How to stay safe at home

Barely a day goes past without another news headline proclaiming someone viciously attacked, robbed or worse in their own home.

The past year has seen domestic burglaries rise 14 per cent, while recent figures for England and Wales revealed a householder is attacked by a violent burglar every 30 minutes.

But the crime statistics needn’t make you feel like a victim-in-waiting in your own front room. 


There are some easy steps you can take to make your house a safer place to be. 

To mark this year’s National Personal Safety Day (October 10) the Suzy Lamplugh Trust - set up following the disappearance of the 25-year-old estate agent in 1986 - has launched a campaign to get more people taking simple safety precautions.

So what can you do to minimize the risks at home?

Protect against bogus callers

Install a door chain and outside lighting – and never answer the door before you’ve checked through a spy-hole or window if you know the caller. If not, put the chain on before opening the door and ask for ID.

Don’t be rushed into accepting their claims – keep them waiting even if that means calling the company they say they work for to check.  And once you have let the caller in, never leave them alone while you go into a different room. Thieves often work in pairs so don’t open the front door to a stranger without locking your back door first.


Keep doors and windows locked
Invest in good door and window locks. Check all locks before leaving the house and keep front and back doors and accessible windows locked to outsiders even when you are in.
It may sound extreme, but the Lamplugh Trust advises avoiding opening doors and windows wide even in summer. The Trust insists: "It’s safer to open a lot of windows a little way (and locking them to prevent them being opened further) than it is to open one or two windows far enough for someone to climb through.”

Pretend you’re in when you’re not
If you’re out, try to make your house look like someone is in. That means cancelling the milk to avoid bottles piling up, asking a neighbour to collect post and leaving a light on or installing an automatic light on/light off system – and even a system that switches radios on and off. Other tips from the Metropolitan Police include: encourage a neighbour to park on your drive, draw the curtains if you will be out after dark and install a burglar alarm or a dummy alarm box as a deterrent.

Keep hedges trimmed
Along with security lighting it is a good idea to keep hedges and bushes trimmed to allow clear views and avoid having places where someone could hide. But it is also advisable to have a secure boundary around your back garden, which is high or awkward enough to make scaling it difficult.

Get crunchy gravel

Crunchy gravel on driveways and paths will make any approach noisier – a useful warning for householders and a deterrent for intruders.
 
Check in with friends and family
If you live alone, try to ensure someone always knows where you are and that you are OK. Even a quick text to let a friend know you’re home and safe after a night out is enough.

Don’t get comfortable in your own street
Stay alert when approaching your home, until you are safely indoors. Have your keys to hand so you are not fumbling on the doorstep and think of safe places you could go if you felt threatened, whether that be a shop, friend’s house or a pub.

Carry a personal safety alarm

These devices, costing as little as £5, can shock or disorientate an attacker, giving you vital seconds to get away. Pick one with the shrillest, loudest siren possible.
 
Don’t  shout about it
Avoid broadcasting – whether on sites such as Facebook or when you’re out or at work - that you live alone or will be alone in the house at a certain time. Similarly, don’t boast about your upcoming holidays to anyone you don’t know well.

Keep keys hidden
Never leave a spare key concealed anywhere near the front door – as the Met Police note: "Burglars know all the hiding places." Also never store keys near the front door to avoid letterbox burglaries, and never label your house keys in case you lose them.

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