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Developing the most efficient home security system for your own home

Probably, you landed on this page in a search for an electronic "Home Security System". Before you go elsewhere to part with your hard-earned cash to buy a "peace of mind", you'd better read on. No electronic system alone will make your home secure, sorry. You need an entire "Home Security" that is a "System", not just boxes with semiconductors that produce sound and visual effects to entertain the owner and feed the alarm monitoring company.

Here we discuss a complex of measures that comprise the security of your home as a system. It extends beyond electronic home security system in implementation and beyond your house in space. The electronic security system may be the first step, or there may simpler steps with higher priority and lower cost.

What do you want to secure?

We all have different house configurations and different habits. As a general rule, the larger the section and the house are, the more vulnerabilities they have. We discuss an example of a typical separate NZ house and you may ignore things that are not applicable to your situation.

Securing the section

As a part of our New Zealand lifestyle we spend a lot of time wandering around our section doing gardening, mowing lawns, working in a shed or garage. The sole fact of unexpectedly seeing a stranger behind your back when turning around can provoke a heart attack! They may be genuine door-to-door sales people, may be burglars, or may be both. Whoever they are, if your section has an entrance that is not locked, there will always be an excuse for a trespasser!

Fence as the first line of your home security system

When your section is fenced and the gate is locked, anyone's presence without consent is an obvious crime. The criminals avoid giving their intentions away. If they don't have a chance to assess vulnerabilities of the house itself, they probably won't bother with your house at all. Even if they manage to burglar the house, it will be a problem to steal a lot when not having a vehicle access to the house itself.

In New Zealand, where houses are insecure by design, a fence is the cheapest option to secure your home. The fencing itself is not as trivial as it may seem. We discuss the best fencing solutions later.

Border intrusion detection as the second line of your home security system

After you have had your border sorted, it is easy to automatically judge who is the trespasser. Basically, this is anyone who happened to be at your side of the fence, provided the access is locked. Now, it is absolutely appropriate to alarm about the intrusion, and this is the best moment to do so because:
  • There may be family members outside the house that must be warned;
  • The house may be unlocked, so rush and lock it from inside;
  • No one is at home and you don't want to give the burglar an extra time and peace of mind. Most likely, the burglar will abandon the burglary, because it is unknown how much time it will take to break into the house itself.
  • While outside the house the burglar is visible, and this is the wrong time (good for you) to draw attention.
Outdoor electronic security systems are different from indoor security systems. The PIR motion detectors can't be relied on. They don't see anything on warm surfaces and constantly give false alarms when windy. If you have security lights, you know that the only outdoor use for PIR sensors may be the illumination, which may be already annoys your neighbours at night. The best solution we came across is a PhotoBeam home security system. It is triggered by crossing invisible infrared laser beams and is resistant to most causes of false alarms. They are still rare in New Zealand. The one we found has other great ingredients, including low price. It is also highly extensible and complete DIY. There are no ongoing monitoring (and false alarm!) fees. It dials to your (or whoever's) phone!

Outdoor security zones as the third line of your home security system

Imagine that the outer border had been breached from the street, and you are in the back yard with your kids or mowing the lawn. Who do you think will arrive at the unlocked back door of your house first, your toddler or the street gang member? Possibly, you do not have the first and second lines of defence yet. As your house or other buildings in the front yard have a significant size, you can use them as a part of internal fencing. This fencing is useful for many purposes:
  • Delays intruders;
  • Intruders are exposed for longer period at your section before they can hide in the house;
  • Natural barrier for talking across to trespassers;
  • You don't have to walk into the house to understand that a criminal may still be there;
  • Prevents toddlers and large pets from breaking loose;
The internal fencing can be built at a low cost, especially when utilising already existent barriers like houses, garages and sheds.

Securing the house

This is what most people do, though securing the section is more important, easy and beneficial.

House's structure as a fourth line of your home security system

Most NZ homes can be broken into through glass, weatherboard, veneer, plasterboard. It is just a matter of time the intruder spends to break the material, usually few minutes. More minutes you make the intruder to spend, the better chances of survival your family members and possessions have. There are options of break-resistant glass and films, as most intruders don't think outside the window or door box.
Residential House Door Locks
The residential garage doors used around the country can be opened with a good knife or their low-security lock picked with a piece of wire. We inquired LockSmith about more secure garage locks, but had to improvise ourselves because there is just nothing acceptable at all. May be this is because LockSmith should be able to open the locks themselves:) I saw them doing it in about 20 seconds, and the lock picks are sold on Internet to anyone...
In the entire country we did not find a lock with 3 bolts going in top-side-bottom directions or any really vandal-proof lock. They either have buttons or a keyhole that can be stuffed with a safety match. We are currently working on importing more serious locks from countries with long criminal history. You may want to inquire us regarding unusual locks unknown to local professionals.

House internal electronic security system as a fifth line of your home security system

There is such an abundance of in-house security systems that people just buy the cheapest DIY they see, or open Yellow Pages and call security monitoring company that has the largest advertisement. Guess who ultimately pays for that expensive advertisements? When engaging monitoring company watch for:
  • High ongoing monitoring costs;
  • False alarm charges;
  • It is not only your property that they have to attend! You either pay for their idle personnel, or have a poor response time when they are stretched. How many alarms do they have during high winds? How many response units do they have? What if criminals are not that dumb and trigger alarms in multiple places at the same time?
  • Do you trust the security guard entering your house?

Panic Room as a sixth line of your home security system

Remember all these thrillers when there is an intruder somewhere inside the house, and the poor woman keeps running round and around screaming? Lucky they are to have that many rooms! In reality, those who can afford that many rooms should also be able to afford a panic room, and many of them do. In NZ, bathrooms are often naturally used for this purpose, apparently because they are the most fortified rooms in the entire house. Apparently, the assaulter should be a child to be stopped by a bathroom door, but it does a trick for a minute or two. It may be better to have a purposely-built panic room. Reinforcing an existing room may prove to be a problem taking into consideration the sort of internal walls, ceiling and floor used in typical house. A shot from AK-47 may penetrate many houses together with their "Panic room" facilities. At least what you need in the room are communications like telephone, cellular phone and loudspeaker, so that you could summon help. Of course any communication can be cut or jammed, but you must be a very desirable target to qualify for that:)

More about panic rooms later.

Safe box as a seventh line of your home security system

If you imagine the home security system's lines being nested as Russian dolls, and this is the innermost seventh doll, you were wrong. We do not recommend placing the safe box inside panic room, because when you come home, your panic room may be already occupied with guys sweating over your safe. It is even better to have at least 2 safes. One the guys will be sweating on, and another one hidden. Underfloor safes are popular but beware of mould stealing your documents faster than any burglar. More about safes later.

Weapons and traps as an eights line of your home security system

As far as we are aware, these ones are illegal, and we do not advise using them. The official line is quite feminine and encourages giving yourself over to attacker. The ones that still believe in right of self-defence should not confuse it with right of defending their property. We will provide a webpage for a lawyer's comment on this matter soon.

Securing the surroundings

Street features as ninth line of your home security system

What is happening around your section directly affects your safety.
  • Ensure that it is impossible to hide somewhere close your gate, mailbox or other point of entry or exit;
  • Make sure that the street lamps work and are switched on when dark;
  • Consider a deeper than usual rainwater gutter in front of your driveway, so that lowered cars could not get through.

Neighbours as a ninth line of your home security system

When we fit all these home or car alarms, we all rely on someone to react when they go off. Otherwise all out efforts are in vain. Pay a visit to your neighbours and tell them that you have installed an alarm. Give them a number to call in case the alarm goes off, or goes off too often and annoys the neighbourhood. Surely you will be understood and noted as a person they may rely upon in likewise situation. This is much better than staying in insulation and pissing off the neighbourhood with false alarms and being unaware of the extent of the problem.

While you are visiting your neighbour, have a look at your border with them. Are there piles of material, garden features, etc. that can be exploited by criminals to jump over your fence? Note these places and either agree with your neighbour about a change, or just add security sensors from your side.

Also, have a note of flammable or combustible materials storages. If these pose a threat, politely ask the neighbour if they have third party insurance.

Join the neighbourhood watch gang or organise one. This will keep street gangs away.