you push the panic button for help.

This response differs from the checklist a home security monitoring service follows when the burglar alarm is triggered. Typically, the monitoring service will first try to contact you at home to determine whether there is an emergency or false alarm. If no one can be reached, the service summons local authorities.

Customers of monitored home security systems often are required to provide an emergency contact list of friends and associates. These must be names and phone numbers of trusted people who will take a call from the monitoring service when there is a possible emergency. Most monitoring services will not accept pager numbers for contacts.

   
Do I really need to think about home security, if I live in a safe neighborhood?

Prevent Burglaries Before They Happen

Whether you live in a castle or cabin, there is no guarantee you always will be safe.

If you worry a lot about personal safety, it may be time time to enhance home security and provide the sense of comfort you need. Here are some tips to help your secure your home:

  • The best security is prevention. Make your home unwelcome to intruders. Criminals are opportunists. Studies show they are more likely to bypass your house if there are barriers and risks to gaining entry.
  • Improving outdoor lighting, trimming shrubbery, and owning a dog that barks at disturbances can help. But to be truly safe, consider a monitored home security system that offers oversight of your home 24/7.
  • Monitored security systems are designed to detect the first sign of danger, and take quick action to alert local authorities. Security companies provide customers with signs and stickers to post on windows and at entryways, so would-be intruders know their movements will be noticed and they may be caught.

   
Can I get a discount on my insurance for installing a security system?

Insurers May Discount Premiums for Homes with Security

Who knows better about the risks of home ownership than insurance companies?

Insurance companies are so confident in the effectiveness of home security systems that they typically discount the cost of coverage after owners or renters install a quality system.

  • Ask your home security system dealer to provide a certificate as proof your new protection package.
  • Expect up to a 10 percent discount for a simple burglar alarm system and deadbolt locks, though discounts vary by insurer. Discounts can rise up to 20 percent if you have a monitored security system.
  • Also ask your insurer about potential discounts for installing smoke detectors and sprinklers.
  • Check with your insurer to make sure you are getting the discounts you currently qualify for and to learn about additional discounts when you add or upgrade a security system.

   
What types of home security products are available?

Select Security Products to Enhance Protection

Protect your home by identifying vulnerable areas and choosing products that provide the protection your home needs.

Some police agencies will do walk-throughs of your home to point out ways to improve security. Or walk your property and judge for yourself whether it is burglar-proof. Imagine how you would try to gain entry into your own home if your were an intruder. Your best bet for protection may be a basic home security system. Here are some standard products to consider:

  • Door and window sensors that detect when an intruder tries to enter.
  • Motion detectors that alert you to movement in hallways and rooms.
  • Keypads that allow you to arm your security system from anywhere in the home.
  • Home security cameras that record the movements of intruders, and can be used as evidence by police.
  • Door chimes that alert you when a young child slips out of the house without your knowledge.
  • Centralized control of emergency services in your home, including the burglar alarm, panic button and one-touch contact for medical and fire officials.
  • Remote monitoring that allows you to see and check on your property from miles away.

   
Are there simple steps I can take to improve home security?

Improve Home Security Through Simple Maintenance

Here's some obvious advice: Don't invite burglars and intruders into your home. But criminologists warn that residents may unintentionally do that, if their house or apartment building is in disrepair.

How you maintain your home and the appearance of your neighborhood send a clear message about neighborhood standards and lawlessness.

Known as the broken window theory, police and community leaders have helped reduce crime in neighborhoods by cleaning up streets, organizing crime watch groups, and -- yes -- fixing broken windows. These efforts show that neighbors won't tolerate crime.

The same approach holds true for homeowners and renters. Show that you care about your home and neighborhood through careful maintenance.

  • Fixed cracked and broken windows.
  • Keep expensive items, especially electronics, away from view by passersby.
  • Keep your yard and shrubbery well-trimmed.
  • Make friends with your neighbors. Learn their schedules.
  • Don't leave household items and bicycles scattered outside. Don't leave your car unlocked in your driveway.
  • Make sure entry points to your home are well-lit at night. Use motion detector lights at the side and back of your house.
  • Contact your city or town hall if street lights go out, or your road needs repairs.
  • Ask local police for extra patrols.
  • If you spot someone suspicious lingering in your neighborhood, contact police and let your neighbors know.

   
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Kristle Jones