Assessing Your Home's Security

teamstickergiant/FlickrAll homeowners want to protect their loved ones and their assets. However, not all homeowners can afford a home security system and not all homes may need a high-end system with monitored burglar alarms and fire alarms.

All homes should have basic security precautions, such as motion-sensor lighting and heavy deadbolt locks. However, to determine the need for a professionally installed security system, it pays to determine the risk of crime and fire, both in your area and for your individual home.

A thorough security assessment may also help lower homeowners’ insurance rates. Moreover, a security system may lead to lower insurance rates, partly offsetting the monthly cost of the system.


Area crime risk

Begin a crime risk assessment with city profile reports. These reports compile federal and local crime statistics to determine personal and property crime risk scores for each community. The score is a comparison to the national average. A score of 200 is double the national average, and a score of 50 is half the national average.

Many cities and states also maintain and publish other crime statistics online. It’s also worth talking to your local police department and reading your local newspaper's police log for more specific and updated information. Other relevant statistics include police and fire response times.

Individual crime risk

Regardless of all the aforementioned statistics, no neighborhood is completely crime-free. Even in a relatively safe neighborhood, you need to avoid having the most vulnerable house.

Take a cue from the neighbors who have professionally installed security systems. If you have a blank spot in the yard where everyone else on the block has a security system sign, that spot may be an invitation for burglars. If nobody is home during the day, your burglary risk automatically increases. The FBI notes that most burglaries occur between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and burglars are most likely to enter through the front door of a home that is clearly unoccupied and minimally protected.

For example, if shrubs, distance or other features make it difficult for neighbors to see the front door or other access points, you may be at increased burglary risk.

Fire risk

Many home security systems are more than burglar alarms. They also provide monitored fire protection, so to determine the need for a security system, assess the risk of fire in your home, and the ability of your family to safely respond.

The Hartford Fire Insurance Company offers an online quiz to determine a home’s fire risk. It includes questions about cooking, candles, smokers, upholstery and more to determine the likelihood of a house fire. It also includes questions about escape plans and routes to determine the likelihood of getting everybody out of the house in the event of a fire. For those who live in wooded areas, it is also worth filling out the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources forest home fire risk form.

Of course, every home should have standard smoke alarms. Monitored smoke alarms as part of a security system are most valuable in situations where someone in the home may not be able to escape with assistance. For example, a disabled or elderly resident may be home alone, and cannot respond to an alarm.

Other risks

Security systems may also offer additional protections (albeit at an additional cost) that may be valuable in certain situations.

• Monitored carbon monoxide alarms are valuable for children and others who may not respond appropriately to the smell of natural gas and other CO threats.

• Low-temperature monitoring can be particularly valuable in cold areas where the homeowner may be away for extended periods.

• Water leak monitoring can detect problems before they lead to really expensive accidents.

Assess the risk of burglary, fire and other hazards to help decide if you need a home security system.

Steve Graham is a Networx - - writer.  Read more articles like this one - - on

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