Tips for Home Safety While You’re On Vacation

Tips for Home Safety While You’re On Vacation


You’ve got your bags packed and the kids in the car. The vacation of your dreams is about to begin. But you need to be sure you have properly secured your home before you head out for the holidays or you may return to a surprise of a broken-in home.

Secure All Windows & Doors

Locking up your home will keep most potential robbers from targeting it. Be sure to lock all windows and doors before leaving for vacation. If you have a sliding glass door, place a pole in the track, which will prevent the door from being forced open. Also, disable your automatic garage door opener just in case someone has its signal decoded.

Temporarily Hold the Mail & Newspaper

A few days before leaving, place a hold on your postal mail and any newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Many people just let their mail pile up while they’re away, which makes vacant houses easy for burglars to recognize. In the event that you would rather not interrupt your services, ask a fellow neighbor to pick up your mail and newspapers every day.

Set up Timers to Turn Lights on

A way to give the impression that there are people living in your home is to set up timers on the lights throughout your house. Have timers set to turn your lights on and off when you normally would each morning and evening.

Turn on a Radio for Noise

People rarely live in perfectly quiet homes 24 hours a day, so why should you leave your home devoid of noise when you vacation? Simply leave a radio on or set one up on a timer, like with your lights, to give the impression that you really have not left.

Ask a Friend or the Police to Monitor Your Home 

On the off chance that a criminal notices somebody keeping an eye out for your home, then he or she probably won’t target your house. In a few urban areas, you can request that the police drive by your home while you are traveling. Obviously, you can simply have your neighbor monitor your home if the police are not an option.

You could likewise give your assets to a trusted neighbor to watch. In case you’re going out, give your neighbor the keys. That way, in the event that you are robbed, they won’t able to take your car. Or your neighbor could move your car to encourage the illusion that someone is still occupying your house.

Alert Your Home Security System Company

Monitored home security systems can ensure safety of your home while you’re away. By alerting your vendor that you will not be home, the security company can alert the police as soon as they notice an irregularity, instead of trying to call you first. Those few seconds can make a big difference when someone has broken into your home.

For help with your home security, please call Pop-A-Lock Jacksonville at 904-246-4590.

Winter is Coming: Fire Safety for your Home

Winter is Coming: Fire Safety for your Home

Winter is coming, and that means making fires in the fireplace. Here are some ways in which you can keep you and your family safe this winter season.

Home fires can start and spread quickly, which is why we all need to be careful and educated when it comes to fire safety. Just a little bit of planning can make a big difference for your family.

Working smoke alarms reduce the chances of dying in a fire by nearly 50 percent.

The Facts
In 2013, 334 children died in home fires. Eighty-seven percent of all fire-related deaths are due to home fires, which spread rapidly and can leave families as little as two minutes to escape once an alarm sounds. Fires are not just a problem in the United States. In 2008, nearly 61,000 children around the world died due to a fire or burn.

Tips to Help Reduce Risk of Dying by Fire

  • Working smoke alarms reduce the chances of dying in a fire by nearly 50 percent. They are a critical first step for staying safe, but in order to be effective, they have to be working properly. For the best protection, install smoke alarms on every level of your home and in every sleeping area.
  • Teach kids never to play with matches and lighters. Make a habit of placing these items up and away from young children.
    Create and practice a home fire escape plan with two ways out of every room in case of a fire. Get a stopwatch and time how fast your family can escape. The kids will love it. Here’s a handy worksheet to help get you started.
  • Children should know how to respond to the sound of a smoke alarm. Teach them to get low and get out when they hear it. A child who is coached properly ahead of time will have a better chance to be safe.
  • Use common sense in the kitchen. Limit distractions when cooking and don’t leave a hot oven or stovetop unattended.
  • Blow out candles before you leave the room or before you go to sleep.
    Fire safety is complex issue. Here’s more information on how to handle carbon monoxide, prepare for any burns and scalds that result from cooking in the kitchen, find out what to do with fireworks and general fire safety tips.

Safes: What You Need to Know

Ever consider buying a safe? Below are a few things to consider when you are buying and placing a safe. This information is intended to help you to protect your property and give you some peace of mind.

Safes Aren’t Invincible

The saying in the security industry is that money buys you time. When you are paying for quality all you are really getting is a product that will give the thief more trouble. There is a reason that banks do not have their vaults in the middle of the lobby. A safe is just simply not enough protection. What gives you greater protection actually comes from your discretion and thinking of other layers of precaution- that is, safe placement. Secure your safe so not only is it hard to find, but make sure no one is looking for it.

Buy a Quality Safe

Like almost every aspect of security, the amount you pay is going to relate to the protection you get. For most safes, the doors are stronger than the body, and on cheaper safes the doors are as weak as the body. More expensive safes will have thicker and stronger metal. In very expensive models, the safes are made with materials in the metal that dull drills, blunt cutting tools, and disperse heat in defense of torch attacks. However, every safe can be opened with enough time and the right tools. That being said, time is what thieves do not want to spend. Therefore, the best deterrent is having the safe that is the hardest to break into.

Don’t Talk About Your Safe

Yes, safes are cool and it might be tempting to brag about it. But, mentioning you have a safe means you also have something expensive that you want to protect. That is exactly why you should not talk about your safe. Not a lot of people have safes, so if your home is ever robbed in an act of pure coincidence, there is no reason a person should be able to go straight to your safe. Having that information out there will make you more vulnerable. Word of mouth is a strong force when it comes to this- You cannot control who your friends and family members will tell, who those people will in turn tell, and so on. Break the cycle, and don’t talk about your safe.

Hide Your Safe Well

Do not keep your safe out in the open. Concealing the existence of a safe might even protect you if you slip up and mention you have a safe. If the safe is hidden well, then knowing about it is only going to be a third of the battle. The other two-thirds will come in finding it and getting into it. A great way of making both of these things more difficult is to put the safe in a wall or in the floor. This will help cover the weaker sides of the safe, which is everything but the door, and allow you to hide the safe with a false floor, wall, etc.

Inaccessibility is Good

The best safes are those that are made so you can’t even get to them. This is ideal for a safe that does not get frequent use. A safe behind a picture is hidden, but a safe that is inside a wall is invisible and inaccessible. Something that needs to be exhumed will never be stumbled upon by a common thief. This is a very old method that still has people finding money during home renovations, which is precisely how effective it can be. The people that hid their valuables cannot even remember where to look. This is truly the best way to hide a safe. Again, it is not practical for safes that you want to be able to access periodically because it should ideally be very time-consuming and require a fair amount of destruction. Hiding something that requires destruction of your own property will also be the last suspicion for a burglar.

Get Creative

We’ve all see movies that feature safes. Get creative with your home safe. The movies show all those obvious ways that people can hide their safes: under loose floorboards, behind a picture, etc. But you can think of better ways- because every time we see a framed picture or hear a squeaky floor, we can’t help but wonder. Do the unexpected and your standard criminal will never be able to find your safe, let alone break into it.

Don’t rely on the illusion of security. Learn how criminals are going to approach your valuables, and you set yourself on the path to never being robbed.

Tips for Keeping Your Home Safe From Burglary

Whether or not we’re home, we all want that peace of mind that everything is all right. Here are some helpful tips on being vigilant:

  • Use the locks on all doors and windows.
  • Make sure that your security systems are working and that they have batteries and that installed light bulbs are working.
  • Be cautious of who you give your keys to, since keys can be easily copied.
  • Don’t leave a  spare key outside your home. Instead, give it to a neighbor.
  • Don’t publicize your vacations (your absence from your home!) on social media.
  • Don’t advertise valuables- break up packaging for expensive new gear before throwing it into the trash or recycling.
  • Take a look at your house from the outside and put yourself in the shoes of the thief: What can you see that you’d like the steal?
  • Don’t let your mail pile up in your mailbox or the front of the house while away on vacation. Plan for a neighbor or friend to collect it for you.
  • Store valuables, such as money and jewelery, in a locked safe.
  • Mark valuable items inside with an engraver or ultra-violet pen. In case they’re stolen, they could be returned to you.

Home Security Tips

Thinking about home security might seem like common sense, but there are plenty of precautions to keep in mind. Here are few recommendations from us at Pop-A-Lock Jacksonville:

  1. Remove trees or branches that are close to your premises. This denies burglars access to upper levels.
  2. Windows, skylights, pet doors, patio doors, garage and carport access doors, upper level balcony doors and small bathroom windows are common forced entry points. Keep them locked when away and secured when at home.
  3. Don’t leave “hidden” keys in all the usual spots for thieves to find, such as under the mat, on a ledge, in a planter or on a door frame. Instead give a spare key to a trusted neighbor or hide a key on their property. If a prowler comes across the key they won’t know what it opens.
  4. Lighting can be used as cheap security. Always leave some lights on in your house at night, even when you are home.
  5. When going out, make sure your home looks occupied by leaving more than one light on.
  6. Close the drapes at night to hide the fact that no one is home. Drapes, curtains or blinds should fully cover windows.
  7. Always leave outside lights on at night. Thieves would rather work in the dark so no one can spot them, notify police, and identify them.
  8. Never place the packing materials from an expensive item on the curb for trash pickup. Instead, cut up the box and tie it with string, carefully hiding the product identification.
  9. When someone comes calling, don’t pretend you are not at home. Burglars want to find homes that are un-occupied so they can break-in. However, never open your door when you don’t know or trust the person(s) on the other side. Talk through the door or a nearby window. Chain locks are not strong enough, do not open the door! If you must have the door opened slightly, a floor mounted, retractable door wedge is an excellent security option.
  10. Never give out your personal information over the telephone to someone you don’t really know who you are speaking with. Often the caller will ask when they can contact you and then they have a better idea when you are going to be away.

Protect Yourself and Your Purchases This Holiday Season

We are just a week shy of the Christmas holiday. As with every year, the winter season has us doing our holiday shopping right after Thanksgiving and continuing in full swing until the end of the year. Since there are so many people out on the road and going to and from stores, there leaves a lot of vulnerability between you, your personal belongings, and your purchases – both those you carry with you and leave in your car. In order to effectively “shop defensively” this holiday season, please keep this list of reminders at hand, so you can shop safely and consciously:

Avoid Being a Target for Burglars

  • Always shop with a friend. You are more likely to become a target if you are alone.
  • Park your car in a well-lit area.
  • Wear your purse or bag across your body. This way your hands will be free for your keys when you head to your car.
  • Combine your purchases into one bag, if possible.


Be Alert at All Times

  • Walk briskly to your car. Avoid talking or texting on your phone, or digging into your bag for your keys while walking.
  • Have your keys ready in your hand while walking toward your vehicle.

In Your Car

  • Keep your purchases out of sight in your parked car to prevent break-ins.
  • Check your back seat for potential burglars before getting into your car.

On the Web

  • Use credit, not debit. Credit cards offer much better protection against fraud than most debit cards.
  • When shopping online, verify the website’s URL and shop only from known retailers. There are websites out there that are created to look like real storefronts, but are instead scams and spoofed websites that may steal your personal information.
  • Be sure your anti-virus program is up-to-date. Shop at home and not on public Wi-Fi networks, such as at cafes, libraries or airports.

Remember to stay alert even during daytime shopping hours. Crimes aren’t restricted to night hours and can occur at any time. We hope that, with these tips, you’ll have a fun, productive and, most importantly, safe holiday season.

Seven Tips to Prevent a Burglary at Your Home

As the fall weather sets in and Jacksonville homeowners start to bring in their lawn furniture, the professional locksmiths at Pop-A-Lock encourage all homeowners to take some simple steps to improve the safety of their homes. Here are seven simple tips to prevent burglaries at your home.

1. Make the Home Look Occupied 

Burglars avoid homes that they believe are occupied. That is why it is important to always make a home look occupied even when its owners are away, whether out to dinner or on vacation. Installing outdoor motion-sensor lights is a good first step, as is putting an indoor light on a timer so it goes on and off at regular intervals.

If homeowners are leaving a home unoccupied for a longer period of time, law enforcement officials recommend that they arrange for someone to mow their lawns or clear their sidewalks and driveways of snow so the home looks occupied. Likewise, homeowners leaving for an extended period of time should also get their mail held so there is no back-up at the mailbox, which is a sign to burglars that no one is home.

2. Close and Lock Doors and Windows 

Whenever homeowners leave their houses, even if for a short time, they should close and lock or otherwise secure all windows, exterior doors and garage doors. Garage doors are often overlooked and can be an easy way for burglars to gain access to a home. A professional locksmith can help homeowners install appropriate window, door and garage door locks.

3. Upgrade Flimsy Door and Window Locks 

Burglars are able to breach flimsy, worn-out locks on both doors and windows. Homeowners should upgrade exterior doors with flimsy push-button or switch locks to deadbolt locks that securely bolt doors to their frames. Both double and single-cylinder models are available for doors with and without glass panes, respectively. Professional locksmiths can also upgrade window locks and the locks on sliding glass doors, which are common points of entry for burglars.

4. Invest in an Alarm System 

Another great way to deter burglars is to install a security alarm. These systems include door, window and motion sensors that sound an alarm when triggered and notify the police that a breach has been made. Posting signage about the presence of a security alarm may deter burglars.

5. Block the View into the Home without Providing an Easy Escape Route 

One way to prevent burglaries is to make sure the burglars cannot window shop before breaking in. Use curtains on windows, including garage and basement windows, so burglars cannot case the house and plan their entries.

However, do not use landscaping to block the view of potential burglars, since heavy shrubbery or hedges can be great cover for a thief making his or her escape from a home. Instead, keep dense landscaping away from the house.

6. Avoid Stashing Valuables in the Master Bedroom 

Most families keep their most prized possessions in the master bedroom, including jewelry and cash. Burglars know this and often make the master bedroom their first stop after breaking into a home. One easy way to avoid theft is to keep one’s valuables in a safe in an inconspicuous part of the home or outside the home in a safe deposit box.

7. Hire a Professional Locksmith to Upgrade and Install Locks 

One of the best ways to prevent a break-in is to upgrade the locks on one’s home and change the locks after purchasing a home or after being burgled. We can recommend the best locks for your home and install them while you wait.

To improve security at your home, call Pop-A-Lock Jacksonville today at 904-246-4590 to schedule an appointment or visit us online.