Each of us has different security needs. I recently looked around our house, and I wasn’t too surprised by the number of locks I found. With five outside doors, not counting the garage door, we use two keys for three types of locks (all but one are keyed the same). The glass deck door requires a key to unlock it from the inside, to prevent someone from breaking a panel of glass, reaching in, and unlocking the lock.
But what I found inside surprised me. All three bedrooms, the two baths, and the basement door have locks on them. Nothing sophisticated, mind you, just the type that allows you to push the inside handle and turn it clockwise to keep anyone from getting access from the hall. They’re easy enough to pick – all you need is a six-penny nail, which can be inserted into a hole on the outside cover plate to release the spring lock inside. My dad installed them for my siblings and me, acknowledging that even teens deserve some privacy. Now, with no kids here, we don’t need them for that, but they’re equally effective at keeping prying guests from poking into bedrooms during a party (and believe me, we’ve had party guests like that!).
That’s a total of 12 lockable doors. Our inventory also includes a Federal-style china cabinet, two corner cabinets, a glass-front secretaire, and a sideboard, each with a warded barrel key; a gun cabinet with a flat key that unlocks both the glass display door and the drawers; and an antique oak desk whose center drawer and one of the side drawers locked with a long-lost barrel key. Even the “cabinet grand” piano has a keyhole and tiny deadbolt, though that key, too, disappeared long ago.
We also have keys to my cousin’s house, a friend’s apartment, three cars, a tool chest, and half a dozen inlaid decorative boxes. If I put all our keys on one ring, I’d feel like the housekeeper in the wonderful movie “The Others.” I’m glad I work at home – I no longer have to carry around keys to an office as well!
To get back to my point, each of us has different security needs. What matters is not just what locks and keys you own, but what security you ought to have. For example, everyone needs to lock up some valuables or personal items (antique china that a child might break, birthday presents bought in advance, mom and dad’s adult video collection). If you have children, you probably have a closet with a lock. If a child locks himself in, it’s essential that he or she be able to get out again, so having a quick-release handle inside – in effect a small panic bar – can keep your child safe.
Panic bars are also required by building codes for places with public access. Most codes state that, in effect, “egress through access-controlled doors must not require prior knowledge of operational requirements.” In other words, customers don’t have to know what to do to make it work. Various types of pressure-sensitive bars are designed to release electromagnetic or mechanical door locks for unrestricted egress in case of emergency.
Similarly, window gates are essential for a family in a high-rise with small children, and an in-floor or hidden wall safe is a must-have for homeowners who keep valuables on the premises. Many city businesses need rolling gates to prevent access and vandalism, while a suburban restaurant with little to steal (unless there’s a market for aluminum napkin dispensers and Formica chairs) might prefer a simple but effective deadbolt lock and an alarm system that alerts police to a break-in.
In one of her Jane Marple mysteries Agatha Christie described a shoe salesman who “wants to sell you black leather because he has it in stock, when what you want is brown suede.” What Christie understood is that it’s your needs, not the merchant’s, that should guide your locksmith and security related decision-making.
Do a security inventory to analyze what your needs are – for your home, business, or both. Then visit a reputable dealer with a wide variety of product lines and systems and the expertise to give you honest advice. That way you can buy the security system that’s right for you, rather than the products a salesman wants you to have.