Low-tech security systems for keeping your cottage secure

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Regardless of whether your cottage is located in a remote area or tight-knit community, you probably still have concerns about break-ins. Even when theft isn’t a big consideration—like when the highest ticket item in the cottage a hand-me-down sofa—having a security system is still a must.

Having a security system in place can protect you from the obvious (theft) but it can also alert you to animal break-ins and damages to your property, like burst pipes and flooding.

“I suggest to all my customers that they get an alarm system,”says Dan Moreau, who is a retired police officer and chief inspector and CEO of Cottage Choppers Property Service, in Barrie, ON. “If you don’t have one you’re vulnerable.” 

It’s ultra-important to have someone check in on your property when you’re not there too—especially if you want to maintain your insurance coverage. “If you’re not having someone check on your policy on a regular basis, your policy may not cover you at all,” says Moreau. “Read the fine print in your insurance policy, especially where it relates to leaving a property vacant to unattended.”

Animals are a main concern

Moreau explains that breaks in are not a major worry of most of his clients, but animals, like racoons, mice and bats, can get into your cottage and wreak major havoc. “There are systems that go off if there is an animal intrusion,” says Moreau. “These include motion sensors, and many have sensitivity levels that can pick up anything bigger than a mouse.” There are also systems that include glass break sensors, in case of a human break-in, or if a bird flies into your window and breaks the glass.

No cell service, no problem

If your cottage is located in an area that won’t allow you to make a clear cell phone call or have WiFi, you can still get a security system. For most basic systems, all you need is the capability to run a landline telephone (remember those?). “You can get a landline telephone and run security through that,” says Moreau. This type of system is also quite cost-effective if you want a little security without breaking the bank. “Monitoring is where the expense comes from. An alarm company hires people to sit there and answer phones and charges you $25 to $30 a month for that service.” 

If you go with a basic system, there are a few different ways it can work. A common one is that an alarm goes off dials a number, whether it’s your number in the city or one of your neighbours. That way you can hypothetically go check on the property should the alarm goes off. 

However, Moreau advises proceeding with caution when checking on a break-in: If you hear your neighbour’s alarm going off, dial 911. If you see someone coming and going, try to get a description or license plate, but don’t approach them or attempt to make a citizens arrest.” Instead of putting yourself in danger, he says “aim to become a good witness.” And if you have a friend checking on your property, advise them to do the same.

Get a motion sensor light

At the least, a motion-sensor outdoor light never hurts as a deterrent, according to Moreau. “As a cop, a lot of the break and enters I’ve seen may have been prevented if they had a motion sensor light outside.” 

Lock your boats

If you’re storing valuable boats in the garage or boathouse, invest in security for that space. “If you have an expensive boat, make sure it’s in an alarmed garage or boathouse,” says Moreau. 

Watch out for water damage

Besides burglary and animals, water damage is another concern. “In winter, many people leave their water and heat on low, so it’s ready if they come up occasionally.” However, he explains that if the place isn’t being checked on regularly, and you happen to get an interruption in the heat source, pipes start freezing.” This can lead to all kinds of problems and potential water damage, so opt for a system with a water damage sensor and a low-temperate sensor if this is a concern. 

Double up

Ideally, go for both a security system and a friend, neighbour or trust key-holder to check in on your property and have a system set up to keep you in the know, when you’re there and when you’re not.

When in doubt, cover it up

A lot of cottagers don’t have an alarm system—and they don’t really worry about it. If you’re one of these folks, Moreau advises you not to leave anything in your cottage that you can’t afford to lose. If you have to leave some goods behind, keep it low-key. “Anything of value should be covered, and keep your curtains closed,” says Moreau. 

Here are some home security devices that include some of these features:

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