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[This is advice for Americans who normally have little security compared to us. Burglar bars are critical over here, and I even have Spanish Bars, which I like a lot. And you need to harden the door. Doors and windows … your first stop. Jan]
Our homes are where we should feel the most secure. Unfortunately, the criminal element among us will not hesitate to violate our homes and steal not only our possessions, but our sense of safety and security. The good news is that there are measures that you can take to harden your home against intruders.
Think about home security in terms of layers. The first is the property around your house, second is the exterior of the building, and the last is the interior of the house. This will help you to compartmentalize the task of securing your home.
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Walk around your house at night and think like a criminal. The goal is to identify any areas that would provide cover from view.
These could be areas that are poorly lit, bushes and shrubbery, or any objects or structures that criminals could hide behind.
Pay attention to the areas around windows and doors, as these are the most likely avenues of ingress.
Make notes of any areas that are dark or offer concealment and make a plan to remedy these situations. Aim to light up dark areas and, if possible cut back bushes and shrubbery to reduce or eliminate someone’s ability to hide.
One of the best improvements you can install is motion-activated lights. These lights detect movement and turn on when motion is detected.
This has the advantage of illuminating and exposing any criminals that may be lurking around your home, and alerting you to possible trouble at the same time.
The entire perimeter of your house should be either illuminated or covered by motion lights.
Cameras are also a great addition to your exterior security. They should be placed in such a way that no one can access any window or door without being filmed.
Security cameras are becoming increasingly inexpensive and do not require any special skills to install.
A good idea is to install cameras that will send alerts to your phone, if they detect motion. Some cameras also have two-way voice communication, which is handy for a main entry door. Being able to speak to someone without unlocking the door is another layer of security.
Installing a camera that covers the street will help to monitor suspicious activity in your neighborhood as well.
Related: Home Security Tips From an Ex-Burglar
The Exterior of the Building
The first step is to either purchase a home security system, or acquire some signs and stickers to make it look like you have a security system.
Posting a ‘Guard Dog on Duty’ sign is also a good idea, regardless of whether you have a dog or not.
Be sure to select a system that you can activate while you sleep, and always set the alarm when you go out or go to bed. Many potential burglars will avoid houses that they suspect of having a security system or dog.
Your front door is a very likely point of entry for a criminal, since they can approach the front entrance and ring the doorbell under the guise of salespeople, delivery people, or even law enforcement. This is a good way for them to determine if the home is occupied before attempting a break-in.
For all entry doors, your first step should be to upgrade the door hinges and deadbolt to the strongest that you can afford.
Installing a larger security strike plate with longer and larger screws will help to distribute the force of a kick.
Along with upgraded strike plates and hardware, the frame of the door should also be reinforced if possible. Avoid any electronic locks that use WIFI or Bluetooth technology, since they have the potential of being hacked.
A locking storm door is an addition that you should consider for your front door. These are doors of clear glass or mesh screen, which allow you to have a barrier between yourself and anyone who has come to your front door.
The advantage is that you can talk through this door without exposing yourself physically to a stranger. While the level of protection is minimal, it is enough to delay a home invader long enough to give you time to close and lock the front door.
Install locks on the interior of every entry door that can only be locked and unlocked from the inside.
Again, make sure that you are purchasing the best ones that you can afford. Lock these locks before going to bed for the night.
Under no circumstances should you leave a key under the welcome mat, or in the flower pot. If you want to leave a key outside your house, hide it far away from the door, such as being buried in a backyard garden. Placing it in an old pill bottle and burying in a location you can easily remember is a far superior option.
Related: 10 Common Home Security Mistakes
Glass windows are a major weak point in your home’s security, but it’s a feature of homes that we cannot live without.
The best security for windows is steel bars. The problem is that steel bars rarely look good on a suburban home.
Another issue is that steel bars also prevent the occupants of the home from using those widows to escape the house in the event of an emergency such as a fire. If you decide to install bars, buy mounting hardware that is the strongest and largest that can be used.
An alternative to bars is a clear security window film, that can be applied to your windows. What this does is prevent the glass from shattering, much like a car windshield. While this method is only going to slow a criminal down, it will hopefully delay them long enough for the authorities to arrive.
These films are available in different thicknesses where the thicker the film, the greater the protection. Do this to all of your windows.
Every window that opens should have either a piece of wood or a device that prevents it from opening more than an inch or two.
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Your garage is a major weak point in your home’s security. If there is a door from the inside of the house to the garage, it must be secured the same as any other exterior door.
The actual garage door is not as stout as you may think and all it takes is to back into it with a vehicle, to destroy the door and render it useless.
Garage door openers are also prone to hacking, where a criminal will open your garage door by figuring out the code with software, then transmitting it to your opener.
You can buy sensors that connect to your WIFI network that will alert you when doors are opened. These are also good because you can use them to check if the garage door is closed, when you are away from home.
The Inside of Your Home
The goal is to make your house appear to always be occupied, even when it is empty.
If you have a dog, train it to bark every time someone knocks at the door or rings the doorbell. This will often convince a would-be thief that your house is not worth the risk.
Using timer switches for your exterior and some interior lights give the impression that someone is home, even if the house is empty. Some devices will simulate the glow of a TV, which is also set on timers to give the impression that someone is watching TV. Leaving a radio on in the house or the garage will also make burglars think that the building is occupied.
WIFI enabled sensors installed on doors and windows can send alerts to your phone, that a door or window has been opened. This will give you a heads up, even when you are not home, that someone is gaining entry.
If someone has been determined enough to enter your home, despite all the passive countermeasures, then you need to have a plan to defend yourself and your family.
Escape is always the best option, your possessions are not worth dying for, so disengaging yourself and your family from the threat is the first option. Sometimes this is not possible and you are going to have to defend your family.
Self-defense is beyond the scope of this article, but you should know and understand the laws surrounding self-defense in your area. Also spend time running through scenarios in your head and coming up with plans for an adequate defense.
Your goal is to make your home unappealing for a criminal to attempt a break-in. Good lighting, cameras, guard dog signs, and security company signage should deter a large portion of the criminal element. For those who still want access, the upgraded entry doors and unbreakable windows will at least slow them down and alert you to the impending danger.
Finally, making the interior of your home always give the impression of being occupied, should also act as a significant deterrent. The major takeaway is to do whatever you can to not appear to be an easy victim.