today offers many more choices than were available a generation ago. Technological advances have given consumers terrific new devices for protecting their homes.
At the same time, lifestyles have changed too. There are far more single-person households, and many older adults are living independently for longer periods. If you are concerned about home security, or are considering having a home security system installed, you may be overwhelmed by all your choices.
We spoke with Jeaneen Tierney of the Electronic Security Association about home security in the 21st century, including some considerations that simply didn't exist 10 or 20 years ago.
Q. Burglars obviously know to look for keys "hidden" under doormats or in fake rocks, and they know that if the same lights are on in a home for several days the owners are out of town. What are some other things that burglars know about our homes that we may not realize?
A. One thing burglars know about our homes that we may not realize is that they can tell the difference between real and fake security measures. Many homeowners who want security but are hesitant to invest in an alarm system may try to make their home appear secure by using a dummy security camera or a fake alarm company yard sign. Burglars won’t be fooled by these common tricks. Instead, invest in a monitored home security system. Studies show that home security systems serve as strong deterrents for burglars and protect lives and property in the event of a home intrusion. You can find a trusted alarm company to help you choose a home security solution that will fit your budget.
Q. Many of today's home security systems incorporate "smart home" technology that allows homeowners to remotely control lights, thermostats, and other home settings. How popular are these new technologies? Are people eager to adopt them, or are they taking a wait-and-see approach?
A. Home automation, or smart home technology, is here and it’s picking up speed among homeowners. These types of services are no longer a high-tech luxury; there are options for every budget, and as a result, more homeowners are taking advantage of this technology. Home automation is feature-rich, convenient, and can be very effective in reducing heating/cooling and energy bills. From a security standpoint, consumers are eager to integrate the technology into their security systems. They like the features that work with their smartphones, such as being able to arm and disarm their alarm system; lock and unlock the doors; and watch what’s going on in their home via live video feed.
Q. There have been stories in the media about burglars using information from social media websites to "case" homes. How can people protect their online information to avoid tipping off burglars that they will be away? It's easy enough not to post vacation plans, but how can we prevent friends from inadvertently sharing information? We've all seen posts that say things like, "The Joneses are going to Hawaii next week and I'm so envious!"
A. Social networking websites are a great way to keep tabs on your loved ones. Social networking websites are also a great way for burglars to keep tabs on you. Burglars troll popular social networking websites looking for information that indicates when your home will be vacant. The best social media policy is not posting your whereabouts or travel plans on your pages. But how do you keep your friends and family from giving your location away? Talk to them about your concerns. Stress the importance of keeping your vacation plans off of social networking sites and encourage them to do the same regarding their own travel plans.
Q. What should renters know about home security as opposed to homeowners?
A. Whether you live in a home you own or a rental property, security is always something you need to consider. The security needs of a renter differ from those of a homeowner. Here are a few security measures that Alarm.org recommends to renters:
• Invest in renter’s insurance to protect your property.
• Install a security system—some are designed specifically for apartments!
• Get to know your neighbors. They can be your eyes and ears when you aren’t home.
• Don’t let strangers follow in the door behind you.
• Remember safety: Keep your doors locked at all times, park in well-lit areas, and always pay attention to your surroundings.
Q. Some cities now require residents who want to install a monitored home security system to obtain a permit with the local police department first. Presumably this is to raise awareness of and help prevent false dispatches. What are the basic ways to help prevent false alarms and avoid wasting police resources when this happens?
A. False dispatches occur when a public safety officer responds to a false alarm. False dispatches are a big issue for alarm companies and police departments. Alarms can falsely trigger for a variety of reasons including user error, unlocked or loose doors, visitors who don’t know how to use the system, wandering pets and faulty installation. To avoid the hassle and fees that can be associated with a false dispatch, Alarm.org recommends the following precautions:
• Train everyone in your home to use the alarm system.
• Give temporary pass codes to anyone who will be entering your home when you are away (repairmen, housekeepers, babysitters).
• Keep hanging objects away from motion detectors.
• Before arming your system, make sure all door and windows are closed and locked.
• Regularly service your system and contact your alarm company if your system isn’t working properly.
• Use audio or video in conjunction with you alarm system.