Unfortunately, many of us become increasingly complacent over home security until the day comes when we’re burgled. We may have gotten into the bad habit of leaving doors unlocked or windows open while popping out to the shops or visiting a near neighbour. Getting into the habit of running through some basic home security checks before going out is recommended by UK police forces as this simple process is known to thwart would-be housebreakers.
Your Home Security Checklist
Every home is different so the specific checks need to be tailored to each situation. For example, people living in apartment buildings will obviously have a different collection of vulnerabilities to those living in isolated, detached rural properties. But here are the primary aspects of home security that everyone should include in their routine ‘exit routines’, every time they leave their homes.
Ensure Doors and Windows are Closed and Locked
Doors and windows are the primary ways criminals gain entry into our homes so its important to confirm every door and window is closed and locked. Ideally, doors should be double locked. This fundamental check should be carried out every time you leave home, even for only a few minutes. Luckily, for most properties it doesn’t take very long to confirm all doors and windows are secure.
Keep Valuables Hidden and Secure
Make certain all valuables are out of sight. Be aware that criminals may peer through accessible windows to see if there is anything inside that’s worth breaking in for, so keep valuable items hidden.
And its important to be aware of valuables such as vehicle keys, car documents, passports and other forms of personal identification. Handbags wallets, vehicle keys and other valuables shouldn’t be left near letterboxes or cat flaps as thieves are known to reach inside and hook items, sometimes via very small openings.
Also, consider where valuables, such as personal documentation, are stored in your home. Thieves know about all of the most commonly used locations such as kitchen drawers or hallway storage so its a good idea to find somewhere more secure and less obvious.
Quickly confirming there are no valuable items within sight or reach of windows, letterboxes and cat flaps doesn’t take a moment to do as part of your ‘exit routine’.
Use Outdoor Security
Another aspect of your exit routine should quickly check and confirm your outdoor security is as effective as possible. If you live in a property with gates, ideally these, like your doors and windows, should be locked. And if you have an alarm system its important to make sure its turned on and operational before leaving. This shouldn’t take more than a moment.
If you live in an apartment building you need to be sure that shared, communal entrances and hallways are always as secure as possible.
Make it Look Like Someone is Home
If you are likely to be away from home all day, or for prolonged periods, making it look like someone is still at home is a valuable tactic.
This can be achieved by leaving some lights on, or putting lights on timers so they switch on and off. Also, leaving a radio or TV on, or switching these devices on and off with simple timers, can give the impression someone is at home.
If you are going out for the evening, draw your curtains, leave some lights on and possibly leave a radio or TV on so it sounds like someone is at home.
Secure Your Outbuildings
If you are lucky enough to have a garage, shed or other outbuildings its important to be sure they are secure and locked up. Bicycles, lawnmowers and other outdoor valuables should be securely locked inside and shouldn’t be visible from any windows.
Many people overlook the value of items stored in their garages and sheds and experienced criminals know they can quickly resell these items on the black market and via car boot sales. You need to make it difficult for criminals to access your outbuildings and ideally you should securely attach valuable items such as bicycles, lawnmowers and barbecues, to immovable anchor points using strong chains and locks.
Confirming you haven’t left any of your outbuildings or outdoor valuables in a vulnerable state before leaving home shouldn’t take much time if you get into the habit of locking things up the last time you used them.
Leaving Home for Longer
This basic checklist is not only good for those times when you’re away from home for short periods, the listed checks are also valuable when leaving home for longer. But there are some additional precautions you can take to remain secure when going away on vacation or for a short break.
Don’t Share Your Vacation Plans
Widely sharing your plans to go on holiday or take a weekend break somewhere can be an invitation to criminals. If they know a property is vacant they can plan their assault to steal as much as possible.
When sharing on social media, always make certain posts aren’t public and can only be seen by family and close friends.
If you have newspapers or milk delivered its worthwhile cancelling these before going away. A property with a collection of newspapers stuffed in the letterbox or milk bottles is a clear announcement that nobody is home.
Get a Trusted Neighbour to Watch Your Home
If you can persuade a nearby neighbour to keep watch on your home, this can be very beneficial. And if your neighbour is happy to pop inside and draw the curtains at night, and possibly collect the mail or other deliveries, this helps create the illusion someone is still at home.
Leave Lights and Devices on Timers
Using timers to switch lights and devices such as radios and TVs on and off, as previously recommended, is another precaution that’s effective when away from home for longer periods.
If there is a neighbourhood watch scheme in your area - join. If there isn’t one, why not consider setting one up?
Neighbourhood Watch provide some excellent burglary prevention advice and they recommend people keep their WIDE and WIDEN acronyms in mind when leaving their homes. These stand for:
The original WIDE acronym was expanded by them to include ‘N’ for neighbours as this is an important aspect of community security. This useful, memorable acronym should be enough to remind us all of the basic precautions we need to take as part of our home exit routines, even when popping out for only a few minutes.
Establish New Habits for 50 Times More Security
Research shows that by adopting a set of sensible security precautions properties are up to 50 times more secure that those without. The WIDEN acronym is easy to remember and provides a very quick exit routine checklist to make certain your home is as secure as possible when you go out.