Top Home Security Risks: Avoiding weak links that welcome intruders
A home's security is only as good as its most vulnerable point of entry, and with so many details and distractions in your
At the reported rate of one burglary every 15 seconds, national risk for household break-ins is very real, no matter where you live. And though "unlawful entry" may conjure up dramatic scenarios including crowbars and shattered glass, it's actually the little things you overlook that extend a welcome to intruders.
A home's security is only as good as its most vulnerable point of entry, and with so many details and distractions in your home care routine, it can be easy to miss an opportunity that a burglar won't. To protect your family and preserve your home sweet home, do your own security check against these weak links.
WANDERING KEYS -- The idea of handing your house key to a burglar may seem ridiculous, but that's exactly what you could be doing every time you send a spare floating among family, friends and service personnel. The key holders themselves may be trustworthy, but you can't control the paths they may cross and the situations in which your key may be exposed to the risk of duplication. So be smart about issuing spares, and take care when you're carrying your master set through everyday routines, such as valet drop-offs and auto shop visits. Finally, don't ever hide spare keys in "secret" places outside your home, because smart snoops know which flowerpots to look under.
SCHLOCK LOCKS -- A door with a handle lock is an easy mark for a crook armed with finesse and a plastic credit card, so install quality deadbolts at all entries. The best bet is one offering keyed access on the outside and a thumb latch on the inside, providing exterior protection and a quick-response release in the event that the home's residents need to make an emergency exit. New styles of deadbolts, like Master Lock's NightWatch, feature a locking mechanism that actually locks out duplicate keys when activated. If a contractor, housekeeper or next-door neighbor has regular access to your house keys, consider installing such a deadbolt to ensure that they can only access your home when invited.
DOORWAY DOWNFALLS -- In the end, a lock's effectiveness depends on the strength of the door in which it's installed, so make adjustments for a more selective welcome. The weakest part of a door is usually the area around the lock, especially in wood doors, so adding a decorative and affordable door reinforcement plate is one way to make the area more secure. Better yet, consider replacing your front entry with a fiberglass door, which mimics the look of wood but is far stronger and more energy efficient. Fiberglass doors like those from Therma-Tru also feature multi-point locks utilizing bank-vault-style pins to prevent the door from being kicked in.
SLIPPING SLIDERS -- Sliding patio doors have the inherent security disadvantages of less-sophisticated locks and location at the rear of a home, and what's more, the older models can actually be lifted right off their tracks and away for a grand intruder entry and exit. To prevent such dramatics, consider equipping your older doors with specially made "patio bars" that prevent them from sliding back in their tracks even when their locks have been damaged.
NO PEEKING -- You can't always see an intruder coming, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep an eye out for the unusual. Extend your view by installing a wide-angle (200-degree) peephole that allows you to take in your entire entryway at a glance.
WINDOWS OF OPPORTUNITY -- Open, unattended windows give intruders a tempting view and an easy way into a home. Adorn yours with window dressings and shades that discourage prying eyes, do a double-check to make sure all units are closed and locked before you leave home on even the shortest errand, and enhance security with supplementary keyless locks. Security bars may be installed over small, ground-level windows situated in low-traffic areas, but only if they're fitted with quick-release mechanisms that allow them to be opened from the inside in an emergency.
SHADOW PLAY -- A network of shadowy hiding places around your home's exterior is just what an intruder hopes for, so be sure to illuminate and eliminate all possibilities. One of the most effective ways to do this is by installing motion-detector spotlights, which have built-in sensors that switch on the lights as soon as movement is detected nearby.
NATURAL CAMOUFLAGE -- Tall trees and dense shrubbery can wind up being accessories to crime as well as to your landscaping. So keep front hedges and bushes cut low and trees pruned, especially around windows and entryways where burglars may perch before breaking and entering.
Note: Tom Kraeutler is the Home Improvement Editor for AOL and host of 'The Money Pit,' a nationally syndicated home improvement radio program. To find a local radio station, download the show's podcast or sign-up for Tom's free weekly e-newsletter, visit the program's Web site.