Monthly Archives: November 2013

Roommate Security – What You Need to Know

roommatesUnfortunately, roommate security is a topic that is rarely discussed, but is still one that people need to hear about. Primarily, I’m referring to the type of security that a renter may need while living in a home with one or more other renters. Sometimes it just is not feasible to install an entire home security system if you are engaged in a short-term situation like this; particularly if other housemates (or the home’s owner) are not open to such an idea. Fortunately, people who are renting individual rooms inside of a larger house or apartment can still install security solutions to protect their property.

Is Roommate Security Really Necessary?

The short answer to this is, yes. Considering that all security is necessary, why should people sharing a home be excluded from the conversation? Whether one is a college student in a shared housing situation with multiple other students, a traveler on an extended stay in another country or a working adult temporarily renting a room close to a work assignment…security is always a necessity even if the main owner of the house resists buying a full home security system

Consider, also, that most people possess electronic equipment, such as televisions, desktop and laptop computers, monitors, tablets and smartphones that they’d like to protect when they are away from home. Include jewelry, clothing and personal information to that list and then remember that all of this is contained in a single room and the need for security should become clear.

Practical Home Security Solutions For Roommates

If renting a room inside someone’s home, consider installing a door alarm to protect your belongings. The Techko Safety Entry Alarm is one which should be at the top of your list while researching this particular type of DIY security. It can be installed pretty easily and, since it is wireless, it does not require any extra drilling into the home’s structure. With this alarm, a loud siren will alert anytime someone breaches your security and attempts to enter your room without permission.

Another easy DIY solution for roommate security is The Techko Mini Window/Door Alarm. Once again, this wireless device provides you with an individual burglar alarm that can be placed just on the doors and windows of your personal space. If you do not have a friendly relationship with your roommates and are a bit leery about living in a home with strangers, this is a very good solution since it not only provides security while you are away, but can be armed to protect you while inside of your room at night.

Will Other Roommates Find Individual Security Offensive?

This is a good question and one that completely depends on who you room with. Most people will view individual home security with positive appreciation and understand that you just want to keep your valuables safe while inside of the home. Although some unsavory roommates (and their visitors) are totally capable of stealing from you, your thoughts about security should not begin and end with people in the home…and if they do, it may be time to find new roommates. Outsiders trying to break into a home is still a concern even if the home is shared by multiple people. Ideally, it would be nice to have a burglar alarm installed for the entire home’s benefit, but if this is not possible, it may help if you explain to your roommates that you just don’t want to take any chances with a criminal breaking in and tampering with or outright stealing your belongings during your stay.

Always remember that your security is largely your own responsibility. Take this opportunity to also educate your roommates on this idea, as well. You just may discover that they are intrigued by the idea that they, too, have affordable DIY home security options within their reach.

Need More Roommate Security Ideas?

Visit our main page for more options on DIY security devices that are perfect for roommate situations. We have a wide selection of surveillance cameras, keyless entry locks and other alarms that will not break the bank and that are perfect for short-term housing. We even have a special section for spy equipment should you ever have a need to covertly identify a sneaky roommate.

Ralph Winn

Use Caution When Discussing Home Security

talkingAs much as we’d like to see you spread the word about DIY home security, we are also compelled to issue a few warnings about doing so. Mainly, be cautious about who you discuss your home security system with and how detailed you are. Never, ever offer info or hints about your passwords and pay attention to who is watching you arm and disarm your alarm system.

Mum’s the Word

The only people who need to know that you have a home security system are the people who live in your home, work in your home or who hope to illegally enter your home. Your burglar alarm and other security devices are for you and your family’s protection. Beyond yard signs and window placards there’s really no need to advertise your system. Of course, you want your friends and family members to also protect their own homes, so they are excluded from this conversation. But even when sharing info with your neighbors (and you should!) be very selective about how much information you divulge.

Reasons for this are pretty simple. As we’ve discussed many times on this very blog, criminals are often ordinary people whom you see everyday. A burglar can be anyone from the teenager down the street to your local pastor. These same people will often learn about your security habits via casual conversations before using that information to make their way into your home.

Just as you wouldn’t brag about having a weapon or its whereabouts to the public-at-large (lest you want an intruder to know exactly where to find said weapon and possibly use it against you), protect information about your home security system in this same manner. It is enough to simply acknowledge that you have a system, monitoring, etc. Don’t worry about being too vague should someone ask you for info on home security– simply offer that you have an alarm system and refer them to an expert who can answer further questions in detail.

Passcode/Password Protection

Your security passwords and passcodes are sacred! The first rule of thumb you must remember is to create a difficult password that cannot be easily deciphered. Steer clear of using names, birthdates, telephone numbers and other similar cues. Also, avoid using the same password on multiple systems. In stories where security systems have been hacked, a weak password or passcode has almost always been the reason why.

Always shield your codes from view when keying them into a system and do not give your main password to anyone who does not live in your home. This includes housekeepers, caregivers and maintenance workers. In fact, when purchasing a system, be sure to invest in one that allows you to have multiple passwords in order that you may set a main one, but have other passwords that are only to be used by outsiders whom you have allowed access to your home. Alarm systems like the Honeywell Vista 20P Security System Kit which will allows you to access device data is also a great choice for password and security protection.

Do Not Advertise Your Security Habits

In addition to having burglar alarm protection, all of us have certain things that we do in an effort to increase our safety and security. Whether it is carrying a can of pepper spray when coming home late at night or leaving a bathroom light on when away from home, our reasons for doing these things are to keep criminals at bay. These habits should not be shared with outsiders. With that said, there’s no reason under the sun for anyone else to know that a device like the Rex Plus II Electronic Watchdog is not a real beast!

As always, while these cautionary tips are intended for real life use, do not forget to also apply them to social media conversations, as well. Far too often, people across the web share information which really shouldn’t be shared out loud. Perhaps the illusion of anonymity is to be blamed for this or simply the perceived distance between users, but please do not become too relaxed in discussing which types of security you rely upon to protect your home.

Bragging Rights

Do-it-yourselfers are particularly prone to discussing and sharing information about projects completed. This is understandable as there’s nothing quite like the feelings of accomplishment associated with DIY projects. While we want you to keep your bragging rights, we just want you to think twice about how you exercise them.

What Do You Think?

How comfortable do you feel about discussing your home’s security system with other people? Do you know of instances where people have regretted sharing too much home or personal security information? Are we just being paranoid or do you think that there really is such a thing as too much sharing when it comes to home security? Do you have any advice that you’d like to add to this discussion? Answers to these questions and all of your comments are welcome below.

Ralph Winn

Preparing For a Burglary

DefenseYes, I said preparing. Why would I write such a post, you ask? Well, it’s pretty simple. See, I’ve thought about the alternative and have decided that everyone reading this is better off being prepared vs. being ill-prepared. Won’t you agree?

The Most Important Step In Preparing For a Break-In

The first step in preparing for a burglary is realizing that your home is not exempt from being broken into. Being a home security advocate, I’ve had the pleasure of talking to a TON of people on the subject and I have to tell you that a lot of people truly believe that it is highly unlikely that a burglary could take place at their home. Of course, these people usually believe that a gun or an angry dog or even a high-tech home security system make them exempt. Truth be told, however, while each of these carry a certain amount of weight as deterrents, their mere presence may not guarantee a home’s security.

When Old School Security Doesn’t Cut It

Guns only threaten a burglar if someone who knows how to handle a weapon is at home. They do nothing for your home’s security while you are away. Depending upon the breed, a dog is also a pretty good burglary deterrent, but, again, not a guarantee when it comes to home security. Unfortunately, the news is littered with stories of animals being harmed and even killed during the commission of a burglary, so I wouldn’t advise anyone to rely solely upon a family pet– or even a trained guard dog to secure a home.

Your Alarm System Needs YOU!

While the presence of a security alarm system is an excellent burglary deterrent, it would surprise many of you to learn how many people forget to turn their alarms on while they’re away. There are also a number of people who deliberately avoid arming a security system due to concerns about false alarms or who just don’t think it necessary to arm an alarm during the daytime or when they’re just stepping out for a quick neighborhood errand. The truth, however, is that in every city across America a great deal of burglaries occur during the daytime hours and most burglars are in and out of a home in just a few minute’s time. If you have an alarm system, your best preparation tip is to make sure it is armed at all times so as to prevent a burglar from easily moving past it.

How Many Layers Protect Your Home?

Think of home security in terms of layers. Deterrents like window decals indicating the presence of security cameras and yard signs advertising that a home is alarm protected certainly help. Other layers should include things like security lighting, security cameras (even fake ones) and driveway alarms. Of course, a good alarm system is also a crucial layer.

Take a Walk

Walk around your home and consider all of the ways that a burglar may try to enter. Are your hedges shielding a window where an opportunistic thief may try to gain access? Are all of the gates on your property locked and guarded by surveillance equipment?

Front Door Security

How secure is your front door? Just today I read about a couple who were caught kicking in front doors during the daytime while unsuspecting homeowners in one neighborhood were at work. Would your door jamb give way if forced? How about your locks? Can they easily be picked or bumped?

Remember that a great number of burglaries start out by thieves first trying a front door. And while you may think that kicking a door in or picking a lock would be easily spotted by your neighbors, look outside right now and count how many of them are eyeing your front door. Consider, also, that most people will hear a noise and may pause to listen for more commotion before dismissing the original sound. So, the sound of broken glass or the thud of a door being forced open may initially get someone’s attention, but few will investigate if they don’t hear anything else. By this time, of course, a burglar is in your home robbing you blind.

A Safe Way to Prepare For Burglary

While we sell a vast array of deterrents and security devices aimed at keeping burglars far away, some criminals closer than you might imagine. I’m speaking, of course, about the thieves who are disguised as a trusted neighbor, casual acquaintance or even a service person who’s been given access to your home for a limited stint. Some of these people have sticky fingers and are known to lift items like jewelry, cash and video games from right under your nose often without you even realizing it. Regardless as to how a criminal gains entry to your home, we advise that you get in the habit of storing valuables in a safe place like our Diversion Safe Book or Diversion Wall Clock. A heavy floor safe or a wall safe is also recommended for storing valuables.

Are You Prepared For a Burglary?

As a kid, I remember being told to hope for the best, but expect the worst. So this isn’t me trying to put a damper on your day, but I do want you to to beware that the ‘worst’ is always lurking and just waiting for you to let your guard down. Prepare to NOT be a burglar’s next victim by taking the time to fortify your home and your belongings today.

Ralph Winn

Safety While Traveling

travel-airplaneI recently had to take a business trip to Washington D.C. While everything went as planned until it was time to return home– which I’ll get to in a minute– I’ve always got an eye on security and thought I’d share a few ideas about increasing yours while traveling. After all, security is not just a topic for your home, but is one that should always be on the forefront of your mind wherever you are.

Hotel Room Safety

These days, most hotel rooms are equipped with keyless entry locks. You know, the kind that can only be opened with a card that is programmed to do so. While this is a lot better than old-fashioned key locks, I still recommend that everyone use the latch on the inside of the hotel door to secure your room while you are inside. In fact, I’ll even go a step further in suggesting that you pack a Guard Dog portable door guard alarm in your luggage just in case you encounter a hotel where inside locks aren’t standard.

If you’re going to be visiting for an extended period of time, you may further want to consider investing in a MACE Entrance Alert or two (depending upon how many doors or windows exist at your temporary abode). This particular door alarm doesn’t require any heavy installation and can be easily removed without leaving any holes in the building when you’re ready to move on. Such is especially important to consider if you’ll be staying in a condo or other housing that may not offer other security.

Never Leave Valuables In Your Room

This isn’t news to most of you, but if you’re new to business travel you may not think twice about leaving cash, jewelry or your electronic devices in your room while you’re away. While most hotel staff are hardworking and honest individuals, some may not be. To avoid a loss and conflicts with the hotel, it’s always a good idea to either carry valuables with you when you leave your room or store them in the hotel’s safe.

Practice General Hotel Safety

Room security is not your only concern when visiting a hotel. Keep in mind to practice security while you enjoy the hotel’s facilities, too. For example, always keep your room key on your person at all times. Don’t think it’s okay to leave it poolside while you enjoy a few laps or on your table while you hit the dance floor. Remember that most thieves are very observant and in the time that it takes for you to realize that your key has gone missing, a slick criminal could have been in and out of your room with easy access.

Practice Good Email Security

Protecting your identity, sensitive business information and financial information is always of the utmost importance. With this in mind, when printing boarding passes or using a hotel’s business center computers for other tasks, remember to always log out of your email before exiting that station. In fact, it’s a good idea to log out of and end your entire browser session just to be on the safe side.

Guarding Against Airport Thieves

As previously mentioned, my return trip from D.C. didn’t go as smoothly as I’d planned. The airport where I was to board a connecting flight home was closed due to bad weather. This meant having to go to another state for fuel and a waiting game (and we were not allowed to deboard). When the airport finally reopened, it was like a madhouse with throngs of angry and confused travelers scrambling to figure out alternate flights. Long story short, I ended up flying to another airport a little closer to home (where I knew bad weather wouldn’t leave me stranded again) and I spent what was left of the night there until I could take the first jet out at the break of dawn.

While in this other airport, however, I noted more than one traveler sound asleep while their bags appeared to be unattended and their electronic devices were charging at a nearby station. Now, in fairness, the airport was mostly empty and these people were probably very light sleepers, but still. As sleepy as I was, I wasn’t going to take a similar risk. Yes, I napped the few hours I was forced to be there, but I also made sure that my carry-ons were fastened to each other (and to my traveling companion’s thus making it impossible for anyone to just casually walk away with a single bag); and that our devices were plugged into the courtesy charging outlets, but also placed inside our bags which I then rested my feet on while we took turns catching a few winks.

Ralph Winn

Holiday Home Security

iStock_000004856960XSmallFrom Halloween to New Year’s Day, your home security awareness should be heightened. While year round security is of great importance, thieves get extra desperate, creative and greedy at this time of year. With this in mind, it is important to direct your thoughts toward useful ideas on how you can better fortify yourself, your family and your home in order to avoid being a crime victim this holiday season.

Holiday shopping officially kicks off the day after Thanksgiving, but none of you reading this should wait till then to charge into action with regards to home security. Criminals will lie in wait as you decorate and shop and, when you least expect it, they will plan to steal everything from holiday decorations to toys and gifts. The best way to cancel those devious plans is to follow these tips:

Keep Windows Closed and Locked

Locking your doors and windows is just common sense and we know that most of you are sticklers about doing so. During the holidays, however, some homeowners do things like leave windows slightly cracked to accommodate a holiday decoration or some may leave window blinds open after dark in order to display an elegantly decorated tree. We get that this is the time of year when you have themed items to show off and that these items help elicit a warm holiday spirit, but be aware that these are also some of the precise security lapses that thieves hope to exploit.

Monitor Your Alarm System

Like most people, you’ll likely spend more hours away from home during the next couple of months than you normally would. Whether shopping, visiting loved ones or attending holiday gatherings, your house will probably be unattended for hours or days at a time. Your alarm system, however, can do a better job of protecting your home from break-in if it is professionally monitored by a company like Alarm Relay. For less than $9 per month, you can rest assured that a team will immediately spring into action on your behalf if your alarm is ever triggered.

Place Your Home Under Surveillance

During the holiday season, a lot of strangers will visit your neighborhood. Most will be on official business such as delivering packages and others may even visit just catch a glimpse of the elaborate decorations on your street. There will also be an increase in visitors and traffic as friends and family members are entertained at your home and at other homes throughout your neighborhood. With so many people in and out, it’s easy for a criminal to blend in with the landscape and hardly raise an eyebrow when approaching your home. Surveillance cameras, however, will notice and record all of the activity in and around your home. Security cameras, even fake ones, can also help deter a thief from entering your home.

Remotely Check On Your Home

While we’re on the subjects of monitoring and surveilling your property, consider using your smartphone to periodically peek inside of your home while you are away. Remote surveillance is literally at your fingertips with devices like the LOREX Vantage Stream Wireless Network Camera. Completely wireless and a pretty easy DIY installation, means that you can remotely watch everything that goes on in your home at any time from wherever you may be at that moment.

Keep Mum About Your Travel Plans

For many, this season also means a time of holiday travel in order to spend quality time with friends and family members. Thieves are not only looking for opportunities to strike while you’re away, but they’ve also got their ears to the ground and are listening for the exact dates for when you’ll be gone. Be aware of your surroundings and who’s nearby when discussing your travel plans in public.

Make a special effort to also keep mum on social media sites and on online forums about when you are planning to hit the road (or the skies). In fact, it’s a good idea to have a conversation with everyone in the family to not share travel plans, photos or use check-in applications this holiday season at all. Consider posting photos and travel highlights only after you have returned home after being away.

Enjoy the Season!

For most, this is a vibrant season filled with good cheer, good food and good people. By all means, enjoy yourself and your family over the holidays…just do so while consciously working to avoid a break-in. We believe that the tips shared here will help you do just that.

Share Your Thoughts

This is a season for sharing and since we know we’ve missed a few valuable tips, here’s the part where we pass the baton to you in order to help educate our readers. What are your best home security tips for the holiday season? How do you plan to keep burglars at bay during this special time of year? We look forward to reading your tips in the space provided below.

Ralph Winn

5 Ways That Home Security Devices Can Save You Money

ALEXORHome security systems can do more than simply protect your home and your family. Depending upon which devices you install, they can also save you money. From alarm monitoring to devices that allow you to automate routine tasks, the following are just a few of the ways that home security devices can save you money in the long run.

Homeowners Insurance

When considering which alarm system to purchase and install, you may want to check your homeowners insurance policy first. Often, certain systems make it possible for homeowners to enjoy a discount on their premiums. Sometimes this discount depends on whether or not an alarm system is monitored by a professional agency (which can save you even more, but we’ll get to that in a moment). If your policy is not clear or if you have questions, call your insurance representative to find out how a home security system can help you start saving money right away.

 Alarm Monitoring

Many people view alarm monitoring as an optional expense. Smart homeowners, however, know that this option shouldn’t be overlooked. Not only does live monitoring offer homeowners optimal security in that an alarm system is under the constant watchful eyes of a professional monitoring team, but alarm monitoring also saves homeowners the expense of city fines due to false alarms. This is because when an alarm goes off, before the police are called, a monitoring company will attempt to contact the homeowner first. If an alarm has malfunctioned or has been accidentally triggered, this call gives an owner time to disarm the system before an officer’s time is wasted and a fine issued. (TIP: Always look for a security system that can be controlled remotely in case you ever need to interact with it while away from home.)

Do-It-Yourself Alarm Installations

Installing a DIY home security system can save a homeowner bundles of cash. First, no additional costs are added to a systems purchase. This means that a homeowner is not overcharged for the cost of equipment, nor is she charged labor costs for the actual installation. In addition to price hikes on equipment and labor, home security vendors also have a habit of charging exorbitant prices for things like monitoring. In fact, if you compare the price of alarm monitoring through a company like Alarm Relay to those quoted by any major security company, you’ll find that the $8.95 per month charged by Alarm Relay pales in comparison to the $30 or more dollars per month charged by other companies for the exact same service!

Property Damage

Often, people considering a home security system are doing so in order to protect family members and valuables. While these are fabulous reasons for such a consideration, they are not the only benefits offered by a good home security system. Think about it, when a thief breaks into a home how does he go about it? See, burglars are known for breaking windows and kicking in doors and that’s just to get inside. Once inside a home, they don’t gently rifle through items, but they act like proverbial bulls in a china shop while destroying furnishings, breaking personal items and leaving all sorts of damage behind them while on a mission to get in and out of a residence as quickly as possible. All of this damage, of course, has to be repaired or replaced by a homeowner…in addition to the replacement costs of actual valuables stolen.

Criminals who spot evidence of an alarm system, however, are less likely to attempt a break-in at a residence. Even simple deterrents like our Warning Video Surveillance Sign or a Home Security Store Yard Sign and window decals can go a long way in avoiding property damage and saving a homeowner the cost of repairs.

Lower Utility Bills

Installing one of our water and flood sensors, freeze and temperature controls or other environmental controls help protect a home from disaster. These same devices can also help a homeowner experience lower monthly utility bills, as well. This is because many of these devices allow controls to be automated or even remotely activated and deactivated. Other home automation devices like lighting controls offer similar savings. Of course, motion-activated security lighting also means that homeowners do not have to leave perimeter lights on all night, but can still rely on lighting to help deter anyone with criminal intentions from approaching a home at night.

So while most people only consider home security systems for protecting one’s family and valuables, and while these are the best reasons for doing so, protection is not the only reason every homeowner should install a system. Saving money with do-it-yourself home security and automation devices is very possible and an idea that everyone should consider.

Ralph Winn

Teaching Teens to Value Home Security

off-campus livingSome weeks ago, a Southern California teenager was pistol whipped, bound, gagged and locked in a bathroom after opening his front door in the middle of the afternoon to two criminals intent on robbing his home. Fortunately, the young man survived this attack and was eventually able to free himself and escape to a neighbor’s home. Unfortunately, this sort of crime happens all too frequently.

Some teenagers have a tendency to believe that certain crimes cannot or will not happen to them. While adults will often express these same sentiments, teens may not be as aware of the dangers that lurk all around them. In particular, teens may not be as educated about home security as the average adult. And they may not understand the importance of such an education, especially if they do not make an effort to stay abreast of local news stories like the one described above.

Teens are also less likely to truly grasp the importance of keeping an alarm system armed at all times, protecting a system’s passcodes or even why it is necessary to use a device like the Optex iVision Wireless Door Video Intercom. Our thoughts go out to the young man victimized by criminals inside of his home, but we want everyone to know that crimes like these can be avoided with the use of devices like video door intercoms which allow residents to answer a front door via video interaction while safe and secure behind a locked door (and an armed alarm system).

Here are a few ideas which may help teens become more interested in the need for practicing good home security at all times:

Share Recent News Events

As parents, we often worry about frightening our children with news of real world events. That’s understandable since, heck, a lot of these stories scare the pants off of most adults, too. Still, teenagers are already exposed to copious stories of violence and crime and most know how to put these events into perspective. Whether fictional or real, tales travel through word-of-mouth, video games, movies and television shows to the point where even the most sheltered teen is aware of the fact that the world can be a dangerous place. While young folk may not identify with real life danger in their own world– or that which is even lurking in their own neighborhoods– teenagers are old enough for serious conversations about crime and danger and it is our duty as adults to teach them how to avoid these things.

When you hear or read about home invasions, violent crimes and burglaries in the news, don’t hesitate to bring these events to your teenager’s attention and open the doors of discussion. Remind them to be aware of their surroundings at all times, even while at home. Also remind them of the control that they have over their own personal and home security by relying on their own awareness and by putting security tools to work.

Family First

Often, people assume that teens are too self-absorbed to care about much outside of themselves. While this may be true in some cases, most young people care a great deal for family members and their safety. Remind young people of their role in not only keeping themselves safe, but in keeping the family safe through good home security habits.

A few particular things that you may want to advise teens to do while at home alone include:

     Always arming an alarm system even when at home during daytime hours

     Not listening to loud music (especially with headphones) that will prevent a teen from hearing a burglar trying to gain entry to a home

     Never allowing friends to see a passcode when arming or disarming an alarm system

Consider Teen-Friendly Security Devices

What teen doesn’t love a smartphone? Using the fascination with mobile technology to one’s advantage, parents with teenaged children should really consider home security devices that can be remotely controlled via a smartphone. For example, the iSmart Alarm is getting rave reviews on our main site because it is easy to install and use and it is a very effective alarm system. Teenagers will also appreciate that it can be operated via an iOS or Android app and that it will send a notification to an associated smartphone whenever a home’s security has been breached.

Home Security Is a Family Affair

A familiar trend among young people involves feelings of invincibility. Teens often believe that they can handle adult or dangerous situations with more ease than most adults would. And to be fair, a lot of teenagers are wise beyond their years and are very resourceful, as well as fast thinkers– especially when confronted with danger. Still, just as adults need to be aware of and practice good home security measures, teens do too.

Let’s Hear It

Do you have teenagers in your home? Do they regularly practice good home security? What are some of your best tips for getting young people to understand the importance of properly using burglar alarms, security lighting and other home security devices? We welcome your thoughts and ideas in the comments section below.

Ralph Winn