Here are several DIY home security safeguards and tips to have in place before a true civil emergency.
Your driveway and garage are potential weak points in your current home security as is the case with many homeowners. You can purchase an inexpensive driveway patrol alarm for less than $30. Installation is fast and simple, and the monitor alerts you when an intruder sees your empty driveway as an invitation to break in.
If you have a garage, contact a professional garage door contractor to install upgraded security measures. Discuss your current door, ways it can be improved and whether or not replacing it would be your best choice. Not only are all of your items in the garage vulnerable if someone enters, the door into your home is accessible without anyone seeing if the intruder attempts entry making this an important aspect of securing your home and family. Upgrades should cost no more than a couple hundred dollars. Replacement is significantly more expensive and will depend on where you live, the model chosen and the installation fees.
If your car is not secured in a garage, the windows should be up and doors locked.Consider using a locking device, which you can purchase for as little as $20 for the steering wheel and take appropriate measures to protect your car. Otherwise, a criminally-minded person may prey upon your vehicle and target your home, believing it an easy target too. Two Important Points to Make Here:
Do not leave an automatic garage door opener in any of your vehicles if you park your vehicles in front of your house and not in your garage.
Also, do not leave this device in your car while you are at work or shopping anywhere. It should always be with you. A criminal who may be following you may be looking for an opportunity to steal that garage door opener and then break in to your home while you are away that day.
All of your exterior doors should be as secure as you can afford. In addition to the front and garage doors, any side doors, the back door and basement door should be upgraded if necessary. While doors with windows may be attractive, they are an invitation for criminals to break so they can reach in and unlock the door. The ideal material is steel, though it is costly. A solid hardwood door is highly effective and you should never use doors that are hollow inside. Inspect the frames as well, replacing any weak materials.
A neat little trick that is very inexpensive is to add a small set of chimes to your curtain rod if you do have a small window on your door. You could even hang a small bell onto your door handle. Anything that will make noise to alert you if someone is trying to get in.
Floor mats with silent alarms: There are also floor mats that you can buy that have a silent alarm on them which will signal you when someone steps on it. Although intended to alert caregivers when their patient is getting up, this is a great way to be alerted in case someone has gotten into your home without you knowing.
Weak Point # 2: Door Locks
Your door locks are equally important. At the very least, you need to have a deadbolt on each exterior door. Consider deadbolts with a keyhole on both sides of the lock (it should only be two keyholes if there is a window on it or close by so no one can reach in and unbolt the door after breaking an adjacent window).
For $10 more each, you can add a night latch to the inside.
If you can afford it, purchase a high-tech locking device. You can find locks with coded entry and smartphone access. The code can be changed as often as you like, so you need not worry about it being left unlocked or children losing their keys. The alert system will notify you when activated so you will know instantly if your home is unexpectedly accessed. The additional protection is worth the several hundred dollars it will take for you to upgrade the locking systems of all exterior doors.
In the past, in-swing exterior doors provided the highest security. Yes, the hinges will be exposed. However, manufacturers have developed special security hinges. One style incorporates tabs or studs in the leaves which prevent door removal, even with the pins removed. Another style uses unique pin threading which demands a special tool for removal.
You could also turn your door around so that it opens outward instead of inward which can help to prevent someone from kicking it in. Be sure that you use security screws that have a special head on them. A special tool will come with these screws so that the common screwdriver or tool will not be able to get these types of screws out.
If you have sliding glass doors, use a wooden dowel or metal rod half the length of the unit. When the doors are closed, place it in the groove so that the door cannot slide open again. You can use this same inexpensive trick to better protect side-sliding windows.
Caution about door lock brands: In his book, Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life: A Former CIA Officer Reveals Safety and Survival Techniques to Keep You and Your Family Protected, the author (a former CIA officer and now a personal security instructor) warns that "Kwikset" locks are some of the easiest locks to pick (at the time of the writing of his book; and they are also one of the more common lock brands out there; you may even have Kwikset locks on your home currently). Kwikset locks are found on a large number of homes and apartments and are easy targets for crooks who have learned how to pick a lock (it's not a hard skill to learn, unfortunately). Here's an eye opening report from CNET: How secure is the deadbolt in the Kwikset Kevo smart lock?
In fact, after your doors, the windows are the second most important area of home security to address. Carefully examine each to ensure secure installation. Replacing the window panes with tempered glass, which is stronger than regular glass but not impenetrable is good if it falls within your budget.
No matter the glass composition, cover them with security film, carefully gluing the edges. Though the glass can break, it will not fall apart. Laminate with a mirrored tint will prevent people from peeking into your abode when the sunlight is brighter than the lights inside. This prevents burglars from being enticed by your expensive items.
You may want to install bars or grills on your vulnerable windows. Fortunately, you can find many decorative patterns to coordinate with your home style -- though, if you're not too concerned with decor, going with heavy duty looking bars or grills ads a visual factor of home security, and the visual factor alone can be enough to deter crooks who would prefer to find an easier home to target elsewhere.
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Make certain that you have blinds or similar window covering that completely blocks the inside view when closed. Pay particular attention to windows that are difficult to see from the road, as these are the areas burglars will spend the most time investigating. Windows and doors that can't be seen by neighbors are attractive entry points to potential intruders.
Put a lot of focus on making these entry points "hard targets" to enter.
Although you may love beautiful flowers and large, bushy shrubs, the land beneath your windows is not the place for them. Instead, focus on thorny plants to deter intruders. While you are outside, make sure that no trees provide branch access to your windows, including the attic.
Inside, you can place items in front of or under the window that will alert you if someone encounters them unexpectedly. Glass items, kitty litter boxes or even a little trash can with bells on it. As long as it makes noise and takes the intruder by surprise, it will work.
Your doors and windows are the most vulnerable areas of your home. Make securing them your priority, then focus on other aspects of home security. For instance, you may want to install an alarm system, automated lights and motion activated cameras. Start with these suggestions and you will rest more soundly at night, knowing that your home and family are more well-protected from intruders.
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Ross Germano is a self-defense and security enthusiast. You can check out his site, RevereSecurity.com for great information about self-defense and security, as well as the best in security products.