What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Few Holiday Home Safety Tips

The holiday season really becomes a time we let down our guard creating the potential for personal and physical harm as well as theft and property damage.  Our local Neighbourhood Watch has sent out several reminders as well as hosting a couple of informational/educational to remind folk that this is the time of year to keep a heightened awareness.  At the same time our local Fire Department is doing the same thing and our local Police are reminding folks to take care on the roads and never drink and drive.  A lot of this information is not new.  We've heard it all or most of it before but because our minds tend to be on other things like shopping, entertaining and holiday events, it bears being said again.

Homes tend to become more of a focus of break-ins for several reasons.  'Tis the season for gift giving meaning there are a lot more items like jewelry and electronics that can easily be resold.  The tends to be more liquor in the house especially for those who do more entertaining.  Many tend to keep more cash on hand as well.  At the same time, folks are more preoccupied with decorating, shopping and everything else that goes along with the holiday season, they don't notice anyone that may be staking out the home.  Finally, the holiday season for many mean longer periods of time away from home giving a thief more opportunity to break-in.

You can fight back by making your home a harder target for thieves.  Most of the tips being offered for preventing a break-in are just good old fashioned common sense.  Still, this time of year means you have to be aware and take a little extra care to prevent a break-in.  Here are a few tips:

  • locks -  All entry points to your home should be kept locked at all times even if you are home.  Exit doors should have deadbolts in addition to the lock on the door knob.  A garage door should ideally have a garage door opener that is ensures your garage is locked when closed.  If the garage is attached, treat the door between the main house and garage as an exit door by keeping it locked at all times.  Windows should be kept locked with barriers to prevent entry when the window is open. 
  • monitored security systems -  If you have a monitored security system, use it!  It isn't going to protect your home if you don't.  Even if you are just running down to the variety store, planning on being away for ten minutes, set the alarm.
  • don't announce you will be away - It is quite common for folks to say something to the effect "I'm shopping at..." on Facebook or Twitter.  If you only allow family and close friends to follow or friend you, it shouldn't be a problem but the reality is those collecting friends and followers as a status symbol put themselves at risk.  This tells everyone on your social media site that you are away from home and you will be returning with a few goodies, both invitations to theft.  If you are out for a day, make sure any newspapers and rubbish bins are brought indoors.  I would seriously miss a waste collection day for the recycling bins if I had to be away that day rather than leave the empty bins on the lawn until I got home.  Regular waste in a garbage bag isn't a problem as once it is picked up it is gone but waste put out in a garbage pail is a problem because the empty pail on laying on the lawn is a clear indication no one is home.  If you will be away for an extended period of time, the less people who know about it the better.  A well trusted neighbour should be notified you will be away as they can watch out for any suspicious activity as well as collect any newspapers.  Put your mail on hold if it is normally delivered to your house.   Arrange for a family member or friend to have access to your house, water plants, alter the lighting pattern and basically make your home look like someone is there.  If you have a security system, notify your provider you will be away, who has a key to your house and how often they will be checking on it.  You can also notify your local police with the same information so they will respond faster if the alarm is triggered.  Be discrete when loading luggage and other items into your car when leaving for an extended period of time from your home
  • suspicious phone calls - There have been a rash of home break-ins in our town and surrounding area recently.  Victims have reported several phone calls to their homes where the caller listens briefly then hangs up.  The local police believe these calls are being made to determine if someone is home before the thief/thieves break-in.  Now, this is a crap shoot for the potential thief as the police point out, many do not answer their phones if the caller comes up as unknown or private.  I know I don't; the call goes to the answering machine.  In fact, the majority of our land line calls go to the answering machine because anyone who knows us knows to call our cell phones if there is no answer on the land line.  Still, if you notice an increase in these types of calls, keep an eye out.  
  • unloading parcels - An ingenious thief who is staking out a house will a good idea of what has been taken into the house simply by sitting outside across the road or walking by when parcels are being unloaded from your car to be taken indoors.  Use generic, cloth shopping bags rather than store bags.  That way a potential thief can't tell you have just been shopping at an electronics store.  If you have an attached garage, drive in then shut the garage door before unloading anything.  If you don't have an attached garage, don't unload by putting parcels on the ground or leaving the trunk or vehicle open between trips back and froth from the car.  If at all possible, unload in one trip and better yet, have someone with you when unloading.
  • windows - Open your shopping bags away from windows where someone could see what you bought or shut the curtains.
  • packaging -  Packaging tells the thief exactly what you just bought.  Don't put larger electronics, television or computer boxes to the road.  Cardboard packaging should be crushed and kept out of easy sight from windows until it is taken to your local waste centre.  
  • the Christmas tree - Many place their Christmas tree is such a manner so it is visible from outside.  However, a tree laden with presents underneath is a good target for thieves.  If your tree is visible to the outside, don't put presents under it until Christmas Eve