The FBI reports that a home burglary occurs every 16 seconds -- and more than 90 percent of the time, the homes are empty. So, who are these burglars? There are two types: amateur crooks who might kick doors until one gives way, and skilled pros who watch a home before targeting it.
The right security measures can discourage expert thieves and beat opportunists. But bad guys aren't your only problem when it comes to safeguarding your home. You, your friends and your family can get hurt by hazardous areas around your property. Check out these 10 simple things you can do to make your home safer for years to come.
Arm Your Home with an Alarm System
If you're thinking about getting a burglar alarm, join the ranks! About 1.8 million electronic security systems are installed in homes across the United States each year. And it's no wonder -- a house without a security system is three times more likely to be broken into than a residence with one, according to Simon Hakim, a professor of economics at Temple University in Philadelphia.
On average, you'll pay between $100 and $1,200 for a burglar alarm, plus a monthly monitoring fee of about $35. There are many good options. Look for a system with a separate control panel and key pad. Those that have both of these in the same unit can be easier for an intruder to defeat before the alarm notifies a monitoring center.
Bone up on Security with a Dog
A pooch can certainly add another level of protection to your home, whether you want one in addition to or in lieu of a security system.
But not all dogs are equal when it comes to keeping your property and family safe. Guard dogs protect and defend property. They're not pets. Protection dogs, on the other hand, are family dogs that watch over people rather than a physical area. German shepherds, rottweilers and Doberman pinschers are among the best breeds for home protection, thanks to generations of breeding. They respond well to discipline and are friendly with their families, including children.
If you want a security-trained dog, make sure to buy one from a reputable trainer. And if you want a dog and security system, look into pet-immune motion detectors that will announce intruders rather than your furry friend!
Install Smart Lighting, Indoors and Out
Make it harder for robbers to break into your home at night undetected with strategic lighting. Outdoor motion detectors, flood lights and security lighting near possible points of entry, like windows and doors, can be a practical deterrent for unwanted visitors.
For an additional layer of protection, consider installing a security camera. Put up signs that indicate your home is armed with a security camera to keep potential prowlers at bay. Because your home is likelier to be broken into when you're away, set indoor lights on a timer to make it look like you're home.
Minimize Access to Your Keys
More than one lock on a door can make it more difficult for intruders to get in. Whether you have a lock set, dead bolt or security chain, it's even more important to be mindful of who has access to your keys and home.
Instead of giving your babysitter and dog walker all of your house keys, give them one key to the front door or the garage door opener. That way, if the babysitter's key is lost or falls into the wrong hands, a burglar won't have access to the other locks on the front door or any other doors.
The same goes for handing out keys to the valet attendant and car mechanic. With a little foresight, it can be easy to minimize risk.
Know Your Neighbors
Knowing your neighbors is a cheap form of home security. Well-acquainted neighbors are more likely to call you or the police when they see something fishy.
If they know you're out of town, for example, and they see a furniture delivery truck parked in your driveway, hopefully they'll call in the suspicious behavior. Piled up newspapers on your driveway, promotional fliers left on your front door or even packages sitting on your stoop are all signs you're away from home. Ask a neighbor to pick up these things so that anyone watching the neighborhood doesn't get tipped off that you're out of town.
Strengthen Doors' Kick-in Resistance
Almost two-thirds of burglaries involve forced entry, which is partly due to weak door locks and mounting hardware, according to Consumer Reports.
To bolster locks, replace the strike, a metal plate mounted on the door jamb that the lock bolt slides into. For about $10, you can significantly strengthen the flimsiest of locks.
Another way to improve your door's kick-in resistance is to replace short mounting screws with 3-inch ones that reach the door's studs.
But burglars don't always break their way in. Sometimes, homeowners let them in through the front door! Installing -- and vigilantly using -- a peephole is an easy way to avoid this dangerous mistake.
Windows pose a unique security challenge. All an intruder has to do is break a window, reach inside, and unlock it to gain access.
There are some easy things you can do to fortify your windows, starting with the glass itself. Regular glass is really easy to break. Laminated windows are ideal, or a special kind of glass that's similar to car windshields. Installing a second layer of glass helps, as well as ensuring that panes are securely attached to the window frame.
Also, make sure that door locks are positioned farther than an arm's reach away from windows.
Don't Advertise What's Inside Your Home
You wouldn't put candy in front of a child and say "Don't eat this!" So, don't keep your blinds open and lights on at night and tempt burglars who might be scouting out your neighborhood.
Window coverings should block onlookers from seeing inside your home. If you have sheer or transparent curtains, just make sure they're paired with another kind of window treatment that protects your privacy.
Remember, you're concealing the things in your house as well as the people. This way, it's harder for potential intruders to learn your routine and to know exactly when your family is at home. Of course, keep high-target items like flat screen TVs and jewelry out of sight. Simple solutions like tall fencing or bushes surrounding your property can help block views of your home's interior.
Safeguard Hazardous Areas
Sure, there are things you can do to keep out prowlers, but it's also important to safeguard your home from accident-prone family and friends.
One of the most hazardous spots on a property is the swimming pool. After all, drowning is the third leading cause of accidental deaths in the United States, and half of these deaths occur in swimming pools, according to the Anesthesiology medical journal. Putting a fence around the perimeter helps keep out curious young neighbors. Boost safety by setting pool rules like no swimming alone. Also, make sure everyone in your family knows how to swim.
The garage is a potentially dangerous area, too. Sharp tools, toxic cleaners and fertilizers should be secured. It's a good idea to just keep the garage shut and off-limits when possible. Explain to your kids that it's not a play area, and suggest another place to hang out.
Protect Your Home Against Fires
If you've ever severely burnt something you've cooked, then you probably know the piercing sound of a smoke alarm. And if you're like me, you deactivated the device and forgot to turn it back on.
Don't make that mistake again! Approximately 3,000 people die in residential fires every year, but there are easy things you can do to protect your home and family from runaway fires. Keep all of your smoke detectors in good working order. Test them once a month, and replace batteries annually. There should be at least one smoke detector on every level of your home. Keep a fire extinguisher handy in high-risk areas, like the kitchen and the garage. And above all, practice a fire escape plan as a family so everyone knows what to do in an emergency.
Pressure washing can be done by the amateur homeowner or the experienced professional. HowStuffWorks looks at the ins and outs or power washing.
- Anesthesiology. Drowning Update 2009. (July 1, 2010).http://journals.lww.com/anesthesiology/Fulltext/2009/06000/Drowning__Update_2009.30.aspx#P206
- Consumer Reports. Door Locks. (June 30, 2010).http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/home-garden/home-improvement/home-security/door-locks/door-locks-1005/overview/index.htm
- Kahlenberg, Rebecca R. "Alarms Fortify Secure Feeling." Washington Post. July 23, 2005. (June 30, 2010). http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/07/22/AR2005072200970.html
- Medeco High Security Locks. (June 30, 2010).http://www.medeco.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50&Itemid=37
- Protection Dog Info and Advice: Watch Dog Breeds for Your Family. (June 30, 2010). http://protectiondogs.org/the-6-best-watch-dog-breeds-for-your-family
- The Department of Justice. "Violent Crime Rate Remained Unchanged While Theft Rate Declined in 2008." (June 30, 2010).http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/newsroom/pressreleases/2009/BJS09131.htm
- Sampson, Rana. Center for Problem-oriented Policing.False Burglar Alarms 2nd Edition, Guide No. 5. 2007. (June 30, 2010).http://www.popcenter.org/problems/false_alarms
- Security Alarm Fire and Emergency LLC. (June 30, 2010).http://safellc.org
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. "Test All Smoke Alarms (Detectors) and Annually Replace Batteries." (July 1, 2010).http://www.cpsc.gov/cpscpub/pubs/5077.html