How to Perform a Home Security Survey

Feb. 1, 2003

We need to educate the public to better understand the role of the locksmith as their security professional. A locksmith/security professional does much more than change the combination of a lock and originate and duplicate keys. We know the types and grades of locks and related door hardware that should be used to secure a customer's residence, business, or property. We are experienced and knowledgeable to recommend the most appropriate security for their budget and possessions.

I personally take offense that, in order to develop a home security survey, we must think like a burglar. That is foolish. To adequately provide security, we must think about how to properly secure the windows and entrances into a residence.

When you do a security survey, talk only about the basic recommendations of the survey. Never use the survey to up sell a customer. Discuss the appropriate locks and door hardware for the location. Think not only about the locks, but also about the area surrounding the residence. This would include shrubbery, lighting, gates, and surrounding visibility. The less privacy available to a would-be burglar, the smaller the likelihood the residence will be chosen for a burglary.

Use your imagination when doing a survey. Think about the areas of vulnerability and the different options to eliminate the vulnerability.

Walk around the residence, preferably with a digital camera. Take pictures. These pictures can be downloaded to your computer and reviewed later. A computer-generated report can be developed for each customer. If a digital camera is not an option, use a camera or draw pictures of doors, gates, and windows and note their locations. A simple report should be created for the customer.

Do a daytime and nighttime walk around. This way, you will see what coverage the existing lighting provides and what areas are concealed in darkness. A minimum of a 40-watt bulb should light every exterior door.

Take pictures of previous jobs. Build at least two portfolios. Make one portfolio of commercial jobs and a second portfolio of residential jobs. Take a portfolio with you when you discussing security or doing a home survey with your customer. The residential portfolio is especially valuable if it has a number of decorative hardware photos. This way, your customer will be able to ask you about upgrades.

Let's use this knowledge to develop a survey for the average home. This survey will also be practical for a condominium or townhome.

Let's begin at the street looking at the home:

  • Are there shrubs, vines, or trees that obstruct the front door or windows? Make sure that there are several feet between vegetation and the sides of the house.
  • Do trees offer access to second story? Trim trees as necessary to eliminate access to upper windows.
  • Are expensive items such as stereos, big screen televisions, DVD/CD racks visible from the street? Either move the items or install opaque window treatments. Do not invite a burglar to think about your residence.

Let's walk around home and begin at the exterior doors:

  • Are exterior doors solid wood or metal construction? If not, recommend immediate replacement. Hollow-core wood doors provide little protection.
  • Have locks been rekeyed since your customer moved in? If not, and the locks are appropriate, recommend they be recombinated.
  • Does the front door have peephole? If not, recommend the installation of a 180-degree viewing peephole.
  • Do any of the exterior doors open out? If yes, install a long headless screw into one of the hinge screw holes that extends through the other leaf when the door is closed. This will stop the exterior door from being taken off, if the hinge pins are removed. As an alternative, install Non-Removable Pin (NRP) hinges.
  • Is there cracking or paint peeling around the frame? When the door is closed and moved, does the frame move slightly? The frame may not be strong enough to provide security. Recommend installing a reinforced strike plate.
  • Are there windows in any exterior door within arms length of the locks? If yes, you may want to recommend installing a double-sided deadbolt. However, check local ordinances and discuss fire and safety precautions regarding a double-sided deadbolt with the customer.
Do the door locks, entry and deadbolt, provide the proper level of security? Does the deadbolt have a one-inch bolt and the entry lock have a dead latch? If not, recommend the proper level of security for the home.
  • Are the door locks properly installed? Lubricate and check the operation of the locks.
  • How much gap is there between the door edge and the strike plate? If there is more than 1/4-inch gap, you may want to install an additional strike plate or a reinforced strike plate.
  • Can the door lock knob or lever be reached through a mail slot? If so, it is advisable to raise the door lock.
  • Is there a pet entrance in the door? If yes, is there a method to secure the pet door? If not, a piece of Plexiglas with a heavy duty showcase lock or locks can be used to secure most pet doors.
  • Is the home equipped with sliding glass doors? If yes, can the sliding panel be lifted out of its track? If yes, open the slide door and install several screws about two feet apart along the visible length of the upper track sticking out far enough to stop the sliding door from being lifted out. Is a key-operated auxiliary lock used to secure the sliding glass door? If not, recommend the use of either a key operated lock or a keyed bar to secure the door.
  • Does the door from the garage or the basement to the living quarters have locks that provide a sufficient level of security? If not, recommend installing appropriate locks.
The goal is to keep burglars away from the residence.

Let's discuss the windows:
Windows are vulnerable points of entry. Check the windows that are easily accessible from the ground, including the first floor and basement windows. Check out second-floor windows that are quickly accessible with the use of a ladder or an overhanging tree.

  • Are all of the windows in operating condition and equipped with adequate locks? If not, recommend appropriate window locks.
  • Can the windows be left open for ventilation and still be secured? Talk about different window locks that are designed to permit ventilation.
  • Are the areas surrounding the windows free from concealment including a structure or landscaping? If not, recommend cutting back any plants or trees.
  • Do windows have screens or storm windows that lock from the inside? Remember, an aluminum or fiberglass screen does not provide protection.
  • Do any windows open into areas that may be hazardous or offer special risk to burglary (for example, windows that overlook an alley)? These windows need to have additional security including security screens, grills, high-impact windows, etc.
  • Is the exterior adequately lighted at all window areas?
  • Have the homeowner remove any objects that can be used as a ladder to gain access to second floor windows.
  • If the home is equipped with a window air conditioner, is it secured from the inside of the residence? If the air conditioner is secured from outside, a burglar could remove the air conditioner and gain access to the residence.

The garage door is designed to provide access to a vehicle and convenience for the homeowner. Many residences have an automatic garage door opener. Some of the older openers have a fixed code, which can be compromised. Several garage door opener companies offer an upgrade to new remotes and an add-on control unit that incorporates rolling code technology.

  • Is the automobile entrance door to the garage equipped with an adequate locking device on the inside and outside in addition to a garage door opener (for example, hasps and padlocks on the outside and inside)?
  • Are the hasps and padlocks properly mounted and appropriate for the residence? Make sure the hasps are mounted with bolts that cannot be removed from the same side.
  • Is the garage door kept closed and locked at all times? Remember most garages contain tools that can be used to open the connecting door.
  • Is the outside swinging door entrance to the garage equipped with the appropriate locks? This door is usually on the side of the garage that cannot be seen from the street.

Burglars will go for the residence with the least amount of resistance. If there are two residences, one with a deadbolt lock and the second without a deadbolt, a burglar is more likely to target the second residence. So here are some additional recommendations you can offer your customer.

  • Always leave some lights on in your house at night.
  • Keep the lawn mowed and the landscaping in good appearance.
  • Never leave newspapers in the front.
  • Use electrical timers to turn on and off lights and appliances when no one is home. This makes a home appear occupied.
  • When vacationing, ask a neighbor to park his or her car in your driveway.
  • Never place the box from the new big screen television or other expensive item on the curb for trash pickup. Instead, cut up the box and tight it with string, being careful to hide the product identification.

After you complete your security survey, take some time to think about your recommendations. When you talk to the customer, be ready to make recommendations concerning what security measures you would like to implement.

Discuss not only the recommendations, but have examples of the locks and hardware you would want to install. Bring several different products and discuss the benefits of each. Have your customer examine the range of products.

If you do not want to do an in-person survey, you can provide your customers a copy of the security survey so they can survey their own residences. If possible, have the customer photograph the exterior of his or her residence or business. Once the survey has been completed, you can read the survey and discuss the findings.

Feel free to make a copy of this survey and use it in your business.