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Consumer Reports Tells You How to Keep Your Home Safe

Did you know summer is the absolute peak time for home break in’s? That’s why, while we’re all carefree and enjoying our summer holidays, robbers are thinking of new and creative ways to break into your home. It is especially important to remember how vulnerable your home can be while you and the kids are off visiting Grandma or at the Lake for a week with friends. Well…good thing Consumer Reports – one of the major authorities in just about EVERYTHING – has some top notch pointers for keeping your home safe, particularly during the very vulnerable summer holidays. Consumer reports has tested all the latest and greatest home safety products to help keep your home safe.

Choose the right locks. About two- thirds of the keyed door locks we tested managed to withstand our kick-in test; others needed a reinforced strike plate. The Weslock 671 ($45) and Emteck Low Profile 8455 ($36) were CR Best Buys among keyed locks. High-security locks from Medeco, which cost about $175, also resisted drilling and picking. (See our Ratings of door locks, available to subscribers.) Remember to use a pull-apart key chain so your home keys stay with you when your car is valet-parked or serviced. (Learn about two interesting products from Kwikset, the SmartScan and SmartKey door locks.)

Secure glass areas. Security or safety window film can resist blows of up 400 foot-pounds, according to manufacturer claims. 3M's 28-ply Ultra Safety and Security Clear Window Film costs $7 to $9 per square foot or about $105 to $135 for a 3x5-foot window. It should be installed by a pro, which will add to the cost.

Beef up existing window locks by inserting removable eyebolts in holes drilled into the sash where they overlap, or by adding locking scissor gates or fixed metal grilles. Finally, secure window air conditioners with sturdy screws through wood or metal framing elements so burglars can't push them in. In all cases, check that added barriers won't violate fire-safety codes or manufacturer warranties.

Keep it bright. Illuminate areas around doors, windows, and blind spots. Install lights high upon exterior walls so they can't easily be disabled. Our tests have found that solar-powered lights are too dim to provide enough light for security. But easy-to-install, low-voltage light systems and pro-installed,120-volt lights can be connected to motion detectors and whole-house security systems. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs made for outdoor use saved energy and outlasted regular bulbs in our tests, so you won't have to change them as often. But they take longer to reach full brightness and they don't all work with motion- or light-activated fixtures, so check the package.

Landscape wisely. Tall foundation plants or high fences can provide cover for criminals. Trim tree branches that might provide access to windows, roof, or skylights. Gravel beds around the house make it easier to hear anyone lurking outside. For more landscaping and yard-care information, see our Complete Lawn & Yard Guide.

Organize your neighbors. A neighborhood watch won't cost you anything but some time. For tips, go to the National Crime Prevention Council's Web site. Staying connected is simple. Create an e-mail list or a free wiki system at www.pbwiki.com or www.mindtouch.com. You can also use these tools to coordinate agendas for meetings with police groups and archive meeting minutes.

Add an alarm.Some central-monitoring systems will call your cell phone if they can't reach you on your landline. Radio-based alarm systems that use dedicated UHF frequencies can be used as a backup or as a stand-alone solution that elimi- nates the need for landlines. Switching to an Internet-based phone service? Make sure it's compatible with your alarm.

See “Scam Alert: Don't Get Ripped Off by an Alarm Company” for tips on choosing an alarm company. We’re here to help you with some of the biggies on this list. We have a great source of safes and vaults that will help ensure that your most precious belongings don’t get up and stolen. Check our website for our help guides, to chat with a live person, or to request a callback and get the real information straight from us. We look forward to helping you secure your home!