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As the events of Sept. 11 still linger in our minds, most of us seek comfort in our homes. We're also paying more attention to our home's security.

"Security, says Jamie Orvis, vice president of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association, "is event driven."

Significant events like the September terrorist attacks typically prompt homeowners to install security systems, says Orvis. But that's also true with lifestyle changes -- such as the birth of a new baby, marriage, a death, or the move to a new home.

"People who have security systems in previous homes are very likely to re-install another immediately upon moving in or soon thereafter," says Orvis.

Many buyers who now have homes with alarms, "also look for homes which have security systems," he says.

"It's like Linus's blanket: once you've had one you're pretty cold without it," Orvis explains.

By installing a security system and implementing a home security strategy, you're less likely to be the target of a burglary. In fact, homes without security systems are three times as likely to be broken into, according to a study from Temple University.

In addition, most insurance companies provide 2 to 15 percent discounts for devices that make a home safer, including dead-bolt locks; window grates and bars; and smoke, fire, and burglar alarms, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

III and the National Crime Prevention Council have several suggestions for implementing home security measures:

  • Motion detectors vary in sensitivity. If you have pets, be sure proper motion detectors are installed so that your cat won't set one off if she jumps up on the bookshelf.
  • Get estimates from several reputable companies. Don't forget to take into account monitoring fees.
  • Don't simply opt for the least expensive provider. Be sure you're clear what the system covers and that all doors and accessible windows will be protected either by an intrusion alarm or that someone entering will be picked up by a motion detector. Each house is different. You should not accept a "one-size-fits-all " solution.
  • A loud alarm may scare off an amateur burglar, but be sure the alarm is hooked up to a central monitoring station that will notify local police.
  • Keep bushes near your home's foundation trimmed so they don't provide cover for a burglar trying to pry open a window.
  • Keep the outside of your home well lit. Motion detector lights, which come on after dark when they detect a person nearby, offer dual benefits.

    They make the walk to your door safer for you and your guests, while catching would-be burglars unaware. Most burglars are opportunists. They're looking for someplace quick, easy and out of the limelight. If they can't break in after four or five minutes, they tend to move on.

  • Get to know your neighbors. A formal neighborhood watch is great. Let a trusted neighbor know you'll be out of town and ask them to pick up your mail and newspapers.
  • When you are having work done at your house or apartment, let your neighbors know the start and completion dates. That way, if a large van suddenly shows up in front of your home months later without any warning, they'll feel justified calling the police.
  • Be a good neighbor yourself. Report suspicious activity to the police.

Other Ways To Protect Your Home

  • Lock all doors and windows -- even if you're just running a short errand.
  • When you're out working in the yard, lock those doors you can't see.
  • All exterior doors, back, front and side, and those leading in from the garage, should have deadbolt locks. The strongest lock, however, is virtually useless on a weak door or on a doorframe that can be pried easily.

    The Insurance Information Institute recommends doors be metal or hardwood, at least 1 3/4 inches thick with frames made of equally strong material. Peepholes are also recommended.

  • Install a specially designed lock for all sliding glass doors. A broomstick in the channel is a stopgap. It can't always be counted on.
  • Keyed locks on window are harder to open than thumb screw locks.
  • Leave various lights and a loud radio on timers when you work late or are out of town. Just be sure to vary the times and rooms so a burglar doesn't catch on.

As you work to make your home secure, make sure you don't put your family's safety in jeopardy - you don't want to protect yourself from intruders only to find you're trapped in the event of a fire.

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