Is your home secure? Are you prepared for an emergency? Whether you've lived in your home for 2 weeks or 12 years, answer these questions to find out how you can make your home a safer place for you and your loved ones.
Complete Home Safety and Security Checklist
Print out our handy checklist to bring with you from room to room:
Home safety assessment questions
1. Are any of your valuables visible from the street?
Residential burglaries account for nearly 75 percent of all break-ins in America. If you can see valuables inside your home from the street, so can a burglar. Burglars are notorious for “window shopping” so SafeWise encourages you to keep valuables, like cash, jewelry, electronics and guns, out of view.
2. Are your doors and windows visible from the street or from a neighbors view?
Burglars are always looking for ways to get into your home without being seen. Overgrown shrubs give them the concealment they want to break into your home without the neighbors noticing. Keep shrubs trimmed and be sure to use the yard signs and window decals provided by your home security company to alert potential burglars that your home has help being protected.
3. Are your doors made of either solid wood or metal clad?
Nearly one third of burglars enter a home through the front door. An old wooden door or a hollow one can be kicked in within seconds. Help beef up your home’s security by installing a windowless solid wood or metal clad door.
4. Are your entryways and pathways well lit at night?
A dark entrance or pathway is not only a safety hazard, it’s like rolling out the welcome mat for a burglar. SafeWise encourages you to use pathway lighting and motion lighting to illuminate your home’s exterior. Some alarm monitoring providers even offer apps that let you control your home’s lighting from your smartphone.
5. Is your house number clearly visible from the street?
When an emergency strikes, every second counts. Make sure that police, firefighters, and/or paramedics can quickly find the right house by keeping your house numbers visible. SafeWise advises checking your house numbers quarterly to ensure they haven’t faded or been obstructed by vegetation.
6. Can you see who’s at the door without opening it?
Opening the door to your home without knowing who’s on the other side can be frightening and dangerous. SafeWise urges home owners to select a quality door that’s equipped with a peep hole. If your home already has a quality door installed, but it doesn’t have a peep hole, you can purchase one and install it in the door. Wide angle peep holes are best because they offer the greatest range of view.
7. Do you have a cell phone in case of cut telephone wires?
Even if you don’t use a cell phone as your primary means of communication, having one handy is a good safety and security precaution. Some thieves will cut phone lines before they enter the home, so having a charged cell phone to call for help can benefit you.
8. Do you have a neighbor who has a spare set of keys to your home?
It’s always a good idea for a neighbor to be armed with a set of spare keys should you get locked out or if they need to enter your home in the event of an emergency. Just make sure it’s a neighbor you can trust.
9. Do you have all your mail held at the post office when you travel?
There are certain things a burglar looks for when he’s casing a neighborhood; an overflowing mailbox is one of them. Have your mail held at the post office if you’re travelling for an extended period of time or have a neighbor/relative pick the mail up for you.
10. Do you have an emergency escape plan in case of break-in?
A burglar trying to break-in is a homeowner’s worst nightmare. SafeWise believes you can never be too prepared for the unthinkable, so establish and practice an emergency escape plan with your family once or twice a year to make sure everyone is prepared in the case of a break-in.
11. Do you have any yard signs or window decals that state your home is monitored?
Be sure to display the yard and window decals that your home security company provides you with. SafeWise recommends placing these decals on the windows that face the side and rear of your home, as well as in the front, because 50 percent of the time a burglar enters the home via a window or back door.
12. Do you have fire extinguishers easily accessible throughout your home?
In 2012, a home structure fire was reported every 85 seconds in America. If a fire were to break out in your home right now, is your fire extinguisher easily accessible and functional? In addition to fire extinguishers, SafeWise suggests adding smoke and fire monitoring to your home security plan so your family will be alerted the moment trouble is detected.
13. Do you have keyed deadbolt locks installed on all of your doors?
A burglary occurs roughly every 20 seconds in the U.S., outfitting your home’s front and back door with a hardened steel bolt is your first line of defense against a burglar because it makes the door much more difficult to kick in.
14. Do you have motion-sensor lights installed?
The last thing a burglar wants is the spotlight. Incorporate motion-sensor lighting into your home security plan and you’ll send a strong signal to burglars that you take protecting your home seriously. In addition to securing the perimeter of your home, SafeWise advises also using motion-sensor lighting to secure sheds and garages.
15. Do you have secondary locks on sliding glass doors or do you secure the door with a dowel on the inside track?
Burglars love sliding doors, especially during the summer when they’re often left unlocked or open. You should know July and August are the two hottest months for break-ins, so be sure your sliding doors are locked, and outfitted with a secondary locking mechanism or dowel to provide additional security.
16. Do you have secondary locks on your windows?
Windows account for a quarter of all break-in entry points. That’s because they are frequently left unlocked, or outfitted with cheap window locks make them vulnerable to attack. Make it difficult for anyone to get in with help from secondary locks and window sensors.
17. Do you have timers on your lights?
Daytime burglaries account for nearly 40 percent of all break-ins, but a dark house is practically begging for a break-in. Inexpensive, easy to install, and simple to operate, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t have timers on your lights to make your home look occupied while you’re out and about. Alternatively, many home security companies offer apps that let you turn lights on and off right from your smartphone.
18. Do you keep an inventory of your personal property in case of theft?
In the event of a burglary, you don’t want to forget to include any stolen property on a report for the police or an insurance claim. Keeping an inventory of your personal property helps ensure you are compensated for all losses.
19. Do you keep medications out of sight?
Keeping medications out of sight means helping keep them out of the hands of burglars who could use your meds themselves or sell them on the street. Keeping your medicines off the counter helps reduce the temptation.
20. Do you keep your valuables stored in a safety deposit box or safe?
To keep your valuables safe, your best option is to keep them somewhere difficult for potential burglars to reach, such as a safety deposit box or a safe. Both of these can only be opened with a key or combination, so intruders can’t easily access them.
21. Do you know your neighbors across the street and on all three sides of your home?
Good neighbors look out for each other and share any suspicious activity they’ve noticed around other homes, particularly when someone is out of town or at the office. Knowing your neighbors is crucial for maintaining a sense of security in your area.
22. Do you leave a house key under your door mat?
Under the door mat is often one of the first hiding places a burglar will check for keys. Your best bet is to leave a spare key with a nearby, trusted neighbor or relative.
23. Do you lock the gate(s) to your backyard?
About 30 percent of all burglaries occur when a door or window is left open or unlocked, including those in the backyard. Keep the gates to your backyard locked, especially at night and when you are not at home, to help keep chances of burglary to a minimum.
24. Do you lock up your grills, lawn mowers, bikes, or other outdoor valuables?
Any valuable property that is kept outdoors should be locked up when not in use to keep it from being easily accessible for burglars. If you can put it out of sight and lock it up, that’s even more ideal.
25. Do you lock all doors at night and every time you leave the house, even if it’s just for a few minutes?
It doesn’t take long for a burglar to break into your home, especially if a door is left unlocked. Even if you’re only leaving home for a moment, it’s important to always lock the door behind you. The same goes for locking the doors at night. Even if you’re home, the doors should be locked.
26. Do you shred documents with personal information before disposing them?
Even if it’s something like unwanted junk mail, you should always shred any document that may have personal information on it before throwing it in your trash can. This can help you ensure your personal identity is less at risk for being stolen.
27. Do your doors fit tight in their frames?
While an unlocked door is the most common entry point for a burglar, a flimsy door is another common way to break-in. If your doors do not fit tightly, you should install weather stripping around them to better hold them in place.
28. Does your neighborhood have a watch program?
A good quality neighborhood watch program is to have a focus on educating neighbors on how to actively look out for one another to prevent or lessen crimes in their area. Burglaries decreased more than 30 percent nationwide throughout the 1990s, thanks to neighborhood watch programs.
29. Have all your doors been rekeyed since you moved in?
If your home or apartment was owned by someone before you, they (or whoever they gave keys to) could still potentially have a key that can unlock your doors. It’s best to rekey your home—which is easier than changing out all of the locks—so only you have all of the copies of the key to your home.
30. Have there been any break-ins in the neighborhood recently?
If a house in your neighborhood has been broken into, you need to be on higher alert about your own home security. You could face an increased risk of burglary, as burglars may return to the area of a successful break-in and target similar homes nearby.
31. Have you secured any mail slots, dryer vents, or pet entrances that a burglar could enter through?
Even if you keep all of your doors and windows locked, burglars can still attempt to access locks from a dryer vent, mail slot or pet entrance. It’s important to have some sort of box, cage, or other locking mechanism over these possible entry points to help keep your home as burglar-proof as possible.
32. Is your home’s exterior well lit?
If you have the right outdoor lighting in place, a well-lit home could help deter burglars from trying to enter your home. It’s easier to be seen with outdoor lighting, so burglars are more likely to stay away from lights and go in search of darker places to target.
33. Is your street well-lit at night?
In addition to having a well-lit home, having a well-lit neighborhood can be another deterrent for burglars. If the neighborhood is kept well-lit at night, it can help the area be safer to walk around, and burglars are more likely to stay out of the neighborhood as a whole.
34. Do you have a company that monitors your home alarm system?
Home security providers can offer 24/7 monitoring of your home and can notify you of emergencies in your home, including fire, carbon monoxide, or a burglary, wherever you are. You’ll also have a trained monitoring specialist on the line ready to help you contact the authorities if necessary. Compare alarm monitoring providers to find the right one for you.
35. Do you have surveillance cameras?
Nine out of ten convicted burglars say they’d avoid targeting a home with video surveillance. If you’re looking to take your home security to the next level, surveillance cameras can be a strong addition to any home security strategy.
36. Do you have working carbon monoxide detectors?
Each year, more than 150 people die from non-fire-related carbon monoxide poisoning. SafeWise recommends installing carbon monoxide detectors and test them regularly (once a month) to make sure you’re protected against this invisible danger.
37. Do you have working smoke detectors?
Three out of five house fire deaths occur in households without working smoke alarms. Make sure to check batteries and test your smoke detector regularly (at least twice a year).
38. Do you store your ladders and tools in a locked garage or shed?
Don’t give would-be burglars the tools they need to break into your house. Make sure tools, ladders, and any other equipment they could utilize is kept locked away.
39. Have you installed a home security system?
Homes without security systems are more likely to be burglarized than those with a security system. 60% of convicted burglars say the presence of an alarm would cause them to seek a different home to burglarize. SafeWise recommends reading reviews and comparing security providers to decide which one is right for you.
If you’re like most homeowners, you may not know about all of the things that would make your home vulnerable. Now that you’ve gone through our home security checklist, you can assess possible weaknesses in your home and fix areas that will help burglar-proof your home.