Neighborhood safety security is always a priority, but even more so during the holiday months. Learn the best ways to reduce risks in your community.
Neighborhood safety is a major concern, whether you run a condo association or an HOA. One solution on its own won't solve all your security issues, but a well-thought-out system that incorporates several technologies and tactics will significantly reduce the risks to your residents.
About 24 percent of U.S. homes are part of an association, and one important benefit those residents expect from living within a community is safety. As a board member, you must be sure the association is implementing the latest features to increase protection for your members.
Where should you begin? Here are five tips that condo associations and HOAs can follow to help increase security in their buildings or neighborhoods.
1. Look at what's not working
One of the best ways to assess security concerns is to ask board members and residents what they see. There may be security practices in place now that just aren't working, or residents may have recognized gaps in security that leave the community open to unwanted activity. These issues could be as simple to resolve as insufficient coverage by security cameras or houses with no outdoor lighting.
Address these shortfalls first when updating your security plan.
2. Implement preventative measures
A major part of your security program will be preventing criminal activity from happening in the first place, so focus attention on deterrence. Install signs that indicate there are security cameras to discourage intruders. Start a neighborhood watch program that involves many of the residents so someone always has an eye on what's going on. Once this program is in place, install signs that inform visitors of its existence to further deter criminal behavior.
There are also landscaping tactics you can use to deter criminals, including the removal of dense or tall hedges where intruders can easily hide.
Of course, installing locked gates in the community or locked doors in buildings will help deny access to intruders. Require access with a key or key fob, and encourage residents not to let people into the community that they don't recognize or who clearly don't have access to the spaces.
While these security measures will help protect against criminal activity, they are not completely failsafe. An intruder could enter behind a resident, or camera signs may not deter a criminal from going about illegal activities. Next, we'll discuss detection measures for instances when these preventative steps aren't enough.
3. Detection strategies
The next step to address in your security program is detection of intruders or criminals. Common strategies include:
- Intruder alarms in each home or building
- Smart cameras or doorbells that notify homeowners of abnormal motion
- A security guard to both watch the area and act as a point person for residents to report strange activity
- Active video surveillance camera systems that monitor closed areas
These measures help the community and sometimes local law enforcement stay attuned to what's happening so an immediate response can be delivered. Video surveillance is the most common because the footage can also be used as evidence later, if necessary.
4. Poison prevention
So far, we've covered ways to improve security in regards to intruders and criminal activities. But another important aspect of safety is the prevention of exposure to poisonous gases, namely carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide is especially dangerous because it has no odor and you can't see it. Thus, people can be unaware of this hazard and still become sick or die if exposed to the substance for too long. That's why it's important to install them in common areas and require, or at least encourage, residents to install carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. These should be unobstructed, and batteries must be replaced right away when low.
In addition, educate residents on best practices to avoid carbon monoxide production in their spaces. These practices should include not using portable generators or fuel-burning camping appliances indoors, only allowing professionals to make changes to furnaces or appliances, and not using a gas oven to heat the home.
5. Tips for vacationing residents
It's well known that criminals like to attack when homeowners are away for the holidays or on vacation. Encourage residents to take steps such as the following to better protect their homes and neighbors during these periods:
- Leave a light on in the house, or use a timer so a light will go on and off intermittently
- Let neighbors know they will be away
- Ask a neighbor to pick up mail and newspapers so it's not obvious no one's home
- Don't leave a key in an obvious place, like under the doormat — give a spare to a trusted neighbor or friend
These are strategies that you should educate homeowners about throughout the year, but the holidays are a great time to start. Always keep residents in the know about new or improved security measures, and ask for feedback to assess community expectations about safety and security so you know what they're worried about.
The attorneys at PeytonBolin can help with a range of real estate, HOA and condo association needs and concerns. If you have questions about the legal aspects of running an association, get in touch with the team at PeytonBolin today for a free phone consultation.