Safe at Home: Improving Security at the Door

Sept. 2, 2020

Sometimes, an enhanced level of security at the front door is necessary in residential spaces, particularly during uncertain times like these. Because of the novel coronavirus, many companies sent employees home to work for an undetermined period. This potentially puts sensitive documents or company assets at risk.

In cities where COVID-19 shutdowns are the tightest, property crime has risen since March. Fortunately, there are many ways in which you can better secure your client’s front door—actually any door.

Mechanical Upgrades

As most of you know, without a quality lock, your customer’s front door is vulnerable. When the right mechanical lock is selected and installed correctly, there’s no denying that occupants are safer than if an inferior lock were used.

“I don’t care what lock you put on there; it’s all about reinforcing the door jamb and making sure that the frame is up to the task,” says Steve Norch, president of Bierly-Litman Lock & Door of Canton, Ohio. It could be a small thing. “For example, instead of the strike-plate screws that come with any lock, use 6-inch screws to get all the way back to the frame.”

When evaluating a door’s security, you must take into consideration several factors:

  • Current and future risk.
  • The quality of the existing lock.
  • Specific concerns that the client might have.

Look at what the client has to protect as well as who would be interested in attaining it, and consider location. The risk of crime in a city certainly is different from that in a rural area.

One way to assess a person's security requirements is to categorize the situation in terms of low, medium and high, thus correlating with the three levels of security assigned by American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Although this likely is  review, a refresher on the three primary ANSI grades of locks is useful.

ANSI grades the secure nature of the locks we use according to three levels: Grades 1, 2 and 3. In terms of providing security, it’s in reverse order, with Grade 1 being the best. Grade 1 locks are aimed at commercial settings, while Grade 2 locks are considered adequate for light-commercial applications, such as offices, apartment buildings and light-duty storage closets. Grade 3, the least secure, is considered to be residential grade, where the risk is typical to an average family.

“As you and I know, Grade 1 locks, even though considered commercial, can be the way to go in some residential applications when you want to improve door security,” Norch says. “But sometimes we can get away with a Grade 2 lock.”

Going Electronic

These days, however, perhaps the first stop into the world of security for a home is an electronic lock.

A benefit of having an electronic lock on the front door, besides not having to carry a key with you at all times, of course, is the ability to program a new passcode for a new user, thus reducing the necessity to call a locksmith to rekey the lock. An electronic lock also makes it possible to assign multiple user accounts, with each having a uniquely different passcode.

These locks also enable the homeowner to issue a one-time passcode for when a trusted service technician visits the home while the homeowner is away or when a relative or neighbor takes care of a pet while the homeowner is traveling on vacation.

“We get a lot of calls for these types of locks for homes,” Norch says. “Probably the biggest request that I see is for people who have openings [such as Realtors] or babysitters whom they do not want to give a key to.” He adds that these locks also are ideal for the elderly, so they don't have to remember their keys every time they leave the home. “They also enable their children to easily check on them or to visit without needing a key.”

Many electronic locks are equipped with wireless radio-frequency capability, including Zwave or ZigBee connectivity. This enables the lock to interface with intrusion alarms or even larger scale access control systems. Through the use of Bluetooth technology, the latest electronic locks also can be made to interact with a smartphone outside the front door. The benefit here is the use of a smartphone to gain access without having to remember a passcode. You also can set up dual-authentication protocols in a few instances.

Intercoms and Video

Although they’re used primarily for multifamily residences, such as an apartment complex or condominium high-rise, an intercom system is almost a necessity if the homeowner intends to remain safe and sound at all times behind a locked door. An intercom makes it possible to determine who is at the door.

In the case of an apartment building, perhaps the owner is considering the installation of an access control system — one that will allow tenants to enter without having a traditional key. In this case, an intercom is almost an absolute necessity, simply because the entrance to the building will be locked and visitors would have no way to contact tenants who live there. Intercom stations equipped with a button that releases the electric strike at the door, for example, enable tenants to buzz their visitors into the building.

“I’ll be honest: Intercoms are probably a third of what we’re doing at Bierly-Litman right now,” Norch says. “It’s all about the doors being locked. For instance, in a church, the secretary, or whoever, may want to see who it is at the door before releasing the door. Every day for the last month, we’ve had at least one intercom installation.”

As an upgrade, adding a video display to the intercom station and a camera to the various intercom door units enables the tenant, secretary or whoever not only to speak with the person on the other side of the door, but also to see who that person is, what they look like and whether they’re alone — all of which are important.

The world we live in has changed, and it’s high time that we, as locksmiths, jump into the high-tech world we live in. There’s no better place to do that than your client’s front door!

Allan B. Colombo is a longtime trade journalist and professional in the security and life-safety markets. Contact him at [email protected], 330-956-9003 or