Affordable Cabin Security

Q: I want to install cameras to keep an eye on my cabin when I’m not there, but I don’t want to spend thousands on a high-tech surveillance system. What other options do I have?
– Ron, via email  
A: It’s a great idea to install a few extra “eyes” around your cabin – you can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your precious getaway from burglars and vandals. Even remote cabins are at risk, especially those that have few neighbors (aka potential witnesses). Besides making your property less attractive to sneaky thieves by following the tips in "Got Insurance?" below, install cameras around the outside of the cabin to capture any suspicious action while you’re away. The images will provide you with evidence (should you need it) and alert you to potential gaps in your cabin security. High-tech surveillance systems are nice, but webcams and trail cameras can be less expensive alternatives. Webcams These cameras are small and inconspicuous, and the most basic models are widely available at affordable prices. Set up multiple cameras around your property, then connect them (using cables or Wi-Fi)  to a computer inside the cabin. The photos taken by the camera are automatically saved to your hard drive. With Internet access, you can feed images directly to a private website, allowing you to access them from any computer or other web-ready device. Adding an appropriate app or other security software (high-end cameras often come with their own) will allow you to further manipulate your DIY system. Some let you define what types of motion to record (you want to know every time a window or door opens, but you probably don’t need to see each frame of a squirrel scampering past). You may also be able to receive notifications of any activity via email or text message, and program your computer to emit a criminal-deterring sound if triggered. Rather than installing software, you can also use web-based security tools, or webware. These sites are compatible with most webcams, as long as they are properly connected to the computer. Some can even support live streaming of multiple cameras at once, but archiving space may be limited. For a few more dollars, you can get a webcam that will tilt and pan, controlled remotely from your primary-home computer or mobile phone. These types of models don’t require an on-site computer, only a working wireless router in range.
Trail cameras If you have neither a computer nor Internet access at your cabin, another surveillance option to consider is a motion-activated trail camera. Hunters and wildlife photographers often use them to monitor animal activity. But many people have found that these weather-resistant, discreet cameras are also well-suited for security purposes. Trail cameras take digital photos and sometimes videos of movement, storing the images to a memory card inside the box. They are typically battery powered, but some offer solar-power options or may be connected to your cabin’s electrical current for long-term operation. Most also include no-flash, infrared technology for capturing images in the dark. You can opt for a very basic trail camera for less than $100, but Reconyx, a company that specializes in trail cams, makes a SM750 HyperFire model ($650) that takes high-definition images at speeds as fast as three frames per second. Plus, it captures license plates of vehicles moving as fast as 50 miles per hour, even at night. You can schedule when you want the camera to be on or off, so you don’t have to manually shut it off when you visit the cabin on the weekend. The camera also has a loop-recording mode and 12 AA lithium batteries that allow continuous operation for up to one year, or 40,000 images. For more dependability, you can pair the SM750 with an RTI350 Remote Trigger & Illuminator ($350). When placed less than 100 feet apart, the two devices communicate with each other wirelessly, the RTI350 detecting movement and triggering the SM750. Since the SM750 no longer needs to detect motion or provide infrared light, it can be concealed so that only the lens is showing. This also makes the RTI350 an effective decoy; since it has the appearance of a camera, a burglar may attempt to remove it, unaware that the SM750 actually has been snapping pictures and storing them in its hidden location.
GOT INSURANCE? How to protect your remote property during a renovation Has your family outgrown your cozy little cabin deep in the woods? If you’re thinking about adding on another bedroom, don’t lift a hammer until you have figured out one thing: insurance. It’s easy to overlook, but the proper coverage can save you big bucks and a lot of headaches. Protect your property (and your pocketbook) with these steps.
  • Talk to your insurance agent. Find out how to update your homeowner’s policy to cover the remodeling changes.
  • Have an expert assess how much the finished work will add to the value of the property. Increase your policy by that much before work even begins. This will ensure coverage during the renovation.
  • Ask to see your contractor’s certificate of insurance. It will tell you what types of insurance he carries and any policy limits. Verify that the policy includes liability insurance, worker’s compensation and auto coverage. Have the contractor’s insurance agent send it to you directly to prove that it’s current.
  • Make sure that all subcontractors have insurance, or that the contractor’s insurance extends to them.
  • If it’s a DIY renovation, review your own policy for liability and property damage. If you hire friends or subcontractors, you may be held responsible if they are injured on the job.
  • Ask your agent about a builder’s risk policy (sometimes called a “course of construction” policy).
  • If the contractor doesn’t carry it, ask him to purchase it or get it yourself. It will insure materials on the job site and cover any physical damage to your cabin during construction. However, it won’t cover property of others, tools, bodily injury or workmanship, so make sure other policies are in place for these.
Statistically, remote cabins are more susceptible to theft, vandalism and fire and water damage. Following your renovation project, use these tips to reduce risk:
  • Remove valuables when you leave, or store them in secure places.
  • Install deadbolt locks, smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and even a central alarm system.
  • Hire a caretaker, or ask a neighbor to check in on your cabin when you’re not there.
  • Maintain occupancy with rental tenants.
SIMPLE SURVEILLANCE – Trail cameras like the Reconyx SM750 offer a cabin-monitoring method that may be more affordable than a high-tech surveillance system.
Reconyx Inc.