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Home Security Checklist

Martha Stewart Living, April 2006


Here are tips for safeguarding your property and possessions. Print and use this checklist, and your home may be the safest on your block.

Exterior Doors

1. Install strong doors that are either solid wood or metal-clad, rather than hollow-core units, which are designed for interior use and can give way under a powerful shoulder blow or kick.

2. Reinforce glass insets in doors -- and in the windows that often surround a front entry -- with security glazing. This durable plastic, which is applied to the window, prevents trespassers from breaking through the glass and opening the door from the inside.

3. Choose doors with hinges that face indoors. Otherwise, an intruder might be able to pop out the pins and lift the entire door off its frame.

4. Select wide-angle viewers for new doors; one should be positioned at normal height and one at a lower level for children and people in wheelchairs. You can hire a contractor to retrofit these viewers to an existing door.

5. Supplement standard locks on sliding glass doors with key-operated locking devices. These mechanisms secure the bottom of the door to its frame. For good measure, also keep a dowel in the lower track to prevent the door from being forced open. Note: Sliding glass doors that have been fortified must not be designated as fire exits, because the extra security measures could potentially slow fleeing family members.

Lighting

1. Ensure that driveways, pathways, and entry points throughout your property have adequate lighting; avoid overly bright fixtures, however, since they create deep shadows in the yard.

2. Use motion sensors. In addition to lighting the property safely for welcome visitors, they will help scare away potential intruders.

3. Illuminate address numbers so police and emergency crews can quickly find your house. To guarantee maximum visibility, choose numbers that are 4 to 6 inches tall, and mount them in a well-lit and logical place, such as beside the front door.

Home Security Checklist

Locks

1. Secure all doors and windows every time you leave the house, even if you intend to be out for only a few minutes.

2. Never rely solely on the key-operated knobs that come standard on entry doors. Reinforce them with a dead bolt. There are two types from which to choose: single-cylinder, which operates by key on the outside of the door and a thumb latch on the inside, and double-cylinder, which is key-operated on both sides. Opt for single-cylinder locks so that, in the event of a fire, family members won't lose valuable seconds fumbling for the right set of keys.

3. Choose a dead bolt that has these characteristics: a bolt (known as the "throw") that extends at least 1 inch when locked, to resist heavy blows; beveled rims on the dead bolt's housing to prevent it from being pulled out with pliers; mounting screws that are 3 inches or longer so the strike plate (the metal plate installed in the door frame that receives the bolt) is anchored securely.

4. Avoid keeping spare keys in an obvious hiding place, such as underneath a doormat or in a flowerpot. Instead, leave a set with a trusted neighbor. If you have no choice but to stash them somewhere on your property, choose an unexpected spot, such as beneath a stone under a bush.

5. Invest in an alarm system that will sound a loud noise or silently alert the alarm company or police if an intruder trips its circuit. Do your homework first, though, comparing systems and making sure the company you sign with is well-established.

Windows

1. Supplement the standard thumb-operated turn latches on windows with a key-operated device (sometimes referred to as a sash lock). Similar to the mechanism that's used on sliding glass doors, it secures the window's top panel to its bottom panel so the unit can't be forced open from the outside.

2. Create a pin lock by drilling an angled hole through the top and bottom frame and inserting a nail or eyebolt. (This homemade alternative to the key-operated sash lock is recommended on second-floor windows because the pins can be removed quickly during a fire.) You may wish to make a second set of pin locks with the window partially open to allow for safe ventilation.

3. Consider safety bars for windows, especially those on the ground floor of homes in urban areas. Since bars on front-facing windows will be visible from the road, choose a material and style that complement the home's architecture -- scrolled cast-iron grates, for instance, are appropriate for a traditional-style brick row house.

Vacation

1. Hire someone to mow the lawn and keep bushes and trees neatly trimmed, or to remove snow, to give the appearance that someone is home.

2. Set timers for at least two interior lights, but be sure to stagger when they turn on and off so the house will look genuinely occupied, and not just programmed to appear so.

3. Suspend newspaper deliveries and mail service (you can do the latter at your post office or at usps.com).

4. Inform close neighbors of your trip so they can alert the police to any suspicious activity. If they're willing, have them park their car in your driveway, too -- anything to make the house look like it's occupied.

5. Join a neighborhood-watch group -- a network of neighbors who meet regularly to discuss crime problems and solutions, and who keep an eye on one another's property. If no group exists in your community, contact local law-enforcement agencies about starting one. (For more information about watch groups, visit usaonwatch.org.)

6. Create an inventory of valuable possessions. Include photographs of the items and, when applicable, identification numbers inscribed by their manufacturer (computers, for instance, all have serial numbers). Of course, you can perform this sort of inventory at any time, but doing so before a long vacation will give you some extra peace of mind throughout your trip.

Comments (13)

  • 1 Aug, 2013

    I agree that a home security system can give you peace of mind. Del-Air Security offers home security as well as the latest technological benefits. Some of the benefits are: remotely turning lights on and off, live streaming of your home, wireless connection and battery backup. Del-Air Security services customers throughout Central Florida and surrounding cities including Orlando, Sanford, Lake Mary, Longwood, Maitland, Winter Springs, Winter Park, Altamonte Springs, Oveido and Kissimmee. For more information on Del-Air Security visit www.delairsecurity.com

  • 16 May, 2012

    If you leave a set of your keys with a "trusted neighbor" make sure they aren't marked with your address so someone besides your neighbor who comes across them isn't tempted to use them!

  • 15 Mar, 2011

    ...Additionally, unless someone is truly targeting you, personally,chances are that the items listed on this security list, will be enough to dissuade an intruder from breaking into your home. It's an excellent list. Having a gun isn' t a viable solution in more instances than not. I'm not sure that was even entered into the mix. Not to mention: This is Martha Stewart's Living, not Gun World. ;)

  • 15 Mar, 2011

    Habitudes is right about safety needs for installing bars. Also, there is much talk about guns, but no one has mentioned how many "trained" homeowners have actually died by their own gun in break-ins. On top of that, ANYONE who leaves a loaded gun unlocked or even in some cases locked cabinets (in a nightstand, closet, etc.) is asking for trouble, especially if you have kids or visiting children. Children have killed themselves or friends/siblings. The adult/parent, besides a loss, faces jail

  • 4 Feb, 2011

    In many places the exit doors that open towards indoors are not allowed for the fire regulations.

  • 28 Jan, 2011

    I stand for TraceyJL. I live near Barcelona, here guns are for use of security forces. If fact and without willing to offend, anyone here keeping a gun home is seen as a dangerous person you better keep away from... I have my house connected to a central alarm company, they are allowed to call police or a doctor if they detect something wrong. I just can't imagine having a gun with the kids in the house.

  • 27 Jan, 2011

    I have a small dog and guns, by my bed, in the front hall closet and one in the garage. If you are a responsible person, you do not warn anyone with a gun.
    If you have an intruder in your home, you use the gun. You pick it up and use it.
    You do not warn anyone with a gun.

  • 27 Jan, 2011

    I have a husband, a dog and a gun. After watching "I Survived" on the Bio Channel I really felt like I needed all three. In the United States so many "bad people" use guns, so I figured let's us "good people" learn how to use them too!

  • 27 Jan, 2011

    I live alone and have a gun next to my bed, and a big dog. If I have an intruder and shoot above my door, then the intruder has had a warning, if he/she continues into my bedroom, they were warned . They would face both the dog and a .38. ( I also have excellent exterior lighting, my back yard gate stays locked, having a gun is a huge responsibility and not to be taken lightly)

  • 27 Jan, 2011

    Thank you for your comment on the danger of guns in the home. I would assume that if the gun was being taken care of properly, it would be locked away and therefore difficult to even use on the spur of the moment. I have always feared that an intruder could easily take a gun away from me anyway. The dog idea sounds much safer to me. (We have two, and they make so much noise I always know when someone is near the house.)

  • 27 Jan, 2011

    Instead of hiding a key outside you can purchase a key lock box at the hardware store. You can either hang them from a door knob or mount them on a door or wall. They are operated by a changeable combination, so if you have an emergency and need to give the code to a neighbor or babysitter you can just change it afterward.

  • 27 Jan, 2011

    I don't think the handgun idea is a good one at all. I'm Canadian and we don't like that sort of thing! Why not adopt a lovely, large dog from your local animal shelter instead? You get a fantastic deterrent and a new friend. Just say NO to guns!

  • 27 Jan, 2011

    That's a great list! Thank you. One caution re: installing bars on windows - for safety, they should be openable from the inside in case of fire.