Don't Be a Victim: Defend Your Home With Security Know-How

gloved hand with a golf club in front of a door
  • 1-20 hours
  • Intermediate
  • 50-1,000

There are more than two million reported home burglaries in the United States every year. With all the work we put into improving and repairing our homes, we should take a bit of time to insure that everything in it (including our families!) is safe. So, we reached out to the Education Manager of the Associated Locksmiths of America, Jim Hancock, to get his professional advice on home lock and security improvements DIYers can –and should –accomplish. (DIY): Tell us a bit about your experience as a locksmith and the Associated Locksmiths of America.

Jim Hancock (JH): I am a third generation locksmith. I started working in my grandfather’s shop when I was about eight, and began going on service calls as soon as I got my license at 15. Almost every member of my family has been in this industry at some point, so it’s a family legacy.

As of January 2013, the Associated Locksmiths of America became the ALOA Security Professionals Association to reflect the ever-changing industry and membership demographic. ALOA was formed in 1955 to share information and educate the public about the industry. Locksmithing has evolved from simply duplicating keys and repairing locks to working with the newest high security automotive technology, closed circuit television systems, alarm systems, access control systems, safes, vaults, time locks and working in investigative and forensic fields. We are an international organization with members around the world, from China to Mexico. And, we offer training to beginners and veterans across the country and in our Dallas, Texas, training center.

DIY: What should homeowners keep in mind as they analyze their home security needs?

JH: Sadly, the truth is that if someone wants in your home, they will get in your home. The goal of home security is to impede the progress of an intruder long enough to be detected.

It is imperative that you install deadbolts. While most regular knob and lever locks offer a mild degree of security, a deadbolt will deter or delay a break-in. However, one issue that occurs when a deadbolt is installed incorrectly is that the hole on the frame of the door, where the bolt goes when the door is locked, is often not drilled deep enough to allow the bolt to fully engage. If the bolt of a deadbolt lock isn’t extended completely, the deadbolt is pretty ineffective.

Look at your windows. If they slide open and are accessible from the outside, is there a second form of lock on them other than the one provided? Most of the locks provided with windows are only latches that simply hold a window closed, but don’t really lock them. Many can be manipulated from outside and opened with minimal effort.

Look at your sliding glass doors. A traditional patio door is the most vulnerable entry point since it’s usually in the back of the house, hidden from the watchful eyes of neighbors. These doors are usually only secured by the same type of latch that secures your windows, and many are installed incorrectly and can actually be lifted out of the frame from the outside even when locked. Just like the windows, make sure there is a secondary form of lock. Even a door pin, which helps to secure the movable door to the stationary door, and lessens the possibility of lifting the door out of its frame.

If you have a gate that leads to your rear yard, secure it with a lock other than what’s typically provided. Depending upon your brand of house locks, you can purchase locks for your gates that utilize the same keys so you don’t have to carry more than necessary.

Outdoor lighting is always a great idea to deter break-ins, as well.

DIY: What is the most important thing a homeowner can do to update the security of their home?

JH: Update the locks themselves and add deadbolts. Locks are like any other commodity you purchase –you get what you pay for. If you buy a $10 lock, you have a $10 lock. Why would you spend thousands of dollars for the stuff in your house and secure it with the cheapest lock you can find? Once you have a good lock that’s installed correctly, maintain it by lubricating it and keeping it tightened to the door.

DIY: What is the best type of hardware for exterior doors?

JH: High security and key control hardware. I can’t stress that enough. Deadbolts are a must. And on your entry doors, consider using a passage lock in conjunction with a deadbolt. You have no idea of the number of calls locksmiths get from customers that say they just stepped out to get the morning paper and the door closed behind them and locked. If you have a passage lock on the door just to control the door and a deadbolt for security, you can’t lock yourself out accidentally.

DIY: How often should keys and locks be changed?

When you move into a new house, apartment, office –regardless of when you are told it was rekeyed last.

When you give out keys to people like contractors and repairmen –anyone that is not a regular key holder. Even if you get it back, you never know if they have had it duplicated.

When you lose a key.

And just on safety principles, once every couple of years.

DIY: Finally, what’s new in home security?

JH: The amount of things introduced into our industry today is astounding, such as electronic door locks with keypads for residential use. Some actually have the ability to program special combinations that are one-time use for visitors like repairmen, or codes that only work at certain times of the day for a housekeeper or nanny. Some have remotes like what you use to unlock your automobile. There is just a lot of really fascinating technology that back when I was young only existed in the James Bond movies.

For more information about the AOAL Security Professionals Organization, visit their website at