Crime is a reality in South Africa, and we all want to protect our families from becoming victims. Home security has a significant part to play in keeping us safe. Whether or not you have a full security system installed, there are many actions that just about anyone can take to make their home more secure at little or no cost.
We spoke to Charnel Hattingh, the national marketing and communications manager for Fidelity ADT, for advice on securing your home.
Establish good home security habits
“We too often have to respond to incidents where someone might have installed a brand-new and top-of-the-range home security system, but suffered a theft or break-in because they left one of the house’s windows standing open or forgot to close the garage door. This is essentially the issue we face – the presence of sophisticated technology does not mean we can forget our own personal responsibility,” she says.
These are some safety habits that Charnel recommends, and that anyone can implement at little or no cost:
- Lock all doors and windows. This applies to your house, your car and any outbuildings on your property. This applies whether you are at home or not.
- If you are away, make it look like someone is home. Use automated lighting, either with timers or using your home security system. Keep a car in the driveway. Have a neighbour pick up packages. Close curtains on the ground level so no one can see in your windows.
- Keep valuable items out of sight. Never leave keys, wallets, cellphones or any other small items on a table or anywhere close to a window.
- Make sure your loved ones know the exact steps to take and who to call in an emergency situation. Keep up-to-date emergency numbers in your family and staff’s phones, and post them somewhere easily accessible in your home as well - like on the fridge.
- If you have an alarm, make sure everyone in your family and domestic staff has a panic button, or knows where the fixed panic buttons are.
- If your security company offers an app, upload it and make sure everyone knows how to use it.
- Get to know your neighbours, have each other’s contact details and look out for one another. Report anything amiss.
Protect your property
Charnel recommends a layered approach to ensuring that your home is safe and secure. This involves working from the outside in to evaluate what measures you need to put in place to protect your home – even if you only have a limited budget.
“Make sure that there is nothing that could help a burglar easily get into the property, for example a bin or pile of rubble that they could climb onto and over the wall. Also, trim back any low-hanging tree branches that could be used to gain entry,” Charnel says. If you have an electric fence, keep it clear of foliage and make sure it’s always working and switched on.
Check the hinges and locks of any gates or external doors to make sure they are not old and rusted and could easily be broken or forced to gain entry.
Charnel advises looking out for anything that could be used as a weapon or to gain entry to your home. This includes garden equipment like spades, or sporting equipment kept in an unsecured shed or container. Keep these locked away.
Charnel advises again looking at the quality of hinges and locks, including on windows, and to pay attention to the condition of burglar bars. Install deadbolts for outside-facing and garage doors.
Seek expert advice
While all of these measures, taken together, will go a long way to securing your home, it’s a good idea to seek specialist advice, especially on the more technical aspects of home security. Charnel advises speaking to a reputable security company that operates in your area to get advice about a new or existing home security system.
It’s never pleasant to think about the worst that could happen, but it’s worth looking at your property with a critical eye and imagining what could be useful to a thief trying to gain entry. Take every practical step you can to keep your family and your belongings safe right away.
Frequently asked questions
There are several measures you can take to enhance home security without breaking the bank. These include locking all doors and windows, using automated lighting, keeping valuable items out of sight, ensuring everyone knows emergency procedures, and getting to know your neighbours.
While a full security system can offer comprehensive protection, it is not always necessary. You can significantly improve home security by implementing good habits and following the layered approach, as recommended by the expert in the article.
To make your property less vulnerable, you should focus on your perimeter, garden, and house. Ensure there are no objects outside that could aid intruders in climbing over walls or fences. Keep your garden equipment and sporting gear secured in a shed or container. Additionally, install quality locks and deadbolts on doors and windows.
While electric fences can be effective deterrents, it ultimately depends on your specific situation and budget. If you have the means, an electric fence can be a valuable addition to your home security. However, following other recommended measures can also make a significant difference.
Panic buttons and alarm apps provide quick and easy ways to alert your security company or authorities in case of an emergency. Equipping all family members and domestic staff with panic buttons or teaching them to use the alarm app can help improve overall safety.
While you can implement many security measures on your own, consulting with a reputable security company can be beneficial, especially for technical aspects. They can assess your home's unique needs and suggest appropriate solutions.
When leaving your home unattended for an extended period, ensure you make it appear as if someone is home. Use automated lighting or your security system, have a neighbour collect packages, and close curtains on the ground level to prevent visibility from outside.
Building a strong community network can significantly improve security. Exchange contact details with your neighbours, report any suspicious activities, and consider forming a neighbourhood watch or communication group to share important information.
Yes, there are numerous measures you can take that require little to no cost. Simple actions like locking doors and windows, maintaining your property's surroundings, and creating good security habits can enhance your home's safety without significant expenses.
Regardless of the presence of sophisticated technology, personal responsibility plays a crucial role in home security. Neglecting simple security habits, such as leaving windows open or forgetting to close doors, can render even the best security systems ineffective. It's essential to be vigilant and take proactive steps to protect your home and family.