Tag Archives: home security

What Does a False Alarm Cost In Your Area?

Berndt Schleifer of Northern California was recently fined $84 for a false alarm at his home. What made this story newsworthy, however, is that this event was the first false alarm his security system had ever offered in 19 years. That’s a pretty stiff penalty to pay for a single alarm mishap, but, luckily, his alarm monitoring company (who called the police when they were unable to reach the homeowner) was kind enough and pay the amount on his behalf. Still, I can understand his anger at even being fined in the first place.

This story left me wondering how many other police departments have similar rules in effect and how many homeowners are aware of them (this guy wasn’t). Do you know how many false alarms can occur at your house before you are fined? Do you know what the exact fine amount is? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, now is as good a time as any to call and find out, don’t you think?

What Were His Options?

Making the point that the police can’t be everywhere at once, Schleifer has taken special precautions to protect his home against intruders. Not only does he have a security alarm installed, but also glass break sensors and surveillance cameras, which are positioned around his home’s perimeter. He has also taken the time to hire a monitoring company to keep watch over his security whether he is at home or away. While the police are always on-call to protect and to serve 24/7, Schleifer understands that, realistically, he is the first and best defender of his castle. Everyone could stand to take a few notes from this guy because when it comes to home security, he more than gets it.

Upon reading his story and the efforts that he’s successfully taken in protecting his home for nearly 20 years, there’s only one thing that I can see that he could have done differently and which could have spared him this aggravation. Schleifer could have checked all of his sensors to assure that they were working properly. See, it was a glass sensor which mistakenly triggered the alarm while he was away. This is not to suggest that he wasn’t properly maintaining his system, just a suggestion to those of you reading this to be aware of in the future.

False Alarms Are Preventable

Homeowners sometimes avoid arming their home security systems due to problems with false alarms. We’ve discussed as much on this blog before, but from time-to-time we like to remind you that false alarms are completely preventable. Often, false alarms are caused by one or more of the following:

       An improper installation

       Loose door or window sensors

       Batteries that need replacing

       Human error

If you haven’t already done so, we encourage you to read our previous post on this issue entitled: Is Your False Alarm Trying to Tell You Something?

Alarm Monitoring Can Prevent Fines

Even though Schleifer’s monitoring company were the ones to call the police about his false alarm, readers should take note that monitors also called the homeowner first and even attempted to call neighbors to determine if the alarm was false or if there was a real break-in in progress. The police were called as a last resort. Had they been able to reach him, Schleifer could have remotely disarmed the alarm and the ordeal could have ended there. This is assuming, of course, that he had an alarm system with remote capabilities like, the Honeywell Vista 20P Security System Kit.

Monitoring an alarm that can be remotely operated, not only gives homeowners an additional layer of protection against burglars, but can also help in preventing hefty fines.

What Does a False Alarm Cost In Your Neck Of the Woods?

Seriously, we want to know. If you don’t know offhand, please take a moment to inquire with your local police department about false alarm fines and how many false alarms can take place at a residence before a fine is assessed. Please, use the space below to share what you learn about fines in your area.

Tell Us What You Think

We’d also like to know what you think about Schleifer’s incident. Do you think that the alarm monitoring company should have called the police? Do you think that the fine for a first-time false alarm was justified? Do you think that the fine should have been paid by the monitoring company or should the homeowner have been the one to cough up the penalty? Further, besides checking the reliability of his sensors, what could Schleifer have done differently to avoid the false alarm in the first place?

 And, lastly, do you have any false alarm stories to share? If so, the floor is now yours and we look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Ralph Winn

How to Choose a Safe Neighborhood to Live In

What Exactly Do You Want?

Buying not just a new home, but also your first home can be very exciting. At the same time though, it can also be stressful and very time consuming. There are many factors to consider when choosing the location of your home. Making a list of ‘must-haves’ as well as ‘would-like-to-haves’ can help you locate exactly where you want to live. Do you have children or plan to? If so, obviously the safety of the neighborhood is very important. What type of home do you want? Figuring out whether or not you would like a single-story home or a two-story home. Some people may prefer a custom made built home whereas others would like to have a historic home or a lot of land along with their home. These are questions that we may not initially think of, but if we narrow down what we want, finding a home will be less overwhelming and more fun.

Location, Location, Location

Check out the neighborhood you are considering to move to at various hours of the day. The dynamics of a neighborhood may change completely depending on when you’re there. It is also good to look at different hours because depending on where the neighborhood is locate, traffic in and around the area may be different based on the time. If your neighborhood is near a school, keep in mind the traffic that may be around your home in the mornings and afternoons. Knowing what the neighborhood is like at all times of the day can definitely help when making a decision of where to move. Not only will you want to look at the traffic of the area, if you have children, it is very wise to look at the surrounding schools. At times, people will pick the area they want to live in based of the school their child goes to or will be attending in the future.

How Far is Too Far?

You may also want to keep in mind what your daily commute will be from where you may want to live. Is it worth it to pay less on your mortgage but pay more for gas because of your commute? Think about how far you want to live from schools, churches, grocery stores, and your work place. Not only do you have do consider actual money costs of commutes, but time costs as well. Figure out how much money and time you are willing to commit to when commuting to and from work as well as other local amenities.

Who Will You Be Living Next To?

Talk to people who already live in the area you are interested in. if you are looking for a family friendly neighborhood, ask around if others feel it is one. Getting the opinions from who already lives there will benefit you greatly when making a decision for where you want to live. Consider who your neighbors may be. For example, you may love a house in a neighborhood, but your neighbors are younger adults who often have loud parties. This is a big factor to consider. When you move into your home, you are also moving into the neighborhood community and will most likely build friendships with the people living around you.

Ask About Safety

It is a good idea to get the opinions of not just the people living in the neighborhood. People may have different standards as to what is safe and what isn’t. Searching the web for information like police reports in the area, crime rates, as well as the amount of registered sex offenders in and around the area can help with making a decision. Even looking up things like foreclosures and evictions around the neighborhood is also a great idea. You can go to the local police and ask them about how safe they feel the area is. For the most part, they are called for problems and disturbances, so they will be able to give you a pretty accurate idea on how safe the area is.

Other Things to Consider

Some people prefer living in a gated community because they are free from solicitors and have a stronger sense of privacy. They also feel safer knowing not just anybody can come into the neighborhood. Although this is typically true, it is still a good idea to make sure that your family and home are safe no matter what type of community you live in. So for any new home owner, they should make it a priority to consider investing in a home security system will help to insure that  your home and loved ones are protected and safe. You can look at the many options for what type of security cameras are sold at Home Security Store. There are a number of things to think of when making a big purchase like a home. By staying organized and having your ideas on lists can help you get a better idea of everything you want and need!

How to Sell Your Home without Compromising Security

Listing your home for sale is a major decision and one that you should be able to make without compromising your home’s security. There are ways to list your home for sale and open it to prospective buyers while maintaining a level of security that you feel comfortable with. Further, the best way to avoid being burglarized is to be aware of the tactics that some criminals use and to always stay a step ahead of them.

Security Dos and Don’ts When Selling Your Home

Don’t leave valuables out in the open ~ Make sure that things like expensive jewelry, cash, electronics and pricey tools are securely stored away before you allow strangers into your home. We sometimes tend to leave items like these out in the open when we are relaxing at home, but to a burglar posing as a prospective buyer, these items are too enticing to resist. If you have a home safe, store them there or place them somewhere where people are unable to find them in casual passing. Remember that masquerading thieves will likely open a few drawers and cabinets as they feign interest in a home, so also make an effort to avoid placing your valuables in such obvious storage locations. If at all possible, you may even want to consider taking your valuables to a friend or a family member’s home for safekeeping for a while.

Don’t allow people in your home when you are not there ~ Of course, this tip won’t work for everyone since many reading this have jobs or other activities that require them to be away from home when an agent wants to bring prospective buyers by. If possible, however, require agents to schedule appointment times to show your property and keep open house events scheduled for days when you can be at home. Be prepared that some may make you feel as though this is an inconvenience, but don’t let this deter you from your priority of monitoring your home.

Do check your doors and windows after prospective buyers have toured your home ~ Crafty burglars will often unlatch a window or a sliding door with the hopes of returning later and using that predetermined entry point. To avoid this from happening to you, take a few minutes to check all of your doors and windows to verify that your home’s security has not been tampered with.

Don’t leave keys out in the open ~ We often form habits of leaving our house keys in easy to locate places like a kitchen counter or a hook near the front door. Unfortunately, burglars posing as interested buyers count on you doing exactly that. To avoid a burglar walking away with the keys to your home, tuck them away somewhere safe or keep them on your person while strangers tour your home.

Don’t give agents your primary security code ~ Certain alarm systems allow you to set secondary codes for service people, housekeepers and others who may need access to your house when you are away. If you must allow a real estate agent to access your home at a time when you cannot be there, set a special code just for them and never give out your main code. When the temporary code is no longer needed, be sure to disable it so that it cannot be used in the future. If your alarm system does not allow alternative codes, strongly consider getting one that does or only allowing your home to be viewed by appointment.

Do make sure that your security cameras are operational when you are away ~ The next best thing to being at home when strangers are touring your house is to use security cameras. These can be inconspicuously placed throughout your home or can be placed in locations where they are easily seen. Either way, they act as deterrents to burglars while also recording what’s going on inside your castle while you are away. Installing outdoor security cameras is also a good idea to make sure that your home’s perimeter is secured at all times.

Do ask for identification ~ If prospective homebuyers would like to tour your home without an agent or if you are selling your home without a realtor’s help– or even if you are, but just want to be safe, don’t be afraid to ask prospective buyers to identify themselves before touring your home. Boldly, but politely asking for a state-issued identification card will likely unnerve a burglar who’s interested in your home’s layout and inventory. There’s a strong likelihood that requiring such an action will even be enough to deter them from trying to lift anything during their visit or returning for a more costly crime later.

Stand Your Ground

An old adage states that just because one is paranoid doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be afraid of. To some agents and prospective buyers your focus on security may seem excessive or paranoid, but the reality is that burglars often do pretend to be interested in buying a home simply to gain access to it in order to calculate how to best rob the current occupants blind. Stand your ground in keeping your guard up and placing your family’s safety above all else. Remember, also, that having a home security system not only increases your family’s protection, but may also be an attractive selling point to others who are conscious about security.

Traveling Somewhere? Don’t Forget to Secure Your Home that You Leave Behind

Are you confident that your home is safe while you are traveling? How much thought have you given to outsmarting thieves who are waiting for you to hit the road? Chances are, like most people, you do not think that additional home security efforts are needed when you travel, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Recently, one of my family members had to visit a neighboring state for business. Having just moved into her home a few weeks prior, between working and settling into her new surroundings, she found little time to implement all of the advice offered on our security checklist. Intending to eventually do things like change her locks and install a new security system, she understood the importance of home security, but simply hadn’t taken the time to actually install the equipment necessary to keep burglars out.

Luckily, as she was packing to leave her home for a few days, she was deliberate in taking her laptop and a few other expensive electronic devices with her. When she returned, however, she was horrified to discover that an intruder– leaving no signs of forced entry– had stolen all of the mail that she had neatly stacked in a place designated for such. With a thief now having access to her banking and credit information, utility accounts and other private correspondence, she realized just how vulnerable she now was to the much more sinister crime of identity theft. This is the type of homecoming no one expects, but that too many unfortunate people receive after leaving their home unprotected for days at a time.

Having had my own home burglarized before, I know firsthand the feelings of violation, frustration and distrust that such a crime leaves its victims with. Losing personal items is hard enough to swallow. The feeling of complete strangers being able to so easily and callously invade your personal space, however, is even worse. An important first step in developing better home security is making a shift in the mindset that such a thing cannot happen to you, to believing that it eventually will happen unless you take steps to prevent it now.

The following are just a few tips that everyone can take to assure that their homes are secure before traveling.

1. Install an alarm system and invest in home security monitoring. Some security devices can be programmed to send an automated signal to a homeowner whenever an alarm is triggered, which is a helpful system…unless a person is too far from home to appropriately respond to a security breach or misses the automated message entirely. If an alarm is professionally monitored, however, the homeowner is not only contacted, but local security may also be alerted.

2. Be very careful announcing your travel plans. It’s quite likely that everyone reading this casually mentions their plans to others when preparing for a vacation. While talking on your cellphone in public or discussing your future plans at the barbershop or beauty salon, you probably feel quite comfortable relaying your excitement about an impending trip. As you share your departure and return dates, however, are you aware of others who are within earshot? That guy reading his newspaper next to you at the coffee shop could very well be an off-duty burglar counting on you being distracted enough not to notice as he follows you home and queues your address for his next heist. In addition to keeping mum in public conversations, do not share this information on the Internet either. Be sure to also advise other family members not to mention vacation plans on social media sites or to blog about where they are going and how long they’ll be away.

3. If possible, do not leave valuables in your home while you are away. My relative was smart to take her laptop with her. As she was packing, she also had the presence of mind to take a few other devices that she wouldn’t likely use, but that were too expensive and important to her job to leave behind. If you have items like this that are portable and can be relocated, do so before you hit the road. Also, expensive jewelry and important documents should be stored in a safe or even temporarily placed at the home of someone that you trust. If opting for a safe, be sure it is one that a thief cannot easily haul away.

4. Install a video surveillance system. Home surveillance cameras act as deterrents, which most burglars aren’t too eager to ignore. Upon noting that a property is protected by video cameras, most will skip that home entirely and search for an unprotected one instead. Security cameras also not only record the activity going on in and around your home, but systems such as Visonic IP WiFi Color Camera With IR Illuminator will allow you to log in from a remote location using your cellphone so that you can check on your home while you are traveling.

5. Never leave keys hidden under a mat or anywhere else where a burglar may find them. If you’ve ever been locked out of your home, it is tempting to want to stash a spare key under a flowerpot or somewhere else that gives you easy access while avoiding a call to a local locksmith. Unfortunately, thieves count on homeowners to do exactly that. Curtail their hopes for an easy entry and, instead, leave spare keys with someone trustworthy.

6. If you’ve just moved into your home, be sure to make changing your locks your first priority in home security. Not only do previous occupants have a key to your current locks, but it’s highly likely that random service people, real estate agents and friends or family members of the previous occupant do too. Neglecting to change your locks means that multiple strangers can walk into your home while you are traveling without leaving any signs of forced entry.

By following these simple guidelines, you can drastically decrease the chances of a burglary while you are away from home. Whether for business or pleasure, preparing to leave the comforts of home can sometimes be a laborious task. Neglecting travel security, however, often means returning to find that your privacy has been violated and that your personal belongings are long gone, which can be devastating. Preparing your home’s security ahead of time offers the peace of mind that you need in order to enjoy your time away and is something every homeowner needs to invest in before it’s too late.

Everyday Safety & Security Tips

People who make an effort to keep themselves, their property, and their families safe are bound to encounter a wide variety of tips geared towards addressing the safety risks of various situations and circumstances. Tips on how to practice good home security while on vacation, or how to stay safe while traveling, are in abundance, as are other pieces of advice for people with specific security goals in mind. But what about everyday safety and security? Though there are certainly some important steps people should take in specific circumstances to promote good security, it’s also essential to make security a regular part of daily life in order to truly achieve adequate protection and peace of mind. General safety tips can be more difficult to find than those focused on narrow objectives, places, or activities, but that doesn’t mean that achieving solid day-to-day security is particularly difficult. In fact, most of the work involved in maintaining quality security on a regular basis can be performed with thought and consideration alone –something safety-conscious people can work towards in nearly any environment, whenever it’s convenient. By making safety and security regular elements of life, people can safeguard against everything from personal assault to theft and beyond.

A crucial part of practicing good security in nearly every situation is staying aware of one’s surroundings. While this may seem like an obvious tip for avoiding and handling danger, people are frequently “turned off” from their surroundings, whether they’re lost in their own thoughts, deeply involved in an activity such as reading or listening to music on headphones, or otherwise distracted. It can be surprisingly easy to fail to notice essential pieces of safety data such as a suspicious character nearby or the recollection that a necessary medication or tool has been left at home when people aren’t acutely aware of what’s going on. Distractions can also make it difficult to find one’s way out of dangerous situations when they occur; while alert people are likely to be able to formulate a plan for getting out of a dangerous area, for instance, those who took little notice of wandering into the area in the first place may have serious difficulty getting out. While it’s certainly not necessary to cultivate a sense of paranoia in order to stay safe, making sure that basic distractions don’t detract from important data collection and a good sense of one’s surroundings is vital for anyone interested in maintaining good personal security.

Another easy yet often-overlooked way to boost safety and security is to consider a range of potentially threatening or dangerous situations, and to imagine what one might do to stay safe in such circumstances. This might involve thinking about what might happen if a tornado or other severe weather event were to affect a home or work area, imagining how one might avoid or deal with a conflict with an attacker, or considering the fallout likely to occur from losing a passport or other important items while traveling abroad. In many cases, people fail to think about worst case scenarios, and may therefore be ill-equipped to create a workable plan if and when they’re presented with challenging circumstances. When people take the time to consider such possibilities, however, they may discover holes in their knowledge, such as how to contact an embassy or what items should be included in a survival kit. Once these gaps in knowledge are identified, people can then take reasonable measures to learn whatever is necessary to keep them covered in the event of a confrontation or catastrophe.

Many safety and security tips focus on recommending or explaining different types of security devices and systems, and while consciously thinking about security is perhaps most important, there are certainly scores of products that can help empower a safety-smart consumer. No matter what type of security product is being sought, however, it’s always a good step to take the time to thoroughly research available technologies, brands, and configurations in order to use security items effectively. From the pre-purchasing process, which involves learning about different manufacturers and their reputations, to reading any included literature and instructions shipped with purchased products, there’s usually a good deal of information to absorb when making use of security products. Though people sometimes neglect these steps, they can be instrumental in making a security effort successful.

People who take a thoughtful approach to security are likely to be able to apply their safety sense to a wide range of situations, transcending security knowledge that’s only applicable to specific scenarios. With the right mindset and a good time investment, anyone can practice great everyday safety and security for themselves and their loved ones –as well as their most prized possessions.

Landscaping and Your Home Security

As the weather gets warmer and you work on your landscaping, you should consider these ideas to increase your home’s security.  Lisa Irish of The Daily Courier interviewed Traces Gordon, Prescott Police Department crime prevention specialist, and these are the tips they compiled.

• Keep trees and shrubs trimmed so that windows and doors remain visible to neighbors and from the street.  “This eliminates places for thieves to hide or provide cover as they break into your home,” Gordon said.

• Trim trees so that no limbs are below 6 feet to keep thieves from using them as a ladder to enter through upper-level windows or porches.

•Consider placing large gravel under ground-level windows so you can hear the noise of people walking up to your home.

• Plant hostile vegetation with spines, thorns or sharp leaves under windows to discourage thieves from trying to enter through them.  Roses, barberry, cacti, yucca, desert spoon, agave and pyracantha are some examples of hostile vegetation.

Another key component of crime prevention through environmental design is lighting.  Gordon suggests talking to a lighting expert at a home improvement store about installing motion detector lighting around the perimeter of your home and especially in your backyard.

“If a thief steps near your home, you and your neighbors will see that bright light go on immediately,” Gordon said.  “That will make most thieves look for an easier target.”

How to Secure your Front Door on a Budget

The entry point for most residential break-ins is the front door.  However, there are simple and inexpensive ways to upgrade your front door security.

“I didn’t realize before, how unsafe it was.  Until I found out one swift kick and everything can come down,” break-in victim Melissa Dobbins told Fox 5 in Atlanta.

Dobbins was walking her dog when her home was broken into.  Even though the door to Dobbins’ home was locked and the alarm set, burglars got inside through the front door and stole TVs and jewelry.

“This entire frame broke.  The door was open, I mean, it was just all gone,” said Dobbins.

Hadi Wahba of Unlockit Locksmith & Security says with a little more than a screwdriver and a hundred bucks, a home can be made more difficult to break into.

“Longer screws can absolutely make the difference,” Wahba said.

As Fox 5 reports, Wahba said most developers use cheaper, half inch screws to attach the metal strike plate, which attaches the lock and deadbolt to the door frame.  One strong kick can force those screws loose and destroy the frame, making the lock useless.  A three inch screw goes all the way through the frame and the wood support on the other side, strengthening the door jam and making it tougher to break through.

“The hinges need to be reinforced the same way,” said Wahba.

Wahba suggested using just six more screws.  For more reinforcement, Wahba recommended spending about $75 on a five foot tall strike plate.

Home Automation featured at Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas

Home AutomatiomThe International CES (Consumer Electronic Show) is the world’s largest annual trade show for consumer technology and America’s largest annual trade show of any kind.  It takes place every year in fabulous Las Vegas.  A record number of new exhibitors – more than 330 companies – will join more than 2,500 exhibitors in unveiling their latest technological innovations.  There are dozens of categories in which more than 20,000 new technology products are featured in.  One of those categories is Home Security & Automation and one of those products is the Schlage LiNK Remote Home-Management System.

The Schlage LiNK Remote Home-Management System enables a consumer to take advantage of wireless technology and can lock as well unlock doors via a remote control.  The technology behind this one of a kind system is called Z-Wave, which has been designed by Schlage specifically for wireless home automation.  To make use of this technology, household devices and systems are embedded with a RF (radio frequency) transmitter that sends commands and information to these systems wirelessly.

Users can not only operate doors, but also have the ability to monitor live camera feeds and control the lighting ambiance of a room, among many other features.  Plus, users do not exactly need a dedicated control for this security system, as the Schlage LiNK Remote Home-Management System can also be remotely monitored and operated from a computer or even from an iPhone or Blackberry.

Scottish officials fund security systems for homes in capitol

scotlandScottish victims of domestic abuse are about to get a helping hand, as over £16,000—or nearly $30,000 in U.S. Dollars—donated from the Edinburgh Community Safety Partnership to help citizens of the capitol city in the fight against crimes at home.

The cause is a joint venture between the council, police and support agencies, with The Scotsman reporting that the new money will “fund such measures as the installation of discreet alarms which can alert police and record critical evidence, the improvement of home security, and staff training for dealing with domestic abuse cases.”

Councilor Paul Edie, community safety leader for Edinburgh, said: “We have to do everything in our power to tackle the cycle of domestic abuse.”

American cities, which boast some of the world’s highest home-crime rates, could learn a thing or two from their Scottish counterparts.




Source: The Scotsman

Doughnut Trail Leads Cops to Thief

In Sledell, Louisiana two people left a 15-mile-long- trail of doughnuts after they took a Krispy Kreme truck from a parking lot and fled, police told Reuters.  The truck was parked at a convenience store with its rear doors open and engine running while a deliveryman carried doughnuts inside, said Slidell police spokesman Rob Callahan.  Two suspects hopped in the truck and sped off to the nearby town of Lacombe, with doughnuts spilling out along the way, he said.  They abandoned the truck when they were spotted by police responding to reports of a dangerous driver who was losing his doughnuts. Passenger Rose Houk, 31, was captured, but the driver, whose name was not released, ran away.  Houk told police they had been smoking crack cocaine for several hours before the incident, which occurred Wednesday, said Callahan.  Their motive for taking the Krispy Kreme truck was unclear.  “I don’t know if it was a need for transportation or if they just had the munchies,” he said.