When you work at home, you face certain security risks that require more than simply keeping the door locked. Not only do you need to take steps to ensure your personal safety, but you also need to protect the equipment in your office from burglary or other mishaps. The security tactics outlined below can help.

Keep your home and office separate

If clients, contractors, and delivery people visit your home office during the day, try to prevent them from seeing your personal space or valuables. Ideally, your home office should have a separate entrance from your living area. If that is now possible, look for other ways to set it apart. Hold meetings in your office, not in your living room, and don't provide a clear view of the layout of your house and the valuables within it. Never indicate to delivery people that you are home alone, and handle deliveries at the door, not in your home or office.

Don't have meetings alone

If you need to meet with a new client in your home office, invite a business partner to the get-together. If this is inappropriate because of the nature of the meeting, ask someone to drop by or call during the visit. Better yet, consider holding the meeting off-site. Restaurants, coffee houses, and even libraries often have quiet corners where meetings can take place. Business centers - where you can rent meeting rooms by the hour - can be used for more formal gatherings. These centers often provide administrative services, Internet access, fax machines, telephones, and other tools needed to work with clients efficiently.

Set up a buddy system

Knowing your neighbors is among the most effective anti-crime tactic. Locate a neighbor who is also home during the day and work out a "daily watch" plan. Keep an eye on each other's homes, watching for unfamiliar cars and faces, and odd behavior from pedestrians.

Program emergency speed dial

When you work at home alone, placing a call for help should be as easy as possible. Set up your phone for one-touch emergency dialing. Numbers to program include the closest police precinct, firehouse, and hospital. It's also a good idea to put your "buddy" neighbor's number on speed dial. Also, if your doorbell rings unexpectedly, consider keeping your phone with you when you answer. Someone with dishonorable intentions will be less likely to harm you if there is someone listening to the interaction.

Use your alarm system

Many people who have alarm systems fail to use them, putting themselves and their businesses needlessly at risk. It is easy to be lulled into thinking you only need the system when you go a way for a weekend or longer trip. In fact, many burglaries take place when people are out for just a short time. Get in the habit of setting your alarm system whenever you are out.

Don't advertise your absence

If you plan to be away from the office for an extended period of time (such as a vacation), don't leave an "away from office" message on your voice mail. Instead, call key clients and business partners to let them know you will be traveling. Call in to check your messages regularly instead of leaving a message that specifies that you are out of the office.

The views and opinions contained herein are not necessarily those of American Express and are intended as a reference and for informational purposes only. Please contact your attorney, accountant or other business professional for advice specific to your business.

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