The structure of flats, whether part of a converted house or purpose-built in blocks, can cause many security problems. Here we describe what you can do to achieve proper protection. The choice, cost and effectiveness of any device will depend to a great extent on the co-operation of your neighbours.
If you are in any doubt about a security problem, go to your local police station and seek the advice of the crime prevention officer. CPOs can be found in virtually every area of Britain and their experience and knowledge of security devices, including details of how to fit them, will prove invaluable. The service is free.
In high-rise blocks access by stairs and lifts to all levels is often possible; it is essential, therefore, to fit front doors with deadlocking mortise locks of either the rim or standard type. Door chains sill guard against forced intrusion and should be fitted, especially if the residents are elderly. A particularly useful device for these situations is a special door chain which is stronger than the conventional type and has the facility of reverting to the secured position after the door is closed; this avoids the problem of forgetting to secure the chain.
Many small blocks of flats have porterage facilities and enjoy a good standard of protection. Often the main door of the building is fitted with a door entry telephone system, which allows residents to establish the identity of visitors before allowing entry. However, even with such a system you still need good all round security.
Houses which are converted into flats can be particularly difficult to secure since building boards are often used to separate entrances and these can be broken through easily. Most conversions are made without security in mind and cheap locks are often fitted, even to exterior doors. Poor quality locks should be replaced and, if comparatively weak partitions exist, an apartment alarm should be fitted.
The close community in which flat dwellers live can work towards preventing crime. For example, if you know your neighbours are out and you hear unusual noises, inform the police; if you notice a stranger persistently lurking about, again inform the police. Where there is a history of intrusion in your area, get together with the other residents of the building; by discussing and implementing the installation of security devices (particularly for elderly people who might need some help with this matter) much can be done collectively to improve overall security and reduce individual cost.
Door entry telephone systems
A door entry telephone system may be fitted to serve just one flat in the building or all of them; apart from enabling you to identify callers, this can save much wasted time in running up and down stairs to answer the door. Several kits are available, most of which can be easily installed by the competent DIY worker. Basically a system comprises an internal telephone set, a front door panel with push button, name plate and dual speech amplifier with built-in rectifier and volume controls. When the button on the front door panel is pressed, the internal telephone will ring and you can speak to and establish the identify of your visitor before opening the door.
Some systems incorporate a remote electric door lock release mechanism; when you are satisfied as to the visitor’s identity, you simply press a button on the internal telephone to release the main door lock and allow the visitor to enter.
It is important a door entry telephone system is used properly; you should never admit people wanting entry to other flats, regardless of excuse, or allow people to walk in with you through the main door — insist they wait to be admitted by the person they are visiting.
Manufacturers supply full instructions for installation and you should always follow these carefully to ensure good results. Basically, installation involves mounting the internal telephone on the wall using plugs and screws and installing the 12 volt transformer, which powers the system, indoors close to the electricity supply or front door. The dual speech amplifier is fitted outside, near the wain entrance, and is covered by the door panel. Me telephone is wired to the front door unit, which in turn is wired to the transformer and to the electric lock, if one is fitted. The electric door Ica must be correctly fitted; it is essential the bolt marries into its keep properly otherwise there could be difficulty in operation and security could suffer. If you are in any doubt, have the lock fitted by a professional.
TV door viewer/entry telephone systems
These systems are basically an extension of the door entry telephone system and they operate in the same way. When the button at the front door panel is pressed, the telephone in the flat will ring and a built-in TV camera transmits a picture of the visitor to a screen in the flat; you can then communicate with the visitor by using the telephone.
But, despite the limitations of these systems, any alarm is better than none.
Alarm systems of the ultrasonic or radar type are suitable, as are wired circuit alarms designed specifically for flats. These systems use pressure mat and magnetic switch circuits in the usual way; however the alarm siren is housed in the control panel, a compact unit which is mounted near the front door of the flat.
In some kits a waterproof slave, unit is also supplied; this enables a second warning sound to be given in the flat or in situations such as a porter’s lodge or to the exterior of the building.
Most systems incorporate delayed entry/exit timing which allows you to set the alarm and leave or open the door on your return and turn off the alarm before it sounds. In some systems the delayed entry/exit timing operates at all times; this is not satisfactory in a flat since a delay of 20 seconds or more before the alarm is sounded allows an intruder far too much time within the often very close confines of a flat. To overcome this problem, you can fit a switch to activate an instantaneous alarm function.
DIY installation is possible by using coaxial cable for the video distribution and standard telephone cable for the telephone connection; however the job is probably best left to a professional since the guarantee and after-sales service may be dependent on this.
In a high-rise block with a common TV aerial, a camera installed at the entrance can be relayed and displayed on a spare channel of any TV set connected to that aerial. The system can be supplied with a door entry telephone facility or may be incorporated into an existing system.
Conventional DIY burglar alarm systems are not suitable for flats since there is often difficulty in fitting outside bell boxes; in most instances available sites for the bell box, such as balconies and ertry landings, are too vulnerable. In addition, if a bell box is fitted to the rear elevation of a block of Ibis. It might not be clear which flat is being burgled.