People expect to feel safe and secure in their own homes. Statistically, it’s unlikely you will ever encounter an intruder in your home. However, you can lessen the chances of such an event by installing proper security devices and observing sensible security practices.
Lessening the risks
General security precautions
It is unwise to leave door keys under a flowerpot, mat, in a letterbox or similar hiding place. Burglars find them. Be wary of leaving keys with trades people – keys can be copied. Items left lying around such as ladders, tools, gardening implements, lawnmowers and bicycles can attract a criminal on to the property, and some of the items might be used to gain entry. Open garage doors and open windows can also attract criminals. Windows should have security fittings, particularly if left open. If you are at home and leave any exterior doors open or unlocked, consider that a prowler could take the opportunity to get in easily. If you arrive home and you think there has been a burglary, don’t go in. An intruder might still be inside. Go to a neighbour’s and telephone the Police.
If you come home alone, it’s a good idea to carry a personal or remote alarm for your car or house. If your safety is threatened you can easily sound your alarm. Have your house keys ready in your hand for quick entry if needed. Include potential fire hazards when considering home security. Smoke alarms and fire extinguishers are ways you can reduce the risk of a serious fire in your home.
Prowlers can hide behind large shrubs, plants, or high fencing. Thorny plants along fence lines can discourage prowlers from climbing over, and having fully enclosed fencing with a gate creates a barrier. Prowlers are less likely to target a property that makes it hard for them to get into and out of.
Ensure your house number can be clearly seen from the road at all times. Visibility of a street number at night is important for the Police and other services responding to any emergency. Many people display their names on letterboxes or doorplates. If you are a woman living alone, consider using your initials rather than identifying yourself by your first name.
Consider fitting exterior sensor lights to deter prowlers. If you’re returning home at night, a sensor light installed near the front door will light up the surrounding area.
Joining Neighbourhood Watch and displaying Neighbourhood Watch, Beware of Dog and burglar alarm signs, can discourage criminal activity.
- Fit deadlocks to outer doors and internal access garage doors
- Fit lockable bolts to ranch-sliders and french doors
- Fit door-viewers and security chains
- Secure louver windows by gluing them into fittings or replacing with an alternative
- Install a burglar alarm
- Have a panic button for the burglar alarm in your bedroom
- Have a light switch within reach of your bed and a telephone with a list of emergency contact numbers
- Keep a dog for protection, or acquire an electronic barking device as a deterrent
- Replace any hollow external doors with solidcore ones fitted into sturdy framing, or install security screen doors on the outside
People at the door
DOORSTOP – an easy acronym to remember:
Don’t open your door without using a doorstop code.
Observe first. Always check by looking through a window or door-viewer.
Only open your door partly with security chain connected.
Refuse entry if in doubt and telephone the Police or a neighbour.
Switch on outside lights when dark to see who is there.
Think suspiciously. Strangers might be thieves trying to get in.
Only open the door after examining identification and satisfying yourself it is genuine.
Protect your family, as well. Make sure children know the code.
If you are alone you can create the impression that someone else is present by shouting out that you will answer the door.
Ways people might try to get into your house:
- Asking to use the telephone
- Asking for a glass of water
- Asking for donations
- Conducting a survey
- Impersonating sales representatives, officials, trades people and others
Ways to respond can include:
- Saying NO
- Leaving the person outside and offering to make a telephone call for them
- Denying entry until telephoning their office to verify that they are legitimate
If you have advertised an item for sale and have arranged for a stranger to view it, a good idea could be to have a friend or relative present in your home.
Check that all doors and windows are secure when you go out, and before you go to bed at night, to deter prowlers.
A woman by herself can put objects on a porch or other prominent place, suggesting the presence of another person at the address. A pair of big boots, for example.
Telephone the Police immediately if you see a prowler. Provide a description of the person, clothing, and direction of travel if the person has run away.
After telephoning the Police, remain quiet and do not alert the prowler, provided your safety is not being threatened. This will allow the Police a better chance of catching the prowler. If you think the prowler is about to break in, switch on the lights if it’s at night, and make as much noise as possible.
It’s best not to go outside even if you think the prowler has run away.
Going outside could expose you to danger if the person is still nearby or returns, and your presence could hamper the Police and their dogs.
A safety plan will enable you to make the best decision for dealing with an emergency.
Making a safety plan entails considering:
- Whether you are alone or if there are children or other adults present in the home
- The internal layout of your home for access to any children and escape routes
- Proximity to neighbours and boundary features of your property
- An agreement with your neighbours on how they will respond
- Using an existing room as a safe area, which must have a telephone installed, window security, and a door able to be securely locked from the inside
- Choosing to use a safe room or to escape from the home. This will depend on the particular situation and personal circumstances.
Factors to consider might include:
- The risks of encountering an intruder inside or outside the property during an escape
- Whether ground-floor windows are accessible if an exit door is blocked by an intruder, and physical agility to climb out and run to safety
- Try to avoid contact with the intruder
- Telephone the Police on 111 as soon as you safely can
- You must decide quickly either to secure yourself (children) in a safe room, or to escape from the home
- If you decide on the safe room, phone your neighbours, as well as the Police
- If you do encounter the intruder, try to get out of the way
- Call out to somebody else in the house to phone the Police, even if you are alone
- Make a noise – loudly. You can attract attention by breaking windows and shouting loudly things such as “Go away!”, “Get out of my home”, “Somebody call the Police”
If you cannot avoid the intruder, and shouting and making a noise has no effect, an alternative is to calm yourself, then firmly tell the intruder to leave.
Being assertive is an important self-defence technique.
- Show confidence – bravado even. Hold your head up. Pull your shoulders back. Stand tall. Even just that can force an intruder to have second thoughts – often the last thing they want is a battle with someone
- Be prepared to physically defend yourself. The most vulnerable parts of an attacker’s body are the eyes, nose and genital area You are allowed to use force against your attacker when defending yourself. Be aware that if you use something as a weapon in self-defence, it could be turned against you. Find out about self-defence classes in your area.
During an emergency, activate any available, fitted, remote or personal alarm system when it is practicable and safe to do so.
Don’t give personal information to strangers or callers representing themselves as market research or telemarketing companies – they might not be genuine. It might be better to use “Hello” rather than reveal your name or telephone number.
Do not let strangers know that you are at home alone.
When it appears a caller has dialled your number by mistake, do not supply your name, address or telephone number. Ask the caller the number wanted, then tell them they have a wrong number. When recording an answer-phone or voice-mail message, do not indicate what times you will be in or out. Keep personal information to a minimum.
A woman living alone could consider using the term “we” on the message, or have a male friend record the message.
Mobile conversations can be scanned. People should be careful not to disclose any information that would help a criminal and threaten their safety.