Here are my hints and tips on how to keep your home safe:
· Keep all entrance gates closed and put up outside security lights that come on when someone walks near them. The lights need to be out of reach, so make sure they are at least 2m high.
· Use some gravel on paths or driveways as it makes a lot of noise when walked on
· Secure outside sheds and outbuildings with strong bolts and padlocks.
· Grow shrubs and bushes around your garden fence so it's harder for someone to climb over - the more prickly, the better!
· Never leave a spare key in a convenient hiding place- like under the doormat or flowerpot -
thieves know to look there first.
· Keep your tools and ladders securely locked away - they could be used by a thief to get into your house.
· Only use solid frames for external doors - they should be at least 4.4cm thick, and all external doors should have a deadlock (British Standard BS3621), ideally the five-lever mortise type.
· Consider fitting security bolts to external doors as well.
· Fit doors with the strongest screws possible, not necessarily the ones that are supplied.
· Have a security chain on your front door and keep it on. Also consider having a peephole so you can see who is outside your door.
· All windows that are in easy reach should be fitted with window locks. Make sure they meet British Standard BS7950 and keep them locked at all times.
· Stop intruders coming in through large windows that open wide by fitting secondary locks and fit 'sash stops' on sash windows.
· Consider putting a special film over the glass in windows that stops it being smashed as easily.
· Don't put your keys down on the table right inside the front door. Store them out of sight of any visitors. Remove keys from inside locks as well.
· Use timers on your lights to make them come on and go off on their own making it look like you're home even when you're not. You can also get TVs and radios that can switch themselves on and off.
· Leave your lights on and shut the curtains if you go out in the evening.
· Property mark all your belongings, especially your valuables, so that the police can traced them if they are stolen. Use an ultra violet pen or even special Thief Detection Powder. Check out www.spycatcheronline.co.uk.
· Better still put small items of value and important documents in a hotel style digital safe - that is itself screwed in place!
BUT HAVE A GET-OUT CLAUSE - Make sure that you balance security against the need to escape from a fire. If no-one can get in, how will you get out? Work out a plan.
Beware the Unexpected Visitor
Most people who call at your home will be genuine. But there are Bogus Callers whose sole intention is to trick their way into your home to steal money or valuables. Follow some simple steps to avoid becoming a victim of this crime.
- Be cautious - don't let anybody in unless you are expecting them.
- Don't be fooled by appearances - bogus callers may be smartly dressed and claim to be from the council, the police or utility companies. However, genuine representatives from these organisations rarely make house calls without appointments and if there is a real gas or water emergency, police and firefighters are likely to be present
- Always check ID - Bogus callers use 'props' like an identity card or wear clothing with a company logo. Check their identification very carefully. If you need glasses in order to read the card, close and lock the door before going to get them. Never leave the door open and unattended.
- Use a door chain - until you've checked their I.D. If you don't have one, talk to the caller through the door rather than opening it.
- Lock the back door - make sure your back door is closed and locked before answering your front door - thieves have been known to work in pairs, with one entering through the back while the other knocks on the front door.
For more information about dealing with bogus callers contact your local police, social services or Age UK (www.ageUK.org.uk).
Home Security Gadgets
There are loads of gadgets that you can buy which can protect your home from being burgled. Many cost less than £25 so there's no excuse for not getting some basic some security.
· Use outside security lights or a security beam barrier alarm which sounds when an invisible infra-red beam is broken. Try Screwfix (screwfix.com)
· If you can't afford real CCTV cameras, you can get imitation ones that will deter unwanted visitors or set up a webcam to watch the outside of your house from your PC. Try Maplin (maplin.co.uk)
· Get a Fake TV which is a light that flickers like a TV but without the power drain. Sensors turn it on at dusk. Don't expect to get X-Factor on it though!
If you take home security really seriously:
- Install a CCTV system with internet access meaning you can monitor what goes on inside your home from your PC or mobile phone. For a cheaper alternative get a home sensor system which can detect intruders (or fires). If they are triggered, it will send you a text message.
- Get a 'Smart Home' system which can turn your lights on and off automatically (controlled by the level of natural daylight) giving the appearance of someone being at home. Again, you can get ones that you can control through your mobile phone if its web enabled.
- Consider a Mini Mosquito which emits a high-pitched whine that only teenagers can hear. The insistent hum drives packs of youths away from your home and is designed to combat anti-social behaviour.
And don't forget the popular Neighbourhood Watch Scheme - it doesn't cost anything - only your time and effort. Contact your local Crime Prevention Office or visit www.neighbourhoodwatch.net to find out more.
Q: "The bathroom in our 3 bed terrace house is downstairs and accessed through the kitchen. We think we might convert the 3rd bedroom to an upstairs bathroom. Will this increase or decrease the value?" Angie Seaton, Cheltenham
A: It depends on the part of the country you live in! In some places, a downstairs loo is common, nobody really cares, and you'll decrease the property value by reducing the number of bedrooms. In other locations, an upstairs loo- or even better, an en-suite will significantly add to the value and saleability of your house. In Cheltenham I'd do the conversion- or alternatively consider an extension.
Q: I've lost the deeds to my house. What should I do? Mr T James. London NW12
A: Don't Panic! The land registry has electronic copies of most land and property title deeds now, so the physical ones are not as important as they used to be. They should be kept safe, but you can get copies for a small charge from The Land Registry at www.landregistry.gov.uk
"According to Police, your home is ten times for likely to be burgled if you don't have basic home security measures"
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