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BOOK REVIEW

Savvy Strategies for Playing It Safe at Home

"The Complete Idiot's Guide to Home Security;" by Tom Davidson and Lorna Gentry; (Alpha Books-Macmillan USA, Indianapolis, 2001), $16.95, 256 pages.

April 29, 2001|ROBERT J. BRUSS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

If you're concerned about home and personal safety, "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Home Security" by Tom Davidson and Lorna Gentry will answer most of your questions. It is filled with facts and practical advice, based on the authors' law-enforcement experience.

This isn't a boring book that's only about home-security alarm systems. Although alarm information is addressed, the book's most valuable and useful information is based on the authors' real-life encounters.

For example, many of us discard boxes by the street for recycling pickup. These labeled boxes can provide burglars with valuable information by indicating who just bought a new computer or stereo, for example, so the authors recommend compressing the boxes so they aren't easily readable.

The illustrations and photos add realism to this sometimes scary book. The photo of a kicked-in door, with a locked deadbolt, shows how apartment burglars get around door locks by breaking the frame if the deadbolt isn't properly installed. Another photo shows how a garage door left up only a few inches, for a cat or dog to enter, is an invitation to a burglar. The authors state that most illegal home entries are through garages.

But this book isn't just about home crimes and how to prevent them. It is also about personal safety, such as preventing home fires.

Emphasis is placed on checklists for making home-risk assessments. Some risks are worth accepting, the authors explain, especially if you have adequate homeowner's insurance. Other risks are inexpensive to address, which makes risk avoidance worthwhile and virtually mandatory.

When it comes to home security systems, the authors suggest setting a budget and avoiding spending more than necessary. Simple suggestions, such as installing infrared sensors set off by body heat, rather than traditional motion detectors that can be tripped by your cat, show how to avoid security mistakes and false alarms that can be costly and troublesome.

This book has so many examples of security mistakes homeowners make, it sounds like a tale based on police station crime reports. Since one of the book's purposes is to scare readers into improving their home safety, it does a great job.

To illustrate, one of the mistakes many of us make is not locking our cars when parking them in our locked home garage. Worse yet, some of us leave our keys in the car, thinking the locked garage is enough protection against a nighttime car thief. Wrong.

This is one of the few books every homeowner and renter should read.

It is filled with profitable and usually inexpensive ideas for preventing costly home and personal security trouble.

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