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Time to Beef Up Security: The Basics of Break-In Prevention

It is an unfortunate fact that, if given unlimited time and resources, a determined burglar will likely find a way to break into your facility. For anyone responsible for loss prevention and security in general, the objective is to make the burglar’s task as challenging and as time‑consuming as possible—and in the best case, to delay the burglar long enough for law enforcement to arrive and take care of the problem before entry is achieved.

Even a building that has not recently been subject to a threat can benefit from an occasional and objective review of its security parameters. What follows below is a “back to basics” review of some fundamental components of a solution that can help thwart external efforts to break-in and steal property:

  • Heavy-duty door
  • Full-length hinge
  • Heavy-duty lock
  • Burglar alarm

The integration of more of these components into the overall security picture will result in more secure doors. In many cases, creating highly secure points of ingress will discourage would-be thieves from approaching a facility in the first place.

Start with a Heavy-Duty Door

Perhaps the most fundamental weakness of an entry point is the door itself. Placing a strong locking mechanism on a weak door defeats its purpose and makes it very easy for intruders to break in. A 16-gauge door and frame is preferable to a 20-gauge door and frame because it is stronger; however, it should be reinforced for the security hardware that will be installed on it. A door security hardware distributor or a third‑party integrator can be an invaluable resource regarding this and other break-in prevention issues.

- Digital Partner -

Consider a Full-Length Hinge

With a strong door in place, the next consideration is how it is hung. It is common to see doors hung with three or perhaps four hinges. Since every door on a commercial building must swing out in the path of egress, the hinge knuckles are on the outside, exposed and vulnerable to attack by a potential burglar.

Using one long continuous hinge that runs the length of the door is recommended because (1) it supports a heavier gauge door better than several discrete hinges and (2) it is more difficult for an intruder to manipulate or vandalize.

10,000 Pounds of Pull Force

Now the locks themselves should be considered. Regardless of which of the many available products is selected, it should be able to withstand thousands of pounds of pull force—preferably 10,000 pounds or more. A lock that has as much bolt penetration into the door frame as possible is the goal.

That being said, it is recommended to lock into the floor as well as the door frame, since a potential intruder will often try to pry the bottom of the door upward. A floor bolt that locks the very bottom of the door helps prevent (or at least delay) that particular approach.

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The Astragal

An astragal is a device that protects the edge where the door meets the frame. Like the hinges, this area is a tempting target for an intruder with a pry bar. A partial astragal that protects the latch area is helpful, to be sure; but a sturdy, full-length astragal is recommended, as it will prevent prying at any point along the edge.

Burglar Alarm Down Low

It is a fundamental and common practice to locate a burglar alarm at the top of a door. But as previously mentioned, many burglars will try to pry a door upward from the bottom, just enough to be able to crawl under. A weaker door is susceptible to a considerable amount of bending, which is why a heavy-duty door is advisable. In any case, an additional alarm contact should be installed close to the bottom of the door. The resulting silent or audible alarm increases the likelihood that the intruder will be discouraged or apprehended.

Door Handles, Visibility, and Code Compliance

Door handles can be unintended accomplices to a burglar. It may be necessary to have a pull handle on the outside of a back or side door; if so, any style handle that a chain can be wrapped around or run through should be avoided. Instead, an offset piece that offers a small finger-pull facing the ground is recommended, as a chain is much less effective against this type of mechanism.

Because visibility is an important deterrent to illegal activity, generous illumination of doors that may be of interest is essential. Also, shrubbery, partial walls, or any other hindrance to an unobstructed view of the doors is strongly discouraged, as burglars generally are not motivated to ply their trade in front of an audience.

- Digital Partner -

Finally, the importance of adhering to relevant building codes cannot be emphasized strongly enough. Regardless of the locking device and door security hardware that is eventually selected, industry professionals will always vigorously advocate for strict code compliance.

There are many regulations to consider; for example, nothing can project or protrude more than four inches off the face of a door.  Also, installing locks from multiple sources on one door is not allowed. Deciding to invest in enhancing the security of susceptible outside doors is commendable, but disregarding building codes and being forced to re-do an illegal installation may result in a much greater and unnecessary investment than was originally contemplated. When selecting and installing the best door security hardware for break-in applications, a third-party integrator is often a valuable resource to help do it right the first time.

Winning the Break-In Battle

Following these recommendations will make your facility more secure and, as a result, quite likely deter potential burglars from even attempting a break-in. The sight of a sturdy door with a full-length hinge and full-length astragal—with no gap for a crowbar and no protuberance around which to wrap a chain—should send even the most ambitious of intruders in search of easier targets. Those who are not easily deterred will be hampered, frustrated, and quite possibly apprehended. To learn more about heavy duty locks that can protect you against break-ins visit

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