Making a Home a Castle
Hey and welcome back. I'm glad you could make it. Last week I rambled on a bit about what to do in a home invasion, and several people asked me if I'd revisit a piece I did a while back on home security. So why don't see what we can do.
Now the most commonly overlooked place to start when you're trying to burglar proof your home is also one that almost every article on the subject mentions. Namely the deadbolt on your doors. The fact is that you can have the best deadbolt made, but if the strike plate the bolt fits into is too flimsy you may as well have not even bothered with a deadbolt in the first place. And don't count on the carpenter who installed it to make sure it's secure even if it did come with a selection of hardware.
Start by measuring the length of bolt that goes into the strike plate and your door jam. If it's less than an inch and a quarter then you really need to replace the whole thing. Any reasonably fit man can probably move you door and the door jam close to an inch with a cheap pry bar from Walmart so anything less than an inch and a quarter just ain't going to cut it, and an inch and a half would be even better.
Next look at the screws holding the strike plate to the frame. If they're not two inches or longer then you really should replace them, preferably with three inch screws assuming there's enough wood to sink them in. Even a complete novice could do the job in under 10 minutes and will make the chance of someone kicking into your door almost nonexistent.
The next thing you really need to look at is your windows since that's the second most likely route a bad guy will pick to get into your home. Start by just looking at the age and condition of the windows. If they're the original windows and your home was built back in the 70's or 80's you might want to just go ahead and replace them with ones made with either tempered glass or safety glass. The energy savings alone could end up paying for the new windows, and either type of glass is so hard to break that most crooks will give up long before they get through.
Next take a look at the hardware on your windows. Some locks can be jimmied simply by sliding a credit card or knife blade up between the top and bottom sashes, so check to make sure the locks are tight. If there's any play in them at all you should probably have them replaced. Another thing to check is to see if your windows have safety latches designed to lock them in a partially open position. If they do then they probably serve as a second lock as well though most people never think to use them that way. If yours don't then I'd strongly recommend get a bar or rod that will keep your windows from being opened even if a crook does manage to force the locks. The simplest way is just to cut a broomstick to fit, but you can buy bars made just for the purpose. It wouldn't hurt to do the same for your sliding glass door as well.
The next thing I'd do is look at how well lit your home is. The last thing any crook wants is to be seen, so having flood lights on the corners and bright porch lights beside each of your doors will greatly decrease the appeal of trying to break into your house. If the idea of having them on all night long makes the Scrooge in you flinch, spend a little extra and get ones with motion detectors built in. Just be warned that if you live out in the country then you might find the deer you never knew were coming into your yard may trigger them unexpectedly. I'm in the process of installing light sensors in mine so that they'll automatically turn on at dusk and then turn themselves off at dawn.
Next look at the plants around your house. Lush planting a can really add to the value of a home it's true, but if they block the view of your neighbors of someone trying to force their way in then they need to be cut back or replaced with something as prickly as possible. Say a holly or a nice rose bush for example.
And that brings me in a way to one of my pet peeves. Yes, yes, I know. Everyone loves their privacy, and being able to relax in the privacy of your backyard can be priceless after a long day at work; but stop and look at that privacy fence from a crook's point of view for a minute here. If your neighbors can't see into your backyard, how are they going to see the bad guys forcing open your patio door? They can't obviously, and so that beloved privacy fence you paid so much to have put in becomes a bugler's best friend. Okay, I know I'm not going to change many minds on this one; but please at least think about it a bit.
Of course the most obvious thing to help secure your home is to get an alarm system installed, preferably one that's monitored by a reputable company 24 hours a day. In my case I actually have two systems, one installed and monitored by one of the better known national companies, and a set of cameras feeding to a DVR that covers every approach to the house I could think of as well as some inside watching the most commonly used ways to get in that was installed and maintained by a local company with an excellent reputation. And both of them are hooked up to a back up power supply in case someone gets the cute idea of cutting the power lines to my house. Hey, what can I say. I'm paranoid. But when a home is broken into every 13 seconds here in the U.S., and around every 7 seconds in Great Britain, being paranoid suddenly doesn't sound all that bad now, does it?
And finally, the easiest and most effective way to help burglar proof your home is simply to get to know your neighbors. Believe it or not, most homes are broken into between 10 am and 3 pm simply because thrives know these are the times a house is most likely to be empty. Nothing you can do is going to keep a true professional out, but most robberies are not committed by true professionals and if your neighbors know you well then they'll know when someone who doesn't belong comes around and the chances of the police being called soon enough to do some good goes up astronomically.
So there you have a quick primer on how to increase the safety of your home. Are there other things you can do? Certainly. Indeed entire books have been written on the subject and a quick trip to your local library or Amazon's web site will net you a ton of them, but I don't have room or time enough to get that indepth. Still I hope this helps give you at least a few ideas. So until next time dear reader I hope you have a fantastic weekend and an even better week. And as always, remember. If it's worth doing, it's worth doing with attitude!
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