Some really irresponsible home security advice…

Today's ParentIn this month’s Today’s Parent magazine, a ‘quiz’ asks How Secure is Your Home?

Unfortunately, the article/quiz offers some suspect advice… specifically, the third question in the quiz asks:

3. A home security system with an alarm is:

a. Essential;

b. nice to have, but only if you can afford it; or

c. unnecessary

According to them, and Cst. Tom McKay from the Peel Regional Police who helped them with the quiz, the answer is ‘C’ “unnecessary”. The balance of the quiz includes a lot of the typical, and overly simplistic ‘security tips’ such as cutting your hedges and picking up newspapers that seem to make their way into every home security tips list.

It’s frustrating to see such ridiculous advice get published. I wrote a comment in response to the article which I’ve re-posted here below…

Re: Quiz: How Secure is Your Home, June 2009

To suggest that an alarm is ‘unnecessary’ is irresponsible.

While alarms are no longer the deterrent to burglars that they once were, an alarm can be a very important part of a home or business’s overall security ‘system’… the problem arises when people believe that a simple alarm is, in and of itself, a security system.

The reason that most alarms are not useful is because of the way that they are sold and installed. For example, most home alarms are sold at a very low price point and rely on motion detectors inside… ensuring that by the time the alarm actually trips, the burglary is almost over.

Couple that with the fact that very few alarms in Canada utilize private response service and instead ‘rely’ on Police response that averages over two hours in most cities (in Vancouver, it’s 2 hours and 6 minutes) a strong case can be made to say that most alarms are not providing any real security.

However, that is a judgement on those particular (and unfortunately, the majority) alarms… not alarms as an entire category.

The most important reason for having a monitored alarm system is to generate an immediate response. However, contrary to what your article states, there are companies who respond fast enough to a burglary.

Our firm, Provident Security guarantees a five minute response time to our clients alarms.

The goal for a properly designed alarm is to detect someone while they are still trying to break-in rather than after they are already inside. Coupling an alarm with several easy to implement physical security tactics is where security is maximized.

The most important of those security tactics is ‘five-minute-proofing’. ‘Five-minute-proofing’ means that, from the point at which your alarm trips, it would take a crook at least 5 minutes to get to whatever it is that you are trying to protect. It’s a combination of early detection by your alarm and slowing a crook down so that he cannot find (or remove) whatever it is that you are trying to protect.

In your article, the first tip suggests using a hockey stick to prevent a sliding glass door from being opened. The mistake most people make with this tip is that they make the stick the same size as the rail that it will be laying in. Instead, apply a ‘five-minute-proofing’ strategy by ensuring that the stick is cut so that it is about two inches shorter than the door. This way, when a crook tries to pry the door, it will open enough for the alarm to trip, while still keeping him outside.

‘Five-minute-proofing’ can be applied to every single item in your home. It’s simply a matter of identifying which items you need to protect and applying the same strategy.

Some other simple ‘five-minute-proofing’ strategies include:

  • In almost every residential burglary, thieves will head straight to the master bedroom and pull open the bedside table drawers, then rifle through the closet. Do not leave your family jewelry there. Either put the jewelry you do not wear into a safety deposit box at the bank or put it in another room in your home;
  • Consider putting a lock on your master bedroom door. It’s almost always the first place crooks go… a lock, even a really cheap one, will slow them down;
  • Use a bicycle chain to keep your LCD or plasma screen TV connected to it’s wall bracket;
  • couple window film with a properly installed glassbreak detector (monitored by your alarm)… that way, when the crook tries to smash the glass and can’t on the first attempt, the alarm will trip while he’s still standing outside;
  • Screw a washer that is a little wider than your sliding glass door near the top of the door so that it cannot be lifted out of its track (but again, leave enough distance between the top of the door and the track so that the door will move enough to trip the alarm before hitting the washer).
  • If you want to get a safe, ensure that it gets professionally installed and bolted into concrete. An 800lb safe is much easier to move than most people think… if it’s not bolted down, it’s not ‘five-minute-proofed’.

Contrary to the advice in your article, I recommend against canceling your newspaper, milk or other deliveries. The fewer people that know that you are away, the better. Ask a trusted friend or neighbour to pick up any deliveries for you in your absence. (or, if you’re a Provident client, book a HomeWatch) The goal is to try and keep your home looking just as busy when you are gone as when you’re home.

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