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How to Fully Secure Your Home This Holiday Season

How to Fully Secure Your Home This Holiday Season

These tips from security experts will go a long way to keeping your home secure, especially during the upcoming holiday season.

With the holidays just around the corner, apartment doormats and front stoops will soon be stacked with packages—and that means “porch pirates” will be out in full force. Many of us will be traveling, leaving our homes unattended, during the holidays. Many residents have turned to video doorbells, such as Ring and Nest Hello, to give them an edge over the package-stealing crooks and burglars, but this latest craze in home security isn’t a cure-all. In fact, there’s a lot more to home safety than filming people who come to your door. From ensuring you have a stable door to securing the perimeter of your yard, here’s what you can do to increase your home’s safety this season.


Make Sure Your Home's Doors are Airtight

It’s hard to believe, but some people fail to take the most basic precautions, including locking their doors. “They may feel a false sense of security, and they may live in a safe area, but you can never be too certain,” says Cassandra Anderson, vice president of the New York Insurance Association, who adds that it’s a good idea to have a deadbolt lock.

It can also be easy to overlook the door itself, but all doors are not created equal. An exterior door should be metal or solid wood, not the hollow-core type used for interiors. And remember, a lock is only as strong as the door and the door is only as strong as its frame.

“You can have very good locks, but if your door frame is rotted, it defeats the purpose,” says Jessica Corey, commanding officer of the NYPD’s Crime Prevention Division. “Somebody can just push the door in. You can’t install a lock or a door without looking at the whole system.”

Corey also notes that many people overlook the hinges. If the door’s hinges are on the outside and the pins exposed, someone can remove the pins and remove the door. She suggests either changing the door or installing non-removable pins.

Another basic step many people forget about is to make a video inventory of your possessions. That way, if you are burglarized (or suffer a house fire or flood), you have a detailed record for police and insurance.


Secure the Perimeter of Your Home

Both Corey and Anderson advise homeowners to secure their home from the outside-in, beginning with the yard. For example, make sure landscaping doesn’t block your windows, and that shrubbery can’t be used to shield an intruder from passing neighbors or a police patrol car.

Corey also reminds people to secure their windows—particularly at ground level. When installing window air conditioners, make sure to secure them with the proper (and usually included) hardware so they can’t be pushed in.

And use outside lighting. “Lighting is one of the cheapest and most effective deterrents that you have,” Corey says. “Either lighting that comes on from dusk to dawn, or lighting that’s motion-activated. That’s something that’s easily installed.”


Make It Seem Like You're Home–When You're Not

When you broadcast news of your vacation plans across social media (or to the clerk at the local store) you never know who else is watching and listening, including thieves. It’s best to be cautious about whom you talk to—and wait to post pictures of your trip until you return.

Remember that scene in Home Alone, when Kevin rigs up mannequins and lights to make it look like his empty house is full of people? You don’t have to go quite that far, but when you’re away, you want your house to look lived-in. Ask the post office to hold your mail, ensure there won’t be any packages delivered, and arrange for someone to take out the trash and recycling. It’s also a good idea to put interior and exterior lights on timers.

Then there are the not-so-obvious things, like putting a television or two on a timer and asking a neighbor to park one of their cars in your driveway if you normally park your car in your driveway. (Anderson actually advises people to park their car in their garage if possible, so people won’t know their habits of coming and going.) The key is to make your house look the way it does when you are home.

“A lot of people think when they go away that they should close all their curtains. If you don’t normally close all your curtains, you shouldn’t do it when you’re away,” Corey advises.

And don’t forget to have someone mow the lawn or shovel snow if you’re away for more than a week. Both Corey and Anderson say leaving your house to the elements while you’re away is a sure sign the home isn’t occupied.


Be Smart with Your Smart Home

Aside from all these low-tech strategies, both Anderson and Corey recommend installing a home security system and/or video doorbell. “There’s a lot of new types of technologies out there that create video display in real time, where you’re aware of what’s going on in your house when you’re away. I think that those are certainly things that individuals could consider, to increase the security at their house,” Anderson says.

“I can’t speak to any one technology, but having multiple security features is always better,” Corey says. “If you have video, if you have lighting, if you have an alarm system, that’s going to be better than if you had none of those things.” She recommends an alarm system with motion detectors and installing video cameras connected to a phone app but cautions people to remember that online systems can be hacked. “Use two-factor authentication and anything else the security or doorbell company recommends to protect the system,” Corey says.

Nothing will guarantee 100-percent safety and security but taking a strategic approach and implementing the measures recommended by experts will reduce your chances of being victimized.

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Jaimie Seaton


Jaimie Seaton has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and is the former Thailand correspondent for Newsweek. Her work on divorce, parenting, dating, and a wide range of topics has been featured in the Washington Post, the Guardian, Glamour, and numerous other publications. Follow her on Twitter @JaimieSeaton.

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