Radford Words/Make Your Home a Safe Haven

by Ann Hillenbrand

Home is where we hang our hats, where the heart is and where we feel safe. Before you put your feet up and believe your castle is invincible take a couple of steps to make sure your home is a safe haven.
Crime prevention is the anticipation, recognition and appraisal of crime risk and the initiation of some action to reduce that risk. Radford University criminal justice professor and safety expert, Tod Burke, says crime prevention is a proactive stance against becoming a victim without making yourself paranoid and turning your house into a fortress.
To begin, check out your doors. “If there is any glass within reach of the door knob make sure your lock is a double cylinder deadbolt which requires a key on both sides of the door. Most burglars don’t break glass when people are home and usually won’t choose the front door. If you’re at home keep the key to the deadbolt near the door region but out of arms reach,” Burke says. A single cylinder deadbolt is best when there is no glass near the doorknob. The deadbolt should have at least a one inch throw bolt that goes into the frame of the door, any shorter and the thief could push the frame away from the lock. All deadbolts should be case hardened steel and make sure your door and frame is sturdy, adds Burke.
A sliding glass door is the most vulnerable and can easily be lifted off the track. “Homeowners can install a security bar for those doors and drill in screws in the upper track area which will allow the door to slide but not be lifted out,” Burke says.
Windows are also vulnerable. “The clam shell locks on most windows are easy to jimmy open,” says Burke, “and are very vulnerable.” Burke suggests carefully drilling holes in the window frame at an angle and inserting roofing nails in those holes so people can’t open the windows past a certain point. This still allows homeowners to open the window at will, but keeps burglars at bay.
It is also a good idea to keep shrubs along the home below window level so there is no place for a criminal to hide. Burglars want to get the easiest target, says Burke, and if they can’t get into the home in a couple seconds, then they move on. A fence will also help keep intruders out. This is a psychological barrier rather than a physical one, since it eliminates what the thief sees as a clear route. Criminals also do not like to be seen, so motion detector lights are also recommended.
Alarms are another way to protect your home. If you live in a remote area, Burke advises an audible alarm with flashing lights. There are also motion alarms and alarms that have a floor mat you can place under the carpet in front of your valuables. When the thief steps on it, the alarm goes off.
If a thief gets into the home, they have a pretty good idea where the valuables are. They head to the master bedroom for the jewelry and the family room for the stereo and television. Burke advises homeowners to be creative and “spread the risk.” For example, change around the location of jewelry, silver or antiques. The longer the burglar is in the home looking for valuables, the more likely they will get caught. It is also important to mark your valuables with a drivers license number, which is called “operation identification” by law enforcement. In case your valuables are stolen, this engraved information will help police locate them. Taking Polaroid pictures and making a list of the approximate value of your precious items are critical for insurance purposes and the items’ recovery. However, it is not a good idea to take regular pictures and send them to the photo lab. “Those who work at the lab will have your name, address, phone number and a catalogue of what’s in your house,” cautions Burke. A videotape of your valuables placed in a safe deposit box is also a good idea.
Key control is also very important. How many keys are out there and who has them? And putting keys under flowerpots, lawn ornaments or welcome mats is not a very good idea. But most importantly, always make sure your house looks lived in. Ask your neighbor pick up your mail and newspapers. If you cancel your newspapers and mail, the mail carriers and newspaper delivery service would know you are not at home. Also, have a neighbor park their car in your driveway and put trash in your trash bins on garbage pick-up day.
Many other hazards in the home aren’t related to crime. The kitchen and bathroom are the most likely places for people to get hurt and there are basic ways to safeguard against injuries. “The most important details to keep in mind in these areas,” says Edwards, “are lighting, flooring, and work surface materials.” Make sure every area of a kitchen countertop is illuminated, including the area underneath the cabinets. “This is very important, since usually people use their counters for cutting and preparing food. If you are unable to see what you’re doing, you are more likely to hurt yourself,” says Edwards.
Also make sure that adjacent surfaces, such as between counter and backsplash or between cabinets and floors, have contrasting colors to help define the edges. That logic can also be applied to stairs. If the risers and stair treads are the same color, many people cannot tell the change of level. Floors in potentially wet areas such as bathrooms, kitchens or foyers should have a non-skid surface. “Try not to use a lot of throw rugs that can slip out from under you and stay away from slick shiny surfaces.”
Keeping your home a safe haven may not always be easy, but a little forethought and some common sense could save you and your
Article courtesy of Radford University (www.radford.edu).