HOME SECURITY

by Ani Ivanova

Especially during prolonged holidays, your house may be visited by uninvited guests

If you're going away for the weekend or for the whole winter, now is the time to make sure that your home is really your castle. Burglary is not uncommon in Bulgaria, so if you feel unprotected from theft, now is the time to act.

Burglaries in Bulgaria come in two types. The first are so-called kokoshkarski, or petty robberies, committed by individuals or small groups of burglars who are sometimes drug addicts and who quickly snatch up whatever they can lay their hands on in hopes of pawning it.

The second are robberies by organised groups who pick out their victims in advance, looking for big-time prey. Despite their differences, both kinds of robberies are equally unpleasant – even if nothing is stolen, just knowing that someone has entered your home can ruin your peace of mind.

To protect yourself, take into consideration the kind of property you live in and think how best its security can be improved. In Bulgaria, most rented out apartments come with some kind of security system, but you can always add additional barriers against unwanted guests. If you live in a gated complex or a building with a doorman or security guard, make sure he's there around-the-clock.

If you don't enjoy these perks, however, it's crucial that the doors to your entryway and your apartment are solid. If your building doesn't have them, talk to your landlord or your neighbours – this improvement benefits everyone, and it may take just a little initiative to get the ball rolling.

Also the door and the lock on your apartment are important. Usually landlords are willing to lower your rent if you have an armoured door mounted. New buildings usually come with metal doors; however, it's easy to remove heavy doors from wooden frames, so it's crucial that the frame is changed as well.

Windows and balconies offer thieves entrance to apartments on both the lowest and the highest floors. Sturdy window casings, rolling shutters and bars can protect you from most intrusions.

Many homeowners rely on an ancient method of securing their property – watchdogs. At first glance it seems like a good idea, but what if you want to take your furry friend along with you on your holiday travels? Also, Bulgarian burglars are notoriously ruthless and won't hesitate to feed your dog sleeping pills or poison.

The best option is to use a security company. Some 20 licensed private firms as well as the SOD, or electronic security division of the Ministry of the Interior, offer such services. The average monthly fee is around 25 leva per home. The price varies according to the ervices requested – for 12- or 24-hour protection; for surveillance only or for response in case of a burglary; for protection from unauthorised opening of the front door or the windows; and for installation of motion detectors, as long as you don't have a pet that might while playing set them off.

It's important to note that the monthly fee covers neither the alarm device nor its installation. However, it may include options such as coverage of damages.

In addition to your monthly fee, you'll also have to pay extra for the radio transmitter. Security firms rent out the device against a deposit of around 150 leva. Also, for a two-room apartment you should expect to shell out 450 to 500 leva for the installation of motion detectors, wiring, the alarm and other equipment.

How can you get hooked up? Unlike many other services in Bulgaria, to sign up for protection with a security firm you don't need to visit their offces – one telephone call is enough to arrange for a free inspection. During this inspection the company will judge whether you need to further fortify your home with window bars or a stronger door.

This, however, is only a recommendation – you are under no obligation to follow this advice to enjoy the company's services. Discuss all the details of the alarm system and don't count on the security firm's linguistic abilities – call in a Bulgarian friend or co-worker to interpret if necessary. Within three days of the inspection, the company should install all the necessary alarm and surveillance equipment. If you do not want to pay for the hardware, speak to your landlord, who may chip in for it. Another option is to rent it from the security company. Once the equipment has been installed in your home, sign the contract. Companies don't always provide an English-language version of the contract, so be sure to insist on one. If you choose a plan that includes coverage of the value of any stolen goods, the firm must take an inventory of the items in your home. Don't be surprised if they ask to see invoices for your more valuable possessions – they help the company determine the exact value of any losses.

For higher level of security, you can request that the company install video cameras. ᴀey can be connected to a computer in your offce, allowing you to see what's going on in your home at all times. Prices range from 200 to 2,000 leva a month.

What happens if your burglar alarm goes off? Guards from the security company arrive at your address within three to five minutes and inform you by telephone that the alarm has been tripped. They figure out what set it off – a window left open, a malfunctioning motion detector, an illegal intrusion or a fire. If you're going to be abroad, make sure you give the company the phone number of a local friend who can accept emergency calls.

How much damage can be done in three minutes? Sometimes two minutes are enough for burglars to grab your laptop, plasma TV set and computer, as well as any cash or jewellery lying about. Your best bet is not to leave anything within easy reach of thieves and to further secure your computers – for example, by bolting them to the floor.

It's wise tactics to combine several methods of home security. Of course, there's no deadbolt or security system that offers 100 percent security. However, security systems slow down burglars and help minimise losses.

The other way of protecting yourself against losses is to take out an insurance policy. The premium depends on the type of coverage – it may include the residence itself or only the possessions within it, including furniture, appliances and electronics.

If you've already taken some or all of the above-mentioned steps, then you've been wise – you've put a few major hurdles in front of would-be burglars. If you haven't, then take action before it's too late.

PERSONAL MATTERS

Once you have protected your home and belongings, think about your personal safety. With the TASER C2 device, TASER's civil version, you protect yourself and your loved ones effciently and risk-free. TASER C2 is available in Bulgaria from ISD – Bulgaria Ltd, www.isd-bg.com.

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