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Signs of the times

In years gone by, signage was signage. You'd slap up a little eyeball outside your house and people would know you're a member. These days it's not that straight forward. Neighbourhood watches throughout South Africa are using all manner of signage to increase visibility, attract members and of course identify who are not members. Here's the low down from Joachimm Fassman who has been putting up NHW signs in his are for the past 7 years. 


Be Bold! Do not be shy to use signs of a reasonable size.  We find that 450mm x 450mm is nice and visible. Our signs always have the HOUSE NUMBER visible on them. Sure it costs a little bit more but it is well worth it. This makes homes easily identifiable in an emergency. We also use reflective sign boards to make sure that they are easy to find at night - well worth a few Rand extra. 

Position. We do not make exceptions. Our signs are erected with uniformity. 1.2m above street level directly next to the main entrance gate. For corner properties we put one sign on each side of the property - but only the side with the ENTRANCE will have a house number on it. It adds to the visibility and makes it easier for emergency services to find. 

Fix it right. Signs must be properly fixed to the wall to get value for money out of them. If a sign looks tatty and withered within months, it's a waste of money. Our boads cost us around R40 each printed on a reflective board with our logos and a pile of vinyl numbers and letters so that I can add the street number onto each sign. When I fix them, I scuff the back of the board with a heavy gritt sandpaper to get good adhesion and use a generous amount of marine silicone to fix it in position on the wall. I also scrub the wall quickly with a sponge and a little sugar soap to make sure it really sticks well. When it comes to fences, I drill a hole in each corner and use heavy duty cable ties. For palisade fences, I drill into the posts to make sure I have anchor points for the cable ties. It is important to get them on to stay!

We have our members pay R50 per sign so that we have a little "kitty" for replacing damaged boards which is created by the extra R10 that we recover on a board. This also covers buying silicone etc. 

Once a year we do a street by street reconciliation to see that ONLY members who are active have sign boards up. If they are no longer active or if the house has been sold and the new owners haven't joined, the board comes off. 

We also use public boards which are bigger (about 450mm x 800mm) posted at central points around the area to warn anyone coming into the area that there is indeed a watch and that their movements are monitored. These are paid for by the members out of membership fees. (see A matter of Money and Neighborhood Watches

Not all watches do this, but we do not allow armed response or monitoring companies to put boards up in our area. We allow them to put up one BIG board at an entrance to the area if they have enough clients, but we have homes - not billboards. This thing of everyone shoving up boards from wellpoints to armed response and alarms and everything else is just ugly and ineffective. Why would you want to forewarn someone that you have an alarm? Surely it's more sensible that they find out you have an alarm while their ass is hanging halfway through a window? That seems much more effective to me. There is no deterrent value in an armed response board. You may as well put one up that says "protected by the police"


If you are going to use signage - then do it right. Spend the money on getting a graphic designer to make sure that your presentation is perfect and looks the part. Don't just mess about in Word and make your own things. If you have a designer in the area use them, if not pay for it, you will get good value for money. I have even seen some people use services like www.fiverr.com to get great results for a few Rands.