Tag Archives: home security

Porch Pirates Now Part of the Holidays: Here’s How You Can Fight Back

It must be the holidays, because porch pirates are in the news again! In the same day, I heard about porch pirates in my part of the country (the Pacific Northwest) and Jersey City, where police are planting GPS tracking devices in boxes that look like Amazon deliveriesin order to catch thieves.

Porch piracy on the rise
Sadly, porch piracy is definitely increasing during the holiday season. One report released says 25.9 million Americans have had a package stolen during the holidays. That number was 23.5 million in 2015. And since Americans are doing more shopping online and will continue to do so, those “porch pirates” have plenty of booty to grab from front porches.

Ways to thwart thieves
Although you can insure packages in case they are stolen, what you really want is the package, right? That means you must take steps to thwart the pirates in the first place. Rather than risking packages getting delivered but never making their way to you, because someone absconded with them first, try these tips:

  • Use your home security system to see who is at your door and to unlock the door if it’s a package delivery. With the right home security setup, you can do this remotely—even while at work.
  • Choose to have your package delivered to a nearby Amazon locker, or have packages shipped to your local UPS store.
  • Have packages delivered to you at work or to a neighbor or family member who will be home when you’re not.
  • Look into getting your own P.O. Box at the post office.
  • Require a signature to confirm delivery.
  • Track packages while they’re en route and change the routing if you need to based on where you’ll be.

And now for the fun part…
The porch pirate topic isn’t all bad news. If you’d like to see someone get revenge on porch pirates, watch this 11 minute video of Mark Rober, a NASA engineer and YouTube star, doing just that. Rober spent 6 months designing and building a device that not only sprays glitter all over the thief when the booby-trapped package is opened, it also sprays fart spray and has four camera phones rigged to catch footage of the events while they unfold. Warning: If you watch the video, note that the thieves often use bad language when the booby trap goes off, although it’s all blanked out.

Porch pirates are now the new normal, but we can take steps to fight back…or maybe that NASA engineer will mass produce his booby trap, and we can put pirates off forever! We’ll only need a lot more glitter and fart spray…

8 Helpful Holiday Hints for the Last-Minute Mayhem

Although not everyone is in it for religious reasons, 90% of Americans celebrate Christmas, and that means the countdown is on. To help you stay safe (if not necessarily sane) during the last few days before Christmas Day, we’ve pulled together a list of eight posts you’ll find useful—but might not be thinking about because baking and wrapping is top of mind! 

1. Prepping your vehicle for road trips
If holiday travel is on your agenda and you’re headed over the river and through the woods, make sure your vehicle is ready for the trip—especially if you might encounter winter weather. 

2. Protecting your packages
Porch pirates are real: 23 million Americans have packages stolen from their front porch each year. Definitely read this post if you’re getting packages delivered and you’re considering ways to keep them safe, because you’ll get tips for thwarting the porch pirates who’d like to make your packages into their booty. Or find out if you need a service like Amazon Key or if your home security system will protect your packages for you. 

3. Getting teens to town safely
If you have college students who are homebound for the holidays by car, go over the safety advice in this post to ensure safe travels. If they are traveling by plane or train, see this post for excellent advice to share with them. 

4. Making sure Fido will be fine
If you’re traveling and your pets will need looking after, follow the advice here on finding a good pet sitter and ways to prepare your pet and your pet sitter before you leave. Read more…

5. Decorating with a safety-first mindset
This post offers holiday safety tips to use throughout your home as you’re decorating! Also see tips for keeping your Christmas tree fresh and less fire-prone. 

6. Staying safe if you’re still doing your shopping
Many of us are still shopping up until the last minute! Read the tips in this post to make sure you’re safe, whether shopping online or in person. Although the advice is specific to Thanksgiving weekend, it applies to the whole holiday shopping season. 

7. Taking safety into account when buying toys
All toys are not created equal and some pose a bigger threat than others. Before you start your toy buying, review the safety tips in this post to ensure the toys you give will be both fun and safe. 

8. Giving home security as the gift that lasts all year
If you’re stumped for gift ideas, consider home security. This post explains why it’s an excellent gift the whole year long. Read more…

Despite the decline in the religious reasons for celebrating the holiday, Christmas is still a major event for most Americans, making it a busy time of year that can lead to mistakes and missteps. Review this list of posts for reminders, and stay safe this holiday season and into the new year! 

Is Your Home Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

As our phones get bigger and smarter and the technologies we use every day get more sophisticated, so too can our homes. With the Internet of Things now upon us, we’re poised to go from smart homes to smarterhomes in 2019 as home automation systems become commonplace and off-the-shelf products offer the convenience of smart home technology.

Here’s a quick look at just some of the tasks you can hand over to automation and smart home technology:

Home security: This one you’re probably already familiar with, but it gets better and better every year. Today’s home security systems offer video to let you see who’s at the front door, smart locks you can operate from anywhere, and even home automation features that let you program heating, air conditioning and lighting.

Lighting: Speaking of lighting, your home automation system can be set to turn lights on or off. You can now also buy lighting systems that let you control the brightness but also the color. You can even match the color of the light in a picture on your phone. This system can also turn lights on slowly to help you wake up in the morning.

Thermostats: Your home automation system can be used to control your thermostat or you can buy a “learning” thermostat that adapts to your lifestyle.

Household chores: Would you like to hand over some of your household chores to technology? You easily can. You’ll find devices that can handle some of the most mundane tasks for you, including window washing, vacuuming and floor mopping.

In the kitchen: We’ve heard all kinds of chatter about smart appliances already, like refrigerators that can track your groceries for you and ovens you can turn on remotely on your way home from work. But the one I’m ready for is the coffeemaker that knows when I wake up and brews my coffee just in time!

In the yard: You can lighten your load inside with smart home technology and automated devices, but you can also hand over some of the outside jobs too. Technology today offers automated lawn mowers and sprinklers, pool cleaners, and even a gutter cleaning device. (That’s the one at the top of my list! I do not like ladders!)

In the bedroom: Even your mattress can now help you sleep better, using biometric sensors and your smart phone.

And for the not yet smart? For those appliances that aren’t yet “smart,” you can get an outlet that lets you control whatever is plugged into it from your smart phone.

Experts say we are on the verge of the Internet of Things revolution, and that it will change our lives as fundamentally as the Internet did 20 years ago. As a homeowner, you won’t have to wait for the benefits of this technology, because you can easily start making your home smarter than a fifth grader with all the home security features and home devices already available to you!

What’s New in Home Security? We Look at the Latest in Locks

If your car is new enough, you probably don’t have a key to unlock the door or even to start the engine. Instead, you have a “proximity key” which means something you’re carrying will unlock your car door for you when you are close enough.

As someone who drives an older car with an old-fashioned key, I can’t quite wrap my head around that yet, but I’d better get caught up soon because door locks for houses are going high tech too!

A home security or home automation system is a smart way to protect your home, but—as we’ve said before—it’s not enough. You must take other steps too, including secure door and window locks. And those locks are getting ever more sophisticated while offering multiple advantages as high-tech locks. You can lock or unlock your door remotely using your smart phone when necessary. You can assign a temporary code to a non-family member who needs to access your house—say a neighbor who’s feeding the cat while you’re away. You can get a notification when the lock is used. And those are just a few of the new-fanged features!

When your lock’s looks count…
Your lock is a security feature, but it’s also prominent on the entry point of your home, so appearance might be of utmost importance to you. If you care about appearance and you want a lock that looks like a lock, you can find them. Some smart locks can be opened with a code on a keypad, as a keyless entry, or with a key, but they have a classy low-tech “lock look” even though they’re high tech on the inside.

When you want high-tech features with a low-tech look
Some new-fangled locks do double duty when they look like a regular deadbolt but are all high-tech. You can even find locks with a place to insert a key, but they work via a biometric scanner that’s hiding behind an innocuous looking lock. You put your finger under the scanner to gain access.

When you want your high-tech lock to have a high-tech look
Other new locks look as high tech as they perform–all sleek and streamlined, screaming they’re high tech and not pretending to be anything but!

Of course, you have other options for locking your front door that are low tech, and those options are fine too, as long as you’re using high-quality locks and the whole family is diligent about locking them. But if you want something more sophisticated, one of these high-tech options might be the best choice for you!

Home Security: Not the Most Glamorous Wedding Gift, but Perhaps the Most Thoughtful!

August gone and the fall season looms near. Where did the summer go? I can’t tell you, but I can tell you it’s no longer the season for weddings. Nope. September and October are now the most popular times for weddings, with 19% of weddings taking place in September and 14% in October. That means if you’re getting a wedding invitation, it will probably be for a fall wedding. (We have one on our calendar for September!)

If you’re wondering why we’re talking about weddings as the month of September approaches, it’s because we have an unusual wedding gift idea for you: home security. Sure, it’s not a glamorous gift, but it is a thoughtful one.

Making home security doable
Although Americans are waiting longer to get married, with the average age now 27 for women and 29 for men, there’s still a chance they will be living on tight budgets, especially if they are buying a house. Adding a home security system to their monthly expenses probably won’t be a priority once they’ve taken on a massive mortgage payment.

If you’re older and your financially established, you can give home security as a wedding gift, with the monthly cost easily less than the cost of a dinner out. You’ll hardly notice the cost of the monthly fee. Then later when the young couple is financially more stable, they can take over the payments. In the meantime, you’ve helped to keep them safe, and they’ll get into the habit of having the home security system, making it easier to budget for later.

Keeping clutter at bay
A home security system also makes a practical wedding gift because it doesn’t add to our ever-growing collection of “stuff.” The peace of mind it provides is not tangible like a dinner plate or throw pillow, but then again, who can put a price on peace of mind? Yet it takes up no room, doesn’t need storage space, and won’t someday end up at a garage sale.

If you’re headed to a wedding this fall and you want to avoid working your way through the dreaded online registry, consider home security instead. Learn more about the benefits of the gift of home security, a gift that keeps on giving—peace of mind, that is, without causing clutter.

5 Steps to a Quick Home Security Inspection Before the Seasons Change

At our house, we’ve been suffering from an unusually hot and dry summer that has taken its toll on our hay field, our pastures, our horses, our garden and—in truth—us. Despite the heat, however, we are looking ahead to the fall, knowing that the rains will be back. And the question is, will we be ready?

It’s not just the time to prepare for a change in the weather, however, but also a good time to do a home security inspection before the days get shorter and everyone gets busier with the new school year and activities.

To make sure your home is secure heading into this fall, follow these tips. Also check out the resources below for checklists you can use to do a more thorough home security inspection.

  1. Start in the street
    Start your home security inspection outside of your home, looking at it from the street the way a burglar will. Make sure your home is decidedly unattractive to a burglar! Cut back bushes that offer hiding places, especially by doors and windows. This applies to your garage too. If you have a tall fence or hedge that hides your house from the street, rethink that. Try to keep a car parked in the driveway when no one is home. Make sure you have your home security system sign displayed in your hard.
  2. Check all doors and windows
    Check the locks on your doors and windows, but also check the construction. Consumer Reports has a very quick rundown on locks here, as well as good advice about doors and strike plates. Make sure all the windows lock in both closed and open positions, and that you keep them locked. When locked in the open position, make sure the opening is too small for anyone to get through. Do this same inspection on your garage and any outbuildings too.
  3. Turn on the lights
    Review your use of lighting both during the day and then again at night when it’s dark. Also compare your lighting that’s on when you’re home vs not home. Does your home look occupied when you’re gone? If not, use timers or your home automation system to make it look lived in.
  4. Take a night view
    While it’s dark, check for additional hiding places caused by shadows or poor lighting. Most break-ins happen during the day, but not all. And what might not be a hiding place in daylight could be concealed in the shadows of the night.
  5. Review your home security system
    Finally consider your home security system. Is your home security system aging? It might be time for an upgrade, especially when you want to take advantage of the home automation features now widely available. Also review where you have your video cameras set up, in case they need to be moved around.

Bonus: Use a home security checklist
If you want to go beyond our simple list (and you should!), take advantage of the many resources you can find online. Below are two home security checklists we recommend using for a more thorough home security inspection:

And to answer the question posed at the beginning about whether or not we’ll be ready for the rain, I don’t know yet! But my fingers are crossed!

Facebook Faux Pas: Giving Away Your Privacy When You’re Getting Away on Vacation

Are you planning a getaway this summer? Don’t answer that! Or at least don’t answer it publicly. Because you really don’t want to make your vacation vacancy public knowledge, although it’s easy to be tempted to do so.

Maybe you’re not one of those people who share just a little too much on Facebook. You know, the ones with no filters and apparently no need for privacy as their every mood, whim, argument and meal is documented on the social media platform. But when it comes to your vacations, you could be just as guilty of over-sharing, because you’re sharing information that puts your home and you at risk. To avoid giving away too much, follow these tips for protecting your property and your privacy when going on vacation:

Keep it to yourself
It’s shocking how much information people will reveal on Facebook, including details about their upcoming trips. Sure, you’re anticipating that getaway, whether you’re headed to the annual family reunion or you’re going to the beach. But posting about it ahead of time puts your home at risk when someone who does not need to know your house will be empty finds out your house will be empty!

Postpone your pics
Once you’re gone on your trip, post your pictures after you get home rather than advertise to the world that your house is sitting empty. This also gives you time to sort through the pictures so you only post the best of them, not all of them, because really, no one wants to see all of them.

In addition, not posting means no geotagging of photos, which can happen automatically without your knowing. Geotagging tells people wherea picture was taken, and not everyone needs to know your exact location at every minute of the day. Even if you don’t think you have reasons to keep your location to yourself, wouldn’t you rather err on the side of just a little more privacy than a little less?

Speaking of tagging…
If you simply can’t help yourself and you’re going to post pictures while away, avoid tagging the people you’re travelling with just in case they have different views about privacy. What’s fine for you to share might be too much for them.

Enjoy telling your tales after you’re home
None of this is to say you shouldn’t be allowed to do some bragging once you’re back! Of course you want to talk about the wonderful time you had and share your favorite pictures…and you should! It’s just the timing that we’re concerned with. Wait until you’re home again and your home is no longer vacant before you tell your vacation tales.

P.S. For tips on posting pictures people will like and respond to (while avoiding pictures you might regret later), see this useful advice.

3 Easy Ways to Bolster Your Home Security

A home security system is one of the best ways to protect your home, both because the sign in the yard is a “line in the sand,” and because the noise of the alarm can scare off a burglar before they do much damage. But your home and family are safer if you have more than just a home security system. You also need a practical and pragmatic approach, one that will lead to comprehensive coverage.

Below are just a few easy ways to increase your home security setup:

1) Level up your locks and bolster your bolts
If your window and door locks came preinstalled, take another look at them and make sure they measure up. We’ve heard stories of those types of locks being easy for burglars to force open. Read more about types of locks and what to look for here.

And once you’ve leveled up your locks and bolstered your bolts, make sure you lock your doors and windows whenever you leave. This includes your garage and any outbuildings too. With the right home security system, you can lock doors remotely should you or your kids forget to do so. But it’s better to make sure everyone is in the habit of locking all entry points all the time—even second-story windows.

2) Keep temptations out of sight
It’s shocking how many people almost invite burglars in by leaving temptations in plain sight…things like fancy bikes or expensive equipment in the yard, or valuable objects that can easily be seen through a big window. Take a look around: What temptations are you leaving in plain sight? Hide them.

Packages on the front porch are also a temptation. They might not lead to a burglar breaking in, but they will lead to someone coming on to your property and stealing from you nonetheless…and giving someone a chance to get a better look at your house for a burglary later. Try these alternatives to getting packages without getting done in.

3) Be tricky about it
If you scan the Internet, you’ll quickly learn people have all kinds of ways to make their house less attractive to burglars. We usually suggest having a car in the driveway and using your home automation system to turn lights on and off so it looks like someone is home. But we’ve also read great ideas like leave a big pair of men’s work boots right outside the door, and a big dog bowl and leash on the front porch. Beware of dog signs seem to be useful too. Your goal is to make your house less attractive, and making it look like someone is home and that you own a big dog can help.

Your home security system will do a lot to deter burglars, but you’ll be even safer if you take other precautions as well to both make your house less appealing and make it harder to break into. The best burglar deterrent is a well-advertised home security system, but use commonsense to keep your home and family safe too!

5 Ways to Make Your Home Less Attractive to Burglars—so They Pass You by

We usually don’t think about home burglaries until it’s too late. It always seems like something that will happen to someone else, right? But with a home burglary taking place every 13 seconds in the U.S., there’s a very good chance that someday that “someone else” will be one of us.

The time to take action to prevent a burglary is before such a tragedy strikes. And prevention is probably easier than you thought. One of the most important steps you can take is to simply make your home less appealing to a burglar looking for an easy target.

We offer five such tips below. While these tips shouldn’t take the place of a traditional home security system, they may convince a burglar to pass by your house and choose a different target instead:

1) Get a fence
Burglars want to get in and out of a home within a few minutes. Having a fence to jump over can be a huge deterrent, especially if it’s a metal or wooden picket fence with pointed tops. A fence can definitely make a burglar think twice about breaking into your home because they could be injured or get hung up on the fence posts as they try to clear it. One caveat to this, however: Don’t make your fence so tall that it blocks your house from the street. With a fence like that, a burglar will be more tempted by your property because—once over the fence—they can work in privacy.

2) Leave the dog outside
If you have a dog, get a “Beware of Dog” sign and display it clearly. Move the doghouse into a visible spot in the yard and let the dog run around (weather permitting). A burglar wants to get in and out of a home as quickly as possible, and a dog introduces many variables. A burglar won’t know if a dog is friendly, or will bark loudly or even attack. When a dog is on the premises, the burglar will likely move on to the next target.

3) Trim bushes and shrubs
Burglars like places to hide while they break in, so trim any bushes or shrubs that are getting big enough for a grown man to hide behind. Focus on those shrubs near entry points like doors and windows, and remember to do the same for garage doors and windows too. A couple of hours with a pair of hedge clippers should be sufficient time to eliminate any hiding places and make your house less appealing.

Install bear traps and trip-activated nets
Just kidding! You don’t need a lawsuit on your hands.

4) Light walkways
Although most burglaries happen during the day, your house is at risk during the night time hours too. Plenty of outdoor lighting that will expose anyone sneaking on to your property can make your home less appealing to a burglar. In addition to other exterior lighting tips we’ve offered in the past, consider adding small solar lights along your driveway and walkway. You can buy these in packs at any major hardware store. The solar panels charge internal capacitors during the day, then emit a low-level LED light at night, thereby increasing the visibility in your yard without being distracting. This will make potential burglars easier to spot, which will turn them away to an easier target.

5) Put away your ladder
Burglars usually break in through the front door (34%), first-floor window (23%) or back door (22%). But every once in a while they will get in through a second story window if they have access (2%). For that reason, you should stash away your ladder rather than leave it where a burglar can use it to reach that open window.

Final thoughts
These are simple steps you can take to make your home less appealing to burglars without much effort, and they say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. To take yet another step to protect your home and make it a challenging target for burglars, consider investing in a home security system equipped with motion sensors, cameras, and door and window sensors. Modern plans may be less expensive than you think, and peace of mind is priceless.

9 Ways Your Home Automation System Can Keep Kids Safe When They’re Home Alone

Following the high-profile abduction cases that led to pictures of missing children on milk cartons and much more diligence on the part of parents, studies show that far fewer kids are home alone these days: The number of grade-school American children who spend time at home alone has plunged by almost 40% since 1997.

Yet there are still those situations when kids will be unattended, at least for a short while, as much as parents would like to avoid it. Or the kids will be old enough to be unsupervised, but haven’t quite proved they are trustworthy before that day comes.

In either case, your home security system can help. Below are nine ways you can use your home security or home automation system to keep your kids safe and your sanity intact when your children are home alone:

  1. You can get alerts when a code used to unlock the front door, so you’ll know when your child has arrived home. If you’ve ever sat there waiting for a child to return a text message to you, letting you know they got home safely, you’ll know how nice this can be!
  2. Window and door sensors can alert you when a window or door is opened, so you can check in with your child.
  3. A video camera at the front door can show you (or your child) who is knocking.
  4. If you’ve said no video games, you can monitor the room that has that tempting distraction with a video camera to make sure rules are followed.
  5. A security video camera can also be used to monitor the yard (which is also helpful for those families who must leave a mischievous pet home alone).
  6. If your child is too young or your teenager too forgetful for properly monitoring the heating or air conditioning, you can use your home automation system to regulate the thermostat.
  7. Your home automation system can also be used to turn lights on automatically, either to make sure the house is lit when your child gets home on a dark winter afternoon, or to make sure your house is lit when you get home at the end of the day—because teenagers simply won’t think about it.
  8. As a parent with a child home alone, you can also get peace of mind knowing your home security system offers fire, carbon monoxide and flood monitoring.
  9. And if your kids need to leave the house, you can lock doors remotely should they forget.

Views about how much latitude children should have and at what age have changed drastically over the past 70 years, especially in the past 20 as we have turned into helicopter parents. (You can find a fascinating breakdown of changing parental attitudes over the decades by reading the results of this Slate study.)

My own kids are all grown and gone now and in their own apartments, and I still worry about them and wait for replies to texts so I know they’re okay. I guess some things never change, but at least technology makes it easier to keep an eye on them even when we’re not around.

View all of our security plans and features!

Customer Reviews

I feel so much better knowing my family is protected! I spoke with SafeStreets USA in the evening and a technician was able to come install the system for me then for my parents first thing the next morning. Very impressed with his knowledge and care!

-

We had our ADT system installed by SafeStreets USA and were really impressed with the service we received from our technician. He was very friendly and answered all of our questions on the system and how it worked. He set everything up in a couple of hours and was a real pleasure to talk with []

-
Read more reviews