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Don't wait until it happens, before you buy an alarm

It's not just people going on holiday who should protect their apartment or house against burglars. Well-secured doors and windows are a first step in reducing overall risk. Householders' insurance only covers material loss and damage to property.

A few minutes are enough to force entry

"It was dreadful. We came back from holiday in a really good mood. We'd had a relaxing time, and were only a little tired from the long car journey. At home it was absolute chaos. Burglars had forced open the terrace doors, they'd turned the whole house upside down, and taken everything that had any value at all. And to cap it all we weren't insured. We hadn't felt it was necessary."

A massive shock: That's almost always the first reaction to a burglary. The encroachment on an individual's private sphere, the sense that your security has been lost, or even severe psychological consequences often create more trouble than the damage to property itself. Research has shown that many victims of burglary continue to suffer long after the event. They no longer feel at ease in their own home, or experience insomnia or nightmares.

No one is really safe. "I haven't got anything worth taking" is often a mistake that claimants only recognise when it's too late. Burglars can't tell how much or how little there is to steal from the outside. If their loot is rather meagre they may let rip and start wrecking a home, so that they end up destroying all the furniture and fittings. And that's all you need after a burglary!

Secure your home when you are away

Around nine out of ten burglaries occur when the occupants are out. Holidays are particularly dangerous times. It's definitely worth getting neighbours, friends, or relatives to keep an eye on your house or apartment. And that's not just for watering the flowers and feeding your pets. They also need to collect the post regularly, and open and close the curtains.

Many burglars opt for the classic mode of entry through the front door. They generally lever open the door.

Other burglars break in through windows, or through doors on a terrace or balcony. Windows and doors to balconies and terraces that can be reached easily from the outside shouldn't be left in a tilt position when you go out. This simply gives burglars an easy entry, and may put your insurance cover at risk. But even locked windows and terrace doors can be opened. Only additional key-lockable locks offer maximum security.

Recommended: Householders' insurance

One of the benefits of a householders' insurance is that it covers the value of stolen property or items that have been destroyed as a result of a burglary. However, this reimbursement cannot replace items with particular sentimental value, nor can it guard against psychological shock. Taking adequate precautions to prevent burglary under all circumstances is the only way of preventing losses of this nature.

Emotional responses to Burglary

People react in different ways to burglary - some experience burglary as an irritating inconvenience, while others feel frightened or angry. These reactions are normal and usually temporary. Talking to a sympathetic listener can help.

Children may have strong feelings about a burglary. Encourage them to talk to you about how they feel and let them know that you understand.

What to do if you have been burgled:·

  • Make a list of all stolen items and any damage to your home. You will need this information for the police and for any insurance claim.
  • If credit cards or cheque books stolen, inform your bank and/or credit card company immediately.
  • If you have a home contents insurance policy, inform the insurance company and ask for a claim form.
  • You may need emergency repairs. If you are a tenant you landlord, the council or housing association should arrange for any necessary repairs. If you own your own home you will have to arrange this yourself. The cost should be covered by your building insurance policy.· If any official documents such as savings, pension, rent and benefit books have been stolen, inform the issuing authority as soon as possible.

Being targeted by criminals can be very frustrating. Shock, anger, fear, guilt and worry are all common experiences following crime.

People are often surprised at how deeply being a victim of crime affects them and unexpected symptoms can be experienced.

Particular kinds of crime often have specific practical and emotional consequences for victims.

Common Symptoms Experienced Following Burglary

If you have been burgled you may experience some, if not all, of the following symptoms. These are common reactions

You may experience:

A sense of guilt, which may be accompanied by crying (this will seem strange and friends may not understand, but it is normal)

Decrease in concentration (this is often experienced at work, and sometimes makes it impossible to return to work)

Loss of short-term memory (you may find it difficult to follow a conversation, or even remember a question you have just been asked)

Decrease in general self-confidence (you may feel you are unable to go out, or manage your usual daily routine)

Inappropriate sense of fear (the fear can be enormous and you can feel ill from it)

Insomnia (the inability to sleep)

Nightmares

Eating habits change (you may find that you are unable to eat as previously)

Panic attacks (for no reason you may suddenly find yourself terrified, and your heart pounding)

If you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, remember that your reaction is quite normal and try not to worry.