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Home Security: Securing Windows

By Ira A. Lipman

The primary aim of window precautions is to secure permanently every window that is not needed for ventilation. Windows that are used for ventilation or as an emergency exit, particularly those on the ground floor, should be secured by the installation of key-operated locks, which are easily available from hardware stores and locksmiths.

Key-operated locks and windows add security

As a general rule, an intruder will not break a window � first, because the noise would be likely to attract attention and, second, because the sharp edges present the risk of injury. This does not mean, however, that he or she will not remove a small piece of glass with a glass cutter and reach through to unlock the window. Thus, the use of laminated glass or the special impact-resistant plastics developed for such applications as schools and store windows is an excellent extra precaution � if you can afford it.

In many homes, glass is held in windows by putty. Few people seem to take into account how severely this material deteriorates with age and exposure to the elements, making panes relatively easy to remove with no more than a pocketknife. Usually a contractor will replace all putty when painting your house, but double-check to make sure that this is done.

Double-Hung Windows

The windows of many older homes are of the so-called double-hung construction, made of two panels, one or both of which slide up and down. A two-piece device, resembling a butterfly, locks it shut. This lock can be rather easily opened by sliding a thin piece of metal, such as a knife blade, vertically through the crack separating the two sashes.

Windows become considerably more secure when a hole is drilled completely through the lower window sash and halfway through the upper while the window is in the closed position. A bolt, inserted into the hole resulting from the drilling, will effectively lock the windows in the closed position only. Similarly, nails or bolts may be driven into the window tracks to prevent the window from being raised high enough to admit an intruder. For maximum security, such stops should be employed on both sides of the tracks, to make removal more difficult and time-consuming for a potential intruder.

A nail in a window track is a simple precaution

When a window has been "frozen" shut by paint and is not needed for ventilation, a simple anti-burglar precaution is to leave it that way.

Window Guards

Screens made of chain-link fencing are widely used for protecting windows, particularly in industrial applications. Aluminum curtains are available from suppliers of security hardware in sizes suitable for window protection. Bars (horizontal, vertical, or a combination of both) are similarly available. These may be enclosed in a frame attached to the window frame, or they may extend through the frame and into the walls.

For windows opening onto fire escapes, fire department regulations usually prohibit the installation of permanently placed bars or guards, but folding or hinged guards may be used on these openings if they are not locked in place. For residential application, however, these items will be considered by many to be aesthetically unappealing. Metal window guards, also called burglar bars, may be more pleasing to the eye, but, like nails in window tracks or paint-frozen windows, they could hinder you when evacuating a building threatened by fire or other danger.
Lockable folding metal screens provide excellent security, yet still provide for emergency evacuation of the home, as long as the key to unlock the screens is readily at hand. It should not be placed within reach of a would-be intruder outside.
Storm windows, in addition to being valuable savers of energy � and thus money � provide an impediment to the would-be intruder. Although they can usually be removed with little more than a screwdriver, this takes time and can create noise, which will generally send the typical intruder on to easier targets.

Casement Windows

Casement windows are more secure than most double-hung windows is that they are opened with a geared-crank arrangement and often are too small to allow human entry even when they are successfully opened. Intrusion is usually possible only after smashing or cutting the glass. For those who want to be doubly sure, a number of key-operated locks are available for casement windows.

Windows Above Ground Level

Second-story windows pose less of a problem than do ground-level windows, but they still require attention because they may be accessible from the outside staircases, from fire escapes, from the roofs of porches, or even from trees. You should never store ladders where they are available to a potential intruder.
In some city areas, windows may be near enough to neighboring buildings to allow a plank to bridge the gap between the structures. In some high-rise apartment buildings, an intruder might gain access by lowering him- or herself from a rooftop or higher floor to an unprotected or open window. Protection in these cases can best be accomplished through the same measures as for ground-level windows � it being a matter of personal judgment to decide how much security is necessary relative to installation costs.

In evaluating your window security, also play special attention to basement and storeroom windows, attached garages, ventilation exhausts, access to crawl spaces opening into partial basements, storm cellars, attics, and all other spaces that give access to little used areas inside the house.
In all your door and window security precautions, remember that a very important consideration is that there must be definite evidence of forced entry if you are to recover theft losses on your homeowner�s insurance policy. Similarly, it is difficult to substantiate a claim for loss when you file income tax returns without indisputable evidence that the loss was sudden and unexpected.

Window-Unit Air Conditioners

A particularly vulnerable illegal-access location that is often overlooked by the homeowner is the window-unit air conditioner. One way to thwart the potential intruder here is to ensure that a unit is secured by long screws to both the window and the window frame. When this is not possible, consider placing a bar across the face of the unit, again insuring that it is very firmly secured to the window frame and/or to interior walls.