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 propertyCharnel 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 adviceWhile 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.
Stay safeIt’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.