"Broke a key to my car. I was desperate as had an important meeting. Fortunately, guys from Midway solved this problem in less than an hour."Kevin Garnett
"Lost a key to the front door and couldn't find them anywhere. I've contacted the company and they changed all locks pretty fast."Bruce Delaney
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Home Security – Protect Your Family
Your home is the biggest investment you will likely ever make. Home security is vital. Once you buy a home, there is one more serious investment you will have to make – home security. If you take certain precautions and make some investment, you can make your home a comfortable and safe place – when you and your family are home, when you are away but the kids are home, or when the entire family is away from home.
The FBI reports that 65% of all burglaries are residential. The Washington Post tells us that the average loss per burglary is $1,725. When attempting to make your home secure, consider these basic issues:
Secure The Perimeter
There is an old saying: “Good fences make good neighbors”. A secure fence, hedge or wall must completely surround your property. No-one should be able to walk onto your property unhindered. If you keep your gate open during the day, close it at night. An open gate is an invitation to enter your property.
Check All Your Doors
All doors must be securely fastened on their hinges, must have a strong, secure, dead-bolt locked from the inside, and a strong, secure lock on the outside. A peep-hole is a good idea, so you can see who is knocking. An audio intercom is also good so you can talk to your visitor before admitting them. If you have a surveillance system (see below) you should have one camera trained on the door so you can also see your visitor before admitting them.
Check All Windows
All windows must be lockable from the inside. If a window pane breaks, repair it immediately. Never leave downstairs windows open when no-one is home. Hang net curtains in front of windows to prevent people from seeing into the house during the day, heavy drapes are necessary to prevent anyone from seeing in at night. Always draw the drapes at night, whether you will be home or not.
Install a Burglar Alarm System
A burglar alarm is a very good idea. Engage a company that provides armed response or whose alarm signal goes directly to the police. Use only reputable companies: check the signs on your neighbors’ fences and ask neighbors or friends for a recommendation.
Lighting Reduces Crime
Light every area of your property. A well-lit yard deters intruders. Install motion detectors to activate lights automatically when someone enters the area. Attach night sensors so lights come on automatically when it gets dark, even (especially) if you are not home. Interior lights can also be set to come on at sunset or at a certain, predetermined time. Always make it look like there is someone home.
Install Surveillance Cameras
These are increasingly becoming a necessary part of home security. A good system will be able to capture video even in very low light, and you can keep an eye on your home from anywhere over the internet. DVR systems can record up to three months’ of video. If you want to use your surveillance video to prosecute somebody, you must place signs on your property to the effect that the property is under video surveillance. If you do not intend to use the video to prosecute anyone, you do not need to post any warning signs.
When you are away for the evening: If you are going out for the evening, or you know you will not be home by dark, follow some basic procedures and you will be OK. Turn on strategic interior and exterior lights (or set them to come on with timers or motion detection), lock downstairs windows, draw curtains, leave TV or radio on and ALWAYS make it look like there is someone home. And remember to lock the door before you leave. If you are leaving kids with a babysitter, make sure everyone knows where you are going, when you will be back, and how to reach you. These days with cell phones it’s easy.
Hide Your Valuables
Most people store valuables in their home. The most common hiding places are the bedroom dresser drawer, the closet, and the freezer. Guess what? According to the FBI, these are the first places that burglars look for valuables. These valuables can be easily stolen by an intruder. It is important to hide your valuables in places where they will be harder to find. A safe is the best place to store your valuables. Another good place is a safety deposit box at your local bank.
When You Are Out of Town
When you leave town: if you go out of town for more than one night, have a neighbor, relative or friend remove your mail and newspapers. Nothing screams “Empty Home” like piles of mail and newspapers by the front door or in the driveway. Ask this same person to check up on the place a couple times a day if possible. Some communities provide police drive-by inspections of unoccupied properties, so inform your local police before you go away. Also, make sure you inform your alarm company that you will be out of town – many alarm response services provide a patrol option: for a fee, they’ll come by several times a day and check that everything is okay and there have been no attempts at breaking or entering. Forward your home phone to your cell phone or someplace else where it can be answered. One of the best ways for a burglar to check if anyone is home is to call the home phone a number of times: if there is no answer, chances are there is nobody home.
Use Common Sense:
There are other things you can do to make your property more secure. Avoid leaving valuables lying where they can be seen from a window. Lock your car and park it in the garage. Never leave the front door key under the mat: if you leave a key for someone, tell them where you hide it and put it somewhere where it cannot be seen from the street. Leaving a key with a trusted naighbor is also a good idea. If you keep your wits about you and take these precautions, your home should be a safe and secure place.
Leaving Kids Safe at Home Alone.
Busy parents often find they must leave children home alone for extended periods of time. Assuming the kids are of legal age where they may be left unattended, there are many precautions a parent can take to ensure the safety of the kids in the parents’ absence.
Always Have An Emergency Plan
First of all, the kids must always know where their parents are in case of emergency. Make sure the kids have your phone number at work. If you go out somewhere for the evening, write down the number of the place you will be going and place it next to the phone. Today, with cell phones, communicating is easier. If you leave kids home alone, make sure your cell phone ringer is activated so you can hear them wherever you are if they call. If you are attending the theater or an important meeting, set your cell phone to vibrate so that an incoming call won’t disturb others but you won’t miss it if it’s an emergency.
The next thing to do is secure the house. All doors and windows must be lockable from the inside. Doors should have a deadbolt. Teach your kids to keep the front and back doors locked at all times when they are home alone. Never leave a key under the mat for kids to retrieve when they get home. Either find a secure hiding place for keys away from view of the street , or, ideally, each kids should have their own key, tied to their belt-loop, their wrist or on a string around their neck. Never attach a house key to a school backpack – the key should be kept securely on one’s person. A neighbor or relative should also have a spare front-door key in case of emergency.
The lock is the key (excuse the pun) to easy entry. A weak lock can easily be broken and entry gained. A broken lock will make it even easier for an intruder to gain entry. And a lock that works fine but isn’t locked is of no use to you and is the intruder’s best friend.
Never cut corners when it comes to locks. Locks are cheaper and simpler than video surveillance systems and alarm systems. Make sure you have good locks and they all work. Check every lock in the house and fix the ones that are faulty, defective or worn out. And always keep doors and windows locked. Never leave the house or go to sleep without checking that all locks have been locked. Make it a habit to check the locks every time.
Secure Locks are Necessary in These Places:
Your Front Door, Rear Door, Garage Door/s, Service Door/s, Patio Doors, all Sliding Glass Door, the gate (front and rear) to your property. If you have a swimming pool or a guest house, make sure those too have secure locks. And keep them locked.
The policy for admitting someone who comes to the front door should be clear. Kids should know that they are not to admit anyone into the home while the parents are away, unless they know the individual personally. There are several devices you can use to assist you. At the very minimum, every front and back door should be fitted with a peephole to see the caller. Make sure the area immediately around the door is well lit so the caller may be seen. The simplest security device on the door is a chain, which enables you to open the door slightly to see and hear a visitor while preventing the caller from easy entry. A simple audio intercom system is the next step up, enabling the caller to be heard and spoken to. Install a single camera above the door and .attach it to a monitor by the door or in any room, and your kids can see who is at the door.
The next level up is to install video surveillance cameras throughout the house. This way, you can keep an eye on the kids over the Internet from any computer. If you attach a microphone to your cameras, you will be able to have two-way conversations with your kids: you can see and hear them and they can see and hear you. Some parents are using such cameras as tools to help their kids with homework and solve other problems even though the parents are away from the house.
It’s All About Vigilance.
The bottom line in home safety where kids are concerned is vigilance and planning. The kids should know what they should be doing at home when they are alone. Kids home alone should avoid lighting stoves, using an iron, or making a fire in the fireplace. Microwaves and toaster ovens with a timer should be used for heating and cooking. Gas stoves should not be used without adult supervision. If you have a fire going in the fireplace when you have to leave the house, best to put it out, or place a screen in front of the fire and make sure the kids know there is a fire going. If everyone leaves the house, the fire must be extinguished before the last person leaves: never leave a fire or candles burning in a house while no-one is home. Always keep a working fire extinguisher on every floor, make sure smoke alarms are working, and keep several flashlights around in case the power goes out.
If possible, have a relative or neighbor drop by to check on the kids. These visits don’t have to occur at a specific time — in fact, random visits are better for both parties: the relative/neighbor does not have to worry about sticking to a schedule, and the kids never know when they will be visited, so it keeps everyone on their toes. Know when the kids are due to be coming home, and make periodic check-up calls to see that everything is OK. Don’t worry about looking like an over-concerned parent: you need to be concerned and your kids need to know you are concerned. With cell phones and cameras it is very easy to stay in touch today. Show your concern: your kids will love you for it.
Links: U.S. Department of State/Home Security: http://www.state.gov/m/ds/rls/rpt/19773.htm