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Home Security Safety

  • Home Security

Planning a vacation? Invest some time to review your home's security and to make improvements that will keep it from being vulnerable to break-ins. Walk around the perimeter of your home and objectively evaluate its vulnerability. Try to look at it the way an intruder or thief would, and make changes well before you leave town.

  • Inspect entry doors and door frames. External doors should be hinged from the inside, not the outside where burglars can simply un-screw the hinge. If you have sliding doors, place a bar or wooden dowel in the inside track to supplement the door lock.

  • Check to make sure all door and window locks are operable and replace or install any that are lacking or in disrepair.

  • Purchase several light timers so you can set lights to come on in different rooms at different times during your absence.

  • Check outside lighting and replace burned out or dim light bulbs. Re-position security lights so they shine on key areas, such as doorways, garage doors, driveways, and around windows, including the backyard. If you don't have them, consider installing motion-detection lights around the perimeter of your home.

  • Check garage doors and windows for security and replace worn or inoperable locks. If the window is bare, install a blind or curtain over the inside so the contents cannot be viewed from outside.

  • Do yard work before you leave. Trim limbs that could be used to access upper windows. Keep hedges neat and prune them so they can't be used by intruders for cover.

  • Give a spare house key to a close friend or relative so they can keep an eye on the inside and outside of your home.

  • If you plan to be gone for several days or more, arrange for someone to check your yard.

  • To make your home even more lived in, consider asking a trusted neighbor to use your driveway to park their car while you're away.

  • Arrange to have your newspaper delivery suspended and have mail held at the post office or picked up daily by someone you trust. Arrange for someone to take your trash out on pick-up day and return the barrels afterward.

  • Consider purchasing a fire-proof home safe for important papers, etc. Or put valuable jewelry and paperwork in your bank safe deposit box while you're away.

  • Avoid unwittingly inviting crime. Be careful whom you tell about your travel plans. Record a generic greeting on your answering machine rather than one indicating that you are out of town.

Before you drive away, double-check to be sure all doors and windows are locked and light timers are set. Make sure you've provided relatives or friends with your contact information so you can be reached in an emergency.

  • Making Your Home More Secure

If you are like most folks, your life centers on your home. It is your shelter, your gathering place and where you keep important objects and possessions relevant to your family's everyday life. You don't want anything bad to happen to it, and you don't want strangers hanging around the place. But there are times, particularly during vacations and holidays, when you just have to leave your home alone. There is no way around it unless you have someone you can really trust who is willing to housesit for you. In this How-To we look at ways to make your home more secure when you're away, as well as when you are at home.

  • Think Like a Burglar

According to law enforcement officials, the following facts are true:

  • Most break-ins occur in the daytime.

  • Most break-ins are committed by teenagers.

  • Vacant homes are inviting targets.

  • Burglaries are often crimes of opportunity.

You don't have to be wealthy to get robbed. People who steal for the challenge, like the cat burglars in movies and literature, are few and far between. Since there are real penalties associated with crime, people who engage in it are usually concerned with how easily they can get by with what they plan to do. Your sole possession may be your television or stereo, but if it is easy to get to it, someone may decide to make it their own. Therefore, regardless of your economic standing, the best deterrent against crime at your home involves making access difficult for potential burglars.

Have you ever had a bad day at work?--One of those days that make you want to throw up your hands and go back home to bed? As a homeowner, that is the kind of day you want any potential burglars that come sniffing around your home to have. Your goal is to install measures that will get in their hair and nip at their heels. If someone wants to get in your house bad enough, he can get in--but, you don't have to make it easy for him. There are many things that can be done to take advantage of what police consider to be the three worst enemies of a criminal: light, noise and time. Why should a burglar work himself to death and risk being caught at a well-secured house when easier prey is right down the road? Especially when there are locks at every point of entry, an alarm is blaring and the exterior of the house is lit up like a World Series game!

  • Shed Light on the Situation

It's funny, but people engaged in illegal activities don't care much about receiving a lot of exposure while plying their trade. It might have something to do with the threat of the criminal justice system--or of an upset homeowner with a shotgun and an attitude. When planning your home security, capitalize on this fact by refusing to cooperate with potential criminals.

Although many burglaries take place during the day, the same rule still applies: burglars want to be inconspicuous. Most folks are at work during the day. As a bonus, the kids are at school and the neighborhood is quiet. If a burglar can look like a meter-reader, delivery person or professional mover, so much the better for his enterprise. Brazen daytime criminals may be harder to guard against, but there are a few important things you can do to help deter them from attempting to crack your house.

  • Organize or participate in a neighborhood watch program. These programs are effective. They work to make an unfavorable atmosphere for crime.

  • Post signs--neighborhood watch signs let potential criminals know that neighbors watch out for neighbors in your community. Also, post signs stating that you have a monitored security system in your house. It doesn't matter whether you really have one or not; potential criminals will think twice before putting it to the test.

  • Keep bushes close to the house neatly trimmed. Large unruly shrubbery provides a hiding place for criminals who are trying to gain access to your home.

There are several things you can do to make your home less vulnerable at night. Many people are home in the evening, so burglars must rely more on being hidden from view to do their dirty work. Remember, light is one of a criminal's three main enemies. Don't give them places to hide.

  • Motion activated flood lights are an inexpensive way to shed light on unexpected visitors. Positioned near points of entry, they automatically expose the area any time someone (or some thing) comes near.

  • Street lights cast a pale glow over a wide area. If you don't have one, your electric company may be willing to cooperate with you and your neighbors if you express sufficient interest.

  • Make sure your bushes are neatly trimmed, and don't position outbuildings close to points of entry to your main house. Objects that cast large shadows or otherwise obscure areas near points of entry to your house are marks in the pro column for criminals evaluating your property.

  • Be sure to have operational porch lights. Peepholes are important for allowing you to see who is at the door before opening it. Don't rely on the little chains which are often installed on doors to prevent them from opening more than a few inches--you might get a nasty surprise!

  • Be Home Whether You're Gone or Not

Although some burglars are brazen enough to break in and steal from a family watching TV in the next room, most burglaries take place when the homeowners are away. So, make the house seem like it is occupied even while you are gone.

If possible, it is always good to have a trusted neighbor visit your house to open and close drapes and turn lights on and off. Have a neighbor collect your mail and newspapers, too. If this isn't possible, call and have delivery stopped while you are away. If you are to be gone for an extended period of time, arrange to have the yard maintained while you are away. You want the place to look just as it would if you were home.

Turning your lights on and off is easy, even if you don't have someone to do it for you, since programmable timers are available which can be set to do the job. The simplest timers available can turn lights on and off at the same time each day. If your house is watched over the course of several days, these timers may not be totally convincing since their performance will be predictable. More sophisticated programmable timers can vary these times by day, and new digital timers offer variable and random programming for a much more realistic touch. If you are creative with these timers you can set them to create the illusion of someone moving through the house and switching lights on and off. Also attach radios and even televisions to the timers to more fully create the illusion that someone is at home.

  • Lock It Up

So far we have only discussed ways to deter someone from attempting to break into your house. Suppose they decide to try; what will happen then? In two-thirds of completed burglaries, the burglar entered the home through unlocked windows or doors. Could the home-owners have made it any more simple? Time is another enemy of criminals. Make sure that getting into your house is going to take a while. Hopefully, the burglar will give up and go to greener pastures.

  • Garages

Garages which are attached to houses are inviting to criminals. If a burglar can gain access to the garage, he can work unseen for long periods of time to get into the main house; plus, he can often use the homeowners own tools to do it!

  • If you have windows in your garage, keep them covered. There is a lot about your garage you don't want potential criminals to know about. For example: Are there valuable tools inside, or tools that will help with the break-in? Is the car present? Is there access to the attic from inside the garage? Is there a ladder inside which could aid in reaching upper windows even if the door going into the main house is securely dead bolted? This person is after your hard-earned stuff. Keep him guessing.

  • Keep garage doors locked at all times with a good quality padlock when you are away. It is a good idea, although not practical for home owners with automatic garage door openers, to do this all the time--even when you are at home.

  • Garages (or carports!) with attic access provide a convenient way to get into the house through the ceiling. At the very least, keep the attic access securely locked. Seal it completely and provide access only from inside the secured area of the house if possible.

  • If the door separating your garage from your main house is an ordinary interior door, replace it with a solid core exterior door with a deadbolt lock. And keep it locked! Having to unlock the door each time you arrive at the house is less inconvenient than being robbed.

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