Dear Black Bag Confidential Reader,
Quite a few new readers have come on board recently, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to feature past reader questions and get everybody up to speed.
Today’s Weekly Drop is a collection of questions and answers that address various aspects of home security — from security systems to safes.
Let’s dive in.
I really enjoy your information. I have large windows from floor to ceiling, and lots of them. I even have six doors that are mostly glass. How am I to keep someone from entering my home?
— Charlotte S.
Your best option is to put security film on the windows. Window security film will prevent someone from smashing in a window and entering your house. If you don’t want to spend the money on security film, then get a good guard dog. When faced with a protective canine, most criminals will quickly lose the desire to break in.
And don’t forget about the other precautions you can take to deter someone from breaking into your home. Installing motion-sensor lights, putting in cameras (even fake ones) and displaying alarm system stickers on your windows and doors will make any robber think twice.
How do you protect a suburban home? I live in an older two-story home with a large backyard with regular picket-style wooden fence around the perimeter. There is also a lane at the end of the backyard. I’m looking to make this secure and safe for the family.
— Gary H.
Great question, Gary. Arming you with skills and information to better protect your family is my No.1 goal. So here are a couple things you can do.
First, get an alarm system and put an alarm sign in your yard. If an alarm system is cost prohibitive, you can still put a sign in your yard or alarm stickers on your doors or windows to deter thieves.
Second, you should put up motion-sensor lights around your house to eliminate any dark spots that would conceal a forced entry. Put up security cameras around your house, as well. Hikvision cameras are a good brand to use. Lastly, put up a “Beware of Dog” sign and place a dog bowl near your back door even if you don’t own a dog.
If you take these simple security measures, your house will be one of the least inviting on the block to a criminal who is casing your neighborhood.
I am looking at getting a security system for my home. How should I evaluate one of those? And if possible, would you have any recommendations?
— Ken R.
Honestly, Ken, most security companies are essentially the same. They all outsource to the same call centers and use the same manufacturers to private-label their equipment. If you go with one of the big names like Brinks or ADT, you’ll be good to go.
Or — if you want a do-it-yourself option — I would check out SimpliSafe. Their systems are easy to self-install and they offer month-to-month monitoring, as opposed to annual contracts.
Regardless of which company you choose, keep in mind the most important thing to look for is one that offers to put sensors on all of your windows and doors. You’ll also want to get motion sensors installed throughout your house as an added precaution.
I’m no expert by any stretch on home security systems. However, I’ve had one for many years. It has saved my life at least once (fire). The most important factor to consider is how the system calls the monitoring service. If the bad guy knows you have a system, he’ll simply cut your line and watch for activity. You need a system that calls out like a cellphone: maybe 4G?
— Chas P.
For someone who’s not an expert, Chas, you’ve hit the nail right on the head. In the past, many professional burglars would, indeed, cut the phone line to a home before breaking in, to prevent the alarm system from alerting the monitoring company. After all, it’s hard to place a call when the phone line is dead.
Due to the increase in these crimes and the fact that many people are getting rid of landlines, security companies have had to make changes. So nowadays, all major security systems offer a cellular backup.
If your alarm goes off and the system cannot communicate with the monitoring company via the landline, it will activate the cellular backup. Just like a cellphone, your alarm system can communicate wirelessly with the monitoring company via a cellphone tower.
Having a cellular backup is oftentimes an added feature of alarm systems. I definitely recommend contacting your home security provider and asking them if your system includes cellular backup. If not, ask for the details to add it to your plan.
What should you do if you suspect a criminal is posing as a police officer knocking on your door?
— Helen N.
If you’re unsure of who is knocking at your door, call 911 and ask them to verify there is an officer at your home. Kindly tell the person who is knocking (through the door) that you are calling the police department. Most police officers will allow you the short amount of time it takes to do this.
Regarding strangers knocking on your door… I recommend a device called Ring. It replaces your doorbell button. It will work off a battery or your doorbell wires. It allows you to see who is at the door and allows you to talk to them without opening the door. It’s paired to your mobile phone — you don’t even have to be at home to use the device.
This sounds like a great way to make sure you never open your door to a stranger. Thank you for sharing.
I was wondering if you could recommend a home safe. I would be interested in your recommendations for a safe for valuables and a safe for firearms. Thank you.
Safes are not the type of item you should ever go cheap on. I highly recommend that any safe you get is fireproof, especially if you plan on storing important documents in them.
For valuables, I would look into the SentrySafe SFW123DSB. This model is a standard combination safe with no electronic locks, so it doesn’t require batteries. It offers one hour of fire protection and is water resistant up to eight inches.
One of the reasons I like this safe is that you can bolt it to your floor. Criminals will often grab a safe during a burglary and figure out how to get into it later, but if it’s bolted down, they won’t be able to take it with them. This safe sells for around $200 on Amazon.
For a good gun safe, I suggest checking out the Browning Medallion Series. Browning is well known in the gun world, and they offer a quality line of large, heavy, well-built gun safes.