By Gwenn Voelckers
As summer transitions to fall, I welcome a respite from gardening. I’m ready to embrace the change of season, the crisp air and the savory scents of autumn.
September is my favorite month of the year, and not just because it’s my birthday month (smile)!
I love making my home warm and cozy in anticipation of chillier weather. And I’m already looking forward to cozy nights by my fireplace with my rescue cat Little Merry and an historical novel on my lap.
But each September also brings with it a cautionary memory.
It was years ago on a Friday night around 10:15 pm. I returned home from a night out with friends and all was good — that was, until I walked through my front door. I could tell something was amiss the moment I stepped inside. Things were slightly out of place. The lid on one of my little decorative boxes was askew. A door was ajar. My dog was jumpy.
Feeling uneasy, I poked my head into the living room and saw nothing unusual there. Whew! Then, I made my way upstairs and found something that took my breath away.
My bedroom and spare room were completely torn apart: clothes and personal effects strewn everywhere, drawers yanked open and emptied in the middle of the rooms, closets ransacked. Even the lampshades were crooked.
It looked like a scene out of a scary movie!
Trembling, I called 911. A dispatcher told me to get out of the house immediately, cautioning that the burglar might still be present. Holy (expletive)! I hadn’t thought of that. I grabbed my cell phone, left the house, and waited in my locked car for the police to arrive.
While waiting, I called a friend and asked him to come over.
Needless to say, that experience was a wake-up call for me. Realizing I needed to pay closer attention to my safety and security at home, I talked with police, insurance consultants, and other reliable safety advisers to put into practice multiple precautions to protect myself and my property.
I share them with you here:
If you are going out for the evening, do the following
• Make it look (and sound) as if you are still at home. Leave the TV on and use automatic timers on lights and radios.
• Turn on interior and exterior lights. Light is your friend, and the enemy of those with misguided intensions.
• Lock all doors and windows. You’d be amazed how many people don’t do this!
• Keep your purse, wallet, money, jewelry and other valuables out of sight — at least out of view from a window.
If you are going away for an extended period of time, do the following
• Again, make it look and sound as if you are still home with the help of automatic timers on lights and radios.
• Give a spare key to a neighbor you trust, rather than hiding one outside your home or apartment. Let this same trusted neighbor know of your travel plans, itinerary and how to reach you.
• Stop mail and newspaper delivery. Better yet, have a neighbor or friend sign on for pick-up duty. Having someone you trust making daily visits to your home when you’re not there offers added protection.
• Make arrangements to have your grass mowed or snow shoveled depending on the time of year.
To be extra cautious, ask your local police to keep an eye on your home.
Make long-term investments in home security
• In addition to your front and back porch lights, consider motion-detector lights outside your home or install a Ring-type system of video surveillance.
• Consult a good locksmith to have high-quality deadbolts and other locking systems installed on your doors and windows.
• Eliminate hiding places outside your home. Cut back bushes and shrubs, especially those that hide windows.
• Consider installing a security system, especially one with a loud alarm and flashing lights that will attract immediate attention. The door or lawn sign provided by your alarm company may help deter a break-in all by itself.
While there are never any guarantees, using common sense and some simple precautions can reduce your risks of a break-in that could result in theft, property damage, or worse.
Let’s face it, crime is a reality. Women and men who live alone need to take extra measures to protect themselves.
Be safe, not sorry. Instead, be happy and content, knowing you have secured your home and well-being.
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak, visit www.aloneandcontent.com