Doug Skins, former police officer and now with the national police crime prevention initiative Secured by Design (SBD), answers self-builders’ queries on how to make your home more secure
SBD has been a staunch campaigner for improved security in buildings and homes for nearly 30 years. The
organisation works closely with UK police forces and a wide range of other organisations, including national and Local Government, the Fire Service, British and European Standards authorities, the construction industry, trade associations and manufacturers to achieve sustainable reductions in crime through design and other approaches to enable people to live in a safer society.
What are the first steps to making my home more secure?
Physical and visible deterrents give a criminal the first indication that the owner of the property has an awareness around security, and as a result the criminal will often move on elsewhere and look for somewhere easier to break in to.
So what is the best way of looking at my security to see if it needs improving?
We recommend looking at your home security through what is called the “onion peeling principle,” starting with the boundaries and working inwards towards the centre, considering the security of sheds, outbuildings, garages and the house and its contents.
How do I go about protecting the boundary of my property?
Lower fences at the front of a property are better than high fences, as they allow for ‘natural vision’ over them while not providing cover for someone hiding. However, at the rear and sides of a property, taller fencing is recommended in order to prevent easy access. Adding light trellises, thorny plants or a suitable anti-climb topping will make it difficult for anyone trying to climb over.
Ensure your boundary fences are in good condition. Planting along boundaries and fence lines acts as a powerful natural barrier to anyone trying to enter. Gravel driveways and paths are ideal at preventing a silent approach, as they will alert you to someone approaching the house.
CCTV can also alert you to someone getting inside your boundary if it is monitored, e.g. by being linked to a smartphone. ‘Smart doorbells’, such as Ring, alert you to callers to your property. A number of Secured by Design member companies supply the most recent technological innovations in this area.
Do you recommend using outside lighting?
Thieves do not like to be seen, so an outdoor light operated by sensors will make intruders feel vulnerable and observed. Consider dusk to dawn lighting which illuminates areas such as the front, side and rear of your home as an option too.
What security measures should I take around outbuildings?
People often pay less attention to garages, sheds and other outbuildings where they often store expensive equipment. However, these are vulnerable as they are generally not very secure and also contain tools with which the burglar can use to assist them to gain entry into a home.
You should ensure that all external outbuilding doors are of solid construction with suitable locks or a close shackle padlock and bar fitted. Consider fitting non-returnable screws or coach bolts to the hinges. Locks should be fitted to all windows.
Garage doors can be vulnerable and you can make them more secure by installing additional security, such as padlocks, to provide multiple locking points or using floor-mounted locking T- bars. If you have a door connecting the garage to the house, make sure this has the same level of security as your front door. Fit locks that meet BS 3621 and a door that meets PAS 24: 2016.
Do not forget that ladders and tools left outside can be used to assist burglars to break into your home. Ensure they are well secured within a garage or shed.
So how about my house, should I consider an alarm?
Yes, fit a good intruder alarm system installed by a reputable dealer – there is guidance on the NSI and SSIAB accreditation for alarms on the SBD website (www.securedbydesign.com)
What should I be considering in terms of doors?
When buying a new a door it is better to buy a new ‘door set’ – the complete assembled frame and door, certified to British Standard PAS 24-1 ‘Doors of Enhanced Security’.
If refurbishing a door check that the frame is firmly fixed and sturdy. If it is weak or rotten, replace it. Check that the door hinges are sturdy and secured with strong, long screws. For added security fit hinge bolts or security hinges. These help to reinforce the hinge side of a door against force and protect the hinge if your door opens outwards.
If fitting locks to a standard wooden door, fit a five-lever mortise lock plus a night latch or rim lock both tested to BS 3621 – these are a minimum insurance requirement. If your door is PVCu or composite then it should be fitted with a multipoint lock meeting BS 3621.
Always fit patio doors that are security accredited to standard PAS24:2016. And most importantly, always remember to use the locks correctly! Double-lock PVC-U and multi-point locking doors – lift the handle and turn and remove the key.
What do you advise when it comes to windows?
If you are buying new windows or installing windows, always consider a security accredited product made to standard PAS24:2016, as it will be tested to British standards and thus will be insurance approved.
Window locks are essential on ground floors and above flat roofs. They can be retrofitted to many windows.
Where can I find out more?
The Secured by Design website lists products that have achieved the rigorous Police Preferred Specification standards that are sufficiently robust to resist physical attack by casual and opportunistic burglars. Having robust, accredited products also means they will require less maintenance, repair and replacement.
Doug Skins is development officer at Secured By Design