Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Security in Your Home, Part 3: Locks

Continuing in the series, we’ll move on to the locks layer. Locks are the most basic protection/warning device you can have against intruders. Locks are designed to slow an intruder and cause the intruder to make noise while bypassing the lock.

Your doors should be locked regardless of the time of day. Home invasions can and do occur at all hours. Intruders no longer save their activities for the dark half of the day. You should have a heavy-duty strike-plate and you should always use at least 3 inch screws to secure the strike-plate. This will secure the strike plate to the wall framing, instead of to the door trim. There are also "full-height" strike plates available. These are steel trim extending the height of the door. Attach this with 3" screws, and it becomes very difficult to kick in your door.

Ideally, your exterior doors will be solid doors, as opposed to solid-core(wood-filled) or solid-core(foam filled). A steel-clad wooden door or a steel-center solid-core door are acceptable choices.

You should invest in a secure set of locks that are resistant to bump-keying. Look for the ANSI rating on the locks. An ANSI Grade 1 lock is twice as secure as ANSI Grade 2. Grade 3 should not be considered for an exterior door. Kwikset is currently marketing ANSI Grade 1, bumpkey-resistant lock sets to the residential market for a reasonable price. Schlage and Medeco both have high-end lines of lock sets that are very secure. There are others, so please don't consider this to be an all-exclusive list of locks. Do some research before you buy the primary means of securing your home.

If you have a window within arm's reach of your deadbolt, get a double-cylinder deadbolt that requires a key to unlock.

These considerations also apply to a door leading to an attached garage. The connection between your house and garage should always be considered an external entry point. If an intruder has access to your garage, he can attempt to circumvent the entry to the house in complete privacy.

Your patio door is also a prime point of vulnerability. Putting a broomstick in the bottom track isn't enough. Invest in a $13 "Charlie Bar" to keep that door secure. A Charlie Bar is mounted at the vertical middle of the stationary panel of your patio door. It removes the leverage that a stick at the bottom of the door leaves available to an intruder. Some versions can be set to allow the door to open a few inches for air flow.

Be very wary about opening the door to strangers, particularly outside of daytime business hours. Don't be embarrassed to refuse entry to someone you don't know because it might seem rude. It's better to be safe than not embarrassed. Opening your door to strangers removes most, if not all of the layers in your security system. Install a well-made storm or screen door with your front door. Keep this door locked, so you can open your main door, without leaving yourself open to a "rush attack".

If someone claiming to be law enforcement is at your door and you are suspicious about that claim (e.g. no squad car visible), lack of appropriate attire or credentials), simply call the 911 dispatcher to get confirmation of their identity. No legitimate law enforcement officer is going to be offended when you verify their identity.

Your windows should also be locked. Casement (crank) windows or double-hung windows with a pin-lock or brace provide more security than regular double hung windows left open. If you can’t secure a window while it is partially open, it should be closed and locked on any floor of the home.

Lock your car in the driveway. If you have a garage door opener in your car, this could give easy access to your home. If you have personal papers in your car, this opens you up to identity theft.

If at all possible, consider locking your bedroom door at night. This can mean the difference between waking up to an intruder standing over you and waking up to someone trying to break down your bedroom door. This isn't always possible, or desirable, especially if you have children.

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