Monday, November 1, 2010

Home Security

Most articles about home security advise you to lock your doors and windows, and get an alarm.  How does this work out for you?

For many of you it is worthless advice. 

Most doors can be kicked open with one good kick by a kid weighing in at 155 pounds.  How do I know this? 

When I was a young kid, we went into an apartment building that was about to be torn down.  We locked a bunch of doors and tried to kick them open.  At the time I was about 14 and weighed about 135 pounds.  It took me one or two kicks after a bit of practice.  My neighbor weighed about twenty pounds more than me and he could consistently do in one kick.   

A typical window has poorly designed latches that can be pried open with a regular screwdriver in seconds with very little force.  Using a stick as a pivot and the principal of leverage, only a few pounds of downward force on the handle will lift the window, pulling the latch screws out of the wood or plastic frames.

Get an alarm.  This is fine in some towns and cities.  Here in Atlanta, Georgia it can be a joke.  At a restaurant in trendy Buckhead, an expensive area in town, the alarm was tripped at 3:00 am and the cops showed up at 8:30 the next morning, after a shift change of the police force.  Imagine if you were being robbed and beaten at that time.  After five hours you would be in rough shape.   Perhaps if the call was a residence the cops might have arrived in say, half an hour.  That still would not do.

My advice is: Keep the bums out.  An alarm is only as good as police response time.  Smash and grab artists know the response time.  They test it by breaking windows on a home nearby (or even yours) and setting off the alarm. Then they time when the police arrive.  If the response time is low they will soon be visiting your house again when you are not home.  They will be in and out in minutes and have a pretty good haul.  They know where to look and may have “cased” your home when you were not home, looking in windows and making a “to grab” list.   

Here are some ways to make your home secure. 

Add a deadbolt with a key on the inside.  Yeah, there is concern that in a fire you won’t find the key.  The answer to that is to have the key in a nearby spot where it is not easily seen and everyone in the house is taught where it is.  Have it in a ring so it is easy to find if dropped.  Fires are in fact less common than burglaries, so quit obsessing about rare events while inviting more common events.

Next toss away the strike plate that came with the deadbolt and the door latch.  Go buy a security strike.  These are large, heavier and have longer screws set to the back of the strike plate, not centered for looks over the latch/deadbolt opening in the plate.  Some of these are 18 inches long and have an opening for the deadbolt and latch.  At 18 inches the plate really strengthens the whole door frame.  The longer screws set back in the plate allow the screws to grab the 2x4 framing the doorway, not just the flimsy pine door frame. 

There is a company that makes a strike plate that goes from the floor to the top of the door frame (   To kick it in requires splitting the studs that frame the doorway.  Not happening…

If the door has large windows, add bars or cover the glass with Plexiglass.  Bars can be made to look very decorative.  Plexiglass can also function as a heat loss reducer, turning the glass into triple pane glass.  This only needs to be done if the door is on the side or rear or your neighborhood tends to be vacant from 9-5 during the week.

If the frame is really weak or has a side panel of glass, either the aforementioned top to bottom strike is needed or add top and bottom latches that go into the floor and top frame. (But the screws must go into the header above the door, not just the frame)

 Double doors have these on the secondary door.  Add them on the inside of the primary door and the secondary door on all double doors.  For double doors there is a plate that screws to the floor that will block both doors.  The plate holds a slider that can bar one of both doors depending on where it is set.

About double doors: The latch on some of the secondary doors can be opened from the outside with a screwdriver.  If they have a slide in the jamb, a screwdriver can be slipped in and open the slide, rendering it USELESS.  The kind with a flip latch cannot be opened since the other door, when closed, stops the flip lever from being flipped.    
If you have the slide type of latch then the only thing to do is add additional latches on the inside of the door or the plate system, which come in different finishes so it does not look that bad.  I have also seen nice heavy brass plated latches that do not look bad.

A locked door is only as strong as the door itself, so if your door has a hollow core or jalousie windows, it has to go. 

Double pane (insulated glass) windows are the way to go for energy and security.  Breaking thru and climbing thru two sets of broken glass shards is a deterrent and slows down entry. 

The basic latch (so called lock) on most windows is fluff.  For real security pin the windows if they are wood framed or add stops if they are vinyl framed.  The way to pin a window is drill a hole thru the lower sash into (but not thru) the upper sash.  Insert a large nail in the hole and the lower sash is pinned down and the upper is pinned up.  Using a bolt cutter or saw be sure to cut the nail short so it is hard to grip with bare hands and pull out of the opening.  Then even if the window is broken, the sash with its broken glass edges must be climbed thru.

If the window is vinyl, some can be pinned but most cannot. These can be blocked shut with a dowel cut to fit snugly between the top of the bottom sash and the top of the window frame.  Another way is to screw a stop block to the side of the window track. 

By having the deadbolt with a key on the inside, thieves can only grab what they put out thru the broken window, so this acts a deterrent against a 2nd theft, although not perhaps a first attempt.  By the way, 2nd thefts are very common, because the thieves know your insurance has replaced everything with brand new items.

If you live a marginal (gentrifying) neighborhood, do not think by being friendly and open you will avoid being targeted.  The opposite is true; more people will KNOW what you have.  Using neighborhood kids to cut grass, babysit, etc, invites theft.  Most theft is committed by people 15 to 25. 

If you think your lack of prejudice is a badge of honor and will protect you from theft, harm or rape; you are delusional. 

Bottom line, security is a way of thinking and living, not something you just address once and forget about. 

A big dog is still one of the best deterrents.  Better than a gun, which has its place, but only if you know how to use it, and more importantly, are willing to use it.  If you are not, it will get taken away from you, and will be used against you. 

If you are willing to shoot someone, kill them inside your house.  Then there is only one version of the tale to tell police and to be used against you by lawyers who will (inevitably) sue you later.  Never follow anyone outside and shoot them or you will spend about 8-10 fending off jailhouse thugs.     

This advice is not politically correct, which is your assurance it is good advice…

1 comment:

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