Use this checklist to help you find opportunities to better protect your home from burglars and improve your safety. Once you’re done we’ll score your home and make recommendations to you.
Are some of your lights on timers?
In most cases, you turn lights on as you enter rooms and turn them off as you leave. But timed lights can play an important rule in home security. Exterior lights on timers will make sure that you never forget to illuminate your space, while both interior and exterior lights on timers can create the illusion that you are at home even when you’re out (especially if you stagger the times a bit for a more organic feel).
Are points of entry well-lit at night?
It’s easier to break into a home under cover of darkness. But if you keep your doorways well-lit, any sketchy activity will be more clearly visible to neighbors and passersby. You should also consider the lighting around your outdoor pathways, near windows, and anywhere else where crooks might approach, hide, or attempt a break-in.
Do you have outdoor lighting pointed at your exterior walls?
Don’t let criminals get close enough to your house to break in without being seen. In addition to lighting up obvious points of entry and outdoor pathways, be sure to light up walls that crooks may sneak along or climb.
Do you have outdoor lights with motion sensors?
Motion-sensor lights are convenient because they’ll automatically light your way as you walk by. But they serve another purpose, too: when they light up, you’ll know that something — or someone — set them off. They can be a valuable early warning system and can scare off would-be home invaders.
Do you know all the neighbors surrounding your home?
Who lives across the street from you? Who lives next door on each side? Whose backyard is opposite yours? Who rents the apartments next to, above, and below yours? The better you know your neighbors, the more likely they’ll be to let you or the authorities know if they see or hear anything suspicious.
Does your neighborhood have a formal neighborhood watch program?
Neighbors can be important allies in protecting each others’ homes. A neighborhood watch program helps to formalize that relationship and ensure that nothing slips through the cracks. If there’s no neighborhood watch program protecting your street, maybe you should start one!
Has your neighborhood had any break-ins lately?
If your neighbors have suffered a break-in, you should be extra vigilant. For various reasons, including geographic convenience or similarities in home layouts and security systems, thieves may target different houses in the same neighborhood for repeated crimes. If your neighbors were stolen from, you could be next!
Is your neighborhood well-lit with street lamps?
Streetlights and even other homes’ lights can help illuminate your space and potential paths of approach. If the street and the neighborhood are not well-lit at night, you’ll want to be especially vigilant about protecting your own space and lighting up the areas that you have control over.
Do you have signs warning crooks that your house is monitored?
A security system will alert you and the authorities when someone tries to break in. But if you can turn back would-be intruders before they attempt a break-in, that’s even better. So make use of those yard signs and window decals. Crooks might just decide that your home isn’t worth the trouble.
Do you have a large dog?
Do you have a large dog?
Do you have a peephole or video doorbell at your front door?
Someone’s at your door. But who? Can you take a look without opening the door? If you can use a peephole, nearby windows, or — best of all — a smart doorbell camera to double-check, then you’ll be a whole lot safer at home.
Do you have deadbolt locks on all points of entry?
Regular door knob locks are nice, but they’re barely going to slow down an experienced lockpicker. If you really want your space to be secure, you need to have — and use — deadbolt locks. Get ones with keyholes on the outside, so that you can use your deadbolt locks even when you’re away from home.
Do your doors fit snugly in your door frames?
Criminals can force doors open much more easily if there are gaps between the doors and their frames. Making sure that your doors are fitted properly in their frames can discourage would-be home invaders who hope to use a crowbar or other tool to pry open your door.
Do you leave a spare key outside your home?
Nobody likes getting locked out of their own home. But a house key under a planter or — even worse — underneath your welcome mat is an invitation to home invaders. Crooks are plenty familiar with these and even less obvious hiding places. Here’s a better idea: use an outdoor key safe that only you can access.
Do you secure sliding glass doors with more than just one lock?
Sliding glass doors are attractive and convenient, but they’re not the most secure spaces in your home. Don’t rely on their basic default locks! Add another more reliable lock, or fit a dowel into the track on the inside to block the door (or, better yet, do both).
Do you have fire extinguishers?
Keeping your home safe isn’t just about stopping home invaders. Other disasters, such as fires, can be just as dangerous and just as devastating. Keeping a fire extinguisher around can help you stop fires in their tracks. Depending on the size of your home, you may want a few fire extinguishers in key locations. And don’t forget to test them periodically and make sure that they are in working order!
Do you have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors?
A smoke detector system, especially one that is connected to a monitoring service, can protect your home from the devastation of a fire. And don’t forget about deadly carbon monoxide: it’s odorless, which makes it all but impossible to detect without a proper detection device and system.
Do you keep a home inventory?
Quick — what is in your house right now? Knowing what you own and keep in your space is valuable for all sorts of reasons. An up-to-date home inventory is crucial to getting a fair settlement from your insurance company in the event of a disaster, and the process of updating an inventory may help you catch thefts that you didn’t even know where happening.
Are your medications hidden?
Your medications are private. They’re also valuable and full of the potential for abuse. Keeping medications out of sight (and secured from your own children and other people) will keep others from abusing your medication and will reduce the incentive for any houseguests to return as home invaders in search of your prescription drugs.
Do you shred your documents?
Criminals can steal from you without ever entering your house. Identity theft is more common than ever, which is why it’s so important to make sure that you are destroying documents with potentially identifying information before you dispose of them. Protect your privacy and your finances by shredding papers that include information like your date of birth, social security number, bank account numbers, and more.
Do you have RFID blockers in your wallet?
RFID stands for “radio-frequency identification,” and it’s a way of sharing identifying information over radio waves. RFID chips can be tiny, which is part of why they’re used in many credit cards and bank cards that allow users to pay just by tapping a card. The problem is, RFID chips are always broadcasting. The bad guys have figured out that they can get your card’s RFID signal and duplicate it for a spending spree of their own. All they have to do is get close to your wallet — unless, of course, it has the RFID blockers that will foil their plans.
Is your home number clearly visible from the street?
This is one case where you want to advertise something to passersby. If your alarm is tripped and the authorities are notified, you’ll want to make sure that they don’t waste any time trying to figure out which house is yours. This isn’t just a security concern: from the ambulance you call in a medical emergency to the guests you invite to your dinner party, it’s smart to make your address easy to see.
Can passersby or neighbors see your windows and doors?
Doors and windows are potential access points for crooks. How easily can they size up your property’s points of entry? You should also keep in mind that windows can be seen into as well as out of. Be aware of potential prying eyes as you walk around or position valuables within your home!
Can passersby see any of your valuables from the street?
Crooks don’t break into homes for no reason — usually, they’re after valuable things to steal. If they can see valuable stuff through your windows without even stepping onto your property, then you’re taking too much guesswork out of the equation for exactly the wrong sorts of people.
Do you lock up outdoor valuables and tools?
Your home security system and deadbolts won’t do much to protect the valuable stuff that you leave outside of your home. Don’t let any crooks wheel your grill away or take off with your bicycle. Secure your outdoor valuables with locks, especially at night and when you’re out of town.
Are your valuables stashed in a safe?
If your home is invaded by a thief, he or she will attempt to grab as many valuable things as they can as quickly as possible. The damage that a home invasion can do will depend in part on how you protect your valuables within your home. Protecting your most important things in a safe will give them a much better chance of being spared in a break-in and theft.
Do you lock up your home every night?
Home invaders prefer to operate at night, when homeowners are less alert and when illegal activities are less visible to neighbors and other potential observers. That’s why it’s particularly important to keep your space locked up at night, even — and perhaps especially — when you are home.
Do you lock up your home each and every time that you leave the house?
Think carefully. Sure, you lock your place up when you go on vacation — but what about when you pop around the corner to the pharmacy? What about when you go out to do yard work for a few minutes, and end up distracted and chatting with a neighbor? Crooks don’t need much time to break in, and you won’t always be “right back” as planned. Always, always lock up!
Are cameras monitoring your space?
Indoor and outdoor security cameras can help you spot intruders and other problems before they can hurt you or violate your space. Doorbell cameras can help you size up visitors before you open the door. And many modern surveillance devices can be connected to security systems and broader smart home setups.
Do you have a home security system with 24/7 monitoring?
The most important thing that you can do to protect your home is to invest in a security system. Make sure that you subscribe to a monitoring service, too — a security system and alarm won’t do much good unless they’re connected to a service that will alert the authorities when a break-in occurs.