Bristol & Bath Locksmiths - Security Tips & Advice
Helping you to help keep Bristol and Bath Homes Secure
Based on our years of experience this page is dedicated to Bristol and Bath Locksmiths' security tips and advice. As you will see it is not all about fitting expensive high security locks, a lot of the tips below are simple common sense ideas that are free, or cost very little, to implement.
Check if Your Locks Are Insurance Approved.
Bristol and Bath Locksmiths would recommend making sure your locks are of an insurance approved design. This is important for two reasons: Firstly if your locks are insurance approved this means that they are of a level of security that means your property is less likely to get broken into. Secondly, in the unfortunate event that you should suffer a break-in, having insurance approved locks means that you are a lot less likely to have any problems with your insurance claim.
Bristol and Bath locksmiths have put together a great detailed article that can help you identify if your locks are insurance approved. It can be found on the home page, to go directly to it click here: Bristol and Bath Locksmiths article to help identify if your locks are insurance approved.
Use the locks you have Correctly
This may sound like we're stating the obvious but we find, both from our own experience of meeting customers in Bristol and Bath and from our Bristol neighbourhood watch partners in the Avon and Somerset constabulary, that a substantial proportion of locks in both domestic and commercial settings are not being used correctly. In fact our jobs as locksmiths attending locked out customers is often made easier as a result of this, but we'd rather keep Bristol and Bath properties as secure as possible so please read the section below.
If you have a traditional 'yale' type night latch lock, (as pictured to the left also see our 'Lock Types' page) very widely fitted in Bristol and Bath - particularly shared houses (HMOs), it is important for maximum security for the deadlocking snib to be activated at night, otherwise it is much easier for the door to be opened without the key. These standard models can only be deadlocked by somebody inside the house, so well worth doing at bed time etc, but not much good when you leave the house.
You might have one of the newer deadlocking versions of the nightlatch (as shown in the picture to the left - but please note that not all locks that look like this, i.e. with the squared off design, have the deadlocking feature), but it is important to know how the deadlock feature works. These locks do not just deadlock automatically when you pull the door shut. When the door is just pulled shut the latch will just be held in place under spring pressure. This leaves the door prone to forced entry by direct manipulation of the latch - as with the standard models above.
In order to deadlock the lock, i.e. mechanically lock the latch in place, the key has to be used. On most models the deadlock feature is activated by turning the key in the reverse direction. On some models it is possible to turn the internal handle before exiting and then the deadlock feature will activate when the door is pulled shut.
Another variation of the deadlocking night latch is what is often referred to as an 'auto deadlocking' nightlatch. Again we find these very commonly fitted in the Bristol and Bath region. An example of this variant is pictured to the left. The important item to note is what looks like a second small latch on the lock. This is what activates the auto deadlocking feature. When the door is open this little latch, or tongue as it is sometimes referred to, is extended. With the tongue in this extended position the latch is free to move in and out against spring pressure, just as with any night latch lock, so when the door is pulled shut the latch will be pushed into the body of the lock as it moves past the keep (the keep is the part of the lock that's mounted on the frame - also known as the staple or strike), and once the door has moved into the closed position the latch will spring out again into the cut away in the keep. However there is no cut away in the keep at the corresponding part where the little 'tongue' is. The tongue therefore stays pushed into the body of the lock and that is what activates the auto deadlock feature.
The auto deadlocking tongue is a clever and useful feature to have on a lock, and it does make our life as a locksmith attending a lock out more difficult, but once again it is important to understand what it does and doesn't do and it's limitations. When the door is pulled shut the latch is deadlocked so far as forced manipulation directly of the latch is concerned, but the not so far as the handle on the inside is concerned - the handle on the inside will still operate the latch therefore unlocking and opening the door. So if this type of lock was fitted to a door with glass panes, and an intruder smashed one of the glass panes and reached round to the handle of the lock he would be able to open it. Some of these automatic deadlocking locks do have the option of disabling the handle also by further deadlocking by use of the key.
The final part part of our 'use your locks correctly' section concerns the correct use of stub or pad handle locks as fitted UPVC doors (example pictured to the left). This is perhaps the most miss-used lock of all - so much so that the matter has been recently highlighted by our partners at Bristol neighbourhood watch. We have therefore written up a full article on the subject which can be found on our home page - to go directly to the article click here: Article on wrong use of Stub/pad handled upvc door locks. As with some of the examples above the incorrect use of these locks makes for easy pickings for us locksmiths when we're attending emergency access (lock out) situations, so will do for thieves to. We would strongly urge you to have a quick look through the article if you have this type of lock.
Fit Exterior Security Lighting
There's a great range of dedicated security lighting available on the market these days, from the classic PIR floodlights of various designs and wattages, through to more individual lantern and contemporary style designs. A lot of these now come with modern energy saving bulbs - making them a lot cheaper to run than they used to be. We at Bristol and Bath Locksmiths wouldn't necessarily recommend any particular type but we certainly would recommend these units in general.
And don't forget that the PIR unit does not have to be integral to the lighting units that you use. Whilst there is a big choice of designs so far as the integrated units are concerned, if you decide that you just can't find one that you like, or you wish to control a range of lighting units from one PIR unit, it is possible to buy standalone PIR units.
These standalone PIR units (such as the one shown here) will usually incorporate a motion sensor along with a 'dusk to dawn' sensor, just as with the integrated models (and the sensitivity etc of the sensors can be adjusted just as with the integrated units). The unit is installed in a suitable location and then any outdoor light(s) can be connected to it.
As well as improving the security of your home or property, such exterior lighting will also improve it's functionality and ambience, making your outdoor areas more usable at night, and your garden a nicer place to hang out in later into those summer evenings. In the photo here a standalone PIR unit can be seen controlling various lights in this outside area.
Interior Security Lighting
Exterior PIR lighting is what most people think of when they think of security light, but equally important is the security lighting within your home or property. This can simply be a couple of interior lights just being left on, but it is much better to have a couple of your interior lights connected to timer units.
The simplest of these are timer sockets, either electronic or mechanical, you simply plug the timer socket into a wall socket, set it, and plug something like a bedside light into the timer socket. The photo here shows a 'mechanical' type timer socket where the 'on' / 'off' times are set by moving the dials around. More modern digital units are also widely available. The digital units the advantage of allowing a more varied program of on/off times, however, compared to the mechanical type they can be, or at least to some seem, more complicated to use.
Change Euro Cylinder Locks To Anti-Snap
There has been a lot in the news over the past few years about lock snapping burglaries (click here to view an article on the subject of lock snapping from the BBC). If your property does have these locks fitted they could indeed pose a major security weakness. Here we shall give an explanation of the problem and how to rectify it by fitting anti-snap locks.Example of anti snap euro cylinder lock[/caption]
If you are not sure if you have euro profile cylinder locks on your doors please see our lock Types page to help identify the type of locks you have. See our euro cylinder lock snapping Youtube video (below) for an explanation of what is lock snapping and what are anti-snap locks.
As we discuss in the video there is no sure way knowing if a lock is of an anti-snap design without actually removing the lock cylinder and inspecting it's construction. Contrary to what some 'experts' might say The BS (British standards institute) kite mark is not a guarantee that a lock is of an ant-snap design. The kite mark is a stamp to indicate that a particular lock has passed certain British Standards tests, which can include snap resistance, but equally might not.
We at Bristol and Bath Locksmiths strongly recommend these lock upgrades to improve the security of your property. Increasingly many insurance companies are also specifying the fitting of anti-snap locks as part of their policies. However remember that anti-snap does not mean absolutely snap proof, a determined burglar prepared to use enough time and effort may still be able to snap even an 'anti-snap' lock, so the other security measures discussed on this page and elsewhere on the site should not be overlooked.
Please call us if you would like further information on euro lock snapping or any other security concerns who might have.
Fit Mortice Locks
Many properties, particularly those with traditional timber doors, have only surface mounted latch, commonly referred to as 'yale', locks (see lock types page) in operation. This might be either because no mortice lock was fitted in the first place, or simply because the keys for the mortice lock have been lost or perhaps the mortise lock is not working. Whatever the reason we at Bristol and Bath locksmith would highly recommend fitting, or re-instating the old, mortice locks. As we discuss in our lock types page, latch locks, whilst convenient, just do not offer the level of security of a mortice lock. Bristol and Bath Locksmiths can be entrusted to carry out such work quickly and efficiently, however the fitting of a mortise lock should not be beyond the scope of competent DIY (do it yourself) handy man or woman. See our DIY lock fitting guide on our home page for a great video explaining how to do just that.
If you would like to find out about how a mortice lock works you might wish to browse our explanatory guide on our home page (What is a 5 Lever Mortise Lock and How does it Work).
Keys should not be left inside the lock on the back of a mortise lock door. This is a common security mistake that we often come across, and is almost as bad as leaving the key in the lock on the outside of the door! The reason being that when the key is left in the lock in this manner, all it takes are fairly simple tools that can be easily home made in order to manipulate (turn) the key from the outside of the door.
We recently attended a locked out customer in Warmley Bristol where the customer had lost his keys to the front door of his house, the front door was fitted with both a deadlocking latch and a locked mortise so we were looking at quite a job to get this customer back into his property. However he happened to mention that the back door also had a mortise lock and that the key was on the back of it, using this we were able to access the property in minutes! Yes it does sometimes make our job easier, but we would rather you kept your property secure, so please do not leave keys on the backs of your doors.
Gravel Paths & Drives For Security
Some of the best security is what is know as passive security. By passive security we refer to security measures that do not need be manually locked, turned on or in some other way activated. And some of the best passive security is the 'low tech' variety - in this example just gravel in fact.
Gravel paths and driveways leading up to front and rear doors are a great form of passive security as gravel is very noisy under foot - especially in the dead of night. It's very difficult to creep along a gravel path quietly so you stand a very good chance of hearing any unlawful visitors as they approach - in fact they will probably just keep away exactly for this reason - and you don't have to even remember to switch it on!
More Passive Security Ideas From Bristol and Bath Locksmiths
Another great form of passive security is the correct use of plants around the garden - or 'defensive gardening'. For example a rose bush trained to run along the top of a garden fence not only looks good but is also great at discouraging any would be casual intruders. Anyone who has ever handled a rose bush will instantly know why - it's the thorns! It would take a determined intruder to attempt to climb over a fence covered with rose plants. Of course the use rose plants for security purposes does not just have to be restricted to fences - they also work, and look, great in planting areas in front of windows and in window boxes. Roses seem to grow very well in the Bristol and Bath area so why not give it go - you don't need a locksmith to implement this type of security - just some green fingers.
However, good outdoor passive security of course does not mean just letting the garden grow wild and big everywhere. Overgrown bushes can provide an excellent hiding place for intruders, so it is much better to keep hedges etc neatly trimmed and fairly small.
Do not leave garden tools outside or in unlocked sheds, a security tip from Bristol and Bath Locksmiths
It is sometimes tempting to just leave old garden tools outside or in an unlocked garden shed or greenhouse. The logic being that the value of such old tools is so low that, especially in affluent cities such Bristol or Bath, they are very unlikely to get stolen, and if they do they be easily an cheaply replaced.
However, what this logic fails to take into account is that such tools can be used by the opportunistic intruder to force entry into a property. A garden spade for example can be the perfect tool to leaver open a door or window - particularly if that door or window is poorly fitted and/or with poor security.
This is why at Bristol and Bath Locksmiths we recommend always bringing in garden tools at the end of a days work, or to keep them in properly securely locked sheds.
Fit a 'BEWARE OF THE DOG' Sign
Dogs are great for home security - there is probably little that is likely to put off a would be intruder more than the prospect of encountering a noisy creature that is not only going to draw attention but possibly bite too! Indeed in some countries, where the affection relationship we have with our dogs is not the norm, many people do keep dogs primarily for security reasons.
Bristol and Bath Locksmiths would certainly not advocate getting a dog just for security purposes - dogs are sentient intelligent creatures that require love and attention. However you do not have to have a dog to fit a 'Beware of the dog' sign - there is no law against lying to would be burglars! This is one of these security tips that might sound a little daft but believe us it does work.
Furthermore this little security system can be made even more effective by using in conjunction with a motion sensor alarm that plays the sound of a dog barking. There are some good portable standalone models out there that do not even require professional installation. If you would like more information give us quick call.
Fit a Mock CCTV Security Camera
Of course if finances allow Bristol and Bath Locksmiths would advise fitting a real CCTV security system, and if this is something you might be considering we would be happy to advise further, but failing the real thing a fake CCTV camera can still be a very effective deterrent to would be intruders.
Early versions of these products did look a bit obvious, but modern designs are very convincing, so much so that sometimes even trained security professionals such as ourselves at Bristol and Bath locksmiths can nearly be fooled. Some are even fitted with working LEDs which make them even more convincing. Even if a burglar suspects that the CCTV installation he is looking might not be eal, just the fact that he is not sure can be enough to make him move on. So we believe that as with the 'Beware of the dog' sign above these items can work very well and at very low cost. If you are not sure which model to go for give us a call and we would be happy to advise furthe.