We’ve been enjoying the holiday classic “Home Alone” for more than 20 years now, and upon repeated viewings, the measures a young MacCauley Culkin takes to protect the family home seem increasingly alarming. Sure, he got the job done, but can one prevent theft without involving a blow torch? Of course.
In case your memory needs refreshing, the movie is about eight-year-old Kevin McCallister who, when his parents, siblings, and other relatives leave him behind in their haste to catch a plane to Paris, must defend his suburban Chicago home from two hapless burglars. To do this, Kevin devises a series of creative, though violent, booby traps. Because in real life, putting such traps in place would likely lead to manslaughter charges, we’ve come up with a list of DIY home security alternatives that will keep your home safe from thieves (even ones more skilled than Harry and Marv).
Making it seem like you’re not actually home alone (or not home at all)
What Kevin did: As you well know, Kevin is cleverer than the average eight-year-old boy. To convince Harry and Marv that the house was occupied by grownups, he controlled mannequins with ropes and a turntable, got a Michael Jordan cardboard cutout to roll intimidatingly across the floor, and turned the music up. And it worked!
What you should do: Kevin’s strategy was undoubtedly successful (at first), but time consuming. As an alternative, you can buy lights that mimic the flickering of a TV screen and apps that allow you to control your lights, thermostat, and appliances from afar. If you’re going away during the winter and it snows, have someone drive tracks in your driveway. Whatever the season, make sure newspapers and other mail don’t pile up on your front porch or in your mailbox, a telltale sign that no one’s home.
The doggy door
What Kevin did: Kevin waited at the back door with a BB gun, first shooting it through the doggy door at Marv’s crotch and then at his face when he attempted to wriggle through.
What you should do: You can replace the basic doggy door with a higher-security version for between $10 and $1000. There are even doggy doors that only open when activated by a sensor on your pet’s collar. In general, you want to make sure your door is the smallest it can possibly be. If your door is bigger than your dog needs and installing a new one isn’t an option, add a metal bar to make it a more appropriate size.
Note that dogs themselves can also be deterrents to burglars. Whether or not you have a dog, placing a “Beware of Dog” sign in the yard could ward off thieves looking for an easier target.
What Kevin did: Kevin was smart enough to poor water that turned to ice on both the back steps leading to the basement and the front steps. Good on him for remembering to tackle all entrances to the house, but there are safer ways to cover all your bases.
What you should do: Install burglar alarms at all doors, and make sure the locks are in secure working order (see below).
The front door
What Kevin did: The sadistic (and it only gets worse from here) McCallister boy heated the doorknob to an unholy degree giving Harry third degree burns.
What you should do: Upgrade your locks. The metal lock and key system has been used to secure doors for centuries, so isn’t it time we went higher tech? Smart locks can be opened with your smartphone, a keypad, and, yes, even your fingerprints. If that’s all a little too futuristic, just be sure all the doors leading to the outside have deadbolts. Remember, a secure lock is nothing without a sturdy door. Make sure your door can hold double locks and that any glass on the door is double or triple glazed so that it’s not easily breakable.
The back door
What Kevin did: He rigged a blowtorch (a blowtorch!) to the door so that when Harry opens it, he is severely burned. Again.
What you should do: Again, pay as much attention to your back door as you do to the front. If you have a high fence or tall hedges, know that these may allow burglars to slip through the back unnoticed by neighbors. If you have a sliding glass door in the back, lock it and place a broom handle in the sliding tray as an added precaution. Don’t leave ladders out in the open where they could be used to access upper-level windows.
What Kevin did: Crushed Christmas tree ornaments met Marv as he entered through an open first-floor window, which Kevin clearly left open for no other reason than to inflict more pain.
What you should do: Don’t forget to lock your windows. Keeping your shades drawn will prevent burglars from seeing inside, which would help them determine the layout of the house (not to mention help them pick out some of the items they plan on taking), allowing them to get in and out quickly. As mentioned before, opt for unbreakable glass.
Inside the house
What Kevin did: Once inside the house, Harry and Marv find themselves confronted by a sea of micro machines that trip them up (literally) as they head for Kevin on the stairs.
What you should do: Kevin had the right idea using toys to thwart burglars: one of the best places to hide your valuables is in your kids’ room. Burglars will rarely enter children’s rooms precisely because they’re overflowing with toys. Put the things you don’t want to get stolen inside a toy, but makes sure it’s one that won’t be moved around by an unsuspecting child. Other good hiding places include inside the freezer, the soil of a fake plant, pill bottles, or books.
In case all of these measures fail, consider installing cameras both inside and outside the house so that if thieves do make off with your things, you at least have a chance to catch them unharmed — after which, you have free rein to watch “Home Alone” and live vicariously through cruel, cruel Kevin McCallister.