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General Home Safety Tips:
- List only initials and last name on mailbox.
- Do not list your address in the phone book. The phone company can handle this upon request. Always change locks when moving to a new place.
- Install solid core/metal outside doors with metal strikes, dead bolts, and peepholes.
- Windows are burglars' second choice. Install safeguards on every window that can be reached from the outside; window alarms are easy to install and difficult to remove.
- Alarms trumpet the arrival of an intruder. You can check on the internet to find companies that sell door jams, alarms for windows and doors, and a sliding glass door alarm. If possible, invest in an alarm with a motion detector.
- Have a phone in each room so that help is always within reach.
- Keep shrubbery trimmed so as not to provide a cover for a burglar.
- Get a dog! Dogs are great alarms, and most criminals won't risk a confrontation with a dog of any size.
- Don't open your door to a stranger, including door-to-door salespeople. Verbally answering through the closed door lets them know that the apartment is not empty. If the stranger is wearing a uniform, make them show you identification. If in doubt, have them wait outside while you call their company for verification.
- If a stranger asks to use your phone, ask for the number and make the call while they wait outside. Furthermore, if some one dials your number by mistake, do not reveal your phone number, simply advise them to try their number again.
- Do not leave a key under a doormat or flower pot, or in the mailbox or the ignition of your parked car. Burglars know all of the hiding places!
- Do not carry an identification tag with your address on your key chain.
- Leave only your ignition key with a parking attendant or repairman, as they could make a copy of your home key.
- Lock doors at all times, even when home.
- Leave outside lights on at night and close your curtains. Many rapes are crimes of opportunity. A rapist spots and watches his victim through a lighted window.
- At night, when home alone, turn the lights on in several rooms to give the appearance that there are people in several rooms.
- Get to know your neighbors. This will make it easier to spot strangers. When leaving your apartment, look around the area outside the apartment before exiting.
- Get to know both your neighbors and the neighborhood. Be aware of what's happening in the area, especially if any of your neighbors have been victims of burglary.
- Make sure there is adequate lighting in all exterior areas of the complex. If you believe there is an area that needs more light, notify the landlord, and ask neighbors to do the same. Your landlord is required by law to provide you with a safe environment. Also notify the maintenance office immediately if you notice burnt out bulbs in any lights in exterior or common areas.
- Make sure your door has a dead bolt in addition to any knob lock. Don't rely on either locks in knobs or on chains. Your door should also have a peephole (if you have children, consider getting one at their height, too). You can ask the landlord to replace or re-key your dead bolt and install a peephole. If he wont' do it, see about doing it at your own expense (don't forget to give a key to the landlord if you are required to under the lease).
- If you have a security system in the building -- use it. Don't ever buzz strangers into the building or allow strangers to enter the building when you are either entering or leaving.
- Be careful when using laundry or other common facilities after dark. Consider doing laundry, swimming, working out, etc. with a buddy. If these facilities have locking doors, make sure they are locked, and don't let anyone in who doesn't have a key.
- Make sure any windows accessible from the ground, balconies, or fire escapes have stops to prevent them opening enough to let a person through. A long screw in the frame is enough to stop a window from opening more than a couple of inches while still allowing ventilation.
- If you have a sliding glass door, use a stop of some sort in the track to keep the door from opening more than a few inches (a steel or wooden dowel is inexpensive and effective). You should also install screws in the frame to prevent the entire door from being removed.
- Make sure you have adequate smoke detectors, especially outside the kitchen and bedrooms. Check your detectors regularly and replace batteries at least twice a year. Make sure any necessary carbon monoxide or natural gas detectors are also working and maintained.
- Purchase fire extinguishers. There should be one accessible from the bedrooms, and one in the kitchen. Ideally the extinguishers should be rated ABC (for all three major types of fire) -- the extinguisher in the kitchen should have a definite B rating (for grease and other flammable liquids).
- Know all routes of escape from your apartment in case of fire. Inexpensive collapsible ladders by bedroom windows will ensure escape should a fire block other exits. Make sure your entire family can exit directly from your apartment to the outdoors, and practice.
- Don't advertise your absence by leaving notes for maintenance personnel, children, neighbors, etc., on your door or mailbox.
- Single women should never have their full names listed in the phone book or posted on buzzers or mailboxes. Try to get your neighbors to all agree to use initials on buzzers and mailboxes. If you live alone, try putting two initials on the buzzer.
- Don't hide a spare key outside. If you want, find a neighbor you trust and make a deal to keep each other's spare keys. Having to pay a locksmith to get you in is still cheaper than loosing your valuables when a thief finds the key.
- Don't have your entire address listed in the phone book -- list only your street name or just the town or city. Reverse listings can allow thieves to find your phone number and name from your address.
- Get renters insurance. If anything were to happen, you'd at least be able to replace your belongings.
- Keep an inventory of your valuables. Photographs of expensive jewelry and serial numbers of all electronic and computer equipment should be kept in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box. Etching your driver's license number on your electronics can identify them in the case of theft (many police departments offer this etching as a free service).
- Talk to your local police department about having a security check -- many will do them for free.
- Consider starting a neighborhood watch program in your complex or community.
Home Security Alarms
If you are really concerned, there are a number of wireless home security systems perfect for apartment dwellers. New wireless security systems make it possible for the apartment dweller to have the kind of security previously available only to homeowners. Using the wiring already in your house or communicating on radio frequencies, these systems require no special wiring, can be programmed to call the police or a central monitoring station, and move with you when you leave. Here's a run-down of the kind of components available (not all systems offer all components). Prices for systems can range from a couple hundred dollars up to a thousand or more.
- Door/window monitors use magnets to detect "unauthorized" openings.
- Motion detectors sense changes in ambient temperature caused by a person entering a room. Many systems offer "pet-immune" motion detectors which will not alarm with pets under 30-40 pounds.
- Lamp control will turn lights off an on based on pre-set timers or a signal from a remote.
- Glass-break sensors detect the breaking of window or door glass.
- A/C detectors will detect when electronic or computer components are unplugged from the wall.
- Smoke detector "smells" smoke and sends an alert.
- Siren announces to the burglar, anyone else in the house, and the entire neighborhood that the system has been tripped.
- Panic button, activated by a remote, will set off the alarm or call for emergency help (like if you've fallen and can't get up).
- Remote control will let you arm or disarm the system, turn lights on or off, or activate the "panic" mode from outside your apartment.
- Central control receives signals from all components and is wired into the phone system to call the police, fire department, or monitoring station. Look for one with a rechargeable battery backup.
- Monitoring: for a monthly fee, many systems will offer a monitoring service which will notify the police or fire department and phone people on your emergency contact list.
- Window decals may seem minor, but they can act as a pretty strong deterrent.
Home Safety Review
How well is your home safeguarded against crime? Have you taken the proper steps to make sure that you and your family are safe? It doesn't take a lot of time or money, to increase both your level of security and your peace of mind. Here are some tips and advice that you might want to consider:
Check your door and door frame. Should they be repaired or replaced? All exterior doors should be either metal or solid core wood (13/4" thick). Glass or thin wood panels, in or near the door, can be protected by installing polycarbonate glazing and securing with one-way screws.
- Use a dead bolt lock with a one-inch throw bolt or a heavy duty drop bolt lock.
- Install a highly pick-resistant cylinder.
- Protect the cylinder with a guard plate.
- Use a licensed locksmith.
- Don't use a dual cylinder lock (a lock that has key in both sides) in a residence. These locks are illegal in multiple dwellings in New York city. Although they offer protection, dual cylinder locks can also trap you in your home during an emergency such as a fire.
Air Conditioners: Should be secured to the window opening to prevent being pulled out or pushed in.
Security devices for windows vary, depending on the type of window and its location.
- All accessible windows in a private house need securing. This includes basement, first and second floor windows. (Second floor windows can be accessed by ladder, trash cans, nearby trees, or shrubbery.)
- The crescent latch found on a double hung window is not an adequate security device. Its function is to keep the upper and lower windows together. Because of its construction a crescent latch will not withstand a simple attack.
- Casement Windows: Commercial locking devices are available for closed casement windows, however they cannot be secured in an OPEN position. Therefore, do not leave casement windows open and unattended.
- Louvered Openings: Should be secured as they offer no resistance to force. Glass panels can be replaced with impact resistant polycarbonate and they can be pinned to the groove by using one-way screws.
Use timers that have variable time changes that turn the lights on and off when you are not home.
Defending Yourself at Home
More than half of all rapes and a great percentage of robberies, assaults, and murders happen in the home. Defend your home or apartment like a castle:
- Most criminals avoid homes with dogs. Some breeds work better than others, so do some research.
- Keep your windows clear of shrubbery, which can hide a burglar or rapist while they're jimmying your window.
- Get outdoor motion sensor lights.
- Consider installing an alarm system from a reputable security company.
- Join your Neighborhood Watch program, or form one if it doesn't already exist.
- Keep your valuables out of easy sight and away from ground floor windows.
- Make sure that your garage door is secure. Many thieves or more violent criminals gain access this way.
- Have a peep sight and / or an intercom system installed in your front and rear door. Don't open your door for anyone. If they're in an emergency, call 911 for them. Rapists, robbers, and murderers often use this ruse. They may pose as plumbers, letter carriers, or telephone or power company employees. They may be women or children with adult male backup. Fake injuries are also used to get past your front door.
- If you reach the door to your house and suspect you're being followed, you can verify this by making four left or right turns around a block. If the vehicle is still behind you, don't go home. Criminals simply follow and jump you in your own driveway. Drive to the local police or fire department or some other highly public area. Use your cell phone and call 911.
- Reinforce your bedroom door with a secure lock to slow down an intruder.
- Keep a cell phone and gun (that you've been trained to use) by the bed. This may seem extreme, but think of the simple logic behind this plan: If the intruder is not discouraged by motion lights, alarm, and dog and is still determined to get in, you've got a serious problem. All the previously listed obstacles and the reinforced door are meant to slow him down, while the cell phone gets around a cut phone line. You know what the gun's for. If it's come to this, don't hesitate to empty it into him.
- This is all well and good if you've got no children or there's no other exit. Remember: the first line of defense is awareness and the second is escape. Create and practice an evacuation plan for your entire family. Everybody tries to get out through the nearest window or door and get a neighbor's attention.
Home Safety Review Courtesy of the New York City Police Department Crime Prevention Division
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