Thursday, December 17, 2009

Security Tips for Movers and Those People on the Go!

Security around the home can be universally overlooked by the average person (including myself) at times. Yes, even Security Experts can get distracted or complacent! Even so, those moving to a new area can have even tougher obstacles. In my case it was distraction and work overload that played havoc with my security. Having just moved my family across the state to a totally new area was difficult and presented many challenges. Not only did my home need to be moved, but also my shop and business. The stress of moving, fatigue, and unfamiliar places can add up to spell disaster.

Some of the things I came up with during this move really assisted me; security disasters were averted, prevented and avoided. I thought it best to share some of the tips used in my move and couple them with some tried and true home security measures. Many of these things I’m sure aren’t new to the average homeowner. Whether you are constantly on the go or are new to an area these tips can be helpful. Are they being implemented? That is the question and my challenge to you.

Vary your schedule and routes to home and work.
Neighbors notice when you leave and when you come home. If you are as predictable as the palace guard you are increasing your chances of being burglarized by a person near your home. Using different routes and varying times can also educate you on the area around your home. Which routes are most efficient at different times of day? Is there more than one way to get to work during construction or traffic problems? You can even learn what your neighbors or your teenagers are doing during your time away by surprising them when showing up unexpectedly.

In my case learning the roads in my new neck of the woods has proven very valuable to me and my wife. My unpredictable schedule also kept potential crooks jumping as I could show up literally at any time of day. Moving vans and boxes are a dead giveaway that someone new is moving in… but counter balancing that with unpredictability helps immensely. Leave to the corner store and come right back, or even go around the block then home. This may seem like paranoia but it isn’t when you are in a new or unfamiliar place. I often did this without even meaning to as I habitually leave my coffee or briefcase wherever I go!

Lights and sound equals ACTION!
Give the impression of activity when you aren’t at home or work. Leave a radio turned on and couple that by leaving a light on as well. Many times people think you are still “there” when they get the impression of activity.

The reverse is of course inactivity. Piled up phone books on the steps, items left in the same spot for weeks on end, no lights or sound; these things create a safe atmosphere for the crook. Ever walk into a place like a campground and just feel like “man, no one has been here for a LONG TIME.” Your home can also give that impression. You want the people around to believe that you are home or that you could be home at any time.

Light timers can be used on both lights, radios, and even televisions. No need for fancy home integration systems when a $15 timer will suffice. You can also have friends, relatives or trusted co-workers visit your place to create an impression of activity. Be careful handing out keys and alarm system codes however. Keys can be copied, and alarm codes can be mistakenly left for others to see. Lend out keys stamped “Do Not Duplicate” available at your local locksmith shop, or have your locks construction keyed. This makes a key temporary until the owner removes it from the construction key system. Then the temporary key no longer works and the lock does not need to be rekeyed.

If you are moving into a previously occupied place, have it rekeyed.
In the last tip it was suggested to have a place construction keyed for friends to create an atmosphere of activity when you are away or on vacation. But when you first buy or move in you must determine if the locks there are new, have been rekeyed, or even if they are already construction keyed or master keyed. You don’t want a stranger to just walk in during the middle of the night, do you? Nope and me either! Have a locksmith service your locks first thing when moving or renting a new place.

This isn’t going to break the bank if you do research and find a good local locksmith. If you are a DIY type of a person you can even replace the locks yourself by ordering them keyed alike from a hardware store or locksmith shop. Just make sure that when you move in all keys are accounted for and that locks are unique and in good working order. You also don’t want to get locked out by a malfunctioning lock or worn key.

The first thing I did upon getting our new home was have the locks replaced and rekeyed as needed. I was handed a pile of keys when I arrived by the previous occupant. Some of these keys did not work, some did, and a few I think were just pawned off on me. The lock to the shed didn’t work or have a key, the privacy locks in the bathroom and basement didn’t work, and the exterior door locks had worn over-copied keys that worked intermittently. I spent some money, replace those that needed it, lubricated locks, rekeyed locks and fixed the ones that were easily repaired or adjusted.

Not only did this help my overall security. It gave my Wife and myself peace of mind and lessened sources of possible stress. Yes it cost us some money to improve security but it would have been more stressful if we were locked out and more expensive to have a locksmith come afterhours to let us in. Also, no one has let themselves in with an unaccounted key as the locks are brand new! Seems like a no brainer to me!

Make eye contact and introduce yourself.
Another idea that can really help you and although it is obvious it is still overlooked. Be friendly to your new neighbors and introduce yourself! Make eye contact, smile, and stand up straight. Yes I am a Dad, but that isn’t the reason I’m lecturing you. Crimes happen less frequently to confident people who create boundaries and to those who don’t act like a victim.

By making eye contact you are displaying confidence. When you smile and introduce yourself you are asserting yourself, and setting a social boundary. You are saying “I’m here and I’m not afraid to talk to you and let you know I’m here.” If you are a nice person your new neighbors might even look out for you and help you out with local problem people or situations. Most people are good and want to help you out. The people who aren’t nice will show their colors in this situation and ignore you or display behavior that tells you “go away”. This is good to know and is actual a good way to gather intelligence on your new neighbors. If they frown, avert their eyes, ignore you or refuse to shake hands you can bet that they might be someone to watch or avoid.

Two sets of eyes are better than one.
When you are busy it is difficult to notice the little things. If you are stressed out, tired, or overwhelmed it can be worse. Is that a snake or a garden hose? Try to buddy up with someone during your move or travels to make it safer.

My sixteen year old daughter is often texting away obliviously, but she noticed that I left my front door unlocked. My wife can’t move heavy things, but she was good at pointing out strategies and missed items during the move. Even my cat helped by finding things dropped under the appliances! Another set of eyes is vital when you are on the go or are moving. At one point I had a moving truck hit my work van… but it was under the watchful eye of my friend helping me move and we spotted the moving truck before it could leave the scene unnoticed by me. Another disaster averted!

Final Thoughts
Be sure to vary your schedule and routes. Create an atmosphere of action by using lights and sound to give the impression you are home or nearby. Replace or rekey locks and make sure you can secure your property and loved ones at night. Make eye contact, smile and introduce yourself to learn about the new people that surround you and to display confidence. Being friendly with new people can help you and your family. Lastly, travel with a buddy. Get a second set of eyes to increase your awareness and point out the things you miss.

True security is not simply knowing about security tips, it is in the implementation. Security measures must be part of your daily routine, so much so that when you are stressed out or tired, they practically implement themselves. Added stress like moving or hectic schedules should not derail your security program.

To my amazement and to my families’ amusement, I made many errors during this strenuous move. I left my work truck unlocked overnight with tools and products inside. I simply forgot to lock the deadbolt on the old place with our belongings still inside. I even lost important paperwork and misplaced many vital business documents! But in the end nothing was stolen, we weren’t burglarized, and we were always safe. By implementing these security tips regularly I was able to have a safe move, and in the end my family’s safety is more important than financial or business concerns. Make sure to implement these security tips when you travel, are on the go or are in the middle of a project or move. They made my difficult move safe, and hopefully they help you too.

Rocky Mountain Security Group

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Old Locks: Repair and Reuse

The love of used and antique items is a simple affair. Sometimes the item is a memento of a time or place held in your memory fondly. Other times an older item reminds one of their childhood. Many people like to collect items like this. But when we have something that doesn't work properly, even though it may vintage, how much value does it really have? Old broken stuff is just junk.... right?

It is much more rewarding to have an antique that works! Granted you may not want a working 8 track player, but a working Atari is pretty neat. The same goes with antique locks. There is something really fascinating about a working lock with a barrel key or "skeleton key". Sometimes older items have class that new things just don't hold a candle to.

There is also an argument that reusing items is environmentally responsible. All the old stuff eventually ends up in a land fill and how many of those do we have? Taking care of your locks will make them last a surprisingly long time, and will make you feel practical rather than wasteful.

Many Locksmiths can repair older locks, or restore them to their original function. You may even have a newer item either with a missing or broken key. Don't throw it away, you may be able to reuse it! This is actually a very affordable service, and easy to make happen.

Here are a few tips:

  • Get an estimate. Most locksmiths do this for free either over the phone, or in person. Look at your lock and check for stamps, numbers, or brands. Be ready to provide this information to the locksmith; the more accurate your description of the lock the more accurate their estimate will be.

  • Remove the lock and take it to a storefront Locksmith shop. If you have a screwdriver and some DIY skills, just take the lock to a shop. You may save some money this way and prevent scheduling hassles.

  • Take a picture with your digital camera or cellphone. Send or take the picture to your locksmith and see if they recognize it that way. This could save time, and identify problem locks that aren't worth restoring or repairing.

  • Lost keys can be replaced. Locksmiths can "impression" a lock making a new key from scratch. They can also replace keys by code if the lock was coded by the maker. Lastly, locks can often be re-keyed. Basically this involves removing the pins or wafers and creating a new key for the lock. These methods are actually fast and very affordable. This will work for anything from door locks to file cabinets to padlocks!

  • Broken keys often imitate a damaged mechanism. Many times a broken key or foreign object can jam the key way simulating a mechanical problem. Locksmiths can take a lock completely apart and remove any items blocking the key way. (Putting the lock back together is usually what separates a locksmith from a non-locksmith!) A broken key is often one of the most common problems... and the most affordable to repair!

  • Simple repairs are often less expensive than a new lock. Sometimes the problem is very common and can be repaired for less than the cost of a new lock. Most locksmiths have a back stock of older locks, or can order parts for cheap. Other times the "repair" is actually cleaning and lubrication caused by simple neglect and lack of maintenance.

If your locks are functioning well you may want to have a locksmith come and clean and lubricate the locks. Different brands of locks require different maintenance and cleaning; graphite powder can actually ruin high security locks and void any existing warranty! Ask your locksmith for details on lubrication for your locks.

Don't give up on those old locks that adorn your doors and furniture. They may still have some years left in them, have sentimental value to them, and some could even be worth money. Many old time locks and keys are collectible. Go to Sweeny Emporium online for some examples:

Rocky Mountain Security Group

Monday, August 17, 2009

How to Find a Reputable and Trustworthy Locksmith

There are many types of "Scammers" out there in the service industry. There are contractors that try to dupe or trick you into signing a contract and hook you into a long-term expensive mistake. There are slick salesmen and con artists who sell you a new roof or paved patio and end up installing garbage that cracks or falls apart.
There are scammers in the Locksmith Industry as well. With a recent scammer successfully prosecuted by the Colorado Attorney General in Englewood Colorado, we would like to post a few tips on finding a local locksmith who is both a legitimate trained professional, and trustworthy.

  • Make certain the number you are calling is Local not an 800 number. Many scammers post ads in phone books, online, and in newspapers advertising as local. If the number is an 800 number this is not so. Answering the phone with a generic "Locksmith." is also a bad sign.
  • Ask what Trade organizations they belong to, the BBB is not enough. They should be members of local or national Locksmith organizations and you need to call to verify this. Legitimate business people will join professional trade organizations, con artists will not.
  • Ask about service charge, mileage, and any hidden fees. Legitimate locksmiths have overhead and will sometimes charge based on distance, type of service to be performed, urgency, and time of day. They will let you know these rates when you call but you have to ask. A scammer will tell you "$50 covers everything!", then charge you an exorbitant rate upon showing up.
  • Ask if they offer free estimates on the job site, not over phone. Legitimate locksmiths will give you a free estimate for an expensive or sensitive service. They will come take a look, produce a written estimate, then email or fax it to you. Scammers will not take the time to do this. Written estimates are truly an estimation, but in general a pro will do their best to stay within a reasonable amount and will notify you of cost changes right away.
  • Look at their BBB record and check online for any complaints doing a search on Google, Yahoo, or other engine. If there is either no online record of this company, or if they have terrible marks from reviews go with someone else. Another good resource for quality of work is to ask them for photos or videos of their work. They may not have any, but someone concerned about their reputation will find a way to get you what you ask for.
  • Verify the locksmith is licensed in the state you are in. Not all states require this, but locksmiths generally will have either attended a recognized school, or distance learning program and will have a diploma to prove it. In states where licensing is required check to make sure their license is up to date and in good standing.
  • Make sure they are Bonded, Registered, and Insured in your area. A bonded locksmith definitely has an interest in his reputation and will show you proof of a bond. Insurance is also a good sign that the locksmith is legit and interested in protecting his business for the long term. Scammers will hit an area or city hard and move on when the heat is on. Usually simply asking for proof of a bond or insurance will send them running. A reputable locksmith will have also registered with the state or city, and have a business license in good standing. You can usually check this easily by phone or online.
  • Ask for customer phone numbers for a referral to make sure the work they do is good, and that they were charging fair rates. Sometimes this can be embarrassing but it is your security in the end and you need to make sure that your business or home is safe. Most locksmiths have a list of happy customers they regularly work with, and will provide phone numbers for you. A locksmith unwilling to provide a referral is probably not whom you want to do business with.

If you follow these tips, you should be able to find a good trustworthy locksmith locally who is both professional and a legitimate business owner. These tips apply across the spectrum with most other service trades. There are scammer electricians, plumbers, and HVAC workers out there who will rip you off and install poorly working or possibly dangerous systems. People who will be inside your business and especially your home should always be checked out prior to work performed. Here are some helpful links for finding a reputable and trustworthy locksmith in Colorado:

Check the business Colorado state license status -

Finding a local Locksmith Service (free) Just enter state –

Finding a Colorado Locksmith through a reputable service –

Making a complaint FTC -

Making a complaint about a business in the State of Colorado -

Rocky Mountain Security Group

Sunday, August 2, 2009

AMSEC Fire and Burglary Safe

Our most recent installation was a Fire Safe by AMSEC (American Security) for a customer who has cash and jewelry in his residence. The customer is a Jeweler and often works at home, and pays for precious metals and gems with cash. Needless to say, the safe had to be burglary rated, as well as fire. We selected a safe that met those requirements and that was also in the price range we agreed upon. In this case, we wanted a model around $400.00 dollars. This safe also met my customers other requirement that it have an electronic lock. The location for the safe is a small area, so I chose an upright model to take up less space, but provide good storage area for all the items to be protected. We went with the ES149 model, the spec's are listed below:

(ELECTRONIC)ES914 / ES149 / ES1814Features:

350°F 1-Hr U.L. listed fire rating.

State-of-the-art DL4000 Electronic Lock.

Combinations are fast and easy. Emergency key-lock override system with two (2) keys, bright blue LCD display with a low-battery indicator and a power override battery box. Side boltwork mechanism incorporating two 1/2" steel deadbolts prevents door removal if hinges are removed during a forced entry attempt. (ES1814 model: 1" x 4-1/2" rectangular steel deadbolts). One (1) drawer shelf. Impressive 1/2” thick door with attractive two-toned sage finish. (ES1814 model: 5/8" thickness). Four (4) rubber feet. (ES1814 model has four rolling casters).

This safe is a great deal and the customer was very happy. Installation for this type of safe takes about an hour, and is not impactful on the construction of your home or business. The electronic lock is easy to use and has many features to keep the owner from being locked out which saves hassle and service calls!

Rocky Mountain Security Group