Safety And Security Concerns Must Share Space

Home improvement includes answering security concerns.

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Q: After a recent break-in in my neighborhood I decided to put bars on my windows and install deadbolt locks on my French doors, my front door and my side door. Because the French doors are mostly glass, I wanted a lock with a key on both sides of the door, but I'm having trouble finding anyone willing to install such a lock. They tell me it's not safe. But with all that glass I'm afraid the lock could be opened by simply breaking the glass and reaching inside and turning the knob on the deadbolt. How can I make my home safer?

A: If someone were to break the glass to reach the deadbolt, he could just as easily break all the glass and simply walk through the opening.

I understand your security concerns, but safety concerns are equally important; how would you escape in an emergency such as a fire or break-in. If you have a deadbolt that requires a key on the interior of the door, where would you store the key to keep it hidden and would you be able to locate it quickly in a panic?

No, a double-keyed deadbolt is a bad idea in a number of situations. Modern codes also prohibit a double-keyed deadbolt on an exit door. The codes are to protect not only you, but those who would risk their lives to save you. A firefighter entering the home to rescue you wouldn't know where to find the key.

I have a friend who had lived in his home for more than 20 years and knew the layout of his home like the back of his hand. Yet during a fire that broke out in his family room, he lost his sense of direction and almost perished. I shudder to think what might have happened had the exit doors been locked and required a key before he could make his escape.

When considering security systems, talk with professionals in the home protection business, such as those at ADT or Brinks. Window bars might make a burglar think twice, but they, too, can become a bad idea when you consider emergency exits. Fire codes require all rooms used for sleeping to have at least two exits. A bedroom door should never open directly to another room or to a garage.

Ask the local police liaison officer for tips on how to make the home more secure, such as with placement of outside lighting. Ask the fire department for advice on making an escape route, what to do in case of a fire and how to prevent fires. But, in the meantile, here are a few tips from me:

  • Never use extension cords with Christmas tree lights, and always turn the tree lights off before going to bed or leaving the house.
  • Never place an extension cord under a rug or run one through a wall or floor opening. Extension cords must be air-cooled all the time.
  • Do not leave a fire burning overnight in a fireplace or woodstove.
  • Extinguish candles and lamps as soon as you are finished using them.
  • Do not leave the clothes dryer on when you're sleeping or not at home; lint buildup can cause a fire.
  • Store matches and lighters out of the reach of small children.
  • Store fuel for appliances or powered equipment outside in a well-ventilated area.
  • Do not do your own electrical repairs. Use only proper-sized fuses and do not use substitutes such as pennies in the fuse panel. Store oily rags or oily papers outside in case of spontaneous combustion.
  • Do not throw water or flour on a grease fire. Have an ABC fire extinguisher handy in the kitchen and garage or workshop.

Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home-improvement questions at C. Dwight Barnett, or write to PO Box 268, Evansville, IN 47702.

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