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Safety steps enable independent living
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Heightened awareness and crime prevention measures may be the keys to comfortable, independent lifestyles, especially for vulnerable individuals.
Herb Willcutt, an agricultural engineer with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said there are several ways homeowners can make their homes more secure. These are especially good practices for elderly people and women living alone.
"Exterior doors should be equipped with deadbolt locks, peep holes and chain locks to help residents inside identify visitors before doors are opened completely," Willcutt said. "Even though most doors can be kicked open with effort, these devices can buy time to call the police or a neighbor."
Use a stick or wooden dowel such as a broom handle to secure sliding glass doors and windows. Avoid security bars on windows and doors unless they can be opened easily only from the inside of the house. Otherwise, bars can make a home a deathtrap in the event of a house fire.
"Thorny shrubs pruned to about 3 feet high around windows are a good deterrent to prowlers. Avoid letting overgrown shrubbery become a hiding place for burglars," Willcutt said. "Keep tree limbs trimmed above the roof eve for visibility to the outside. Have a good relationship with your neighbors, so you can look out for each other."
Know the adjacent neighbors and pick up each other's newspapers and flyers while the other is on vacation. Offer to park your cars in each other's driveway when a neighbor is out of town to make the home look occupied. Do not hid keys outside the home where a smart or lucky burglar can find them.
"Inside and outside lighting can work for and against an intruder. Outside lights left on during the day can be a giveaway that no one is home. Light timers also can become predictable and not deter patient and observant burglars," Willcutt said. "Similarly, don't develop a predictable routine of leaving and returning home at the same time each day."
The more vulnerable a home appears, the more it is at risk of a burglary.
"Alarm systems are excellent deterrents for burglars. Most will pass over houses posted with alarm system signs and seek out houses that look less protected," Willcutt said.
Willcutt recommended people keep a good inventory of valuables around the home that might appeal to burglars. Develop a description including serial numbers, photographs and product brochures, and keep this in a fire-proof safety deposit box or home safe. A second copy could be stored at the office or with a family member or friend. Accurate home inventories can make a huge difference in insurance claims.