GIMME SHELTER- Feeling insecure? Lock the door and turn on lights

Erik Hord
Modern Home Systems, Inc.

Q: I'm thinking about getting a security system for my home. I'm also on a limited budget and don't want to go overboard. Still, I'd like to know what my options are.  Any practical advice that would not require installing anything major would also be appreciated.

A: You actually have a lot of options. Security companies can put in systems ranging from fairly basic to very complex, but the reality is that securing your home simply takes a combination of common sense, planning, and discipline. 

Here are a few things any homeowner can do without having to buy a security system:

1. Lock your doors– sounds obvious, but a lot of people don't do it.

2. Use outside lighting– turn on a few lights, and you may persuade that would-be intruder to keep walking.

3. Get real locks– that crummy twist lock that came with your doorknob 20 years ago is no match for a pair of hiking boots. Get decent deadbolts and use them.

4. Don't leave keys "hidden" outside– thieves count on it. And, no, you're not the only one who puts them under the mat, in the flowerpot (or BBQ), or in the fake rock under the deck.

5. Trim shrubs and trees– if you provide a burglar a nice screen to hide behind, he'll use it.

6. Use plants to your advantage– roses and other thorny plants in front of windows are a nice deterrent to hanging out there.

7. Get a dog– a barking dog keeps many intruders moving.

8. Don't leave valuable items in plain sight– sounds obvious, but people do it.

9. Don't leave garage doors open– there's a lot of stuff right in your garage that they'd love to have if you'll let them. It's also a great way to let themselves in.

Want more? A lot of companies will do a very basic security system for a couple of hundred bucks (generally with a three-year paid monitoring agreement). This may be all you need, but for many it's not enough. The key to a good security system is working with the company that you choose to put in the right system, which takes into account your lifestyle, the location of the house, and any pets or other special circumstances, like an elderly person who might need a way to trigger a system remotely.

Remember, a determined intruder can get into almost any house regardless of the systems installed, but the key to having a good security system is that he probably won't stay long if an alarm goes off and he thinks the police are coming. Also, the best system in the world won't do you a bit of good if you don't turn it on. An incredible number of homeowners with security systems fail to activate them!

Finally, if you do buy a real security system and have it monitored, use the yard signs and window stickers that the company provides. They're a great deterrent to most intruders.

Erik Hord