Ground Floor Safety?
September 13, 2009 8:33 AM   Subscribe

Seeking tips, gadgets, and hacks for feeling safe in a ground floor apartment.

I've always resisted living in ground floor apartments, but health reasons are forcing me to give up climbing multiple flights of stairs daily. Buildings with elevators are significantly more expensive in my area, so I'm at least contemplating the idea of living on the ground floor. I live in a relatively safe, suburban small town, but I hate feeling like I can't have my window blinds open and I don't like the idea of my windows and patio door being so vulnerable.

What are things you do/have/bought to help yourself feel more secure when living on the ground floor?
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Sized lengths of dowel or pvc pipe will keep sliding doors and windows closed; make them a little short and you can keep your window cracked. Security film (3M makes it) can make those windows more shatter-resistant. You're definitely going to want good drapes though, at least in the room where you have your TV/Stereo/PC.

Oh, and hotel-style door limiters are way better than those flimsy chains people usually get.
posted by 5ean at 8:43 AM on September 13, 2009

Best answer: it sounds silly, but i used to have a string of bells on my door. any time it opened or closed, those damn bells rang.
posted by msconduct at 8:53 AM on September 13, 2009

Best answer: Seconding the bells. We have them on our front door for my dogs and I can't count the number of times they've saved me from freaking out in the middle of the night. "If someone had come in I would've heard the bells..."
posted by lilac girl at 8:56 AM on September 13, 2009

Deadbolts on the entry door(s), door frame reinforcement plates, window & patio door locks. Here's a good DIY on window & door security.
posted by torquemaniac at 9:37 AM on September 13, 2009

You can get shades that open from the top, so you can let in light and see out but still keep some privacy. Like this (first link grabbed from Google, no idea how good the company is).

I've lived in houses with bars on the windows, but it sounds like you don't need to go that far.

You can get motion-detector alarms, to set at night. One house I lived in had them in the living room but nowhere else.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:20 AM on September 13, 2009

When I lived in a ground floor apt, I lined the inside window sills with really intense cacti. It sounds silly, but I never had a break in.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:42 AM on September 13, 2009

Best answer: Seconding the dowels for sliding windows and doors. I used to have two sizes - one shorter than the other to allow for the window/door to be cracked open. These were also useful for normal sashed windows that push up, too, but I found a little nail to keep the dowel in place helped. Use the standard metal blocking bar, too. Looking security conscious is good.

I also kept a wooden wedge by the door to open the door onto if a certain creepy delivery guy was on the other side of the door.

Get to know your neighbors names. A scream of "Mr. Petrov!" or "Clare!" mixed in with "Help!" will help galvanize folks that they're not hearing roughousing or drunken exuberance, but that they should leap into action.

Bells are an excellent idea for sliding as well as traditional doors; a friend of mine kept cactuses and sharp pointy things on her sills and by her sliding door on the theory that someone wouldn't notice them and curse, or push them off and make noise.

Indoor Motion Detectors can be useful if you don't have pets. Basic ones have an on/off switch, but they get fancier as the price goes up.

The Invisible Boyfriend. Act like there are other people there, just not visible from the front door area when strangers are at the door, whether they are delivering pizza or selling siding. I'd "finish up a conversation" just as I was opening the door. I'd announce that "Pizza is here" to an empty apartment. I'd declare that "we" didn't buy things from people going door-to-door. A friend of mine had both an Invisible Boyfriend and an invisible Dog. She had a gizmo that would make it sound like a dog was barking in the apartment until she told it to be quiet.
posted by julen at 10:57 AM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you have double hung windows, install flip-style ventilation locks. They keep the window from being opened very far, but you can flip them back to open the window fully when you're home and want more fresh air.

I'd also suggest once you move in, turning on all the lights at night and going out and standing on the sidewalk to see what you see when you look in. It helps you decide where you actually need curtains, etc, and what areas really aren't visible from the street.
posted by donnagirl at 12:04 PM on September 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I just moved out of a ground floor apartment on 16th St in Manhattan. The windows were on the street and didn't have bars because they were casement windows (6x8 ft). That said, the foot traffic on the street made me feel much safer. I also had a shit ton of plants in the window, which would have made it difficult and noisy for anyone to get it

I've always used the bells on my doors, like others describes. As far as privacy, I used a set of sheers over the window, and then a heavier set of drapes. The sheers let me get light and air, but still have some privacy during the day... the curtains were pulled at night.
posted by kimdog at 12:16 PM on September 13, 2009

An empty shotgun. Keep it by your bed and if someone ever breaks in, cock it once - loudly.
Then you can use the bricks they shat to build a fortress in your living room.
posted by CZMR at 1:47 PM on September 13, 2009 [3 favorites]

Try to break into your apartment (make it look like you're doing some DIY). People kid themselves that (for example) putting a chain on their door will protect them from a hostile intruder, but a machete will break the chain, a shoulder to the door will pull the screws out. There are stronger security devices available.

Can your windows be opened by wiggling a screw-driver around under the frame? Can your latch be opened with a piece of plastic slid around it? (A credit card does not work, contrary to what Hollywood has always taught us. But I found that a flexible piece of plastic cut from a food container would. You have to curl the end to make it slide around the corners.) Does your door have small glass panels which an intruder can break by putting his jacket over and whacking it with his elbow? (A small piece of glass doesn't make much noise as it breaks.) Could a burglar put a bamboo cane through your letter-box and use it to hook keys off a rack near the door? (There is a whole sub-species of burglar which specialises in this activity. Bamboo + coathanger wire + gaffa tape = profit!)

Some books on criminology read like burglary manuals: seek one out from your local library. I found out, for example, that many burglars like to rob houses on corners, because it gives them multiple routes for a quick exit. Some of them would only rob low-rent places -- "there's a tin of cash for the gas money, and a tin for the food money ..." One claimed he would kick down the door of a target property, and was never challenged by anyone. Try to find out what you're actually defending yourself against.

Apart from making sure my house is secure, the things I find comforting (if not necessarily likely to actually be useful) are to keep my mobile (cell) phone next to my bed, and a *very* bright torch handy. I used to keep a bowie knife beside the bed as well but I think my wife has hidden it somewhere ;)
posted by BrokenEnglish at 3:18 PM on September 13, 2009

You can get a wireless alarm system. They're pretty easy to install yourself, but you could always get one installed from an alarm company and pay them for monitoring service.
posted by orme at 3:57 PM on September 13, 2009

BrokenEnglish: "A credit card does not work, contrary to what Hollywood has always taught us. "

Sure it does. I opened my own front door with a credit card more than once, when I lived in a run-down building.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:48 PM on September 13, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks guys for all the great tips. I'm feeling much better already about becoming a ground-floor dweller!!
posted by SweetTeaAndABiscuit at 4:10 PM on September 14, 2009

You can also think about how easily you can get out in case of fire. Cold comfort perhaps, but something to keep in mind while you're shopping for the gadgets.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:50 PM on September 14, 2009

« Older Business Research Resources About Brazil?   |   Please recommend PDF indexing software for OS X. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.