With news and social media posts constantly warning us of the dangers around us, many people are taking steps to ensure their safety—and that of their families. This is especially true when it comes to making sure that their home is a safe place.
Have you taken every precaution and ensured that you’re using every safety feature of your home security system? Here are some tips that even the system’s installer may not be telling you about.
Don’t forget the sign.
A lot of companies will leave a sign in your yard after they install a security system. This lets everyone—including the criminals—know that your home is now protected.
In fact, Reader’s Digest says, “In survey after survey, burglars say they avoid homes with alarms—so just letting a thief know your home is secured (even if it’s not) can prompt them to move on.”
If an alarm system isn’t in your budget, you can actually buy fake signs to put in your yard and stickers for all your doors and windows. This just might deter a would-be thief.
Alarm systems aren’t the most reliable.
If you grew up with a security system alarm, then you surely heard it go off more than once when someone in your own family triggered it by accident. In some cases the police won’t even respond to an alarm if there is no direct source to confirm a break-in or suspicious activity.
As this Sonitrol article says, “Increasingly, local authorities are levying steep fines for false alarms, or they’re simply not responding to security events when there is no eye witness or video verification.”
Even if the police don’t respond, we have to wonder how many times the sound of the alarm at least scared off a burglar. Our hunch is that it’s plenty.
Systems are improving.
A new phone comes out every few weeks, new televisions every few months, slightly updated car models every year—the stream of new is seemingly endless. The same is true for security systems. The one your family had when you were a kid may have yelled out to any intruder that the police were on their way. Maybe it could even lock down some doors, but these older systems have nothing on today’s models.
Many have the power to arm or disarm right from a keychain or smartphone. And some modern systems often take into consideration all kinds of home safety, not just those related to illegal activity. There are some that include water sensors for your basement, smoke and carbon monoxide sensors that will automatically shut off your furnace, and wireless cameras that will send you a video clip of your kids when they walk in the door from school.
The best thing about these new gadgets is that they’re actually pretty affordable. Don’t believe us? You can get the Blink Home Security System for just $100. It has a battery-powered HD video camera system with motion detection and free cloud storage. It connects to your smartphone so no matter where you are, you’ll know what’s going on at home.
Buy a camera.
We have a friend who lives in a pretty safe area in West Hollywood, California. She moved last year to a new area and within the first month, her car was broken into—in her apartment building’s garage. The police told her there had been a string of car robberies lately and that she’d just had a stroke of bad luck at a new location.
She decided to take precautions to make sure it didn’t happen again, so she ordered some very realistic-looking (but fake) security cameras and hung them around the garage. She reports that she hasn’t had a problem since.
If nothing else, installing cameras might help give you some peace of mind, David DeMille from A Secure Life says: “For most homeowners, the presence of a home alarm system is enough to deter burglars but when it is not, it serves an additional function. As well as signaling authorities that the home has been burgled and increasing the chances that intruders will be caught, the cameras installed with many modern alarm systems catch the intruders in the act.”
Use all the technology available to you.
We know that is an obvious thing to say, but these days you can have some serious advanced technology with a Home Alone–style theme of making it seem as though people are home.
As Bob Vila’s website notes, “Today, home security systems can still sound alarms, but are much more difficult to forget about or foil. A software-supported security system can send you a text message every time a door or window is opened, whether you’ve armed it or not. It can stream live video or send still images of what’s happening in your garage, living room, backyard or wherever you deploy a security camera.”
That way burglars may stay away from your house altogether. If you’re extra concerned, there are locking windows and doors that you can activate using your smart phone.
Ask before you hire.
The great thing about the internet is you can do a lot of research before making an investment as big as a security system installation or upgrade. Check out the Better Business Bureau, Google, or Yelp to see what customers are saying about the companies you are considering.
Be careful, and don’t hesitate to ask questions. You should always double-check what the sales agent tells you against the fine print in your contract, too. Most sales agents work on commission, and some will say anything to get a sale.
Also, if you drive around your neighborhood and see some new signs for security systems, it may be worth knocking on the door or giving your neighbor a call. We know many of us aren’t as friendly with all our neighbors as we used to be when we were growing up, but it’s always good to know the people who live near you. Just be careful not to come off super creepy, lest your neighbor think you’re actually the burglar scoping out the house yourself.
Watch out for contracts that lock you in.
Kimberly Alt shares a wealth of information about contracts and fine print in this A Secure Life: “One of the first things consumers need to understand about the home security industry is that there is no such thing as a free alarm system.”
Many companies require that you sign a three-year contract and then charge you a ridiculous amount if you go over the three years and don’t sign a new contract. At the same time, if you want to cancel anytime beforehand there could be a major cancellation fee.
It’s best to set an alarm on your phone or computer to remind you of all the important dates so you don’t get stuck paying thousands of dollars in fees that you didn’t intend to.
Ask for more equipment.
When you are ordering new supplies for a home security system it is going to be expensive. Safety comes first, but at a price.
Reader’s Digest suggests, “When you are signing up for a new alarm system, always ask for more equipment. Many of us will throw in some extra sensors or an extra keypad if that’s what we need to do to get the sale.”
Everyone loves free stuff, especially when it comes to expensive home electronics that can help keep you safe. Besides, it never hurts to ever ask.
It’s just like with a cable company, who sometimes will throw in free HDMI cables or extension cords that’ll save you a little money and a trip to the hardware store.
Turn it on, lock your doors, and make a solid password.
Sometimes the most obvious thing is the one that goes overlooked. Just like how they say most auto accidents that involve an injury due to not wearing a seat belt are within a two-mile radius of your home, something similar is true about security alarm systems.
Be sure to always do the simple things, such as locking doors, windows, and the garage. And of course make your password something that people won’t easily guess. This means: not your birthday, street address, or phone number.
The Patriot Caller shares a good reminder: “Today, the standard operating procedure for burglars is to literally walk by and test all doors to see if they’re locked. If a door is unlocked, it’s an open invitation to slip inside and grab whatever valuables they can find. Most burglars are opportunists.”