How To: Increase Home & Business Safety with Smart Devices

We hear the buzzwords all the time.  Internet of Things.  Connected devices.  Smart TVs and thermostats.

There’s no denying smart technology is on the rise.  The worldwide smart home market is forecasted to be $53.5 billion by 2022.  The current estimated connected home technologies sales in the U.S. is at $1,485,000.

Smart technology can provide both home and business owners alike in in Clearwater with peace of mind, convenience and efficiency.  We know it can be overwhelming to pick the right device for your home from such a crowded market.  And once you do pick the device, you have to learn how to use it most effectively.

Below, our trained Pop-A-Lock Clearwater technicians give some suggested smart devices to improve your home’s or business’s security, and how they work.

Smart Devices For Increased Security

There are a variety of smart devices that can automate processes and help to increase your home or business’s security.  Some devices to consider include:

Smart Locks

Installing smart locks can be a great first step in home or business automation, and can help increase the security of both as well.  For starters, a lot of smart locks will give you remote access, allowing you to check from afar if your door is locked.  Never again will you have that “Oh no, did I lock the door?” feeling 20 minutes down the road.

Smartphone with home security app in a hand with a home in the background

Additionally smart locks can help you control who has access to your home or business in a more secure manner.  With traditional keys, if you want someone to have access without your help, you have to make a copy of the key.  But then, eventually, there are too many copies floating around and your security has actually decreased.  With many smart locks, you can give someone a code to unlock the door.  This code can then be changed every so often, to make sure only the correct people have access.

Some smart locks even go a step further, and allow you to give out time-limited codes.  For example, you can give someone a code that lasts 15 minutes, or 24 hours.  Then that code expires.  This ensure people only have access for as long as you want them to.

Automated Light Bulbs

Setting light bulbs to automatically come on at certain times of day can also deter any potential thieves.  You could set your lights on a traditional timer, so they turn on and off at specific times each day.  Or, if you’d like to go to the next level, there are smart light bulbs that can be controlled remotely.  These allow you to monitor which lights are on in your house or business, and turn any of them on or off from wherever you are.  Even if you’re not there, if lights are on inside it will look like you are, which will deter those robbers!

Motion-Activated Outdoor Lights

The same idea from above applies to outdoor lighting.  If a thief is sneaking around your yard or the parking lot of your business, and they trigger a light, they’ll likely be scared off.  The threat of being seen by neighbors, passersby, or someone inside the house or building is increased when alight shines.  No crook wants that!

Well Lit Home with Motion Activated Outdoor Lights

Smart Doorbells

There are some pretty high-tech doorbells available today.  Many of them have video cameras built in, which is a great way to remotely keep an eye on your house.  If you’re away, you can check in every once in a while for peace of mind that all is still well.  If you are home or in the office at odd hours, and you hear an unexpected noise outside or knock on the door, you can safely check who it is before actually answering the door.

Many of these doorbells can also send alerts to your phone if motion is detected.  If someone is roaming around outside your home or business, you’ll get a real-time notification on your phone.  Then you can open up the app, check the camera footage and make sure everything is safe.  If something is wrong, you can call emergency services faster than if you don’t know something is wrong until you get home later.

Smart Garage Doors

Garage doors with the right technology can also provide increased security for your home or business.  Some smart garages will also alert you of motion detected.  Again, even if you are not home or inside the  business, you can check on the app what the motion was.  If it is someone or something suspicious, you can alert the police sooner.

Security Systems With Connected Cameras

Security systems with connected cameras let you keep an eye on your home or business while you’re away.  These smart cameras allow you to check areas like your living room, backyard, office space – anywhere you set one up.  And, they allow you to do this any time, anywhere.

Some systems will even assign dates and times to its footage.  So, say you get an alert on your phone at 3am that motion is detected in your backyard.  You can go back later and check the footage from 3am to see what the motion was.  And, many of these systems can be accessed from mobile devices, so you don’t have to be at a computer to check.

Another great possible feature of these smart security systems is setting virtual boundaries.  You could set one, for example, to go a certain distance around your home or specifically around an area of your office that needs added security.  If that boundary is breached, you’ll be alerted.

Be Proactive

Smart home technologies come in a wide variety.  No matter the device or system, though, they have all have one thing in common – they’ll provide you convenience and peace of mind when it comes to your home or business’s security.  Don’t wait until something happens to retroactively install better security measures, though.  Be proactive and get started today, to ensure you and your family or employees stay safe!

We at Pop-A-Lock know it’s a very crowded market of smart technology.  If you’re not sure which to try first, check this list of smart home technologies, which recommends good starter devices, such as smart locks and door bells.

Or, contact your local Pop-A-Lock professionals to learn more about what solution might be best for you! Call Pop-A-Lock Clearwater today at 727-562-5408 or find us online at popalockclearwater.com!

Pop-A-Lock mascot hugging young girl. Pop-A-Lock can take care of you!

How Can I Increase The Security of My Home?

Here in Clearwater, feeling safe in your home is a top priority for most people. But many wonder, how do you get this safety? Through taking measures such as  using a high-end security system and not letting your mailbox overflow, you can increase your home’s overall security. Below, Pop-A-Lock Clearwater has included eight suggested ways you can increase the security of your home no matter the type of house or budget.

Make it Look Like You’re Home, Even if You’re Not

Most robbers are going to be looking for a house they know is empty. They don’t want an altercation, they want an empty house to ransack and leave. Whether you’re leaving for a vacation or just out for the day, there are a few ways you can make it look like you’re home, even if you’re not.

Install Motion-Activated Lights

Robbers don’t like to be seen. Motion-activated lights can be a great way to scare off someone looking to enter your home. When the lights come on, the thief is at risk of a neighbor seeing them. They also could believe someone is home and turned the lights on from inside.

Put Lights on Timers

Having smart light bulbs is a quick and easy way to make someone on the outside believe you’re home. Set the lights on random timers so some are always turned on. That way crooks can’t tell if you’re away running errands or on vacation. They also won’t be able to pick up on any recurring schedules such as being gone for work.

Don’t Leave Mail in the Mailbox or Packages on the Porch

An overflowing mailbox or unattended packages are signs to crooks that no one is home. If you’re going away on vacation, ask a neighbor or a friend to empty your mailbox and gather packages while you’re away. Even if you’re only at work or out for the day, ask delivery people to leave packages in a backyard or private area if you can.

 

Trim Your Bushes and Grass

As with the mail and packages, an unkempt yard can be a sign to a crook that you’re not home, and haven’t been in a while. This can make them feel more comfortable scoping out your home and robbing it. On top of that, overflowing bushes and grass can make it easier for thieves to stay out of site from neighbors. It’s best to keep your bushes and grass as tidy and trimmed as possible.

Security Gadgets For Round-The-Clock Safety

In addition to making it look like you’re home when you’re not, there are other security measures you can take to provide safety when you are home. Below are some suggested tips and tools to keep you and your family safe inside your Clearwater home.

Rekey Your Home

There are a lot of ways our house keys can get out in the world. Giving a spare to a neighbor or child off at college, for example. But, sometimes – for whatever reason – someone who once needed a key no longer does. Every once in a while you should rekey your home so you can know exactly who has copies of your key. This also lets you make sure no one has access who you don’t want to have access.

Install Smart Locks

A lot of robbers don’t force entry into a house, but instead find one with an unlocked door and walk right in. Installing smart locks that automatically lock behind you will make sure this isn’t an option. It will also stop the dreaded “did I lock the door behind me?” feeling miles down the road.

 

smart house, home automation, device with app icons. Man uses his smartphone with smarthome security app to unlock the door of his house.

Have Locks and/or Stops on All Windows

Many crooks know that most people keep their doors locked these days. But not everyone keeps their windows locked. Installing locks on your windows can help you sleep easy at night knowing every port of entry into the house is inaccessible. There are also window stops, preventing windows from opening more than six inches. This is great for getting some fresh air but keeping unwanted robbers out.

Have a Security Camera

If you want to have high security, you can install a security camera outside (or inside) your home. You can also install an alarm that goes off when doors or windows open. A camera will likely frighten away any robbers. It also can give you peace of mind by allowing you to keep an eye on your house when you’re not home. An alarm system will alert both you and the security company if someone enters your home.

 

CCTV security camera for home security & surveillance.

 

There are a lot of ways you can increase the security of your home. Whether it be something simple like making sure your mailbox isn’t overflowing, or something bigger like installing smart locks or a security camera. Depending on your budget, the overall safety of your neighborhood, and more, there is a solution out there for you!

Check out our free home security audit and contact one of our professionals today to schedule a visit for your home. Contact Pop-A-Lock Clearwater today by calling (727) 562-5408 or visit us online at popalockclearwater.com.

Does Your Business Need a Master Key System?

Keys might seem small and light if you just have a few, but once they start to add up, you’re looking at a heavy, jangling keyring. Or are you? A master key lock system is one possible solution to dealing with too many keys. Within a master key system, a single master key can open multiple locks. Master key systems are especially useful when you need access to many different locked areas — such as within schools, hospitals, and storage facilities, to name a few.

Here’s how a master key system works. There are two types of keys: a pass key (also known as a change key), which only opens one specific lock, and a master key, which opens all the locks in a system. Let’s say you’re an apartment manager in Clearwater. Your tenants have pass keys that only open their specific apartment unit. However, when they request maintenance, you’ll be able to enter any unit — even if the complex has hundreds — with a single master key. A master key system designed by an experienced locksmith combines good security with good access for just the people who need it.

If you’re thinking about having a master key system installed in your Clearwater business, you’ll want to consider the following pros and cons:

Pros:

  • You can rekey individual locks without changing the master key. If a pass key is lost or stolen, it’s easy and inexpensive to have a locksmith rekey the single lock.
  • There are fewer keys to keep track of (and fewer keys to lose).
  • Significant cost savings on keys.
  • You can give different people different levels of access. Within a master key system, you can have sub-master keys that open all locks in a set without providing the full access of a master key.
  • Multiple locks or even buildings can be keyed to the same master key.
  • In an emergency,  anyone (e.g. firefighters, paramedics, etc.)  can quickly be given access to all areas.

Cons:

  • Keeping track of who has a master key is essential.
  • Losing a master key has greater consequences.
  • Poorly designed master key systems may result in pass keys that open the wrong locks or other security gaps.

Want to learn more about how a master key system could work for your organization? Call Pop-A-Lock Clearwater today at 727-562-5408 for more information and a free quote. As experienced commercial locksmiths in Clearwater, we have years of experience engineering and installing secure, durable master key systems.

How to Secure Your Home: 4 Areas to Burglar-Proof

According to the FBI, a burglary occurs somewhere in the US every 15 seconds. The good news is that most burglars are opportunists, and taking a few simple measures to boost your home’s security can keep you from becoming their next victim. You can start by plugging security leaks in these four main areas:

Doors

Your home is only as secure as your weakest door, so if you have more than one — like a back door, a patio, or a garage door — fortify all of them. Use these tips to get all of your doors up to speed.

  • Spring locks. Burglars love doors with only spring locks because they’re usually easy to open. Deadbolts are much more secure and can be added to your door in addition to your spring lock. There are also high security lock and bump proof lock options to choose from. A professional locksmith can help you evaluate your security needs and make a good choice.
  • Hinges. Stand on the outside of your closed door. Can you see the hinges? If you can, a thief only has to remove the hinge pins to get your door open. You’ll need to reinstall your door with the hinges on the inside.
  • Strike plates. Many thieves won’t bother with jimmying, picking, or drilling. They’ll just kick your door down. Installing a reinforced strike plate (the part that the tongue of the lock fits into) will help your door survive being kicked.
  • Gaps between door and door frame. The more room there is, the easier it is to jimmy a lock or saw through the tongue.
  • Sliding doors. Since most sliding doors rely on latches rather than locks, they are a weak spot in your security. Have a locksmith install additional security mechanisms or locks on those doors.
  • Remote controlled garage doors. Always change the factory preset code when you have a new system installed. Otherwise, someone with a factory remote might be able to open your door.

Windows
Once you’ve secured your doors, it’s time to ramp up your window security.

  • Ground floor windows. Good window locks make large, ground floor windows much more secure. Another option is installing metal dowels in your window frame, which will prevent anyone from opening the window all the way.
  • Upper story windows. Don’t assume that these windows are safe just because they’re higher up. Make sure there are no nearby trees or other ways to access upper story windows. And don’t forget to secure your skylights!

Yard
How do things look outside your house? Your yard can determine whether a burglar targets your house or keeps right on walking.

  • Lighting. Install motion sensitive lighting along paths and be sure that each doorway is well lit. The more exposed a burglar feels, the less likely he is to target your house.
  • Outdoor furniture, ladders, and tools. Bolt down furniture and put away ladders and tools so that thieves can’t use them to break into your house.
  • Bushes, hedges, and trees. Keep them trimmed for better visibility, and make sure nearby trees can’t be climbed to access a balcony or second story. Prickly bushes help deter thieves, too.

Keys
Surprise – many burglars actually enter with keys instead of breaking in. Protecting your house keys is a must. Some tips:

  • Don’t hide keys under door mats, in mailboxes, or other locations around your house. Thieves know exactly where to look. Your spare key is safer with a trusted neighbor.
  • Rekey your locks if you’ve just moved in or have lost a key. (Learn more about rekeying.)
  • Don’t keep any form of ID on your key ring.
  • Keep track of how many copies of your house key there are and who has them.

Did you know that you can schedule a home security audit with an experienced local locksmith? If you want more information on how to secure your home, call Pop-A-Lock today at 727-562-5408 —  your trusted locally owned and operated Clearwater locksmith.

Locksmith Scams in Clearwater – And How to Protect Yourself

We hate to say it, but there are a lot of bad locksmiths out there, even just in Clearwater, and picking the wrong one can make your life pretty difficult. Bad locksmiths catch you when you’re worried, stressed, and tired – like if you’re locked out of your car at the airport after a long trip.  All too often, they get away with shoddy services and inflated prices.

But as always, knowledge is power. Read up on common locksmith scams so you can steer clear of the bad apples. (Or if you need a reliable locksmith in Clearwater, just call us. It’s known as doing things the easy way.)  Here are 5 of the most common locksmith scams and how to avoid them.

    1. Unbelievably low prices. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. The $10 or $19 offers on Google ads might be tempting, but think about it: that price won’t even cover the locksmith’s time or expenses. So where’s the catch? Sometimes it’s the service call, not the service, that costs $10. Some locksmiths will reveal that the price is actually a minimum when you call. And others will show up and find all sorts of reasons to charge you more than the original quote.
    1. Up-selling you on additional services. It’s true that a small percentage of locks can’t be picked, but a locksmith who shows up, fiddles with your lock for two minutes, and claims that he’ll have to drill and replace it (for a lot more money) is either incompetent or trying to pull one on you. Dismiss him before he ruins your lock and get a second opinion.
    1. Strong-arm tactics. A locksmith shows up in a tow truck, corners your car, unlocks it, and threatens to tow your car unless you pay the amount he asks for. Especially if it’s late at night and you’re alone, strong-arm tactics and outright threats can be scary. The best way to avoid them is to only call established local locksmiths with solid reputations.
    1. Companies that use similar names as legitimate locksmiths. Pop-A-Lock is an established name in the locksmith industry, so it’s not surprising our competitors have names like Papa Lock and Pop All Locks. They might not necessarily be scammers, but they are counting on you to mistake them for genuine Pop-A-Lock franchises. Check the name and website carefully before you call.
    1. Out of town call centers and unlicensed locksmiths. Using 411 directories and internet listings, locksmith scammers have become big news in the past few years. Some of the biggest rings aren’t even located in the country. They set up a dummy local number, route it to dispatchers far away, and send unlicensed people in unmarked cars who will try any or all of the above scams. Yet another reason to be wary of extremely low prices, poor online reputations, unmarked cars, and technicians without certifications or ID.

Like any other service professional you hire, it’s worth it to take the extra time to check out licenses and online reputations before you call a locksmith. Have you experienced any other locksmith scams in Clearwater? Leave us a comment so we can get the word out about protecting yourself from bad locksmiths.

Coming up next: good signs that you’re dealing with a legitimate locksmith.

Pop-A-Lock at Dunedin’s Touch a Truck Event

Pop-A-Lock of Clearwater was once again proud to be a part of this year’s annual Dunedin “Touch A Truck” event. Heralded as one of the biggest displays in the south, this event is put on every year for the Parks department to showcase not only local businesses but law enforcement and fire officials as well.

As always, the kids had a lot of fun climbing around the service vehicles, received a POP-A-LOCK balloon, and learned more about their community. Pop-A-Lock was also able to provide children with a fun time in the Pop-A-Lock bounce house, which is available at no charge to civic, community, school, and church groups.

Thanks for coming out and making the Touch a Truck event such a success! We love having opportunities to connect with our local community.

Photo credit: City of Dunedin

Is it time to rekey or change your locks?

Do you know where every copy of your house key is right now? It’s so easy to go down to the hardware store and make a copy that your house keys can easily end up in undesirable hands. In addition to your trusted friends and family, these people could also have your house key:

  • Ex-boyfriends, girlfriends, spouses, or roommates
  • Their friends
  • Current and former cleaners, gardeners, and babysitters
  • Neighbors who moved away
  • The previous tenants or owners and their friends
  • Anyone the above people gave keys to
  • Anyone who found a key you or any of the above people lost
  • Anyone who found your hidden key under the door mat or rock

Whew! That’s a lot of people. Not knowing who has your house key is bad for your peace of mind as well as for your home’s security. If it’s been a while since you had your locks changed or rekeyed, now might be a good time to have it done – especially if you’ve noticed anything suspicious or no longer trust the people you gave keys to. After all, crime rates aren’t going down in Clearwater or anywhere else.

The good news is that getting locks rekeyed is a quick and affordable service that experienced locksmiths can perform in ten minutes or less. In a lock rekey, we change the pins inside your existing lock so your old key will no longer be able to open it. As long as your lock is in good working order, it can be rekeyed as many times as you need. Rekeying a lock costs a lot less than buying and installing a new lock. Locksmiths can also rekey multiple doors (e.g. front and back doors) so that they take the same key in most cases.

Changing locks is another option. With a lock change, locksmiths remove your old lock and install a brand new one. It’s a good idea if you want to change brands or upgrade to a higher security lock, or if your current lock is too worn to be rekeyed.

Do you have any questions about rekeying or changing locks? Leave us a comment, and we’ll be happy to answer them! Pop-A-Lock Clearwater provides affordable, knowledgeable residential locksmith services in Clearwater, FL.