When you think of home home security, have you considered how ridiculously easy it might be for a burglar to break in while you’re away or even fast asleep?
At the reported rate of one burglary every 15 seconds, the risk for household break-ins is very real, no matter where you live. A home’s security is only as good as its most vulnerable point of entry, so pay attention to the little things that could extend a big invitation to intruders.
The cost of installing a good-quality alarm system has come down in recent years due to increased competition and technology that makes installations simpler and quicker. In fact, some companies even offer to install “free” systems if you hire them to do monthly monitoring. Most home security systems connect your telephone to the company’s central monitoring station so that if the alarm goes off, the station can alert police or fire officials.
Keep the Landscape in Shape
- Tall trees can be accessories to crime when dense branches come close to your home and create pockets of darkness where burglars can hide. Keep trees well-trimmed to avoid giving thugs a place to hang out.
- Dense shrubs can also create a hideout, so keep hedges low and plantings near doors and windows neat and transparent.
Avoid False Alarms
One of the most common complaints about home security systems is excessive false alarms caused by malfunctions. If your alarm goes off all the time, neighbors and police may not take the alarm seriously if a real emergency exists. Police and fire services may even send you a bill. So check references of alarm companies carefully to make sure you’ll be catching bad guys, not heck from your neighbors.
Light It Up
- A well-lit home is much less likely to be broken into, so make sure your home’s exterior is fully illuminated with motion-detector spotlights and other strategic outdoor lighting fixtures.
- Indoors, use timer switches on lights. These simple devices cost only a few dollars each, yet can create the appearance of activity inside your house 24 hours a day. Use at least one timer per floor, usually in the living room and bedroom.
- Set the living room light to stay on from dusk until about midnight. In the bedroom, set the timer to keep the light on from about 9 p.m. through 1 or 2 in the morning. Any criminal watching your home will think twice about breaking into a house that looks occupied.
- A door with only a handle lock is an easy mark for a crook armed with finesse, a plastic credit card and the desire to break your home security. Instead, add a good-quality deadbolt at each entry. The best deadbolts require a key on the outside and incorporate a thumb latch on the inside. Further strengthen every installation by substituting long, heavy-duty screws for those provided by the manufacturer so that entry doors can be secured to the wood-framed door opening in the wall.
- No matter which lock you choose, it’s only as strong as the door itself, which is generally weakest around the lock. Add a decorative door reinforcement plate (about $20) to make this zone more secure. For more entry door security tips, check out our front door entryways tips.
- Improve home security at the patio door by adding a patio bar, which can stop the inside door from sliding open or being pried off if the lock is broken. A sturdy piece of wood strategically placed in the open track can also improve door security.
- When leaving home for day trips or longer, keep your garage closed to intruders by inserting a large stove bolt through one of the side track holes to prevent the door from being slid open.
- Install a wide-angle (200-degree) peephole in your front door so that you can easily see who’s come knocking.
Secure Your Keys
- The idea of handing your house key to a burglar may seem ridiculous, but that’s exactly what you could be doing every time you send a spare key floating among family, friends and service personnel. The key holders themselves may be trustworthy, but you can’t control the paths they may cross and the situations in which your key may be exposed to the risk of duplication.
- Never hide spare keys in “secret” places outside your home, because smart burglars know which flower pots to look under.
- Be smart about issuing spare keys. Even though you may be careful about who they’re issued to, you can’t control the paths they may cross or situations in which your key may be exposed to duplication.
- Be careful when you’re carrying your master set through everyday routines, such as valet drop-offs and auto shop visits.
Who Has Keys to Your Home?
According to a study by Master Lock, that’s a question that nearly two out of every three American homeowners should consider closely:
- A majority (64%) of American homeowners have knowingly circulated their house keys outside of their immediate family.
- Nearly 20 percent of homeowners (18%) have given a key to workers in their home – including contractors, painters and service men. 12 percent have also given keys to cleaning workers; and 10 percent to boyfriends or girlfriends.
- Nearly half (49%) of the survey respondents realized that relatives or acquaintances of those they’ve given a key to – people they do not know and have never met – have had access to that key.
In each case, these homes become more and more vulnerable to a potential invasion with every key their owners allow to wander.
- Windows can be the weakest link in home security, especially if left open and unattended. Make sure all units are closed and locked before you leave home for even the shortest errand, and add window dressings and shades to discourage prying eyes.
- Modern windows include sash locks, but you can improve security by drilling a hole from front to back where the top and bottom windows overlap and installing a long nail in the hole. If the integrated window lock breaks, the nail will stop the window from sliding open.
- Security bars installed over windows can also prevent intruder access. But these must be fitted with quick-release mechanisms to allow them to be opened if someone in the building needs to get out fast; otherwise, a home can become a deadly burning cage in a fire situation.
- Beyond the structural security points of windows, make sure the view to the inside is properly screened by blinds and curtains, and that valuables are always out of sight.
Self-Service Security Systems
- Low-cost, high-technology home security systems incorporating infrared motion detection, remote controls and easy-to-install door and window break-in sensors are available for application in apartments and small homes. If you have pets, you can prevent false alarms by looking for systems incorporating “pet alley” settings that keep detection just above their usual paths.
- For more security with doors and windows, purchase individual alarms to supplement existing security measures.
Make a Thorough Inventory
- Perhaps the most important home security measure of all is to document your home’s contents, particularly the valuables. Get out the video camera and take a thorough tour of your home, then deliver a copy of the resulting tape and any other helpful documentation to your safe deposit box. If your home security is ever really threatened by a burglary, you’ll have the proof you need to supply to the police and to your homeowners insurance company.
Plan a Retreat
- No system is foolproof, so prepare for the worst case scenario. Plan as a family where you will go in the event of a home invasion while you’re in it. Keep an extra cordless or charged cell phone in the room so that you can easily contact authorities should the unthinkable ever occur.