My wife and I are in our late sixties. We live in a decent neighbourhood, but a few years ago, a home, a couple of blocks down, was broken into and burglarized. The home had standard doors and locks. The invader simply kicked the door in!
Unsettled and worried about our keepsakes, and personal well being, I decided to research ways to make our home more secure, yet still attractive from the curb, and within our budget. This way, we would feel more comfortable when away from our home.
My first thought was having a burglar alarm installed. My research was surprising. Many sources stated the same position: having secure windows and doors should be given first priority before even thinking of purchasing a home alarm. Why? Simply, why allow thieves inside your home when you can keep them outside?
There are two types of home alarms: Type "B" alarms just make noise, which many burglars ignore as they quickly pick up valuables and are out of the house in one minute. Residential thieves know where to look and how to loot quickly. After so many times of false alarm activation, police will not respond unless a neighbour calls after hearing breaking glass. Type "A" alarms are connected to a security centre that immediately notifies police.
With alarms, help comes after criminals desecrate the inside of your home, which means they probably entered through a door or window. So, the premise of windows and doors being the first line of defence to consider is valid.
The type of windows most prevalent in homes is the "double hung" type; you pull it up to open. The first thing that should be considered is the lock. I have seen and heard of people closing their windows and forgetting to turn the lock on top. It doesn't take much effort to open it from the outside if you did not lock it on the inside. So, I always make sure the windows are locked before we go anywhere. This is mostly true in summer, where my office window faces the front yard. It may be open for a while, but then locked before I exit the room.
In winter, the windows stay locked until spring. Even in summer, our windows are rarely opened. If the heat gets too stifling, then we are fortunate to have air conditioning.
There was a TV show I once watched called *It Takes a Thief* (dsc.discovery.com/fansites/ittakesathief/ittakesathief.html) where homes of couples and families of all ages, in all kinds of neighbourhoods, would be broken into by the show's experts. The owners approved all of this and most of them thought their homes were impregnable. The lesson here was that, most of the time, the "thieves" got in simply because someone had neglected to lock a window or door. This was mostly due to a very active family where one of the family members would forget to lock a window or door. Many seniors over 55 have literally invited thieves to break into their homes because of unlocked doors and windows.
Single pane glass is easier to break than double pane glass. If you can afford it, replace the single pane windows in your home. If you can't, then read on.
To protect the window glass, I decided on "safety film." From my research, I have learned that criminals are opportunists. They look for the easiest residence to gain entry into.
If a window on the side or back of your home is breakable with one strike, then that's their target. Now imagine a home invader striking a window many times and still it doesn't break, but just cracks. He is more apt to move on to a less secure home.
A few years ago, I purchased 75 feet (22.9 metres) of safety clear film - 4 mm thick 36" x 25" (91 cm x 63.5 cm) roll. I placed the film myself with instructions from the manufacturer's website. The result is acceptable safety filmed windows. I placed the film on the windows located at the back of the house - downstairs, upstairs and the sliding glass door. I made sure to cover the single pane windows first, which gave them more strength.
Sliding Glass door
The biggest addition you could make to your sliding glass door is a horizontal "Charley" bar. It keeps the door solidly pressed into the wall and when not in use, it folds up simply against the side wall. Unfortunately, many bars break easily. I know this from experience. You have to touch (if you can), examine, research and make sure that you buy quality. I discovered and purchased an effective Charley bar advertised on the Internet that should last for years, if not indefinitely. It was easy to install, easy to use and attractive. Did I mention that it is also very strong?
Door Jam Strike Plate
The average strike plate only protects you with one inch of wood and usually the screws are not very long. A person can easily kick the door open, even if the door is solid wood. If the lock is ineffective, the thickness of the door does not matter.
To make a more secure door, I went down to a well-stocked hardware store and bought a "security" striker plate for the deadbolt of my side door, which leads onto the side deck. It's much longer than the original plate, wider and the screws are about 2 1/2 inches (6 cm) long. The deadbolt strike plate is 8" long x 2" wide (20 cm long x 5 cm wide), which is a lot more vertical wood to prevent the door from being kicked open.
Twenty years ago, my wife and I lived across the street from a new home. We heard someone breaking into the front door of that house. I immediately went out and caught the thief coming out with a TV. He had used a crowbar to separate the frame from the wall. This can be easily remedied by reinforcing your frame by inserting three-inch (7.6-cm) screws along your framework, which will go into your wall stud.
Of course, it makes sense to also invest in the best deadbolt lock you can afford.
Security Screen Door
For around $75, we purchased a steel-mesh security screen door that not only prevents anyone from physically penetrating it, but is also attractive from the curb. The screen door locks with a secure deadbolt.
The extra benefit is the inability of anyone outside seeing into the house. I can stand one foot (.3 metres) away from the screen and the person outside cannot see me at all, but I can see him or her clearly. This is a good security measure because the person outside can't determine your height or age.
Shoring up the strength of your doors and windows is an investment in your peace of mind; uncomplicated home security consists of just strengthening your doors and windows at a minimal cost.
Once your house is secure, you can relax and enjoy both your time away and your time spent at home.
AUGUST 2011 SENIOR LIVING MAGAZINE VANCOUVER ISLAND