The A-Z of Home Security
Most people know somebody who has been the victim of crime, or they have been a victim themselves. Most people also think that there isn’t much they can do to avoid it.
They are wrong! There is a lot that the average person can do to protect themselves, their family and their property. This A–Z of Home Security will show you how to perform a security review on various different aspects of your home and property, and then take steps to increase your security and avoid crime.
HOW THIS BOOK CAME ABOUT
I have been in the security field for nearly 30 years, serving as a police officer, working in government security and working as a security consultant. I have written this book, based on the knowledge I have gained from that experience, to inform you of the measures you can take to avoid crime.
Generally, statistics show a steady increase in crime, but with some simple facts and information, you can take steps to protect yourself, your family and your property from crime.
About half of those who responded to an insurance company survey stated that their greatest worry was that they would be a victim of crime. They also reported that they had not done anything to protect themselves from the crime they were so worried about, because they didn’t think there was anything they could do. There was a feeling that ‘If it’s your turn, then it’s going to happen.’
You need to know what you can do to protect yourself. Simple information can help. Did you know, for instance, that a house at the end of a terrace, on a corner, with an alley or a public footpath running down the side or any other public access around it is a lot more likely to be burgled?
Being aware of the threats and taking steps to protect yourself and your property, will make you a lot less likely to become a victim of crime. This book helps you to identify potential vulnerabilities, threats and risks (we will call them all ‘problems’ from now on), then to propose simple, affordable and achievable countermeasures that the average person can implement to increase their levels of security.
INCREASING YOUR UNDERSTANDING AND KNOWLEDGE
Crime statistics are quite worrying, but they can help us too. Look at these statistics.
At least 80% of burglars are opportunists; they look for a quick and easy way in and out. Nip next door without locking
the front door and your wallet or handbag may be gone when you get back home.
At least 20% of burglars don’t have to force entry, they just walk in through open doors and windows!
About 60% of burglars enter the target premises from the rear – where there is less chance of them being spotted and/or reported.
More burglaries happen during the day than at night, when it is quiet and more people are at home to hear and report strange intruders.
Does that worry you? It looks like good news to me, because these statistics tell me how I can best protect my house and belongings by adopting the following countermeasures.
By always locking doors and windows and never leaving valuables in a vulnerable place, we deny access to the opportunist thief.
By stopping strangers from easily getting to the back of our house by erecting fences and installing lockable side gates, we block the most common access points for burglars.
By making sure the house is securely locked during the day, we ensure that it is as safe as it can be, and further reduce the chance of being burgled.
If you adopt those three countermeasures, you have probably made your house at least 70% less likely to become the victim of opportunist theft and domestic burglary – and that’s not a bad result considering this is only page 3!
That is the end of lesson one and it doesn’t get any harder. Read this book, learning how to identify vulnerabilities, then take steps to remove or reduce the vulnerabilities, and you and your family will be considerably safer. To improve security you need common sense, time to read this book and identify problems, then time to apply countermeasures to resolve them.
To manage the problems you identify I recommend that you take a methodical approach. As you identify and consider any problems, record them with any countermeasures you have identified. The following form shows one method of recording problems and countermeasures, but you are free to use your own method. Home Security Review, Mr A. Biggins 49 High Street – 29 Feb 200X
Two gaps in back hedge, behind the garage and at the end of the fence where children break through to collect their balls.
Children playing on grass area beside the house have broken through the hedge to retrieve footballs kicked into the garden. The Council are planting trees and prickly shrubs there to stop children playing and to improve the look of the area – there should be no more ball games there after the end of the month.
- (a) Dig out the whole hedge and replace it with a six-feet-high chain-link fence.
- (b) Plant prickly shrubs among the hedge plants, making sure to fill in the gaps with them.
- (c) Leave the hedge as it is but put a chain-link wire fence up on the outside of the hedge.
As you can see, the form records problems, additional information and potential countermeasures. Use a new form to record each problem; this will help you to manage them as you improve your security.
Give each form a title. Identify possible countermeasures yourself or take them from the lists of countermeasures in this book. Using a new form for each problem:
- will give you a record of all problems identified. (Keep these forms safe, and shred them when you have finished with them; they are a burglar’s guide to vulnerabilities in your house.)
- allows you to gradually review and refine your understanding of the problems as you research them. The council may have plans to erect a fence along the boundary, which will resolve your problem at no cost or effort to you!
- helps you to understand the problem, and add to and refine the possible countermeasures. If you can’t get planning permission for a fence, plant prickly shrubs to repair and reinforce the existing hedge.
- makes it easy for you to review and sort the problems, putting them in priority order. If you only have two problems, one of which is the gaps in the hedge, and the other is that the front door cannot be locked, repairing the front door is a priority and the hedge can wait!
- makes it easy for you to analyse and select the appropriate countermeasures. By crossing out discarded countermeasures you arrive at a record showing the problem and the selected countermeasure(s)
- (a) Dig out the whole hedge and replace it with a six-feet-high chain-link fence. No planning permission will be given.
- (b) Plant prickly shrubs among the hedge plants, making sure to fill in the gaps with them.
- (c) Leave the hedge as it is but put a chain-link wire fence up on the outside of the hedge. No planning permission will be given.
Work through this book, reading each section, then review your security. Identify your own vulnerabilities, especially any that may be unique to you and your property. If you live on an island, your unique problem may be an unlocked and readily available motor boat that could be a significant security risk to you. As you identify problems, record them. Where you can, identify and record any possible countermeasures at the same time. It is likely that for some problems you may have to leave the countermeasures section blank, coming back to add some when you have had time to think, or you have taken advice from specialists.
IMPLEMENTING COUNTERMEASURES TO YOUR PROBLEMS
When you identify a problem there are basically four things that you can do about that risk:
- Ignore it and hope it goes away.
- Take action to reduce the risk.
- Take action to avoid the risk.
- Take action to remove the risk – by introducing a countermeasure without taking new and unnecessary risks.
A countermeasure is something that you can do to improve your security and safety.
My objective is to teach you how to identify problems, and then how to propose and implement appropriate, achievable and affordable countermeasures to increase your security.
Through I provide lists of possible countermeasures, none of the lists is exhaustive; they are simply examples of possible countermeasures. The lists may provide an appropriate countermeasure for your problem, or they may help you to define your own countermeasures.
Suppose the problem you identified is shards of broken glass on the living room couch. The four options are:
- Ignore it – keep using the living room and hope that nobody gets hurt when they sit on the broken glass.
- Reduce the risk – keep using the living room, but warn people not to use the couch because of the broken glass.
- Avoid it – never go into the living room again, so you will not be injured by broken glass.
- Remove it – buy and use gardening gloves and goggles to pick up the larger pieces of glass. Use a dustpan to sweep up the smaller pieces. Finally rent a powerful industrial vacuum cleaner to remove the final traces of broken glass before anyone uses the living room again.
Though all options would work, some may be more acceptable and sensible to you and some may seem unrealistic or foolhardy to you, bearing in mind your lifestyle and circumstances.
For most people, the last option, ‘removing the risk’, will be the most effective long-term solution, even though it requires time, money and effort to achieve it. Knowing your lifestyle and circumstances you are free to adapt the approach to suit your circumstances.
By understanding the problems you face, recognizing the options open to you, and adapting them to your own preferences, you can amend a proposed countermeasure to suit your circumstances. Throughout this book, your primary objectives will be the following.
- Recognize problems that exist and how they can affect you and your security.
- Look beyond the examples listed, to identify problems appropriate to your unique circumstances.
- Study those problems and identify countermeasures that will avoid, remove or reduce them.
- Compile an action plan, defining the actions you need to take to deliver the selected countermeasure.
- Continually monitor your life, to recognize any changes that may introduce new problems, requiring you to undertake a new security review to match the changed circumstances.
Though you can use the method to review security for a very close relative, attempting a review for a total stranger will be almost impossible, because you need ‘Constant access to, and a close and detailed understanding of, the person and lifestyle of the subject of the review’.
UNDERTAKING A SECURITY REVIEW
This book is broken down into chapters and sections, each one concentrating on a different aspect of your security.
NOTE: While performing a security review you may identify problems that are not security related. Do not ignore them; record them and deal with them in due course.
A security review is completed in simple stages. This book will teach you how to perform each of these stages.
Stage 1 – Review security
Review an aspect of your security to identify and record problems.
Stage 2 – Prioritize problems
Sort and prioritize those problems in order of severity, putting those that present the greatest threat to you and your lifestyle at the top of the list. You need to concentrate on resolving those problems whose resolution will give you the greatest possible reward for your efforts, while making best use of your limited resources.
Addressing the highest priority problems as soon as possible will enable you to make the greatest improvements to your security.
Stage 3 – Define countermeasures
For each problem, identify and define simple, affordable and achievable countermeasures that will resolve the problem to your satisfaction. You may come up with one or more possible countermeasures. If you cannot identify any countermeasures seek help and advice.
Stage 4 – Adopt and prioritize countermeasures
For each problem, consider the possible countermeasures. Look at the options and decide which countermeasure(s) you want to introduce. The considerations include:
- Benefit – how much will the proposed countermeasure improve your security? One that delivers marginal benefits should probably be shelved while you concentrate on a countermeasure that will deliver greater benefits.
- Cost – identify the financial cost of introducing each countermeasure. Don’t forget to look for hidden costs; a new door may cost £325, but the total cost includes a fitting charge of £125, a new lock, letterbox, handles etc. which cost a further £75, and repairing plaster and paint around the door which will cost a further £55.
- Resources – perhaps you can do the work yourself. If not, get at least three independent quotes, accepting the quote that offers best value. Remember, that may not necessarily be the cheapest quote! Factors such as the tradesman’s reputation, any personal recommendations you may have, the quality of the work proposed, the tradesman’s availability, and more should also be considered. Don’t forget your ‘gut feelings’; if something seems not quite right about them, use someone else.
- Degree of risk – you should also consider the level of risk you will be taking by not introducing a countermeasure.
- Not fixing the lock on the front door leaves the house totally insecure – a major risk which should be considered when you are deciding what countermeasures to take.
Stage 5 – Implement
When your review has been made, and you have decided which countermeasures to implement, in what order of priority – do it. This is the most vital stage of the process, the time when you act to protect yourself against the problems you have identified.
PACING YOUR REVIEW
Don’t rush it, but don’t delay unnecessarily. Read this book carefully and think about each area discussed. When you fully understand it you should have a valuable insight into the way apparently inconsequential and innocent acts, omissions and decisions could put your security at risk.
Using the information in this book, you will be able to identify and prioritize the specific problems that could turn you into a victim. More importantly, you will have learned to look at every-day situations and be able to identify where new risks and threats lie, allowing you to take immediate steps to avoid them. You will then be able to make changes to increase your security, by continually reviewing your life, identifying and avoiding new threats as they occur.
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
To understand and be able to perform an effective security review, you need this book, and:
- time to read the book and consider the range and type of problems discussed, then time to think through and identify how any of the issues raised could affect your unique lifestyle;
- the ability to decide on the relevance to your house and lifestyle of the problems discussed, while taking a broader view to decide if you are subject to other, more specific and unique, threats and risks forms, or other means of recording problems as you discover them, as well as for assigning appropriate and possible countermeasures;
- the skill, finances and resources to implement any countermeasure that you select.
The skills and knowledge required to perform a security review include:
- accepting that there are threats and risks all around us;
- accepting that some of your activities make you more vulnerable, and hence at a greater risk of becoming a victim;
- an ability to learn how to identify potential threats and risks in ‘your world’;
- an ability to learn how to identify possible countermeasures to reduce or remove your exposure to those threats and risks;
- an ability to remain alert to your surroundings, particularly in relation to some of your activities and actions;
- an ability to become equally aware of the activities and behaviour of the people around you, and to be prepared to take action to avoid developing or potential risks.
WHEN TO CARRY OUT YOUR REVIEW
As soon as possible, if you have never performed a security review.
During the year you should remain alert to changing circumstances and possible new problems, but you should perform a formal lifestyle security review at least every 12 months.
If there is a significant change in your life, you should at least undertake a partial security review. The more significant the change, the more reason there is to perform a complete security review! Reasons include:
- moving house;
- starting a new job;
- taking a different mode of transport to work – for example, the train instead of driving;
- getting married;
- having a child;
- coming into some money.
IT’S YOUR DECISION!
It is important to remember that this is general advice. Laws change and people and their lifestyles differ. Your lifestyle may be eccentric or unusual. You may have strange allergies, a love for dangerous sports and a pet tiger! Because there is only one ‘you’, this book can only raise your level of awareness and offer general advice, and you must treat it as such.
You must decide if you want to act on any of this advice. You must select and implement actions appropriate to you and your lifestyle.
You must check with relevant experts to make sure that you do the right thing for your circumstances.