Avoiding Common Security Mistakes Don't Let Your Guard Down

Regardless of whether you live in a densely populated urban area or a more suburban community, security is something most homeowners are concerned about—even if they're not sure how to best secure their own property. Most people know how to avoid the garden-variety, shady-looking miscreant on the street—but how do you keep them out of your building or HOA? Here are what some experts have to say.

Look Out for Each Other.

“It's important to know the people in your building or HOA, the cars, and so forth,” according to Timothy A. Dimoff, founder and president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services Inc. based in Akron, Ohio. “It also doesn't hurt to let each other know when you're going away for extended periods of time, and if you're going to have any of your family or anybody else checking on your condo, or if you're not expecting anyone to look in on it. You should say, 'I'm going to be gone for 10 days. There will be nobody coming to check,' or 'My daughter will be dropping by, and she drives a black Chevy Impala.' Let your neighbors know those factors when you're gone, and reciprocate—when they're gone, do the same for them.”

Similarly, Dimoff advises HOA residents to be aware that savvy criminals often watch a potential target home or building for some time prior to breaking in, taking note of the ebb and flow of traffic, residents' work schedules, and possible points of entry. “They make it their business to sit back and study people's patterns,” he says, “especially in condominiums where they know there may be older residents who have money, jewelry and other valuables in their apartments. So recognize who belongs in these condos and who doesn't.” Dimoff also stresses the importance of not letting mail and newspapers pile up while residents are away—always a clear sign that a home is possibly unattended.

Have Clear Access Rules.

Sounds simple: the best way to keep burglars and muggers and worse out of a building is to, well...keep them out of the building. “With regard to safety and security in residential co-op, condo, and condo buildings, access is a significant concern,” says Michael Basile, vice president of management for Manhattan-based AKAM Associates. That means, he says, not letting guests into the building prior to getting approval from residents, establishing their identity and purpose and duration of the visit before granting entry, not holding an access door open for unidentified individuals, and so forth.

Grill Smart.

Though summer seems a long way off as the cold and snow of winter settle in, it's never a bad time to consider the risk to life and property improperly-used cooking grills present. According to John Drengenberg, director of consumer safety for Underwriters Laboratories in Northbrook, Illinois, “People all over the country like to use their grills year-round, and if they're in a high-rise apartment or condo with a balcony, they like to grill on the balcony. We talk to fire officials a lot, and balcony grilling is a common source of fires and other accidents. Sometimes balconies are made out of wooden boards, they're not all nice concrete with outdoor carpeting on them. Grease can drip out of a grill, or hot charcoal embers can escape and pose a threat. Grease can drip out of a grill, or hot charcoal embers can escape and pose a threat.”

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