Safety Starts at Home: Simple Tips for Safeguarding Your Home

If you’ve been following my advice on real estate safety and changing your work habits, then good for you! But don’t forget that your own home may also be vulnerable to crime. When it comes to home safety, taking simple precautions can make the difference in having your home broken into, or having the criminals move on to a different home or neighborhood.

Light It Up! Your home’s first, and possibly best, defense is the outside lighting. Criminals do not want to be seen! Motion-sensitive lights are a big crime preventative measure for the outside of your house, especially the backyard. Even if you don’t invest in motion-sensitive lights, make sure all porches, entrance areas and yards (including the backyard) are well lit.  Turn on exterior lights when you’re home at night, plus interior lights when you’re away in the evening.  You can use timers at staggered times in various areas of the home, even if you’re home. Next, do a “safety scan” of your property. Are there places in your yard for criminals to hide? Can you see your entranceways from the sidewalk? These are important things to consider when you plan landscaping. Use the 3-feet/10-feet rule for shrubs and trees: No shrub should be taller than 3 feet, so it doesn’t obscure windows or other entry points, and trees near your house should have no branches extending lower than 10 feet off the ground. (This prevents entrance to second story windows.) Be sure to keep your yard free of litter and debris that could give the impression that your home is unoccupied.

Invest in Solid Locks-and Use Them Is your home securely locked? Criminals do not want to break into a home with extensive lock systems. They are looking for locks that are easily broken. All entry doors in your home should have deadbolts with full one-inch bolts, in addition to your existing locks. (This includes connecting doors inside garages.) If you have an entry door with glass panels within three feet of the lock, you should install a double-cylinder deadbolt, which requires a key on both sides to unlock. This ensures that a burglar cannot simply break the glass and then reach through to unlock the door.  If a door has conventional glass panels, consider replacing them with shatterproof glass or with polycarbonate material. Install a peephole in your front door, or add a secure screen or glass outer door. That way, if someone you don’t know comes to your door, you can check him out and ask to see his identification before opening the door. Don’t overlook your windows! You can mount locks on the corners or sides of windows to keep them secure even when partially open.  You can also secure windows with pinning (inserting a pin or nail above a window so it can’t be opened) or track fillers (such as a wooden pole placed into the track of the window).  And don’t let your windows be an invitation: keep your blinds or curtains closed at night or when you are not at home.  This minimizes the criminals’ opportunity to peek inside and see opportunities.

When You’re Away When you’re out of town, make your house look occupied. Install timers on indoor lights so that they turn on and off in the evening.  Instead of stopping your mail or newspaper delivery, ask a trusted neighbor or friend to take care of picking up both every day-that way, only one person knows exactly when you’ll be gone.  Keep a car parked in the driveway and arrange for someone to mow your yard or shovel snow. You can increase your home safety by enlisting your neighbors. Organize a neighborhood watch group and agree to keep an eye on each other’s property. Ask people to call 911 when they see suspicious activity or crimes in progress.  If you cannot organize a group, get to know at least three of your nearby neighbors.  Be sure to exchange phone numbers in case of emergencies. 

Andrew Wooten is a certified crime prevention practitioner and the president of S.A.F.E. (Safety Awareness Firearms Education). He has been in the safety and security industry for over 25 years.

By Andrew Wooten, president of S.A.F.E.