How to keep your home safe and secure
Keeping your home safe from burglaries is always a worry. By following these simple home security tips, you can protect your home and valuables.
In the aftermath of a burglary, you may feel distressed and uncomfortable in your own home. Not only are you left with the sense of invasion, but you may lose valuables, personal possessions, or family heirlooms.
Making it difficult for burglars to enter your home will give you peace of mind and keep you at ease all year round, be it at Halloween, during the festive season, or if you’re away.
Securing your home properly will also benefit you when it comes to taking out a home insurance policy. Insurers give discounts if you’ve implemented proper security measures, as it means your home is less likely to experience break-ins and robberies, thus making you less risky to insure.
General home security tips
1. Make sure you keep doors and windows locked
Many burglaries and thefts are opportunistic, so you can significantly reduce the risk of your house being broken into by simply locking up properly. According to Gardaí, almost 1 in 4 burglaries in summer involve entry through an unsecured access point.
We’d recommend using levered deadlocks, which will deter burglars if they try and target your home. We’d also advise you to fit a stop at the top of the door frame, which will prevent doors from being lifted out of their frame.
You should also hide keys out of sight, so remember to remove keys from locked doors and windows and keep them out of sight.
2. Ensure all ground-floor windows have locks
Windows on the ground floor and other accessible windows should be fitted with locks, preferably ones with key-operated security bolts with removable keys.
3. Store valuables safely
You should try and be mindful of where you keep wallets, jewellery and other valuables. Try not to leave valuable items lying around, and put them somewhere safe when not in use. Consider purchasing a safe if you want peace of mind.
According to research carried out by insurer Aviva, the most commonly stolen items during a burglary include:
- Purses, wallets, money, and cards (40%)
- Jewellery (27%)
- Computers and computer equipment (23%)
- Electrical goods and cameras (19%)
- Watches (15%)
4. Don’t leave valuables near entrances
Tying in with the third point above, it's best to avoid leaving keys or valuables near the front or back doors. Research shows that one in 7 (14%) of householders admit to leaving their keys near the front door.
Thieves can use coat hangers and fishing rods to hook keys and other valuable possessions through the letterbox.
5. Keep sheds and garages locked
Many homeowners don’t put the same effort into protecting their garage and shed as they do for their homes. Oftentimes, they just use an easy-to-break lock to protect valuable contents, such as a car, bike or lawnmower.
Often, opportunistic burglars will seek out tools to break into the home in a shed or garage before trying the main house. By safely storing away ladders, tools, etc. you can put burglars off.
You also can deter burglars from breaking into your garage at night by installing motion-activated flood lights near the garage windows and doors.
It’s important to check that your home and buildings insurance covers your shed or any other outbuildings. You can contact your insurer to find this out.
6. Install an alarm or home security system
We’d strongly recommend installing an alarm system or security cameras in your home. These can act as a deterrent and may ward off burglars.
If you’re looking to install an alarm, here are some tips:
- Make sure your alarm is visible: Ensure that the external sounder or 'bell box’ of your alarm is visible on your property.
- Consider a monitored alarm: A monitored alarm system allows the police to respond much faster to an emergency and insurers may give you an extra discount for having this in place.
- Choose a noisy alarm: A loud alarm will scare off burglars mid-break-in. A fake or ‘dummy’ alarm won’t do this.
- Choose a wireless alarm: Household alarm systems that are wireless are harder to tamper with and continue to work during power outages.
During the Halloween season
During October and November, homeowners must be extra vigilant. Halloween, Bonfire Night, and longer nights create a perfect storm for mayhem.
According to Aviva, malicious damage claims increased by 21% during October and November, compared to the monthly average.
So if you want to keep your house safe and secure during Autumn, follow these additional tips:
Keep your gates closed and locked
Despite your locked door, people can steal items from your garden before even reaching your house.
If you have a gate, keep it locked or bolted to ward off any mischief makers.
Make it obvious if you’re not celebrating Halloween
It’s common knowledge that most trick-or-treaters only call to homes that have decorations put up, pumpkins outside, or lights on inside.
If you don’t want anyone calling your house, avoid putting up any decorations and keep any lights at the front of the house (e.g. porch lights) turned off.
You could also put up a polite ‘no trick-or-treaters’ poster, which shows you’re not taking part. Simply find a design you like online for a poster, print it off, and stick it up on your front door.
Shut blinds and curtains
A home with valuables will be targeted more often by burglars. Consider shutting curtains and blinds to keep your possessions hidden from prying eyes. Only 46% of residents do this before going out or away.
Avoid leaving wheelie bins out
Unfortunately, many wheelie bins have fallen victim to vandals over the years, particularly over Halloween.
If possible, store wheelie bins in a garage or behind any shrubbery/bushes, so that they’re not visible.
During winter and Christmas time
According to Gardaí, the rate of burglaries increases by up to 20% during winter months. There are fewer daylight hours during winter, which gives potential intruders a greater opportunity to carry out burglaries. Darkness provides ample cover for them to carry out crimes undetected.
The most common time for burglaries to occur during the winter is between 5pm and 9pm on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday.
Use timer switches
Having a well-lit home deters thieves, and since you're likely to have expensive gifts in your house, you don't want to take any chances.
Turn on the odd light inside your home and if you have Christmas lights outside in your front garden, set up a timer so that they come on when it’s beginning to get dark.
Don’t leave presents in full view
You’ll want to keep your presents safe from the minute you purchase them:
- Don’t leave gifts in your car in full view while it is unattended, even in your driveway, as opportunist thieves will smash the glass and run.
- Hide presents if your tree can be seen through a window. Leaving them all around the tree in view can be an invitation to rob if burglars catch sight of them.
- Break up the packaging and don't leave any branded boxes next to the bin. This shows potential burglars what new items you may have inside the house.
Check what your insurance covers
It’s a good idea to check your policy or with your insurance company to determine what exactly is covered. Oftentimes, you’ll have to insure specific items separately, e.g. a bike, engagement ring, camera, etc. You can learn more about specified items cover here.
Photograph new gifts those in your household receive and keep the pictures safe and keep hold of the receipts from when you purchased gifts. These will act as proof of ownership if you need to claim.
If you are using a shed or garage to hide your presents, check they will be covered before you leave them there.
You may end up unintentionally invalidating your insurance if you do not take reasonable care to secure your home and possessions.
It's also important to check what your insurance covers to make sure your home isn't underinsured, which can leave you out of pocket should you need to make a claim. We'd recommend checking this before the winter months in case you experience any weather-related damage too, such as burst pipes.
If you’re going away
If you’re leaving your house unoccupied for a few days or weeks, it’s vital you know what measures to take to protect your home. As well as the steps mentioned above, consider the following:
Check alarm batteries
Battery-powered home alarm systems are rendered useless when they run out, so be sure to check before you leave.
Don’t advertise your plans
Keep your plans about going away a secret. Try to avoid sharing your plans on social media, as this could lead to thieves plotting a raid on your house.
When uncollected packages accumulate in your hallway or porch, burglars assume you are away.
To avoid this, cancel any deliveries you have due and reschedule them for when you’re back.
Alternatively, schedule them to be delivered to a different location. See if any friends or family will allow you to have the deliveries dropped at their houses, or get them diverted to a drop-off location.
Make it seem like your house is occupied
An empty home can be an open invitation to burglars. The trick is not to draw their attention in the first place.
When looking to break into unoccupied homes, burglars look for:
- Post piling up or coming out of the letterbox
- Deliveries sitting on the doorstep
- An empty driveway with no car outside
- No lights on at night
- Overgrown plants or grass that needs to be cut
- Wheelie bins that haven’t been emptied or returned to their normal position after a collection
Ask a friend, relative or trusted neighbour to check in on the house and collect any accumulated post. They can also open and close blinds occasionally, or turn lights on and off to make it look like you are at home. They may also be able to park their own car in your driveway for a period.
It’s also helpful for someone to have a key in case of a leak or other emergency.
Discover more home insurance tips
Take a look at our other helpful home insurance guides to learn more:
- Find out how you can reduce your home insurance costs here.
- Before taking out your policy, have a look at these 9 things to consider when taking out home insurance.
- In this guide, we’ve compiled a list of the most common questions asked about home insurance.
You can stay up to date on the latest home insurance news and helpful information by keeping an eye on our blogs and guides pages.
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