Vacation Season Means Home Security Season: Tips for Safety

(Sari Heyman, Photographer)
Inspecting his home security cameras, Jeff Heyman is assisted by his family's dog, Natalie. Adding both easy-to-install wireless cameras to your home and getting a dog are two of the best ways to make your home safer and more secure this summer.

    As the wildfire season approaches, let’s not forget that it’s vacation season as well. And that means we should be mindful of security preparations around our homes, especially during vacations and even short trips out of town. Secure homes mean a secure neighborhood. Here are a few tips on preparing your home, both year-round and when you are away.
    First, if you don’t already have one, get a good home security alarm system connected to both the police and fire departments through a central, monitored dispatch. You can have systems installed by professionals, which can be costly, or you can do it yourself relatively easily with wireless systems operated through an app on your phone or computer.
    Once the system is set up, make sure to use it! Folks tend to get lazy and not arm their systems when they run to the store, for example. The “bad guys” sometimes watch for people leaving their homes and dash in for the home burglary equivalent of a “smash and grab.”
    Likewise, make sure all doors and windows are closed and locked – even if gone for a short period of time. Many local home invasions occur when burglars simply walked into a home through an open garage door or porch screen door.
    Next on the list is video security cameras, important possibly to identify someone who broke into your home (or tried to break-in) and as a deterrent as well.
    Make sure cameras are easily seen at entry points to your home. The intent is that burglars will avoid your house if they spot cameras.
    Security cameras have become cheaper and better in recent years. Wireless systems are easy to install and retailers, like Costco and BestBuy, have a number of good systems available for a reasonable cost. Most have advanced features that send alerts, let you talk to an intruder and turn on security lighting.
    Speaking of lighting, one of the best security steps you can take is to make sure to have motion-sensing exterior lighting and interior lights going on and off automatically. If you have a smart light system, you can control these through a smart phone. If you don’t, there are very good digital timers available that can be set easily.
    In fact, these should be used year-round so that the house lighting goes on and off at the same times everyday, whether one is home or not. That way, it doesn’t look as if the house is dark and empty when no one is home, since the lighting is on the same schedule throughout the year (with annual adjustments for daylight savings time, of course).
    And one more thing to consider, if you don’t already have one, get a dog!
    Crime stats show that one of the most effective deterrents to break-ins is a dog in the house. Those bad folks don’t know if the dog is vicious or just noisy, but chances are they don’t want to find out.
    Although getting a dog won’t help during vacation, your pup can really be a lifesaver in all kinds of emergencies and a real deterrent when someone is thinking about breaking into your home.
    Here are a few more tips to improve the safety and security of our neighborhood and home:
    Make friends with your neighbors.
    Notify neighbors when you are away.
    Place a stop on mail and newspapers when out of town.
    Have trash/recycle receptacles brought in from the street.
    Keep curtains and blinds closed at night and when away, but only if you do that regularly when you are home.
    If you install security cameras, consider registering them with Contra Costa County at
    Get a lockable mailbox.

    If you see something suspicious, say something: Immediately contact the Orinda Police department at 911 or the non-emergency dispatch line 925.646.2441.
    Be careful posting and reading information on social media sites such as Nextdoor; many times the information is not accurate and may cause undue alarm; rely on trusted media or law enforcement social media feeds.
    Register for Nixle alerts, which can provide information about community criminal activity: Text your zip code to 888777 for local mobile alerts or use this link
    The Orinda Police Department provides vacation house checks. Learn how to take advantage of this free service on the police department’s website:

Jeff Heyman and Russ Barretta can be reached at and

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