Home Security Basics: Keeping Your Family Safe and Secure

By: Don Stephens

Having a comfortable and safe place to call home is a priority for most people. Whether living in an urban, suburban, or rural area, people should take steps to protect themselves, their family, and their belongings from danger and theft. Because it's such an important task, people should secure their homes properly and with careful consideration. This is easier than one might think. While one may find it difficult to effectively protect their home from skilled professional criminals, fortunately, most crimes that threaten a person's home are performed by amateur and desperate criminals. The steps to prevent burglary and other home-related crimes fall into a few simple but necessary categories.

Basic Security Precautions

People should take certain precautions starting the moment that they move into their home. These actions are simple but can be of huge benefit. Some basic security precautions should include:

  • Planning a fake robbery of the home to determine any areas where the security is weak. These are areas that one should correct as quickly as possible.
  • Locking up windows and doors every time they leave the house or apartment. This is important regardless of how long one plans to be away from the premises, as it only takes moments for a burglar to break in.
  • When hiring a professional housekeeper, it's important to check references thoroughly and only hire a cleaner who works with a well-known cleaning company or agency that has a spotless record. The Better Business Bureau is a reliable source that one can use to vet services before hiring and handing over the house keys.
  • Together, neighbors can keep an eye out for things that are out of the ordinary. They should agree to alert one another to suspicious people and behavior, unusual activities, or unfamiliar vehicles in the area.
  • Because thieves dislike items that are easily identifiable or difficult to resell, paint the handles of outdoor or garage tools.
  • Trim shrubs and trees that are near windows and doors to prevent them from becoming lurking spots for criminals.
  • Be cautious when it comes to letting service people in the home. Ask for identification prior to allowing entry, and do not open the door until confirming that they are who they say they are. If doubts remain, call the business and inquire about the individual.
  • Never allow strangers into the home. Some individuals may claim that their car has broken down or that they've been in an accident and need to use the phone as their cellphone has died. Instead of allowing access, one may offer to make the call instead.
  • Individuals should avoid putting their first and last name on their mailbox and instead only use a first initial and last name.

Deterrents: Lighting, Security Systems, and Dogs

Burglars want to sneak into a home without attracting attention. Lights, alarm systems, and even pets can help deter criminals because they bring attention to the home or apartment, which increases the risk of neighbors and eventually police becoming involved.

  • Connect lights and the television to timers to ensure that the house always looks occupied, even when no one is home. The timer should be set to turn on and off at different times each day.
  • Install lighting that uses infrared detectors at entrances to the home. These are a type of security light that acts as a deterrent by turning on when it detects body heat.
  • Install a new security camera system or update the current system. In doing so, all wiring should be properly concealed to prevent burglars from disconnecting it.
  • Have the alarm fixed as quickly as possible if it is faulty and goes off frequently. Homeowners should never ignore fake alarms.
  • Adopt a dog, if this is a feasable option. A barking dog attracts attention, and many criminals fear being bitten by a dog.

Securing Doors

Doors are one of the ways that criminals choose to enter the homes they rob. They are also one of the easiest things to secure, starting with simply locking doors. In addition:

  • Check door frames for any signs of rot and replace them as needed with solid, new wood.
  • Replace all of the locks when moving into a new home.
  • Only use 1-inch-throw deadbolt locks and not spring-latch locks, as the latter can easily be opened by skilled criminals using a credit card. The deadbolts should be used on all doors that open to the exterior.
  • Any time a key is lost, the locks should be replaced without delay.
  • Reinforce doors with sheet metal or a 3/4-inch plywood panel. This will eliminate the risk of burglars using a jimmy, which is possible when too much space exists between the frame and the door.
  • Door hinges should be on the inside of the house, not the outside, to prevent thieves from removing them to gain access. Security hinges may also be used.
  • Consider replacing doors that have glass panels, as they can be broken and used as a way to gain entry into the home. If one chooses to keep the door, change the glass to laminated glass or fortify it with security film.
  • Use a one-key, double-cylinder deadbolt to secure doors with glass panels.
  • Use a metal rod or any type of solid pipe to prevent glass sliding doors from being opened by criminals. On the middle track, place a rod that's of equal length.
  • Never hide spare keys outdoors in obvious and expected locations such as under a rock or beneath a doormat. Instead, conceal them in unusual places such as a fake sprinkler, or wrap them in foil or a can and secretly bury them in a location that no one but the homeowner knows about.

Securing Windows

Windows, like doors, are a popular entrance point for burglars. Fortunately, there are also simple ways to secure every window in the home.

  • Use one or more locks to make windows more secure.
  • Make sliding windows difficult to open by using a wooden dowel between the window and the jamb.
  • Alarm systems should be wired to protect windows.
  • Windows should be made of burglar-resistant glass.
  • To prevent thieves from unscrewing window locks, drop solder onto the screw heads during installation.

Home Safety Tips for When You're Not Home

A home is most vulnerable when it is empty. Unfortunately, the chances of a home burglary increase until the individual or family have returned. For this reason, it's important that people do not advertise that no one is home. When planning a vacation or any amount of time away from the house, one should:

  • Never leave announcements that the home is unoccupied. A note or private message to a family member or friend will provide valuable information that's beneficial to people with criminal intentions.
  • Hire a house sitter. A house sitter can live in or visit one's home daily so that it is not empty while the owner is away. This is a good option when announcements for weddings or even funerals have been made.
  • Talk to neighbors about the garbage cans and request that they both use them and place them at the curb on collection day.
  • People who still use a landline should turn off the ringer or set the volume to the lowest setting, as a ringing phone is an obvious indicator that no one is home.

Garage Security

A garage is a highly attractive place for criminals who are interested in burglarizing a home. Not only are cars and their contents susceptible to crime, but garages are also a relatively hidden entrance into the dwelling. For that reason, it's necessary to make certain that the garage is as secure as other areas of the home.

  • Cover garage windows to make it difficult to see inside.
  • Close and lock doors at all times, regardless of whether there is a car inside.
  • In the event of suspicious noise, one shouldn't open the door to the garage. Instead, add a peephole that allows people in the house to look inside the garage.
  • Place a C-clamp on garage doors that lift on a track. Tightening the clamp can make it difficult or impossible to open the door.

Protecting Valuables

It's always a possibility that despite precautionary measures, thieves can make it into one's home. If that happens, one's possessions, including those that have sentimental value, are at risk of being taken and never seen again. To prevent that from happening, one may do any of the following to hide their valuables:

  • Purchase a fireproof lockbox or heavy wall safe that cannot be relocated.
  • Create an opening at the top of a door or in a chair or table leg to hide small valuables. Suspended ceilings also can be used as a place to hide items.
  • The usual places to hide one's belongings should be avoided. This includes mattresses, the insides of figurines, and drawers.
  • An engraving tool can be used to mark one's belongings so that they are identifiable as theirs. Use the tool to engrave a driver's license number on each item.

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