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Home Security on a Budget

For many Americans, home security means an electronic system monitored by a company that bills $50 to $100 a month for their services.

For many others, home security services are unavailable or these services are an expense they can ill afford. The good news is there are other inexpensive, yet effective, steps to increase the safety and security of one's home.

Where to Start

Wayne Schultz, a security expert with the Harris County, Texas, Precinct 4 Constable's office has several recommendations for home security.

"First, I would tell anyone to get a dog," says Schultz. "It doesn't matter if it is a Great Dane or a Chihuahua. Dogs make noise and are one of the best deterrents against a burglar." Of course, a family should first be sure they are ready to accept the responsibility of owning and caring for a dog for its lifetime, beyond just using it for protection.

Corporal Sandy Tomeselli of the Harris County Precinct 3 Constable's office also suggests owning a dog but offers an alternative for those who choose not to have a dog. "Everyone has a friend, relative or neighbor with a dog," says Tomeselli. "Find out what type of bowls and chew toys they have, go out and buy matching ones and then trade the dog's owner for the grimy, chewed up, used ones. Once you get these, put them on the porch, out in the yard or somewhere an intruder can see. While he may be prepared to poison or harm the dog he can see, the intruder is going to be very worried about the dog he knows is there but can't see."

Schultz also suggests families do the following:

  • Use self-tapping screws placed into the frames of sliding doors and windows to keep them from being opened by an intruder.
  • Place items in front of entry doors and on windowsills that would make noise if knocked to the floor.
  • Put "cop locks," also known as "c-clamp" locks, on all possible entry doors. Their design makes the doors much more difficult to open by force.
  • Don't keep keys hanging right by a door or window where a burglar could knock out the glass, reach through and get your keys for easy access.
  • If you are going to be out of town, visit the post office and put a hold on all your mail. Don't rely on neighbors to remember to pick it up for you.

Secure the Exterior

Other suggestions from Tomeselli to help secure the outside of your home include the following:

  • Use double-keyed deadbolts. If the intruder came in through a window and there are double-keyed deadbolts on all the exit doors, he can only steal what he can get back through the window. This not only slows him down and limits his thievery, it also is more suspicious to neighbors, who might then call the police.
  • Set up outside lights with motion sensors.
  • Buy the door/window signs that say, "This house protected by..." and place them in clear view of both front and back entries to the home.
  • It is also easy for a homeowner to buy keypads and alarm-style horns, then mount them in plain sight, but never actually have them hooked up to an alarm system. Radio Shack is an excellent source for such things.
  • If you get a daily paper, call them and have them put a hold on all deliveries if you are going to be out of town. Ask a neighbor that you trust to pick up the small, community papers that are often delivered free to homes.
  • Join your neighborhood watch and get to know your neighbors. Let them know you will keep a watch on their homes, and they normally will return the favor.

Woman-to-Woman Advice

Bonnie Cao of Portland, Ore., recommends getting to know your neighbors – but for a different reason. "You know that quote about keeping your friends close and your enemies closer?" asks Cao. "My suggestion is like that. Get to know your neighbors, especially the ones that seem least trustworthy. Give them reason to respect you, not hate you. One year we lost nearly $3,000 worth of tools, ladder, air compressor, etc., from the shed, truck and back yard. We suspected the neighbors across the street (mostly the friends of their adult son), but could never prove anything. Interestingly enough, once my husband took the initiative to get acquainted with the old man and his son, we stopped having problems and have not lost anything since. It is kind of like honor among thieves, I guess. They won't steal from a friend. They even keep an eye out for our kids and dogs from time to time."

Margaret Helmstetter of Sierra Vista, Ariz., recommends you keep pepper spray or even aerosol hair spray near entry doors and in various parts of the house. "Just be sure you know how to use it and which direction the spray is pointed," says Helmstetter. "One night my mother didn't put on her glasses but answered the door with the pepper spray in hand. It happened to be a police officer who politely showed her the best way to use the stuff was not pointed directly at her own face."

Heather Truett of Tallassee, Ala., feels a car in the driveway provides her with additional security. "If my husband is going to be out of town, I want to know there is a car parked in our driveway," says Truett. "At one time, his car was the only one we had, so I had a friend park her car in our driveway. That way, it doesn't look 100-percent deserted."

Whatever methods you choose to make your home safer, inside and out, you'll feel more protected and ready for the unexpected.

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