Winter can bring more than ice and snow. While home burglary rates drop on average during the season, some factors such as built-up snow and extended travel to warmer locations can leave your home vulnerable. Accidents also typically increase during the winter months, with 17 times more fatalities occurring during cold weather than warm conditions. The risks abound, but there are steps you can take to make your home a safe haven for the winter.
Lock the Doors and Windows
Locks are a simple first-line of home defense, but also an important one. Thieves look for soft targets, according to Leonard Sipes, the former information services director for the National Crime Prevention Council.
“The overwhelming number of burglars are unskilled people who go through open or unlocked windows and doors,” he told Meghan Jones of Reader’s Digest. “Simply locking windows and doors will prevent most burglaries.”
If burglars can’t easily open doors or windows in your home, chances are they’ll move on to another home with easier access. Keep your doors and windows locked at all times. Don’t overlook windows above the ground floor; they are easy access points for thieves with ladders.
Many people diligently lock their doors and windows when they leave, but aren’t as cautious when they’re home. However, thieves can easily slip in and steal your stuff while you’re occupied watching TV or sleeping. For extra peace of mind, add security bars to reinforce windows and sliding doors.
Light Your Entryways
Entryways are the most common access points for home burglars. According to research from A Secure Life, 34 percent of thieves use the front door and 22 percent enter via a rear door. They don’t want to break in to a home in plain view, as they’re more likely to be detected and identified. That’s why well-lit entryways can be powerful deterrents.
Make your outdoor lights bold and bright, to really put thieves off. Motion-sensor security lights are a great option, as they can trick thieves into thinking you’ve switched on the lights to investigate movement outdoors. Most aren’t brave enough to stick around and find out whether you’re about to apprehend them!
Well-lit entryways are also safer for you. Your lights will help you identify your keys and unlock your home so you can retreat to safety sooner.
Keep Your Exteriors Tidy
A tidy exterior is a powerful deterrent for thieves and a much safer environment for you.
When snow builds up and your yard looks overgrown, it appears as though it’s not lived in. This is common when people live in holiday homes over the winter months. Opportunistic thieves are more likely to target your home if they feel you won’t be back for a while. If you have a vacation home or take extended winter getaways, make sure you invest in regular yard maintenance to make your place seem lived in while you’re away.
Keeping trees and shrubs neat should be part of your regular yard maintenance. Burglars often use these plants for cover when they’re scoping out a home. They may also climb trees to access windows above the ground floor. Remove them and criminals will be more likely to move on.
Any items you leave outdoors, such as toys, shoes, and even outdoor furniture you only use during warm weather, are vulnerable to thieves. Put these items away when you’re not using them to keep them safe. These items can also be tripping hazards, so tidying up is a great way to keep yourself and any family members or visitors safe.
Implement Time-Switch Lights
Thieves prefer to work under the shroud of darkness. A dark home is the easiest way to identify whether you’re home or not. If you regularly travel or work late, time-switch lights can make your home less vulnerable to crooks. Time-switch lights illuminate your home when night falls, giving the illusion someone’s home. Set up the time-switch lights, draw your drapes and curtains, and the criminals will never know you’re not in.
Time-switch lights will also make your home safer when you arrive home. With your home lit up, you’ll find it easier to see the right keys and unlock your home, reducing the time you’re vulnerable outdoors. You’ll also be less likely to trip and fall over furniture and pets when you step indoors if you’re not fumbling for light switches.
Invest in a Safe
Remember, thieves prefer soft targets. If they do break into your house, they don’t want to waste time as the longer they’re in your house, the greater the risk they’ll get caught. Any way you can add an extra layer of protection for the things that matter most to you is money well spent. Investing in a safe is the easiest way to do this.
Safes aren’t just for banks and hotels. You can use a safe in your home to secure any small items of value, like jewelry, passports, cash, and electronics. As an added bonus, a safe can also protect precious documents from damage from mold and mildew, which often grows when you’re heating your home during the winter. Keeping these precious items in a safe also reduces the risk thieves will spot them through a window and want to break in.
The best safes are fire-proof, waterproof, protected by both mechanical and electronic locks, and boltable to the floor to make their removal difficult. Think about the items you want to store, and select a safe that’s a little larger than your current needs so you’ve got space to grow. Expect to spend a couple of hundred dollars on a good safe. However, you may be able to recoup your initial investment, as many insurance companies discount policies for homeowners with safes.
Taking preventative steps before the cold hits and adopting safe habits throughout the season can reduce the chances you’ll become a winter theft or accident statistic. When you know you’re doing all you can to stay safe, you can spend more time enjoying your home during the cold weather months.