How secure is your home from break-ins and other potential household mishaps? You’re probably feel that your home security is fairly resilient because you believe you’ve taken some of the precautions recommended by the police and security experts, but the question you really need to ask yourself is, are you totally confident and have you really done enough?
Have you installed a burglar alarm? Are your doors, windows and other points of entry as secure as they need to be? Have you taken all the necessary precautions to deter opportunistic intruders? Until, you can tick all of these boxes, then your home may never truly be safe and secure. However, there are certain measures you can take which will improve the resilience of your home security, and that will definitely give you greater peace of mind.
Obviously one of the most important measures you can do is to install a burglar alarm. Burglar alarms, however, aren’t infallible, and most hardened intruders will generally find ways to get around them. So, other than the installation of an alarm, what more can you do to improve your home’s security? Well, according to Which? if the budget allows you should consider installing external security lighting, install CCTV or wireless cameras and look at reinforcing your windows. Sadly, not everyone is in the position to throw money at the problem: in fact, most peoples’ budgets would be stretched just paying for one of those security measures.
Not all burglaries are committed by opportunists: in fact, many are carried out by ‘professional’ criminals who have carefully studied the property and identified all of the vulnerable areas. Whilst that thought might be depressing, the good news is you don’t have to blow the budget to improve your home security? There are other, less expensive ways to protect your home from determined burglars and opportunistic intruders. You can make a start by objectively assessing how secure your home is.
- When you go away on holiday or leave your property empty for an extended period, do you take measures to make it look like the property is still occupied? Do you leave the curtains shut, and will unopened post be visible to casual callers?
- Are windows and doors left open, even if they’re not easily accessible?
- Do your windows and doors have visible locks?
- How well-lit is the outside of your home? Do you always leave a spare key in an obvious place, like under a plant pot or under the mat?
- Do you leave the lights on, or off, all the time you’re absent from the property, making it clear to burglars that you’re not at home?
- Are there high walls and hedges surrounding the property, which could give burglars shelter and stop them being seen from the road?
- Would accessing your house be noisy for a burglar? If you have a gravel drive, it certainly would.
- Are there any ladders lying around that a burglar could use?
- What equipment do you keep in your shed and garage, that an intruder might find attractive or useful? What’s its value and could it be used to help a burglar break in?
- How secure is your shed or garage? Is it always kept locked with high-quality padlocks and security locks?
Secure your doors and windows
It might sound blindingly obvious, but you’d be surprised just how many homeowners fail to secure the points of entry into their properties. Many even leave doors and windows unlocked, yet are surprised when they come home to find that the house has been burgled. What can you do to a make your property more secure?
- Don’t leave windows open or unlocked anywhere in the house.
- Easily accessible windows should ideally be fitted with double glazing.
- Laminated glass or plastic glazing film is harder to break, so consider this for easily accessible windows.
- Only install new windows which are manufactured to national recognised regulatory standards, and make sure they are securely fitted by professionals.
- Windows with key-operated locks which are clearly visible may put burglars off, but keep the keys out of sight and out of reach, and make sure a burglar can’t reach them if they break the glass.
- Install window locks that secure the window to the frame, rather than ones that just secure the handle.
- Always draw the curtains/ blinds at night, so your possessions can’t be seen by opportunistic thieves.
- Ensure the door frames and doors are solid and sound. External doors should be at a minimum 4.4cm thick and be hung with secure and robust 10cm hinges.
- Doors should ideally be fitted with a five-lever mortise deadlocks tested to national regulatory standards.
- Wooden doors can be made stronger with steel strips fitted to the frame and around the lock.
- Doors with glass panels are less secure, but can be fitted with laminated glass or plastic glazing film for extra protection.
- If you install new doors, get door sets – that is door, frame and locks – that are nationally certified.
- Fit a chain or a latch to the door, and opt for a viewer so you can check who’s there before letting them in.
- Letter boxes should be fitted 40cm from the door lock, and valuables and keys shouldn’t be within reach or sight of it – an internal cover plate will offer extra protection.
- When fitting locks to windows or doors, use the strongest screws you can, not necessarily the ones supplied with the product.
- Outdoor lights, either ones that you switch on manually or those that are triggered by movement, are a good way to ensure any intruder is visible. Hopefully this will act as a deterrent. Any security light you do install should point downwards so it won’t disturb neighbouring properties.
- With indoor lighting, the key point is to fool a burglar into thinking that there are people are in the house, even when they’re not. Timers that can turn lights, TVs and radios on and off around the home don’t cost much, but can be very effective. Make sure you sync all the electrical appliances so that they turn on and off logically and sequentially.
- If you’re going to be away for a long time, asking a friend or neighbour to come into your home to open and close curtains and take any visible post inside. If you have a second car, leave it in a visible place while away.
If you have a burglar alarm system, make sure ‘bell boxes’ are visible on your property. Let potential burglars know you have an alarm system. Fake burglar alarm boxes are available at a reasonable cost if you can’t afford to have the full system fitted, but many burglars are wise to this, so be warned.
Secure and ‘burglar-proof’ your garden
- Laying gravel around your property can be a great deterrent. Intruders can’t approach the house silently and stealthily when you lay a gravel path.
- Make sure hedges are trimmed back so your property is not hidden from view.
- Defensive gardening planting – using sharp and spiny shrubs like Cotoneaster and Berberis – will deter intruders. They won’t be able to hide from you in borders and it will make getting away from the property slower and more painful.
- Install strong gates and fences to all parts of the garden accessible from outside, ideally 2 metres high and with 30-45cm of open-ended trellising at the top.
- If you’ve bought new or valuable items, don’t leave the packaging out with your recycling for an extended period of time. Don’t give burglars clues about your possessions.
- Fit padlocks on shed doors and outbuildings, and consider installing small, battery-powered alarms.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors
Over and above all of the home security measures listed above, consider installing a smoke alarm and carbon monoxide monitor, too, to protect yourself and your property. And remember, although it pays to make your home as secure as possible, don’t make it so secure that you can’t escape easily in the event of a fire.
Identity theft is becoming an increasingly common problem. The police now acknowledge that business in the identity theft sector is booming, so it’s necessary to take every precaution to protect yourself and your home. Keep all your personal information safe and secure, and store it where it can’t be easily found.
Home insurance and home security
Most insurers will insist on a minimum level of security before they will offer you insurance, such as deadlocks on some or all external doors. These locks will usually need to be five-lever mortise locks and have to meet a minimum standard. You will probably find that your insurer expects you to have locks on all your accessible windows as well, although some insurers don’t make this a requirement. So putting locks on all your basement and ground-floor windows, plus any that may be accessible by climbing a drainpipe or wall, will increase the number of companies who will be willing to offer you a home buildings and contents insurance policy.