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Guardian Self Defense and Security Blog

Stay Safe In Your Apartment

Do you think you, your roommate/family, and your belongings are safe in your apartment? Are you sure? Do you know what you should be looking for when you look for an apartment or analyze your home security?
  • Get to know both your neighbors and the neighborhood. Be aware of what's happening in the area, especially if any of your neighbors have been victims of burglary
  • Make sure there is adequate lighting in all exterior areas of the complex. If you believe there is an area that needs more light, notify the landlord, and ask neighbors to do the same. Your landlord is required by law to provide you with a safe environment. Also notify the maintenance office immediately if you notice burnt out bulbs in any lights in exterior or common areas.
  • Make sure your door has a dead bolt in addition to any knob lock. Don't rely on either locks in knobs or on chains. Your door should also have a peephole (if you have children, consider getting one at their height, too). You can ask the landlord to replace or re-key your dead bolt and install a peephole. If he won’t do it, see about doing it at your own expense (don't forget to give a key to the landlord if you are required to under the lease).
  • If you have a security system in the building -- use it. Don't ever buzz strangers into the building or allow strangers to enter the building when you are either entering or leaving.
  • Be careful when using laundry or other common facilities after dark. Consider doing laundry, swimming, working out, etc. with a buddy. If these facilities have locking doors, make sure they are locked, and don't let anyone in who doesn't have a key.
  • Make sure any windows accessible from the ground, balconies, or fire escapes have stops to prevent them opening enough to let a person through. A long screw in the frame is enough to stop a window from opening more than a couple of inches while still allowing ventilation.
  • If you have a sliding glass door, use a door brace of some sort in the track to keep the door from opening more than a few inches. You should also install screws in the frame to prevent the entire door from being removed.
  • Make sure you have adequate smoke detectors, especially outside the kitchen and bedrooms. Check your detectors regularly and replace batteries at least twice a year. Make sure any necessary carbon monoxide or natural gas detectors are also working and maintained.
  • Purchase fire extinguishers. There should be one accessible from the bedrooms, and one in the kitchen. Ideally the extinguishers should be rated ABC (for all three major types of fire) -- the extinguisher in the kitchen should have a definite B rating (for grease and other flammable liquids).
  • Know all routes of escape from your apartment in case of fire. Inexpensive collapsible ladders by bedroom windows will ensure escape should a fire block other exits. Make sure your entire room/family can exit directly from your apartment to the outdoors, and practice.
  • Don't advertise your absence by leaving notes for maintenance personnel, children, neighbors, etc., on your door or mailbox.
  • Single women should never have their full names listed in the phone book or posted on buzzers or mailboxes. Try to get your neighbors to all agree to use initials on buzzers and mailboxes. If you live alone, try putting two initials on the buzzer.
  • Don't hide a spare keys outside "under the mat". If you want, find a neighbor you trust and make a deal to keep each other's spare keys. Having to pay a locksmith to get you in is still cheaper than losing your valuables when a thief finds the key.
  • Don't have your entire address listed in the phone book -- list only your street name or just the town or city. Reverse listings can allow thieves to find your phone number and name from your address.
  • Get renters insurance. If anything were to happen, you'd at least be able to replace your belongings.
  • Keep an inventory of your valuables. Photographs of expensive jewelry and serial numbers of all electronic and computer equipment should be kept in a fireproof safe or safe deposit box. Etching your driver's license number on your electronics can identify them in the case of theft (many police departments offer this etching as a free service).
  • Talk to your local police department about having a security check -- many will do them for free.
  • Consider starting a neighborhood watch program in your complex or community.
  • If you are really concerned, there are a number of wireless home security systems perfect for apartment dwellers.
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