Saturday, May 31, 2003

Securing home prevents break-ins

By James and Morris Carey
The Associated Press

There is action you can take to make your home safer and more secure for you and your family.

Locks, lighting and alarms are means of protecting your home from intruders. As a bonus, many security upgrades will also make your home more convenient and comfortable.

Start by sketching your home

Where do you begin when it comes to upgrading home security and safety?

Start by making a sketch of your home that notes the most vulnerable locations. Typically these include doors, windows, dark spots around the home's exterior and patches of dense landscaping or heavily wooded areas.

All exterior doors should be from 1 3/8 inches to 13/4 inches and of solid construction. They should also be hinged to swing in and fit securely in the opening. Doors that swing out are vulnerable because the hinge pins are exposed to the exterior and can be removed. If you have doors that swing out, be sure they have non-removable hinge pins that contain a set screw that prevents the hinge pins from being removed when the door is closed.

In addition to the standard key lock, exterior doors should be equipped with a dead bolt. The two most common types of dead bolts are single-cylinder and double-cylinder. Single-cylinder dead bolts are operated with a key at the exterior and a thumb turn knob at the interior.

A double-cylinder dead bolt requires a key at both the interior and exterior. An appropriate location for a double-cylinder dead bolt would be an exterior door that contains glass where an intruder could shatter it, and then reach in to open the door. Some communities will not allow double-cylinder dead bolts due to fire egress codes. Check with your local building department for more information.

Sliding patio doors traditionally have been a favorite of prowlers because they are relatively easy to break into.

A broomstick in the sliding patio door track is yet another simple and inexpensive method of preventing entry.

Garage doors and windows

Garage doors, due to their size and configuration, present an entirely different set of problems. If your garage door is a one-piece, tilt-up model, it usually is equipped with two spring-loaded latches - one at either side of the opening.

For maximum security, add a latch with a single throw bolt at least at one side of the garage door. The latch should be securely bolted to the exterior of the door. A hole must be drilled into the jamb into which the bolt will fit. A padlock will prevent unauthorized access.

Sectional roll-up garage doors tend not to be as flimsy as are the one-piece, tilt-up models. However, without the proper locks and latches, they can be opened as quickly and easily. As with the tilt-up model, adding a latch with a single throw bolt and a padlock will help improve security. Many modern sectional roll-up doors have built-in latches mounted on the door's interior. The latch slides into a hole in the track, which prevents the door from being opened.

As with sliding patio doors, most windows can be securely locked using the manufacturer installed latch. A few minor adjustments, cleaning and lubrication will go a long way in keeping a window latch in good operating condition. A broomstick works well for sliding patio doors, but usually is too big for most window tracks.

An alternative is a wooden dowel that fits in the window track snugly between the window frame and the frame of the operable section of the window. Even better is a nifty keylock that fits over the window track that will prevent the window from being opened.

Prowlers thrive on poorly lighted areas around a home. Install motion-activated lighting at porches, paths, patios, driveways and other dark or vulnerable locations. Timers used to control interior and exterior lighting can serve as a deterrent and give your home a lived-in look while you are away.

Also thin out shrubbery and tree branches to eliminate potential hiding places.

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