Looking back at the first night in our apartment after moving from Germany to North Carolina, I remember being extremely nervous and concerned about our safety. The lock of the front door was so cheap that let me wonder why they even bothered to put in a lock to begin with. My mind probably just got a little overboard, but all I could think of were scenes of American movies that we watched back in Germany that were all about home invasions, homicides and gangs controlling the streets. And I don’t mean the clumsy burglars from Home Alone. My only relief that night was stuffing a broom stick in between the door and a kitchen cabinet that was facing it, just so that the bad guys would have an additional barrier to overcome.
8 years and many nights later we’re still alive, never been robbed and a lot wiser. We also hired an alarm company to hook us up with a monitoring service. However, the thought of being robbed even with an alarm company watching over us is not a pleasant one and I was wondering what else I could do to just make it less likely to ever be in that situation, especially while being on vacation.
There are different kinds of burglars out there and if they want to get into your house, they will find a way, there is no doubt. Some will observe your place and take notes of your habits for a while before striking and others will just kick in your door and take all valuables that are up for grabs within minutes. When the police shows up, because the alarm company called them, the burglars are long gone and so is your stuff.
That’s why I started to do certain things including some additional equipment to throw off the bad guys a little. The harder it is for them to invade your place, the less likely they will succeed.
We tried a door stopper in our old apartment, but the tile floor wasn’t the best surface for it and it kept sliding. Then we found this door blocker aka. security bar on Amazon.com, which was just perfect, didn’t slide on tile or hardwood floor and was very easy to set up. It’s a great prevention of having your door kicked in, especially when you’re home at night. My wife slept a lot better with this in place. If you have a sliding patio door, you can also use it to block it while you’re gone. I just use a baseball bat for that which is a cheap alternative, because I need my bar for the front door.
A storm door with lock is a great additional barrier for home invaders who just have a few minutes to strike. They’ll think twice before they pick a house with a storm door, because they would have to bust the glass door to get to the main door and that makes a lot of noise. It’s also a great addition to your house to catch more natural light.
Cost: $100-$300 for most doors
You don’t have to stage a fake party like little Kevin in Home Alone, but it’s a pretty good idea. With little effort you can pretend someone being in the house by using timers that control your lights in random sequences. There are simple timers that go on and off at the same set time every day and then there are the more advanced 7-day programmable timers, that allow you to set a flexible schedule of how your lights go on and off each day. This is very effective while you’re on vacation. And lights are not the only thing that can be controlled with timers. Hook up your radio with it and you add random loud music to the party, which can throw burglars off quite a bit. They prefer the house being vacant while they get in.
A Man’s Best Friend
Dogs are one of the best methods to keep your house safe. They hear extremely well and react on every noise with loud barking, scaring off burglars. And they’re just a great and faithful friend. There’s not a lot to explain here, the only thing I would like to mention is to maybe get your new buddy from the Humane Society instead of a pets store. Many of these homeless dogs are facing death if they are not being adopted by somebody soon, because there’s not enough room in the animal shelters.
Cost: Adoption can be free or anything between $25-$250, but you’re saving a life on top of that.
While you’re on vacation it’s a good idea to use USPS’ free service to hold your mail, so that all this faking to be home mentioned above doesn’t get screwed up by an overfloating mailbox and 10 newspapers piling up next to it.
To hold your mail, just go to this page on the USPS website and put in the dates, that you don’t want mail delivered to your house. You don’t even have to call them to set this up and it’s free.
Newspapers offer this service as well, but since there are so many I obviously can’t provide a link for all of them. You might have to call or email your newspaper provider to set this up, but it’s also free and totally worth it.
Going on vacation is great, sometimes so great that you don’t think about the bad guys watching your Facebook page or following you on Twitter, trying to find out when you’re gone. Either make absolutely sure you understand Facebook’s security settings, so that only your friends can see your vacation postings or just hold off with posting anything until after your vacation. Same with Twitter, Google+ and other popular networks.
Another pointer for burglars to indicate you’re gone for a few days is leaving your trash can outside in order to catch trash day. Your garbage might be gone when you return, but so can your stuff in the house. Maybe have a neighbor or friend take care of this for you while you’re gone, so that it just sits outside for a day.
Bought some expensive equipment lately? Don’t leave the boxes outside for trash day, showing off what you got. It’s just giving the wrong people ideas.
A perfect hiding spot for skilled burglars are bushes in front of windows that offer enough hiding space. This way they can work on a window without being seen. So keep your bushes trimmed and make it as difficult as possible for them to get in.
Be a difficult target
A simple way to make sure burglars don’t steal your valuable stuff, is to hide it somewhere in your house while you’re on vacation. I always hide my computer and sometimes I even use my bicycle lock and tie my TV to the TV stand, just to mess with burglars and waste their short time.
One last tip for your fake party would be to leave your car or second car in your driveway while you’re gone. Especially if you’re usually parking in a garage. This gives strangers the impression that you might have visitors that stay a few days.
Please make sure to take out the garage door opener before you leave your car outside.
Cost: Maybe a car wash after your return
I hope this is helpful to you to make your home just a little safer without much effort or spending a lot of money. It sure helps me and my wife to feel safer when we’re home at night or away on vacation.
Immigrant or not, these tips are for everyone, so please share it with your friends.
Photos: © 3Dmask, Alexey Stiop – Fotolia.com, mycodetrip.com