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Home Security [Hardfacts]

Introduction

Theft is a risk facing all households, but steps can be taken to reduce it. This Hardfacts outlines some of the issues to be considered; principally from the perspective of an occupier, but some will be of application to landlords too.

Basic Principles

There are some basic principles of security that can be deployed to check/enhance security at homes.

Layered Security

It can be helpful to think of home security in terms of ‘layers' or protection, each layer needing to be overcome by thieves before they achieve their aim. This concept of layered security, sometimes referred to as ‘the onion ring' principle, should start outside the home and work inwards; noting that good security usually results from having a range of complementary security measures, ideally a mix of psychological, physical or electronic barriers to entry, in place at each layer and overall. As a guide you should consider all these potential layers:

  • 1st Layer - Natural Surveillance
  • 2nd Layer - Signs of Occupancy
  • 3rd Layer - Garden/Boundaries
  • 4th Layer - Buildings
  • 5th Layer - Detection
  • 6th Layer - Removing/Reducing Attraction
  • 7th Layer - Internal Barriers
  • 8th Layer - Recovery

The bulk of this ‘Hardfacts' provides some examples of possible security measures at each respective layer.

The Four ‘Ds'

When evaluating the likely worth of any particular security measure at each layer, consider it with reference to the four ‘D's, that is, does a security measure do all or some of the following:

  • Deter theft
  • Defend the property
  • Detect the presence of intruders
  • Delay the removal of property

Replacement and Insurance

Subject to its availability, insurance is one means by which financial recompense for losses may be provided, so:

  • Ensure that any insurance cover and related sums insured are adequate.
    Note: Antiques, jewellery and historic items can be hard to value, so a professional valuation is often advisable.
  • Ensure any insurer's conditions regarding locks, alarms and use of safes, etc, are observed

Insurer's Minimum Security Standards

When insurance is sought against theft, it's provision may be conditional upon homes having a certain level of physical security, often termed "Minimum Security Standard" (MSS), or maybe Minimum Security Requirement or Condition.

MSS tend to concentrate on the fitting and use of common locks on typical doors and windows and may vary according to the insurer or the type of insurance contract. The RISCAuthority, the UK insurer's technical body has published a useful guide on the subject of MSS at homes - see Sources of Further Information.  

Possible Security Measures

Within the respective layers noted, examples are shown below of typical security measures that can usefully be adopted:

1st Layer - Natural Surveillance

Neighbours can be useful allies in detecting and preventing crime, so consider:

  • Asking them to watch for unusual activity, especially if you're away on holiday
  • Not letting hedges/shrubs become so large that they block a neighbours' view of your home, and thus possibly conceal thieves
  • Using external sensor or timer controlled lights to provide dusk/night time lighting
  • Starting or taking part in a ‘Neighbourhood Watch' scheme

2nd Layer - Signs of Occupancy

Occupancy is a real deterrent to thieves, so when the home is temporarily unattended, e.g. during a working day/evening:

  • Use internal sensor or timer controlled lights to provide dusk/night time lighting
  • Leave a TV or radio on (but not so loud that they could disturb any neighbours)
  • Use a telephone answer phone message that says you are ‘unavailable at the moment', not that you are ‘sorry you are out', or worst ‘away on holiday'

Note. If you use email, similar caution is advisable re the wording of any auto generated "out of office" messages. 

  • If you put a wheeled bin out for kerbside rubbish collection, ask someone to put it back in its normal place after emptying.
  • Ask someone to take charge of any deliveries whilst you are out/away e.g. milk, newspapers, etc.
  • Don't show your address on the outside of holiday luggage - it could be spotted by criminals, or their accomplices, and help direct thieves to an empty home.

Note. In similar vein, if you use a Sat Nav device do not store your home address in it and leave it in your parked vehicle especially at long stay airport car parks etc.  

If you are going to be away for a longer period of time, e.g. holidays, then also:

  • Cancel newspapers/milk, or redirect post
  • Ask someone to visit and close/open your curtains and remove/bring in  any deliveries
  • If your car is normally on your driveway, ask someone to park theirs on it instead
  • Unless you normally close them each day, leave any driveway gates open

3rd Layer - Garden/Boundaries

If a home has one, a garden or frontage is the first area a thief must cross to commit crime, so:

  • Keep walls, hedges, fences and gates in good repair, and lock gates if practical
  • Avoid siting valuable statues, tubs, benches, etc, in vulnerable gardens, or fix them to a pedestal or some form of ground anchor

4th Layer - Buildings

Thieves generally look for easy pickings, so take steps to make theft more difficult, for example by:

Preventing easy entry to your home


Good physical perimeter security is essential; which is why certain types of door and window locks may be specified by your insurance company.
‘Hardfacts' Door & Window Security provides further information, but in general ensure that:

  • External doors and windows are in good condition and well secured to the building
  • External doors are fitted with good quality locks/padlocks, and opening windows with key operated locks if they are accessible, i.e. those on basement or ground floors plus those on upper floors which can easily be reached by climbing.
  • If unsure about fitting locks yourself use a competent locksmith, e.g. a member of the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA)
  • All doors and windows are locked every time you leave and, except in occupied bedrooms, when you retire to bed
  • Don't leave keys to your home in their locks, within reach of letter flaps or within sight or reach of external glazing, etc
  • Don't leave spare keys under mats, plant pots, dustbins, etc

Preventing easy theft from the home

 

  • Don't leave car keys, wallets or purses, etc, within sight or reach of letter flaps - thieves can fish them out.
  • Don't display valuables, ceramic figurines, small antiques, etc, on accessible window sills
  • Don't label keys with your address - if lost they could assist potential thieves
  • Beware of the risk of identity theft. Burn or shred waste personal documents
  • Don't leave xmas/wedding presents, etc, on view in externally accessible rooms

Outbuildings and Garages

These buildings may contain items that are either of attraction to thieves, or that could aid a break in to the main building, so check that:

  • Doors and windows are at least as secure as in those in the home, and otherwise use padlocks on doors and bars or mesh grilles on windows
  • Garden/other power tools are not left in view or reach of unprotected windows
  • Ride on mowers have keys removed and are secured by wheel clamps or padlocks/chains
  • Ladders are locked up, either inside or chained and padlocked to a wall or fence

5th Layer - Detection

Intruder alarms can deter theft, but are otherwise a reliable means of alerting someone to any break in. ‘Hardfacts' Intruder Alarms - Guidelines for Purchasers provides further information. The BSIA and The RISCAuthority also publish useful free guides on Intruder Alarms. In general terms:

  • Only use a competent installer, e.g. a company listed by the National Security Inspectorate (NSI) or Security Systems & Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB)
  • Always use the alarm if leaving your home unattended, even if only ‘popping out' for a few moments
  • Consider part setting the alarm when you retire to bed at night, e.g. the ground floor area
  • If neighbours are not your keyholders, ask them to keep keyholder contact details

6th Layer - Removing/Reducing Attraction

Theft of items can sometimes be avoided, or their attraction reduced, by the following:

  • Removal of valuable items to a secure store, e.g. to a bank vault
  • Use of overt or covert ‘security marking' products, e.g. those supplied by companies such as Selectamark and Smartwater
  • Displaying notices/window stickers to advertise your security measures

7th Layer - Internal Barriers

Once an intruder enters your home, they will be looking to minimise the time spent within, so consider the benefits of hindering their further access to key rooms/valuables by:

  • Locking internal doors
    Note: Consider this with care, as without an intruder alarm thieves may cause undetected and extensive damage forcing them open.
  • Using a security safe to store jewellery, watches, small valuables and items such as cash, credit cards, passports, etc. Safe manufacturers will usually suggest a ‘Grade' and/or a related cash and jewellery limit for their safes, ideally certified by an independent test body. But in any event, the insurable limit should always be checked with any interested insurer.
  • If you are away for some time, concealing larger high value items within the home, e.g. within a loft or behind bath panelling, etc.

8th Layer - Recovery

Following theft of items of sentimental and/or historic value, most owners would much prefer to recover the originals rather than seek replacements. However, without adequate proof of ownership the police may not be able to return to you any suspected stolen items they may recover, so:

  • Have suitable items ‘security marked' - visible or covert marking, or both
  • Record serial numbers of electrical goods, mowers and plant, etc
  • Take photographs of antiques, clocks, pictures, silver, ceramics, jewellery, etc
  • Record identifying features likely to be only known to you, e.g. makers' names, marks, chips, scratches, repairs, etc.

Key Action Steps

  • Review your current security and consider the need for improvements. One useful way to do this is to imagine you are a burglar and are planning to break in, consider where you would start, what would to aim for and what might put you off?

  • Clearly establish what you wish further security measures to achieve and, where appropriate, chose those that have a suitable security rating and/or meet a recognised British Standard - ideally looking for one that has its compliance vouched for (tested) by an independent certification body

  • Use suitably accredited and competent providers for locks/safes, intruder alarm or CCTV system work. For example companies listed by the Master Locksmiths Association (MLA), National Security Inspectorate (NSI) or the Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB).

  • Ask your police crime reduction officer for advice

  • Seek your insurance company's approval or advice over proposed security changes, and otherwise ensure that any insurer's security conditions are observed.

  • Review security after any loss; if you fail to do so you are at high risk of a repeat incident

Sources of Further Information

Other Hardfacts in the Property Protection - Security Series, which are available in our ‘Knowledge Store' at www.aviva.co.uk/risksolutions

Your local Police Crime Prevention Unit.

Master Locksmiths Association. Tel 01327 262255 or visit www.locksmiths.co.uk

The Door and hardware Federation (DHF) Tel 01827 52337 or visit http://www.dhfonline.org.uk/

Secured by Design (SBD) http://www.securedbydesign.com/

For intruder alarms: 

The National Security Inspectorate (NSI). Tel 0845 006 3003 or see www.nsi.org.uk

The Security Systems and Alarms Inspection Board (SSAIB). Tel 0191 296 3242 or see www.ssaib.org

The British Security Industry Association (BSIA). Tel 0845 389 3889 or see www.bsia.co.uk

The RISCAuthority (the UK insurers' technical advice body). See www.riscauthority.co.uk

In particular, see their S24 guide to Physical Security for Homes

http://www.riscauthority.co.uk/free-document-library/RISCAuthority-Library_detail.s24-physical-security-for-homes-guidance-for-occupiers.html

National Neighbourhood Watch. Tel 0116 271 0052 or see www.neighbourhoodwatch.net

For marking products:

European Certification Board - Safes (ECB-S). See www.ecb-s.com

Next Steps

  • Source discounted products, available to Aviva insured customers and brokers, via our Specialist Partners - click here to find out more about the savings you could make
  • Call our Risk Helpline on 0345 366 66 66
  • Email us at riskadvice@aviva.com
  • View our Tools and Templates

Please Note
This document contains general information and guidance and is not and should not be relied on as specific advice. The document may not cover every risk, exposure or hazard that may arise and Aviva recommend that you obtain specific advice relevant to the circumstances. AVIVA accepts no responsibility or liability towards any person who may rely upon this document.

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