Better Safe than Sorry: A Guide to Security
When we were kids, we rarely locked our home’s doors or windows. Back then, one didn’t have to worry much about being robbed or having one’s home vandalized. Times were different then. Today, crime and home burglaries are a major social ill. And sadly, one’s television and stereo isn’t the only thing that an unsavory predator is looking to run off with, now innocent children are a primary target.
Tougher laws and punishment may help reduce the incidence of these terrible crimes, however, there is immediate action that you can take to make your home safer and more secure for you and your family.
Locks, lighting and alarms are among the most useful means of protecting your home from intruders. As a bonus, many security upgrades will also make your home more convenient and comfortable. For example, a front porch light with a built-in motion sensor that activates the light when it detects motion will not only startle a would-be intruder, it will also provide ample light to avoid stumbling on a step. Not to mention the fact that ample light makes getting the latchkey into the lockset a whole lot easier!
Where do you begin when it comes to upgrading home security and safety? Start by making a sketch of your home that notes the most vulnerable locations. Typically these include doors (including sliding patio and overhead garage doors), windows, dark spots around the home’s exterior and patches of dense landscaping or heavily wooded areas. If you are planning to have a professional security system installation, have a peek at this website.
All exterior doors should be 1 3/8 to 1 ¾ inches and of solid construction. They should also be hinged to swing in and fit securely in the opening. Doors that swing out are more vulnerable because the hinge pins are exposed to the exterior and can be removed – allowing the door to be taken of the hinges. If you have doors that swing out, be sure that they have non-removable hinge pins that contain a set screw that prevent the hinge pins from being removed when the door is in the closed position.
In addition to the standard key lock, all exterior doors should be equipped with a deadbolt. The two most common types of deadbolts are single-cylinder and double-cylinder. Single-cylinder deadbolts are operated with a key at the exterior and a thumb turn knob at the interior. A double-cylinder deadbolt requires a key at both the interior and exterior. An appropriate location for a double-cylinder deadbolt would be an exterior door that contains glass where an intruder could break the glass and reach in to open the door. Some communities will not allow double-cylinder deadbolts due to fire egress codes. Check with your local building department for more information.
Sliding patio doors have traditionally been a favorite for prowlers because they are relatively easy to break into. Over time, the latch on a sliding patio door can become out of adjustment making the door difficult to lock and allowing the door to become loose in the opening. Both the latch and the catch can usually be adjusted using only a screwdriver. You can further beef up the security system of a sliding patio door by adding a small barrel lock at top or bottom of the door. The lock is anchored to the framing or floor with two screws. A hole (into which the barrel will fit) is drilled into either the top or bottom rail of the door. When the barrel is inserted into the hole the door can neither be slid nor raised in the opening. A broomstick in the sliding patio door track is yet another simple and inexpensive method of preventing entry. New, better quality patio doors have multi-point locking systems that throw bolts into the head jamb, threshold and/or multiple points along the latch side of the door. Furthermore, you may hire a Fire Watch Security personnel to protect your property.
Garage doors, due to their size and configuration, present an entirely different set of problems. If your garage door is a one piece tilt up model, it usually is equipped with two spring-loaded latches – one at either side of the opening. When locked, most kids can pop open one of these doors in an instant. For maximum security, add a latch with a single throw bolt at least at one side (preferably at both sides) of the garage door. The latch should be securely bolted to the exterior of the door and a hole must be drilled into the jamb into which the bolt will fit. A padlock will prevent unauthorized access.
Sectional roll up garage doors tend not to be as flimsy as are the one piece tilt up models. However, without the proper locks and latches they can be opened as quickly and easily. As with the tilt up model, adding a latch with a single throw bolt and a padlock will do lots to improve security. Many modern sectional roll up doors have built in latches mounted on the doors interior. The latch slides into a hole in the track, which prevents the door from being opened. Some newer automatic garage door openers are equipped with a “lock out” feature that prevents the door from being opened using a transmitter.
As with sliding patio doors, most windows can be securely locked using the manufacturer installed latch – provided that it is secure and in good operating condition. A few minor adjustments, cleaning and lubrication will go a long way in keeping a window latch in good operating condition. The broomstick trick works well for sliding patio doors, but is usually too big for most window tracks. An alternative is a wooden dowel that fits in the window track snugly between the window frame and the frame of the operable section of the window. Even better is a nifty keylock that fits over the window track (on sliding and single hung windows) that will lock prevent the window from being opened. What’s more, it can be used when the window is open slightly to allow a bit of ventilation on those hot summer nights.
Prowlers thrive on poorly lit areas around a home. Your best defense is a strong offense. Install motion activated lighting at porches, paths, patios, driveways and other dark or potentially vulnerable locations. Low voltage path and landscape lighting can deter an unwanted visitor from hanging out in shrubbery surrounding the house. Timers used to control interior and exterior lighting can also serve as a deterrent and give your home that “lived in” look while you are away.
Finally, pull out the pruning shears and tree saw and thin shrubbery and tree branches to eliminate potential hiding places.