How to be safe in condominiums or apartments remain among the primary concerns of homeowners and renters considering the increasing crime statistics in our society at present. As condominium dwellers, my family and I, are no strangers to security concerns in our own place. Security issues like, among others, are the security officers of the building doing their tasks properly? Are they mentally and physically equipped to address safety and security concerns that they encounter? Are the security measures and equipment in place in the building working and reliable?
There are many security issues that are of exclusive concern to occupants of a condominium or apartment. Every homeowner or renter wants to take every possible step to make their homes or places as secure as possible. However, instead of solely relying on the in-place security measures and officers, it is important to become more aware about looming criminal activities in condominiums and apartments and to arm ourselves with tactics that will help us outwit the bad guy and save a lot of money.
Here are practical and personal guide on how to be safe in your condominiums or apartments.
When hunting for a condo or an apartment, there are security features you should look for first before you decide to sign a contract to sell or lease. Security features among condominiums and apartments vary. Some implement maximum security, while others, given a limited budget, have only basic safety measures to boast.
At a minimum, an apartment building with maximum security should have around-the-clock features:
- A doorman or security officer who announces all guests and requires proper identification of all visitors and callers.
- Fire stairs equipped with one-way doors, which should open only from inside the fire stairwell on the ground floor and roof and only from outside the fire stairwell on all other floors.
- Garages equipped with self-closing outside doors, or a security officer, or both.
- Controlled access into the building from the attached garage.
A small and limited-budget building can follow good security measures which should include the following:
- Door-opening systems, equipped with an intercom system or closed-circuit television, with every tenant trained to use the system properly.
- Self-service elevators with small mirrors that permit a view of the entire interior of the car before boarding.
- Entrance into attached or basement garages controlled by key or electronic access card, and automatic closure of these doors.
- Adequate lighting throughout the common spaces of the building.
- Light fixtures located or protected so that an intruder can’t tamper with them.
- Roof doors operable only from the inside.
- Well-lit alcoves or other blind spots in corridors, with mirrors to prevent them from being used as hiding places.
LOCK AND LOADED
In condominiums and apartment buildings most crimes result from the failure to use existing locks, or from their inadequacy or vulnerability. For your own peace of mind, immediately change the existing locks when you move into a condominium or an apartment.
See to it that you add a lock of your own – preferably a deadbolt – to your unit’s door. You would be protected even if a passkey fell into the wrong hands. Your landlord may object, but your possessions, even your life, might be on the line. One caveat: In the event of an emergency, police or fire personnel would be unable to save your life or protect your belongings without forcibly opening your door.
YOU HOLD THE KEY
The property manager or the building superintendent may insist on having a spare key to your unit. If he does, try to dissuade him by pointing out that a burglar breaking into his own place would then have access to every unit in the building. However, if fire codes require the property manager or superintendent to have a key, put it in a sealed envelope with your name signed across the flap. Otherwise, if not required, you can leave it with a friend. Never hide your key or spare key near your door or under a doormat. Better to put your spare key in a lock box.
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS
Install chain locks and peepholes on outside or corridor doors. Don’t let just anyone in without first checking who is outside your door. Lock outside or corridor doors at all times, whether you’re home or not.
Doorplates (and mailboxes) should not indicate the gender of the occupant. “M. Jones,” for example, is preferable to “Ms. Mary Jones.”
Don’t leave notes on doors indicating when you’ll return to your unit or that you’ll be returning alone.
WINDOWS OF OPPORTUNITY
In a condominium unit or an apartment, you will probably have fewer windows to protect than in a house, and probably only one or two walls will have windows at all. Some of these windows, though, may open onto fire escapes, which offer access from your apartment to the ground and vice versa. These windows must be protected by foldable, lockable metal accordion screens to keep intruders out but still allow you to exit. (If this violates building codes, shatterproof glass serves the same purpose.) In addition, the keys to these grilles must be kept close by to enable you to get out if there is a fire. A word of caution: Don’t position emergency keys so close that they could be reached from outside the building. Store them out of sight from anyone on the fire escape.
Seek the help of experts who have devoted themselves in countering criminality in all aspects of our lives. It is also important that you stay informed. The more educated you are about the ways of criminals, the better your chances of staying out of harm’s way.
More valuable security practices will be shared to you next time.
Be aware, protect yourself, and stay safe!
Ira A. Lipman, HOW TO BE SAFE, Protect Yourself, Your Home, Your Family and Your Business from Crime, 2012 Edition.