Category Archives for "Guides"

DIY Guide: 101 Ways to Protect Your Home

From burglars to fires to stampeding buffaloes, you never know what kind of situations your home may have to deal with. That’s why it’s so important to prepare in advance, especially since doing so can save a lot of money and headache in the long run. While many people think that there’s a handful of things they can do to ensure their home is protected, the reality is that there are dozens and more. That’s why we’ve compiled this handy guide to protecting your home on a budget.

1. Stay in touch with your neighbors.

Many people are too shy to call the police when they see suspicious activity. Ask your neighbors to keep an eye out on your property, and they can prove to be the best alarm system there is.  

2. Scout the perimeter and find weaknesses.

No one knows your property better than you do. Take some time to scope it out from the outside and you’ll likely find a few ways to make it easier to protect. 

3. Keep the plants and shrubs located around your doors trimmed.

They can often provide cover while a thief works on getting through your door. Plus, shrubs generally look nicer when they’re trimmed!

4. Plant thorny plants by your windows.

Windows are a popular way to get into people’s homes, but no robber wants to sit in a thorny, painful bush.

 5. Put up a fence around your property.

This decreases visibility and makes it more difficult to access your property. It also lets your dog roam outside, if you have one.

6. Don’t leave expensive items outside.

This includes bikes, grills, and yes, even cars. Your garage is the perfect place to put things away, and that way crooks won’t be enticed by your possessions.

7. Keep your cats away from windows when you’re out of town.

Burglars know that your cat is by the window because it has nothing else to do and is waiting on you. Try putting plants or other objects on your windowsill instead. 

8. Don’t assume your small dog will offer any security.

Most seasoned robbers won’t be deterred by a small dog. In fact, there’s a good chance it will get stolen as well since they often fetch a good price.

9. Do assume a big dog is better for home security.

Simply put, the look more intimidating. A Rottweiler or pit bull can stop crooks before they even step onto your property.

10. Make sure your door and frame are made out of the same material.

If one is metal and the other is made of wood, it makes it easier for robbers to kick the door in. However, using the same material for both makes the door stronger.

11. Don’t forget to close your windows.

Sure, sounds simple, but there can be a lot of windows in a house. Some robbers will not feel comfortable with smashing one open.

12. Double-check the bathroom window.

It is often the most likely to be open because homeowners like to leave this one open in order to air out the bathroom. Robbers know this. 

13. Keep an eye on the cable guy.

Some crooks work with cable technicians and other workers that visit people’s homes to get insider information, like access codes and what kind of valuable can be found in the residence.

14. Change your access codes regularly.

If you give out an access code for your garage or back door, make sure to change it up regularly. This is especially helpful for those who have had laborers visit their home, or for Airbnb renters.

15. Install deadbolts on your doors.

The deadbolt is tougher to break or pick than other locks. This is especially true for a deadbolt that needs to be opened with a key from both sides.

16. Use a Simlock on your deadbolt.

A Simlock attaches to one side of your deadbolt, rendering it nearly un-pickable. It prevents the deadbolt knob from turning, which means even a locksmith can’t pick the lock. 

17. Reinforce your door’s strike plate.

The strike plate is the metal plate that is attached to your door jamb, which the deadbolt slides into. Check that the screws reinforcing the strike plate are 3 inches long, which will make it much sturdier.

18. Add a track lock to your patio door.

The patio door is usually easier to pick. By adding an additional foot lock, which fastens to the bottom of the door and bolts into a grommet in the door track, you can make it much more secure.

19. Make a homemade security bar for your patio door.

Simply take a length of wood, cut it down to size, and make sure it fits snugly in your patio door’s track so that it can’t slide open. This is an effective and inexpensive way to keep your door secure.

20. Install cheap, noisy door and window alarms.

Usually battery powered, these alarms simply give off a loud noise when a door or window opens and the alarm unit’s magnetic strip breaks contact with the frame. They are widely available at home stores.

21. Use curtains.

This will help hide your valuables from any crooks that may be trying to look into your residence. A robber’s job is easier If they know what’s inside.

22. Don’t forget about basement and garage windows.

You can install curtains on these too. Garages and basements are often stocked with valuables.

23. Don’t leave tools or ladders outside.

Tools can be used to break into your own home, and the ladder can make it easier to access the upper floors.

24. Talk to your neighborhood association or local representative about improving lighting on your street.

A well-lit street can scare off burglars, who prefer to work in the shadows. 

25. Consider forming a neighborhood watch.

Watchful neighbors are an excellent deterrent to robbers. And when an entire neighborhood is organized and knows what to watch out for, it can really improve the safety of the area.

26. Trim tree branches that can reach your second-story windows.

Though it’s riskier than a ladder, a tree branch can still provide a bold thief with a way into your home.

27. Keep fences and gates locked.

It can be easy to forget about these, but locking these can present another hurdle for crooks. 

28. Don’t leave a spare key in and obvious place.

Many people leave a spare key under the doormat or on the door frame. These are obvious places. Get more creative about your hiding spot.

29. Use a spare key lockbox.

Even better than a hiding spot, an exterior lock box will keep your spare key secure.

30. Better yet, leave your spare key with a neighbor.

A key lock box is tough to break into, but it’s possible.

31. Put large, reflective numbers on your mailbox and house.

This will make it easier for the police to find your house should you or a neighbor call them about a possible disturbance or robbery.

 32. Make sure your window locks are strong.

Especially on older windows, some locks can be jiggly and flimsy. 

33. Secure your car.

Preferably, you should keep your car secure inside your garage. If that’s not an option, make sure all the doors are locked and the windows are rolled up. Crooks can take valuables from your car or use the tools in your trunk.

34. Don’t keep spare keys in your wallet.

If you lose it, a robber gets the keys to your home and also the address from your personal ID.

35. Change the locks when moving into a new residence.

You never know who else has keys to your home, unless you’ve installed the locks yourself.

36. Add privacy films to exterior-door windows.

Some doors have glass that makes it easy for robbers to take a peek through. Privacy film will make windows blurry and stop robbers them from scoping out your residence.

37. Install metal bars on windows.

This may be an extreme step for some, but it adds a lot of security, especially for basement and garden-apartment windows. 

38. Install motion-sensor lights.

These can deter anyone from snooping around your residence at night, especially if you’re not home.

39. Consider installing exterior flood lights.

These are more powerful than standard bulbs and will add more lighting to the exterior of your home.

40. Have a neighbor collect your mail.

When on vacation or gone for business, a stuffed mailbox is a dead giveaway that no one is home.

41. Schedule regular lawn maintenance.

Another way crooks know you’re away on a trip is if your yard looks unkempt. A neighbor or landscaping company can keep your property looking sharp.

42. Install a safe.

This is likely the safest place to put your valuables. Safes can be installed in several ways, including by being bolted to the ground or by pouring concrete around it.

43. Install a peephole.

It’s a great way to see who is on the other side of your door. You won’t have to open your door to any strangers.

44. Consider buying a security mailbox.

With online theft more common than ever, a security mailbox is a great way to protect the checks, credit cards, and other sensitive information that arrives through the mail.

45. Use a key chain garage opener.

Thieves can get into your garage or home if they get access to the garage opener inside your car. A garage opener attached to your keys minimizes the risk.

46. Padlock your garage door.

Many garage-door locks are flimsy, so putting a padlock on the track of your garage door is a great way to beef up security from the inside. If there’s no hole on the track, you can also drill one in.

47. Install a door reinforcement kit.

–Many burglars won’t pick a lock, they’ll just simply kick the door in. A reinforcement kit adds a steel plate that wraps around your door, making sure the locks and door are sturdier. 

48. Get creative with your hiding spots.

Thieves don’t have all day to look through your house, and a creative hiding spot can save your valuables from being stolen. Try hiding them inside your vacuum cleaner, or inside an old jar or food container in your refrigerator.

49. Put timers on lights.

This is especially helpful if you’ll be getting home late or if you’re on vacation. Lights can confuse robbers, making them think someone is home.

50. Leave the radio on.

Another simple way to confuse robber when you won’t be home for a while. They might think that someone is home.

51. If you have an answering machine, don’t advertise your vacation.

If thieves somehow get your phone number, they can find out if you’re out of town or not.

52. Secure air conditioners.

In-window air conditioners can be easily taken out unless they’re bolted down. 

53. Make sure your pet door can be locked.

If you have a big enough dog, someone can slip through your pet door. Make sure you have one that can be locked when you’re not around.

54. Avoid doors with a lot of glass.

Glass doors can be broken, and so can small windows on doors. Robbers can reach through and access the doorknob.

55. Don’t advertise expensive items in your trash.

A big box for a flat screen TV is a dead giveaway that you have expensive items inside. Fold or cut up the box and then dispose of it.

56. Use home-alarm stickers.

For most robbers, it’s not worth it breaking into a home with an alarm, even if you haven’t installed one yet. (They don’t know that.)

57. Get a “Beware of Dog” sign

Even if you don’t have a dog, it can make a thief think twice about coming on your property.

58. Keep up with the Joneses.

Find out what kind of security measures your neighbors are using. You don’t want your house to be the easiest one on the block to rob.

59. Install inexpensive window break alarms.

These battery-powered gadgets are especially useful when paired with magnetic-strip alarms that sound off when windows are opened.

60. Use a door brace.

You’ll need to be home to use this one, but it’s one of the best ways to secure your door. It’s a bar that secures your doorknob against the floor, making the door difficult to kick in.

61. Get insurance.

Sometimes things happen that are out of your control. Even renters can get insurance just in case your possessions get stolen. 

62. Consider installing multiple locks.

A door with three locks looks more intimidating than one with a single lock. It takes longer to pick and it’s harder to kick in.

63. Don’t skimp on door locks.

The difference between a cheap lock and a quality one can be just a few bucks, but it can save you a ton of money in the long run.

64. Have a friend try to “break” into your home.

They can often spot a weak spot that homeowners can’t.

65. Secure your home even if you’re not leaving for long.

A trip to the grocery store can leave plenty of time for a seasoned thief to break into your home.

66. Check if your local police department offers inspections.

Some local departments are more than happy to look over your property. As an added bonus, you’ll meet the local police. 

67. Consider upgrading your doors.

Steel doors and door frames are stronger than wood.

68. Pay attention to local police alerts.

If there have been recent break-ins in the neighborhood, you should be on high alert and keep your eyes open.

69. Use a paper shredder.

Sensitive information that you throw out in your garbage can be more valuable than anything you have in your home. Shred all important mail and documents before throwing them out.

70. Don’t leave your portable GPS unit in your car.

Many GPS units are programmed to show where home is. If your car ever gets stolen at the airport or hotel parking lot, it can show the robber exactly where your unattended house is.

71. Hire a house sitter.

It’s fairly obvious but very effective. When you’re away, a house sitter can take out your trash, collect your mail, and make sure the house looks lived-in.

72. Make sure you have lights all around your house.

Flood lights and motion-sensor lights are great, but if you leave one side of the house unlit, burglars will just stick to that side.

73. Make sure your outdoor shed is secure.

Just like a garage, a shed can have many tools that aid in break-ins. Even if the shed is locked, make sure it’s structurally strong enough so it can’t easily be accessed.

74. Destroy old computers before throwing them out.

Hard drives can store a treasure trove of information. A common way to destroy hard drives is to use a power drill.

75. Never leave notes on your door.

Even if you’re away on vacation, notes to neighbors or the mailman can signal that you’re away.

76. Make sure everyone in your household is educated on home security.

If you always lock the doors, but your roommate or family don’t, then your residence won’t be very secure.

77. Consider installing a safety door.

Like a beefed-up screen door, a safety door protects your front door from the outside. It’s made of sturdy materials and adds a lot of security.

78. Have your security improvements installed by a professional.

Strong locks and doors are a great idea, but if they’re installed improperly, they may prove to be ineffective. 

79. Consider purchasing a smart doorbell.

Because it’s connected to the Internet, it can send an alert and even an image of the person ringing to your smartphone.

80. Don’t forget about the linking door.

This is the door that connects your garage to your home. Even if burglars get in your garage, if the linking door is sturdy, they may just leave.

81. Secure your Wi-Fi network.

As cyber criminals become more common, your sensitive information becomes more likely to get stolen through the Internet.

82. Install a professional home-security system.

It’ll cost a pretty penny, but it’s one of the best ways to secure your home and belongings.

83. Keep a record of your valuables.

If you have insurance, and you do get burglarized, it’ll help replace your belongings. Store it in a secure location, like a safe.

84. Install a surveillance system.

This option is on the pricier side, but it can definitely give piece of mind. Additionally, modern systems are Internet connected, allowing you to check cameras from your phone while you’re away. 

85. Get fake cameras.

Can’t afford an entire surveillance system? Fake cameras are relatively cheap and look just like the real thing.

86. Turn your phone ringer down.

When you’re not home, and the burglar somehow has gotten a hold of your phone number, they can dial it while outside your door. If it keeps ringing off the hook, they know no one’s inside.

87. Make sure your door hinges are tamper resistant if they are located outside.

Some older doors have their hinges outside the home, rather than inside. Tamper resistant hinges require special tools to disassemble that most thieves will not carry.

88. Consider installing fence spikes.

This one is a bit extreme, but especially if you’re living in an urban area, you can install spike strips on top of your fence.

89. Install a letter cage.

Have a letter slot in your door? Some burglars like to use a long stick or similar device to fish your nearby keys off a table and through the letter slit. A cage on the inside of your door not only collects mail but prevents this.

90. Avoid stashing valuables in your bedroom.

It’s the most common place that burglars look for cash and jewelry.

91. Consider stashing some valuables in your attic.

While not it’s not as safe as a safe, hiding valuables in the attic is much safer than a bedroom. Generally, burglars don’t want to go into the attic because if someone comes home, they’d be trapped.

92. Store extra suitcases and bags in the attic.

Burglars often use these to haul away your belongings. If you leave them up in the loft, they may end up taking fewer items.

93. Always shut your front gate.

This won’t stop every burglar, but it is a psychological barrier. Burglars look for low-hanging fruit and prefer a property with an open gate.

94. Don’t assume lightning only strikes once.

If your home has been broken into, then someone knows its weak points and may do it again. Prepare for the worst.

95. Invest in motion-sensor security devices.

Don’t have pets? Devices such as the Nest Cam will track any motion inside your home and alert your phone if anything happens, complete with photos.

96. Make sure you have working smoke alarms.

Not all threats to your home come from the outside. Fires and electrical problems can happen when you least expect them.

97. Add a carbon monoxide detector.

Carbon monoxide is a silent killer and can occur without smoke.

98. Use surge protectors.

They protect your valuable appliances and decrease the chances of an electrical fire. 

99. Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher.

Or two. Fires are usually unexpected and you have to react fast to put them out.

100. Use a fireplace screen.

Have a fireplace? A fireplace screen can keep popping wood bits from shooting out of the fireplace, and kids’ hands away from the fire.

101. Consider installing a fire-sprinkler system.

Though expensive, it’s a very effective way to fight fires at home.

Guide for Identity Theft Protection

Identity Theft and the American Citizen

We live in an age where technology runs the show and our data is constantly being programmed into various sites for purchases, social media, blogs, and so on. This personal – and sensitive – information is stored “safely” in sites and servers with the assumption that each is secure – but in reality, there are many out there who have access to it.

According to the Bureau of Justice in 2014, “About 7% of persons age 16 or older were victims of identity theft.” At the time, the population was approximately 318.9 million, meaning that roughly 22.323 million were suffered from identity theft. While not as common as other crimes, it’s still pretty prevalent and it can (and has) wreak havoc in anyone’s life.

Identity theft can be a huge inconvenience, and even temporarily ruin the life of the affected due to a lack of cash, credit, and government information. Fortunately, there are several ways to help fight the theft should it occur, but the best protection is solid prevention.

This guide was designed to help others avoid identity theft: what to look for, how to prevent it, and what to do if it happens to you.

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is fairly straightforward and self-explanatory: it occurs when one’s private and personal information, like their name, social security number and credit card numbers, are stolen and used by someone else. The Federal Bureau of Justice defines it as, “The unauthorized use or attempted use of existing accounts, or the unauthorized use or attempted use of personal information, to open a new account or for other fraudulent purposes.” It can very quickly and easily destroy one’s credit score, therefore, destroying opportunities for healthcare, insurance, and even obtaining utilities like gas and electric. There are several different kinds of identity theft, including:

  • Medical ID theft
  • Child ID theft
  • Social ID theft
  • Senior ID theft
  • Tax ID theft

Identity theft is a serious crime but often goes unpunished as it can be very difficult to pinpoint the location and identity of the person using the alternate, stolen identity. Because regaining a stolen identity is extremely tedious, the best defense is a good offense.

Keeping Personal Information Secure

The first and most important step in avoiding identity theft is making sure sensitive information is protected. This includes monitoring all personal accounts, even (and especially) social media. Knowing exactly what information is posted both publicly and included in bank statements can make or break your data safety. There are several actions that should be taken to prevent identity theft:

Avoid Posting Personal Information

 Social media may seem like a welcome escape from the real world, a place where your drab work environment fades away – at least momentarily. But identity thieves are constantly scanning for profiles that share plethoras of personal information, as many password security questions include information like a favorite pet’s first name or Mother’s maiden name. To reduce the possibility of identity theft, avoid posting anything that could be used to gain access to personal and sensitive information regarding credit.

Regular Credit Report Check

Monitoring your credit score will make any abnormalities obvious, which can then be reported to authorities and properly disputed as fraudulent. Each of these three major credit agencies will provide one free credit report annually, and – if staggered – offers a look into possible credit disruptions every four months.

Account Monitoring

Online access to bank accounts is imperative to catching identity theft and nipping it in the bud. Checking your bank accounts regularly, even daily, is the absolute best way to catch identity theft before it becomes consuming.

Personal Document Review

Thoroughly reviewing personal documents (credit reports and tax files) and keeping them in a secure place like a safe or locking filing cabinet ensures that you understand exactly what each document contains while also preventing them from possible theft or manipulation. This makes it extremely difficult for identity thieves to forge or change paperwork.

Avoid Carrying Sensitive Information

This key point is commonly ignored or forgotten, which only reinforces why it is so important to adhere to. Carrying personal information like a social security card is dangerous for identity theft. If a wallet with something like a social security card is stolen – stealing an identity becomes extremely easy. It’s also important to be aware of “shoulder surfers” – those who hover while you’re using an ATM or relay eavesdropped credit card information when you’re on a phone call.

Do Not Fall for Email Scams

Emails that are automatically sent to spam may contain seemingly- legitimate offers or services, and might even appear to be from your bank. However, legit banks and businesses know that it’s of absolute importance that credit card information is never sent out or requested via email. Many online shops steal information via email so be sure to research the validity before entering sensitive information.

Red Flags and How to Spot Them

Fortunately, there are many ways to discern whether or not identity theft is taking place.

  • One of the most obvious warnings is money disappearing from an account without explanation. Unfortunately, the explanation is almost always identity theft.
  • Another warning sign is never receiving bills. Identity thieves will often change the address on bank accounts and the like so that bills aren’t received by their rightful owner. This makes it possible for the thief to continue stealing for a longer period of time, as there are no physical records to look over. Because of this bill diversion, it’s extremely important that accounts be regularly checked to ensure theft is not taking place.
  • Insurance or healthcare refusing to provide treatment due to the balance, or because of a medical condition not previously documented is usually a telltale sign of someone using stolen insurance coverage.
  • In some cases, the IRS may send a notification that multiple tax returns have been filed under a single name. This means that an identity thief has gathered enough information to create an entirely different life from you, and this can be very difficult to resolve.

What To Do With a Case of Stolen Identity

Assuming that the proper authorities were notified upon the first occurrence, identity theft should be taken care of quickly and with very little fuss. Unfortunately, cases like this are rare, with the majority of identity theft situations going unnoticed for months and even years. The best actions taken in the event of identity theft are, according to the United States Department of Justice:

  1. Call the companies in which fraud has occurred.
  2. Place a fraud alert.
  3. Report the identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  4. File a report at a local police station.

After the identity theft has been filed with the FTC, the United States Government recommends printing the affidavit and bringing it to the police station, as the affidavit and theft report will be highly valued in a federal case.

After all possible steps have been taken to regain identity, there’s little else to do but wait and fill out the remaining paperwork necessary for confirming the true identity. Regrettably, identity thieves are not always caught, and while both credit and identity may be restored to an individual through the federal process, the criminal will often move on to their next victim.

Returning to life per usual after identity theft can be difficult, as federal disputes and actually charging the criminal can be a tedious and extraordinarily time-consuming process. While identity theft can be stopped before it starts via careful monitoring and proper precaution, there are millions of cases every year of severe identity theft, and the hardship it causes those affected. Because the impact of identity theft can be so significant, it’s important that all measures are taken to protect an identity before it is stolen.

Identity Theft Statistics

  • According to the Insurance Information Institute: $16 billion was stolen from 15.4 million U.S. consumers in 2016, compared with $15.3 billion and 13.1 million victims a year earlier.
  • In the past six years, identity thieves have stolen over $107 billion.
  • Of the types of identity theft committed, 49.2% is made of government documents and benefits fraud, while only 15.8% is contributed through credit cards.

This increase in both identity theft and amount stolen through identity theft indicates a need for better security, in addition to greater awareness of the information being put into society through the internet and word of mouth.

  • According to the Identity Theft Resource Center ITRC’s 2015 Breach Report, there were more than 165 million SSN’s exposed, more than 10 times the number compromised in 2014.

This rise is astounding, but should only be intimidating to those that do not have secure backup plans and understand the process of identity theft. The absolute best way to stay protected, even through SSN using leading to identity theft, is to maintain knowledge of how to react and what actions are best for each specific identity theft situation.

Further Reading

  • Click here for more general information on identity theft.
  • Click here for more information on identity theft warning signs. 
  • Click here for more information on identity theft statistics.
  • Click here for more information on what to do in the case of identity theft.

Guide to Senior Safety at Home

This resource guide will review the steps that can be taken to create a safe living area for seniors, discuss how technology can assist, and how to gauge the warning signs that indicate an entirely different approach may be necessary. It concludes with a list of resources for additional information on senior safety.

Senior Population on the Rise

• The world’s senior population is projected to double from the current total of 617 million to more than 1.5 billion by the year 2050.
• The United States’ senior population is expected to rise from 48 million to 88 million.
• By the year 2050 life expectancy will increase by approximately eight years, reaching the age of 76.2.
• Also by 2050, the “super old” (those aged 80 and above) will triple from 126.5 million to 446.6 million.

What these statistics indicate is that a larger percentage of the total global population is rapidly becoming dominated by senior citizens. Unfortunately, as many people reach this stage of their lives, their mental faculties can decline, making home life much more hazardous and likely to result in injury or other types of unpleasant occurrences.

This presents a challenge to loved ones living with or who have seniors alone at home. Doing everything necessary to create a safer environment for their relative is of greater importance than before. Although no living environment can be made 100% injury-proof, there are many preventive measures that can be implemented to help keep seniors safe. However, the demands of senior safety – coupled with other factors and variables – force many loved ones to confront the possibility of having to place their relative in an assisted living environment for their own benefit.

Potential Hazards at Home

Things which were once easy to use and situations which were once easy to manage can become challenges (and even hazards) to a lot of seniors. Seniors who have lost a few degrees of mobility and flexibility cannot cope as well with objects that clutter up walkways and traffic areas. Getting out of bed in the morning can be a physical challenge, taking a shower or bath carries the risk of slippage, and loose cutlery on a countertop presents a potential injury. In fact, a lot of seniors lose balance while simply standing and suffer falls on the spot.

When mental impairment is more of an issue, a senior might become easily confused or disoriented which results in wandering off. When surroundings which were once well known and comforting become jumbled in the mind, confusing, and uninterpretable, almost any dreaded scenario could ensue.

Steps for Establishing Home Safety

For the aforementioned reasons, many relatives go to great lengths to try and make the home a safer place for their seniors in an effort to reduce or eliminate hazards to whatever extent possible.

Consider Fall-Proofing the Home

Provide rails and grab bars in the rooms they frequently use. Then make your best effort to remove clutter, secure loose rugs, install non-slip mats, and so on. Unfortunately, no home can be rendered absolutely fall-proof because it’s difficult to identify every single hazard – and some which are known can’t immediately be addressed because of cost or other obstacles. In the event that your relative does undergo a fall at home, medic alert devices (mentioned below) are a wonderful support to have because of their qualified health professionals who effectively monitor these situations.

Well-Lit Hallways and Rooms

Having well-lit hallways and rooms is also a good preventive measure, as are night lights for seniors who are active later in the day. Many seniors are subject to worsening vision and cannot see things as clearly as they once did.

Smoke Detectors and Fire Extinguishers

Smoke detectors and fire extinguishers are essential for avoiding fires and controlling them if they do break out. Smoke detectors should be tested periodically to ensure that they are still in good working order and able to alert a senior (or any) resident to the danger of an impending fire outbreak.

Avoid Spills and Burns

To avoid spills and burns, pot handles should not be left pointing outward on stoves. If possible, stoves should be avoided altogether for seniors. Microwave ovens are a safer option if the senior is still involved in meal preparation as they don’t generate heat like an oven – removing burns as a potential hazard.

Medication

Most seniors take medication, with several taking multiple doses a day. It’s important that there is a clear system for marking and dispensing medications so that a senior does not become confused about whether certain drugs have already been taken or on which days they need to be taken. A compartmentalized pill box can help with easy identification, but an automatic medication dispenser is even better, eliminating many potential medication mistakes.

Senior Home Safety Products

An entire industry has sprung up around the production of home safety products aimed towards senior citizens at home. Many of these have been developed in response to a demonstrated need and most of them are at least somewhat effective in curtailing the dangers that might occur and jeopardize the safety of home-bound elderly persons.

Locks

Cabinet locks, door guardians, and refrigerator locks can prevent access to storage areas or exits from the house to discourage wandering or exploring which might end badly.

Shower Seats and Rails

Shower seats and shower rails make it much easier and safer for a senior to take a shower or bath without falling, and non-slip mats placed in the tub contribute to staying balanced.

Anti-Scalding Devices

Anti-scalding devices can also be used to ensure that an inappropriate level of hot water does not injure the bathing elderly person.

Wall-Mounted Speakers

In the event that any kind of emergency develops in a given room where a senior is alone, wall-mounted speakers provide effective communication with others in the home and alert someone that a potentially dangerous situation has occurred.

Home Security Systems

Not to be overlooked in the parade of situational devices, a good home security system can be of critical value in establishing a safe environment. Especially in cases where a senior must be left alone for any period of time, these systems can be invaluable in discouraging or preventing entry (or even wandering). Would-be burglars aware that seniors are home alone and tempted to target them could thus be effectively kept from carrying out malicious intentions.

GPS Watches

Modern technology can help in a great way with home safety for seniors who might be bothered by bouts of disorientation and given to wandering. GPS watches can quickly locate a senior who may have left the premises and gone down the street somewhere. It is not uncommon to find disoriented seniors wandering the streets, many blocks from home.

Medic Alert Systems

As mentioned earlier, medic alert systems are one of the most popular methods of monitoring senior safety at home and ensuring that a senior is not left alone in the event of some kind of health crisis or accident which may have occurred. These systems are generally monitored by emergency medical technicians or certified operators, who understand medical conditions, and are prepared to initiate a fast response so that a crisis can be averted.

Usually a medic alert system will include a feature which allows for two-way communication, so the situation can be explained and understood, and some have a broad range of effectiveness which covers both the home and the yard, for cases where an event happens outside. Many also have GPS cellular capability, which pinpoints the position of the wearer, and some even have a fall detection feature which is activated automatically – potentially when a senior might lose consciousness or become otherwise unresponsive.

Typically, medic alert systems are used in situations when a senior spends large periods of time alone, and the devices act as a proxy for human care, which might not always be available for the senior. In other circumstances, that human care can be provided by either a loved one whom the senior resides with, by a professional live-in medical professional, or by a non-medical caretaker.

In-Home Care from Relatives

Approximately $150 billion per year is spent on home care and nursing services to provide adequate care for the elderly. While this may seem like an impressive statistic, it pales in comparison to the estimated $375 billion per year which is the value of services provided by family caregivers for free when caring for elderly relatives.

More than 29% of the entire U.S. population, or about 65 million people currently provide home care for an elderly relative and must commit at least 20 hours per week in that effort. These statistics were prepared by the National Alliance for Caregiving in conjunction with AARP just a few years ago, and it is estimated that even these fall well short of what up-to-the-minute statistics would reveal.

In any case, it should be apparent that the number of seniors requiring home caregiving is staggering, that the cost is even more overwhelming, and that the need for caregiving affects a very large percentage of American households. In-home care is by far the most preferred scenario for the administration of health care and safety among the elderly, with more than 90% of all seniors favoring the familiar and comfortable surroundings of home.

In-Home Care from Caregivers

There are, however, wide variations in the types of in-home care for seniors and these often depend on the physical and mental status of the senior. For instance, a physically disabled senior might need a physical therapist or a home health nurse on hand to satisfy personal needs. By contrast, a senior with some form of dementia might need the assistance of a non-medical professional for personal care, for home-making assistance, and for companionship.

Deciding When to Place a Senior in a Home

This can be an agonizing decision for any relative to make about their senior loved one, especially since it will almost always run counter to the senior’s own wishes. There are warning signs, however, which are good indicators that the time has come for some form of assisted living and that the elderly person would be safer in a more formalized, structured environment.

Wandering

Quite often in the later stages of dementia, seniors begin to wander more frequently, because they have become increasingly disoriented and confused about their home surroundings, and nothing seems recognizable to them anymore. This can happen just in the time it takes you to go to the kitchen for a drink of water, and as such, it represents a grave risk to the senior. At this point, constant monitoring may become necessary.

Home Safety Deficiencies

It may also be that the level of home safety needed by a disabled senior has outstripped what you are able to provide, and a safer environment would be more beneficial for them. In some cases, the cost of installing the many safety devices needed, or of making a residence completely accident-proof, simply exceeds the means of loved ones.

Increasing Aggression

At a certain stage of dementia, some seniors begin to demonstrate more overtly aggressive behavior, often threatening caregivers physically, emotionally, and possibly even in a sexual manner. This in turn, can give rise to resentment on the part of the caregiver, creating a mood of tension between them, and even downright hostility.

Sundowner Syndrome

One particular condition known as “Sundowner Syndrome” affects many elderly people with Alzheimer’s, and in this scenario, the senior often exhibits very agitated behavior that is typically triggered during the later hours of the day. This has been known to severely impact family life, and to place an undue burden on many caregivers and family members, so that the living experience for all concerned is degraded and made less safe or healthful.

Escalating Care Requirements

When it becomes clear that the degree of care needed by an elderly person exceeds your ability or a caregiver’s ability to supply that care, this may be another trigger point for considering assisted living. For instance, in situations where a senior has reached the later stages of dementia, constant care and monitoring may be necessary, and this is not often possible for loved ones to provide.

Crimes Against Seniors

Telemarketing and Phone Scams

Declining mental acuity, in some cases accompanied by the onset of dementia, makes many seniors inviting targets for the criminal-minded, who seek to exploit them for personal gain. Such predators have devised numerous telephone scams and other methods to deprive seniors of important personal information, which can then be used to access accounts and steal from them. These criminals prey on the fact that some seniors are easily confused and can be deprived of assets with relative ease.

Physical Abuse

Apart from such external criminal attempts, crimes against seniors are also committed by caretakers, who take advantage of their sometimes feeble physical abilities and/or declining mental faculties. It is not uncommon to find that some seniors have been physically abused and have become uncommunicative and unwilling to discuss certain topics. They might have undergone a decline in personal hygiene or have withdrawn from normal daily activities. All of these may be manifestations of elderly abuse, either by caretakers or disaffected relatives. Anyone observing these signs among the elderly should notify local Adult Protective Services or law enforcement agencies about the observed signs. It’s not necessary to have proof of abuse for such notification, but where abuse is suspected, it should always be investigated by the proper authorities.

Further Reading

There’s a wealth of material available online which can supplement the information included in this reference guide. If you require information which was not already discussed in the body of this overview, it may be available from one of the sources identified below.

Security Systems: Simplified

According to the FBI, between 2009 and 2010, property crimes such as burglary have dropped by over 2%. While this doesn’t sound like a significant drop, the trend has continued, making property crimes relatively less frequent than violent crimes in America. While this data is encouraging, it’s still highly important that every house is fully equipped with the best defense against home and property crime: a home security system.

The Importance of Home Security

Home security systems help defend against the possibility of outside intrusion. There are a variety of systems available, meaning that every home has the capability to be fit with the perfect system to best defend it. There are also plenty of reasons to utilize a home security system, and the bottom line is that a home security system should be implemented to protect not only the building, but more importantly the people, pets, and possessions within. Home security systems, especially those used in homes, can be tricky to understand and implement.

This guide was created to convey exactly how important a home security system can be, the best type for specific areas, and other additional information needed to effectively choose the correct system based on personal and situational needs. A stark contrast from similar home security articles, this was tailored specifically for the needs of homeowners and provides information on home safety in addition to why a home should be secured.

History of Home Security

The first home security system was created in 1966 by Marie Van Brittan Brown and her husband, who lived in Jamaica, Queens and were tired of feeling vulnerable in the crime-riddled neighborhood. To combat their fear, they combined their efforts and created the first closed-circuit television security system. Of course, their idea and invention took off, and for good reason. Today, most countries benefit from a plethora of home security systems now available on the market.

Types of Systems

Because each home and resident has different needs based on their individual property, many home security systems have been developed:

Wireless Surveillance

The most commonly used visual system is a type of wireless camera that connects to a smartphone or computer, making viewing all angles of a home significantly more efficient and accessible vs. a classic television monitoring set. Television monitoring sets are, however, greatly utilized in more industrial aspects of security. Wireless surveillance cameras come in many different shapes and sizes, and the recommended amount to have installed in one area is four. Each camera must be connected to both the receiver (phone, laptop, television) and some sort of power (generally batteries).

Window Alarm Sensors

These are installed and send an alert to both your personal system and the police that there’s suspicious – possibly criminal – activity taking place. There are several different models of window (and door) alarms and they can be both wired and wireless. While there are many different kinds, the most commonly used (with the best results) include but are not limited to vented window sensors, surface contact sensors, and garage door contact sensors.

Doorbell Camera

Often implemented for security, a doorbell camera – depending on the model – will either send video footage or a picture of whoever rang the doorbell to your preferred system.

Motion Sensor

These sensors are also widely used, in which the motion of something large enough will trigger an alarm and alert system. There are two types of motion sensors – passive and active, of which passive is far more common in home security situations.

Active: Active motion sensors operate by sending and reflecting ultrasonic wavelengths in a pattern throughout an area. If the pattern is disturbed by something significant, like a person, the motion sensor can be set to sound an alarm, send an alert, or both.

Passive: Passive motion sensors, commonly used within residential areas, can be purchased and utilized in two different ways:

Infrared: Infrared motion detectors read heat given off by humans, animals, and even appliances. These systems, when a sudden rise of heat is detected (like that emitted from a human) will sound an alarm. Fortunately, this alarm ignores minor heat fluctuations, like the subtle rise of household temperature due to the sun setting and rising.

Photo Sensor: Photo sensor motion detectors utilize light beams or lasers to map an area. If the light pattern is disrupted, the system will detect it and sound an immediate alarm. Of course, these are the most common and effective systems, but there are also systems considered unusual and even strange. One such system emits light that mimics that of a television, making the house appear occupied and therefore less likely to be invaded.

Installation

Because every home and the needs of the homeowner are different, there are many different versions of each system, and these can usually be installed by a professional, or if preferred, independently. Certain systems can be installed in various places throughout a home. The most important places to secure are doors and windows, ensuring both the locks and seals are reliable. Then, cameras or motion sensors should be implemented in other key places that allow for the best visibility or detection range so the home is as secure as possible and visually accessible to the owner through whichever device is chosen.

Home Security System Costs

Home security systems can cost anywhere from $20 to $2,000 but are usually a couple hundred dollars. Home security systems protect a home and its residents, therefore, should not be turned down due to price. Taking into consideration production costs, shipping, installation, and the actual quality of the product, it’s fairly clear that home security systems should not be cheap. Investing in a system that will function properly and last several years is far more important than a short-term financial hesitation, as nothing is more important than keeping the home and family safe. However, something is better than nothing, and those looking for a less expensive solution can choose from a variety of affordable security systems that last and function properly for a considerable amount of time before failing.

Why Home Security Should Be a Top Priority

Every year, homes and privacy are invaded by outsiders, and while oftentimes the police are able to intervene, much of the time there is nothing to stop intruders. Fortunately, home security systems are a near-foolproof way to keep both a home and those inside of it safe, and should, therefore, be implemented as soon as possible. Unfortunately, many people, especially those from an earlier generation that believe in the power of settling things personally, suffer due to not having a security system installed.

One such unfortunate soul was Thomas Harty of Orange, Massachusetts and his wife, Joanna Fisher. Both were killed in October 2016 due to a home invasion and lack of alarms. Northwestern District Attorney David Sullivan reiterated Fisher’s story while she was suffering in the hospital, explaining that she and her husband were “watching television when a pair of suspects invaded their home, launched a savage attack and fled with credit cards, cash, and the couple’s 2003 Toyota station wagon.” While this story is heartbreaking, it’s hardly uncommon, and further illustrates the absolute need for home security.

Home Security Statistics

While property crime occurs significantly less often when compared to violent crime for the majority of America, it is still imperative that homeowners take the time to properly secure their homes and property for the safety of both themselves and their family members and their home. Crime is best kept at a potential, and in securing a home, the potential for crime decreases considerably. To better understand why it’s so important that a home is secured:

  • An estimated 3.7 million household burglaries occurred each year on average from 2003 to 2007, according to the United States Department of Justice.
  • Simple assault (15%) was the most common form of violence when a resident was home and violence occurred.
  • Robbery (7%) and rape (3%) were less likely to occur when a household member was present and violence occurred.

The decreased percentages in both rape and robbery are highly encouraging but not enough to believe that homes and families are safe from outside attacks.

  • The FBI national data states that in 2010, a property crime happened every 3.5 seconds.
  • A burglary occurred every 14.6 seconds.

These numbers indicate a huge amount of crime taking place within only a minute, meaning every home is a potential target.

Strangers make up only a fraction of those that commit burglaries; a sign that home security is needed more than ever. Because knowing a person does not always mean they can be trusted, especially when it comes to home security.

When It’s Time to Buy a Medical Alert System

Say you have an aging loved one who needs additional help getting around the house but isn’t necessarily ready to make the move to an assisted living facility. This might be a grandparent or even a parent. They’re still able to get around on their own and live independently to a degree, but maybe they’ve fallen once or twice, and you’re concerned about their safety when they’re alone.

Understanding Medical Alert Systems

Medical alert systems provide that protection and peace of mind for both you and them. However, there are quite a few things to know before making your purchase. You’ll discover several different system types on the market – and they’re not all created equal. This guide breaks down your options to help you better understand what’s available on the market and how these systems work so you’re enabled to make an informed choice as to how you’ll protect your loved one.

Uses and Statistics

Medical alert systems are designed to provide additional safety for aging or infirm individuals living alone. They’re used by seniors, as well as by those with physical and/or mental health conditions that are not severe enough to warrant a supervised living arrangement, but there is still cause for concern over individual safety.

According to the National Council on Aging, up to one-fourth of Americans aged 65 and older will fall at least once per year. This equates to one senior being treated in an emergency room for a slip or fall-related accident every 11 seconds. A senior will die from a slip or fall every 19 minutes, and falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and non-fatal trauma in American seniors. Obviously, there is a significant need for improved safety, and medical alert systems provide exactly that.

A Brief History

While you’re no doubt familiar with the concept of medical alert systems, chances are that you don’t know the specifics about them or how they’ve evolved over time. Today’s systems are very different from those of yesteryear and offer advanced functionality and features. The first medical alert systems actually debuted back in the 1970s as very simple devices. A person wore a pendant with a push-button around their neck, and in an emergency, they pushed the button to summon help. The pendant communicated with a base station tied into the home’s phone line and would send a signal to the monitoring company in an emergency. Many of the systems available today retain this style, but other options have also emerged.

System Types and Features

While medical alert systems were once very basic, today’s systems offer more advanced features. There are several different types on the market, as well as additional equipment that can be used to expand the protection offered by some systems. All systems include at least one remote device designed as a pendant to be worn around the neck or as a bracelet on the wrist. Some systems offer a remote device that can be attached to a belt, as well. All systems use a base. This is attached to the home’s landline and is responsible for connecting the senior to emergency help when the button on the pendant or bracelet is pushed. 

In most systems, the base allows two-way voice communication between the fallen senior and the monitoring company. They should be tied into the home’s power system and use batteries in case of a power outage. The base should also send an automatic alert if the user is unable to speak. In addition to the ability to summon basic help via the push-button, other features available include the following:

Cellular Connectivity

This is useful for ensuring protection if the landline is down. This also allows the system to be used outside the home. For instance, it could be used when the senior is shopping or traveling. Note that cellular connectivity does require an additional charge.

GPS

This ties into a GPS chip in the pendant/bracelet, or a user’s smartphone and allows monitoring outside the home. GPS technology is also very helpful in monitoring the activities of individuals with mental health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Automatic Fall Detection

This feature is less common than others but provides an automatic notification to the monitoring company if the user falls and is unable to push the emergency help button. The monitoring company can verify the emergency with the individual, or in the case of no response, can automatically send help.

Range

This refers to the distance a user can travel from the base station and still be able to summon help with the push button on their bracelet or pendant. The minimum range is around 300 feet, but some systems can offer a range of up to 500 or 600 feet.

Mobile 911 Phone

Some systems provide a mobile 911 phone for an additional charge that will automatically call 911 in an emergency situation if the user is outside of the covered area or is traveling.

Smartphone Enabled

Some systems tie in with a user’s smartphone, allowing GPS tracking, fall detection, and 911 calling. In addition to the features above, some medical alert systems can be tied into sensors around the home which provide greater safety and protection for your loved one. For instance, some can be connected to carbon monoxide sensors or smoke detectors. Base stations can also detect temperature extremes (without a smoke detector) and send a notification to the monitoring company.

When Should You Consider a Medical Alert System?

Most medical alert systems are purchased for aging single parents or grandparents who live alone and are at risk for falling. However, some systems are purchased for aging married couples, as well as individuals with poor eyesight, or those with mental health conditions like Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Really, these systems can benefit anyone who needs additional protection and fears that help will not be available in the case of an accident. A medical alert system may be a smart purchase for anyone who:

  • Has fallen and may fall again, particularly if there is no help nearby.
  • Is forgetful or has a dementia-related mental health condition.
  • Lives alone and needs additional protection in the case of an accident.
  • Is recovering from surgery at home and needs additional monitoring.
  • Takes medications that cause dizziness.
  • Has a disease like epilepsy or even diabetes and would benefit from additional protection.

Purchasing a Medical Alert System

You’ll find that purchasing a medical alert system might be easier said than done. Some can be found in brick-and-mortar stores, including drugstores. However, others are only available from the manufacturer and must be purchased online or by phone. Below, you’ll find website links to some of the most popular systems on the market:

Cost, Effectiveness, and Installation

The purchase of any medical alert system is dependent on several different factors. Obviously, the cost will be a significant concern, but you also need to consider the effectiveness of the specific system in question, as well as the need for installation. Cost is one of the most difficult criteria to pin down when it comes to medical alert systems, simply because it varies significantly from one system to another. There are also additional factors involved, such as whether or not the company charges a device fee or only a monthly service fee. Additional features and advanced functionality like automatic fall detection and GPS will also drive the price up.

For those on a limited budget, it might be best to consider a system that does not require a monthly fee. In this instance, the device itself might cost $300 or $400, but it’s a one-time charge. However, note that these types of systems do not come with monitoring. They are usually designed to be programmed to call one or more phone numbers when the user presses the emergency help button.

For 24-hour monitoring, you’ll pay a monthly fee. This can range from as low as $29 per month to $35 or even $40 depending on the company in question. You may also have to pay an additional monitoring fee for non-landline monitoring. For instance, Life Alert charges $50 per month for landline monitoring, but that cost rises to $60 per month if you want cellular connectivity. If you want GPS mobile functionality, the monthly monitoring fee rises to $70.

It’s also important to note that some companies only charge a monthly fee, while others will charge a device fee, as well as the monthly monitoring fee. For example, Life Alert only assesses a monthly monitoring fee. LifeStation, on the other hand, charges a monthly monitoring fee plus a device fee. However, that monthly monitoring fee is lower than Life Alert. Finally, you should understand that some companies charge additional fees, including the following:

Activation Fee

This is generally a smaller fee, but must be paid prior to the system being turned on. Many companies don’t charge an activation fee, but some do, including Life Alert and Phillips Lifeline.

Cancellation Fee

Some companies charge a fee if you decide to cancel the monitoring plan. For instance, Rescue Alert charges up to $25 depending on the plan you choose. Other companies charge you the cost of the remainder of your contract (Life Alert, for instance).

Contracts

Most companies require that you sign a contract when you purchase the system. Some are as short as 90 days, but others are as long as 36 months. Life Alert’s contract is a minimum of 36 months and is only voided if the user dies or enters an assisted living facility. LifeStation requires a 30-day minimum contract, and Medical Alert requires a 90-day minimum contract.

Effectiveness

The effectiveness of a particular medical alert system comes down to several different factors. One of those is the range of the base unit. Obviously, a system with a range of only 300 feet will be less effective than one with a range of 600 feet. However, if the user doesn’t usually go very far from the base station, that might not be a concern.

Another consideration here is user error. The single most common reason for medical alert systems to fail in providing protection is the user not wearing the pendant or bracelet. Obviously, if the pendant is on a nightstand while the user is in the shower, it cannot provide protection. Likewise, if the power goes out and the user hasn’t changed the batteries in the base station, then the system will not operate.  

Installation

Installing most systems is very simple. It requires nothing more than finding a central location in the home for the base station and then connecting it to the landline and the power (and installing batteries in case of a power outage). Most systems come with the pendant or bracelet preprogrammed to communicate with the base station, as well. However, if you purchase a system with additional peripherals, such as smoke detectors or carbon monoxide sensors, additional steps will be required. In some instances, you might require professional installation.

Further Reading

Medical alert systems can be highly beneficial, providing vital protection for seniors living on their own, and others who might be at risk for injury in an accident around the home. However, there is a great deal to know about these systems prior to making a purchase decision. You can find further information about important features and functionality, use case scenarios and more at the following sources:

A Buyer’s Guide to Home Security Cameras

The home security camera market is teeming with all kinds of options and features, which makes the process of choosing the right one a bit overwhelming. This buyer’s guide will help make the research and purchase process much easier by cutting through the manufacturer jargon and providing relevant information for the everyday consumer – regardless of technical background. Readers of this guide should feel more equipped and confident when choosing a home security camera.

A Brief History

The first home security video system was created by Marie Van Brittan Brown in 1969. She patented a system of cameras which could look through one of four peepholes and then transmit the video to a remote monitor.

As advances in technology provided smaller cameras with higher resolution, the “Nanny Cam” was introduced in 1992. It allowed parents to discreetly monitor their children and child care staff.

IP cameras (or internet protocol cameras) debuted in 1996. Instead of transmitting images to a monitor, IP cameras sent their videos to computer networks and the internet.

 .                       

What Home Security Cameras Do

The primary function of a home security camera is to capture video of what’s happening in its field of view to be watched in real-time or later. In recent years, technology has made it so security footage can be monitored online. These cameras can be placed within the interior and/or the exterior of a home. Home security cameras act as a second pair of eyes when the homeowner or other family members aren’t home. Whether it’s to check on the babysitter, children, a pet, or the overall safety of the house, they give peace of mind and assurance that a residence is safe.

Security Cameras and Surveillance (CTTV) Cameras

Security cameras and surveillance cameras may be used interchangeably, but there are significant differences between the two. Security cameras actively monitor a home (usually through motion detection) and then send alerts via text/email to the homeowner and/or law enforcement about suspicious or unexpected events. Surveillance cameras or closed-caption TVs (CCTVs) do not scrutinize the videos found in their field of view. They provide a passive live feed that’s recorded for later viewing or monitored by someone such as a security guard.

Home Security and Crime

The FBI reported that in 2015, there were over 1.5 million burglaries, with 71.5 percent occurring on residential properties. These crimes were expensive, costing the average victim over $2,300 or an estimated $3.6 billion in property losses.With those statistics in mind, home security cameras are a crime deterrent. When criminals scope out a home to burglarize or invade, the very presence of a security camera can discourage intruders from trying to break in. Even still, the more determined and experienced burglars can disarm or block visible security cameras, so the installation of both visible and hidden security cameras can strengthen the security of a home.

Common Types of Home Security Cameras

Generally speaking, there are two types of home security cameras: indoor and outdoorThe key difference between indoor and outdoor cameras is that outdoor cameras were created to withstand the outdoor elements of temperature fluctuations, precipitation, the wind, and dirt. Besides indoor and outdoor home security cameras, there are other ones that serve different purposes (see below). Usually, most allow for monitoring while one is outside of the home with either a mobile app or web browser.

IP Cameras

These connect to the internet via Ethernet cables or through WiFi. Video can be viewed locally on a computer or sent to a cloud-based application or database.

Wireless Cameras

Although this can be a synonymous term with IP cameras, wireless cameras can send video and audio over a radio band through a wireless receiver (analog) or digitally.

Pan-and-Tilt or Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) Cameras

Unlike fixed cameras, which have a stationary lens and show the video of a fixed area, pan-and-tilt cameras show different parts of a room or place. Many come with zoom features, with optical being a more optimal choice (vs. digital zoom) since that allows for the resolution to remain the same. These types of home security cameras are ideal for large rooms or areas.

Doorbell Cameras/Video Doorbells

Fairly new to the home security market are doorbell cameras, which show who’s at the door. These cameras send video and notifications to the cloud when no one is present. Not only can video and images be sent, but audio can also be sent and received so homeowners can talk to visitors in real-time.

Dome Cameras

More often used in businesses, dome cameras are a type of surveillance mounted on the ceiling for a bird’s eye view and monitor hard-to-reach places. There are indoor and outdoor versions, as well as infrared night-vision and vandal-proof versions.

Desirable Features to Consider in Home Security Cameras

With the countless features and options for home security cameras, there are a few general things to consider that will make having a home security camera helpful and not burdensome.

Resolution

The current standard video resolution is 1080p, and although 4K resolution is a newer innovation that can be found in televisions, it has not yet crossed over into the home security video market. A higher megapixel count will improve the digital zoom of a home security camera. Although optical zoom has better picture quality, it isn’t as common as digital zoom.

Field of View

Not only does the video quality matter, but so does how wide a home security camera can see, or the field of view. The range of what wide-angle lenses can view is from 100 to 180 degrees. If a larger space is being monitored, a lens with a wider field of view will be needed.

Placement

Where a home security camera is placed — indoors or outdoors, small or large area — will depend on the type of camera chosen. Some cameras are more discreet than others, yet some cameras, such as outdoor surveillance cameras, might mean to be seen as a way to deter theft.

Ease of Installation and Use

How easy or difficult it is to install a home security camera depends on where the camera will be placed as well as its connectivity— whether wired or wireless. Professional installation might be a better option, depending on the camera, the number of cameras, and home security needs. One’s technical comfort level is also a factor. The mobile app or web browser interface should be considered as they can be complicated or straightforward and user-friendly. 

Connections: Internet, Bluetooth, and More

Most home security cameras are IP cameras that utilize WiFi connections. Some also add Bluetooth to aid in setup while others use networks to connect and interact with other devices. Most cameras have a mobile app for a cellphone or tablet, and/or a web portal to receive video and alerts.

Cloud-Based Video Storage

Though some home security cameras have onboard storage capabilities, such as a microSD card slot, most send video footage to a cloud-based database. Storage amounts will vary, as well as how long video can be stored.

Motion Detection

A home security camera equipped with motion detection can alert homeowners of anything suspiciously or unexpected found in its field of view.

Sound

Some home security cameras contain a microphone for sound recordings. They can also come with a speaker and act as a video intercom. This is more common with doorbell cameras or video doorbells.

Night Vision

Since criminals typically operate under the cover of darkness, having a home security camera with night vision can greatly aid in viewing events that happen in low levels of light or no light at all.

The Costs of Home Security Cameras

Home security cameras can vary widely in pricing, depending on the kind of camera, its features, and additional subscription services. Many home security cameras are a part of a package, which can come with multiple cameras as well as startup and monthly fees. Pricing can also depend on whether a homeowner chooses to install a system or a professional company. The size of the area monitored will also impact pricing. The following are general pricing guidelines and ranges. Prices are per item.

IP cameras Low-range: $30-50; Mid-range: $75-$250; High-end: $300-$1,000

CCTV kits (self-install) Low-range: $200-400; Mid-range: $500-$100; High-end: $1,000-$1,800

Separate home security components Cameras: $50-$250; Concealed cameras: $200-$400; DVRs: $250-$1,000+; Monitors: $100 to $4,500; Cables $15-$50

Security company design and installation (CCTV) Basic: $1,000 to $2000; High-end: $2,000 to $9,000.

Conclusion

Home security cameras can offer peace of mind when homeowners are away from home. They can also provide a defense against terrorist activity as shown in the video below from the FBI. With a large variety to choose from, homeowners can find a home security camera system that fits their needs and budgets.

Further Reading

Burglary Statistics: The Hard Numbers

Burglary Crime Statistics and Facts

According to the latest FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Statistics, property crime rates - including burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft - have seen a significant decline in the last few years:

  • ​The 2015 property crime rate was 14.4% less than the 2011 estimate and 25.7% less than the 2006 estimate.
  • The rate of property crime as a whole decreased from 13.9 victimizations per 1,000 households in 2014 to 11.2 per 1,000 in 2015 - a 19% change.
  • Burglary, specifically, dropped from 701 per 100,000 people to 542 per 100,000 people - a 22% change.
  • In comparing 2015 vs. 2016, preliminary data shows a 3.4% decrease in burglary crimes, with larger cities reporting a greater decrease at 5.9% than their nonmetropolitan counterparts at 4%.
  • Keep in mind that statistics do vary significantly by region, for example, the Northeast showed the greatest decrease at 5.9%.
  • If you want to know how where you live compares, you can find the most recent crime statistics for your area here.

While today's burglary statistics show an overall decrease in burglary rates, thousands of homes (roughly 325,000) are still being broken into every year - often in plain view, during the day. In fact, property crimes in 2015 resulted in losses estimated at $14.3 billion.

00
Days
00
Hours
00
Minutes
13
Seconds

There are roughly 2.5 million burglaries a year, 66% of those being home break ins. 

Police solve only 13% of reported burglary cases due to lack of a witness or physical evidence.

325,000
2.5 million

When do burglaries occur?

  • There are 1,495,790 burglaries during the day. Break ins are 6% more likely to occur during the day between 6am and 6pm while people are at work or running errands.
  • There are 1,324,090 burglaries during the night. The cover of night brings security for intruders but also means people are more likely be home.
  • Snow and cold are also a significant deterrent. The lowest amount of burglaries happen in the month of February.
  • A report from the U.S. Department of Justice showed that from 1993 to 2010, on average, burglary rates were highest in the summer, with about 9% lower rates in spring, 6% lower in fall, and 11% lower in winter.

How do they break in?

  • Burglars are most attracted to homes that do not have a home security system, but only 17% of houses have a system in place.
  • Homes without a security system are 300% more likely to be burglarized.
  • 95% of all home invasions require some sort of forceful entry, be that breaking a window, picking a lock, or kicking in a door.
  • The most common tools used for breaking in are pry bars, pliers, screwdrivers, and little hammers. All easily concealed and very common tools, making them harder to trace.

Who's breaking in?

A study on the habits and motivations of burglars conducted by the UNC Charlotte found:

  • Burglars are most likely to be male and under 25 years old.
  • 85% of break ins are by amateurs and done out of desperation, which some might suggest makes them more dangerous.
  • Most spend time considering factors like proximity to traffic and possible escape routes; 12% admitted to planning in advance while 41% said it was an impulsive decision.
  • 83% admitted that they specifically look to see if there's an alarm; 60% would change their mind if there was one installed.

Is anyone home?

A report on Victimization During Household Burglary found that:

  • 27.6% of the time, a person is home while the burglary occurs; 26% of those people home are harmed. That means 7.2% of burglaries result in someone being injured.
  • 65.1% of the attackers knew the victim and 27.5% were strangers.
  • 60.5% of burglaries involved no weapon; 30.1% did involve a weapon; 9.3% of victims were unsure if a weapon was involved.
  • Homes with an income of less than $7500 annually were most subject to being present while being burglarized, at 65.7 out of 1,000 homes. As you climb to higher and higher annual incomes, your chance of being present goes down.
  • You are more likely to burglarized if you rent than if you own your home.
  • It seems as though burglars are less intimidated by people being present during an attack when they are either a single female, an American Indian or Alaskan Native, or if the house is owned by anyone young, between the ages of 12-19 years old. Perhaps they feel less intimidated by groups of people.
  • What is most likely to be taken? High-value items like electronics and personal items (including stamps, collections, recreational equipment, clothing, luggage, bikes, or animals). Also, anything that is small, easily pocketed, and can return a quick turn-around at a pawn shop.

What are my protection options?

Not surprisingly, burglars will typically avoid a house if it is too difficult or risky. The following are steps you can take to prevent home intrusion:

  • Make your house less appealing by removing overgrown brush or other structures that can provide cover.
  • Get metal doors or at least solid core wood on exterior entrances. Pair with a beefy deadbolt for good measure.
  • To go the extra mile, install a heavy duty strike plate with screws that go deep into the frame.
  • Add a dowel or board into the track of sliding doors or windows. This prevents it from moving, even if it's unlocked.
  • If you’re keeping a window open, make sure it isn’t more than 4 inches wide.
  • Keep the entryway or porch locked, too. An open porch provides cover for those breaking into the main door.
  • If someone you don’t know knocks on the door be loud - make your presence known.
  • If you choose to answer the door, do so while on the phone with a friend or pretend you’re on the phone. This tells the potential burglar that someone will know if there's a break in.
  • If you’re sure a burglary is in progress, call 911 and shout loud statements like, “Honey - get the gun!” When they know you’re aware and have self-defense measures in place they are much less likely to follow through.
  • If you've just moved in, make sure you change the locks on all exterior doors to be safe.
  • Get to know your neighbors. They're your first line of defense - you watch their house, they watch yours.

What are my protection options if I'm going on vacation?

  • Stop your mail delivery or have a neighbor grab mail and packages until you return.
  • Have your neighbor park their car in your driveway so it looks like someone is home.
  • Hook timers up to your televisions and lights. The same goes for outside lights - keep them on a timer or put them on motion-activated sensors.
  • Hire a house sitter. Not only are they physically occupying your home but they can also keep up on mail and trash for you and water your plants.
  • If you have a large dog, that is a very common deterrent. However, dogs can also give away whether or not a person is home by their behavior. The bigger the dog, the less likely a thief is to attempt a break-in.
  • Even if you don’t have a dog, put a “Beware of Dog” sign up to suggest that you have a bully-breed dog that a robber should, in theory, be afraid of.
  • Just the presence of an alarm system is enough to make a potential burglar reconsider. This is why security systems offer you a sign to put in your yard to warn the thieves.
  • Leave a key and the alarm code with a trusted neighbor that is usually home when you’re not so they can help if something happens.
  • For particularly expensive or tempting items, carve your driver’s license number and state somewhere inconspicuous so police can more easily match your stolen item.
  • Create a shortlist of make, model, serial number and value of important items.
  • Taking photos of your valuables. Keep a copy at home and give a copy to a trusted friend or family member, too.
  • Check with your home insurance agent to make sure specific items are covered. You don’t want to be caught in a loophole because of a technicality.

The Beginner’s Guide to Home Safety

Around 2.5 million homes are burglarized every year. That equates to about one house every 13 seconds. This is due in part to the fact that the majority of people take only the most basic of precautions to protect their homes. Homes that are burglarized often show signs that the house is vacant or doesn’t have a security system in place – which makes them the perfect target. Home safety should be your top priority. Home burglary can be avoided with a few simple, low-cost steps – including thinking like a burglar.

What motivates the burglar?

According to statistics, the average burglar is male and under the age of 25. They’re usually in some sort of financial crisis (debts owed, loss of a job, or drug addiction) and need a way out. Amateurs are more likely to hit houses they know whereas serial offenders typically choose strangers’. Homes with higher incomes are obviously the more common target because they’re assumed to have more expendable income – and sometimes that makes them LESS likely to report the crime. Homes that are too nice or have substantial security systems in place are often bypassed.

When do they break in?

Contrary to popular belief, most break-ins happen during the day. The burglar is usually dressed in plain clothes and not scared to knock on the front door to see if anyone’s home. Summer months see more burglaries than the winter months, with February being the least likely for burglaries to occur.

How do they get in?

Most burglars start by wandering through a neighborhood, scoping out houses that are unkempt or provide good cover. An overgrown lawn or mail in the driveway is a potential sign that a family is away on vacation – making it easier to break into. They’ll also look for tall fences and bushes to hide them from prying neighbors’ eyes and easy-access doors and windows.

A burglar will also look for signs of an alarm system either in the form of a sign in the front yard or wires around windows. A seasoned burglar will know what each type of security system offers and will generally know how to disable it. Non-wireless systems are not much of a concern because they can be disabled by cutting the wires. This means that if the alarm is tripped it won’t be able to send a call to the police – no one will be notified.

Once they’ve decided to break in, they’ll look for an easy-access point. Unlocked windows, of course, are the easiest but not always available. Sliding glass doors are typically only locked with a latch or when those aren’t an option a center-punch tool to works to quickly and quietly break the window. There are even criminals that have admitted to climbing through pet doors on occasion.

If a burglar happens to trip the alarm he might run or he might not. Those that stay will likely find where the sound is coming from and either bury it under pillows or disable it. Sometimes they’ll even leave for a few minutes then walk by to see if a cop has arrived or if anyone noticed the alarm. If not, then back in they go.

Most burglars try to minimize their time in a home to 5-10 minutes. Their first stop: the master bedroom as this is where most people keep their valuable jewelry, watches, and cash. From there, the burglar will check the office or family room for electronics then most likely leave – through the front door.

What do they like to take?

Most burglars are searching for items of high value that can be quickly sold on the streets. When it comes to electronics (laptops, game systems, tablets, and phones it’s always a good idea to keep their power cords separate because it makes them harder to sell. Jewelry – of course- is small, carries significant value, and easy to find as most people store their jewelry in a box or special case. It’s always a good idea to keep any heirloom jewelry tucked away in storage and other valuable pieces in separate locations. The same goes for credit cards and ID’s as they can easily be used fraudulently, destroying your credit and costing you a significant amount of money and time.

How can I protect my stuff?

One thing you can do is inscribe your driver’s license number and state into an inconspicuous place on your valuable items. This way the police will be able to easily match the item to you. It’s also a good idea to take a picture of each valuable item and record their serial numbers. Here are some small steps you can take to avoid burglary or help recover stolen items:

Jewelry & Watches:

  • Do not keep them all in one place.
  • Avoid storing them in the master bedroom.
  • Jewelry boxes are a dead giveaway.

Phones / iPads:

  • Always keep them locked with a password or PIN.
  • Activate “Find My Phone” feature on the device.
  • Write down serial numbers & unique details/inscriptions.

Game Systems & Laptops:

  • Store power cords separately; it makes them harder to sell.
  • Criminals do not like to do extra work to source new cords.
  • Hide in a locked cabinet rather than out in the open.

Credit Cards / ID / Cash:

  • Store in a file or, preferably, a lockbox or safe.

ATV’s / Mopeds / Vehicles:

  • Keep garages & outbuildings locked at all times.
  • Store keys separately from vehicles.

Large Electronics / TV’s:

  • Inscribe your driver’s license number and state into an inconspicuous place to prove ownership.

Valuable Items / Decor:

  • Take photos of each item and record serial numbers, value and pertinent details for identification.

How can I protect myself?

If you’re home and someone suspicious knocks on your door:

  • Make your presence known.
  • Don’t have to open the door; talking through the window is fine.
  • Call a friend and keep them on the phone with you so they can call the police if something goes wrong. Just the threat of you being on the phone will generally deter a potential burglar.
  • When you’re home, make sure you leave a light or the TV on; these are clear signals that someone is present and that breaking in would not be a good idea.

When you’re not home, don’t make it obvious:

  • Don’t advertise on Facebook that you’re going to the Bahamas for a week with your family; potential thieves see that as an open invitation.
  • Keep your house buttoned up so people can’t see into your house and what you have. The easiest way for a burglar to case your home is to look through a glass door. As pretty as they are, they invite prying eyes. Keep shades drawn and doors locked for the most protection.
  • If you’re going to be gone for an extended period of time, it is wise to hire a house sitter to stay there for a few nights to collect your mail, mow your lawn, and park their car in your driveway so it looks like someone is there.
  • Get a dog. The larger the dog, the more intimidating they are to the intruder. Bully breeds are territorial and more prone to protecting your family. However, a dog may also tell the burglar whether or not you’re home by their behavior. Don’t want a dog? Just a “Beware of Dog” sign is enough to deter some robbers.

See if there’s a Neighborhood Watch program:

  • Pay attention to and take advantage of your community. The more familiar you are with each other’s habits the more likely it is that you’ll notice when something’s not right. An active Neighborhood Watch can be a huge deterrent for potential burglars. If you don’t already have a program, you can start one by contacting your local police department and following their guidelines.

Home Security Systems – How to Get Started

Having an alarm system is a good way to step up your home’s level of security. Though it may seem like a daunting task, it can be tackled rather easily. Your local security company will assess your home and provide a quote as to how much it would cost to add the appropriate sensors and alarms. Often times, local businesses are affiliates of larger security equipment makers and can sell you their equipment and/or install it for you. Otherwise you can buy systems online or at large home improvement retailers.

Which type of home surveillance do I use?

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to do a combination of things if you want to cover all your bases.

  • Video surveillance at the main entrance is a huge deterrent and helps identify burglars.
  • Set a door alarm set on every external door and a window sensor on all main-level windows.
  • Consider sensors that detect breaking glass and trigger the alarms.
  • If you’re going above and beyond, install indoor video in all major rooms. Not only will this protect from intruders going unseen but also lets you see what’s going on when you’ve got a babysitter.
  • With an audio connection, you can speak with the people in the room and let them know that you’re watching or solve a problem for them from wherever you are.
  • Choose a company or plan that offers 24/7 support.
  • Be aware of monthly support charges. Some companies charge, others don’t.
  • Read others’ Yelp ratings / video reviews.

Wireless: There are pros and cons to wireless alarms. Without wires, there are no cables for a burglar to cut to bypass your alarm. However, you have to keep an eye on battery levels and your wireless network connection.

Video: Consider video surveillance. If your house is broken into, having a visual on what the person looks like can help the police find the perpetrator. Also, if the burglar sees video surveillance they’re more likely to change their mind and run.

Audio: Any audible alarm with a siren is going to be a significant deterrent.

Video with audio: There are some cameras that let you communicate through a microphone/speaker system so that you can give instructions to the UPS man or let a potential thief know that you’re watching. A few types of doorbells offer video surveillance when they sense someone nearby. Most also let you communicate through them.

Fake it: If you can’t afford a home security system, that’s ok. You can buy fake cameras with lights that make the potential intruder think you’ve shelled out the cash for one.

App-enabled: Accessibility is important these days. If a sensor goes off while you’re at work, many systems can notify you on your cell phone. If video is installed, you can even monitor the video feeds from anywhere.

Your home was invaded, now what?

Taking basic measures to protect yourself is important and should not be put off. Burglars will typically avoid a house that looks difficult, so a little effort goes a long way.

  • Immediately call the authorities.
  • Let them know someone has been in your home.
  • Go to a neighbor’s house and wait for the police to arrive; you don’t want to be there if the burglar comes back for more.
  • Do not touch anything that the burglar may have touched because this would obscure potential evidence like fingerprints. This includes door handles, windows, and items that may have been moved or knocked down.
  • When the police arrive, tell them what is missing.
  • Provide them with pictures and serial numbers of the missing items.
  • Contact your insurance company and file a claim as soon as possible.