Security for a Vacation Home, Start With Controlling Access and Deterrents

By: Hal Jones

(Editor’s note, within one week of installing the new alarm system, the thieves came back. The entry door was pried or kicked open by force, however the alarm system activated the siren and the burglars left without taking anything from the inside of the house.)
One of the biggest challenges of owning a summer home or a remote residence is securing your valuables  while you are away.  Recently, Hal Jones, Online Media Director’s lake house was broken into and many tools, guns, fishing gear and other items were taken. Access to the house is through an always locked gate.  The only other way in to the small group of cabins is through the woods.  However, a well meaning neighbor had begun driving their four wheel ATV through a particular spot in the woods and created a trail that eventually widened enough for a 4 x 4 truck to enter. This was the access the burglars used.

Securing entry access to remote property is most often handled by security gates. Some of these are as simple as chains strung between post and padlocked,  to the electronically controlled gates that simulate a fallen tree across the road.  The deputy sheriff suggested that the more valuable the property, the more elaborate the gate should be.  The gate leading into the lake house property is six inch steel tubing with a covered lock box to prevent intruders from using” a Mississippi key” aka as a pair of bolt cutters to prevent removing the lock mechanically.  Many communities use a gate combined with guard house to control access to their houses.  At the other end of the spectrum are the chains between the trees or steel cables that we often see used at hunting camps and remote cabins.  These last two methods are much  more effective when the installer chooses the gate area wisely.  Too often gates are placed in areas where the intruders simply bypass the gate and drive around it as though it wasn’t there.

Door Sensor for GE Wireless Home Security System



Theft deterrent for a remote residence can take several shapes. A basic alarm system is often used and these can be found at most home improvement stores. We used a General Electric Wireless system picked up at Lowe’s and installed it in less than 30 minutes.  Incorporating motion detectors along with garage, window and door sensors we created a perimeter of security that if disturbed triggers the alarm system along with its 120 db externally mounted siren that could wake the dead or in this case my 80 year old neighbor who lives at the lake full-time.  If you don’t have nearby neighbors this might not be the best system for you.  A better choice would be a monitored system that calls a security company or local authorities when the alarm is triggered.  If the nearest law enforcement outpost is many miles away this choice will have a less than stellar deterrent effect.. Our system was picked up at Lowe’s and it’s designed for easy installation by the homeowner.

Using high quality exterior doors is a good way to keep the intruders from being able to kick in or pry open an entry door.  Metal doors and frames are a great deterrent. The reinforcement on the inside of the door frame makes it very difficult for an entry door to be pried open by using screwdrivers and other tools. Door jambs designed for sliding doors are a good investment also.  If you purchase a metal door and have window lights or sidelights, be sure and add a deadbolt that requires a key to be used on the inside also. The turn knob deadbolts allow the burglar to pop a window and reach through and turn the knob to unlock the door.

Signage alerting intruders that a security system is installed and monitored has some deterrent effect. We also placed signs alerting everyone to the use of security video cameras.  In an area where traffic was coming through the woods we were asked by law enforcement to inform trespassers about the tire shredder systems being used to prevent access to areas of private property.  Consult with your local law enforcement agency regarding legal issues you should be aware of when using various methods of preventing access to your property.  Our local Sheriff’s deputy told us about using cameras intended for watching game be employed throughout the property.  A local burglary ring was broken up by residents placing these cameras in high risk areas and the cameras catching the perpetrators in action. As they say on tv, it’s hard to argue with the video.

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