Thursday, June 19, 2014

Safety starts at your front door

Per Family Handyman, your house is at greater risk for burglary if:

  • "It sits on a corner lot (more visible to a browsing burglar and a natural place to stop and ask for directions)
  • It is located close to a major highway exit (less than 1 mile)
  • It is located on a through street, which gives a burglar a quicker escape (dead-end streets and cul-de-sacs are safer)
  • It borders a wooded area or playground (provides concealed access for burglars)
  • It is in a wealthier neighborhood
  • It features no signs of young children living there (burglars avoid as someone may be home)
  • It was recently purchased (burglars know you haven’t yet developed close familiarity with neighbors)"

Given that security is on everyone's mind these days, and that door-to-door miscreants recently tried to scope out the local area recently, the Liberal Prepper has given some thought to this subject.

Changing the house locks recently came up as a potential chore on The List of Things to Do, that ever-lengthening concatenation of Things That Get in the Way of Doing Anything Fun, and given this chore affects an area in which modifications to the door framing can be made as well, thought has been given as to how to effect a more secure entry.

Of course, it’s not just your entry door that needs to be secure; garage doors, the door to the garage, and windows all need examination with regard to security.

If you’ve ever left your sliding window part way open, relying on one of the built-in tabs or gizmos that you can flip out to keep it secure, that was not the best course of action.  Those things break, leaving you with a window that once open can open all the way.   A better means of keeping a window cracked open is to measure the distance between the opened window and the stationary frame on the side opposite the opening, and cut a board that length and use it to keep the window from moving.  However, if the part of the window that opens is not very wide, it’s not best to leave it cracked open at all because if the opening is wide enough to get an arm in, it’s not that difficult to get the board out.  This method works best for sliding window portions that are over 18” wide.  Trust me – measure your elbow to your fingertips, and you’ll see that’s the measurement that the sliding portion of the window must be wider than. 

An air conditioner hanging out the window is another advertisement for easy access.  Consider getting a portable air conditioner and putting vertical anti-opening boards in the top of the window (for a double hung window) or horizontal ones for a sliding window.  The Liberal Prepper has a portable A/C unit (not practical when the power’s out, admittedly, but otherwise, very practical due to its low visible footprint, less obvious profile, greater aesthetic value, and the fact it’s portable and can move around the house) just for this as well as other reasons.

Anyway – those doors.  Door frames have a weak spot around the locks; the plates on the face of the door frame conceal the weak spot, namely the hole created for the deadbolt throw to go into.  That’s the area that most certainly needs to be beefed up; typically, burglars kick doors in, and that’s the weak spot they aim for.  Anybody with a gizmo to expand the door frame itself, sort of like a jack used horizontally, won’t be defeated in their efforts, only slowed down, but – they will be slowed down – by placing extra bracing in the framing on either side of the door framing between the studs around the door frame and the next stud.  Something heavy would have to be used there, or something very strong, like oak, or 2x lumber (methinks a 4x4 chunk, held in place with brackets above and below, would suffice in that case).

There are any number of items you can get to reinforce your door frames; your local hardware store should be able to advise you which ones will work best for your situation.  Measure and take pictures if needed, and consult with your local hardware person to narrow down your options.  Longer screws and larger strike plates are one option; there’s also a long steel plate you can install with very long, hard screws that will help keep things together.  Every outside door should be reinforced, because if you have one weakness, someone intent on entry is sure to find it.  Don’t ignore the door to/from the garage, because your main garage door itself may not prevent entry.  There are ways to beef up your garage door and make it more secure, depending on whether or not you have an opener.  Check here for some ideas, and here for more.  Some interesting ideas from Hawai’I might seem over the top at first, but are alternatives to the usual methods.