Winter is a season that, despite the occasional harshness of its temperatures, has its own unique and undeniable appeal.
The holidays that take place from late November through early January play a major part in the fostering of that appeal, of course, but it’s more than that. The falling snow offers beautiful scenery and countless opportunities for fun for everyone in your household, whether you and your children are into snowmen, snowball fights or sledding. You just need to be careful about avoiding prolonged exposure to the cold, especially if you have young children.
Indeed, staying warm is one of the biggest priorities in winter – as well it should be. It’s cold out there! But there are also certain elements specific to this season that make it necessary to take a long, hard look at the current state of your home security. Whether you plan to be home for the winter months or you’re taking a vacation, protecting your valuables – and, even more importantly, your loved ones – is of the utmost importance.
It is prudent to examine the aspects of household upkeep and good habits that will help secure your home this winter so you can start implementing them into your daily routine sooner rather than later. But plenty of these tips are bound to have positive effects on year-round security as well. Today, we’ll take a closer look at winter home security tips and tricks that meet the criteria of both of those categories and help you formulate the best possible plan of action for your homestead.
Considering the exterior through a criminal’s point of view
Homeowners who are unfamiliar with the mindset and habits of those who commit burglaries might think of such individuals as reckless.
But serious professional criminals are precisely that – professional. The BBC reported that experienced thieves often operate according to a blend of preparation and impulse. They may spend days or weeks observing the exterior of a home and making detailed notes about the occupants’ daily activities: when the residents are and aren’t home, how often guests arrive, times when everyone seems to be asleep. Conversely, if a previously assumed fact, like a resident’s absence at a given time, proves not to be the case on the day of the planned robbery, burglars may stand down, either to delay the break-in or begin targeting an entirely different home. The Insurance Information Institute stated that if thieves believe break-ins will take more than five minutes, they’re likely to abandon their efforts.
We mention all of this to stress that career criminals spend a great deal of time observing the exterior of a home, sometimes taking a walk around the house when no one is home to check for convenient ingress and egress points before the actual robbery. They make many of their decisions based on what they see, and as such, HomeAdvisor recommended that homeowners take their own surveys of the exterior with this in mind. If you can clearly see valuable items through the windows, burglars can too. Criminals will also note any windows or doors that look like they could be susceptible to prying. Be mindful of these potential hazards. Replace any visibly vulnerable entrance points and change interior arrangements as needed so that any opportunities for theft won’t stand out.
Understanding nature-related factors
During most of the year, shrubberies and bushes planted along the perimeter of your yard can be a real issue, as DIY Network noted. Burglars tend to use these plants as cover. If thieves are working on cracking a window and someone passes by on the sidewalk, they can duck out of sight until the coast is clear again. In the winter, most of these bushes will have shed their foliage, but if you have any evergreen plants, keep their branches trimmed periodically just as you would in spring or summer.
Additionally, HomeSafety pointed out thieves may view driveways that haven’t been shoveled as an indicator that residents aren’t home and the time is right for a break-in. Be mindful of this if you live in a region with particularly snowy winters or have elderly relatives who can’t shovel snow themselves. Last but not least, don’t forget that in mid- to late December, the sun sets earlier than at any other time of the year – sometimes as early in the day as 4:20 p.m. when close to the solstice. Incorporate this fact into your plan for bolstering the security of your home through motion-sensing lights or other similar items.
Taking precautions before vacation
Many families, couples and individuals take vacations during the winter, sometimes for extended periods of time. Such situations are the proverbial catnip for full-time burglars. A separate piece by HomeAdvisor recommended several precautions to help bolster security while you’re away:
- Take care of any exterior repairs – loose windows, roof panels, etc. – that may look like entry-permitting vulnerabilities.
- Let trusted neighbors or family members know you’re going on vacation and ask them to check on the house periodically. If you’ll be away for a particularly long time, consider arranging for one of these people to house-sit.
- Lock all doors and windows and ensure alarms are set before you depart.
Cameras can be an excellent addition to your home’s exterior to improve security this winter.
Reinforcing points of weakness
There are several physical features of the house factors that homeowners should worry about as potential security weaknesses: doors and windows, weak locks, overly high fences, a dearth of exterior lighting, etc. Consider the following tactics to address these issues:
- Windows – In the interest of being safe rather than sorry, you should consider having key locks installed on your windows, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Basic latches might not suffice. Safety glass or accordion bars can further discourage burglars who would otherwise be willing to smash the windows in the course of their entry.
- Doors – The ideal thickness of a secure door is 1.75 inches. If feasible, opt for something thicker. Choose doors made of thick hardwood or metal.
- Locks – According to the home safety blog A Secure Life, it’s ideal to choose locks that boast a Grade 1 rating from the American National Standards Institute. In terms of what’s available to consumers, this means opting for a deadbolt rather than a mortise lock set or a knob-based lock, as those models only go as high as Grade 2. The ANSI Grade 1 designation means they’re secure enough for commercial use. Deadbolts meeting that standard have been tested to withstand 10 blows from a hammer and 250,000 cycles of locking and unlocking.
- Lighting – Connect at least one strong light on each side of your home’s exterior to a motion detector that will activate the bulb if tripped. But make sure that these are mounted high enough to avoid the destructive or interfering hands of thieves. They will happily disrupt these electronics to maintain the cover of darkness for their crimes.
Greater wintertime security through technology
We live in an age of numerous and seemingly constant advances in technologies on all fronts, so why not put tech to work for you as your household security’s first line of defense?
In addition to the previously mentioned motion sensor lights, you may want to consider installing a few small closed-circuit television cameras around the outside of your home, according to HomeAdvisor’s recommendations. Like the sensors, they must be placed somewhere visible but not easily reached. As long as thieves can’t tamper with or compromise the cameras, their sheer presence will likely deter more cautious or nervous burglars all on its own. Should you choose to spend the money on such cameras, however, it would be somewhat silly not to keep them activated and review the footage periodically for anything that looks suspicious.
Also, cameras may sometimes come as part and parcel of a bundled home security system, alongside alarms for multiple ingress and egress points, motion-activated lighting and other features. Setting yourself up with one of these packages may ultimately be your wisest choice for ensuring the safety of your house this winter, as it will cover all of your bases. You can rest assured that even during a worst-case scenario in which all other deterrents in and around your house fail, the alarms in the security system will go off, alerting your local police of the disturbance and, hopefully, sending the would-be thieves running off in a hurry. The ultimate priority as the head of your household should be ensuring family safety.
For more information on how to find the best and most robust deals on security, peruse our list of home security companies in your area. We compare providers based on monthly pricing, equipment, installation options, contracts and money-back guarantees. Be safe this holiday season.