Gail DuBois' Blog
While there's a lot to be said for the value of high-tech home security systems, there are many basic, inexpensive things you can do to safeguard your home from intruders. Keeping your home secure begins with awareness, good communication, and positive habits.
Where does good communication come into play? One example is the need to have a trusted neighbor keep an eye on your home when you're out of town or away on vacation. Even if you've had the foresight to suspend your mail and newspaper deliveries during your absence, things don't always work out as planned!
When you factor in the possibility of human error, unplanned deliveries, or even power outages, it's a good idea to have a friend, relative, or neighbor check on your house when you're gone. Unexpected deliveries could run the gamut from free phonebooks left on your front steps to promotional literature placed on your doorknob or stuffed into your mailbox. And even if you don't subscribe to a newspaper, free sample issues may occasionally be left in your driveway -- often with an invitation to become a subscriber. An alert neighbor can clear away any telltale signs that no one's home. They can also notify you or the local authorities of any suspicious activity on your property.
A good rule of thumb when you're away for more than a few hours is to make your house look as if it's occupied. Even old-school techniques, like hooking up a couple indoor lights to automatic timers, can create the impression someone's home. If you happen to have outside lights on a timer or motion-detector floodlights, then that can help deter nighttime trespassers, too. Solar-powered lights which turn on when the sun goes down are another option.
In spite of good habits, like locking doors and staying in touch with neighbors, windows left open can be an overlooked security breach -- especially if you didn't leave them open, yourself! This can and often does happen in unexpected ways, like when your houseckeeper decides your home smells a little stale and needs an infusion of outside air to freshen things up! Although their intent is typically helpful and good, they may be solving one problem while creating another.
The same thing could happen if you have painters or other contractors doing interior work at your home. You can address that problem by reminding them to close windows when they're done for the day. You can also leave a note to that effect. Just in case they happen to be on the forgetful side, though, it's always a good idea to follow up your reminders with your own security checks! Since other people (especially those who don't live in your house) may not be nearly as security conscious as you, it's always better to err on the side of caution!
Be the burglarNot literally. But pretend to be. Go through the exterior of your house and think like a burglar. Check your windows. Especially the low-hanging ones. Are all of your locks secured? Do you make it a point to lock them nightly? Test your locks. Not all locks are created equal. Doorknob locks are often easily picked or forced open. Deadbolts are harder. However, none of these things matter if the integrity of your door is compromised. French doors, for example, are particularly easy to force open. If you're worried about your locks, consult a locksmith that can help you choose better options. Look inside your home from the sidewalk. Are there valuables within view from the street? Do you have a tendency to leave your garage door open, exposing expensive items like lawnmowers, grills, or even motorcycles? Burglars don't just target homes. Don't end your search with the house. Many items are stolen from sheds, backyards, and even off of porches, which happened to me as a child when a bicycle was taken from our porch in the night.
Tighten up securityThe number of small steps we can take to improve security and mitigate risk of burglary is boundless. Here are some security tips that should be on every checklist for home safety:
- Use a security mailbox and don't leave mail with personal information exposed in front of your home
- Install a fireproof safe in your home. Hope for the best but plan for the worst. Keep your important documents in the safe, and better yet, keep them backed up in a secure file on the cloud like Google Drive or Dropbox.
- Use motion light detectors. When calibrated correctly they won't go off for every car or cat that happens by and they're a great theft deterrent.
- Tell your neighbors if you're going out of town, and have someone take in your mail/newspapers for you. Keep a kitchen light on and a car parked in the driveway if possible.
- Don't leave spare keys under the rug or anywhere obvious. Also, keep tabs on all of the keys to your home. Know who has a copy and check up on the spare keys on occasion.
- Be security conscious. Even if you live in what you consider to be a safe neighborhood, all it takes is one incident to rob you of your sense of security -- not to mention any valuables that might be lying around. While there are a handful of small, close-knit communities out there where folks feel comfortable leaving their doors unlocked, it's still better to exercise a little caution. Unless you can depend on your neighbors to keep a close eye on your house when you're not at home, locking doors and windows before you leave is a smart safety practice.
- Get at least three estimates. Whether you're planning on remodeling your kitchen, repaving your driveway, or having the exterior of your house painted, you can often save thousands of dollars by getting and comparing three written quotes. When you talk to contractors and other service providers, you'll also get a sense of how easy or difficult they are to work with. If they're impatient with your questions or slow to respond to emails and phone messages, then you're probably seeing a preview of what they'd be like on the job.
- Get a dehumidifier for your basement. If your basement is dry and you don't have any drainage issues outside your house, then this suggestion may not apply to you. However, if your basement humidity level is approaching 60%, a dehumidifier may be necessary to help prevent mold growth, indoor air quality problems, and other issues. (Monitoring tip: Inexpensive humidity gauges are available at hardware stores and online.) Preventing mold growth before it takes hold can potentially save you thousands of dollars in mold remediation costs. If your basement is wet, musty smelling, or has visible signs of mold or mildew, consulting with a certified mold assessor or a basement waterproofing company can help you identify the extent of the problem, as well as what to do about it.
- Research dog breeds before choosing a family pet. All dog breeds have different characteristics, personality traits, exercise needs, and training requirements. Unfortunately, some families choose a puppy based on how cute it is, rather than how well it will fit into their lifestyle. Dogs generally need a lot of attention, especially when they're being housebroken and acclimated to daily routines. To help ensure a successful relationship with your new dog, it's important that every member of the family understand the responsibility that comes with pet ownership: It's a labor of love and a long-term commitment.
What is Asbestos?Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral that is a known carcinogen--meaning it is capable of causing cancer. Asbestos has been utilized throughout history for a number of practical uses, dating back to Ancient Greek and Egyptian societies who used asbestos in the embalming process and in candle wicks. In 1900s America, asbestos was used in a range of industries from automobiles, the military, and in building our homes. The benefits of asbestos are many. It is a great insulator and is also fire retardant. So for homeowners trying to keep warm but also concerned about their house burning down, asbestos offered two highly sought after services. It wasn't until the 1970s that the U.S. government began warning about and regulating the use of asbestos.
RisksIn spite of its many uses, asbestos has one--huge--disadvantage: it causes cancer. More specifically asbestos exposure can cause lung cancer and mesothelioma (a cancer of the lining of the chest and abdominal cavity). The cancer is a result of inhaling the fibers of asbestos mineral that are released into the air. In extreme cases where asbestos exposure becomes cancer-causing, some common symptoms include:
- pain or difficulty breathing
- coughing blood
- a cough that doesn't go away or worsens
- shortness of breath