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Security Lessons Learned From “Home Alone”

By , December 8th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

Home Alone

Home and personal security is a big part of personal finance. After all, you don’t want to work hard for what you have only to have it taken away by thieves. Neither do you want to be physically injured by someone who is after your stuff. While security is a very serious subject, the movie “Home Alone” provides some important lessons in a lighthearted format. On the surface it’s just a fun holiday movie. But if you watch closely, you can learn some important security do’s and don’ts that apply during the holidays as well as the rest of the year.

Don’t Tell People You’re Leaving

In the movie, the family confided in the “cop” (really the burglar in disguise) that they were leaving. The burglar then knew that the house would be empty. The family further confided some of the precautions they’d taken like stopping the mail and leaving the lights on timers. Also, the “cop” got the chance to see inside the house so he knew for sure it was worth hitting. This gave the crooks all they needed to know.

The Lesson: While having a burglar come to your house dressed as a cop is unlikely (but not impossible, see below), the point is valid. Do not tell anyone that you are leaving. If you must tell a trusted neighbor or family friend so that they can watch the house or your pets, that’s one thing (and even then you never know who they might mention it to so choose carefully). But don’t tell anyone and everyone that your house will be empty. Don’t post it on Facebook, don’t mention it at social gatherings, and tell your kids not to talk about it, either. The more people who know you are gone, the higher your risk of the wrong people taking an interest in that fact.

Furthermore, don’t let anyone in your house without a good reason and identification. There are plenty of crooks who go around posing as charity solicitors, marketers, researchers, repairmen and even cops so they can “case” the neighborhood they want to hit. They want to find out who is home and when, and which houses have the best stuff. If someone comes to your door unexpectedly, make sure they are who they say they are and even then don’t let anyone into your house unless you’ve called them specifically (like a repairman). If you want to take their survey, do it on your front porch and if you want to give money, make them wait outside while you get the money.

Don’t Live in a “Silver Tuna”

The McCallister family lived in the biggest, nicest house in the neighborhood. The burglars called it the, “Silver Tuna” and it was the one they wanted most.

The Lesson: If you live in the nicest house on the block, you’re going to attract unwanted attention. Burglars know that the nicest houses almost always have the nicest goods and the most cash to be had. If you choose to live in a Silver Tuna, take additional precautions like getting an alarm system. The smartest choice is to live in a middle of the road type of house for your neighborhood and to not flaunt your possessions. Try to blend in and you’ll attract less negative attention.

Make It Look Like Someone Is Home

In the movie, Kevin turns on all the lights and sets up a fake party so that it looks like people are home. He also used an old gangster movie to make it sound like some really bad dudes lived in the house. This all made the burglars question whether or not they had the right house.

The Lesson: Making it look like someone is home and active in the house can deter burglars. You can accomplish this by putting your lights and/or a radio on timers, stopping the mail and papers so they don’t pile up, and having someone come mow the grass or rake the leaves. If you have a house sitter, have them open and close the blinds and maybe spend a night or two to make the house look occupied.

…But Don’t Make It Too Obvious

In the movie, not only had the McCallisters told the cops the lights were on timers, the crooks had watched all the houses on the block for a while and had a schedule of when the lights would go on and off. It was all too predictable.

The Lesson: Timers are great but they can be predictable. Anyone watching your house closely will quickly learn the schedule and realize that no one is home. Buy the timers that allow you to program the lights and radios to go on and off at different times. This makes it look more like a real-life situation. These timers are a bit more expensive, but worth it.

Trust Your Neighbors in a Pinch

In the movie, Kevin spends a lot of time avoiding his (seemingly) crazy neighbor. The guy had a reputation in the neighborhood as a crazed killer. In reality, he was a nice guy who was just lonely, owing to a fallout with his family. Kevin befriends him and in the end the crazy neighbor ends up saving Kevin’s life.

The Lesson: Sometimes trusting your neighbors can be an effective deterrent to crime. Neighbors who are alert to the goings on of the neighborhood can usually spot when something is amiss and call the cops to investigate (or bash the burglars with a shovel). That’s why Community Watch programs can be effective. Now, if your neighbors really are crazy or into questionable activities, you probably don’t want to trust them to watch your house. But if you have a trusted neighbor who can watch out for anything suspicious, use them. They’ll know when something is wrong.

Know How To Defend Yourself and Have A Plan

Kevin made a plan to defend his house and himself once he knew that the burglars were going to attack. He laid out all kinds of painful traps for the burglars, created a fake party to make it look like someone was home, and knew how to get out of the house on his rope swing if he needed to.

The Lesson: Now, I’m not saying that shooting at the robbers with an air rifle, laying ornaments under a window, and gluing roofing nails to stairs with tar is a foolproof plan. Most of the things Kevin did in the movie would never work in real life. However, you have to give Kevin credit for having a plan to defend his home and himself. It’s a lesson we can all learn. Think through these two questions: “What can I do to prevent a robbery from happening in the first place?” and, “If someone does try to break in while I’m home, what am I going to do?” Answering those questions and making plans before you have to make snap decisions can save your property and your life.

“Home Alone” may be a silly holiday movie, but there are security lessons to be learned from the characters’ antics.

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  • Laura in AZ says:

    Hi Jennifer,

    I read your articles often, and always enjoy them, but this one really stands out since Home Alone is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I, too, have learned a few valuable lessons from it!
    My favorite quote from the movie is a simple, yet significant one. When Kevin knows the burglars are coming and he has his plan in place, he tells himself aloud, “This is it! Don’t get scared now.” It may sound silly, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve repeated those same words to myself to gather up courage. That little line has helped me to brace myself before public speaking, before giving birth, before standing up for myself in all types of potentially uncomfortable circumstances, in social or professional settings.
    Let’s hope I never have to defend my home from the likes of “Marv & Harry”, but if I ever do, I will be glad I saw Home Alone and read your article!

    Merry Christmas,
    Laura in AZ

  • jstrada says:

    These are all excellent points to consider and a fun way of expressing them(with the home alone tie-in). I recommend installing and arming a home security system in order to protect your home. Buying a system that has home automation and energy management is a good idea also. With home automation and energy management, you are able to remotely access your home. That way, you could turn your lights on and off in a random pattern and confuse a potential thief.

    Joe Strada


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