How to maintain home security this summer during your holiday

Are you aware of today’s technological guardians? Kya deLongchamps gives some straightforward advice on keeping your house on lock-down while you are away this summer.

Going away? Leave your castle locked up tight but with every outward appearance of being inhabited.

First of all, although it’s exciting to break away to summer freedom, don’t advertise your joy on social media. Understand your privacy settings on Facebook for example, and ensure various apps in the phone you are snapping away with on the beach is not trumpeting your absence through tagging features.

Keep in mind that even if you post to a chosen group of friends, they may chat on their much more public forum about your holiday.

Think about creating personal blogs about your overseas adventures and then post them to your social media on your return. Just click “only you” on your “who can see my stuff” (FB) and journal away.

Don’t allow your hotel to signal you are “checking in” on social media.

Alarm your home

According to the Central Statistics Office (CSO) while burglaries are down over most of the country (11% overall in 2018 from 2017 figures), homes with a monitored burglar alarm were found to be four times safer than those without.

Alarms deflect, delay and signal break-ins. Digital alarms with live streaming can capture the action and possibly even the perpetrator’s ID.

The whole scenario of an alarm ringing in a remote location and not being heard is moot in the age of livestream captures of video and static shots, and once signalled, an alarmed house is no longer an easy mark.

Wireless alarm kits are quick to install and the cheapest entry point. Affordable kits in the €200-€300 range include internal and perimeter protection, doors and primary, vulnerable windows alarms and motion sensors. Something simple you can expand over time includes the Smartzone bundle from just €199 — free home assessments, smartzone.ie (Cork).

Whether self-monitoring or paying for a service like PhoneWatch, you must in either case have a designated keyholder in mind. The gardaí will only respond to a verified alarm incident. Pet-immune motion detectors disregard the motion caused by animals weighing less than 36kg.

Spare key

You might be able to convince yourself that the hiding spot is ingenious, but in most cases, it’s wide open to an intelligent, observant rogue.

The gardaí advise: “This is a foolhardy practice as it can assist the burglar in two ways. Firstly, they can be used by a trespasser to deny you entry to your home and secondly they can be stolen or removed and copied.”

Just think about that — someone could take the key and copy it and simply wait for an ideal opportunity to stroll in at any time in the coming months. Chilling.

Ladders and any useful tools to break in by the back door? Lock them up and add an inexpensive shed alarm for good measure.

Keypad Uni-com Garage & Shed with an 88db siren that sounds when door or window is opened is priced at €17.99, Argos.

Your insurance company may not pay for a break-in if a robber lets themselves in utilising your key.

Lockdown

A locking system is only as secure as the cylinder itself. Standard euro-cylinder, are not invincible and together with inadequate external hinges (allowing the door to be lifted off) and frail door construction — the front or back door may be all your intruder needs.

A sub-standard euro-cylinder operating multi-point lock can be damaged (a procedure known as bumping or snapping), and the cam of the lock disabled.

Replace older euro-cylinders with restricted style cylinder locks which are anti-bump/anti-snap, drill resistant and which carry an EN1303-05 Security Classification. Prices start around €80 installed. Contractors providing security services as a locksmith will require a PSA licence and will be registered here: psa.gov.ie.

Digital doormates

If you have a smart-lock on the door and facial recognition cameras like Nest Cam IQ installed indoors, you should make the most of them — allowing someone in when necessary to say, water the plants. Prices start in the €110 area for something app-friendly with a tamper alarm like the Yale YD-01 Connected Smart Lock.

Ensure any replacement for a conventional rim lock is perfectly installed and “speaking” to your home network and mobile effectively. If you’re letting someone in remotely or have given them a key to visit to walk/feed the dog — the dog is being seriously neglected.

Nest Hello doorbells (from €266) and Ring Video Doorbell 2 (from €199 Harvey Norman), both offer an application for 24/7 streaming (30-day service with Nest Aware — €5-€30pm, nest.com/ie) and a snapshot history uploaded to the Cloud if the worst should happen at the door area or immediate surroundings.

Present an inhabited house

Mail waving in the post-box is an open flag that you are away. MailMinder from an Post, suspends delivery of mail to your home or business for up to 12 weeks, with a four-week period covered for €14.

Just print out an application form online, or pick one up in your local post office and get your fee in on time (at least five working days before your departure), anpost.ie.

With other visual clues — timing is everything.

Draw the curtains and leave lights on for two weeks? A dead giveaway. Blinds are a good compromise, with venetians set facing the ceiling to allow light in but an obscured view.

We need a random pattern of lighting and even noise delivered manually (by a co-operating neighbour) or a bit of technical deception.

If you have a home network controlling lights, adjusting thermostats, plugs and more via Amazon Echo Dot, you can direct a little domestic theatre from wherever you are.

Investigate WiFi-controlled and programmable Philips Hue bulbs (Hue Bridge kit from €69.99, Argos) using an app matched to your Smartphone, tablet or smart accessory to control your lights at home or away.

Work up a random pattern of suggested credible, shifting patterns of activity or use their Lab “advanced presence mimicking” programme.

The most basic approach, but a safe one, is a set of 24-hour mechanical plug-through timers to turn on a TV or radios on and to flick bedroom lamps on for a few hours by night. The MasterPlug costs just €4.99. Woodies DIY. Outdoor lighting operated by an IR beam is off-putting — but not infallible.

Sitters and neighbours

This could be a member of the family, a trusted friend or an agency hire who comes with the comfort of references and insurance. It’s important that they are adult, responsible and know how you like things done. If you like the burglar alarms set every time you are out or the old cat fed twice a day, make this clear.

Older teens left home alone may declare a “free house” on social media resulting in not only an unsanctioned party but major damage if the invitation goes viral. Be realistic about their level of maturity.

A good neighbour — in fact a really great neighbour — will trade roles, minding your house with regular checks, act as key-holder for the alarm, giving the front lawn a quick swipe and parking their car about the place by night. It’s a favour you should return, of course.

Keep in mind that looking after someone’s home is a huge responsibility — don’t be offended if someone simply says “no”.

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