Featured DIY Home Security Systems: Electronic Security Chad McBroom June 18, 2021 1 Comments, Join the Conversation In CONCEALMENT Issue 17, we discussed using a layered approach to home security and presented an overview of the topic. In Issue 18, we took a deeper look into the aspect of physical barriers and target hardening. In this third installment of our four-part series, we delve into electronic and DIY home security systems and their implementation. As we’ve already discussed in previous issues, a layered approach to home security involves using a variety of overlapping security measures to deter, detect, delay, and respond to intruders. Hardened doors, door locks, window laminate, security screens, walls and fences, gates, and security lighting are some of the physical elements used to secure the exterior of your home. However, no protection system is complete without electronic security systems. Electronic security systems are vital to every layer of home security, from deterrence to response, and should be carefully integrated into the overall security plan for your home. PLANNING CONSIDERATIONS Before installing any electronic security devices, it’s important to consider several factors. First, you must assess and manage any risks to your assets. This process includes identifying your assets, threats, and vulnerabilities, conducting a risk analysis, and developing countermeasures to combat threats. Interior lighting can create a fishbowl effect, allowing outsiders to observe your activity. While blinds and shades work best, a bright exterior light placed in front of the window and facing outward can be used to create a wall of light that block the view from outside. Second, you need to consider the characteristics of your home and the best way to protect it. Every home is different. The terrain features surrounding your home, local culture, physical construction, location of assets, and existing security features should be considered when surveying your home and determining what security measures need to be implemented or enhanced. Finally, you must consider any financial and/or regulatory constraints that may limit the types of devices that may be installed. Your homeowner’s association may have contractual limitations on the types of alterations you can make to your home’s exterior. Furthermore, check your local ordinances and building codes before altering the physical structure of your home or installing wiring to implement electronic security measures. Also, examine your personal budget constraints before deciding what systems to install. RISK MANAGEMENT The risk management process determines what types of security measures need to be put in place to protect your assets. We didn’t discuss this process in the two prior installments, but it applies to everything we already covered in those issues. For the purpose of this article, we’ll use it to determine what, if any, electronic security systems will help protect your family, home, and property. Identify Assets The first step of the risk management process is to determine what requires protection. Assets include your home, personal property, private information, and family members. Once you identify all of your assets, group them into categories that require similar levels of protection. Identify Threats The second step of risk management is to identify the types of threats from which you need to protect your assets. In terms of DIY home security systems, threats include voyeurs, vandals, thieves, and home invaders. Once you’ve identified the potential threats, you should determine what actions they may take against your assets. This includes spying, vandalism, theft, kidnapping, breaking and entering, etc. Understanding the various threats you may face and how they may act against you will help determine what types of security elements to set in place. Identify Vulnerabilities The third step is to identify the weaknesses in your current security measures. Vulnerabilities are anything that can be exploited by a threat. For example, a sliding glass door is vulnerable to breakage and poses a potential entry point for an intruder. Think of vulnerabilities as the difference between the present level of security and the required level of security. Security signs provide a visual deterrent to those probing the neighborhood, looking for an easy target. Conduct Risk Analysis A risk analysis determines the likelihood of an event occurring and the consequences or impact it may have. Some level of risk may be acceptable if the likelihood of an event or potential impact is low. Risk analysis is essentially a balancing act between likelihood and impact. For example, the likelihood of a home invader is statistically low, but the consequences of a successful home invasion are extremely high, thus demanding a higher level of attention. Develop Countermeasures The final step in the risk management process is to develop countermeasures to protect your assets against the threats you identified in your risk analysis. Put countermeasures into place to prevent security breaches or reduce the consequences if they occur. Most of the information we presented in the first two parts of this series dealt with countermeasures. Electronic DIY home security systems are forms of countermeasures that can be implemented to enhance physical security measures. ELECTRONIC SECURITY DEVICES Electronic security devices are the individual components that comprise the electronic security system. Ideally, they work together to form an integrated system that operates through a central command system such as a monitored security system, but they may also work independently depending on your security requirements. Electronic Door Locks Residential electronic door locks increase the security of your home by eliminating the need for a physical key. A lost house key can become a very compromising situation, especially if it was in a purse or vehicle where there may be documents containing your home address. Younger family members are more likely to lock doors when leaving the house if it’s easy to unlock the door and they know they won’t be locking themselves out. Even the most basic electronic locks can be customized with a few different combinations so each family member (or others) can have their own unique code they can easily remember — plus you can deactivate individual codes as needed. Some residential electronic door locks can be connected to your home Wi-Fi network so they can be controlled using a smart device app, allowing the owner to remotely lock or unlock the door. Therefore, you can lock a door that was left unlocked, or let in the dog sitter without having to give out a key or combination. Motion Lights Motion-activated security lights typically work independently from a centralized system, but they’re an important electronic element of DIY home security systems. They’re relatively inexpensive and are easy to install if you’re replacing existing light fixtures; otherwise you may need an electrician to run wiring to the mounting location. Motion-activated flood lights work as an early warning device while eliminating the cover of darkness that conceals a criminal’s movement. Motion lights are most effective when placed where street and porch lights can’t reach, and where normal foot and vehicle traffic won’t trigger it. The sides and rear of the house are prime installation locations, where people generally shouldn’t be during the hours of darkness unless they’re up to no good. A bright motion light works as an early warning device, while simultaneously eliminating the cover of darkness criminals like to use to their advantage. Motion Cameras Motion cameras are triggered by movement and begin recording once activated. Depending on the type of camera and centralized system, they may alert the homeowner via a smart device or just store footage on a hard drive for later reference. With so many DIY camera systems on the market, the typical setup for most homeowners is to have a camera or series of cameras connected to the home Wi-Fi, which then communicates over the internet through a smartphone app. You receive alerts through the app, which you can then open and access a live-view or review recorded footage. Interior cameras act a backup to capture activity inside the house, once an intruder has gotten past your outer perimeter. Motion cameras can be installed inside and around the house to cover as many angles as necessary. External cameras are most effective when placed where they can view avenues of approach and other likely entry points. Internal cameras serve as a backup to view and record activity inside the house and are best placed where they have a wide view of common areas like the foyer, living room, and kitchen. Exterior cameras act as a deterrent and an early warning system. The major security concern with cameras inside your home and remote access to your system is the potential for hackers to gain access. Using a virtual private network (VPN) connection is a smart way to protect your home network against hackers and ensure your privacy is protected as is having a consistently updated firewall. Additionally, hard wiring your entire system rather than using wireless components is more secure and less susceptible to interference, though installation is more complicated. Doorbell Cameras Doorbell cameras like the Ring doorbell are easy to install and offer motion-activated camera capabilities at the primary entrance point of the home. They can run off a rechargeable battery as a standalone or be powered using the existing doorbell wiring. These cameras have a wide-angle, fisheye lens to view a large area surrounding the front door. They’re an excellent deterrent against porch pirates, and the footage has been successfully used to identify thieves and vandals. Many doorbell-camera manufacturers offer motion cameras and even motion light/camera combos that integrate into the same smart device application through Wi-Fi, making it easy to incorporate several electronic security devices into a centralized system. Alarm Systems Alarm systems usually consist of several electronic security components, including magnetic door and window sensors, motion sensors, glass-break sensors, and audible alarms. The purpose of an alarm system is to alert the homeowner and police (if monitored) of an interior breach, but they’re only as good as the planning considerations. All doors and windows should be outfitted with magnetic sensors that detect when the door or window is opened. These sensors are rendered ineffective when an intruder uses an alternative breach method, like breaking and entering through a glass panel. Install glass-break sensors that detect the sound of glass breaking near large glass doors and windows as a backup. Motion sensors serve as an additional backup measure in the event a magnetic or glass-break sensor is bypassed. These sensors detect motion inside the residence and should be placed with overlapping fields of view to avoid any “dead zones.” An alarm system will alert the homeowner and the police when an intruder has breached the outer perimeter. Many modern security systems use a silent alarm system to notify law enforcement of an alarm activation; however, the value of a loud audible alarm shouldn’t be underestimated. A high-volume, external siren will inconvenience your neighbors when triggered in the middle of the night, but when they look out their windows in utter contempt, they might just witness something that’ll move them to action. LOOSE ROUNDS Installing a DIY home security system can greatly enhance your home security network when properly planned and integrated. Conducting thorough risk management by taking inventory of your assets, threats, and vulnerabilities, determining the likelihood and impact of various potential security events, and developing strategic countermeasures will help you determine the most appropriate electronic security devices to install based on your financial and regulatory constraints. Layered home security is a simple concept, but as we’ve seen over the past three issues, developing an effective home security strategy requires the application of the 7 Ps: Prior Planning and Practice Prevents Piss Poor Performance. In the future final segment of this series, we’ll cover the importance of responding to threats, developing battle plans to deal with them, and rehearsing with family members so they can be successfully executed when required. MORE ON HOME SECURITY Taking a Layered Approach to Home Security Layer 1: Establishing the Framework. Layer 2: DIY Home Improvement for Security. 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